I Am A Liberal

Posted without comment (but with a few formatting changes).”I’m a liberal… I’ve always been a liberal, but that doesn’t mean what a lot of you apparently think it does. Let’s break it down, shall we? Because quite frankly, I’m getting a little tired of being told what I believe and what I stand for. Spoiler alert: Not every liberal is the same, though the majority of liberals I know think along roughly these same lines:

  1. I believe a country should take care of its weakest members. A country cannot call itself civilized when its children, disabled, sick, and elderly are neglected. Period.
  2. I believe healthcare is a right, not a privilege. Somehow that’s interpreted as “I believe Obamacare is the end-all, be-all.” This is not the case. I’m fully aware that the ACA has problems, that a national healthcare system would require everyone to chip in, and that it’s impossible to create one that is devoid of flaws, but I have yet to hear an argument against it that makes “let people die because they can’t afford healthcare” a better alternative. I believe healthcare should be far cheaper than it is, and that everyone should have access to it. And no, I’m not opposed to paying higher taxes in the name of making that happen.
  3. I believe education should be affordable and accessible to everyone. It doesn’t necessarily have to be free (though it works in other countries so I’m mystified as to why it can’t work in the US), but at the end of the day, there is no excuse for students graduating college saddled with five- or six-figure debt.
  4. I don’t believe your money should be taken from you and given to people who don’t want to work. I have literally never encountered anyone who believes this. Ever. I just have a massive moral problem with a society where a handful of people can possess the majority of the wealth while there are people literally starving to death, freezing to death, or dying because they can’t afford to go to the doctor. Fair wages, lower housing costs, universal healthcare, affordable education, and the wealthy actually paying their share would go a long way toward alleviating this. Somehow believing that makes me a communist.
  5. I don’t throw around “I’m willing to pay higher taxes” lightly. If I’m suggesting something that involves paying more, well, it’s because I’m fine with paying my share as long as it’s actually going to something besides lining corporate pockets or bombing other countries while Americans die without healthcare.
  6. I believe companies should be required to pay their employees a decent, livable wage. Somehow this is always interpreted as me wanting burger flippers to be able to afford a penthouse apartment and a Mercedes. What it actually means is that no one should have to work three full-time jobs just to keep their head above water. Restaurant servers should not have to rely on tips, multibillion-dollar companies should not have employees on food stamps, workers shouldn’t have to work themselves into the ground just to barely make ends meet, and minimum wage should be enough for someone to work 40 hours and live.
  7. I am not anti-Christian. [substitute any religion] I have no desire to stop Christians from being Christians, to close churches, to ban the Bible, to forbid prayer in school, etc. (BTW, prayer in school is NOT illegal; *compulsory* prayer in school is – and should be – illegal). All I ask is that Christians recognize *my* right to live according to *my* beliefs. When I get pissed off that a politician is trying to legislate Scripture into law, I’m not “offended by Christianity” — I’m offended that you’re trying to force me to live by your religion’s rules. You know how you get really upset at the thought of Muslims imposing Sharia law on you? That’s how I feel about Christians trying to impose biblical law on me. Be a Christian. Do your thing. Just don’t force it on me or mine.
  8. I don’t believe LGBT people should have more rights than you. I just believe they should have the *same* rights as you.
  9. I don’t believe illegal immigrants should come to America and have the world at their feet, especially since THIS ISN’T WHAT THEY DO (spoiler: undocumented immigrants are ineligible for all those programs they’re supposed to be abusing, and if they’re “stealing” your job it’s because your employer is hiring illegally). I’m not opposed to deporting people who are here illegally, but I believe there are far more humane ways to handle undocumented immigration than our current practices (i.e., detaining children, [“detaining” = arguably kidnapping], splitting up families, ending DACA, etc).
  10. I don’t believe the government should regulate everything, but since greed is such a driving force in our country, we NEED regulations to prevent cut corners, environmental destruction, tainted food/water, unsafe materials in consumable goods or medical equipment, etc. It’s not that I want the government’s hands in everything — I just don’t trust people trying to make money to ensure that their products/practices/etc. are actually SAFE. Is the government devoid of shadiness? Of course not. But with those regulations in place, consumers have recourse if they’re harmed and companies are liable for medical bills, environmental cleanup, etc. Just kind of seems like common sense when the alternative to government regulation is letting companies bring their bottom line into the equation.
  11. I believe our current administration is fascist. Not because I dislike them or because I can’t get over an election, but because I’ve spent too many years reading and learning about the Third Reich to miss the similarities. Not because any administration I dislike must be Nazis, but because things are actually mirroring authoritarian and fascist regimes of the past.
  12. I believe the systemic racism and misogyny in our society is much worse than many people think, and desperately needs to be addressed. Which means those with privilege — white, straight, male, economic, etc. — need to start listening, even if you don’t like what you’re hearing, so we can start dismantling everything that’s causing people to be marginalized.
  13. I am not interested in coming after your blessed guns, nor is anyone serving in government. What I am interested in is sensible policies, including background checks, that just MIGHT save one person’s, perhaps a toddler’s, life by the hand of someone who should not have a gun. (Got another opinion? Put it on your page, not mine).
  14. I believe in so-called political correctness. I prefer to think it’s social politeness. If I call you Chuck and you say you prefer to be called Charles I’ll call you Charles. It’s the polite thing to do. Not because everyone is a delicate snowflake, but because as Maya Angelou put it, when we know better, we do better. When someone tells you that a term or phrase is more accurate/less hurtful than the one you’re using, you now know better. So why not do better? How does it hurt you to NOT hurt another person?
  15. I believe in funding sustainable energy, including offering education to people currently working in coal or oil so they can change jobs. There are too many sustainable options available for us to continue with coal and oil. Sorry, billionaires. Maybe try investing in something else.
  16. I believe that women should not be treated as a separate class of human. They should be paid the same as men who do the same work, should have the same rights as men and should be free from abuse. Why on earth shouldn’t they be?

I think that about covers it. Bottom line is that I’m a liberal because I think we should take care of each other. That doesn’t mean you should work 80 hours a week so your lazy neighbor can get all your money. It just means I don’t believe there is any scenario in which preventable suffering is an acceptable outcome as long as money is saved.So, I’m a liberal.”- Written by Larry Allenhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VzGQy7iVrcY

The Importance of an LMS

I haven’t posted anything besides conference notes in the last year, or so it seems. I’ve been to ITC eLearning in St. Petersburg, Florida, and the Desire2Learn Fusion conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. My postings during these events were notes from the sessions that I went to, but I haven’t done any free writing or reflections on much lately. Well now we change that.If you don’t follow me on a personal level (my professional presence has been non-existent lately), you likely don’t know that I’ve been evaluating Learning Management Systems lately. Having experience with Blackboard, Canvas, and Sakai, I wanted to see what LMS could meet the needs for my employer. And for me.This goal is what prompted my attendance at D2L Fusion in July. I wasn’t overly familiar with D2L, but knew that higher education sang its praises. So I figured I needed to at least investigate. Without going into detail about my findings and the recommendations that I am making, let’s just say that I explored and carefully vetted the platform.What prompted this post, however, has nothing to do with vetting an LMS. What prompted this post is on something I heard, third hand, from someone in my organization. The comment that I received is that an individual was choosing not to use the LMS that we are using because they felt it was “too clunky” last time. I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around this comment. Is our LMS perfect? No. Does it aid in learning from the program participants? Without question. So why would someone choose not to use the platform? Is it really so bad that they chose to “short” the learning potential of the students? That boggles my mind. So what makes the platform so clunky?Many people who complain about an LMS are those who don’t spend time learning the platform. Are there easy ways to post content, links, documents, videos? Of course! But those who don’t take the time to fully learn the product will never understand that. Is there a user friendly way to post a reflection of a learning experience in a discussion forum? Of course! But those who don’t take the time to fully learn the product will never understand that.What irks me even more is that people who complain about the LMS feel that they have to do everything themselves. Like they are on an island with no instructional or administrative support. Regardless of your industry or higher education/corporate environment, that just isn’t the case. There’s always someone willing to help. Or at least someone willing to teach you how to quickly and easily use the platform.A Learning Management System is such an important tool, possibly the most important tool, to facilitate and guide student learning. I’m hoping that as time goes on, I’ll be able to clearly articulate its importance…</rant>

Updates From the Rich and the Famous…

…Only I’m neither rich nor famous.But now that I’ve got your attention! ;-)It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, and even so, the last time I did was in February when I was at the ITC conference. So here we go.The big project that I had been working on kicked off in a non-pilot form back in January. The program, Management Development Training Program, is a 5 month hybrid course for current and future presidents/managers of local companies as well as other local company employees who show leadership/entrepreneurial potential. So far it’s been going great. We’ve gotten some great feedback from the participants and instructors, and we’re ramping up to do a 1 month stint of updates to the program. But my involvement in the day-to-day operations of that program have been winding down, so of course I picked up another project (or 3)!In January I kicked of a solo project that involves updating and migrating on-demand training content from one vendor to another. The new vendor’s site won’t be available to the entire organization until February 2016, but there’s over 300 assets (PDFs, videos, etc.) in the current system that need to be evaluated, updated, and migrated, so it’s a time consuming project. I was able to research new vendors and propose the switch to our Board of Directors, during which time I was a nervous wreck. But it clearly went well, because they approved it without reservations! The research phase started in January/February, and so I’ve been knee-deep in this project ever since. It’s a solo project, so I’m the only one maintaining a timeline, which means I’m actually about 3.5 months ahead of schedule. Whew! Maybe I should take a vacation for that 3.5 months – Wouldn’t that be nice! But alas…There are some other projects that I’m working on which aren’t very public, so those will have to wait for a later update. But needless to say, things are going well. I’ve had a long break of no traveling which ends in about 1 week. Then I go back to my monthly trips. Let’s just say that this fall is going to be super packed with my work travel and marching band. As if my life wasn’t crazy enough!Till next time…

A Life of Changes

Things change. There’s no way around it. Some of the changes are for the better, but some are not. It’s hard for me to admit, but I (in consultation with my wife) made a big decision yesterday.August 8 will be my last day of full-time employment at Miami University.There are a lot of reasons behind this change and not all of them are suitable for the public arena. The biggest reason is career growth. There are lots of things that I want to do to further and grow into my career, and I’ve gotten to the point in my current position where I don’t have any room for growth. It’s not really a shock – in fact my supervisor was in agreement when we talked through what I wanted – what I called my “pie in the sky.” I’ve had several informal leadership opportunities in my current position, and as indicated by others who I’ve worked with on those projects, I’ve done them very well. But I’m still in a “do-er” role and not an “oversight/administrative” role. That’s the big issue.Starting August 11, I will be an instructional designer for WinWholesale, a company based out of Dayton, Ohio, that distributes wholesale manufacturing supplies (plumbing, electrical, HVAC, etc.). The company has a role in over 500 small businesses around the country, one of those roles being training employees. My role, as the sole instructional designer, is to design, develop, and oversee training opportunities for over 5000 employees around the country. I’ll be knee-deep in designing fully online training courses for all levels of employees (truck drivers all the way to company CEOs). As the initial needs are addressed, I’ll be doing strategic planning in the evolution and growth of the training group, including hiring additional instructional designers. One of my goals that they’ve shown support for, is for me to move into the formal leadership role that I’ve been hoping for.It’s a shift in thinking and comfort, having focused on higher education for the last 7 years, and having spent 11 (almost consistent) years at an institution where I earned 2 degrees and have a lifetime of memories. If you’re doing the math, yes, those 11 years included when I was in school. I’m scared to death for the move to corporate – there’s a huge learning curve, but I’m looking forward to the challenges.To all of my friends/colleagues at Miami, I will miss you. I’ll be around, though, so don’t be a stranger. I’ll be around through August 8, so let’s do lunch!

Professional Resolutions

I’ve been known from time to time to create New Years’ Resolutions. I mean, who isn’t? I’ve created personal ones, family ones, and even some professional ones. I’ve never really understood why people create them—myself included. Everyone ends up breaking the resolutions, either intentionally or unintentionally. Some people create lofty goals for the new year: lose weight, go to the gym, go to church, etc. But after the first 2-3 weeks of the new year get underway, life takes over again. You start having to work late, kids’ schedules get the better part of your time, or you just get bored with the monotony of going to the gym. We’re all guilty of it, so why bother creating the resolutions at all?I started thinking about whether or not I wanted to create resolutions for this year. Not specific to any particular category or area of my life, but something that I wanted be better at. My life is pretty good if I look at the status quo. But there are always things I could do better. Since my wife and I have a personal/family website, I’ll post some of those goals over there, but what you’re probably more interested in on this site are my professional resolutions of 2014. The areas of my career that I want to do better.Well, without further stalling or ado, here are a few:

  1. Spend more time writing. For the last few years, I’ve wanted to publish another journal article. I even started setting aside time during my work-week to write. Some time to journal about what I’ve been working on. I even started journaling right here on this site. But like all other resolutions, time got away from me. I don’t want to make a goal of having something published in 2014, because I know that will be thrown to the wayside too easily. But just to set aside some time to journal. No topics in mind, but something more coherent than weekly project updates. I have tons of topics to write about, it’s just a matter of doing it.
  2. Take on a large, long-term project. That might seem a little beyond my control, but it really isn’t. I have a project in mind. Something I’ve been tinkering with for the last year or so, but I’ve never really made it my project. It’s always been a side thing that I tinkered with when I had time. It also sounds like a fairly vague goal, but that’s on purpose. Even though I have a project in mind, I’ve been waiting for approval of sorts for a while, so I’ve been hesitant to talk about specifics. If you read the post I wrote earlier this month, I talk a bit more about the project, even though it’s still not in great detail. I still haven’t gotten the green light yet, but I think that even if I’m not given the ability (permission) to devote all of my time to it, I’m going to make it a point to work on this project on a more long-term basis.

Those are really the top 2 professional goals that I have for 2014. I’ll keep you posted on my progress, hopefully more than just a weekly progress report (per #1 above). And hopefully I’ll be able to provide some specifics to the large project of which I speak in the near future.What are some 2014 resolutions you have for your professional life?

Career Quandaries, Part 1

Yes, I double-checked the spelling of “quandaries.” It is, in fact, the plural of “quandary.”Things have been… interesting… lately at work. We got a new Asst. Provost for e-Learning about a month ago. She seems great and has a lot of good ideas. I’m not sure yet how things will go when she tries implementing any of her proposed ideas. But at least in theory, she can be really good for the future of e-Learning at Miami.Because of the potential readership of this post, I have to be pretty vague in the next few things I’m about to say.There is 1 project in particular that she is working on. In theory, it’s great. It’s something that I’ve worked on at my previous institution and was widely accepted and praised. One would think that given my background and experience, I would have been asked to participate in the planning/implementation of such a project. Well, that is not the case. And I have been spending quite some time trying to figure out why I wasn’t approached. I know that it’s not because she didn’t know I had that experience – she requested copies of all of our resumes/CVs before she even started. It clearly says on mine that I have this experience.There is really only 1 other reason I can think of – my experience doesn’t hold any weight in this office.But wait, there’s more…I will have been in this current role for 3 years on February 1. It’s the longest I’ve held a “grown-up” job since finishing my undergrad degree in 2007. For the last year or so, I’ve been thinking about where I want to go from here. Not that I want to leave immediately, but thinking more about my long-term career path. I’ve decided that I want my next role to be more of an administrative one. A director, assistant director, or something of the like. I’ve been involved in more and more tasks lately that would normally be completed by people in these roles, so to me it seems like a natural move. I’ve recently been hinting (it’s been less hinting and more blatant lately) that I want to begin transitioning out of my current role. And as it turns out, my requests are being dismissed. I haven’t received a flat “no,” but I also have not received any recognition or sign that they are considering my request. Again…There is really only 1 other reason I can think of – my experience doesn’t hold any weight in this office.So now what? I’m considering multiple options, but haven’t made any decisions yet. In part 2, I’ll go more into my options.

Tracking Student Success: Traditional/Non-Traditional Students

This article was posted was posted today in the Chronicle of Higher Education:More Colleges Track Nontraditional Students’ Success – StudentsHere’s my question – what about tracking the success of traditional students? Why is tracking non-traditional students the best thing since sliced bread? I understand that non-traditional students have a lower success rate, but it’s not like traditional students have it easy.Also, while I’m ranting – what exactly is a “traditional student?” Maybe they should use the phrase “stereotypical student” instead. It’s my opinion that “traditional students” are a thing of the past.Am I the only one bothered by this?

My Experience with Plagiarism

This semester I taught my first course. It was a 400- & 500-level course, consisting mostly of graduate students. The title was Audio/Visual Instruction: Methods, Media, & Technology. We spent the semester learning about and exploring a lot of tools, in a variety of categories. In fact, only about 3 weeks was spent with audio/video tools. We covered social media, mobile technologies & apps, as well as several weeks talking about accessibility, pedagogy, and needs assessments. Throughout the semester, the students worked on projects that were designed to be reusable when they began teaching.The final project required students to submit a proposal to a fictitious school board, requesting support for implementing a technology of their choice. The project spanned 2 weeks, during which time they had to submit a rough draft for peer review, submit a final written proposal, and create/submit a multimedia presentation showing how they would present the project to their school board. The project was fairly clear, but I ran into an issue when 1 student plagiarized the research review for their proposal…The student in question submitted everything on time, but I was concerned when his research review did not include any citations or quotation marks. After reading through the proposal, I decided to run it through Turnitin, a plagiarism detection website that our institution uses. My concerns were validated when I saw that the entire research section was taken from various sources. I scheduled an appointment with our institution’s Academic Integrity Coordinator to discuss whether this was a case of academic dishonesty worth pursuing. She told me that since it was, by definition, plagiarism and that I should report it to my department chair. So I did…My chair and I talked through the necessary procedures and she asked me to begin the process by completing some basic paperwork. She notified the student in writing and the student then requested a hearing to state his case. Institutional policy states that the accused student is allowed to bring an adviser with them to help  during the hearing, and so the student did. The adviser happened to be someone that I knew, which made the process a little more awkward. The student’s statement was essentially pleading ignorance—that he did fail to cite the sources properly but that it was not meant to be intentional or malicious. After some discussion, the student and adviser left so my chair and I could discuss further. Her and I both agreed that the plagiarism did occur (intentional or otherwise) and that intent should only used to determine the appropriate punishment (institutional policy). The conversation ended with her needing to make some calls and make some inquiries.The next day, I get an email from the chair, which was sent to the student and I had been copied. The chair dismissed the entire case as if nothing happened. No explanation or anything. What the hell? If she thought there wasn’t a case, then why didn’t she say anything prior to my initiating this whole process? Now I come across as a jack ass instructor who’s just out to get the student. Wonderful…Anyway, that was my first experience with plagiarism. Let me know your thoughts!

Testing Dictation Software

This post is a test of dictating content through a voice recognition program. What I’ve found, is that I normally talk faster than I can type. By dictating my posts, I’m hoping that I can publish more regularly without spending as much time drafting my content. This is the first time that I’ve tried using a dictation software, and so far it’s working pretty well. I haven’t noticed many spelling mistakes or grammatical mistakes, and I have found that it is going much quicker than if I were to type all of what I wanted to say.One of the projects I’m doing on at work (as well as through my consulting job), is blogging on a more regular basis about topics that are of interest to people in my field. That is, instructional design and educational technology. I’ve been posting the three separate blogs (including my personal site), and I’ve had a hard time coming up with different content for each of the sites. I don’t expect this blog to change much, in fact I hope to use it on a more regular basis. I know, I know… I’ve said that before. My hope is to not have to create content on my work site as much, because I’ll be doing more administrative and planning to ensure that new content is posted on a regular basis. That means I should be able to post my personal thoughts about educational technology on this site.One of the topics I posted about last year were weekly status updates of projects held working on at work. I wasn’t very good about keeping up with them, and often times I went a month or more without posting any status updates. The purpose of that, was to keep myself accountable and to have a running list of things I’m working on for me to compile from when I do my end of year review. It turns out it wasn’t very good at that part. I’m not saying I’m going to get back into that habit this year, especially considering it’s already the middle of April. But what I want to do is post more regular personal thoughts and personal reflections on important topics in the field of instructional design and educational technology.I had a conversation with my wife yesterday about the difference between those two areas, instructional design and educational technology. There’s quite a bit of overlap between those two topics, and sometimes it’s hard to differentiate between them. My personal opinion, is that educational technology is more focused around the tools that can be used to enhance education, while instructional design is more of the overarching course design and development. What I found over the last three years, is a my interest falls more with educational technology and not as much with the instructional design. This poses a problem with my current job, as my primary responsibility is for course design and development. I’m not saying I’ll be leaving my current position anytime soon, but I have some serious thinking to do about what my future might hold with this position in this field.We’ll see what happens…

Sprucing Up My Knowledge

One of the things that I’ve touted about myself has been my knowledge about social media and it’s uses/implications in education. While I have been looked at as the “expert” in my departments, I’ve rarely taken the time to engage in professional development about the topics. Everything that I’ve been learning has been from personal use of the tools & technologies. Continue reading “Sprucing Up My Knowledge”