Category: Blogging

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And So It Begins….

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I usually arrive on campus to an empty parking lot. Today was no exception despite the road construction, school buses, and famous Waukesha trains.

The construction workers are already hard at work completing the new science building. New students adorned in their new tee shirts are exploring the campus making sure that they can find their classrooms.

An early morning phone call to ITS is quite successful both in resolving some traditional first of semester computer issues and in renewing some friendships. Daniel will be starting his 20th year here. Chris is a Carroll graduate. Both exemplify the authenticity in my belief that Carroll Cares.

Much mundane to accomplish today before the Cubs game. I hope to get a lot of serious writing done this year, but that block of time will not be available today.

Several of my student assistants have threatened promised to stop by. As I’ve written many times I’ve been blessed across the years with over 50 superb student assistants. It is fun and rewarding learning together. They keep me young(er). Tomorrow, rain or shine, I’ll answer the call of the bagpiper as the new freshman class is introduced to the Carroll academic world.

Thanks to all you alumni for sharing via LinkedIn and Facebook your responses to my earlier blog posts of this year. It’s nice knowing that I have a reader or two:)

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Exceeding my Expectations: My Students Explore Book Writing

Team2016b

Throughout the 2015-2016 school year, we four undergraduate research assistants in “Dr. Simpson’s Neighborhood” have been familiarizing ourselves with several different learning tools described on Jane Hart’s Top 100 Learning Tools List. As we read about and played with each tool, we wrote blog posts using  WordPress to let the world know more about the features, benefits, tips, and drawbacks of each learning tool based upon our personal experiences. As these blogs were being published throughout the fall semester, Dr. Simpson suggested OUR writing our own book about how the tools can facilitate learning in the classroom and business world. We responded to this challenge with both trepidation and zeal! 

We took each of the blog posts previously written and compiled them into one large Microsoft Word document. Then, over the course of about two months, we carefully went through each blog post. We improved the writing, further developed ideas, updated our learnings, corrected errors, added pictures, and temporarily removed hypertext links. We divided the learning tools we examined into 5 chapters: Video Editing Software, Social Network/Interactive Networking Tools, Note Taking Tools, Data Collecting Tools, and Presentation/Sharing Tools. We added screenshots for examples and created potential cover pages for the book. We decided upon a basic layout: an introduction at the beginning of each chapter, a reasonably detailed description of each learning tool, and an explanation of how the tool is useful in business and educational settings.

(Alison Lehman) Converting our short, to the point blog posts to a book format was no small task. Creating a book took a lot of planning, coordination between team members, additional investigation into the learning tools, and large amounts of time to create, write, coordinate and edit our thoughts and experiences. Initially our idea was “simply” to convert each WordPress blog onto Google Docs so that each team member had access to the book-in-progress no matter where they were. This decision was vital to a successful workflow of communication.  We could leave notes for one another on the Google sheet, see what each other had been working on, and be aware of what still needed to be completed. When the WordPress blogs were converted into the Google Doc, I had naively assumed that a lot of the information we had previously written would be easily ported into the book. However, varying writing styles and incomplete information did not easily lend themselves to a smooth transition into a book. Consequently, we chose almost to completely scrap the original posts and start anew. In hindsight this decision was a blessing in disguise because it gave us an opportunity to rethink our ideas, add important details, include updated information and impose a common, improved format from the bottom up. Since we were not producing short blogs anymore, a lot more research went into investigating how to use the tools, what the tools were most useful for, and the utility of these learning tools in the classroom and business environments. Though the discussion of each learning tool examined was primarily written by one or two individuals together, but each was then edited and read and reread by each individual of the research team. Creating a book taught us all about proper planning, how essential clear communication is between members, how to incorporate  the ideas and thoughts of each member, and how to establish and maintain a realistic timeline for completing a managable task. Our ideas were continually being improved and applied to better enhance the effectiveness of our collaborative first book-writing efforts. With the final product being steps away from completion, I am proud for all time, effort, and resources that were dedicated in creating a book of this kind. I look forward to the future projects and goals the research team will accomplish together. When a great group of minds come together, there is nothing that can stand in the way of their success and ambitions.

(Arianna) Until writing our own book, I had never appreciated the time and effort that goes into writing. The need to sit down and carefully read and reread and reread again every page trying not to miss a single typo or spelling error and making sure all of the tenses match up is daunting but necessary.  However, after about ten proofreads and several edits to the document, we were able to publish our hard work.

(Lizzy) Well, writing this book was definitely an eye opening experience for myself. I had never once thought I would have the opportunity to write a book, much less publish one for others to enjoy. I did not know how much work goes into writing a book until we had to be a team and work together on creating this book. We had to combine all of our different writing styles together and blogs that were almost done to blogs that needed a lot more work. We had to write about applications that seemed so basic to us, but were actually a lot more detailed than we thought. I know while writing the Excel piece that I had no idea all that could be done with this learning tool until I started to use it for some of my classes and explore the different features it has to offer.  I had no idea for more than half of these applications all that they could do. Personally, I now use some of these tools on a daily basis and i can envision singing them at work, at school, and for future purposes. I have gotten so much better at writing because of Alison and her helping me have a better writing style and teaching me to watch my grammar better. Also, I have never been so open and excited to learn about internet tools that are so useful and that everyone can have access to till I started working with Alison, Arianna, and Tia. We all have come together and given each other different perspectives on our idea of the book, how to write it, what to include, how these tools can benefit others and in what ways. It was such a great experience. It took a lot of time, but was most definitely worth it for the end result and the great feeling of accomplishment all of us get to share together, including Dr. Simpson. Without Dr. Simpson helping us as a team to give us the resources, the challenges, and the time to write these blogs and experience these tools, we never would have had this great opportunity. I have made closer friendships with these beautiful ladies because of writing this book together and getting to know each other. We all have such different ways of thinking and different perspectives on how we interrupt certain situations or applications and it is really cool how we can all combine our ideas together to make our first book and for us to grow as partners in the workplace and grow a friendship outside of it. This book I believe also improved our relationship with Dr. Simpson because of the collaborating we all needed to do to get to where we are now as a team. We can only grow from here and I can not wait to experience this journey with each of my teammates!


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Banishing Computer Clutter (Part 1)

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I am about to go through all the different applications that I have on this Mac and attempt to winnow them. Then, I need to do the same for all my other machines. Yes, I have done this before and yes I have written about it before (e.g. here). Appluenza is difficult to extinguish!

I call up 1-Password. Increasingly I am relying on such software to avoid the    F-word–the forgetting that seems to be an increasing concomitant of aging.  I am much more interested  nowadays in software or research claiming to enhance, protect, and expand memory. Fortunately this old man can find inspiring older role models in individuals like Roger Angell and his marvelous new book.

I load an application from hell. I bought this particular MAC software several years ago to convert videos to the many different formats existing.  Alas it won’t accept the registration code which somehow is encrypted in a fashion that doesn’t allow cut and paste and which consists of a long string of numbers, letters and hieroglyphics. Customer support is a series of FAQs that don’t address my needs. Humbug. Trash it along with another app that I never have used.

I discover several Apps built into the Mac whose existence I did not know or whose function I never realized. Embarrassing. Annoying. Wasteful. More to learn.

I load my Day One “journaling” software to record my progress. The newly downloaded voice dictation software works pretty well with it. I have all my student assistants using a shared Day One app to help us co-ordinate our work efforts.

And suddenly I am distracted by my Comic Life 3 software!

Time for a Thanksgiving holiday break and playing with the grand-nieces and grand-nephews!

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“Don’t be who ISIS wants you to be”: Bloggers on Paris and Beirut

Others can better express these things than I. Hence, the repost of these important ideas:

Bloggers in France, Lebanon, and beyond share their stories, analyses, and art after a week of violence.

Source: “Don’t be who ISIS wants you to be”: Bloggers on Paris and Beirut

We need to reaffirm our humanity and  rediscover our common purpose.

  • Don’t worry about doing THE Right Thing, but do A right thing.
  • Live, Love, Learn, and ——Give.
  • Be Good (for Goodness’ Sake).
  • Be Nice to your Brother and Sister.
  • Be Patient.
  • Be Kind
  • Be Giving.
  • Be Forgiving.
  • Be of Good Cheer.
  • Be You.
  • Be—–

and

  • Let it Be.



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Mapping New Directions for the Writings of Curious David: Winding Up or Winding Down?

David Simpson Teaching 1

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Now that I’ve returned to writing this blog with some regularity, I’ve begun to have a sense of the directions I hope to take it—or it to take me. My present thoughts are to write more regularly, to do more collaborative writing with students (my students write so well—here are Arianna’s thoughts on “engagement”), and occasionally to write a lengthy Chronicle of Higher Education or New York Times quality thought piece (such as a response to this interesting survey about “faculty engagement“).

I have just finished rereading Janet Majure’s wonderful Teach Yourself Visually WordPress, and have benefited much from studying online WordPress instructional resources.   Consequently, I feel I now have an ability to master and manage this WordPress.com blogging software.

Some of my most creative bursts of ideas are engendered after extensive manual labor cutting grass, chain-sawing, picking apples, walking the dog and being engaged in other outdoor physical or recreational activity at North Lake.I’m thinking that one distinct thread of writing I want to explore will deal with technology applications to higher education. Another will have the theme of “David in Carroll Land” (perhaps co-authored with invited students, alumni, or other members of the Carroll family). A third will deal with whatever comes to mind (as has been in the past). A fourth focus will deal with contemporary or local issues, and a fifth will just be intended to provoke thinking—perhaps though parody.

I welcome any reader feedback about these new directions. Am I being too ambitious? Will I have any readers? Is this a positive direction to go—or is it, in fact, directionless?

Blogs post topics  that I’ve been considering writing about in the near future include:

  • How can students best be served by academic advising?
  • My last lecture (things I would finally say)
  • Thank you, Diederik Stapel, for the lessons you taught me by your dishonesty.
  • Global Education
  • My most (in)formative learning experiences
  • Lessons learned from my dogs
  • (Oh) Dear Carroll Alumni
  • On Immortality
  • Time
  • How technology distances/enables/empowers/enslaves us
  • Reaching out, reaching within
  • How to kill a college
  • Loss of innocence
  • Kindness
  • The psychology of … (curiosity, religion)
  • Why I don’t give a Twit
  • Where do writing ideas come from?
  • What I wanna be when I grow up?
  • Distinguishing Science from Pseudo Science
  • Language—Leaving no Rosetta stone unturned
  • What is meant by “engaged: faculty and students?

Which of these, dear reader would you like to see and, hopefully, discuss? I welcome your input, encouragement, and assistance.



App GenerationBloggingCurious DavidJane Hart's Top 100 Learning Tools

What evidence is there that collaborative, engaging, Web 2.0 tools indeed enhance learning?

This thought piece  has been slightly revised from a blog piece I wrote a number of years ago for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel under the name “Curious David” when I was a community educational blogger for them.

I’m nervous and excited. Time to take off my invisibility cloak. Tomorrow (Tuesday, September 2, 2008 at 8:00 a.m.) I meet in person for the first time with my 20 first-year students. What an immense responsibility to be their first professor!

We’re going to explore “21rst century” learning tools such as blogs, wikis, podcasts, social networks, virtual worlds, and YouTube. The idea for this course emerged from my experiences writing this “Curious David” blog column. Last year’s opportunity to write for “JSonline” was transformative for me as I learned from elementary and secondary school teachers, high school students, virtual school advocates, retired faculty and readers about innovations, challenges and successes they faced promoting learning.

In this first-year seminar we shall focus on some of the 25 free learning tools described by educator Jane Hart. [Here is an updated list I would draw upon were I to teach this course again.]  As we examine these learning tools we hope to answer questions such as these:

  1. To what degree can these web tools truly enhance student learning?
  2. To what degree are they just “cool” tools?
  3. Could they be used to develop critical thinking?
  4. Do they improve or degrade communication skills?
  5. Might they be applied to fostering cross-cultural or international understanding?
  6. Might they strengthen or weaken writing skills?
  7. What are their weaknesses or dangers?
  8. Should they complement or replace 20th century learning skills/tools?
  9. How can one evaluate their effectiveness?

[It seems to me it should be possible to produce an evidence-based paper like this to address the questions above.]

 My intent is to assist students in the transition from high school to college—and to investigate Web 2.0 learning tools which might be useful across classes and in the workplace. I want to involve them in educational experiences that will develop and enhance abilities in reading, writing, reflecting, presenting, thinking, and producing. Writing exercises will include short in-class and out-of-class reaction papers, journals, blogs/wikis, and exams. Presentations will be both formal and informal; individual and in small groups. Collaboration will be both with fellow students and with me.

Still Curious,

David


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David’s Wayback Machine – Pioneering Web 2.0 Technology Tools (Part 1) Jan 6, 2009

There was a time when I kept rough drafts of everything I wrote. Now, I am no longer in that habit and am in the process of cleaning out all my files (both electronic and legal-pad format). It is amusing to (re)discover some early writings when I thought I was at the leading edge of knowing about, sharing, and using “technology learning tools”
     I find interesting the existence of the Internet Wayback archive project, though I’m uneasy about such a huge amount of Internet detritus (especially my own) using up cyberspace. Recently I’ve made time to attempt to clean up my own Internet garbage (old accounts, false starts on blogs). With some amusement I rediscovered some of my first efforts to promulgate into the classroom technology tools with 25 Carroll freshmen.  (I have chosen NOT to revive the dead links in this piece).

Original 2009 piece follows here:

Historic First Meeting in Second Life

I’ve begun developing a presentation I’m scheduled to give on January 16 to Carroll faculty tentatively titled “Pioneering Web 2.0 Learning Tools with Carroll Students: Educational Technology of the Future, Catching Up with What Fifth-Graders Already Know, or Another Fad? “I hope to share with interested members of the Carroll community some of the Web 2.0 learning tools and resources that I have explored this past semester(Download FYS 100 Section U Syllabus – Dr, David Simpson Labor Day Version PDF with my students (who were especially playful with their photoshop skills).

Simpson

I am toying with the idea of showing what I can NOW do in some kind of class—possibly for alumni or faculty.  I would draw upon my knowledge gained since 2009 about the application of technology learning tools—especially drawing upon resources like this?  Anybody interested? If so, email me—or send me a message via owl.

 


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Tyler speaks: A loving Mother shares lessons learned with her ASD child

 

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Many WordPress bloggers have shared their vicarious and first-hand experiences with autism. A number of books attempt to describe the autistic experience through fiction and there are many films dealing with this topic. Below, Keri J. Johnson, one of my Carroll University research students shares her observations as a mother.

According to Autism Speaks a staggering 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), with an even higher amount of boys with 1 in 42. Raising and caring for a child on the spectrum is challenging both emotionally and physically. All any parent wishes is the best for their child, and when you see your child struggle it can be heartbreaking. This is my journey raising a child with ASD.

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Tyler speaks…

 

 My son, Tyler is a charming boy with a bright future. He likes to play video games, watch television, swim, and play sports. He is passionate about weather, and can name all the clouds in the sky. He has an endearing quirkiness about him that you will notice as soon as you start talking to him.

      When Tyler turned two years old I noticed he did things differently than other children his age. Although he could speak well, he did not comprehend what others were telling him. For example, he would understand if you asked him if he wanted something to eat, but if you told him to put the block on top of the table he would give you a blank look. I also noticed at playgroups that he would play differently than other children his age. Instead of driving the toy cars around on the floor, he would line them up.  Also when the other kids were playing in a preschool playhouse Tyler just kept opening and closing the door as if he needed to know how the door was put together.

     I knew all children at his age had tantrums, but Tyler’s were different. They were full-on meltdowns that could last for over an hour, and would leave both him and me completely exhausted.  Looking back now I can see these episodes as having been red flags, but at the time I didn’t recognize them as such. I made excuses for him saying to myself and to others that he was just very passionate with a very analytical mind—maybe a future engineer. I decided to bring the subject up at his next doctor’s appointment, in hopes that the doctor would ease my concerns.

     I took Tyler to his three year well-child checkup and communicated my concerns to the pediatrician’s attention. I point blank asked the doctor if he thought it was possible that Tyler was autistic.  He said that he believed it was very possible.

    With this diagnosis my world stopped. I came home from the appointment and cried. As a parent you have so many hopes and dreams for your children, and when you get a diagnosis such as this all you can think of is what kind of future will they have. Needless to say I was very angry, but I knew I needed to do everything I could to help him. I had to learn everything I could about autism.

     I enrolled him into an early childhood school program and he was assigned both an occupational therapist and a speech therapist. Things were not always easy for Tyler; meltdowns ranged from 10 to 60 minutes and were extremely exhausting for everyone.

     By the time Tyler was in elementary school I was getting called every day to come and help calm him. I would hold him in my arm and just rock with him back and forth until the meltdown would subside. Sometimes the meltdowns were so bad that I would break down and start crying right along with him. Anything and everything could trigger a meltdown such as smells, sounds, and having to wait in line. He would always feel miserable afterwards, and I knew I had to find a way to help him.

     I looked to no avail for therapists who would work with children with mild autism. Frustratingly, there was just no one who was willing work with him. I felt abandoned and  completely alone, but I never gave up.  I started to research different calming and coping techniques that I could teach him.

     Social stories were a huge success, because he was able to learn how to cope in different situations. I found that tickling his arm and back soothed him and could stop a meltdown before it started. Schedules were also very important, and seemed to agree with him. I had made him a schedule that told him what he needed to do from the time he woke up until he went to bed.  I discovered  that he had a need for constant manipulation. He learned how to finger knit, and the feeling of the yarn and the movement of his fingers helped soothe him.

     As a result of these interventions, Tyler  was doing really well at home, but school was still very hard on him. His anxiety over homework, tests, and talking to other students made for very hard days,  and he would come home emotionally exhausted. It was very sad because he knew he did not want to act that way.

     Tyler would ask me why he was like this, and why was he different than the other kids. These questions  broke my heart.  It was hard as a parent to see him this way because I knew he had so much potential. His teacher suggested I look into putting him on medications. I was extremely upset that she would suggest such a thing, and I fought it for several months. However, I eventually decided it might be the best thing for him.

     Tyler went through over a dozen different types of medication with many different side effects until we found some that worked for him. Although he seemed to be doing better on meds, I often wondered if I was doing the right thing. I felt that they were just a bandaid or temporary fix, and that he might never learn how to cope on his own. I wanted him to be able to self-soothe without relying on medication.

     During fourth grade I started to read about the benefits of a gluten free diet. I really wanted to find an alternative to medication, and thus we started our gluten free journey. I am not going to lie; the first couple months were extremely difficult, but I knew we needed to stick with it.  After three long months I started to notice a difference in Tyler.  His anxiety was lower, he was happier, and his meltdowns were nonexistent.

     Fifth grade was very good for Tyler. He was happy, had good grades, and not one meltdown the entire year! I was thrilled for him.

     He is now almost finished with the sixth grade, and has been medication free for over a year. He is still gluten free, and doing wonderfully.  It has been a long journey, but we never gave up.

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Keri J. Johnson will graduate from Carroll University on Mothers’ Day, May 11, 2014. She is writing a book about her lessons learned with Tyler.

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Three Digital Tools in Need of My Sharpening

I’m in the process of revisiting several resources that have influenced my choice of online teaching tools. This post focuses on the book by Steve Johnson (2011)—a thoughtful and concise compendium of his thinking about today’s “tech-savvy” (high school age) learners and how to prepare them for their digital future. He systematically  evaluates over 30 “etools” he judges to be useful for engendering collaboration, creation, and publication across the curriculum, and offers concrete suggestions for how to get started (and how to keep up) as an instructor. Among the many tools that he recommends that I have personally found especially useful for my teaching at the college/university level are the following:

  1. I have grown to like Animoto as a vehicle for creating and sharing video-like productions, despite its constraints of needing to use Adobe Flash and accepting only MP3 formatted music files. I have elected to have an educational account with them. Here is an example of how I have used it.
  2. WordPress is now my blogging tool of choice and the blogging tool that I teach to students. I myself move back and forth between WordPress.com (“David in Carroll Land”) and WordPres.org  (“Curious David in Carroll Land”). The latter gives me far more creative freedom (e.g. the use of plugins) but at an additional cost (both financial and time I need to devote to its higher learning-curve). Here is an example of a WordPress.com blog piece in which my student research assistants shared  “sand box” activities while they explored for me the value of some beta version software which showed promise to me of eventually being useful in the classroom.  Here, on the other hand, is a recent blog piece co-written with my students using the WordPress.org blogging software (which I still am at an early stage of mastering). Without doubt, my best etool  evaluators are my highly trained student assistants.
  3. Google Docs is becoming an increasingly important tool for me. Indeed, I would love to devote the time to create a Google Apps course for our students.  Richard Bryne, an educator thought leader whom I follow on Twitter and whose contributions I benefit from, has created a wonderful comprehensive guide to this tool.

Presently my students are more facile with this learning tool than I!.  We regularly use it as a means of collaborating and sharing documents —photos, videos, journal articles, rough drafts, spreadsheets. Just today one of my senior research seminar students shared with me, on Google Drive, a wonderful video she had made of her interviewing her twelve-year-old son about his experiences with a form of Asperger syndrome. Keri and I shortly shall be incorporating this video and her insights about parenting such a special child into a blog piece as a first step in assisting her in writing a book to share her knowledge.


 

BloggingControlling TechnologyCurious DavidJane Hart's Top 100 Learning ToolsPersonal Learning Environments

Retooling and Sharpening my Technology Learning Tools – Without Injury

This is that interesting time of the academic year when I am trying to bring the semester to a soft-landing and concomitantly prepare for  the fall semester. This summer I hope to revisit several books that have especially informed me about uses of digital tools for teaching—especially  Michelle Pacansky-Brock’s Best Practices for Teaching with Emerging Technologies, Susan Manning and Kevin E. Johnson’s The Technology Toolbelt for Teaching, Steve Johnson’s Digital Tools for Teaching, and Julie Lindsay and Vicki A. Davis’ inspirational Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds: Move to Global Collaboration One Step at a Time.

The writings of Alec Couros through his informative Becoming a Networked Learner and Curtis J. Bonk have impacted  how I teach, how I learn, and how I “reach out” to others  via social media. The challenge continues how  to find balance between tool use and being controlled or constrained rather than enabled by the tool.

I see that Jane Hart has opened nominations for her 8th annual Top-Tools-for-Learning  List.  I think I’ll withhold my vote until early this fall so that I have more time  to better answer the following critical questions:

  1. Which of these tools will enhance my research and my communication capabilities?
  2. Which of these tools do I want all my students to know how to use? (Which, on the other hand,  are better suited for my  advanced research assistants?)
  3. Which of these tools will be around in four years?
  4. Which of these tools serve me best when I am engaged in my role as partner of Schneider Consulting?
  5. Among subsets of tool types, which best serve my needs?
  6. How much learning time do I or my students need to invest to use these tools?
  7. How portable are these tools across the browsers I most frequently use?
  8. How portable are these tools across the hardware and different operating systems I most frequently use?
  9. How much of the attractiveness of these tools to me is simply due to their “wow factor” and the fun they engender?
  10. Will mastering this tool increase the likelihood of my becoming a more effective teacher or enhance my ability to learn.