Monday, August 15, 2005

SummerTech 2005--Monday

This week I am participating in the faculty training sessions called SummerTech. For several years now, faculty have the opportunity to spend one week in the summer learning about using technology in the classroom. We will be covering HTML, Dreamweaver, WebCT, PDF, images, copyright, and various technology services available for faculty at Southern. I'll be in the workshops all day everyday this week, so I won't be available much. I will try to keep the chat and IM functions up if you really need to get in touch, but even email seems to be tricky. I couldn't get in for more than a few minutes today--part of which may have been server trouble. Part was just being busy. I definitely won't be answering my office phone, though I will try and check the voice mail.

I'll be posting a commentary each day. Here is today's:

Today was the intro day. We had the usual welcome sort of things (speeches, bios, "introduce yourself" & "what I want out of SummerTech" exercises), including a bit of SummerTech history. Not too long ago they covered computer "basics" like email, and saving files. This week moves away from specifics of applications, though there are plenty of those, and into technology in the service of pedagogy. My interest in SummerTech is three-fold. I do want to learn whatever I can, though I suspect that a lot of it will be repetition for me. (Not that repetition is bad--we don't learn well without it.) I want to find out what the faculty, at least those who have been through SummerTech, are familiar with. That will make it easier for me to work with them. And I want to meet people and let them know who I am and what I do. Several people commented that SummerTech and similar campus-wide endeavors are the main reason that they know anyone outside of their own departments.

It is interesting that most of the people teaching and assisting are self taught, like me. There was no one to show us how to do things, so we picked up a little of this and a little of that, tried things out and learned from our mistakes. What we really share is a willingness to play with things and fail a lot. Now programs like this are organized for those who are less comfortable with experimentation (and less able and/or willing to take the time to play with something in order to learn it. There is probably a learning style factor in there somewhere, too.)

We had an introduction to WebCT--WebCT as a Content Distribution System. I think I see where we are headed in this one. While WebCT, and all course management systems, have built in organization systems, if we look at it as a content distribution system, then we focus on the content as we as teachers want to present the material. Prearranged content is all well and good, but if it doesn't fit with our content or teaching style, it should be thrown out, because we won't teach as well with a system that doesn't fit. Stretching ourselves is fine, but squeezing ourselves into a badly designed system (badly designed for us, anyway) isn't good.

Dan Sorenson is the primary instructor for SummerTech. He gave us the intro to WebCT (with others jumping in), and he designed the main feature of the day--a nifty little HTML tutorial. All self-contained, the tutorial walked us through basic HTML programming, with a built in text editor for creating an HTML file (and a CSS file for tomorrow). Very nice, and I hope Dan releases it for general use.

The idea of the intro/review of HTML was as a preface to our Dreamweaver exercises over the next few days. If you don't know the basics, then you can't understand what Dreamweaver is doing. Knowing the base coding not only lets you double check when things go wrong, but it helps you understand what is possible and what isn't. (Why can't I put regular text on the sam lin with a level 1 heading? Because h1 is a block tag whose influence extends from the left margin to the right.)

We got a little bit of Dreamweaver in at the very end of the day. Since we are showing off at the end of the week, I decided to do a little library marketing and do a page on "Library Services for Distance/Online Faculty". I can include basic services like suggesting resources for classwork, online-specific services like linking directly to full text articles, to advanced online services like "embedding" a librarian within a course. I'll also include links to the DE Library Newsletter (next issue will be out next week), and, of course, this blog.

More tomorrow!


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