Monday, August 23, 2010

And so it starts (again)

Here we go again, folks. Classes begin today. Are you ready? I'm not.

Well... I am, sort of. When Colton (our youngest) came in at 4:14 needing some attention, I felt that old familiar feeling in my gut-- that nervousness that indicates I'd better step up and get to work. Now what I mean is that if I go in to something feeling calm and comfortable, I usually make a wreck out of it. Too much confidence means I don't pay the price to be ready, to teach well. A little twinge in the stomach, however, indicates that I need to sit down, study it out, and do my best. That approach much more often leads to a successful outcome.

So, after I took care of Colton and got back into bed, I lay there for a few minutes thinking about what I need to do today-- what needs to be done to be ready for class at 10AM. After about 3.5 minutes of that, I just went ahead and got up.

It's been a good morning. I've gotten a lot done already and I'm eager for the rest of the "to do" list.

How's your day so far?

Friday, August 20, 2010

To tell or not to tell

When I was in graduate school I learned that keeping 50% of students in an online class is a success story. The attrition or drop-out rate for online classes has always been much, much higher than for f2f (face to face) classes. Keep half and you're doing great. I learned that concept as a maxim, but my experience has borne it out. Students taking classes from afar (often) or taking online versions of classes for convenience sake (or laziness, sometimes, I think) just don't finish as often as students who have to come to class and face the music a couple or three times a week.

In fact, sometimes students enroll in an online course and never do a single thing in the course. They don't enroll in the Blackboard site (online course management site), they don't submit assignments, they don't respond to email, and they don't drop the class by the drop deadline. They're like ghosts-- present in name only. Of course students who behave thus (a lack of behavior, really) have to receive a failing grade even though they could have avoided such simply by dropping the course by the 12th week.

Then there are those who complete a few assignments, but quite doing so at week 4 or 6 or 9. A few even do all the work, but fail to turn in the course portfolio or the final paper or fail to take the final exam-- thus disqualifying themselves for a "completion" or a "pass." As much as I encourage and empower (I really don't like that word-- too ambiguous) and cajole, students just don't finish-- some of them anyway. What's up with that?

I've thought some this summer about what to say (write) to students who will be in my online classes. I always send a cheery, informative, and encouraging (though realistic) email message which spells out what they'll need to do to be successful in the course. I've wondered if I should tell students that half of the class will likely disappear or stop participating before the end of the term. Would that help them see how seriously they should take the course requirements? Would it strengthen their resolve to step up and do they work? Or would it give them an easy out?

"Dr. Draney said half of us wouldn't finish. I guess I'm in that half."

What do you think? Have you taken an online class? How did it go? What motivated you to do well? What kinds of communications about expectations did you get from your instructor(s)?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

From the archive (again)

In-service week started on Monday, which means that classes start next Monday. I came down with something mean yesterday about mid-day, and I spent about 16 hours in bed with a scalding fever. I'm feeling a bit better tonight, but needless to say, I haven't been up to blogging much. I searched through the archive briefly and found this pic. I was in Boston last year for a publisher's junket and had an afternoon to wander downtown Boston. This picture was taken in a cemetary where all kinds of colonial folks are buried.

Maybe I blogged about all this last year. My fever isn't quite gone and I'm too tired to check.

Here's to a good night's rest and a fresh new day tomorrow.
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Friday, August 13, 2010

Lucious Lawn

I was outside yesterday mowing and trimming and etc. when this fellow walks by. "Are you the new owner then?" he says. "Um, no," I say, "We've lived here for six years." (It was six years exactly on Tuesday, in fact.) "Oh," he says, "Well... you've certainly improved the yard recently. I assumed it was because you had just moved in." "Um, thanks," I say. (I haven't changed anything except the watering scheme. I guess green grass really makes a difference.)

This picture is a little bit deceiving because there's actually a fair amount of weeds you can't see from this angle. It is true, however, that our lawn has never been this green this late in the season. I have finally figured out a fairly good watering scheme (involving timers and hoses and the like-- because we still don't have an in-ground system).

Don't look too closely though. No flowers this year.
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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Catie's cute cake

This lucious bit of patry looks store-bought, doesn't it? It's actually much, much better than store-bought. It was made, by hand (and with loads of love), by our talented and generous friend Michelle Arrington. Very cool, huh!

It tasted just as good as it looks. Lucious!
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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

This birthday girl is happy

Of course, Catie is happy a lot of the time. Happy is her default setting. She was pretty pleased by her little birthday presents, though, and she showed it.
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Monday, August 9, 2010

Scout Cabaret

Here are a few pictures of the Snake River Council's annual Cabaret on Saturday. This year the Osmond Brothers performed. It was quite a night. Lots of memories and fun. And a few dollars to support boy scouting in the Magic Valley.
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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Sudden summer shower

If you were in or near Twin Falls today, you saw (felt, heard, had to clean up after) this heavy downpour. What a refreshing change of pace in the (near) middle of the day. The kids had fun watching from the safety of the indoors.

The storm cooled things off for a while, but then it got a bit muggy as the sun reemerged and the temp went back up. It was nice while it lasted.

I think I can turn my sprinklers off for tomorrow. What do you think?
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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Happy Birthday, Caitlin

August 4th. Caitlin's birthday. Six years ago today we were living in Pocatello, but were within days of moving to Twin Falls. I'd gotten the job at CSI and we were excited to be moving into our own home. We also knew that Cate was coming and that she had Down Syndrome. It was, to say the least, an exciting and tumultuous time. Caitlin was born on the 4th, we moved on the 10th and she got out of the hospital on the 11th. Keri went back to Pocatello, spent that last night in the hospital with Cate, and then brought her home to our house here. And our lives changed forever, as they say.

There are many challenges living with a child with a disability. I can tell you unequivocally, however, that the blessings outweigh the minor troubles. When Cate looks at you like she's doing in this picture, it can make your whole terrible, no-good, nasty day change.

We don't know what the future holds, but Cate is making continual and excellent progress in physical therapy and in her speech. She's not in her peer group as far as developmental things are concerned, but she's doing just fine. And we see the sky as the limit to what she can do. She's a blessing and a delight.

How lucky we are!
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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Get busy on those merit badges

I missed scout camp this year. Our family schedule worked out differently, and I didn't get to go. I did get a glimpse of it in this video though. It was made by my friends, the Carters. Enjoy (and get busy on that Family Life merit badge)!

Camp Bradley Merit Badge Video (Old Spice spoof)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Shadow leadership

What you see in this picture is a scout leader anonymously (I intentionally chose the shot with his face hidden) helping boys learn how to handle the Unites States flag. What you don't see here is the 4 minutes prior to the picture as he let them make a few mistakes and try on their own to manage the flag ceremony. It was clear that they'd had training and some practice, but in the pressure of the moment and with parents watching, the training was momentarily forgotten. So... the leader stepped up and whispered a few well-chosen reminders in the boy's ear.

These youngsters won't be able to do a flag ceremony completely on their own after just this one experience, but after 5 or 6 more such experiences, they will. And they won't soon forget such experiences if they are allowed to do them mostly on their own most of the time. They will own both the mistakes and the successes and will be better men for them.

That's how to lead boys and young men.
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Sunday, August 1, 2010

Draney Camp 2010

Righteous traditions build strong families. Our family assembles yearly for Draney Camp. We camp & cook, laugh & learn, paintball & pow-wow for three days in the splendid Utah wilderness. We teach our children to look to God and see themselves as the eternal, celestial beings that they are.  It's a good thing. Below is a sampling of our camp.

Whiterocks Canyon - Uintah Mountains - near Neola, Utah.

Big brother loves little sister.

Glow-stick fun

Camp dirt is clean dirt, right?

More pics of Draney Camp 2010 are available:

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