Thursday, October 26, 2006

Under Attack

The past few weeks have been spent attacking our Immersion project from all sides. Now we are approaching week 10 (am I really almost halfway done with grad school?), and it's time to really get cracking on the project now that we've implemented our Team website using ModX. I've never used a CMS like this before, and it's been a really helpful, useful tool. I've even installed it on my own domain, because it is so organized and I can update my website and the MSHA team website from several machines and not have to worry about uploading or downloading separate files.

Immersion is also further enhancing my time management skills. I'm one of the most organized people I know, and I often make and live by to-do lists. At first, it was a bit tough getting used to the amount of hours I spend in class (especially on Mondays and Tuesdays), at school, or driving to and from school. That has taught me if I've got a spare pocket of time somewhere, I need to use it wisely, because I'm not getting it back. I wake up every day between 5:45 and 5:55 to swim - exercise is an important constant in my life that keeps me sane, healthy, energetic, and smiling. (And all of my teammates like a sane healthy energetic smiling Allison, right?) Because I do this, it means making sacrifices like going to bed early so I'm not yawning in class the next day, and beginning my work as soon as I get home, because once 9:30 rolls around, instant tiredness sets in and it's really difficult to efficiently get work done. And yesterday Dr. D. echoed something that should be at the forefront of all of our minds: "Immersion needs to be your top priority." Exactly right - we get one year, one shot at earning a master's degree and completing this instructional design project. I believe I have been, and desire to continue, making the most out of this opportunity and giving it my all. To be successful, and to exceed expectations (both mine and MSHA's), this is what needs to happen.

So in conclusion for today: besides mining, instructional design, Immersion is teaching me important life management skills which I know will take me far into the world of academia which I hope to pursue after graduation.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Everything you ever wanted to know, part II

Thursday evening, my team returned from West Virginia, inundated with information on mining, miners, and mine safety. The TRAM conference was very successful in providing us with a lot of terrific information as well as pointing out areas for improvement on our current prototype. Things are starting to fall together, and now that the team has had the weekend to process everything, I think we'll be ready to dive in head first tomorrow. Several of the sessions at TRAM far exceeded my expectations - I really enjoyed "Effective Training" and "Innovative Training Tools." The speakers for both of the sessions quickly captured the attention of the audiences using humor and media. During ITT, the speaker passed out glasses which were either scratched or blacked out to emphasize the imminent dangers that could possibly lurk underground if one isn't paying attention. To emphasize the risk of fire if materials aren't put away properly and levels of various gases in the air aren't at the proper levels, he also lit the lid of a red can on fire -- if someone wasn't paying attention, there eyes were glued to the front of the room after that! In ET, I learned that when speaking, you have 90 seconds to capture the attention of the average adult. I found that very interesting, and can easily see that principle spilling over into books, media, and even our project. If a miner is partaking in the training and s/he does not find it interesting, or has difficulty using the problem, then s/he may get discouraged and cast it aside, which makes me want to work that much harder to make sure our training is a hit from the start.

So in addition to technical details about mining, I learned attention grabbing techniques as well, and made some terrific contacts. All of the SME's and people we met were extremely open, supportive, and willing to help us out. Next mission: sorting through all of this new material!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Everything you ever wanted to know, and more about...coal mining

Shockingly, Immersion is almost halfway through the semester. Where did the time go?

I have learned such an incredible amount over the past several weeks. Time is flying, and this weekend my MSHA team is venturing up to Waynesburg, PA for a coal mine tour, followed by a visit to the Mine Academy in WV for the TRAM conference. I feel that after we return from these two 'field trips,' our team is

a) going to be swamped with work and meeting goals and deadlines for our prototype; and
b) really prepared and fully equipped with a ton of pertinent information to tackle the tasks that lie ahead.

I spend almost every spare momemt of my time reading. Though I'm often exhausted from the busy life I lead, when I go to class and the material makes sense and I'm able to synthesize things well, it's extremely rewarding. I'm also finding that I'm able to connect some course material to our Immersion project -- it's like instant returns on my education; I don't have to wait until next year when I have an ID job to see how things make sense!

David Wiley recently delivered one of the most interesting talks I've heard in the past few months. He discussed learning objects, and opened up a whole new world for me. Before his talk and the readings, I'd had a fuzzy idea of what a learning object was and what it did, but his talk brought the concept to light in my mind. Also, he told us about MIT's open courseware website and about 10 other websites of neat technological concepts that I was unfamiliar with but can't wait to look back into!

Back in January, despite a strong preference to hire a candidate with a master's degree in Instructional Technology, I applied for and was accepted for interviews (both by phone and in person, on campus) for an Instructional Technologist position at a prominent liberal arts institution in Pennsylvania. A few (the job description was two pages long!) of the duties and responsibilities of the positon are listed below:

Act as the application owner and assist in the administration of the Blackboard course management system.
Assist in the implementing and managing online instructional tools.
Assist Faculty and Staff to implement and design on line materials and learning objects.
Design, develop and deliver instructional technology in support of undergraduate and graduate courses.
Contribute to the professional development of faculty, students, and colleagues, for example by designing and leading workshops and by preparing handouts, product documentation, etc.
Train students in specific software/media skills when needed to support course instruction or requirements.
Assist faculty in the design of professional presentations and related projects.
Supervise student assistants who provide both design and delivery support.
Keep abreast of new developments in instruction and technology.
Investigate software tools, multimedia products, etc., and assess their application to instruction.

Okay, so this is my ideal job. And the interview was one of the catalysts for my enrollment in the Immersion program. Anyway, looking back at the full job description, I realize that my knowledge of almost everything the job consists of has expanded tenfold, and I've technically only been back in school since June. So when I had the interview, if I'd have known half of the stuff I know now from Immersion, they would be knocking down my door for me to come and work there. Just kidding!