Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The ultimate act of sportsmanship

This is not totally on subject given that the focus of my blog is about learning and instructional design...well maybe it is.

I came across this story at Neatorama, a general interest blog, but I think it can serve as a learning moment. The lesson to be learned: teamwork can stretch beyond just individuals in your own group. Here are two college sports teams "competing" when an unusual situation drives them together to cooperate for a higher goal. The lead for the ESPN story really tells it all.

Western Oregon senior Sara Tucholsky had never hit a home run in her career. Central Washington senior Mallory Holtman was already her school's career leader in them. But when a twist of fate and a torn knee ligament brought them face to face with each other and face to face with the end of their playing days, they combined on a home run trot that celebrated the collective human spirit far more than individual athletic achievement.

To paraphrase the rest of the story, Tucholsky stumbles rounding 1st base as she is celebrating hitting the first home run of her college career and injures her knee to the point that she cannot stand let alone walk around the bases. Under the rules of the game she would be called "out" by the umpires if her teammates or coaches assist her. The only seeming alternative is to stop the play with her on first base, provide a pinch runner, and continue on with the game. Unfortunately, she would not be credited with a home run. That's when competition took a back seat.

"And right then," [Western Oregon coach Pam] Knox said, "I heard, 'Excuse me, would it be OK if we carried her around and she touched each bag?'"

The voice belonged to Holtman, a four-year starter who owns just about every major offensive record there is to claim in Central Washington's record book. She also is staring down a pair of knee surgeries as soon as the season ends. Her knees ache after every game, but having already used a redshirt season earlier in her career, and ready to move on to graduate school and coaching at Central, she put the operations on hold so as to avoid missing any of her final season. Now, with her own opportunity for a first postseason appearance very much hinging on the outcome of the game -- her final game at home -- she stepped up to help a player she knew only as an opponent for four years.

"Honestly, it's one of those things that I hope anyone would do it for me," Holtman said. "She hit the ball over her fence. She's a senior; it's her last year. … I don't know, it's just one of those things I guess that maybe because compared to everyone on the field at the time, I had been playing longer and knew we could touch her, it was my idea first. But I think anyone who knew that we could touch her would have offered to do it, just because it's the right thing to do. She was obviously in agony."

Holtman and shortstop Liz Wallace lifted Tucholsky off the ground and supported her weight between them as they began a slow trip around the bases, stopping at each one so Tucholsky's left foot could secure her passage onward. Even with Tucholsky feeling the pain of what trainers subsequently came to believe was a torn ACL (she was scheduled for tests to confirm the injury on Monday), the surreal quality of perhaps the longest and most crowded home run trot in the game's history hit all three players.

I truly recommend you read the whole article, its amazing. Education, like almost any other area of human endeavor, has become so competitive that we miss out on the simple truth that we need to help and support one another. I know it sounds hackneyed, but as we develop instruction, especially asynchronous, we need to make sure that there is some sort of helping hand out there that a learner can turn to when they are unclear on something or are frustrated by a problem. This perhaps is the true bonus that Web 2.0 elements have to offer.

ESPN - Central Washington offers the ultimate act of sportsmanship - College Sports

Monday, April 21, 2008

Laptop U: Where No One Looks at the Professor

For some reason I'm in a negative mood about Web 2.0 tools and education. Reading this article posted at Pajamas Media, got me wondering if what is necessary at the primary school level is some form of instruction on showing respect and prioritizing your life. Written by a professor who chooses to be anonymous so that her students don't discover "she is onto them."

I'm in the midst of a brilliant lecture. I'm very well prepared for this class. I have thirty or forty Powerpoint slides that boil down the textbook chapter into handy outlines. I have included outside material that I spent hours finding and scanning. I have even inserted a two minute clip from a news show that someone had uploaded to YouTube. I also genuinely find this topic fascinating, so I'm able to talk passionately about it. I'm pacing and making wild arm movements. I'm wearing a short skirt.

But about half the class isn't staring at the wonder that is me. Their eyes are glued to their computer monitors. There is a background sound of clacked-clack as they transcribe my lecture. At least, that's what they tell me what they're doing. I cant see their monitor screens. Its more likely that they're IM-ing their girlfriends and flirting with boys on MySpace and downloading songs.

Part of me wonders when adults ceded responsibility for how learning should occur to the students. How far does an instructor have to go to keep learners interested in the topic? If learners are allowed to surf the Internet without repercussions in the classroom, how will they respond in the workplace?

I am not arguing that we should tell them to check their laptop at the door, or schools should turn off Internet access in the classroom. But there needs to be some guidance. At the very least we need to re-instill a belief that we should show all people the kind of respect and attentiveness that we would expect from others when we speak.

Or maybe, the lecture hall should become a thing of the past, a quaint anachronism akin to the chalk board and the fountain pen. If lectures can be recorded and streamed, if lecture notes can be posted, and assignments delivered via the class web site why do we need to bring the students together in one room

There are winners and losers with each new technology and maybe, for better or worse, the time of the formal educator, the sage-on-the-stage and the classroom is passing. Tags:

Pajamas Media » Blog Archive » Laptop U: Where No One Looks at the Professor

Symantec: Online Security Concerns Growing in the Workplace

I started reading Neil Postman's Technopoly over the weekend in which he presented a  piece from Plato's Phaedrus in which a god named Theuth presented to King Thamus the discovery of letters. Theuth praised his discovery because he said it "will make Egyptians wiser and give them better memories." But Thamus replied

O most ingenious Theuth, the parent or inventor of an art is not always the best judge of the utility or inutility of his own inventions to the users of them. And in this instance, you who are the father of letters, from a paternal love of your own children have been led to attribute to them a quality which they cannot have; for this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners' souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.

Postman presented the piece to note that adoption of any technology, regardless of its potential, is a Faustian bargain in which a sacrifice must be made in return for the power offered by the technology. I offer this up because of the post I read this post on Campus Technology about security concerns surrounding Web 2.0 tools in the workplace.

Symantec has posted a pair of reports that reveal that workers "put themselves at risk whenever they check their MySpace and Facebook pages...all while at the workplace."

Among the key findings in Symantec's "Global Internet Security Threat Report" are some staggering numbers, including the 711,912 new threats discovered in 2007, compared to just 125,243 in 2006. That's an increase of 468 percent.

The report also highlighted several enterprise system weakness trends which are germane to IT pros looking to balance the new work/life spillover in their IT administration space. According to the report, 58 percent of respondent-documented vulnerabilities in the third and fourth quarters of last year affected Web-based software or applications. Of those vulnerabilities, 72 percent were deemed "easily exploitable."

In their second study, Millennial Workforce: IT Risk or Benefit?, Symantec unveils that:

  • 66% of millnnials access Facebook/MySpace during work hours
  • 75% access their personal webmail accounts
  • 46% use IM on the corporate network
  • Less than 45% stick to company-issued devices or software

The report then goes on to call for CIOs to study what devices are being used in their organization, what applications are being downloaded,  and to track movement of data and information. Based on this data they need to quantify and remediate the problem.

The bottom line is that in this age corporations need to be extremely sensitive to protecting its proprietary information as well as the information of its clients. At the same time, the Millennial generation is not going to blindly give up the technology it has grown up with. Corporations want to tap into the innovative spirit of the Millennials, but to do so they need to treat them as equals and not as children that should be seen, but not heard.

Symantec suggests that IT needs to educate its audience. "Use logic to communicate the risk, solution and benefit to your employees. Recognize that coaching the millennial workforce is more effective than educating."

I think that last line is the key. Corporations cannot just promulgate policies and post them as .pdfs on the corporate intranet and accept that as job done. Nor can it produce mind-numbing training sessions that basically rehash the policy. If there is going to be a zero-tolerance attitude toward IT security failures there needs to be greater communication and cooperation in developing and enforcing the policies. Tags:

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Do you want fries with that philosopher?

This seems to represent the ultimate triumph of capitalism over all other ideologies.

One student took a far more critical view: We the students are the customers, the consumers, the ones who make the choice every day to pay attention or not. I pay approximately $30,000 to go here, whether I text in class or not. Laurence Thomas gets paid whether his students text in class or not. Does he think that this is the first time this has happened on any college campus? Had he acted like nearly 100 percent of the other college professors in this country, he would have shrugged it off and continued with his lecture, which he is getting paid to do. His deterring of the class and exit from the lecture only serves to highlight is own selfishness, as he will get paid while his paying students are having their time and money wasted. He needs to get over himself here.

Call me old-fashioned, but I side with the professor. An education should not be treated as just another throw-away commodity in our society. And a teacher should receive the respect he or she has earned from their scholarly endeavors. Hopefully the student quoted here is not typical. His or her attitude speaks volumes about their attitude towards the class. Of course I think the professor was being a bit childish in walking out on all of his students because of the actions of one or two.

Unfortunately this class is probably a prerequisite for most of these students and they don't really care about the topic. It does speak volumes about the lack of true learning opportunities in a venue in which one person is speaking to hundreds of learners.

If You Text in Class, This Prof Will Leave :: Inside Higher Ed :: Higher Education's Source for News, and Views and Jobs