How is a kitchen remodel like distance education?

I have to admit that when I came up with this topic that I was thinking it was an interesting title but that it should not take too long to make the connection.  I then said to myself this needs to be about my most recent kitchen remodel and that the readers need to understand that I just remodeled a kitchen at a rental property that was at a distance (some 140 miles away to be exact).  Now, of course, everyone would get it.

Not Quite!

Then I thought explain to them how you remodeled the kitchen without stepping one foot on the property until last Saturday to review the completed work.  Yes, right now they would understand.  Well, OK, I need to explain a little more.

So, during the most recent kitchen remodel, I knew I had one big problem.  Time and Distance.  The costs are real so I started using the Internet for resources.  First stop was Angie’s list where I found a great kitchen remodeling company with good reviews.  I contacted them and asked them to give me a quote.  I compared the quote to other companies, and I decided it was reasonable based upon comparisons over the internet.

Next I had to coordinate and settle upon a contract with the vendor.  The details were discussed, a contract was sent via text, signing occurred, and a four to five week wait was needed while the factory took the measurements and created the counter tops.

Also during that initial contract time I needed to visit Home Depot (one mile away) to pick out the Formica brand counter top number and style as well as sink, faucet and drawer options.  All information was communicated via text images and writings via a smart phone.

Obviously payment plans were easy over the phone and I set up a before, during, and after completed installments.  It was even nice to use the Bank of America 3% back on all purchases credit card.

I then reached out to my tenant to coordinate a convenient time for final measuring and future installation.  The installers waited for the counter tops to be built at the counter top factory then on two quick days (that were clearly communicated to all) it was installed.  During the installation process, I received timely photo updates from my tenant and communicated constantly with both the company and tenant via cell phone and email.

Then just this last Saturday I visited to see a wonderful kitchen remodel that has improved the value of this distant property.

Oh yes, so how is this like distance education?

To me, this series of events is similar to design of a distance education project.  I knew my subject matter ( a kitchen in a house that I have lived in previously for many years ).  I researched a company on a service that provided checks and balances, coordinated a clear project design document, and established a payment plan of checks and balances.  I communicated via email, text messaging, and phone calls with the project manager and the tenant at various phases during the project.  I was involved with the project, but I let experts do their job and gave ownership to key constituents.  I was at a distance so I never met or communicated with the installer but there were checks and balances in place to make sure it was done well (payments, project company, tenant).  Finally, I checked in, and  I followed through on the project.  And Yes, I recorded on iPad video the final project for documentation.

The kitchen is great, and so are distance education projects.  Project based learning really is the way to go to prepare students for a complex world that could easily give them a project that needs to be completed remotely.  Checking in with your students at various stages is extremely key in distance education as it promotes regular and effective contact, insures that students are following the rubric, helps you teach at a distance, and models what distance education is about for your students.   Always create checks and balances in your projects while leaving room for student creativity, engagement, research, and problem solving.

Thanks for listening to my crazy comparisons and as always I appreciate your positive feedback.  I am glad this did not end up the The Goldbergs kitchen remodel!


Happy St. Patrick’s Day in LA

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I hope that you have found open source software and course management systems (which we can, of course, call learning management systems) a refreshing addition to your classroom process, teaching, and student learning. I am currently approaching midterm grades for the second semester, and I have students asking me all sorts of clear and precise questions about their grades, missing assignments, and project requirements. I truly believe that this eliminates repetitive conversations with students and places responsibility back into the hands of the student. It also provides clear communiciation with the parents as I require parents to log-in with their children to see what their children are doing. Independent parent accounts just don’t let them see what they really need to see, and this process puts the student in a situation where he/she has to tell the truth eventually.

Moodle has been a great resource that meets many needs, but I am still testing other systems. I plan to give you more feedback upon that at a later point in time. Perhaps I will have some feedback prior to the NECC conference this summer. Well, I wish you the best. It is a pleasure to be back in Los Angeles. I am excited about being back in such a culturally wonderful city with endless opportunities in the arts, education, and of course entertainment. I love this city, my school, and of course the LA Kings. Stay Classy San Diego! 🙂

NECC 2006 : One Perspective

NECC came to San Diego this year, and because I am local I had the opportunity to visit this national conference for educational technology in school environments. I was only able to visit on Thursday July 6 because of other engagements (some of which were job interviews (YAHOO!)), but I do have some general comments about the trends in educational technology that are being discussed at the national level. As usual, I will focus upon the aspects that I believe are positive for our profession.

First, it was refreshing to hear educators talk about integrating technology into the curriculum in ways that create individual learning moments and provide motivation for learning subject matter content and practicing higher level thinking skills. Project based learning that involves collaboration and constructivist work seems to work nicely for technology integration, and I saw projects that used video, photos, testimonials, authentic materials, good writing, and excellent presentation skills. Our students are very lucky to have this technology in our schools, and NECC is a great place for teachers and administrators to learn about implementing technology into their established curriculum.

In addition to good teaching with technology, I was impressed with the videoconferencing projects that I saw and the prices of the software and hardware to make that happen. There were many vendors represented, and that competition is allowing a teacher to do a lot with a few hundred dollars. There is also competition among video and audio editing software companies, and I believe that this competition will create the availability of software that allows creative teachers in a variety of subjects to create entertaining materials with educational objectives that can be shared just like lessons, tests, and quizzes are shared currently. With a clear plan educationally sound projects can be created with increasing motivation.

However, there were two particular vendors at NECC that I believe were the best part of the conference, and the price is right at their tables also. The first is our Library of Congress. Of course, we have heard it before that the materials there are an incredible resource for our students. They are the warehouse of national free realia that can be used in your classes, but every year their digital version of this realia gets better and better. It is truly worth every educator’s time to visit their site and think of ways to increase learning motivation and understanding through the use of their materials. I could see many ways to incorporate their materials into subjects other than history too, and if you need ideas please feel free to write me.

Finally, I am simply sold on the idea of refurbishing older computers and installing Linux (the open software of choice) onto these computers. I am sure that there are tons of companies that would love to find an educational institution to use their old equipment, and with the availability of this free software you can do wonders on a small budget. Of course, the linux machines will not do everything that you need. However, I do believe that you could save a lot of hardware and software costs by creating labs that run these machines for the most basic of tasks such as operating systems, connecting to the Internet for research, word processing, spreadsheet creation, and basic web creation. With the money you save you could buy a few really high end machines for the more advanced features of video editing, computer programming, etc.. Budgets are always a concern in education, and this is a great way to stretch a dollar. In fact, I would even suggest that our friends from developing countries follow this same model. There are tons of computers that can be reused for these purposes; and therefore, I hestitate to agree with the building of new laptops for the third world. Why not reuse what already exists in combination with open source software?

Three Graduations : Thank You All

This year I had a very unique opportunity to participate in three different graduations from three different perspectives. As most of you know, I have recently graduated from San Diego State with a master’s degree in educational technology; and therefore, I walked through the traditional ceremony at Cox arena so that I could sense the end of a long journey. As most of my students and colleagues know, I also walked as part of the graduation ceremony at the Bishop’s School to witness the end of a long road for some wonderful students who are embarking upon great careers in college. Lastly , as only a few know, I also participated as a proud parent when my son graduated from preschool this past Wednesday.

Needless to say, the graduation that was the most important and moving to me was the one this past Wednesday. My son sang a few songs and danced a few dances with his friends. He then received his diploma from some truly outstanding teachers at Early Explorations. Preschool is such an amazing experience for children. They grow so fast and yet have so much more to learn.

Three graduations with three totally unique experiences. I only had tears at one, but I am glad that I respectfully attended all. I don’t think I will have another year like this one, but I do know that great opportunities lie ahead. I will exercise patience as those factors, opportunities, and moments in time begin to reveal themselves. Thank you San Diego State, The Bishop’s School, and of course Early Explorations in Encinitas, CA.

Expertise in the Business of Educational Technology

Ok, so when I said “contemporary” I was stretching the truth a little bit; however, when I was discussing educational technology, I was not. I am a teacher with over fifteen years of experience in the field, I have a sincere passion for things technical, and I have a deep understanding of computer programming and hardware design. I have taught diverse subjects such as Spanish, Computer Science, and Music, and I am finishing my master’s degree in educational technology this spring. Although you may not consider me an expert, I still am going to claim that what you will learn from my blog of educational technology thoughts, plans, ideas, and ponderings, and I believe that San Diego State’s Master’s Program in Educational Technology has prepared me to deliver these thoughts to you in a thoughtful and academically engaging way mixed with motivation.