Saturday, November 15, 2014

Started Something New: A Memoir

This summer I started an eight day backpacking trip in the Enchanted Valley with one of my best friends, Tami Garrard. She grew up on the peninsula, and she routinely leads the way on amazing hikes. Some of the most inspiring, jaw dropping sights I have ever seen have been by her side. I've also experienced some of the worst weather in an emergency shelter with her, and my memories are all filled with laughter and the scent of wet down. One of the reasons we work so well as hiking partners is that we both divide the labor to survive in the outdoors, and we always get along. She also laughs at my annoying habit to turn poignant statements into memoir titles. 

Recently I've met new people and have exposed this habit beyond my inner circle of close friends. Creating memoir titles is actually very therapeutic. For instance, let's say you did not get a job that you really, really, really wanted. Maybe you received one of the most encouraging rejection letters you've ever read, but you're still kind of blue and it's too cold to ride your bike. Try writing a memoir title. 

Somebody Else Got The Job of My Dreams: A Memoir. 

See, that hypothetical person already feels better, I'm sure. 

The title of this blog signifies the official end to this wonderful blog experiment. I've been inspired by WA's SBCTC FLC grant and we are working on a blog to expose our learning process. So far it feels like a digital record of one of my best failures. 

If you have stumbled upon this blog, please check out Aligning The CC Stars.

I'm also going to give Mike Caulfield's federated wiki a try. He was our keynote speaker at NW eLearn, and his talk helped me figure out what I've been frustrated by with instructional design and the state of OL education. I'm curious to learn more about how he describes the potential of a federated wiki. It blends together something I think is really cool and extremely practical. He writes that the "idea is not to kill StreamMode, but to redirect it, when appropriate, to more recursive and expository tools." I haven't had time to wrap my brain around this yet, but I will.  

Just like those builders of the Enchanted Valley Chalet, I had no idea that my interests--like the river--would shift and change course. It's time to take my ideas someplace else, and let's face it, 2015 is rushing closer everyday. It's time.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

ETMOOC Helped Me Get a Great Job! Really.

My decision to go back to graduate school to pursue an M.Ed was really kind of an experiment. I never got into PhD programs as an English major (a total blessing in hindsight), so I kept researching and thinking about the Education degree that I thought I was going to pursue as an undergraduate. As the job market became more dismal in English, I decided to take advantage of the WA state employee tuition waiver. I just reread my application statement of intent; I can read between the lines and see that I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. Half way through the degree, I thought about walking away. It was too hard to teach full-time and be a part-time graduate student. Thanks to kind words of encouragement from family and friends, I graduated last December. 

I’ve been saying for years that I want to teach teachers. The real question became: How can I teach teachers when a lot of the education programs focus on K-12?  I love working with high school teachers, but I wouldn’t have any credibility with them because my experience is in higher education. I also knew I don’t want to be a high school administrator.  

As I reflect on the last year, every bump and turn in the path of my career lead up to my new job as Director of eLearning and I’m still over the moon that this is my life. I feel so lucky, but then again, I’ve worked really hard.  

So how did ETMOOC help me get a job? Well, when I started to research Instructional Designer positions, I needed a portfolio. I had zero results for digital citizenry aside from bike race results and a certain website for rating your professor. All of my OL work lived inside of an LMS; my work as a teacher left me little time to connect. Teaching four to six composition courses a quarter leaves little time for anything in life. 

Without my ETMOOC experience, I would have been scrambling to substantiate my research interests. Albeit I learned a lot in my graduate program, but many of my assignments were theoretical.  My course in educational technology helped me discover ETMOOC, and the mix of an amazing F2F class with a MOOC blew up my world. I wasn’t anywhere near one of ETMOOC’s most active participants, but I learned a lot. I started this blog, for instance! What a huge step for me both—personally and professionally—so when it came time to put together a portfolio, I actually had one.  

One of my interview questions had to do with my perspective about MOOCs. I almost leapt out of my chair with ideas—all based on my ETMOOC experience. MOOCs are a model for life-long learning and building skills that must live on. I've read a lot about MOOCs being fads and failures, but I’m living proof that this model of learning can work for professional development.

So more than one year later, I can attest that a MOOC helped me get my dream job that, I hope, will be a catalyst for future opportunities.

I see MOOC learning similar to a bike share program (only it's free). You take one bike, ride it to another neighborhood, and leave it for another person. The infrastructure (the bike or the MOOC) supports the creativity (the learning or the riding) and it's communal.  It's up to you to unlock the potential and pedal to new learning.

I'm working on this metaphor, but that's what ETMOOC taught me to do; share your learning. Oh the cheesy places I can go with this idea! Bad ideas are like dropping your chain. Learning is like buying a bike: invest in a good frame and upgrade the parts later. Learning from other people is like riding in pack. Being an innovative teacher is like digging into your suitcase of courage. See? I can go on and on with this one.

I’m getting ready to begin another blog, but I have to conclude this one with a sincere thank you to the organizers of ETMOOC. You helped me a great job. Really. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Yes, it's 2014 and I need to blog.

Are you there free-time? It's me, Alyson.

I'll figure out what's next, dear readers, I promise.

So many new and exciting things have happened since I've blogged last. It's all happened so quickly I haven't had time to process it. I'm living in the moment of pure luck, hard work, and being in the right place at the right time. That being said, I have no time to blog much less process this sweet little life. There are bits and pieces scattered here and there if you are really interested. If you really want to know, it's not hard to find me.

For now, this blog will occupy space in the dust-bin of the Internet.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Teacher Summer

Call this last month what you will! Days filled with blog abandonment, lack of time, days ending in total fatigue, too many things to do in one day, weather too lovely to be on the computer, wearing too many hats. Call it what you will; I have not blogged in a month. I was doing quite well during the school year, but this summer has not been so great for the blogging. Or the practice of writing in general. My backpacking article on my trip to the Olympics is scheduled for this fall issue of Adventures NW Magazine, so I'll have a nice reminder of the last essay that I wrote. It feels like a long time ago already. A different life then, indeed.

So what's been going on you ask? Well, quite a bit. I'm teaching one course (as usual) this summer, and I've started working for our eLearning department as we transition to Canvas, our newest learning management system. I'm getting paid to talk to interesting people, research and solve problems with teachers and technology while collaborating with people who care about the future of online learning. That's a quick summary of my Mondays-Wednesdays. On Thursdays, I'm working from home to create a course for our Title III grant. There is simply not enough time to do everything that I want to do. This position came quite unexpectedly, and I had put off completing some other work thinking I'd have plenty of time this summer. This position started a month ago, and I've been playing catch up ever since. You'll hear no complaints from me. I feel so completely lucky to love what I'm doing. 

I'm in the mix for a new position at my college, and should that happen, then I'll start a new blog if I get the job. Even if I don't, I'll still be very happy with the different hats that I get to wear. This blog for ETMOOC has been a grand experiment of trying out blogging for the first time. I'll later refer to it as my "starter blog" when I create something new. I've done some writing, of course. I've written new cover letters, resumes, and participated in phone interviews. It's been unexpectedly busy summer. I've never had what I used to call a "teacher summer." You know, those mythical summers where teachers don't work for three months? Me neither.

I chose this photo of my dog so that I can remember this moment of his summer. We call this activity "Belly Sunning." And this PNW summer is one of the finest I have ever seen. Elroy spends his days going between sun and shade on our deck. We've created this lovely outside office on our deck where the mister, the dog, and I spend our afternoons as the sun sinks west.

We use our new espresso machine to make coffees that we sip in the shade. We read and work, and he moves from ideal spot to better spot in the sun. My neighbor's tree shades the sun during the hottest hours and the sun shines in rays through the branches. Squirrels run along the fence to steal my berries, humming birds zip around from flower to flower, bees hum on the lavender, and various birds fly from the pond east of our house to the lake. Sea planes fly towards the bay.

My dog sleeps through it all, and this is photo captures his favorite spot. Summer is his season. I'd say it was my season as well, but if you know me well, you know how much I love a powder day in the mountains and muddy cylcocross races. Those days already feel like they are around the corner. Just like August.

Monday, June 24, 2013

June Hiatus

Beloved Blog,

I am taking a much needed break from blogging, and everything else that involves a glowing screen.

After two full weeks of contract work, followed by finishing up spring quarter, I am giving myself a little hiatus from work. A bit of a recharge before summer quarter is in order. I spent an entire morning reading and drinking coffee. I haven't looked at my calendar in days! Glorious! I'm spending my days reading, writing (with pen and paper), gardening, running on trails, riding my bikes, watching movies, sunning with my dog, and staring at the damage the slugs are doing to my garden. When I return, I'll blog about things to come, an award that I won that still makes my jaw drop, and how this summer is a bridge to new things to come. Happy June!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Feels Like Work, Only It's Not
It's the last week of the quarter, and I have a major project due in my grad class in less than a week. I'm trying to get all of that work done while working my more than full-time job. This past weekend, I did some training to become a trainer for a freelance job, so I'm kind of behind on everything this week. I felt so burned out yesterday after work that I couldn't get anything done. Me and the mister sat on our lovely deck with the dog. We watched the sun dip ever closer to the northwest while various birds flew in and out of our yard. Some of my flowers are starting to bloom and I'm reminded (once again) of how much I love my daisies, zinnias, and lavender plants. There is a constant party of bees on the lavender.

It was a hot afternoon in the PNW, so we toasted a cold beer to the end of the quarter. I am reminded of my research about teacher burnout. Taking a mental break helps keep everything in perspective. Indeed.

Still the many things to do on my list remains. Ever stare at your list and not know where to begin? Usually when I get that feeling, I write in my journal, but today I'm turning to my blog. I'll join the millions of other bloggers who blog about blogging. (I'm pretty sure I used to make fun of bloggers, so that's a story for another time).

Here are two things that are valuable to me about this blog:

1. I've been able to record my thoughts about projects that I am working on, so blogging feels like work, only it's not. With conference presentations and now my graduate project, I've been able to cull ideas and thoughts that would have been buried in my personal paper journal. Unlike my paper journal, I blog knowing there is an audience (not that big of one, mind you, but I do have some readers). My journal feeds the creative writer in me. This blog, albeit something I started for a MOOC, has grown on me. It's become part of my writing practice. Who knew?

2. I've connected with people I have never met, who I don't see enough, and I've become a part of a larger network of learners. Teaching, especially as adjunct, is an isolated profession. I've worked at my college for almost a decade, and I have just recently met people I wished I had talked to years ago. This blog has helped me make some valuable connections.

Here are two things I wished I had known before I started blogging:

1. My URL includes the name of the MOOC I joined, and my title has a built-in timeline. I'll need to create a new URL next year. Maybe that's not such a bad thing, but I wish I had not chosen a year in my title. I also don't always blog about Ed Tech. Honestly, I thought I would delete the blog after the MOOC.

2. I wish I had started blogging at the start of my grad program. I have so much to use from my last two classes while I've blogged, but my paper notebook that I started in 2010 feels like an anchor. I just get lost in looking at my old work. It's easier to put together ideas by scrolling through my blog. Who knew? My experience has made me think a great deal about what my students are going through when they use a LMS to gather their portfolios. The current LMS I am using as a teacher is a nightmare for students to find their own work, so I empathize. It's not an easy medium to navigate for reflective writing. Blogging, on the other hand, encourages the type of reflection I try to teach my writing students.

So what's going on for June? Once I complete the quarter as a student and as a teacher, I'm going to focus on some time off before the summer quarter begins. I really want to write an article about the presentations I've done this year, and I need to keep researching. So I did some clicking around, and I signed up for a Mini-Course on Web 2.0 Tools through the Powerful Learning Practice. They send participants emails everyday for two weeks about different web tools in order to start a personal learning network. So far, I know everything they have sent me, but I like their format for the trainings. They send a short engaging invitation email about the tool, several links on how to get started, some examples, and then a question to consider for tomorrow's email. It's also free (or I wouldn't be doing it). I can see this idea working for a small cohort of teachers trying out new ideas for teaching. It's like work, only not really.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Thank you, NW eLearn!
I did some major self-promotion today!
I have uploaded my PowerPoint slides from my presentation on

Scroll down to the bottom, and you can download the slides. Feel free to contact me about anything I talked about, and I really appreciate all of the kind regards listed in the chat. I have one more presentation on this topic, and then I have to write a paper to be published before everything I am researching is obsolete.

This my favorite slide about "how technology came into our classroom." It cracks me up, so thanks to the person who posted "Hahaha" in the chat.