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Monday, July 17, 2006

Keepin' Busy during vacation

Hi everyone!

You're probably wondering what hole I've fallen into. Let me tell you: it's called "English Job Interview Class." I am enjoying it, but it's taking a lot of work. In 2002 I got my first university job at Kosin University, and it took me a year or so to settle into it. At Kosin I taught conversation and writing, but that was it. Since coming to Kyungsung University I've taught only two types of classes: a university credit class for freshmen, and a non-graded institute class for adults. (And yes, as far as I'm concerned freshmen are not adults.) The former was much like my Kosin classes, only larger, and the latter was much like my ELS classes, only longer (three months instead of one) and I haven't gotten married to any of the students.

So this is my first class of completely new content in five years. And though I have been through a few job interviews, the last serious interview in America was for the Peace Corps, back in 1993 or '94. Since then all of my job interviews have been here, and though they have been in English, they have still been Korean jobs. In other words, the decision of whether or not to hire me had pretty much been made already by people I hadn't met yet talking with people I had met. It's not so much what you know as who you know, don't you know.

In other words, I'm teaching all new stuff. And you know what you have to do when you teach new stuff? You have to plan.

In addition, I am using two new resources. Well, new to me, anyway. The first is Impress. Impress is Open Office dot-Org's version of PowerPoint, from our old friends at Microsoft. (No link to Microsoft, as your computer undoubtedly steers you that way from time to time whether you like it or not.) Open Office dot-org (OO.o) is basically a free version of Microsoft Office. Not exactly the same, but it has parallel versions of all of MO's programs, and those programs not only have similar features, but can be used to access any files that you have created with MO programs. In addition, you can save/convert your OO.o files to MO format. It's free. It's not Microsoft. What more could one ask for?

The second new resource is Moodle. My coworker, Earl, who has been mentioned on Roblog from time to time and is usually happy about that, introduced me to Moodle. Moodle is, to quote their website, "a free, open-source, course management system for on-line learning."

It's even cooler than it sounds.

Basically, Moodle is web-site software. Once you load it onto a host computer, you can do a ton of educating right through the internet. Right now I am using it for very basic stuff: I put together my presentations on Impress, save them as Shockwave files, then upload them to Moodle. On the page for my Job Interview Class, the students can see individual lessons, past and future, as I allow them. I am teaching this particular class in a room with a computer and projector, so I go to the Moodle site, log into my class, and open up the lesson for the day. Whoomp there it is.

I teach the class, and my notes are up on the screen, much easier to read than my usual chalkboard scribbling. In addition, the students can access those same notes from any computer with an internet connection. I can also just write simple documents right on the site, as well as adding links to web pages, pictures, videos, sound. All the clever stuff you associate with the internet.

Well, if I had any video or sound files that I wanted to use, I could add them.

And that is cool enough. But this is more than just a program for organizing teaching materials. It also incorporates testing software. I can write tests with nine different kinds of questions (though I am unlikely to use the two math-based question styles), and have the tests graded and administered in a staggering variety of ways.

There is a lesson format that allows you to present materials then test comprehension, only passing students who answer the comprehension questions correctly, and keeping a score for them.

Like any first-time software user, I'm on a learning curve. The basics are simple enough, but I find it hard to just settle for the basics.

So there you have it. I'm teaching this class in July, and another, similar class, in August. The August class is very much an unknown. I should have the same students who studied with Earl in July, but I doubt that all of them will be keen to return for more. In fact, I'm guessing that less than half of them will do so. So it may end up being a very intimate class.

Oh, and how is it that I can write to you today? It's a holiday in Korea. Constitution Day. So Happy Constitution Day to all of you, and may all of your amendments pass with a three-quarter majority in both house and senate and be ratified by the president.



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A Brief Introduction

Roblog is my writing lab. It is my goal to not let seven days pass without a new post. I welcome your criticism, as I cannot improve on my own.

Here is a link to my cung post, which remains the only word which I have ever invented, and which has not, as far as I know, caught on. Yet.