A different kind of teaching for me

May 28, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Posted in education, life, local, motorcycles | 3 Comments
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I’ve begun the process of becoming a RiderCoach for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF). The first step is to take the Basic Rider Course (BRC) and pass it with flying colors. I’m registered for the class at SUNY Canton that goes from June 11 – 13. Check.

Then the good folks at Adirondack and Beyond Motorcycle Rider Training (ADKMC) who run the classes at SUNY Canton decide that they’d love to sponsor me for the RiderCoach Preparation course (RCP). Then the folks at the New York State Motorcycle Safety Program (NYSMSP) enroll me in a local RCP, and I continue studying and volunteer to help out with (or just watch) some BRCs.

The RCP lasts about three 3-day weekends, or they may schedule it differently. Quite a commitment. There’s a knowledge test and a skills test. After passing that, I can teach the BRC for ADKMC!

The site coordinator there says teaching three courses a year (out of 18 offered) is a minimum. Less than that and you start to get rusty. I imagine they have RiderCoaches scheduled for all of the courses this season. Perhaps when I pass the RCP I’ll offer to cover any of the current RiderCoaches if they want to back out of a course they’ve already committed to and do something else that weekend.

I’m really jazzed about this. It’s something that involves a different area of my brain than my regular job, and it’ll be nice doing something non-college related during the summer. Not as good as being a tour guide in the Grand Canyon, but I’m liking the idea of it.

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Web 2.0 experiences in the classroom

January 16, 2009 at 2:25 pm | Posted in conference, education, internet, internet culture, local, math, technology | 3 Comments
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I just got back from TLT Day, Teaching and Learning with Technology Day 2009. I attended a great presentation by Marianne Hebert on Web 2.0 in the classroom. It was a great presentation that I was rather disappointed with.

The presentation slides are here on slideshare. (I learned about slideshare from Marianne’s talk … thanks!) See, that’s why I say it was a great presentation. I learned some new stuff that I want to look into and, via the discussion, found ways other folks are using Web 2.0 stuff. I even learned what the heck Web 2.0 means.

The reason I was rather disappointed with it is that I didn’t leave with ways to improve the classroom/course experience for my students. Sure, I know about various web stuff that’s really cool, and I could incorporate these things if I wanted to, but it’s not clear at all if using these things (like delicious, facebook, twitter, google maps, google docs, etc.) will improve my classroom/course experience. This left me conflicted, since I thought it was a good talk.

And that’s when it hit me. The talk basically said that people are on the web, our students are on the web more than we are, and here are lots of ways that we can interact with them to facilitate learning in ways with which they are comfortable. It gave lots of examples and demonstrated how many different websites are used. And it did a good job at that.

But that’s not what I need in order to improve my classroom/course experience. I’m not just going to use a piece of technology because it’s cool. (Ok, I might. But only if it’s REALLY cool.) And I’m not going to just throw more technology into my classes with the hope that the experience will be better. There’s no guarantee that it’s going to work.

What I need to do is spend some time alone and brainstorm. I need to just strip away all perceived boundaries, imagine that no impediments exist, and that I can make any classroom experience I can imagine a reality just by willing it to be. If that were the reality in which I lived, what classroom/course experience would I create? What sorts of things can I imagine?

That’s hard! I don’t know about you, but if I start doing that, part of my mind (call it the practical part) immediately starts thinking about all the problems with implementing what I just imagined. Now don’t get me wrong; I like the practical part of my mind. And I know it’s just looking at things that way with the intention of solving those problems. But it gets in the way of the creative part of my mind that imagines in the first place. And my creative part can get bummed out by a preponderance of practical concerns that I don’t know how to solve. So I need to take some time to give the creative part free reign, and imagine what I want to make happen.

Once I get an idea of what that looks like … well, then I will sit back and have a beer. A good beer, like Guinness. But after that, I will let the practical part out of its cage and say, “Make that happen!” In reality, it will probably only make a facsimile, or a lower dimensional projection, of my imagination happen, because it has to live in the real world. If it really can make my imagination happen, that’s a sign to me that I need to dream bigger.

So, my conclusion is that coming to a talk like this the way I did today is almost like putting the cart before the horse. I need to have that dream first. I need to imagine the ultimate classroom/course experience in a limitless world. Then I can come to a talk like this and when I see something useful I can say, “Hey, that can help make this little part of my ultimate experience a reality!” Then I won’t be just adding technology for its own sake. I will be filling a need, a function that I have already identified. Then whatever I add is practically assured to make a tangible improvement.

You’re indirectly responsible for this realization, Marianne, so thank you. You just may have helped me make every conference I go to more enriching. I also had good conversations with Linda, Karen, and Jenica. It was a few hours well spent IMO.

I also attended a workshop about iClicker, a classroom voting system that I will be using extensively this semester. I’ll devote a separate entry to just that.

Speaking of music and renaissance faires …

March 2, 2008 at 1:21 pm | Posted in festivals, local, music | 5 Comments

Yesterday I went to the Potsdam museum to see a performance by Stan Ransom, a folk musician who lives near Plattsburgh, New York. The focus of the performance was the hammered dulcimer, a percussive, melodic instrument with a long and rich history. It is often played at renaissance festivals, and it was at the NY Renaissance Festival that I first remember hearing, and falling in love with, the sound of the hammered dulcimer.

Over the years, I have entertained the idea that I might one day learn to play the hammered dulcimer. I came dangerously close at times, but I never picked up a hammer before yesterday. It felt really good. Stan told me of a festival in the Adirondacks, the Northeast Dulcimer Symposium, and it just sounds wonderful. I probably won’t try to pick it up until next year, but when I’m ready to take the leap, it seems very doable. Besides, a hammered dulcimer would cost about $500, and I have to save up. I know they can cost much more than that, but I won’t spend more than that for my first one. As long as it sounds good and has a few octaves, I’d be happy. Also, I just started TKD, and I don’t want too many new projects at once.

But it’s still very exciting!

Makes me want to tell General Mills to go Bake Off

December 10, 2007 at 10:05 am | Posted in food, local | 7 Comments

The Potsdam Food Co-op, who has been running its Holiday Bake Off for 10 years to benefit a local food bank, the Potsdam Neighborhood Center, has to change the name. Apparently, Pillsbury owns the word “Bake-Off,” and threatened legal action if they didn’t stop using the term immediately. In fact, Pillsbury didn’t even contact the co-op, they did it through the local community paper, North Country This Week. And they did it only a week before this year’s event, after deadlines for advertising submissions had passed, even though they knew about the co-op’s use of the term for a year. Registered trademark or not, that’s rude.

Here is the story in North Country This Week. NPR picked up the story, too.

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