Mindless Musings

Literary History

It took a great amount of personal restraint to keep me from beginning this writing assignment with the introductory lines from the Steve Martin movie, The Jerk. I guess just that reference alone will give away my vintage. I was born in 1959, the second son to Margaret and Walter Percevecz. Soon there would be five children in total, four boys and a girl. Dad was a regional manager for Revlon covering the southeast from Atlanta Georgia, and on his way to the corporate offices in New York City by way of Los Angeles California. Mom was a Mom. If you have ever watched the old black and white sitcom called Leave it to Beaver, then you know what growing up was like in my house, only there were more bleeps in the dialogue.
Mom was an only child born in the south and raised in the south and south central parts of the United States as her father moved around in the furniture business. My father was born and raised in Pawtucket Rhode Island, a life long Red Sox and Celtics fan. He was the youngest of six children born to an immigrant couple from Poland. He was raised speaking Polish and Russian at home and his neighborhood, but spoke English with a New England accent and took French while he as in school. Thanks to a talent for football and Holy Cross needing a good end, Dad got a college degree on a football scholarship. Mom never went to college, but secretarial school and moved to Atlanta to make her way in the world, where she met my Dad. Mom may not have had a college degree but there was rarely a conversation in that she could not hold her own. Mom was a voracious reader and she read everything! The best sellers, non-fiction, histories and her favorites were biographies and mysteries. She loved the newspapers at the grocery store check out lines and knew every detail of the world of the rich and famous.
My first memory of books was my Mom reading Dr. Seuss books to my brothers and me. The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham and One Fish Two Fish. Mom never had brothers or sisters, nor did she have any close cousins so she read lots of books about raising children, Dr. Spock was a popular author and expert on child rearing at the time. I started school in a Montessori school in Palos Verdes California. I remember playing with letters on blocks and reading Dr. Seuss and similar books. My family moved three times before I was in the second grade so my earliest school days are a blur to me, but from the second grade on I went to school in the small town of Allendale New Jersey. There were bookcases in the family room, bookcases in the living room, bookcases in every one of the five bedrooms of our house and magazine racks in every bathroom! Mom decorated with books! She had a special label made for the inside cover of all her books so you would know where to return the book because she was one to loan her books to anyone that wanted to read one. Dad on the other hand loved to read the newspaper, Sports Illustrated and Time magazine. Sunday mornings were always a race to the comics and Parade magazine in the middle of the Bergen Record. My siblings and I always had subscriptions to Boy’s Life, Popular Mechanics and Scholastic magazines.
Books, magazines and reading material of all kinds were ubiquitous in my home growing up so I have a hard time thinking about the first book, or any book as unique because there were always books. I can remember the first book that I chose to read rather than was assigned to read. I was in the eighth grade and a new movie had just come out titled The Godfather, but I couldn’t go see it because it was rated R, so I just picked up the paperback that my Mom had on the shelf and read the book instead. Mom wasn’t just a reader she was a writer too. Not professionally, she wrote long letters and thank you notes for everything. Once we were old enough to write, my siblings and I all wrote thank you notes too. After your birthday and Christmas we all got writers cramps sending thank you cards to all my aunts, uncles and cousins!
I graduated from high school in the spring of 1977. My entire school experience had been sage on the stage, textbooks, pop quizzes and a final exam. The only high stakes test I remember taking was the SAT. Then off I went to Montclair State College as a drama major, one semester in and I changed to Marketing Education to teach high school business education. I didn’t finish college on my first attempt or my second, or even my third or fourth attempt. I got married had some kids and worked all over the USA doing all kinds of different jobs. Thirty plus years went by and I read little more than magazines, newspapers, blueprints and the occasional chapter of the Bible. I married twice and raised six children and by the time the oldest were in college my second wife decided against the ten-year anniversary cruise, she wanted a divorce instead. That was the inspiration for me to return to college. I bought a laptop, figured out how to work it and started researching online degree programs.
I had discovered the audio book before I went back to college and spent many hours as an over the road truck driver listening to many books written by popular authors of the times. Once I started college I listened to my textbooks as I drove. The past four years of my life I have probably read more than the previous forty years. By the time my divorce was final and I was starting college for the fifth and last time, I met Julie, a beautiful second grade teacher and soon I became the “Trucker Buddy” to her class. It wasn’t long before I convinced her that she was just going to have to marry me. She finally believed me one hot August evening on the San Antonio Riverwalk. We were married on Marriage Island surrounded by friends and family.
While I was working on my Bachelor’s degree, Julie decided to get a second Master’s degree and we both walked the stage together in the fall of 2013. I finally got my BA in Education Studies and Julie, a Masters in Teaching and Learning with Technology. These days I find myself often lost reading a textbook about some theory of teaching; I turn to my resident expert with over 25 years in the classroom and the fog clears. Julie has become my inspiration and my rock. She faces her students every day with a smile and works harder than anyone I know to make sure someone else’s child learns to the very best of their potential.
I have come a long way since high school. In 1977 I took a class about computers and learned to make punch cards. Today I have and iPhone, a MacBook Pro laptop and we have two iPads in the house. (Julie even has a PC.) I spent the last four years finishing college online, started graduate school and I did my research, writing and posting from the forty-eight contiguous United States and every province of Canada. Who would have ever imagined? When I was first in college, the Dewey Decimal system ruled the library and now I use Boolean searches to find the answer to any question imaginable in online libraries and search engines.
Today I am looking forward to stepping into my very first classroom and applying all of my years of work and life experience to my classroom teaching. The last few years I have been studying about the art and science of teaching, theories about learning, and all of the tools and technology available in the classroom today, so I can be an inspiration to my students and the next generation of classroom teachers. There is no time like the present. Let’s get to it.
See ya in class,

Education Technology

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” William Shakespeare

The first section of my new textbook Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology by Robert A. Reiser and John V. Dempsey is titled “Defining the Field”. Instantly I was transported back to a small town in Northern New Jersey and little league baseball, grey-haired men pushing a green machine that drops the lime to make the foul lines of the baseball field. They were in fact defining the field of play of a baseball diamond. A very important bit of business, to know the boundaries of the field and of course, the rules of the game.
I find myself at somewhat of a disadvantage. I am taking graduate level classes towards my Masters in Education Technology-Leadership. I just finished my Bachelors in Education Studies in February of 2014. In class I find myself surrounded by classmates with years, sometimes decades of teaching experience, but I have yet to step into a classroom before any students. The course is titled Learning and Technology and the first discussion prompts are as follows,

“The first three chapters of your book define the IDT (Instructional Design and Technology) field and provide a history of how it has evolved over time. In your blog for this week, reflect on the following:

1. How do the definitions in the first chapter compare to your own definition of instructional or educational technology? What experiences or other influences have shaped your definition? How has your definition changed from examining the definitions in the first chapter of this book?”

One thing I have discovered these past four years while I have been in college classes. Every subject, every profession, every disciple of study has its’ very own language, terms, terminology and a corresponding set of acronyms. Someday I hope I am clever enough to write something about teaching or business and find a catchy acronym that just makes the academic world grab hold and write research papers about my perfect acronym.
The first part of this question made me think of Shakespeare. (My mind just puts random things together.) Education is such a broad term, but what it is that educators actually do can be very specific and complex. Classroom educators do so many things but my classroom experience was when every room still had a chalkboard and if you got in trouble you could plan on beating erasers after school. Technology meant that someone was going to wheel a cart into our classroom with an overhead projector, a slide projector or a movie projector. The movie projector always brought a smile because we were going to see a movie, but the overhead projector just meant that Mr. Greenleaf was going to write on clear plastic with an erasable marker rather than on the chalkboard. The slide projector just inspired groans. (Almost as much fun as watching Uncle Larry’s slides of his vacation to Branson, Missouri!)
How technology has impacted the classroom has changed quite a bit in my lifetime. Technology is all around us, but just how technology and education come together in the classroom is a fascinating subject. Done well, it is a miracle to see and students are inspired and learn by leaps and bounds. Done poorly, and the same groans can be heard as if the slide projector was just wheeled in on a cart. Technology alone is the carpenter’s tools hanging on the pegboard, but the same tools in the hands of a skilled carpenter is a magic wand from which miracles of wood are created. The field of instructional design and technology can be that magic wand in the classroom. I find that this definition of the field as Instructional Design and Technology is as perfect as I can imagine.

2. Next, think of a lesson or unit of instruction that you have developed. Or if you haven’t ever taught or developed instruction, think of one that you have received. How does that lesson adhere or fail to adhere to the six characteristics of instructional design? How would you redesign it to better adhere to the six characteristics.

I have yet to actually stand before my first classroom. I have been the instructor in a class before, but that was in the era of chalk and projectors so I am not sure if we even considered the ‘six characteristics of instructional design’ back then. More recently I have been working my way through my Bachelor’s program and now my Master’s in an online classroom. When I think about most of my classes; yes, they were very student cantered; yes they were goal oriented. Every class has a very clear rubric of expectations. Each class has meaningful performance goals and sufficient methods to measure and grade. The discussion boards lead to a great function of self-correcting, if one took the time to read and participate. The only aspect of my online experience that might not always meet the six characteristics of instructional design it the team effort part. I did not always work with a team.

3. In the 3rd chapter, Reiser distinguishes instructional media from instructional design, excluding teachers, chalkboards, and textbooks from the definition of instructional media. Why? Would you consider teachers, chalkboards, and textbooks instructional media? Is the purpose of instructional design to incorporate media into instruction?”

‘Excluding teachers, chalkboards and textbooks’ seems a bit drastic to me. The classroom educator, in my opinion, is the facilitator of the learning process in the classroom regardless of the media used to inspire the learning. I would personally consider all three instructional media, but I can see why this text chooses to exclude them to focus on the historical evolution of media and the design process. The classroom has always had teachers, textbooks and a chalkboard, but new technologies and better understanding of learning open the door for more targeted media tools for delivery and design. The trend towards student centered learning and one to one device ratios allows the modern classroom more freedoms than were possible in the past. Educator preparation and class prep take on a whole new meaning when one instructor has to design instruction for a classroom full of individuals rather than one lesson plan for a classroom. Only the miracles of modern technology could make it possible. Instructional design and technology just may put an avatar in the classroom, the lesson in a heads up display on the glasses on your nose and the textbook on an mp3 file. Who needs a teacher, a chalkboard or a textbook now?

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
Albert Einstein