I travel a lot. I’m not a global jet-setter or a frequent-flyer million miles, but I take trips throughout the US. I drive. I train. I bus. I cajole my friends to go to places I want to see by offering to pay for gas. I prefer to see where I’m going instead of flying.
While the American countryside provides a range of lovely vistas and perfect sunsets, sometimes it’s really kinda… well… boring. I mean, how many exits with Shell stations, McDonalds, and a car wash does one need to see? So, when the road gets monotonous and the radio stations are few and far between – I download audiobooks and listen to my vast music collection on the cloud. In fact, I’m so lazy that I use Amazon Prime for everything.
Full disclosure – As an educator, I get a pretty sweet discount on Amazon Prime, which makes the service totally worth it.
MP3s and audibooks aren’t new, but doing everything through the phone is. Not too long ago, you had to order CDs to listen to books and music (you still can). Today, all iPhone and Android users can access all of their media anywhere they can get a network connection. Just the fact that every interstate in the US has regular cell towers that helps drivers remain connected is a relatively recent phenomenon. This progression of connectivity astounds me. Millions of drivers can access vast libraries of media: music, podcasts, books, videos, and film. Our consumption of media is no longer bound by physical medium.
This revelation came to me over Labor Day weekend as I drove through the Midwest. On Monday as I headed south to Memphis, I streamed Paul Simon’s She Moves On and his lyrics struck me, “When the road bends / And the song ends / She moves on.” There I was, in the bend of a road, the sun set over the low rolling hills of Missouri and Arkansas, and I was moving on. In that moment, I realized that a miraculous collection of technologies came together so that I could enjoy my long drive home.
I’ve started teaching Business Communications online. It’s my first time doing a lot of things with this course – teaching an upper division class, using Moodle, teaching online at CBU. Like any new course, I’ve already encountered a few bumps. For example, my training (which was minimal) explained that a Q&A forum would work well for my needs. However, I didn’t fully appreciate how it worked, so when my students went to post the first day nothing worked.
Justifiably, they panicked. I can imagine that I would freak out and think “What did I do wrong? What’s going on? Ack!” So, I went through the whole website and fixed the forums. I missed one forum and messed up a due date. There are so many bits and pieces to track.
Of course, in a face-to-face course, it’s easier to manage these missteps. A brief conversation with the class can clear up any issues. However, in an online course, the mistakes are permanent. A forum post and a couple responses by students show my errors. What’s more, is I feel these errors more acutely; my students depend on me to deliver clear directions. I can’t screw this up.
I hate working with Moodle. I’m not alone in this. There’s a sad subreddit entitled, moodleproblems. The interface is clunky. I have no control over how it looks. I hate how much I have to click through stuff to get to the menus I need. The gradebook is awful. No seriously, the gradebook is unnecessarily complex.
And yet, Moodle is open source. It’s not the evil empire that is Blackboard. This article in InsideHigherEd shows that Moodle is king in the sub-2500 student market.
I want more power in how my course looks and how I organize materials. Ideally, my Moodle course would look a lot like this website. I would like to separate support materials from lessons. I would like Moodle to tell me when I’ve read a student’s post or not.
I’m traveling around this Mid-West this summer. The twist is that I’m complete dependent on ride-sharing and public transportation. So far, someone stole my Beats (my fault), people have shouted, and men have said gross stuff to me and other female passengers. At the same time. I’ve met some really nice people – a Sister of Loretto gave me a holy medal and a bus driver paid part of a fair for two disabled women who were a dollar short. A lot of this travel has been made easy by the internet. I can consult my friends and book my tickets as I make my next steps. I’ve had my friends print my tickets at their jobs. It’s been really nice.
Now, I’m preparing to go to my dad’s place in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Of course, his house is so rural, he has to drive an hour to pick me up from the bus. Here’s the rub – he has neither the internet nor a cell phone. So, I can’t just give him an address that he can plug into Google Maps and print off the directions. I can’t talk him in with my own directions via cell. He needs step by step directions. This means, I am going to call him on his landline tonight, look at the directions of Google Maps, and he is going to write them down.