Sunday, February 24, 2013

International Adventures: Back in the Saddle, Again.

I'm not a big one for titles. Currently, my title is learning management system specialist. When people ask me what I do, I usually answer, "I'm a teacher."

I graduated from UConn in June 1974 and because I didn't have a full time position (not for lack of trying, I applied to 40 school systems and got only 2 interviews) I moved back home. I substitute taught during the day at middle schools and high schools in Meriden and Middletown and then drove a cab at night. I met my wife-to-be in Cab #15 while I was driving for Meriden Yellow Cab, but that's a story for another day.

During that year I was offered a position at Star of the Sea School in Astoria, Oregon. For 12 of the next 13 years I taught school there, only taking one year off to get a Masters in Elementary Education at UConn during the 1978-79 school year. (That was a busy year and a half. Diane and I got married in Astoria on May 3, 1978, we moved back to Connecticut and began our first year of marriage. I completed a 45-credit Masters between Sept 78 and August 79, I was working 40 hours a week at a small high-speed metal stamping shop and Francis was born July 9, 1979.)

After moving back to Astoria in 1979, I taught at Star of the Sea unitl June 1988. It was shortly after that that I moved into the technical world, working for hardware and software companies for the next 23 years. All of the work, except for a few stints, revolved around training; materials development, delivery of trainng, running a training department, assessment test and certification test development mostly.

For the past 5 or 6 years I've been riding a desk doing assessment test and certification test development.

During the last couple of weeks, though, I got back into the classroom. As the learning management system specialist, it is my job to help the academic faculty at American University of Madaba learn to make good use of our LMS, Moodle. The first thing I did when getting here in October was to teach myself to use Moodle by building an eLearning course. I called the course Building an eLearning Course. As my delightful daughters said, "Oh Dad, how meta."

Once I finished designing and building that course, I was encouraged to make an instructor-led version of it. I did that just before I left for the Christmas/New Years break. When I got back in early January I began preparing all of the handouts and built myself a detailed script of how the class would go. I was ready.

As so often seems to be the case here in the Middle East, there was then a period of waiting were nothing appeared to be happening. Actually, a bunch of stuff was happening in the background. I was invited to a meeting of the full academic faculty on Monday, February 4 where my course was introduced and the assembled professors were informed that they would all be taking that course. Then Dr. Munir turned to me and said, " Can you start tomorrow and do the class in 4 sessions?" Well, I'm glad I had prepared everything including my scripting. In working out the details of class groupings, getting a room, etc, we decided to start on Wednesday, February 6.

We decided to do the class in 6 sessions for a number of practical reasons. We knew we had to have 3 groups of faculty; there are 59 and I didn't want more than 20 in a group. The class totalled 11 hours; so making it less than 6 sessions would mean long class periods for them and a brutally long day for me. I don't care how smart those guys are (and they are), no-one likes classes of 3 hours, at least not here.We finally settled on three sections of the same class each day; 9 - 11; 12 - 2, and  3 - 5 with a one hour break between each class. Six classes in a row; Wednesday and Thursday, Feb 6 & 7 and then Monday through Thursday Feb 10 - 14. I was up for it and I was pumped.

By the end of the first day of class I was as high as a kite. The interactions in the class had been fabulous and I had been reminded of just how much I loved the non-stop interaction of teaching an engaged group of students. When I came back for the second day, I was just as ready to go. By the end of the day, however, my body was telling me that it had been a looong time since I had spent 2 consecutive days on my feet and moving (I rarely stand still in a classroom; I'm always moving around, both to give the students a different place to focus and so that I can be closer to any conversations that are a part of the class). My feet and lower legs protested mightily and I spent the evening with my feet up.My dogs were howlin' and just wanted a rest. I would have until Monday to recover, so that was good.

The next four days of the class went very well, passing in a blur of activity. Little by little I was getting to know the faculty members as people; fascinating people with plenty of life experience in a wide variety of settings. That, for me, has been one of the unexpected bonuses of the class. Before this, when I would walk around campus I'd see lots of people. Now I see lots of people that I know by name and have begun forming what I hope will be long-lasting relationships with.

One tangible result of the class is this: in Moodle there is a panel on the side of the screen that shows who has been on line using the system in the last 10 minutes. Before the class, the only ones I'd ever see there were myself, Hatem and Rania (LMS admin and Help Desk, respectively). When I go on now, it is rare if I don't see a couple of faculty members on the system. Yay, it worked, at least for the start. There's lots more to do to get them using it effectively in their courses, but we have begun and that is good. Next up on the LMS front is to start a user's group so faculty can get together, share war stories, talk about what's working and what's not. A support group of sorts.

A day or two after the class ended, I was asked to teach an English conversation and writing class for the administrative staff at AUM. Talk about a return to my roots! When I graduated UConn in 1974 it was with a B.S in Secondary Education - English. I was certified to teach middle and high school English in Connecticut. That class will begin the week of March 11, so I've got to get busy getting it designed and planned out. This will give me an up close and personal experience with a large cross section of the administrative staff. As at any institution, the admin folks are the ones who get a large measure of the work done (and can grant or deny access to their bosses), so it will be good to build solid relationships with them. That class is scheduled to last the rest of the Spring semester, so I'm going to be teaching until June.

Back in the saddle, again.

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About Me

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I'm currently 60 years old. I currently work as the learning management system specialist for American University of Madaba in Madaba, Jordan. I was originally certified as a high-school English teacher and taught school for 13 years (1 year of substituting, 1 year of 7th grade, 2 years of a combined 5th, 6th, 7th grade, 9 years of 8th grade). I've worked for hardware and software companies for the past 23 years doing training, training materials development, certification test development and other education related stuff. My wife and I have raised four children to adulthood; some of them live at home at the moment, but that won't last (they're too independent for that). We live at home with 2 Golden Retrievers, 2 black cats, a crazy cat, and, during the winter, 70,000 coho salmon.