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Friday, August 14, 2015

Cool stuff

I was late for my appointment with my colleague in Distance Ed (the "faculty support" wing of that area), but he helped me get things sorted out quickly--and, in fact, he completely saved me from horrific disaster. Stupidly, I'd been putting all the materials in the Blackboard area for the 101 section that I'd booted back when I got my reassigned time--just because it was on top--and one of the questions I was going to ask Adam was whether I could easily copy it all into the other section, but when we went into Blackboard ... poof! The section was completely gone. Bruce had--wisely--canceled it, but I hadn't realized that would mean that everything I'd done would vanish along with it. Fortunately, Adam knew the right person to call, and they were able to resurrect everything and roll it into the 101 I actually am teaching.

So, well, lesson learned: this is what the "sandbox" is for. The "sandbox" is the term they use for a sort of class-in-the-abstract, a "dummy" course--in multiple senses of the word "dummy" in my case--and I didn't see any purpose to the abstraction, but now I sure do. I can only build one course at a time in the sandbox, but now I know how to copy all the materials into a real course when they're ready--and I don't risk losing hours and hours and hours of work.

Adam, I hasten to say, was impressed with my sang froid--though I confessed that, if the material really had been lost, I would have either thrown an epic hissy fit or fallen into a trough of despond once I got home and had to try to reconstruct it all.

He also had some great ideas for simplifying where I put instructions for discussion board posts, for example, and helped me with how to organize things so students don't get lost in the stew.

We then had a terrific 30-minute conversation about learning processes, about reading on digital devices versus on paper, on the spacial bias of brains and how that relates to memory (which is why "memory palaces" work) ... cool stuff. He's getting a master's degree in this kind of thing: the told me the exact name of his discipline, which of course I immediately forgot, but it's something like educational technology--so in addition to having to know how the tech stuff works, he has to know a lot about how education works.

Of course, after a five-hour (really, no exaggeration) conversation with my ASLE colleague Ant yesterday, my voice is damned near shot, and I didn't sleep for shit last night, so I don't know what kind of manic energy I'm running on. I did get a strange morning nap: I woke up so early that I got all my morning prep done and had enough time before I had to leave the house to lie down for almost 2 hours. That still left me short of optimal for my body, but at least I don't feel like someone coated the inside of my eyelids with sandpaper.

The other thing that arose from the conversation with Adam is that several handouts that I thought were completed in fact were not--and something is wrong with the local network here in the office, so I can't print anything, plus I don't have access to my wonderful Adobe Acrobat Pro here in the office, which means I can't do the nifty docx to PDF save that I can do at home--so I have to make lists of what I need to reprint, and what I need to resave. (Blackboard will take docx files, but it will open a PDF in a new window, which is handy--but it's easier for me to edit documents in Word; hence the desire to have all my materials in both formats.)

Because I'm riding this sort of manic high, part of me wants to keep working, even though I can feel the laws of diminishing returns starting to kick in. I also have a few problems I have to deal with on Monday, when--after a meeting of the seminar hours committee--I have to start working on the scheduling nightmare with Bruce. I got to my office to find a voice-mail from the department's rep to the adjunct union: apparently he and I have to talk about someone's "concerns" about her schedule (which means I have to be absolutely positive that rules of seniority are being strictly followed: fuck fuck fuck)--and one of our full-time faculty members is frantic to change his schedule for the fall. He and I already went through a round of e-mails about his request for a complete switch to his spring schedule--which is relatively do-able at this juncture--but he's in a panic because he called Bruce in July to request a change for fall and it hasn't happened. The office staff explained that Bruce hasn't been in, and nothing can change until Bruce is in, but the guy is not willing to accept that as a reason why his request--actually, demand--hasn't been addressed yet.

Then there's my own champing at the bit to have it official that I'll be teaching SF. It's not officially on my schedule in Banner yet, and yes, I'm a bit like the panic-stricken colleague mentioned above, worried that Bruce forgot I was going to have that as a back-up and that he's given it to someone else and I'll end up with another 101...

Of course, the really big problem is that we are in desperate need of sections of 100, but there are strict parameters for who can teach 100, and we only have a handful of faculty who fit those parameters, so I don't know what the hell we're going to do about that. But I guess that's what Bruce and I will be talking about next week.

For now, I'm going to noodle around for a few more minutes, then get into my riding britches and head off to try to remember how to ride a horse...

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