Archive for June, 2020

My Online Learning Experience

June 28, 2020

I just completed what was supposed to be a week long face-to-face professional development course on using Unity in the classroom.  It obviously got moved to an online course and lucky for me the instructor (Hunter Lloyd from Montana State University) started the course about six weeks ago.  Why lucky for me you may ask?  Because I am terrible at sitting down and grinding through online tutorials.  My eyes lose focus, my brain loses focus, and I start to reconsider my life choices.  I took the PD in order to see how someone else teaches Unity.  No revelation, he uses the tutorials on the Unity website with some videos that he makes to help with the Unity videos.  (To tell the truth he is a terrible video maker.  I learned a lot on how to not make tutorials from watching Hunter’s videos.)  The course was very worthwhile but not for the Unity content.  I have been teaching Unity for three or four years and am familiar with the Unity material that is available.  What made it worthwhile was being on the learning end of an online course.  

As a teacher during the school shut down I would throw material out there on Google Classroom with certain expectations.  After this PD I really need to look closely at those expectations.  Learning online is a large paradigm shift that just does not happen naturally.  Expecting learners to switch seamlessly from face-to-face to online is too much to expect.  I really did not see this until I did this online Unity course.  When I am in the classroom as a student I know what I am supposed to be focusing on (even though my mind may wander at times) and I can usually stay on task for extended periods of time if the material is interesting.  Unity is fun to play with and I can tinker with it for hours without issues.  When working on the online tutorials I just did not have it.  I wandered.  Watching a tutorial and following the directions just did not make it.  I watch Unity tutorials all the time.  That is how I learned Unity and how I expand my knowledge of Unity.  But these are tutorials I want to watch, not tutorials I am required to watch.  The difference seems small, I thought the difference would be small, it is not.  It is huge in keeping on task and focused.  

Seeing this from the student side is making me realize how this is for my students.  I had trouble with learning online with something I am interested in.  The students are typically not so crazy about what the online material they are required to study is covering.  High school students typically do not have the self discipline to do things they do not want to do.  I had several students this spring that simply refused to do any online work when I know that if they were in a face-to-face classroom it would have been a totally different result.

Now the question is how do we get kids to do online work that is not trivially simple?  Is there a physiological thing we as teachers need to address?  Is it the quality of the video tutorials?  The approach to the material that needs to be covered to make the course worthwhile?  I have seen statistics that the completion rate for MOOCs is terrible.  Single digit terrible.  Is this an indicator of how poor online is or is at an indicator of how students learn?  Can those two even be separated?  

Covid has pushed online teaching farther than I think universities wanted but they were already involved.  High schools were unexpectedly thrown to the online need.  My shutdown experience tells me online does not work satisfactorily.  After this PD experience I understand this better than I did.  Online is here to stay.  I have to look at methods to make it at least survivable for students in case I have to go back to online in the fall.

Building Game Computers

June 24, 2020

I requested $6000 to build six gaming computers to use to teach Unity and Unreal Engine using the Oculus.  Wonder of wonders the school put it in the budget.  If I were to buy a gaming computer pre-build with the specs I want I am looking at $1300+ per computer so I am building from scratch.  Newegg, Amazon and wherever.  I have three of my computer geeks helping me with the build.  We used a site called and the Newegg builder app to build a computer in the $800 range that will do the trick.  Neither app takes into account availability.  Eek.  Parts are scarce.  I had planned to buy the parts for one computer in early July for testing purposes.  I think I am going to have to wait for August and hope the parts pipeline fills up again.  Motherboards in the $80 price range are the big issue.  I wanted to go with MSI but they just not there.  CPUs are out there but only particular ones.  AMD Ryzen 3600Xs are gone.  The task has become much more complicated.  I now have to look all over for vendors other than Amazon and Newegg.

I also have money to buy 2 Oculus Rift S goggles.  All gone.  I have not found any available as of yesterday.  I may have to call around to see if any are on store shelves.  I do not need them until school starts so the pipeline may fill up by then.  If not I will have to punt.

Driving And Thinking. Danger, Will Robinson!

June 1, 2020

So I am driving home after grocery shopping at Costco.  Traffic is smooth so I can think of something other than traffic so I start trying to figure out how to get my Stats and Math 2 Honors class assets; tests, quizzes, etc, to the new math teacher.  (OK, so that is a weird topic to be thinking of while driving home from Costco but whatever.)  All my stuff is on Google Drive but most of it is still in Word.  Google Docs does not have the math symbols easily accessible so Word it is.  I should be able to share my Stats and Math 2 H folders in Google Drive with her and then she can pluck what she wants out of there.  I can also throw everything on an external drive.  Whatever works.  

Google has made collaboration easy.  And one of the latest themes in education is using collaboration with students.  Teaching them how to use the tools and the strategy for working in teams.  Nuts, we have just shot down the ability to give online tests and individual work in a remote environment.  (Traffic is light and it is a straight shot down the road for a while so I can think on this.)  At the moment one of our primary evaluation tools in math classes is the individual test.  One kid taking a test to determine their retention on the previous material.  No team, no collaboration, no internet and no modern teaching theme.  Still old school; a brain, a pencil and a calculator (if they have not lost it already).  Something is wrong here.  (Stop light and tighter traffic.  Back to concentrating on driving.)

Now that I am home I can scratch my head in deep thought.  Over a beer.  OK, maybe not as deep as it could be if a beer is involved.  (Deemed Essential NE IPA from Great Burn Brewing.)  Where does the individual test fit in this new world of easy online collaboration, remote teaching and what students need to fit into the modern work environment?  Beats me, this is a 6.7 ABV beer and I just finished it.