Monday, July 25, 2016

Striplox Hardware

Striplox has and interesting product out that is fairly similar to the Z-Clip product that we use alot of around our shop.  It slides horizontally (or vertically), allows the connectors to be very flatly nestled together, though this is true if you inset Z-Clip as well.  It is a little different in that there is an option that makes it lock into place, so that it will not be removable once installed.

The website shows additional uses, including being able to put it into the end grain of a piece of wood, and to use it for corners.  It is definitely something that I could see being used in the shop.

Friday, July 22, 2016

On Teaching 3 – Online Learning

I wrote the first two of these after a bad online teaching experience.  During the last quarter I had an OK online experience.  Most of the classes I take are online.   It isn’t necessarily because I prefer them – but they are typically more convenient.  As with any class there are many differences between classes and schools, even within a college or university.  I consume a fair amount of content – much of it online.  Obviously it varies in the way that it is conveyed, but it is clear to me that online learning – actively with enrollment, semi actively via online sites like Lynda.Com, or open source university classes, or just casually with many of the articles and white papers available.
Generally speaking, most of this learning occurs much more passively than traditional classroom learning. 

Generally speaking online learning is typically not as effective as classroom learning and retention is lower.  Considering the fact that online learning, in my opinion will only grow, finding a way to fix this is important.

My online classes have generally been 1 of three types. One is a live recorded actual class, in which the online portion participates asynchronously with the rest of the class.  One class gave you the option of watching it live (this was a fairly good online class).  One type provides pre-recorded lecture materials.  One of the best classes I ever took online had this - his lectures were full length, insightful, and on point.  The third, may have online recordings but they are short and no where near lecture length.

The other differences in classes of course is the assignments.  To "mimic" in class discussion, many (poor) online classes require an absurd amount of reading and writing posts relating to the topic and the commenting on other posts. Hopefully, they at least provide a rubric on what these posts should include to be meaningful, but they often don't.  And the amount of work that goes into this far exceeds that of a normal classroom discussion and sometimes equals a paper (some require resources).  I understand that it is more difficult to see what students are doing in a virtual world.  I find that discussion groups work better than doing whole class discussions, and that case studies and actual papers and analysis also work well.

Also what I find is that not only is the lecture material not the same as an in class discussion, but neither is the reading material.  When I first started taking online course it seemed like teachers just simply made their in class course into an online version (minus maybe the video).  I'm not really sure of that though - just as students seem to put less work into an online course - so does, it seems the professors do.

I realize that all of these thoughts on teaching may seem off topic to theatre, but frankly, especially in areas like Cad, I feel like there are things that could be taught online.  and I don't think that online courses will go away, because ultimately they do save time, even if they are made to be high quality.

So here are my thoughts :
1. Provide lectures.  I am taking a class to gain specific knowledge, but I am paying someone for that opportunity and feel like I deserve some sort of personalized experience and that includes relevant, and full length lectures.  I can find a list of books to read on my own, and probably even fine a discussion group.  The teacher aspect is lost in online learning and needs to front and center.
2. provide meaningful books, articles, etc.  not overwhelming, unless it is clear what is required and discretionary and check that the links are active.  (providing does not mean that we won't purchase materials, just in terms of choosing resources).
3. have meaningful assignments.  do case studies.  Have small groups discuss issues.  Busy work isn't productive, takes alot of time, and is meaningless for long term learning.  Focus on projects or papers. realize that while we are all using technology that group projects are still painful (not that I ever expect them to go away).
4. Use other technology.  There are spaces for virtual collaboration where people can put up PDFs and text chat, or mark up what is on the screen.  Resources are constantly changing, stay up to day.  have virtual office hours.  Be responsive.  Give students feedback.  Be clear what you expectations are.
5. tests and quizzes vary from class to class. i don't typically find them effective (they are usually from the text book company and are "tricky" just to be more difficult.  Though in one of the best classes I had we did have an in class essay final.  Obviously this will depend on the type of class being taught, but projects and papers can be viable options.  Don't make choices because they are easy, and don't use the teacher questions out of the text book because it is also easy for you to deal with.

As I mentioned, I dont  think this trend will go away, but I think it can be much better if approached differently!

Below are a variety of sites that talk about online learning in more depth.