Thursday, June 30, 2011

And the rockets red glare...

Independence Day is fast approaching and I have managed to schedule and prepare for a vacation sans work and homework. Last week was the conclusion of my first graduate school class. It was exhilarating waiting for the results of my final exam. An open book experience that took days not hours to complete. In the end, I succeeded and earned an A.

Now I can focus on my second course. Whereas my first class was mostly online discussions and papers, the balance of my summer will be spent completing five labs - each covering a different type of Web learning technology. My first was a review of Second Life as a potential learning environment. Not very exciting, but a chance to write on a topic of interest in a formal setting.

The next two projects are currently in summative evaluation (pilot testing for the rest of the world). One is a Prezi presentation on the topic of Gamification. For those of you wanting to know a little more about this popular topic, take a look and learn a little. Feedback is welcome.

In four days the USA celebrates its independence and remembers what it means to be free. A lot of that freedom is due to our ability and privilege to learn and grow. With this in mind, I elected to produce a digital video learning program focused on teaching Newton's 3rd Law of Motion through the experience of building a simple, but effective, matchstick rocket. I invite each of you to carefully watch this video with your friends, your children (middle and high schoolers only), and anyone else that enjoys home-built fireworks. So just click here, start building, and this 4th of July let your own rockets red glare.

Have a happy and safe weekend!
- Ken

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer

This summer is turning out to one of the busiest our family has experienced yet. The craziness actually started with the month of May. Between the school production of the musical "Oklahoma" and Isaac's eighth grade graduation followed by Darby's trek to Grammy and Grampa's place for another year of drama camp, preparation for the rest of the summer has had us all spinning around and around.

What started out a in January as a question of what the kids will do this summer has turned into quite the adventure for each.

Darby has one of the lead roles in her summer theater performance. Then she travels to Jeckle Island to enjoy a week at church camp (really camping) and then a week at the beach with our immediate family and all the cousins. She rounds out her summer with a trip to New York City with one of her best friends.

Isaac is taking a week off after graduation. He then moves west to join me a start football practice at the high school he will be attending this fall. One exciting aspect of football this summer will be a week spent at the University of Alabama Crimson Tide football camp. All that and the "man cave" should make for a great father/son bonding time.

Alex has already kicked off her summer with a performance at the Burning Coal Theater in Raleigh. She got to experience a stage combat role in which she shot someone and then died. Her goal for the season is to perform as much as possible, babysit as many pets and children as she can, and go on as many hiking trips and other adventures with her friends in the remaining time.

As for Trudie and I, Trudie will enjoy a well earned respite from the busy year. Hopefully taking a few trips out west to Isaac and me when she comes to visit her friend in this area. We all will take our week at the beach and then I will be spending the rest of my time working out with my new personal trainer, Isaac, working and completing my summer courses for graduate school.

The greatest part about the kids reaching the ages they are now is the freedom we feel in letting them experience the world in their own way. Our hope is that they bring back lots of memories to share so we can all enjoy their experiences.

As for the hazy and lazy part of summer, the hazy comes from the North Carolina summer humidity and the lazy comes from any time Trudie and I can take a moment together and relax.

We wouldn't have it any other way!

- Ken

Midway through first semester

I have decided trying to juggle a full time job, grad school, tweeting and blogging simultaneously is dang near impossible. Sleep has to take place sometime, so this blog has taken a back seat for a bit. Now that we have reached the midpoint of the five-week course, I realized I owe everyone an update. All excuses aside I have found the experience quite exhilarating and not nearly as difficult to get back in the swing of as I feared.

Distance learning is a great. My professors have two different styles of teaching. Both conduct their courses asynchronously, however, one maintains a more rigid schedule of deliverables while the other outlined the projects we must complete within the period of the semester at our own pace. Given the different topics and focus of each course, this seems to be working well.

The more rigid schedule is conducted in an interesting format. Prior to each assignment, we provide initial thoughts on the topic about to be covered in class. Then we participate in the assignment and conclude with more thoughts either updating our original ideas or indicating why our opinions have changed. This sequence allows us as students to draw initial conclusions with which to frame our learning.

I was concerned the forum structure of the class would be a hindrance to the normal classroom environment of real time feedback. This concern has proven to be unfounded as the discussion boards are actually a better solution in that many of us take more time to consider our responses to each other. I know the feedback I have received has definitely helped me improve the quality of my work.

In addition to adopting the new style of learning, I have discovered that writing for graduate school is a lot different than anywhere else. The APA format is required for all submissions. I actually had to Google APA to even know what it is. Now that I have been using it for a couple of weeks I find that the format actually lends itself to improved reporting for experimental work. I may attempt to use it for my professional research and development work as well.

So far I am doing well in both classes. I will post again at the end of my first course this month.

- Ken