Thursday, July 28, 2011

Technology Class

Once again, I am sitting in the very freezing cold computer lab in the school of arts and sciences at a local college, ahem... excuse me... university, thankyouverymuch. Each summer, I get asked by my good friend Professor CM, to coteach/tech support a course that he teaches to grad students getting their MAT in History. We show them how to incorporate technology into their classroom and teaching style.

Each year, the students get smarter and smarter. Ten years ago, we introduced them to Powerpoint, and taught HTML/web editing with Netscape Composer.

Now, we don't even HAVE to teach Powerpoint, everyone pretty much already knows it and their skills are rather advanced. So advanced that they're beyond me sometimes with what they can do. Instead of teaching them Netscape Composer, because it is dead and gone (or actually is something called Sea Monkey... which is the core stuff bundled under a new owner) we just teach them how to use Blogger to build a faculty website and communication tool to use with their students.

Professor CM lectures to them on Monday about pedagogical goals, now technology and the internet are perfect for history teachers because there is so much content out there that is rich and beautiful and relevant... He talks to them about how they can become technology leaders in their schools, just because they know a few things. Tuesdays I come in, and we work on Powerpoint, and CM talks to them about their subject matter, their lectures with Powerpoint, and I hold hands and guide and we build stuff.

Wednesdays is Blogger, and that is is so easy that we teach it to them in the morning on by the afternoon they have a blog built and are off and running. It is kind of impressive.

Thursday during the week is their "lab" day where they work on their presentations. And that's where they are today. CM takes them to the presentation hall when they are ready to test their presentations, and they run through them a couple times to get comfortable.

And I sit here in the lab and am available for advice and answering questions.

Compared to ten years ago, I'm not needed as much on this day as I used to be. By about now, back in the day, there was weeping and gnashing of teeth. Students didn't back up their data quickly enough, thumbdrives weren't yet invented, PCs in here would crash with a half finished project wiped out to hell. The lab PCs are designed to NOT save anything to them when they turn off, so when they crash, you lose everything.

A few years back there was a guy who sat next to where I am right now who lost everything in his powerpoint at about 3pm on Thursday. He literally walked out of the room and was gone for a half hour while CM and I tried to recover something. He went home that night and recreated everything as closely to what he had before the crash as he could. We told him not to sweat it, we'd SEEN the work all week, we KNEW what he had done (we go around the room so many times that I know their presentations as well as they do. He went home that night and recreated it to the best of his ability, missing some of the bells and whistles, slide transitions -- but he still got a great grade because he hit all the requirements needed. I was proud of him for bouncing back, but totally understood his frustration.

Thumb drives and laptops where people are emailing their work to the safety of the home computer .... these have helped us a lot. And right now the only sound is me typing away furiously... and the HVAC guys above us pounding the living hell out of something.

I love this group of students. A few of them are professional teachers, some are working on their certification, others are not teaching at all but are getting a masters in History and wanted to take this class becasue they'd heard about it. One is working on her PhD and is a researcher at a local database megahouse. One is even the bartender at my local familiar, and his day job is teaching at a local high school near our house.

They're all so different and cool.

And too smart by half. I can see video on screens, Google Earth, slide transitions, formatting of blogs... all from this little spot. It is quite impressive.

Tomorrow they'll all present their blogs and powerpoint to their peers, explain what their goals and objectives are with these two projects, and they'll critique one another and CM will grade them. I don't usually sit in on that, because I'm not the teacher on record. I did last year and it was lovely to see them justifying their choices and decisions, and they were all on fire to go teach using these tools.

I wish this was a full time gig, where once a week I taught this. I'd teach the CM stuff myself too, and really do a great job of it.

But, for now, it is the best week of the summer for me. And I love it.

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