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Archive for December, 2007

A New Year’s Resolution I Would Like to See

Monday, December 31st, 2007

I read recently that the most frequent New Year’s resolution is to lose weight. Well, I know that I am a candidate for that one! After hitting 40, it seems like losing weight is next to impossible. However, there is one New Year’s resolution that I would like to see more people choose: become a lifelong learner.

One of the keys to personal and community success is creating a learning environment for yourself. Everyone around you benefits when you choose to increase your knowledge and skill sets. Although formal education is important, a lifelong learner is one who is always on the lookout to learn something new, through reading, discussion, continuing education, listening…..there are so many ways to learn! Our minds always have room for more learning – it is impossible to “fill” up our minds. Thinking and learning give us an opportunity to grow and become more of who we are.

Some people are so turned off by high school or college that they refuse to take another class later in life. Learning gives us a second chance at personal success – finding that perfect career or talent. Learning gives us the opportunity to make informed choices. Learning opens the door to seeing how others think and understanding their actions.

It’s not necessary to “go back to college” to become a lifelong learner. Here are a few tips to get you on the track to becoming a lifelong learner:

  1. Discover the library. Most local libraries offer free library cards to those in their communities. If you have a library card – use it! Most have access to more books than are physically available at the library. All you have to do is ask and your librarian can order books or periodicals from other libraries in the system.
  2. Read a book. The action of reading gives your mind a wealth of information. Select a variety of books for the best results. Make a goal to read at least one book a month. Keep track of the books you read for the entire year. You may want to start with something you read previously – that is certainly OK! Talk to your friends and find out what they are reading. Movies are often based on books and you may find that you like the book better than the movie.
  3. Subscribe to the local newspaper and get busy. Get involved in your community by volunteering or supporting local schools. Look at the community calendar and find a new activity to try. Many are free or are low-cost. Check to see if local businesses offer classes, such as crafts (Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, etc.) or home repair (Lowe’s, Home Depot, etc.). Sometimes there is a fee for supplies.
  4. Check out continuing education. Many colleges have continuing education-style free classes available to the public. Call for a list of classes and you will be surprised at how varied they are – from auto mechanics to learning a foreign language. I have found that many adults are uncomfortable using the computer because their typing skills are poor. Years ago I took a keyboarding (the new word for typing) course and it was one of my smartest educational decisions. I am able to communicate through the written word much easier – it does not hamper my ability to try new things.
  5. Spend time at museums. If you love history, find the local historical museums and don’t be afraid to take your time. Art museums are excellent for quiet reflection and introspection. Schedule museum visits when you are not rushed; a rainy day is a great day for museum discovery. A number of cities have Children’s Museums. Don’t be embarrassed to be a child for a day because you will be surprised at what you will learn from these touch-and-learn environments.
  6. Play challenging board games. We love to play games at my house. We like the tried-and-true favorites and do not typically enjoy the TV-based games. Here are a few to try: Cranium, Apples to Apples, Monopoly, Battleship, Uno, Scattergories, and Trivial Pursuit. The questions and devising a strategy will keep you on your toes and as an added bonus you learn something new!
  7. Tune into channels that teach on TV. The Discovery Channel, the National Geographic Channel, the History Channel and Animal Planet have programming that teaches without force-feeding the viewer. Don’t be afraid to tune into programs that don’t interest you. You will be surprised when you find out that you may be interested in the subject after all!

The first step to becoming a lifelong learner is challenging yourself to become more than you are today. Every step you take will improve yourself and your community. The funny thing about becoming a lifelong learner is that it is contagious and others will join you even if they do not realize it. Create an learning environment around you to allow others to become all they can become, too. Set an attainable New Year’s goal this year today: become a lifelong learner.

Mezirow’s Transformational Learning Theory

Friday, December 28th, 2007

Adults are the products of their individual histories and experiences, which influence their attitudes, thinking processes, and conceptualizations of their worlds. Mezirow believed that adults can be “transformed” through a process involving a “disorientating dilemma” followed by critical reflection and new interpretations of experience. Expanding this theory to teaching, the educator must encourage students to examine their personal assumptions, explore other possibilities and test all for validity. Learning comes from the examinations and new idea formulation. The application of critical thinking skills uses this methodology. Many universities are changing the way learning takes place; rather than lecture they are using methods of discovery which yield transformational learning.

Instructors bring their own experiences and learning to the classroom. Not every instructor is able to separate their personal frames of reference from their teaching. Have you ever been in a political science class where the instructor makes it clear that the class will be taught from only one perspective…his? The best professors are the ones that engage the students in such a way that they learn from making connections from their experiences and those of others. Because thinking is a traditionally solitary endeavor, using team learning is a great way to expose individuals to thinking in other ways.

Instructors must be careful to teach the subject material in such a way that students are exposed to a “disorientating dilemma” which will begin the learning process. By its nature, transformational learning requires being more open to the perspectives of others. However, it is much easier to teach from a personal viewpoint, skipping the critical learning process in which the student questions assumptions. I have had professors that essentially say, “what I say is the way it is.” Transformational learning requires that the students have a vested interest in their own learning process, rather than being “spoon fed” a bunch of information to memorize or accept.

As an instructor, I love to see the “aha” moments when the light clicks on in a student’s eye. He has taken something that I taught, rolled it around, and pulled out the truth – transforming himself by learning.

Kindle

Monday, December 24th, 2007

Have you watched the promo on Kindle at Amazon? Kindle is a new ebook reader with a high-resolution “paper-like” screen. It retails for $399 (backordered) but over on ebay you can pick one up for  $600-700. WOW. If you want to Buy-it-Now you can get it for the low price of $1035.

So what is so great about Kindle? Kindle uses a different technology than computer monitors and the text is more like a book. Ebooks have just not taken off like they were supposed to; most of the problem was the screen resolution and size. The school where I teach delivers all the texts online with no books to buy. I have tried but my old eyes just cannot read those etexts, so I download and print them to read them. Kindle is also about the same size as a paperback book and has no wires. It connects like a cell phone and can hold about 200 books. You can also subscribe to newspapers but the disadvantage here is that no photos or color is available at this time. Most books are $9.99 to download and subscriptions vary in price. Once downloaded, Amazon keeps a record on their website so if your Kindle stops working or is stolen, you can still get to your purchases with a new Kindle.

I love to read and this new technology sounds enticing. When I was a young person, everyone seemed to be reading a novel; you shared them and talked about them. A lot of movies were based on books and someone always said, “Well, the book was better” (and it usually was!). Carrying a page-eared novel on top of your textbook stack was normal. We did not have computers or laptops or cell phones or PDAs. If you were stuck in a long cafeteria line or waiting on your mom to pick you up after work, you pulled out a paperback. At college, we used to take a blanket to the quad or sit under the trees and read. We shared them and traded them at bookstores. Walk in with three that you already read and walk out with three different ones.

Kindle will not replace books; Kindle will be another way of reading and not the only way.  Browsing among stacks of books and smelling the aged paper and leather is a joy that cannot be replaced. Touching a book and having it available to read now and years from now is irreplaceable. Sharing a well-read book with a friend is not possible with Kindle.

Reading is fundamental to learning. Most of our brains are not geared to absorb without reading which reinforces the learning. As an educator, I am always harping on reading the text – maybe Kindle would get students to read!

Kindle may end up being just another electronic gadget that flames up and then dies back.

I hope not.

MGT5001 Module 2

Saturday, December 22nd, 2007

Module 2 is called Optimal Decisions and Estimation Techniques. The basis of the questions is practical applications of economic marginal analysis. I have been reading the chapters today in the text trying to figure out which way to begin the paper. The discussion question involves output related to workers and the paper is a discusson of the practical application of economic marginal analysis.

But it is Christmas and so hard to concentrate!

High Low High

Thursday, December 20th, 2007

Tonight I checked to see if Dr. P had graded my first assignment in MGT5001. She made some very good comments and I got a very good grade. Hallelujah! I was very worried because I had heard that she was very tough.

I downloaded my graded paper and my thumb drive was not in the usb slot. I looked in my purse. Not there. I looked in my briefcase. Not there. I looked in my car. Not there. I must have lost it when I went Christmas shopping this week. I started calling the stores. Not there. I was crying by now and husband started looking with me. I ranted about quitting and about all the stresses that push on me.

Then, he found my ring of drives. It was in my briefcase but hidden under a fabric fold. I hugged husband and cried a minute on his shoulder. Tonight was a night of high – low – high emotions. My ring of drives is my second brain. The drives have all of my teaching notes and lesson plans as well as my papers and research for school. I cannot recreate all of what is on those drives. I have learned my lesson and I will back up the drives to my cpu hard drive. What would I do if I had truly lost my drives?

MGT5001: Assignment 1

Sunday, December 16th, 2007

I finished the first “module” or assignment in MGT5001: Economics and the Modern Manager.  The module consisted of a discussion question (2 points) and a paper (12 points) corresponding to chapters 1 & 2 in the text. I am eager to start on assignment 2 which is the same basic format.

I have been taking one course and then completing it before beginning the next. I would like to finish courses prior to the end date so that I can finish my PhD in less time. It will take a lot of effort to make that happen. This course has six modules consisting of a disucssion question and a paper. The final paper is a project (28 points) wherein two questions are answered.

I am always nervous when submitting assignments to new mentors because each one grades differently. It is a little like walking through a door not knowing what is behind it. I am also hoping that this mentor, Dr. P., grades assignments faster than my last mentor. I would like to complete at least one more module prior to the end of December. I think that I will be able to do this if I can stay on track. I do not teach again until January and then it will be a course that I have taught before so there will be less course prep time. It does look like there will be more in the class, which means more time grading papers.

Holiday Spirit at Work

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

It seems that some of the folks at work are taking the holiday season a little too seriously! We have cubes which sit in a very large room so the noise can get a little out of hand. One group is having a decorate-your-cube contest and believe me, some are getting pretty elaborate. I have seen some individuals who are spending a lot of time during the work day decorating. At this time of the year, we are crazy busy and it is hard to understand how these don’t have enough work to do. And of course, it takes at least three people to stand in the aisle right outside my cube to tape and staple and talk loud.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I am NOT humbugging the whole thing.

After all, I hung my little red store-bought stocking with care on my cube wall!

 Is there a special Santa that comes to the office and fills your stocking?

thinkPhD Book Store NOW OPEN

Sunday, December 9th, 2007

Books are a huge part of my life. We have thousands of books and seem to add more every week. We have book shelves and book stacks in every room. Husband is a book lover, too, although he has different reading preferences than I do.

A book is a wonderful gift for any reader. Books open worlds and open minds. Invariably, when we go shopping we end up at a book store. Not too far from here is a used book store with many bargains that I cannot resist.

I have added a thinkPhD Book Store to the blog. Perhaps you are a book lover, too? Be sure to check out my recommendations. Enjoy!

visit thinkPhD's Book Store

Elf Yourself

Sunday, December 2nd, 2007

I elfed my family and had some fun when I did it !!!

Moodling

Sunday, December 2nd, 2007

I have been working today on my Moodle site.  If you would like a sneak peak, click this link. I am working on a review for my Critical Thinking students and an Intro to APA course. If you take a peak, you will have to register. The courses are not finished but you can see the course skeletons.

As I work, I am learning how to use the software. There are a number of helpful Moodle guides available. I get a little confused with some of the terminology and how the site links work, but I think I am getting the hang of it. Let me know if you have any feedback or suggestions.