Launching jessicasepke.com

Welcome to JessicaSepke.com.

My project for January was to “spring clean” my online presence.  I’ve created jessicasepke.com from three existing sites

  • jessica.sepke.net (not updated since 2007)
  • jessicasepke.typepad.com (a blog entitled “tech life balance” that I periodically posted two between 2009 and 2011)
  • jessicasepke.wordpress.com (a blog that I actually completely forgot that I had ever started until I went to create a new wordpress account and realized that I already had one)

Posts from the two blogs appear on this site.  Conference presentations and resource listings from jessicasepke.net have been updated here. I’ve also included new information, links to social media, and a resume.  Outside jessicasepke.com, I’ve updated linkedin and tried to generally find broken links and outdated info and get it fixed or updated.

Take a look around the web, you may have a blog that you didn’t remember starting!

Advertisements

Thanks, but I already have a tablet

Recently, I got an email from my local T-Mobile representative advertising that the HTC Flyer, which… wait for it… you can write on.  You can edit documents!  You can record audio with notes!  You can manage your calendar!  You can write. on. the. screen.  Oh. my. God.

Sigh.

I’ve been doing all this and more since 2005 on my Lenovo Tablet PC.  Forgive me, world, but I’m frustrated with the idea that writing on the screen is something new.  I’m frustrated by the idea that we’re actually having to decide between touch, pen, and built-in physical keyboard.  I have all 3 in one machine.  Will that machine fit in my purse?  No, but I like a small purse and I already have a smart phone.

I work in education.  I’ve taught with technology for 12 years and started my school’s one-to-one tablet PC initiative in 2005.  I got the 55th tablet IBM/Lenovo made.  When I selected the Tablet PC for my school, we didn’t lose any functionality.   The Tablet PC took the laptop and added the ability to capture electronic ink without a separate graphic device.   We didn’t lose anything, but we gained a world of technological capability.  With our most recent round of Lenovo Tablet PC’s we gained touch screen capability – a triple threat of the tech world.

The current crop of tablet devices all seem represent some loss.  iPad – no integrated pen, and no keyboard, and no easy projection capability.   HTC tablet – pen is separate, no built-in keyboard.  I don’t like clutter and I like to have all the option to do anything I need to do wherever I am.  So, I don’t need a third device with limited capability.  Maybe I’m unusual (heck, there’s no maybe about it), but I’m happy with one computer and my smartphone.

To be clear, I’m not hating on the iPad, Samsung Galaxy, HTC Flyer or on people who love them.  I’m just saying that I’m not going to drop an all-inclusive technology that I know works for me in favor of something with more limited capacity. I’m intrigued by the idea of a smaller, lighter, G4 device that integrates all of these things and Windows 8.

Folks, it’s not that new.  After all, I’ve been able to write on my screen since ’05.

Responding to Alan November

This week at Lenovo’s ThinkTank 2010, I had an opportunity to hear from Alan November.  I have long admired Alan’s forward-thinking examinations of learning in an environment where technology is increasingly available and essential.  I’ve spent a couple of days thinking about some of the things that Alan said in our session and want to share these thoughts.

One thing that Alan suggested is that one should listen to Eric Mazur and I’m doing that now. The reason that this came up is the idea that no amount of good teaching can overcome the preexisting misconceptions that students have before.  To overcome these preexisting misconceptions you must first be aware of them.  Then, you must address them directly so that the students can “unlearn” that wrong information.  Last, you can now teach new ideas.

I’m lucky in that, as I return to teaching only AP Computer Science, my students don’t have a lot of misconceptions about the material because very few of them have ever programmed before.  The only misconception that they are likely to come with is either that the class will be very hard or that it will be fun and easy.   (The truth of course is that the class is fun and hard).

So, I’m watching “Confessions of a Converted Lecturer: Eric Mazur.”  Eric discovered that his carefully prepared lectures were not actually resulting in his students learning the material he was teaching.  He came to the conclusion that he needed to shift from “teaching” to “helping” his students and to letting them help each other.

Back to Alan November’s talk.  In this talk, Alan said that homework was a stupid idea.  You give a student some problems to do.  The student does the problems.  Let’s say that the student gets 10 problems wrong.  He adopts this concept of how to do these problems and then turns in the problems.  A couple of days may pass before he knows that they are wrong and at this point, he has completely absorbed the incorrect idea of how to do the problem.  Alan proposed that the homework needs to be the classwork and the classwork becomes the homework.  What might this look like?  The students read or watch the lecture for homework.  They interact with each other online or respond in a way that allows the teacher to identify their misconceptions.  The teacher can then use class time to call attention to the misconceptions and by identifying them, begin to “unteach” them.  Class now becomes a time for the students to interact with each other, solve problems, and collaborate.  Using automatic response tools throughout the class, the teacher can identify how the class is doing progressing toward understanding the concept.  The teacher can direct students who solve a problem correctly to assist students who are having difficulty.  The time with the teacher becomes about action and interaction.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how this might apply to my AP Computer Science class in the upcoming year.  The class has eight students, which seems small from an outside perspective, but in my particular school this is a huge AP Comp class.  How can I make the classwork into homework and the homework into classwork?

First, I learned awhile back that the more I have students read from the textbook, either before or after the lecture, the more confused the students become.  In the last two years, I have stopped assigning required reading; all reading is supplemental and optional.  So, I don’t want to assign readings from the text to make the classwork into homework.  I’m going to start out by looking at MIT’s Open Course Ware to see what video can be assigned as part of our required summer work.  I had success creating youtube videos for my Honors Chemistry class last year, so if I don’t find material I like, I can create my own.

Second, according to Alan’s experience, when students feel that their classmates are depending on them, they will do more than if they are doing the work only for themselves.  I have had classes work collaboratively to work on wikis to create study guides, but I want to take this further and I have to think about how to do this.

Lastly, my classes have always done a lot of group programming, but I’m always the scribe.  It’s time to put the kids in control of the screen and let them solve the problems collaboratively for themselves.

So, I’m hoping to use the summer assignment for my AP Comp class to test this idea of switching the homework and the classwork.  Then, when I have my students in the classroom, I’m going to try to sit down and shut up a little more often.

Fall Back, Spring Forward

Tomorrow night marks this year’s entry into Daylight Saving’s Time.   This post is about falling back and springing forward, but the relationship to daylight savings ends there.

This fall, I gave new meaning to “Fall Back.”  I set the clock back an hour, but you might also notice that my last post was at the beginning of my school’s Fall Break.  In realizing that I “fell back,” I’m thinking about my five month hiatus from this blog, twitter, nings,
and most other sources of professional interaction and growth.  I fell of the balance train and right back in to my long established bad habits surrounding work/life balance.

Now, it’s time to spring forward.  As I write this, I am five hours into my school’s Spring Break, but that’s not the cause of this return to the blogosphere.

This week, I spent two days at the NCAIS Innovate conference.  I feel refreshed.  I feel thoughtful.  I feel pretty, oh so… oh wait, that’s West Side Story.

For two days, I attended workshops, shared ideas, tweeted constantly, met people I’d only known online, and generally had time to think outside the to do list.   It was amazing and it reminded me that by allowing myself to disengage in the name of “being soooo busy,” I hadn’t really gained anything.  I had lost out on growth.

My to do list is longer today than it was yesterday, both because things happened while I was away that must be handled and because I have so many new ideas, new blogs to read, and new connections to nurture.  But a few more to do’s are okay.  I’m committing to springing forward into engagement.  I will stay connected.  I will remember the importance of being present in the community of educators.  I will remember that if the small things fill the days, weeks and months, that the big things will never fit.

In the last five months, I have discovered new tools and techniques for my classes.  I’ve made my first youtube videos and given an lab assessment for a semester exam rather than a traditional pencil and paper test, just to name two.  I’ll be back soon to share these with you.  I’ll also share some further thoughts on some of the great ideas and presentations that I saw at NCAIS innovate.  But for now, it’s time to sign off, unplug, and get spring break started with a movie.

Systems and Choices

This has been a long and tricky week.  The week included gathering and manipulating upload data from 3 sources for a web upload, three full days of software training, three 4:45 p.m. conference calls with our web project manager, the “soft launch” or our website, and all of the usual business of a technology department with a one-to-one tablet program when school starts in three weeks.  I’m glad to have arrived at Saturday morning and to be sitting with my laptop and coffee to write a post.

In three days of training on our new databases and beginning to see how our new website will work, I’m realizing that I will have to make many choices in the coming week.  As the “Director of Technology and Information Systems,” I will need to determine how data is stored, used, and shared within our new database, new website, and existing systems.  With three systems for calendaring and resource reservation, which is best to use?  With two ways to display homework assignments for students and parents, which is best to use? How is it best to tie class wikis to our web systems?

I generally like this kind of challenge.  I enjoy figuring out the logistic of a project and designing systems to manage processes and data.  But, I must confess that this many choices needing to be made in a single week is enough to make one feel overwhelmed.   What to do?  Where to start?  GTD.

If I am to accomplish these tasks, as well as prepare for the training I will teach in 10 days, registration of students in 15 days, and the classes I will begin teaching in 21 days, I must remember to stay calm and return to GTD.  Today, I will probably not make any progress that appears to be directly related to these projects.  As you remember, the title of this blog is “tech life balance” and today is a “life” day (Note: This post is from a previous blog entitled “Tech Life Balance.”).  Instead of spending the day with my computer, I will buy groceries, get a haircut, have lunch with my parents to plan their remodeling project, do laundry, watch a movie with my husband, and outline these projects.  Tomorrow, I dive in, but I’ll have a plan.

David Allen suggests a weekly review and I must confess that I haven’t done one for several weeks.  I have over due items on my to do list and several lists scribbled here and there.  Today, I will consolidate, give myself new due dates, figure out what others on my team can do, and add to my list those items that will help me end next week with a plan for how my school will most efficiently utilize the tools they now have.

I hope that next Saturday morning, I’ll have had another busy, but productive week and that I’ll be enjoying a cup of coffee while I plan the weekend and the week of faculty orientation.  Enjoy your Saturday – I’m off to get a haircut!