Thursday, November 27, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
The BBC article takes parents to task, claiming they don't put enough restrictions on their children's gaming activities. I'm sure that's true in many families. I know from experience, though, that even with restrictions, you don't always know that your kid is gaming. Kids can sneak a laptop into their room, for example, or go to a friend's house and play. What I think needs to happen (and I say this partly thinking out loud about what might work for me) is that kids need to be encouraged to do lots of different activities and to have lots of activities available. That means having books around to read, friends to play outside with, other hobbies such as art or building things to fill the time with. Parents have to lay that foundation and sometimes even arrange opportunities for other activities for their kids. This is something I've been thinking about a lot as we head into winter. I think too often parents assume this kind of stuff will just happen--and maybe it used to 20 years ago--but not so much anymore.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
There are all kinds of other springpads to track health and medical records, exercise plans, to-do lists and more. It's beta, of course, but definitely looks like an interesting tool to try out for a while.
Monday, November 24, 2008
The book covers a lot of ground, starting with preschool and going all the way through college with a few detours here and there. My own son was not one of those typical fidgety boys who always needed to be running around so the early chapters don't apply to my personal experience, though I certainly know boys who fit the descriptions in the book. Some of the personal stories are just heartbreaking. Boys at the age of 6 or 7 who come home dejected and tell their parents they're incapable of being good, where good is defined as sitting still for long periods of time. In the early years, Tyre covers such issues as recess and ADHD, pointing out that programs like NCLB have meant in some schools the elimination of recess, which ironically makes it harder for boys to focus. She shows how many more boys are diagnosed with ADHD and that teachers themselves often push parents to get their boys diagnosed (even though it's unethical for them to do so). She criticizes teachers who have no tolerance for the energy of boys and at the end of the book, calls on them to leave the profession.
Her point about school in general is that it favors girls all the way through. From the early years, when sitting still is important to neatness and organization in the middle to working harder in high school, girls do better at the game of school. I've seen many signs of this throughout our school years. In second grade, at our very first parent-teacher conference here, Geeky Boy was chastised for his handwriting and his lack of organization. I laughed this off at the time, assuming that he wouldn't be writing much past elementary school anyway. In our very first year of middle school, however, his teacher again criticized his handwriting and even had the whole class (predominantly boys) practice handwriting for a week. I yelled about this, saying that I didn't think it was appropriate and that the kids should be learning content. Her response was neatness counts for the final grade. It really just made me mad. In middle school, too, being organized is hugely important and very few boys are good at it. From the book:
'Eleven-year-olds go from having a single nurturing teacher to having six teachers with different personalitites and different expectations. Then there's the paperwork. Every teacher gives handouts, requires you to bring certain textbooks or workbooks to class. Each one assigns homework, and each assignment has a deadline.'It's more organization than is required of most paying jobs. And it's required for 11-year-olds. Geeky Boy still hasn't mastered this. And unfortunately, his parents aren't much help here. We've developed our own coping mechanisms, but we're don't naturally keep our lives organized. I, personally, have been working on this since I was about 12! Geeky Boy aces almost every test that's given to him and he actually talks about the things he's learning. It's clear, for instance, that he's totally into his history course and that he's getting a lot better content in it than I ever got in school. But he fails to turn in assignments because he forgets to do them or forgets to turn them in and his grade gets dragged down. It's distressing to think that a smart kid like him isn't doing well and could, in fact, miss out on opportunities down the road simply because he hasn't come up with a good way to keep up with all his responsibilities. And, sadly, as Tyre points out, this is exactly what happens to many boys. They miss out on upper level and AP classes in high school, which means they aren't as good candidates for college.
One chapter that was hard to read was the one of video games. Tyre does not outright condemn them the way many parents do, and even goes so far as to say that there is little evidence to support that video games, even aggressive ones, cause violence in kids. What she does say is that games can be addicting, in part because they fill a void caused by school. Video games offer boys an opportunity to socialize and to be successful. If they don't feel successful in school, they can feel successful in a game. She tells a couple of stories of young men who get so caught up in their gaming that they end up in rehab programs and/or dropping out of college. This was a hard chapter to read in part because I don't know if I buy the idea of Internet addiction. On the other hand, I know it's hard to keep my own son away from the video games. And I worry that he may head down a road where gaming becomes more important than life. At the moment, I'm trying to model this for him, by setting limits for myself and only playing when I've gotten my work done. Currently, thanks to his poor grades, he's banned from gaming anyway. Sigh.
Tyre's book is full of good information and I would actually recommend that not just parents of boys read it, but parents of girls as well. The book is, however, short on advice for parents. She recommends changing the whole system, a tall order for any one parent to contemplate. Although I've had some success in explaining to teachers how telling my son he's failing because he can't write neatly leads him to be discouraged in areas that he is actually doing well in, I find the school system so daunting that I don't interact much with it at all. Tyre would probably advocate that I be a little more active and stubborn about the situation. That idea terrifies me. I will say that knowing it's not just my kid and that school is stacked against him, I can do my best to help him cope. And that's pretty much where we are now--coping--and biding our time until high school, where we hope we will begin on a better foot.
Friday, November 21, 2008
First from del.icio.us:
- A collection of journals in Instructional Technology, found via Twitter people.
- Stephen Downes on the future of online learning. Seems to be the topic of the week.
- Instructions for tracking flash videos via Google Analytics, might be useful to someone somewhere.
- Songbird--a Linux-based music database thingy. Kind of like iTunes.
- Ordering pizza via Tivo. Holy cow! I'm in heaven.
- Once again with feeling--women are leaving CS in droves.
- Why academics should blog. Seriously worth reading.
- Will Higher Ed go the way of the auto industry? Hmmm.
- Should education change and if so, how? Help George Siemens figure it out. I may contribute to this later today.
- Leslie on Tennessee's decision to require a system to catch file sharers. It's a great post, very much worth reading as she covers lots of network privacy issues. Also check out my DMCA posts, where I talked about my opposition to this very thing that got passed in TN--ugh.
- Cathy Davidson on the NY Times article linked to above.
- Jane on not having a plan C for childcare. Been there done that. Still there.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
I spend on average $150/week on groceries. I buy a fair amount of produce, but I do use a lot of shortcuts--frozen veggies, pre-made dough, the occasional frozen entree or side dish--and I buy meat. But I could live without it if I had to. These days, I tend to see what's on sale and then think about what kinds of things I could make from it. Ground beef was two for one last week. That made a spaghetti meal and tacos. And it wasn't the lean meat either. And that's the thing--and what I said 3 years ago too--the good stuff is expensive. You can complain all you want about poor people not knowing how to prepare healthy meals, but when you're just looking at the bottom line, you're likely not to pay as much attention to the nutrition labels.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
My day starts at 6:30. I wake up Geeky Boy, shove him into the shower while I go get coffee. Mr. Geeky is sometimes responsible for this task, but a) he stays up later than I do and sometimes it's just as hard to rouse him at 6:30 and b) Geeky Boy doesn't get up for him as well and c) he's not very patient with Geeky Boy's resistance to waking up (yes, pot, kettle).* At 7:00, I wake up Geeky Girl and I go downstairs and make breakfast. Right now, that's an English muffin and a half grapefruit. Sometimes it's eggs. Sometimes we skip that and Geeky Boy eats at school.
At 7:30, I drive Geeky Boy to school. We're within walking distance, but it's a really long walk. He has to leave no later than 7:10 (which means getting up at 6:00) to get there by 7:35/7:40. When it's cold, we always drive him. I'm home by 7:45.
Meanwhile, Geeky Girl has been getting ready at home. Mr. Geeky is away this week, but normally he prods her through the process. She needs less prodding than Geeky Boy, which Mr. Geeky likes immensely. He can check email, etc. and not have to be "on" as much. She leaves at 8:00 for the bus.
During my work days, I would get in the shower either right after I got home from dropping Geeky Boy off or between 8 and 8:30. Now it's 8:30 at the earliest. When Mr. Geeky is here, I usually wait for him, so it's 9 or 9:30 before I shower. This may seem irrelevant, but I generally don't start my "work" day until after I've showered, but I think delaying that until 10 is going to be problematic, so the shower may get postponed in lieu of work. The joys of working at home!
At any rate, this week, I've worked through until lunch on a couple of writing projects, splitting the time evenly between the two, so about 1.5 hours on each. This is working for now, but I have a feeling, I may end up alternating days on each project or working on one in the morning and the other in the afternoon, something like that. The main thing I want to establish is that morning (which is my best brain time) is for work of that nature, not for housework, etc.
After lunch, which lasts only 20 minutes or so, I do housework-type stuff. I'm limiting this to only an hour. Each day is devoted to a particular part of the house. Today is living room day. What I've been doing is not just general straightening, but also massive cleanouts. Today, for example, I'm going to work on the entertainment cabinets, getting rid of some things we don't need and organizing it. I'm also going to hang the blinds, blinds that we purchased at least 6 months ago (this is what I mean by neglect).
From 2-5, I putter. I've done different things. Sometimes, I just take a complete break. But mostly, I've been reading or finishing up a house project or baking. I've also tinkered around with a web site I'm working on for my future possible business, responded to various emails, etc. Geeky Boy gets home anywhere from 3-4 and Geeky Girl gets home at 4, so really, it's hard to get involved in much of anything if I'm only going to have an hour to devote to it. When they get home, I get them started on homework. I also assign them chores. Every day, as I'm puttering, I think of things for them to do. Yesterday, I had Geeky Boy gather all the trash and take it outside. Geeky Girl is still excavating her room and they both had to clean the kitchen. Today, I'll probably have Geeky Boy sort the recycling. Every day, there's work to do on their rooms. I'm trying my best to establish new habits for them. In the past, there's not really been time for chores except on the weekends and we all kind of rushed around in a vain attempt to maintain order.
This leaves evenings free. Sometimes, there's more homework to complete or a chore or two to finish up, but generally, by 7:30, we can all relax and do whatever. Yesterday, we watched the Daily Show together. We've played games, etc.
I have a feeling that the holidays are going to throw a wrench in all of this. But, I'm hopeful that by at least Christmas, we'll have a good enough foundation laid that I can really get cracking on things by January. Right now, I consider myself on sabbatical without a project.
*For the record, I think it's ridiculous that school starts for teenagers at such an ungodly hour. I really, really wish they'd change this, for all our sakes.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
The main thrust of the article is actually about how to motivate and compensate faculty for teaching and developing online courses. Course releases and monetary compensation are among the incentives already tried and have somewhat succeed. Someone in the comments suggested allowing the development of these courses to count for tenure. I think that's a step in the right direction. The subtext of the whole discussion seems to be about whether these courses are "real" courses and whether the people who teach them are "real" faculty. Although I've never taught a class solely online, I know from experience that developing good online components for a courses takes a lot of time and thought. I've seen some places move to a model that has instructional designers take content given to them by faculty, create a course (usually in a course management system), and then the faculty member steps back in to teach it. It's an efficient model, cheaper than paying a faculty member to develop the course, and it is probably effective some of the time. Likely, it depends on how well the course is run by the faculty member.
It is still my contention that faculty should be more involved than that in the development of online materials. Yes, an instructional designer/technologist can be hugely helpful in guiding faculty through the process and perhaps even developing some of the resources and tools that may be used in the course. But I think the faculty member can't facilitate the course very well if he/she doesn't participate in developing it. I can't imagine stepping in to teach a course I didn't have some knowledge of.*
Many of the colleges mentioned in the article are trying to get current faculty to teach courses online. In some cases, I suspect that might be like teaching old dogs new tricks. I'm sure there are interested and motivated faculty who want to teach courses online, but once you've tapped those out, why not consider hiring full-time faculty who teach only or mostly online and who are compensated appropriately. Teaching online *is* different from teaching face to face. Yes, much of what one knows about learning and teaching translates, but motivating students, creating good assignments, monitoring participation, etc., are all pretty different online. Why not let people specialize in that? It's already happening at all online schools, some of which don't pay their faculty well or treat them fairly. Landline schools could stand out by having quality faculty teaching their online courses.
Edward Winslow is right, the change is coming and all the grumping in the world isn't going to stop it. With the economic downturn, are students really going to be willing to shell out for tuition and room and board when they could live at home, commute for a few classes and take the rest online? And what about all those people who've been laid off and need to retrain? Can they travel 500 miles away to go back to school? I don't think so. Online education is a great option for lots of people. Traditional schools can either take advantage of the situation or risk missing out and possibly going under.
* I know some places that have standardized syllabi and textbooks even for F2F courses. I don't mind so much using the same textbook and standardizing some elements of a course. But a standard course outline would drive me batty.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Donna: You just don't get my generation!
Hank: Donna, you're my age.
Hank (typing in his blog): Donna is an idiot. Post.
Donna: I'm sure my 4000 friends will find that very interesting.
Hank: Is that supposed to scare me. Are your 4000 friends gonna come through the screen and get me.
Other worker: The people are not really in the computer, Hank.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
I had lunch with my students that work for me in the lab I ran. They are so awesome! Most of them will be taking a class with me in the spring, so it's not goodbye. It was fun to hear what they had to say about technology (most of them don't remember not having a computer in the house) and working and having a family. I'm looking forward to next semester.
I had a meeting in SL with Barbara Ganley and Martha Burtis. It's nice hanging out in virtual worlds with people.
I spent some time cleaning. Next week the serious cleaning ends. The plan is to work in the mornings and do just a little cleaning in the afternoon before the kids get home, and then do a little more work while they're doing homework. The kids have cleaning projects this weekend to help me finish up some things I've been working on. Geeky Girl actually organized a kitchen drawer spontaneous after she saw what I'd done to a cabinet. Geeky Boy wants to work on his room now after seeing Geeky Girl's room starting to shape up.
The hard part for us is how to get rid of stuff. We have lots of toys and books (used but in good shape) that I need to find a home for. So that's a project for the weekend too.
Mr. Geeky leaves for an international trip this afternoon. We're helping him get ready for that and we think we're also going to try to go to a movie after we see him off.
Two nights this week, we played Boggle and then we all remembered Word Racer, and we have enough computers that all of us can play at the same time. I kill at Boggle, but Geeky Boy kills at Word Racer. He claims he can see patterns better. He's also a wicked-fast typist. I actually took typing classes in high school and at my best, I can type 80 words/minute. He's gotta be faster than that. We've done a lot of things this week that have been interesting and fun, but that the kids have to be learning from. Geeky Boy is playing the fantasy stock market after we spent some time looking at the market trends in the NY Times. He's made $7 so far on a biofuel company. Geeky Girl was home sick and we watched Kit Kittridge and talked about the Great Depression. It's nice to not just have the time (I could have always made the time), but the energy and brain space to have those conversations.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
The money quote for me in this article:
Barack continues, "No matter how liberated I liked to see myself as -- no matter how much I told myself that Michelle and I were equal partners, and that her dreams and ambitions were as important as my own -- the fact was that when children showed up, it was Michelle and not I who was expected to make the necessary adjustments. Sure, I helped, but it was always on my terms, on my schedule. Meanwhile, she was the one who had to put her career on hold." Barack considers his dawning realization that in his wife, as in so many working women, there was a battle raging. "In her own mind, two visions of herself were at war with each other," he writes. "The desire to be the woman her mother had been, solid, dependable, making a home and always there for her kids, and the desire to excel in her profession, to make her mark on the world and realize all those plans she'd had on the very first day that we met."Like many men his age, Obama is "liberated" in the sense that he recognizes that women have the right to have the same ambitions as men, but doing to the work to make that happen locally is hard. I also think that women have that same battle Michelle had (has?). I think women recognize more than men do (sometimes) the value of good childrearing and even if they can afford it, have a hard time handing that over to others.
In just the week that I've been away from work, I've already seen positive results from my being around. Geeky Boy told me this morning on his way to school how glad he was to have all his homework done, that it felt really good. After all the homework battles I didn't have the energy for after work, dinner, cleaning, this was music to my ears. And proof at least to me that parently presence is important, at least for my family.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
I feel like I'm headed into Marxist territory here, looking at the means of production. Yikes. It's not that I think the end isn't worth exploring, but that one does need to consider how these technological products are produced. While many digital humanities organizations encourage the use of open source software, for example, I'm not seeing too many actually contribute to the production of that software or partnering with their computer science colleagues to do so. (I'd be happy to be proven wrong about that.) Most images and video, for example, are contained in proprietary formats as are some database formats. I recognize that many humanists use what is readily availabe and easiest to use and that often means using what your institution provides to you. Most institutions have invested in Microsoft, Adobe and the like and have not invested in Open Office, GIMP, WordPress, etc. Although I'm a fan of Google and it's many delicious web apps, it, too, is proprietary. We need to think about these things both from a preservation standpoint and from a standpoint of free information.
I haven't fully thought all of this out. And I would like to do some more thinking about it. I would welcome comments, questions, arguments, etc.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Yesterday, I went for a walk and raked leaves. It felt good to be outside. It also felt good to accomplish something that had visible results. Being a complete weather wimp and it being a chilly 38 degrees today, I'll not be venturing outdoors today, but I do hope to squeeze in some yoga on the wii fit. There's also grocery shopping and laundry to be done and a little work on the kids' rooms (a harrowing experience, let me tell you). In between all of that will be some reading (I have about 4 books going). Last night, instead of having our heads in our computers or glued to the tv, we played a game of Boggle (which I won). Much as I love technology, sometimes it's good to step away from the keyboard. I'm trying to find the right balance. It's awfully easy to do nothing but hang out online when there are no meetings to go to.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Sunday, November 09, 2008
Saturday, November 08, 2008
The woman who was doing the honking and the shouting and the punching had already left by the time the police arrived. But she came back, less loudly this time. By then, we couldn't sleep. So it was 9:30 before we roused ourselves.
It's a bit disturbing to have your social norms violated. In our neighborhood, domestic issues are kept inside. To have them on display like that feels odd. Worse, we are actually worried about the safety of our neighbors, not for ourselves, but of course, we don't want to butt in. Sigh. I just hope it all gets resolved.
Friday, November 07, 2008
I'm going to actually try to stay off the computer today. I have had a headache basically all week. It's completely annoying. And yes, I'm going to have it looked at.
I know Friday cat blogging is old skool, but it's a nice way to end the week. For the record, she's lying in the bathtub, her favorite thing to do (when there's not water in it).
Thursday, November 06, 2008
I've actually always liked organization systems. Ever since I was in about junior high, I started making lists and schedules. I guess I've never quite trusted my head when it came to remember what was on my plate. In college, I didn't have much of a system, but did feel organized, especially the last year and a half when I was working two jobs and applying to grad schools. I planned a class schedule my last semester that put all my classes on Tues/Thur. I worked and/or wrote on the other days.
By grad school, I had very little to really organize. I had 3 classes and it was fairly easy to keep up with everything. When I moved into the corporate world and had a kid, suddenly there was a lot more to keep track of. So I followed the 7 Habits system. And that worked for a while and it was nice to think that things I was doing were "things that mattered" and "contributed to my life goals" but still I was just checking stuff off of list.
When I discovered the GTD system a few years ago, I liked it for its simplicity and its geekiness. I was able to use some technical tools to track my tasks and it was fun to keep tweaking the system. I credit GTD for helping me organize a conference and for helping me finish a Ph.D. while holding down a job and raising a couple of kids. It was really useful for breaking down big projects into smaller tasks and focusing on the next thing that needed to be done rather than being overwhelmed by the hugeness of the end goal. It's also helpful for going through email and stuff that's sitting in piles around my house. I can look at an email or pick up an object, ask myself "what is this?" and then figure out what needs to be done with it. Again, it holds back the feelings of being overwhelmed by forcing me to focus on one thing at a time.
But it started to make me feel like a cog in a machine of my own making. I began to just check things off the list and even reviewing at the end of a week, I just added more stuff to the list. And a lot of that stuff was stuff that was coming in from email and other outside sources. I had little opportunity to step back and look at the big picture. Even though David Allen's books do talk about thinking at different levels during the review process, I think the system is mechanized to such a degree that it's really hard just to not do anything. That time has to be scheduled just like any other. I started to feel guilty if I just wanted to read a book or take a bath or sit quietly with a cup of tea. I kept thinking, "Shouldn't I be doing something right now?"
So I quit looking at lists. I quit making lists. Instead, every morning, I asked myself, "What do you want or need to do today?" I'd come up with a couple of things and I'd start working. Even though I'd started down this road while I still had a job, I hope to continue it and thensome now that I don't go to an office every day at 9 a.m.
I think I will come back to some revised version of GTD eventually. There are still the nitpicky tasks that are better off on a list: forms to return to school, bills to pay, recycling to drop off. Right now, I have a purring cat in my lap and I'm watching the wind blow the leaves in the trees. I may not be productive at the moment, but I feel pretty good about it.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
As some people on Twitter have said, now the real work begins. And that is so true. A woman on CNN said last night, "We are going to hold Obama accountable, and he should hold us accountable." I think we should stay as engaged in politics now as we were during the election. I'm excited but still anxious about all the problems we will need to face together.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
And it starts by voting. I know most of my readers are regular voters, but I urge you to get your friends to go vote, your neighbors. We have a chance to make history, to change our country for the better, to heal the wounds of the last 8 years. Go vote! Change the world!
Monday, November 03, 2008
First, a Washington Post article about how gaming "turns kids violent." The interesting thing is that by the end, the sensational title had lost some of its bite. Turns out, playing violent video games is but one factor that can make kids more aggressive.
Ironically, in the same day's paper comes an article touting the creativity many video games inspire.
And finally, this blog post from a VC about how traditional educational models are broken. Hear, hear!
Sunday, November 02, 2008
. . . [L]earning is a process by which we come to know something that we didn't know before. But what may not be as obvious is the fact that when we learn something new, that learning also changes the way we know everything else that we knew before. Learning not only changes the sum total of our knowledge, it changes the frame of all our knowledge. It alters our understanding of the world. And the person who learned is not the same as the person who set out to learn.There's a lot packed into that and plays into a thought I had today at a soccer game. I realized that no matter what I'm doing, I'm learning. I might be observing people and their interactions, noticing how the sky is changing colors, or thinking about the physics of soccer balls. You can learn from anything, if you have the right mindset to do so. The question is, how do you get in that mindset? How do you become someone who can learn from anything, who is curious about everything?
Saturday, November 01, 2008
I'm sure next week will involve a little stumbling. I have in my mind not to try to do much of anything in terms of establishing a new career, to really take a vacation. I actually do really want to do the manual labor of cleaning my house, though I'm keeping that to a minimum. I want to read, write, think. I'll probably blog here more. I'm sure there will be moments when I miss the structure of my 9-5 job, but I hope to find my own structure soon. I am pretty darn excited about that.