Data overload

Does not compute… “Affirmative!”, “Warning! Warning!” (Lost in Space, 1965)

Saturday May 11, 2013 approximately 7pm and counting…

I am sitting at my PC, listening to the rapid “dings” of incoming mail. The current pulse rate is 236 “dings” in the past 3 minutes. The incoming flow of mail does not look like it is going to stop anytime soon.

The IT folks at my workplace started the campus-wide Blackboard system upgrade at 8am today. The webpage announcement said:

Blackboard will be down for maintenance and upgrades from
8 am Central Time Saturday May 11
until
8 pm Central Time Saturday May 11

The Massive Avalanche of Announcements and Notifications (MAAN?) started coming in from the Blackboard-system-gone-wild about 15 minutes ago. At first, I thought these were bona fide announcements from my system administrator, telling me that I can now access Blackboard again. I was actually looking forward to being able to get back online, as I have two courses starting on Monday, which I only found out about a couple of days ago. Don’t we all just love last minute assignments? So, if Blackboard was turned back on again now, I would at least have 24 hours of work time before my courses go “live”.

But instead of receiving “happy” news of a successful new Blackboard upgrade, I received a Massive Avalanche of Annoying Automated Announcements and Notifications (MAAAAaN?!!).

I’m not a “real” techie person. I use technology. I am in awe of technology. I believe that technology can help humans be more efficient. But do I like technology? Not always. And right now, I think I’m squarely standing on the negative side of that divide. My email inbox is TOTALLY drowned by the steady inflow of uncontrollable incoming automated digital vomit. I don’t even know if I have “real” incoming email that might have inevitably gotten “stuck” in between these hundreds of incoming “fake” emails. I can only pray that anyone who might have emailed me in the past half hour does not expect me to reply (or even find) their email anytime soon.

What a week this week has been!

What a “wonderful” end to this week! (sarcastic slur)

Last weekend was a re-baptism of fire for me. If my memory is accurate, the last time I wrote an academic paper was about 5-6 years ago. Now, I am not counting those articles that I co-authored with my former students, or the perfunctory papers that I wrote when submitting reports or proposals. What I am talking about is writing something that someone else will scrutinize and make you re-write, and re-write, and re-write until it makes sense. You know, dotting your i’s, crossing your t’s, and making sure the (freaking) bibliography is APA format.

You sure get your ego bruised when you haven’t had someone knocking off your corners in awhile! But I should not complain. I got the (darned) paper written, and I’m happy with the product. Better than what I would have settled for without the “help”.

How does this relate to my blog theme?

cropped-i12lolavatar3.jpg I Want to Learn On Line…

Well, for one, this was the first time I learned “fully” online… one-on-one in an intensive manner from someone whom I have never met face-to-face in person. For all my experience working online, designing courses online, facilitating others in the online learning environment, teaching others how to work online, guiding students how to be successful learning online…. yet… I had never in my life personally actually experienced first-hand receiving “academic-tutoring” of this nature… intensive, personal, and in a fully “pure” online form.

Vygotsky (1978) said that humans are capable of learning beyond their normal capacity and produce a much higher learning output, if given guidance by an expert. The Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) is that ephemeral, intangible, undefinable, super powerful space in which we feel electrified and empowered, not because of what we already know, but because we are made to believe we know, by someone we “trust”.

I looked up the definition of “trust”. A quick check through Google led me to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Out of the 11,270+ words the webpage spewed at me, this sentence stood out:

“Trust also involves the risk that people we trust will not pull through for us; for, if there were some guarantee that they would pull through, then we would have no need to trust them.”

I found that statement interesting, especially in the context of Learning On Line. Not only did I have to “trust” the person who was in the ZPD mode together with me, but I also needed to “trust” the ZPD space itself… the “online” mode that we were both in.

During my 3-day intensive ZPD online tutoring session last weekend, I had a grand total of only 6 hours sleep. This bodily function deprivation, amplified by the intoxication from steroids and Codeine that my doctor had prescribed for my recently diagnosed bronchitis, needless to say, was NOT good. To add to the stress, somewhere in between time zone differences, switching email addresses, and toggling different transmission devices (laptop, desktop, iPad, and iPhone), I inevitably experienced emails being sent, received and read in mixed-up sequence. One email even got “lost” in cyberspace, and only “found” 2 days later, long after confusion, irritation, and diffusion had arisen and dissipated.

Yet, it worked out in the end. “Trust” is indeed an important ingredient in ZPD, especially in online-ZPD.

OK. This blog is getting too long… Let’s not make it a case of  (too long, didn’t read). So, let me wrap it up…

In a nutshell, my week did not slow down. The paper was written and submitted on Monday. I slept like a baby that night, but woke up early on Tuesday for another rush job by Wednesday. Mid-day on Tuesday, I took a quick 2-hour break to give my older son a ride to the airport. His first time traveling internationally by himself. Freshman in college. 3-month internship abroad. After checking in his luggage, we detoured for quick lunch and mommy-pep-talk. I felt guilty that I hadn’t spent much time with him over the weekend before his departure (thanks to my intensive 72-hour charrette ZPD online learning session). Then, after lunch, I felt as if God had sentenced punishment on me for being such a negligent mom, as I received a parking ticket during lunch. Oh well! I guess I deserved it. Quickly shrugged it off, went back to my office, and flew through Tuesday-Wednesday in a flurry of work, but made sure I made effort to have a sit-down dinner with my other son. Didn’t want to get any more reminders from The Man Above, that I was forgetting my parental duties!

The next day, I pulled another 24 hour no-sleep-charrette, in time to prepare and present at a symposium on Friday, yesterday. After the symposium, in effort to wind down, I went for a “loud” walk on the bike trail with a colleague (“loud” meaning – we walked, talked, and giggled like teenage girls on top of our voices – despite the fact that we are both closer to 50 than 40). We then cooked Spanish omelets, ate too much, and called it a night. I went for another nature walk today, this time alone, and listened to Pandora on my iPhone throughout. Came home, ready to build my two online courses in time for Monday, but instead, was welcomed back to the online learning environment by the rapid pulse “dings” of incoming Massive Avalanche of Annoying Automated Announcements and Notifications (MAAAAaN?!!).

Wait… I think it has stopped. Let me check.

I just read two emails from my workplace system administrator:

The first was a reply to my earlier email (I had notified my system administrator of the Blackboard-gone-wild issue):

“I found the problem and have turned it back off. Thanks Roz!”

The second was (yet) another mass email, but this time, a very welcomed announcement:

“Blackboard is back up and running. A notifications setting was turned on, which may have caused a sting of e-mails to be sent concerning courses in which you’re enrolled. That setting has been turned back off and the e-mails will stop. Feel free to use Blackboard as usual and let me know if you have any questions. Thanks for your patience during the upgrade.”

End of blog.

Now begins my next 24 hour charrette…. 🙂

Happy Mother’s Day, to all Online Moms!!!

Note: picture of the flowers from my son… ordered online from abroad…

mothersDay1

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