Thursday, August 6, 2020

Teachers, school and COVID, a guest post

This isn't a full guest post. These are the thoughts a teacher friend shared about the rapid changes in school plans, how teachers are trying to adapt with little time and training, and, well, just read what she has to say.

Teachers need support, a thread

Had a virtual staff meeting today that was literally 2 hours of, "That's something you'll have to figure out." A thread for people blaming teachers in any way, shape or form right now:

1. We (teachers in my district) are not being given any extra time to "figure that out." Indeed, the ONE extra paid day the district had previously offered us to "figure that out" was taken away from us with the release of the latest "plan."

2. At my first corporate job, I needed to learn a new skill to level up. I was paid my regular salary for 2 full weeks, while I attended a training to learn this skill.The 2 week training was paid for by the Corp. When I returned with certificate in hand, I was given a raise.

3. For comparison, teachers must take unpaid time to attend trainings (usually over the summer), and pay for the training (plus extra if we want it to count toward a future raise) and raises only come after 20 credit hours have been earned (paid for) by the teacher.

4. Yes, teachers "get summers off." We are NOT paid for that time. While we still get paychecks, it is because our salary for the other months is divided by 12 instead of 9 so that we get paid every month & don't starve/lose our housing over the summer.

5. We are literally only paid for the hours our contract requires us to spend in the building, with students. All that work we do in the evenings, unpaid. Weekends, unpaid. Over "breaks," unpaid. And any training we do is not only unpaid, we have to actively pay for it.

6. Teaching is the only job I know of where they are not required to pay you for the hours you are in training. It is also the only job I know of in my state that is exempt from the new law requiring that overtime be paid to salaried employees making under $35,000 a year...

7. Teachers WANT to do the job. We WANT to teach, we WANT to be w/ our students. We are NOT being supported to do so. If you're mad, take it up with: your fellow taxpayers, school board, your superintendent. Ask how they are supporting teachers, so we can support students/you.

We have failed

Back to my commentary.

We're all adjusting right now. Schools and school districts have been put in an untenable position with no clear, good choices. They are being pressured by government and some parents to re-open in person because they serve as free childcare for so many people. They feel compelled to open because they  often offer the only reliable meals some students get.

They are being asked to do so many things beyond educating students because we as a society have failed to support the most vulnerable among us. We have failed to adequately fund education. We have failed to support families. We have failed to provide quality healthcare to everyone. We have failed at so much.

One thing we can do, one thing we can not fail at, is respecting and supporting teachers.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

On cooperative games

Last weekend was Gen Con. On our drive home from the convention Sunday, I had some thoughts about some of the games I increasingly enjoy. It turns out I really like cooperative games.

Now, this isn't to say I don't enjoy some competitive games. I do. Sometimes.

But cooperative games, where the players are competing with the environment, are my current favorites. And I think they serve a very useful purpose in life.

We are more and more splintered. I increasingly feel like we are less able to work together. But cooperative games, whether board games, card games, video games, role playing games, or any other type of games, require us to work together to defeat a common enemy or solve a common problem. We have to recognize when another player might be better suited to a task. We sometimes have to step back and take the assist, setting that player up to do the thing, rather than try to do the thing and fail.

Anyone who plays a team sport probably recognizes the same dynamic of the team working together. Granted, there is an opposing team, but it's still about cooperating and working together.

Over the years, I've watched our sons struggle with competitive games. Which still have value. We still need to learn how to both win and lose gracefully. But they change when they have to work together. It isn't just supporting each other. It's watching them figure out the next couple of moves, and how each player can contribute to the goal.

Life isn't a zero sum game, even though some people play as if it were. In life, we have to work together. We can't survive without other people, without their skills and knowledge, without their support.

In cooperative games, we can't win on our own. We need the other players to help gather resources, or contribute their skills. We need the players to work together. And I think those are skills that need to be taught and reinforced because we need those same skills in the real world.

This post isn't the most eloquent. I'm not feeling particularly eloquent at the moment. But I wanted to talk about the value of cooperation, and, by extension, cooperative games.

Our favorite cooperative games

To end, I'd like to shout out a few of our favorite cooperative games. This list is by no means comprehensive. It's just a few that we enjoy. Please share your favorites in the comments.

  • Doctor Who Time of the Daleks: If you play this board game by the official rules, one player wins. But all the players are playing the same character, so our house rule is that we all win or all lose together.
  • Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle: We have fun playing this deck building card game as a family.
  • Battlestar Galactica the Boardgame: Ok, this board game is actually semi-cooperative, since one or two players is a secret Cylon. But it's mostly cooperative!
  • Elder Sign: A dice game based on H.P. Lovecraft, so of course the players win or lose together.
  • Arkham Horror the Card Game: Again, based on H.P. Lovecraft, so the players win or lose together.
  • Castle Panic: A tower defense board game, this is another fun family game.
  • Outfoxed!: We bought this game when the boys were much younger--it's recommended for ages 5 and up. At the time, there were few cooperative board games for kids.
  • Minecraft: We've played as a family, and sometimes with friends, with no PVP. This is a great game for creativity, where we can all build interesting things. And we can explore and battle mobs together.
  • Lord of the Rings Online: A more complex online game, based on the Lord of the Rings. The players are all on the same side, battling to save Middle Earth.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

My IA Capstone

The final course toward my MIS with an IA specialization is a Capstone project in Information Architecture. No class meetings, just me and a project.

1st hurdle: I have a project.

2nd hurdle: My Capstone supervisor approved my project today. We settled on four parts of the project to complete by the end of the semester, when I will present the project.

  1. A content audit. I have been working on the content audit and have some pretty nice spreadsheets. The audit is more or less done. Now I just need to write up a document of my findings.
  2. A competitor analysis. I just received a list of 7 peer research centers so I can start on this.
  3. A stakeholder analysis. I've already spoken with a few people and have a pretty good idea of what they would like. I'll probably do more interviews/have more conversations over the next month or two to really put together the requirements.
  4. A prototype. All this is leading up to wireframes, a style guide, and other documents so the site can be built.
All of this will lead up to a final project document and presentation for course credit. And a degree for me. 

As for the project, the goal is to have the new site up by the end of the year. I think we can accomplish that.