Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Presentation Reflection

Wow. Although I'm pretty sure that cruel and unusual punishment is prohibited under the US Constitution I just had to watch a video of myself giving a presentation and I'm almost certain that it qualifies as such. However painful it was I must admit that it was quite informative. Who knew a man could say "um" so many times in so short a span of time? Or so methodically twist a handheld marker for nearly the entirety of his presentation? Well, now I know.

That's not to say that it was all bad. I noticed that I seemed very laid back and that I spoke fairly coherently. My posture was fine and my gestures seemed natural enough. The biggest area for improvement, however, was in pacing. I noticed that most of the 50 or so "ums" that I uttered were a sort of filler while I was thinking of what to say next. While presenting it seems like a pause lasts forever, but looking at the video it was obvious that pauses are almost instantaneous and that silence is infinitely preferably to the infernal "um". Hand positioning was the other issue I noticed. I'd intentionally picked up a marker to find something for my hands to do and it most certainly worked. Perhaps a bit too well. I'm not sure if it was distracting to others, but my constant fiddling with the marker made me look nervous (fair enough) and distracted.

From a teaching standpoint, I can now totally understand why all my students find it so easy to approach/not listen to me; my laid back style seems like it would lend itself better to a question and answer format rather than direct presentation/lecture. Looking more collected and serious might be a good thing to work on and slowing down and speaking more deliberately to eliminate "ums" would be another big step in the right direction.

Bicycling and Energy Conservation

A few weeks back I set out to determine how much gas, CO2, and money I could save by undertaking my weekly commute on two wheels instead of four. Though my commute is relatively short (about 25 miles), over time the results began to add up. In one year I would be able to:

  • cut my personal fuel consumption by around 3 barrels of oil
  • reduce my CO2 emissions by about 1200 pounds
  • save over $250 in gas money
If those numbers seem inconsequential, you should check out my presentation to see the collective difference a large number of people can make by taking small steps. In it I provide a step by step breakdown of how I calculated my human power energy savings as well as links to further resources and data. Some of the numbers get very large and I provide various juxtapositions to help put them in perspective. I hope you find it informative and maybe even a little inspirational. The little things really do add up.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Philosophy of Technology in Education

We are living in an increasingly digital age. The depth and breadth of information available at the the touch of a finger is breathtaking. In education too, technology has made its presence known. Clearly, the students of today must know the tools of tomorrow, and to that end technology should be incorporated into the classroom and into class projects in such a way as to familiarize students with its possibilities. Technology can be a great tool to deepen understanding and open doors to new information and should be used as such. Its use should not be forced, but it should be incorporated when it genuinely adds to the educational experience.

Energy Awareness Project

Every human being uses energy in their day to day lives. According to the US Department of Energy, the average American uses six times more energy than the world average. Given that we use so much more than the rest of the world we have a greater responsibility to conserve energy than those who use much less. Even little steps, when taken by enough people, can make an enormous difference.

Americans are the most car-centered people on earth. Unfortunately, even very efficient cars use relatively large amounts of energy. The bicycle, however, uses no energy beyond the food needed to fuel it's rider. Just how much energy could I save by riding my bike in my daily commute instead of driving?

My weekly commute between school and work comes to around 25 miles. How much gas would I save by riding my bike? How much less CO2 would I pump into the atmosphere? How much money would I save? I determined to find out...