2015: Staying true to myself

It’s been a while, WPeeps.  My life has been too busy for me to make time for me, as I’d feared it would become.  As arbitrary as the gateway of New Year’s is, it’s always a good time for reflection.  I want to say so many things about 2014, but I’d really like to talk about what’s ahead in 2015.  So let’s get on with the recap and pre-cap:

Looking back at 2014: How’d I do?

My non-resolutions for 2014.  I didn't include "happy".  Maybe I should have, or maybe I am assuming that it will be a given.  Hm.

Look at that optimism, 1 year ago!

Here are some of the things that have happened in 2014.

  • I’m back in the classroom, teaching 6th grade math full-time.  I’m using my classroom time to learn more about how students learn, and to get reconnected to schools.  I go to work daily knowing what needs to be achieved in a day, and I try my best to do it.  I’m really enjoying being part of a lovely and supportive staff that treats each other like family — the good and bad of family — and I accept dynamics for what they are.  I work (mostly) efficiently and constantly from about 7am to 6pm, but I try to leave work at work, and spend minimal time outside of work on work things.  CHECK: Professional, stable, sustainable, prosperous, productive, appreciative, confident, educational.  NOT QUITE:  less angry…or clean.
  • I’m going to be part of a founding team at a new high-tech school next year, and serving as the head of instructional technology.  I am excited to flex all my experiences building culture and systems for students and staff, and grow and learn in this new professional opportunity.  CHECK:  Professional, proactive, productive, fearless, confident, and exciting!  NOT QUITE:  fearless.  Not quite fearless.  There is some fear that is not quite latent.  It could be disguised as excitement.  Or gas.
  • I had a huge closet edit in June – my friend Kattie came over and brutally edited out two-thirds of my closet, and made me throw away things that I loved dearly, like a lot of my hand-knits that really didn’t fit well (and were mostly boleros because I got lazy about finishing objects…and decided they were long enough).  In addition to the closet edit, I did a large makeup edit as well and have had more fun learning how to use my makeup and wearing makeup.  There’s more editing to be done, but the purge was a good start.  CHECK:  Fashionable, appreciative, confident, reflective.  NOT QUITE:  Well, fashionable is always a work in progress.  Maybe I should stick to confident.  I feel better about my clothes and makeup.

    So much delicate work.  No, it doesn't fit, and it never did.  Why didn't I just make it longer??

    Yes, I made this.  So much delicate work. No, it doesn’t fit, and it never did. Why didn’t I just make it longer??

  • There’s a baby on the way in 2015.  Any day now in the next 5 weeks of 2015, actually.  This has forced me to manage my diabetes in a rather rapid and drastic fashion.  I now do multiple finger-sticks a day.  I take insulin regularly (at least 4 more needles a day).  I’ve even managed to lower my A1C to a normal level (from a high of 13+ to last recorded 5.4). I’m not even sure what that means for my diabetes post-pregnancy.  One hopes for “cure” or reversal, but I have come to terms with what lifetime management of the disease might look like.  I have managed to only gain about 12 pounds throughout this pregnancy by keeping mildly active (I guess my gym apathy earlier in the spring was due to regular exhaustion) and watching what I eat somewhat carefully.  I use a Fitbit with some regularity to help monitor my insulin needs as well as try to maintain some baseline activity.  CHECK:  healthy, proactive, physically “active”, and definitely (re)productive.  NOT QUITE:  fearless and exciting.  More on that as we move to 2015.
Roscoe is no longer going to be the baby.

Roscoe is no longer going to be the baby.

2015:  O. M. G.  What have we done?!

Yeah.  A baby.  I could tell all the stories of what it’s been like so far, but after doing my share of surfing around on the internets, it’s really nothing earth-shattering that’s happened in this duration of gestation.  I’ve been REALLY tired.  I’ve seen MANY doctors.  Everything looks NORMAL.  Worst symptom:  rhinitis and exhaustion.  Best symptom: getting my ass in gear about my diabetes.

So I guess I’ll just tackle the hopes and fears for 2015.

I fear:

  • That I won’t be able to be myself anymore.  All the things that I have just come to terms with about myself over the last (nearly 4) decades — that’s all about to be “something else” that I don’t even know.  I worry that my foodie love life is over.  I worry that I will never travel again.  I worry that my crafting days are over.  I worry that my hard-working days are over, and I’ll have to be more flexible about my “get it done” compulsion.  I haven’t finished a craft since June or so.  I’m missing a 2nd snowboard season in a row.  Life is over as I know it.  Everyone keeps telling me this, and I get it.  I even get the fact that I don’t even “get it” yet.

    Okay, I finished ONE project since June - a set of boo-boo bunnies for my Secret Santa.  The cats want to eat them.

    Okay, I finished ONE project since June – a set of boo-boo bunnies for my Secret Santa. The cats want to eat them.

  • That my house will never be clean again.  That the construction here will never be finished due to time, money, and priorities.  That our “home” is on indefinite hold.  I have a few posts in draft mode brewing about this “lifestyle” that is our home, but I haven’t fleshed them out yet.  In short, we bought a fixer-upper, and we’ve been working on it for upwards of 2 years.  We’re not done.  We’ll never be done.  And now, we’re racing time to get ourselves to a state where we can live here with a baby.  I’m confident we’ll make do if we don’t make it in time, but it’s definitely a fear that weighs on my mind constantly.  We haven’t had many guests over since March because it’s been that much of a disaster.
  • I won’t know how to be a mother.  I’m not excited yet — it’s mostly been panic and fear.  Every melting down child around me that I’ve seen in the past few months paralyzes me with fear.  My kid is going to be that guy in the grocery store melting down because they can’t have something NOW.  My kid is going to be the one that makes themselves so anxious that they force themselves to vomit.  My kid is going to be THAT GUY, whatever that guy is.  So. Afraid.  And I’d like to say that I have high parenting standards, but I know that 1) I have no idea what my standards are at this point, and 2) every single kid is different.  So regardless of genetics or my upbringing, I have NO IDEA.  Terrifying.  And this is not the extent of my fears about my child, but it’s a starting point for me to articulate some of this fear.

I hope:

  • I can still have my own goals for 2015.  I started a list on my Notes of things I wanted to accomplish in 2015.

    2015 so far

    Notice how “baby” is one word of one line in 2015? I’m sure it’s not going to be like that in real life.

  • I can still grow at work now that work-life balance is about to take on an entirely different meaning.  I have so many things that I want out of work for next year, for myself, for my community, and for the students that we are going to serve in the school.  It is exciting, and I hope that I have the capacity to accomplish what I want or accept my limitations and still do my best.
  • I will have time to write and reflect and save memories for the future.  I have taken very few “maternity” pictures or recorded few moments in the latter half or 2014…but I need to work on preserving memories for people beyond myself now.
  • I will learn more about our growing family and what it means to be a family beyond cats (and dogs).

We’ve already had a lot of challenges getting ready, and I KNOW we’ll never be ready, but oh well, time’s up and here we go…I hope we’re prepared for 2015.  Because it’s January 1, and 2015 is here, and it’s time to buckle up for the crazy ride.

Happy New Year, happy 2015 to all!

Exo Labs Brings iPad Capabilities to Microscopes

This article is cross-posted from edtechtimes.com, where I currently serve as editor-in-chief.

Exo_Labs_LogoSeattle-based startup, Exo Labs, has launched a microscope camera that connects your classroom microscope to an iPad.  This innovation turns a time-honored, traditional “wait-your-turn” lab experience into a shared learning experience that allows students to interact with the world under the microscope.

The Focus Microscope Camera incorporates the following classroom-friendly features into its design:

  • App-based ability to take pictures, make measurements, add annotations to microscope images.  Users can pinch and zoom to control their image view on the iPad.
  • Versatility to adapt to different microscope eyepieces.
  • Image sharing through projection, email or embedding in documents.
  • Durable hardware construction for rugged classroom use.
  • Charging capability for iPad during camera use.
  • Interchangeable lenses for stand-alone use.

A single unit can be incorporated into microscope stations to simplify the unknowns of introductory microscope techniques.  Imagine an intro lab without “drawings” of students’ eyelashes, or the tapping of pencils drawing “dots” from unfocused dirty optics.

Additionally, microscope-based labs tend to exclude partially visually-impaired students from participating in the full richness of the microscopic world.  With this adaptive technology, students with light sensitivity no longer have to stare directly into a magnified microscope lamp, and students with other visual impairments can use the app in conjunction with iPad accessibility features to enhance their experience.

Exo Labs offers the Focus Microscope Camera on their website for $599, with an educator discount available by inquiry.

Xconomy and GeekWire provided early looks at the Focus Microscope Camera back in January, reporting on Exo Labs’ appearances in local and national startup competitions such as  Northwest Entrepreneur Network First Look ForumSeattle Angel Conference investment competition, and the MIT Enterprise Forum Northwest Startup Demo.

Sheri Cheng can be reached at sheri@edtechtimes.com

Student Demand for Online Courses May Not be as Strong as Colleges Think

This article is cross-posted from edtechtimes.com, where I currently serve as editor-in-chief.

CCRC_ColumbiaA new study from the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Columbia University’s Teachers College and a corresponding article from Inside Higher Ed digs into the student perspective of online courses at community colleges.  While the scope of this study was small and relied on in-person interview methods, it raised questions as to whether the enthusiasm of MOOCs in the community college setting may be misplaced.

From the study:

  • The study interviewed 46 of students who had taken at least one online course at two community colleges.
  • Students reported that they only took courses online if they felt they could learn the material on their own: If they expected a course to be difficult, or “really wanted to learn something,” they preferred face-to-face courses.
  • Students indicated a strong preference for a traditional classroom when taking courses they considered interesting or important, particularly those in their major.
  • The study suggests that without substantial improvements in online teacher-student interaction, it is likely that students will continue to prefer face-to-face courses in subjects they perceive as more challenging or incompatible with the online format.

The article from Inside Higher Education, highlights these additional insights from CCRC researcher Susan Jaggars:

  • While a good MOOC might make students feel like they know a professor, “it won’t make you think they know you,” and that loss of personal interaction and support can be problematic, particularly for students who need extra help.
  • Teachers always have other little things to talk about in the class, and stories and examples, which is something you don’t get quite as much with online instruction.

The same article offers some caveats within its reporting as well as in the comments:

  • Russell Poulin, deputy director for research and analysis at the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies, cited the limited sample size as a warning for drawing larger-scale conclusions.  However, Poulin also noted that given their tight budgets, community colleges need to be strategic about where to add online options, and that “being discerning makes sense.”
  • Commenter John Ebersole notes:  “While it is gratifying to see Teachers College involved in the study of online education, this particular study, and the larger effort that it is taken from, are seriously flawed in that they do not appear to have controlled for either student AGE or TYPE of online course…while interesting, there are too many unconsidered variables here to be much more than a provocative observation.”

Read the complete study.

Read the article at Inside Higher Ed.

About CCRC

The Community College Research Center (CCRC) is the leading independent authority on the nation’s nearly 1,200 two-year colleges. Founded in 1996, CCRC conducts research on the major issues affecting community colleges in the United States in order to identify practices and policies that expand access to higher education and promote success for all students.

EdReach, Stitcher Radio, Form Partnership to Take Education Forward

This article is cross-posted from edtechtimes.com, where I currently serve as editor-in-chief.

EdREach-logo-Home-pagePopular education podcast provider, EdReach has announced a partnership with Stitcher Radio, a leader in Internet radio.  EdReach CEO Daniel Rezac announced today that a partnership with Stitcher helps EdReach broaden their audience with content distribution, accessibility, and increased exposure, establishing EdReach.us as a go-to broadcast network for education content.

EdReach’s podcasts are now available as a Stitcher channel, and followers can access the podcasts by downloading the Stitcher App, or through Stitcher’s website.  Currently, approximately 40,000 active teachers download EdReach podcasts each month, often listening and learning while on their morning or afternoon commute by listening to EdReach shows.

On EdReach, Rezac cites Stitcher’s presence as an innovator, its user-friendly flexibility between devices, and its richness of listener data as boons for their partnership.  He also offers the following endorsements from partners and users:

Rachel Eaton, Stitcher’s Director of Content Partnerships says:

“We are proud to be working with EdReach. We believe in their mission of Taking Education Forward and are happy to provide a platform that will help them reach their audience to expand that mission.”

Wesley Fryer, Oklahoma educator and edtech innovator says of EdReach:

“Amidst the negative barrage of news amplified by mainstream media outlets today, we need EdReach and the educator voices it seeks to amplify- more than ever. Check out the podcast shownotes for more links to follow and subscribe to EdReach. Consider not only becoming an EdReach Network follower, but also a contributor!”

EdReach has already appeared in the Stitcher Top 100 shows for educators, supporting their mission of “taking education forward, by bringing voices together.”

Find the original announcement over at EdReach.

Sheri Cheng can be reached at sheri@edtechtimes.com.

ISTE launches White House petition to invest in school broadband connectivity

This article is cross-posted from edtechtimes.com, where I currently serve as editor-in-chief.


The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) launched a petition to the White House today asking the Obama Administration to invest in school broadband connectivity.

ISTE’s website states that “only 13 percent of schools have the broadband they need to give students the same online access that most Americans have at home, work or even in a coffee shop.”  Without broadband online connectivity, students and educators are limited in their digital access of widespread educational technology resources available in the market.

Additionally, ISTE notes that, “as students and educators embrace personalized instruction, online and mobile learning, adaptive assessments and data-driven decision making, and develop critical thinking, collaboration, communication and digital citizenship skills, demands on school networks will continue to skyrocket.”  While acknowledging the success of E-Rate, established in 1996 to assist schools & libraries in obtaining affordable telecommunications and internet access, ISTE also notes that the program is not enough to meet rapidly growing broadband needs of schools.

How does this affect the larger educational technology community?  As part of a greater message, this petition helps to raise awareness that the expanding educational technology market is limited by this lack of broadband access.  Any product or service which relies on connectivity may have limited traction until broadband access becomes ubiquitous in schools.

Read the ISTE press release.

Read the White House petition.



Texas A&M professors know if you’re e-reading with CourseSmart

This article is cross-posted from edtechtimes.com, where I currently serve as editor-in-chief.


Texas A&M business school professors know whether you’ve been doing your e-reading homework or not.  Along with eight other colleges, Texas A&M is testing CourseSmart technology which organizes digital textbook usage data by class so that each professor has comparative data at his or her fingertips.  Professors are now able to tell whether students have actually read e-textbook chapters as assigned, or if they are cramming at the last minute.

From the New York Times article, student reactions ranged from feeling “caught” to complaining about “software bugs” that didn’t accurately track all the times the textbook was open.  (According to CourseSmart, they are not aware of any such software bugs.)  Other students are concerned that by not using the tools provided with the e-textbooks, they will garner low engagement scores and create a negative perception about their study habits.

CourseSmart’s CEO, Sean Devine, sees the data collection as the beginning of further analysis. From the article, Devine says, “We’ll ultimately show how the student traverses the book.  There’s a correlation and causality between engagement and success.”


Read the New York Times article.


More articles about CourseSmart from EdTech Times:

CourseSmart Launches CourseSmart Analytics Beta, November 12, 2012

CourseSmart Releases A New Reader, March 16, 2012