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EDLD5366 Course Reflections

December 14, 2010 Leave a comment
I can safely — and confidently — say that this was the class that I enjoyed and from which I learned the most. The readings and topics that fascinated me the most were Yearwood's Basic Design Principles (2009) and Basic Elements of Page Design (2009). The concepts of Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, and Proximity were all new to me in this context. Who knew that movie posters and other print materials contained so much information that are invisible to the naked eye? Posture, colors, font size and style (who knew that serif was easier to read in print?), straight lines, symmetry, placement, white spaces… taken separately, these seem mundane, but use these to analyze material and one will be surprised at how much can be revealed. After reading these, one could argue that design is not only an art, but also a science.

Another topic that sparked my interest is Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy (Churches, 2007). It lays the groundwork for teaching others how to use technology in the classroom, and considering how every teacher is familiar with Bloom's Taxonomy and how much they adhere to it, buy-in is almost a given. 

This was also evident in the discussion board. It was easy to see that everybody learned a lot from these topics, and the level of engagement reflected this as well. We all learned a lot from the readings and from each other not just with the critic activity, but also in other discussions. I appreciated everybody's constructive criticisms and immediately applied it to my teaching aid.

Like most people, I have never tried, much less had to, design a personal logo and never even considered myself anywhere near what Goldsmith calls, "personally branded" (2007). Nevertheless, this concept of personal branding fascinates me and serves as a reminder that we as educators, whether we like it or not, are now living public lives and that we can take measures to manage this fact and use to our own advantage. Being an avid supporter (and endorser) of Free and Open Source Software or FOSS, I used Gimp to create and design my logo because Adobe's PhotoShop has always been inaccessible to me since I had no use for it and could not afford it anyway, even if I did. It was a humbling experience. I say that because this program is too complicated. No matter how many times I viewed tutorials, no matter how hard I tried to use effects and enhancements, my logo came out rather simplistic. In spite of this, though, creating a logo that reflected my personality and some of my core values was satisfying enough.

The animation project was another interesting project. Time consuming as it was, it was utterly rewarding seeing the end product "move" and make sounds. After conducting some research on product reviews comparing Stykz and Scratch, I first settled with the former. It was easy to use — just clicking and dragging the stick figure's joints and/or whole body, but found it too unenticing. I imagine students would agree with that sentiment. Then I tried Scratch. It was also relatively easy and it had the added benefit of being a lesson on coding using building blocks. That clinched it for me. After all was said and done, I came up with a very simple animation that consisted of a female dancing to the tune of a guitar strumming. I am actually excited to show this to my fellow teachers and with practice (and the help of the video tutorials) I think we could include animation as a teaching medium/strategy in my campus.

In terms of being laborious, the newsletter was the most intensive assignment in this course. I have worked for my school newspaper in high school, but I was neverinvolved in the layout design part. It also did not help that my word processor (OpenOffice's Writer in this case — again, being a FOSS supporter) acted like it knew what I wanted to do yet the words never came out right. Words would nbot spill over to the next page whenever I needed them to, yet they did not hesitate to spill over to the next column when I did not need them to, even when there was still a lot of white space in the previous column. I was almost ready to surrender and publish a one-column newsletter… and that happened more than I would like to admit. Luckily, after three complete overhauls and fresh starts, I was able to master the Frames and Columns features. When I saved it and opened it again later, the words were all over the pages and some were even hiding beyond the pages. Needless to say, it just meant starting over. On my fourth attempt, and before I saved and closed it for later, I hit "Export to PDF." It came out fine, but the white spaces were not acceptable by Yearwood's standards (2009), so I inserted black separators, which inadvertently made a mess of the words again. To cut the story short, I was able to come up with my newsletter after numerous attempts and with nary a tear shed nor a computer broken.

As one can tell, I was able to accomplish a lot by trial-and-error. All these tasks were new to me. On top of that, I do not really consider myself a particularly creative person. I am more of an editor-critic of other people's work. This course posed a real challenge — nay, real challenges week after week and task after task. The video tutorials helped too, but I also had to try it for myself since I am more of an auditory-visual-kinesthetic learner rather than relying on one modality. Lucky for me, this course included a lot of those resources and opportunities instead of relying solely on text or one modality.

To sum it all up, the skills and concepts I have learned in this course would definitely play a big part in my career as a Campus Technologist and as a lifelong learner. Now, more than ever, I feel more prepared to train my colleagues, I feel more confident that I can use programs that have intimidated me before, and I have gained new knowledge that have enhanced my technical know-how. 

References:

Churches, A. (2007). Bloom’s digital taxonomy. Retrieved from http://www.techlearning.com/article/8670 

Goldsmith, M. (August 2007). Authentic personal branding. Retrieved from http://www.businessweek.com/managing/content/sep2009/ca20090929_228578.htm 

Northeast Regional Educational Laboratory. (n.d) Meeting the needs of diverse learners. Retrieved from http://www.netc.org/earlyconnections/pub/sec3.pdf

Yearwood, J. (July 2009). Basic elements of page design. Beaumont, TX: Lamar University.

Yearwood, J. (July 2009). Design principles. Beaumont, TX: Lamar University.

Falling

August 1, 2010 Leave a comment

I imagined “Drop Zone” and “Terminal Velocity.” But it was a tandem jump so we jumped out at 14,000 feet and not an inch higher in my altimaginationmeter. Looking back, and if given the choice though, it would have been at about 100,000 so the descent would be that much longer. The instructor, on my back as if a human backpack, turns us on our backs so were free-falling. At this point I saw the belly of the plane. It was hilarious when my wife told me about her experience, when they turned on their backs and saw the belly of the same plane, her life literally flashed before here eyes and was scared shitless like she was falling to her death. It was weird for me because I have acrophobia, but only when I’m looking down from a building, a bridge, or some high place (during our Vegas vacation, we went on the ride atop the Stratosphere called X-Scream. I thought I was gonna shit my pants).

But I was calm and serene until probably 3 steps before looking down from the door. When I did, I was like, “Let’s do this!” The free-fall was amazing, with the air violently pressing against your face and you can see everything as if you were Superman (more on that later). Then all of a sudden, the instructor flipped us (still getting used to say “us” as if we were a couple engaging in an intimate dance while hurtling down from the sky) over on our bellies and proceeded to spin rapidly — as if we were a spinning top — first clockwise, after which I gave a thumbs-up, which in my mind was, “I’m OK now that it’s over.” But before I even finished forming those words in my mind, he spun counter-clockwise, and at this point it felt like my brain was being scrambled like an egg, so I frantically gave two thumbs up. Without saying a word, it felt as if he was gonna spin again so I panicked and gave two thumbs down. He stopped. I think he understands. Skydiving hand signals should probably be part of the orientation. Maybe the guy with the most awesome beard in the orientation video can show us some ways we can communicate with the instructor without resorting to slapping, head-butting, or kicking him in the nuts.

After that he pulled the cord at 7,000 feet and — I don’t know how to describe it — it felt like somebody yanked you from a lethal free-fall (is there any other kind?). The descent slowed down significantly at this point. The thoughts that occurred to me range from, “This is amazing,” “I’m actually doing this,” “WOW,” “It’s nice up here,” “So this is what flying feels like,” to “Shit, I gotta do Superman!” and so I do it. I stretched out my right hand, at the end of which is a balled fist, and my left hand right by my side, in a balled fist as well. I could get used to that. The flying superhero part, I mean. I have never had a doubt when answering the immortal question, “What superpower would you prefer to have, given the choice and opportunity?” But now that I’ve experienced it first-hand, I am more certain. My wife and sister-in-law had a good laugh after I told them about this, because they say I’m such a dork that I’d be the only one who thought about doing that. Of course I know they’re wrong.

At about 5,000 feet (of course I couldn’t have seen his altimeter so I pulled that number out of my ass — figuratively, of course), we floated as if a leaf from a tree — a very tall tree, maybe Jack’s beanstalk — and the instructor did the maneuvers swiftly but deftly, left, then right, then left, then right, you get it, in a series of turns and yanks, until we were directly atop the landing site. We talked the entire duration of the parachuted descent… what my favorite part was, to which I said, “This slow descent,” and I volunteered that the worst part was the spinning — to which he chuckled, “I thought you liked that!” Good thing he understood what the two thumbs down meant. He has jumped 4400 times — just a little bit more than me, he assured. He has jumped in the Philippines (at the airport, probably for some airshow or event of that nature). I say that skydiving must never get old — and he agreed, maybe not so patronizingly. He has not tried skyboarding or skysurfing because it’s old school, that “people don’t do that anymore.” That was probably the response that shocked me to this day. Well, pardon me, Mr. Extreme.

Right before the landing he told me to lift my legs and touch the ground at the right time so I won’t slide on my rear… which I did, clearing my doubts about my eye-foot coordination (I was always better at handling one thing at a time — eye-hand and eye-foot — but never anything like drumming. I suck at the drums on Rockband.) Bitin ako. Ang bilis. My adrenaline was still coursing through my blood as I get up and take off the harness. I think it’s safe to say that it was one of the high points of my life. No pun intended.