Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Art from Children's Supplies

What artwork can you create out of children's sticker books and art materials? 

The other week I was sitting with several family members who were in town celebrating the adoption of four our children. The children had left out crayons, markers, pens, stickers, paper, etc. all over the table, and we challenged one another to create a piece of art using the materials available. This resulted in the following rather interesting images.

Exotic Flapper by Quentin Webb

Slug Guy by Elizabeth Johnson

Auntie Antie by Lindsay Heightman

The Flaming Lizard by Katie Gardner

Bigbeak by Carolyn Sanchez

Boogie Tim by J. Clark Gardner

Attack Squid by Joel Gardner

Monday, April 25, 2016

Life, Adoption, and Future Writing On This Blog

I haven't written for a while because of a large family change. To summarize, our family has grown significantly - we have adopted 4 beautiful children, growing our family to 5 children. These incredible children have been so much fun - we are grateful to have them as part of our lives and appreciate the opportunity and blessing of having them in our home. Needless to say, this has been simultaneously joyous and stressful.

Here are our 5 kids - a photo from last autumn. 
Here are four of the kids looking at the bison in Battelle Darby Creek Park.
As of April 14, the adoption has been finalized and we are moving forward with a great sense of happiness as a family. And I now feel that I may actually have some time to do some more writing on this blog!

Future Writing on This Blog
As I review my blog, I have noticed that I tend to write about learning, teaching, instructional design, and leadership. I have also shared some of my travel experiences, including trips overseas, conferences, and my 2014 sabbatical.

These are important, and I will continue to write about these topics. But I have decided to shift my focus a little bit to some things I have been thinking about for the last several months. These include the following topics:
  1. Humor. I've noted before that I consider myself a slightly boring writer. My hope is that I can lighten up a little. We will see - most likely there will be a minor, almost unnoticed uptick in funniness.
  2. Artwork. I have been experimenting off and on with artwork, and I plan to share some of my dabbling from time to time. Also, I think artwork will be a key aspect of my future blogging. Hopefully this all falls under the increasingly nebulous topic of "learning success."
  3. Books I am reading. I already share the books I am reading here, but I rarely write a review of these books. I've received some requests from authors to review some books in the recent past, and I plan to do so. I will also review other books as I feel inspired or see fit.
  4. Mental and Physical Health. I have written about this off and on in the past (share relevant blog posts) but will likely write more about them in the near future.
  5. Time Management. I have been thinking and writing about it off and on for a while and have organized some thoughts, recently. (This is likely a direct result of having increased the number of children in our home by 4). I will share ideas on this topic, too.
And, of course, I will continue to write about Learning and Teaching on this blog - topics that I am passionate and excited about.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation

How should you ask someone to write you a letter of recommendation? The most important rule is to make it as easy as possible for the person to write the letter. Based on my experiences over the last several years, there are a five key things to include with your request:
  1. Make the request. You have to actually ask the individual to write the letter. Most of my requests from former students or coworkers have been through email or social networking sites.
  2. Describe what to include in the letter. This one seems counter-intuitive, but you really need to make it easy for the person to write the letter. Write your accomplishments and positive characteristics from the time you worked with this individual. Spell it out in detail so that the person can give you great recommendations.
  3. Describe the desired position. Be clear about the position that you hope to achieve. Link to the application materials so they know how to write the letter.
  4. Give the name of the individual or committee to send the letter to. This is a small but important piece - lay everything out clearly for the writer.
  5. Include the address and method of delivery. The individual needs to know where and how to send the letter of recommendation. 
  6. Give a deadline for delivery. Busy professionals need deadlines. Be sure you make this clear so the person knows the timeline.
What do you think? Anything you would add to this list?

Friday, November 20, 2015

A Few Notes on Writing

To write is to think and to think is to learn. 

I have taken a vacation day today to focus on writing. For several months I have been working on drafting a book. It is a personal project - unrelated to my work as a faculty member at university - and I have been thinking about it for the past 7 years. This year I committed to writing this book, and over the last 4 months I have created the time to write (mostly using vacation days and writing from 5:00 am to 11 am). This is in addition to my academic writing, which is focused on the practice of instructional design.

I love writing - it allows me to give shape to my thoughts. From day-to-day nearly all my time is spent doing, seeing, consuming, waiting, and listening. Like everyone else, I swim in and endless sea of information. Writing allows me to stop and reflect, to clarify what I have learned from my experiences.

Requirements for Writing
  • Computer - I use a simple acer chromebook and use google docs as my writing platform. It works great.
  • Wireless Connection - I write at home and often go to the library or a cafe or restaurant if I need some extra focus.
  • Headphones - Essential for writing. Headphones muffle the loud people in the cafe (there was a really loud guy in McDonald's this morning). I listen to music while I write - music that is mainly instrumental, somewhat fluid, and has a steady energy to it. Some of the more relaxed digital tracks are excellent. I will post my list of favorite writing music shortly.
  • Nutrition - cold water, protein, whole grains all get my mind in the right state. For extra focus I may sip a Diet Dr. Pepper.
Writing is the ultimate expression of thought. Speaking is critical, and a conversation can significantly shape our thoughts. But writing forces clarity. A clearly composed thought has great power.

Why do I write? There is something inside of me that wants to be released. Writing helps me let it out, shape it, and nurture it into something meaningful, clear, and purposeful. Writing allows me to contribute to the thought and experience and of humanity.

Music to Write To

As promised, here are the top 5 tracks I like to listen to while writing.  (I often use YouTube for my listening experience. It has a good system for recommending new videos).

My Top 5 Tracks for Writing

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

You Must Become Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable!

One of the most important things you will ever do on your road to becoming a finisher is to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. In the recent past I set a goal to complete a half marathon and a full marathon. However, if you ever met me in person, you would probably NEVER think of me as a runner. I am short, stocky, and shaped like a large fleshy brick. My body is genetically designed to lift large things, not run distances, yet I met my goal and have finished both a half and a full marathon.  

Here I am finishing the Bear Lake half marathon. It was difficult to achieve this goal, but it was an exciting success. 
So, how did I do it? I became comfortable with being constantly uncomfortable. I trained, stretched, received physical therapy, massages, and chiropractic services all to the end of reaching my goal. It was painful and unpleasant at times - I spent hundreds of hours running along roads and trails over hills, and mountains. But along the way I began to enjoy the challenge of the training. It became invigorating and inspiring to see my progress, to improve my health, and to move forward with great success.

Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable!
Just like training to run a marathon, your path to becoming a finisher will likely be uncomfortable. Working toward new goals and dreams is difficult and uncomfortable because it takes you out of your routine. It places strain on your mind and body that you did not previously have, and this can be painful. However, over time your body and mind will become stronger and your ability to succeed becomes more natural. Remember:

“That which we persist in doing becomes easier to do, not that the nature of the thing has changed but that our power to do has increased.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Satisfaction in the Struggle
You will learn to find satisfaction in the struggle. Working toward a goal is often as satisfying as reaching the goal. Training to run a race can be as exhilarating and beautiful as running the race. Studying to pass a class or earn a degree can be as satisfying as earning the degree. To build muscle, you must endure the pain of training. Consciously and consistently placing yourself on the path to success is success itself, so learn to love the process and path of success.

Make Friends with Discomfort
If you want to change and improve your life, you will have to become friends with the pain of learning, action, and setbacks. In time you will learn to enjoy these difficulties as personal challenges and will welcome them as a way to improve yourself.

A Challenge: Do Something Difficult

What have you been avoiding but know you need to do? What one difficult thing could you do right now to significantly increase your success? make a goal to do that task today or soon, and do it! Success breeds success, so set out to do something difficult and worthwhile.

Friday, November 6, 2015

AECT 2015 - Days 2-3

This is my continued report on my attendance at the 2015 AECT Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Learning Analytics

I attended a session on learning analytics. There were several presenters, and the first presentation by Dongho Kim and associates from the University of Georgia entitled What Makes a Learning Analytics Dashboard SuccessfulSuggestions for designing a learning analytics dashboard include the following:
    • use an intuitive and simple interface
    • use concise and clear charts and graphs
    • provide a description of how to interpret visualized information
    • use specific examples to explain information
    • discover and take into account what the learners seem to find useful
    • remind learners of the learning process
    • provide a tutorial to help learners understand how the dashboard functions

In the next presentation, entitled Course-tailored Prediction Model: Enhancing Learner Performance Prediction by Adaptive Use of Proxy Variables by Meehyun Yoon and associates, presenters noted that when working to predict student success in a course that is discussion-heavy, the following categories and variables were used. Note that they used what they called "proxy variables" which represented the component they were trying to measure.
  1. Active Participation
    1. Total time spent on LMS
    2. LMS visit frequency
    3. Discussion board frequency
    4. Number of postings
  2. Engagement with discussion topic
    1. Length of posting
    2. Discussion time per visit
  3. Consistent Effort and Awareness
    1. LMS visit regularity
    2. Discussion visit interval regularity
  4. Interactive
    1. In-degree centrality
    2. Out-degree centrality

Using these proxy variables, the researchers were able to predict student success in the course with nearly 70% accuracy in the first week and up to 90% accuracy by the middle of the course. Again, this is a discussion-heavy course, but the results are quite interesting.

Doctoral Mentoring

I also attended a session on doctoral mentoring. This session had two excellent presenters giving separate presentations- Swapna Kumar and Kathleen Andrews. Dr. Kumar discussed an experiment in which doctoral students were mentored as groups of 4-5 students who moved through the program together. They shared their resources and gave one another support throughout the learning process. When dissertation mentoring took place, it was done with the whole group intact so others could see how their peers were rated or judged and adapt  and learn. It seemed like a good model, though they did acknowledge that it may not have been more time-efficient for the faculty member.

Dr. Andrews shared a set of competencies for mentoring doctoral students (Schichtel, 2010). They included
  •  Developmental Learning
  • Social
  • Cognitive
  • Teaching
  • Communication
  • Managerial
  • Technology

The presenter mentioned that she thought there was a need for training doctoral mentors more fully. A participant noted that many of the for-profit groups were much more effective at providing training and support than more traditional universities - an interesting finding.