Tag Archive for 9x9x25

Reflection after Nine Weeks

The last nine weeks have been something of a blur. It’s been one of those semesters with too much to do and too little time to do it. But, I think what we, collectively, have done here is exceedingly important.

One of the most unfortunate things about teaching is that we rarely have time to sit down and reflect upon our craft. So many of us run helter-skelter during the school year, and, then, when the breaks finally arrive, we often wish to turn to (or finally return to) those aspects of our personal lives (unrelated to work) that suffer such neglect as we prep, teach, grade, and do the mountains of paperwork that are part of the job.

But we should reflect on what we do. Passing on knowledge and skills, insights and advice, may be one of the most important tasks of the older generation of any society. We should talk about how to teach well. And we should share the pitfalls. We should talk about that to which we have dedicated our lives.

My biggest regret these last nine weeks has been the lack of time and energy to properly read most of the other posts written by all of you. I see these as a treat for me when the semester is finally over. I look forward to the wisdom you have all shared.

Of the eight blogs that I’ve written to date, only two of them have proved satisfactory to me. The rest, well, I needed to get them done, so I did. They were hack jobs.

That said, I don’t regret writing them. Those were the topics that came to mind when writing time arrived. The thoughts were honest and heartfelt.

Of course, on some weeks, my primary thought was reluctance, followed by “What the heck can I write about?” But, then, when it came time to actually sit down and compose, the words and ideas (however sketchy) flowed.

In the end, there are only two kinds of writing: that which is done and that which is not. I like the finished kind.

I stand amazed by the quality of instructors here at Yavapai College. And I remain impressed by TeLS and all that they do. When Todd asked me write these blogs, I readily agreed. And this was not just because I love my job and love to talk about it. It was because I hold Todd, and all the folks at TeLS, is the highest regard.

Kudos for Todd for corralling the cats. and kudos for everyone who wrote down their thoughts and feelings about one of the most important jobs in the world.


I Remember

9X9X25 Challenge – Week 9                         Jim Voska

I Remember

I remember that it was a short nine weeks ago that the 9X9X925 Challenge started.  It was only a few weeks prior that I decided to participate in the project.  I must say, that it was a good decision on my part.  Over the past 63 days, I have had the opportunity to reflect on what I do in the classroom that benefits the students.  I have also reflected on what benefits me as a teacher.  I have also found great pleasure of reading what others are doing in their classroom and then blending their ideas with mine for the students benefit.

I remember that by going through the challenge process, it helped stimulate my gray matter in revisiting techniques that I have used in the past and reintroducing them into today’s learning process with success.  I have also added new material to encourage students’ growth.  I have taken teaching techniques that I have used in some of the business classes I have taught and modified them for a technical audience.  Since individuals have transferable skills, why not transferable teaching techniques.   It has reminded me that when I review my curriculum for the coming term, not to necessarily think outside of the box, but to make my box bigger.

I remember that by sharing our teaching experiences and techniques, it make all of us better teachers.  The process of distribution of the 9X9X25 Challenge offers all of us the opportunity to be in the position of our students and learn.  I appreciate all of the participants in the challenge for helping me be a better teacher.  The value of the challenge for me, and I hope for all of us, is the continuous life-long learning process that we invoke to our students and now have practiced.  I have learned to ask better questions that require critical thinking skills to answer.  I also have learned to stretch, not only the students, but myself.

I remember that what started nine weeks ago, does not end here.  It will continue with my appreciation of what others have taught me.  The adjunct meetings that I attend will be part of the 9X9X25 challenge continuing process.  Having the opportunity to take the time to write what I feel works in the classroom and receiving feedback from peers is priceless, as the commercial goes.  One thing I am starting to do as a direct result of the challenge is to continue with my writing of my classroom techniques, both old and new.  Documenting the process and results and review will be great feedback for self-improvement.    For me, this has been a process improvement.

I will remember these past nine weeks and will remain grateful for all of the contributions I have read and have taken advantage of in my classroom.  Thank you for making me a better teacher.


What is a Blog Good For? Just About Everything!

blog_1_smOver the last 9 weeks I have been posting writing on a variety of subjects. These writings are part of Yavapai College’s 9x9x25 Challenge. What is the Challenge? As the father of the Challenge, Todd Conway, writes:

The Challenge is about writing as a reflective practice in teaching. The Challenge is about sharing your experiences as an educator, discovering new ideas about teaching and learning, creating a deeper sense of community between faculty at Yavapai College. The Challenge is also about learning what the internet is capable of and how it can be used in academic environments.

A blog is the natural vehicle for writing. It is a simple content management system that is easy to use. Whether you use a WordPress.com, blogster.com, blogspot.com, or other blogging platform, it is easy to post text, music, pictures, video or practically any other type of content.

blog_5_smThe amount of content posted in the two 9x9x25 Challenges is immense. There are hundreds of post by my colleagues at Yavapai College. And other colleges are also blogging in their own challenges. That amount of quality information about teaching (and some other subjects) is hard to come by. Sometimes it was funny. Often it was spontaneous. Mostly it was thought provoking and useful. And we did it in nine weeks.

But a blog is not limited to reflection. It can also be the backbone of an online course. For the past few semesters I have used several blogs to deliver just about all of the content in College Algebra, Finite Math, and Survey of Calculus. I still use a learning management system (LMS) to deliver homework and quizzes, but everything else is offered on the blog. ca_01_smThe same blog is also the Welcome page in my LMS. My students have the best of both worlds. If they need to consult the calendar for a due date or find a formula in the textbook, they can find it on the blog without logging into the LMS. For doing homework or quizzes, they log into the secure testing environment in the LMS.

My blogs are also a tool for marketing my classes. When prospective students email me during the semester to know what the course is like, I direct them to the blog. Prospective students can get a taste of the online class before they register. Students can view the videos, textbook, calendar, syllabus and weekly learning plans without the hassle of logging in.

blog_3_smWere you surprised by the fact that the textbook is available through the blog? If you can type it as text, put it in a picture or video, or link to it, then you can put it into a blog. I even run the Arizona Mathematical Association of Two Year Colleges through a blog. The possibilities are infinite!

Over the past week I have been reading the ebook, “Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture, Media Education for the 21st Century” by Henry Jenkins. You can find this free ebook on Google Play. When I first began reading this book, I was intrigued by what the author called by “participatory culture”.

A participatory culture is a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing creations, and some type of informal mentorship whereby experienced participants pass along knowledge to novices. In a participatory culture, members also believe their contributions matter and feel some degree of social connection with one another (at the least, members care about others’ opinions of what they have created).

My experience in the 9x9x25 Challenge is a manifestation of this participatory culture. Blogging is a technology with a very low entry barrier. This technology allows us to share our academic creations and learn from others with a similar interest. This definition suggests a powerful new way of professional development. Each of us can learn from each other but we need the low barriers provided by technology to do so.

Ten years ago this would not have been possible. I remember using Dreamweaver to create web pages for my site PBLPathways.com. Because of the time and effort required to craft the web pages, I was limited in what I could share. The nuggets I did share were often the results of several years of work. I only posted what was ready for prime time, not my crazy ideas. Now I am able to post the crazy ideas in an extremely short time. I am only limited by the speed with which I type. If the ideas are crazy, the community of readers can call me out. The idea is to get those ideas out there.

Now here is the interesting part of the ebook. It is oriented toward using new media to teach children, not adults. It looks at the skills and competencies students need to succeed in a participatory culture. The book examines how the individual focus in education needs to shift to a community focus and what students need to be able to do to be able to access this culture. This culture is not limited to our students. It applies to everyone. Each of us needs to foster skills that help us play a role in learning from each other as well as helping our students learn from each other. Move beyond coffee conversations in the hallway and contribute to the community. Blogging, whether it is the 9x9x25 Challenge or in another context, is the perfect way to enter the new participatory culture.

Reflections: 25 sentences on the 9 x 9 x 25

1.  I began this challenge by writing a post about how it would help me to learn to meld my public and private self in an online space.

2. I think that it has done that … and more.

3. Teaching can be a very isolating profession.

4. We often find ourselves in our separate offices, with the doors cracked just a little bit, quietly working at our computers.

5. It is easy to forget that there are colleagues with fantastic ideas and great strategies for solving  the very problems that we are having, who are sitting mere feet away.

6. Through this challenge, I have been able to read some of those ideas and strategies and learn from them.

7. I have also been able to refine my own ideas about some of the more theoretical aspects of my teaching, as well as to share some of the more specific strategies and tools that support me in the classroom.

8. Since I have been at Yavapai, some of my favorite professional development opportunities have been the summer and winter institutes.

9.  Doing this challenge has replicated that experience in many ways.

10.  This challenge opens up the opportunity for faculty to share with one another without the time constraints of attending an in-person session.

11.  I can simply sit on my couch in my pajamas, and share my best practices and reflections with my fellow teachers.

12. I think to improve the challenge, it could be even more visible to faculty and staff across the campus.

13.  One of the biggest challenges for any activity happening at YC, whether it is a student activity or something for the faculty, is marketing.

14. I would like to see this challenge being talked about at welcome back day by the administration, and also by the deans at division meetings.

15.  I think faculty can be ambassadors for the value of the challenge, but when we are in our offices, grading with our doors closed, our voices only go so far.

16.  I think some faculty may also be more comfortable participating if it didn’t necessarily require them to create their own writing spaces online.

17. Perhaps there could be a central group blog or Wiki that faculty could post to without setting up an individual space, sort of like a “class blog” or “class wiki” like some of us may use in the classroom.

18. Posting that could even be a slightly different challenge, maybe with shorter posts (or even a Twitter challenge).

19.  I would also be interested in having the flexibility to do video or audio posts along with written posts.

20. That would give me the opportunity to try out some of the technologies that I would like to use in the classroom in this environment.

21. In the end, although it is somewhat time consuming to participate in something like this, it was worth it.

22. Not only did the challenge allow me to refine and explore my own ideas, but I’m not sure that if I wasn’t participating myself, I would have looked at any of the awesome posts from everyone else.

23. I will most likely participate again (and not just for the free ice cream) and encourage other faculty to participate as well.

24.  I think that it is in the interest of having an open line of communication and a culture of sharing at the college.

25. So, thanks to Todd and TeLS and all the other participants and

Happy holidays!

The Words Will Come

These past 9 weeks, once again, have renewed my appreciation of the joy of writing. I never considered myself a writer. My wife on the other hand, is a published author, who uses words in a most eloquent fashion in writing the stories she writes. I, on the other hand, usually write whatever comes to my mind. Sometimes I get lucky and it translates pretty well, but sometimes it may give the reader a glimpse of a cluttered mind, with random ideas and thoughts. But the opportunity to write these last weeWrite-1000-Words-In-Less-Than-30-Minutes-–-Writing-For-The-Webks has given me the encouragement to reclaim my appreciation of writing and also has given me the appreciation of my own style of conveying my ideas and thoughts onto paper.

In my Psychology 101 class, students are given a final assignment titled, “Reflections and Insights.” I ask students to write about what they have learned about themselves that reflects a topic or subject that was reviewed in the course. To examine their thoughts and feelings about themselves and reflect it in psychological terms. I encourage them not to think too much about what their writing, just allow the words to flow. It’s kind of becomes a free association of writing, (Freud would have loved that). Students initially get a little anxious at first, but when their final paper are submitted for grading, well, I am in awe when I read them. You can see a differences in the style and manner in how they express themselves when they just “let it flow.” This is how my wife writes, she sits at her computer and creates a vision with words that portray a story and seems to do it effortlessly. When I ask her how did you do that?, her reply is “I just go with the flow and the words come”. Hmm, going with the flow, allowing the words to come?  At the risk of sounding new-age with well-placed crystals on my computer, it makes sense of writing in that fashion. We are taught early in our school years that writing should be done in a style that aligns itself proper structure, complete sentences, and of course, words that are used in an appropriate fashion.  I wonder how my writing style would have been if someone told me early in my schooling, “just go with the flow and the words will come.” Probably more enjoyable and less time searching for the right word or the perfect way of expressing a thought.

This 9x9x25 challenge has given me opportunity to experience that joy of the flow. I found myself typing an idea and the words came. I admit, sometimes I get stuck, but I found if I just allow myself to pull back until  the words return, well, it seems to all come together.  This must be the joy writers’ talk about, the synchronicity of ideas on paper, or most likely, the computer screen. Writing not only gives us the opportunity to express ourselves, but it also gives us the encouragement and confidence to express feelings and thoughts in more creative ways which touch the essence of who we are.  I once read somewhere, “writing about yourself is like biting your own teeth.” Having something to write each week has given me a taste of who I am and the confidence to express that more effectively.

So here’s my final submission for this year’s 9x9x25 challenge. Simply an acknowledgement of my appreciation for having the opportunity to “bite my own teeth”, to prove to myself that I can write in the fashion I feel most comfortable with and I even like the results.

My wife is right (she always is), “let it flow and the words will come.”