Solitude reminds me of backpack camping in that it brings adventure, challenges, growth, and bonding.
Having lived in Colorado for many years, I went backpack camping for 2-3 days with my son alone with our small dog up to 2 miles in the mountains where the sites provided bear safe lockers. The views were beautiful. The fresh air and smells of flowers were incredible.
The first night I ever tried to set the fire and cook, it rained and the fire kept going out, but I learned. Next time, we made fire and enjoyed warm fully cooked meals. Cooking at home regularly involves evaluating supplies and balancing meals accordingly, similar to camping.
While camping, we explored the areas and went on hikes. I learned what my son loved about nature.
History of mild asthma
When I first moved to Colorado, a mountainous state. I discovered asthma related to altitude by having a massive asthma attack and being hospitalized. Over time and with long distance sports, I eliminate the use of inhalers.
Shortness of Breath
This past Monday, I started work at 6:30am and had 5 virtual meetings. Three were back to back. Normally this would have been fine, but not last week for some reason.
By 16:00 I was exhausted and had shortness of breath that continued until bedtime (no fever or other symptoms). With shortness of breath, reading 1 chapter of my son's book during story time was difficult.
Below are my reflections and changes I made in remote work as a mom to better balance home and work. As these are personal reflections that fit my situation, these by no means replace medical advice or are a one-size-fits-all solution for others.
Shortness of breath during a pandemic is likely the worst timing for asthma to reappear. Here are some things that I immediately did to improve my life/remote work balance:
People come to virtual meetings with expectations for themselves and for others. Part of self-care is being realistic about expectations you have versus what others have.
Here are a few things to consider regarding potential gaps between expectations and reality:
Pairs or Groups
With the current health concerns across the globe, it is possible that others might also get symptoms, but at different times. If paired or grouped in 3, then critical issues can be addressed as peers let each other know when they need naps, rest, lunch, are in other meetings. This enables the team to consider new situations that arise during a pandemic.
Emails and general work
Out of office response
Kindness for others
During the past week, colleagues and neighbors have offered various support (all practicing social distancing) such as picking up my inhaler, dropping off groceries, and dropping off a computer screen for my home office. I hope to soon be able to help others as well.
I feel like a warrior at turtle speed.
My ideal work day is to check emails at home with coffee, walk the dogs, bike my son to school, bike to work, have lunch with my amazing colleagues, continue work on campus, pickup my son, then finish remotely.
Today I was reminded that working from home is making a plan of what you will achieve, nailing part of it, and also being surprised at other things not on your list that are achieved both by you and your child(ren).
Location, location, location
Depending on the meeting or task, I move between locations based on the:
Parenting during web meetings
There are 2 amazing buttons: mute and stop sharing video. You'll learn when to use either or both.
The mute feature can be used while covering your mouth. This allows you to be engaged in the meeting, while also telling your child to NOT do something, suggesting a next activity for them, agreeing to the snack they picked, etc. You will be amazed at the results on this one.
Suggestions before a web meeting:
While working remotely you can synchronously work on document or be in chat, but there is a completely different feeling when you are able to see and hear your colleagues.
I am most successful working remotely when I explain to my son what I'm doing, for how long it will take, and what he can do or cannot do while I'm working + what he will gain by listening.
My day feels fulfilled when major tasks are completed. Even more so when I start the day with something I want to do and end with something I enjoy, like writing or reading a good book (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy).
As a parent, you know your family best. Consider working at home with them, not around them in a way that meets your needs and their needs.
As educators are encouraged to move on-campus courses to online formats, new emergency resources and guides are becoming available. While online education tools have been available for some time, designing an online course on the fly is similar to the mad rush for toilet paper during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. Questions that arise include: is it necessary? Is it needed? Are there others who need those resources?
Lessons from Winter Wonderland - Being Prepared
Being from the Winter Wonderland of Wisconsin originally, winter preparedness is a standard. Before the first snowfall, locals get essential winter supplies to last 2 weeks - until spring due to freezing temperatures, snow, ice conditions, and/or flu season.
When the first Wisconsin blizzard of the season hits, prepared locals stay home warm by the fire, drinking hot chocolate and reading a good book. For those who don't prepare, the blizzard is chaotic and stressful, similar to those in a mad rush for essentials during emergencies.
Needless to say, I prepare for winter before early December as habit. During college years, I found this to be useful as during the semester I worked less in order to focus on classes; thus I emptied my winter supply annually by summer.
The current on-campus situation across the globe is two-fold:
One Size Does NOT Fit All
Let's NOT push all lecturers to live stream their courses or host a web lecture/webinar.
Why? Not every lecturer is ready to host a webinar, show slides/share their screen, respond to chat messages while talking, and record the session. Additionally, their institution may have limited licenses or the tool may have limited seats for participants (their students).
When an instructor asks about synchronous options for remote teaching, it's best to have an open conversation and help them explore needs, resources, and their actual situation to better assist their course and particularly their new remote learners.
A lecturer needs time to evaluate solutions their institution supports and the policies in place around the tools (for example: GDPR) in addition to considering their personal situation:
Across the globe, institutions are assisting their faculty to create a Plan B. Technische Universiteit Delft (TU Delft) created a Remote Teaching and Learning: Quick Guide for the on-campus lecturers shifting to remote teaching. This is meant for TU Delft specific, but other institutions could benefit from this guide, particularly if they use BrightSpace. Since the guide is an Open Educational Resource (OER), any institution is welcome to modify to fit their institutional situation. Besides tools, the guide provides links to factsheets for video (how to guides) and other helpful links to other articles and other institutional remote guides.
As Willem van Valkenburg, the Executive Director of the Extension School at the TU Delft, describes in his blog post on Remote Teaching and Learning, the TU Delft faculty have support beyond a guide and possible Teaching Assistants. They have Learning Technology Support Officers, Instructional Designers, Learning Developers, coordinators, and student assistants.
Building the Basics - in the future
In the future, more on-campus faculty will likely be eager to take teacher trainings, such as "Build the Basics" and "Plan B: Preparing for Emergency Remote Teaching". Shifting a fully on-campus course online is not easy, but if prepared with a backup plan, there is less chaos and panic. This is different than the TU Delft online course development process which is an excellent resource to building a complete online course in a reasonable timeframe.
As with every emergency situation, we have the opportunity to create Plan B and better prepare for next time rather than diving for the last toilet paper or forcing all learners to attend a live stream of a lecture.
Social media is a cheap way to market your company, services, and products. It may be a little time consuming, but it pays off quickly. You can easily double your clientele in such a short time.
Pros- fast results and it's fairly easy. There is a lot potential.
Cons- there are certain norms to follow so you need to know the social norms to be successful. More social media options come up and some are duds. You can easily waste a lot of time if you don't know what you are doing or if a social media outlet fails.
D2L is an eLearning authoring tool that many colleges use. Instructors build their course content in their shells and they can share their content easily with other instructors. It's great for discussions, quizzes, and papers/homework. You can even make students turn their papers into a plagiarism checker. It does have a blog section, but the blogs are not tied to grades or even a course. It does rooms chat rooms.
Pros- It's fairly easy to use. You can share your content and do your own course copy.
Cons- course copies are pretty touchy. Perhaps this will change in a future version. It would be nice to see blogs connected to the grade center and a course.
What is Animoto?
This video tool is great for students to make a quick commercial video or other such video. The free version allows for 30 seconds of video time. The tool allows students to add images and text as an animated slide show which looks like a video. It could be used to tell a short digital story. I've posted an example below, where I won the "Golden Pixel Award", to show how it works.
There is a free version. It is a fairly easy tool to use and enables the user to retrieve a file in addition to having a URL.
Free version is limited. The music you select may not match well with your slides, so playing with the image slides and the song may requie several publications and viewings.
Golden Pixel Award - Japan - Spring 2011In my first Instructional Design course, I won a competition for an Animoto video. The video was created shortly after the earthquake in Japan and I dedicated it to my brother and his girlfriend who currently live in Japan.
This eLearning authoring tool is great to use if you are building content that you will likely reuse in other universities/learning management systems. For example, if you teach online and on campus, your university might have multiple systems for you to learn. In that case, you would not be able to copy your course content from one system to another. This tool allows you to build your lectures/lessons in one place and upload your content into both systems.
While it does have testing capabilities, it is best to think of these as activities and not the real online tests. This is because you will not be able to link the tests with the grade book. Additionally, the tests in Kineo eXe are fairly limited in comparison to what you can do in Blackboard, eCollege, or Desire2Learn.
If you are coauthoring a course, you will want to save the Kineo eXe files in another tool like the Dropbox. Otherwise look at another tool, such as Udutu to build your lectures/lessons. Kineo eXe can be shared by multiple authors, but realistically only if the authors are utilizing the same computer or utilizes the Dropbox.
The tool does enable instructors to easily post the materials into various LMS, provided that the SCORM compatibility is turned off.
More and more higher ed students are purchasing MACs. Could it be fore sales or promotion reasons from Apple or the simplicity and versatility of the Apple products for students?
In a 2006 Princeton study, it was found that students looked to MACs for stability, unique looks of computers, prior use of iPods, and for being user-friendly. Apple gives students a 15% discount which also attracts the student population. Additionally, there are so many new free Apps to help students get organized, study, and find resources while in college.
All of these reasons and Apple's continued innovation in educational technologies suggest that we will continue to see an increase of MAC usage on campuses.
ECAR did a survey in 2011 and found that 31 % of students under the age of 25 use MACs while only 13% over the age of 25 use MACs. CNN Money did a study in 2010 and found that 27% of laptop owners have MACs, 14% of desktop owners have MACs, and 47% of those planning to purchase a new computer are looking at MACs (exactly where Dell was about 5 years prior). Other studies show higher results: one study showed that 70% of freshman purchase MACs. That study seems a bit high and had fewer students than the CNN study. Personally, I'm a MAC user at home and a PC user at work. It is frustrating when something in my classes doesn't work on a MAC and only works on a PC. It seems that Universal Design wasn't considered in the course creation. Universal Design is all about giving students tools that fit their learning styles and needs; usually considering students with disabilities or second language learners. The idea is that the instructor makes the content available to all users. For example, a video without captions isolates hearing impaired students. In the same idea that the video should have captions so all students are included, then shouldn't the video be able to play on a MAC? What about considering the student's operating system? The MAC user population is certainly large enough to consider. What about the technical helpdesks? Should MACs be supported, just like a PC, on campus?
Bare minimum all courses and training materials should have images. Audio and video of course is the next step. Let's talk about images though for now. Adding images increases the retention of information. It's part of Dual Coding. Think of this, when you hear a fairy tale, you can picture something completely different from your sibling. The same is true for training materials or educational materials. Images can help us be on the same page.
Medina explains that images are more informative than just text. Additionally, she states that Americans have less time to read. We also have the tendency to still read the newspaper. (Medina, Vision: Rule #10; Vision trumps all senses.) Providing images really improves the reading experience for the learner as well as keeps them captivated.
In an Educause blog, I wrote about how the student is often forgotten in the process. Students are the customers and if we treat education like any business, we may see an increase in revenue as students return to the university and encourage others to as well.
Author / Autora
I'm a Learning Developer living in the Netherlands. This blog is dedicated to online education and originated with my take on various tools. After my son was born in 2012, I took a break in blogging, but have recently restarted.
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