Category Archives: Classroom

Spring 2015 Session

We are well underway for Spring 2015. I am fortunate to work with Anthropology professors and lectures this semester. Topics range from Mesoamerica, native people in North America, and the topic of genocide. I’ve tuned into the course recordings to check that they are going well. With the help of the library I am also providing video clips for limited playback on the web. My second faculty person has been trained to run their own setup and recordings. It is possible to train some faculty to take that responsibility. It saves me trips to the location. I think it empowers faculty.

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Tech Forum 2014

The two sessions I went to are:

  • Lync Panel Discussion (another online meeting software)
  • Large Lecture Transformation Project (ID implications)

Did you know you can now have your genome sequenced for $1000?

There is 50 times the power of a Cray computer in your smartphone.

47% of USA population take at least one medication per day.





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About half way through Spring 2014

We are approaching the mid point for the Spring 2014 semester here at Iowa. I am monitoring 3 anthropology courses. I get to hear most of it unless I am working on something else or get distracted by a support call. I am learning about native people in North America and Ancient civilizations in another. The nice thing is that these courses are originating in our classroom so I can be in the office more of the time during the day. Just finishing up on developing a course on Health. It will be all online so making the materials for the modules was so important. I have some touch up things to do with the lectures for the health course and place the captions on the introduction video and we are ready to go.

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Last day of the semester

The end is here. Friday the 13th. The last day of classes for the Fall semester here at the University of Iowa. I am writing this as I monitor my last class of the semester. My schedule will change next week. More time in developing materials for future classes and no classroom monitoring.  At least until mid January 2014.

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Interfacing with faculty


My job this morning was difficult to start with, a new faculty person, a mac user that I needed to train on how to run a windows box, start and stop a recording, and annotate using a touch board. I wound up spending most of the 15 minutes allocated to training trying to get the windows box operational. One of the student tech helpers suggested that they would call the their supervisor and I agreed. I was on plan B and C at that point. Faculty had come early and tried to login to the windows box using the wrong password and it had  locked the user out after a number of failed attempts. So when I got there it wasn’t going to let me log in. So I rebooted thinking that another user was logged into the box. That didn’t work and time was running out so I used my own log in to access the box. But the box decided it needed a few minutes to start with my log in. Then the mouse froze. Another reboot. Mouse worked. My login worked. Loaded the powerpoint, initialized both lecture capture softwares, checked audio levels, and told the professor we were ready. I had 30 seconds to tell him how to use the drawing board and how to start the recording. I call back to our office to get confirmation of the primary recording stream. Video and audio are good. We are good. I walk out the classroom and the supervisor is there and wants to tell me that faculty should ask for help before trying to login. Right. Get back to the office and write the email that explains everything and how we will proceed and improve on the next class session. It all boiled down to faculty having no respect for the technology and blindly trying to take control of something they know nothing about, the windows box. And the supervisor wanting to somehow interface with faculty to do my job. And, somehow do it better. Without even knowing the specifications of the project.

You may wonder, why not run the recording on the mac? Well that was the supervisors idea too. So his graphs and fonts might work properly. Only a week in advanced I had told the faculty person to check his keynote to powerpoint presentations to make sure they played correctly before class. Every time I have tried Panopto on the mac, to record a lecture, it has failed. Why anyone would use a microsoft based program on a mac and expect it to run is crazy. Panopto is radically different in terms of interface between Mac and PC versions. Hell it has enough problems running on windows. You’ll have to trust me on this one.

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Level 3 Chart



I think I learned how to use the Diagrammix. This is a chart of what I do at the University of Iowa. Best if you click on it to see it enlarged.

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Flow Chart



I worked on this chart tonight. I don’t know if I have the energy to go to level 3. You have to click on the chart to see it in full scale.

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Wordle results


So this wordle is of my blog at this point. The word “Group” sticks out so I must be using that term frequently. The words “distance, rain, drought, feeders, one, and faculty” are next. So I will talk about being part of groups.

I belong to several groups. The work group is about 4 people in the same room with one another and 10 or so people that frequently visit the room. There is a group dynamic. Each of us are good at one or more different tasks. It all centers around distance education. One person specializes on technology hardware, another specializes on media development, another on trouble shooting courses, and finally another specializes in course development. But we can also do each others speciality.

Another group is quite different. A bunch of clowns that I play golf with each year. About 20 people that play weekly, or in tournaments, or in the annual Sasso Memorial. Actually you have to be able to play a fairly decent round of golf to be a part of the group. Nobody is a beginner. But handicaps vary from 3 to 25. And there is always a game to play for a quarter a point. Sometimes I win 5 dollars, sometimes I loose 5 dollars.

Another group is the satsang group. There are a few people that get together to talk about spirituality, though the discussion invariably turns to our love of animals. Occasionally there are trips to regional or national meetings and seminars. Many people in the group I’ve known for 20 years. It is somewhat akin to group therapy I guess.

So the next tier in the wordle includes the word “distance”. And I am very familiar with that term. Distance is what I do. As media developer for continuing education at the University of Iowa I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen highly successful classes and those that don’t even have the numbers of students to go online. I don’t think enrollment is a complete metric of success. A required course that goes online is going to be successful. Sometimes going online is the only alternative to having your program cancelled. Distance means tapping into the region and students that can’t travel to Iowa City to take a course. But ironically distance also means taking a course online even if you live in Iowa City. Distance gives students options for enrollment. But I was surprised how many distance students are actually in Iowa City.

Is distance a threat to F2F (face-to-face)? I don’t know. It doesn’t have to be. Distance really means staying current with technology and student expectations. Our aim is to make “distance” at least as good as F2F. There are two goals of distance. One is to provide students more options to graduate on time. The other is to provide students with a diversity of courses to chose from. The question is where is the money and where is the beef? The money is in compensation to faculty that run the distance courses. The beef is in the technology and strategies faculty use in the distance course.

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The myth of the mixed mode classroom

It is rare that faculty are successful with the mixed mode classroom. It is difficult to handle F2F and distance groups at the same time. The distance group seems to suffer in this type of class. If there is more than one instructor in the classroom it is possible to accomplished the mixed mode. It is hard to reach out to the F2F group and not forget about the distance group if you are not careful. And it is easy to forget to share visuals and read chat while lecturing and teaching to the F2F group. We try to bridge the short fall with tech support personnel watching the chat. But they are mainly there to help the distance group get online. The mixed mode requires at least a TA/Faculty combo to be successful.

It is sad to watch faculty flail away trying to keep the class togeather. One faculty member even laminated that they wished they had a TA. Is professional staff being asked to step in and provide guidance like a TA in this situation? I took an interest at the start of such classes. I’m not sure what to do. Damned if I do, damned if I don’t.

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Computers in the classroom

There are reoccuring issues with technology in the classroom. The first issue is whether the technology even works in the first place. The second issue is whether the technology is effective for all the activities in the classroom.

You might think that putting technology in a classroom is easy. When you have a CPU dedicated to the room then an IT staff usually controls and maintains it. My expereince is that there are problems putting everyone’s needs on one computer. What happens when class A increases the recording audio levels and class B doesn’t check the recording audio levels? One advantage of bringing your own laptop to the classroom is that you control the computer. But will your computer interface with the audio system? For along time PCs didn’t even have sound cards. Who would need them? Of course if you bring your own laptop you are responsible for it.

The other issue is the effectiveness of the technology to follow and document the interactivity in the classroom.  This is where things really fail. If the recording doesn’t capture a student question and faculty don’t restate the question the recording has a dead space.

The trend toward flipping lectures changes the issue. If faculty are pre-recording a lecture, distributing it via the Internet and hold discussion during class time, the need for lecture capture is diminished. But some faculty are experimenting with virtual classroom technology and virtual office hours. I would like to see what replaces the lecture in the flipped lecture scenerio. I am skeptical that class time will engage students.

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