In the beginning there was grad school. That ended in 2010. Now what do I blog about?


December 30, 2010

UMassMed to Brown

A few photos from my last visit to UMassMed and lots of photos from my first walk around Brown. The different between the two campuses is striking. There was some construction going on at Brown, however it was maintenance on hundreds year old buildings.

December 27, 2010

Collaborative blogging during a winter storm using Posterous

Sunday & Monday December 26-27, 2010

The National Weather Service predicted 12-22 inches of snow in our area beginning Sunday afternoon. By Sunday evening the amount was cut to 8-14 (which is roughly what we did accumulate by Monday afternoon). The wind was gusting, bringing down tree limbs and whistling through the siding on the house, creating huge snow drifts outside the windows. I spent my afternoon and evening launching a Posterous blog for local bloggers to track the storm in and around Worcester.

I had been hoping for a chance to try out Posterous with a small collaborative blogging project. This storm and my free time was a perfect fit. As soon as the idea struck, I set up an account and created the site. I scanned my Google Reader for local bloggers and found a few with public email addresses. I added them to the site as contributors hoping they'd take the bait. ((NOTE: Posterous does not give site admins a means to customize an invitation to potential subscribers/contributors.)) Then I linked my first post to Facebook where I knew some key people would see it and share it with their Friends. I quickly threw together a simple How to Contribute page for the site.

About an hour later I had my first collaborator, followed quickly by a second and third, then more. People began posting photos of their homes, streets and neighborhoods. Then people began posting info from the city and the Dept of Public Works regarding traffic, plowing and cancellations, including an important trash pick-up cancellation. A water main break was reported in a neighboring town. A power outage was reported in a large neighborhood. Soon, local Twitterers began linking to the site in their tweets and page views quickly accumulated like the snow outside. I added a @Twitter page listing local Twitterers.

I stayed up until midnight tweaking the template, which required my learning their CSS formats and diving into the Posterous Developers Knowledgebase. I spent some time troubleshooting user accounts with someone who somehow ended up with 3 profiles. We also worked on issues using the iPhone Posterous app. Another user had issues with the Android app, but I was unable to help him because I had no Droid to test.

When I woke up in the morning, I logged in and found a few user complaints in my email - people who I had added as Contributors in the beginning. They said they were buried in emails and wanted out. ((NOTE: Posterous does not allow Subscribers/Collaborators without Posterous accounts to unsubscribe or manage frequency of emails. This is a major #fail.)) I did my best to diplomatically handle these issues and created a Help (FAQ) page. I also added Google Analytics to track site visits, page views and browsers.

Plowing and shoveling wasn't bad. I grabbed a short video of my hub plowing the driveway and a photo of the stairs after I shoveled and posted them. Likewise, other bloggers shared pics of their sidewalks, driveways and stairs. Posterous is so easy to use to share images and conducive to collaborative blogging by people with mobile devices. Very cool for this type of project.

It stopped snowing around 2pm on Monday afternoon. People got on with their lives. Pictures and posts kept trickling in and the site continued to record visits and views. I'll be curious to see if this project has any legs beyond this storm. We'll see if local bloggers keep using it and maybe we'll discuss it at a future #worcbloggers gathering.

December 20, 2010

New Twitter name options

I'm one of those people who never thinks of the right thing to say when I need to say it. The best comment, one liner, zinger or conclusion seems to hit me after the fact. This makes choosing a new Twitter name difficult.

So far, this is all I have come up with:
  • @justcarriejo: carriejo is my nickname; but someone already has it in Tw, hence the 'just'
  • @IDCarrie: because my field is instructional technology/instructional design; and my new title is instructional designer
  • @clsaarinen: my first and middle initial and last name; same as my Linkedin account
  • @carrie_at_brown: OK, the cat is out of the bag; I am going to work at Brown University in Providence Rhode Island
You can vote in the poll or add other suggestions in the comments or tweet me. Your ideas are welcome!

I know there is a perfect name but I probably won't think of it until after I have updated everything, or even worse, it will strike me a month from now. I predict a #facepalm.

December 17, 2010

What happens when you change your Twitter name?

The transition to a new job continues
  • I have handed off tasks at work.
  • I have had farewell parties and luncheons.
  • I have cleaned out my filing cabinets, removed wall postings and given away plants.
  • What's left to do is tidy up online connections (web links on department sites that drop email in my inbox) and update my profiles with a temp email until I get settled at my new edu.

My Twitter name is @carrie_at_umass. I need to change it! (Read: /2010/12/new-job-means-new-twitter-name.html) What's going to happen when I do? If you have changed your Twitter name, please let me know what happened, if anything, and what you learned. If there is something I need to do to prep my followers I'd like to get it done.

Leave your words of wisdom in the comments. Thanks!

December 06, 2010

I ♥ highered

#lovehighered meme started by @MalloryWood Dec 6, 2010
@carrie_at_umass: I #lovehighered. Youthful, creative culture. Challenging, engaging discussions anytime, anywhere. Always learning. Always changing.
Worcester is home to ten colleges. (Or is it 11 now with the Mass College of Pharmacy? ) I have my fair share to pick from. And New England is super-U central anyway, with several big name schools within a 75 minute commute of where I live. I could not be luckier.

I had little exposure to college while growing up. Neither parent went to college. My older sisters and my brother didn't go to college so I never experienced the family excitement and drama associated with SAT test scores, applying to colleges, acceptance letters, packing and moving and coming home for Christmas. I never spent time on college campuses, aside from attending a few films and concerts at Clark University while I was in high school. I did spend the night in a friend's dorm room at MassArt once after seeing the Ramones play in Boston, but that was pretty much it.

After high school I was living in a mid-western college town with a vibrant music and art scene. I enjoyed all the benefits of the college town without the college debt. It wasn't until my mid-20's and moved back to Massachusetts that I decided to get a degree; it was when my brother needed a degree for a promotion and he bet me I couldn't beat his GPA (I did). I liked college so I started working in higher ed immediately after, then went on to get my master's. Grad school was an amazing experience; I loved it all (which is why I blogged about it with this blog for 2 years!). Now I'm gearing up for a career transition and the only place I've considered is higher ed. I can't imagine working in any other environment.

What I like is the easy, casual vibe of the college campus. I like the youthfulness of the general population - the 18 year olds for sure, as well as the gray haired profs in their Chuck Taylors. I like the cultural diversity. I like the cyclical change in campus atmosphere running concurrently with the seasonal calendar. I like that everyone is on a self-centered track, working to better themselves - I find it inspiring. I like the libraries. I like the lectures and seminars and campus orgs. I like that it is cool to sit under a tree and read a book (and be photographed for the school website). I like that it is cool to stay up late reading. I like the innovation and discovery. I like the ingenuity and freedom for creative interpretation. I like the community.

And I love that the higher ed community extends beyond any singular campus. I have met hundreds of people in higher ed over the last five years and had amazing conversations with them. I value my higher ed relationships - the people are interested in what I do, are supportive and fun. Likewise, they are doing interesting work, share what they know, and inspire me to try new things. Most of these folks I have met face to face only one or a few times. Some of them I have only met online. For some reason, these relationships have sticking power. Part of it may be the openness and collegial quality that makes higher ed so special.

My next blog post will discuss my pending career transition. Stay tuned!

A new job means a new Twitter name

My Twitter name will have to change (carrie_at_umass) because I am leaving UMass this month and will be starting at another university in January. I have never experienced such a long and intensive career transition as this one. Never have I had two outstanding offers from two respected institutions resulting in a very difficult decision to be made.

I learned a great deal about the art of negotiation. It was an exercise in decorum, diplomacy and organizational politics. It was an entirely new experience, which left me with the conclusion that I really really REALLY need a mentor who understands my field and my interests and can help me navigate my chosen career path. (If you wish to apply to be my mentor, please let me know!)

The hardest part was deciding if I wanted to leave the niche field of academic medicine to work in the general higher ed circuit. In medical eduction I am special because there are few instructional technology professionals. I have 5+ years experience considering theories of teaching and learning as applied to the unique practices of medical school. In general higher ed, there are many people who do what I do which makes me less special. It was a tough decision to leave my unique, special and familiar pond for a big, crowded unknown pond.

I admit I have fears. Most of it is social anxiety - will they like me, will I fit in, will I like them? A lot of it is wondering about my personal comfort - new work environment, shared office space again after 1.5 years of private space and new work equipment (I will miss my elevated desk and dual monitors!).

For the most part, I am excited. I am still somewhat awestruck that I got the job offer at this major university, but it is beginning to sink in that I will be a part of it. I loved the look on my 93 year old grandfather's face when I told him about the offer; he was very impressed, and proud of me. I am looking forward to my first day, my first week, orientation, a campus tour, settling in at my new desk, listening in on co-workers conversations, getting to know my way around. (They have 3 libraries!)

I'll have a new Twitter name in January 2011. Until then, if you are wondering where I am going, we can play 20 Questions in the comments here or via Twitter or email.

November 19, 2010

Making time for social media

There are many blog posts and newspaper and magazine articles in relation to common debates surrounding social media use in business and education. Some say it is a waste of time while others herald it as the most important revolution in communication since email. I have asked friends and colleagues in medical education to blog this week about their time management strategy regarding social media use. See the original call for action on the Social Media in Education blog.

Is social media a distraction?
When social media grabs my attention and pulls me away from my daily work, it’s because something interesting is happening. I’m not distracted by kitty videos and Wal-Mart shopper photos. But I am distracted when Google Calendar goes down. I see tweets and status updates about it in my network, triggering me to check my websites which display Google Calendar. I’m distracted when a hashtag I follow trends unexpectedly, such as during the Great Keynote Meltdown at #heweb09. During that ‘distraction’ I learned a great deal about the importance of audience engagement and real-time response (or lack thereof) by a presenter. If I had not been monitoring Twitter at the time, I would have missed the real time development but would have later caught the subsequent blog posts and online discussion, which included valuable assessment, professional insight and best practices.

Efficiency or overwork?
On weekend mornings I check my work email (not unusual) but I also tap into the Google Alerts I have set up to capture web mentions of the university and our medical center. If there is something interesting and timely, I’ll post it and monitor the conversation if one emerges. This type of marketing strategy is valuable – finding and reporting information that highlights your organization is a good thing. However it doesn’t need to be done a weekend and I could certainly use that time for other things, like to feed the cat, mow the lawn or do laundry. But for me, the real time web is much more fun.

Twitter: waste of time?
Friday is the worst day to visit Twitter for the first time. It is confusing enough for new users as it is, let alone on a Friday when many tweets are labeled with the popular #FF or #FollowFriday hashtags as well as oddball end-of-the-work-week commentary and discussion. On Fridays it does seem like a waste of time. Or does it? Once a user learns to navigate the Twitter waters, it is easy to find value in the seemingly nonsensical jibber jabber.

#FollowFriday is a simple way people tell other people about good Twitter users. It’s just Twitter-speak for “Hey, this guy/girl posts a lot of great information and I think you should start following them so you can learn from them like I do.” It is no different than when at a conference a respected colleague introduces you to someone s/he admires. I have been mentioned in #FF lists many times and it is a huge honor, so there is value as well as professional validation. No one is going #FF someone who tweets boring or idiotic posts, but they are likely to #FF experts in your field or area of interest. Introductions to experts; no conference registration, travel or lodging required.

General productivity and tools of the trade
It has been easy for me to start using social media tools and applications because web stuff is what I do; it’s an area I am comfortable with. That is not the case for medical professionals and educators, generally speaking. For many it may be like learning a second language and trying to use it as they learn it. It may be uncomfortable; some may make embarrassing mistakes; some may never master it. These are valid concerns that could become barriers for adoption and implementation.

I think I have a pretty fair grasp on things but there are days, or weeks, where it seems the amount of new and interesting content is completely out of control. But I don’t have to be engaged 24/7. I rely on Google Reader to keep my blog subscriptions and search alerts in check. Reader’s folder tool keeps my subscriptions organized in categories: Higher Ed, Medical Education, Technology, UMass, and Web Design. I open the UMass and Medical Education folders to find the most recent news and information when I’m working on web updates and marketing initiatives. Likewise, I hit the other folders when I need to know what’s happening in those areas. I have other folders, too, for personal interest blogs and feeds, such as local music, art and culture.

I have three Twitter accounts and I use HootSuite to manage them. I can access all three accounts, monitor the online discussions for each, add or drop followers/followees, check stats and trends, as well as participate in the conversation. HootSuite also allows me to pre-schedule tweets, which is super handy for the department Twitter account. There are similar tools (a popular competitor is TweetDeck) which allow users to do the same thing. A tool like this is helpful for advanced Twitter users, but anyone can use them to manage their account.

I keep HootSuite open during the work day. There is no one else in my department who does what I do so I use my networks to find professional advice and support. Through social media, I have hundreds of experts in my field available to answer questions or critique a project or review a new webpage. Likewise, if someone in my network needs help and I know the answer, I lend my support thus demonstrating my expertise and perhaps gaining some respect in the greater community of medical educators and higher education web professionals.

My social media time management strategy
On Monday mornings I review Google Reader for news and information about UMass. I use this information to generate tweets about our school, our programs, our medical center, etc. I also use these sources as web content for our department website. For example I might find a reference to an obscure small town newspaper that mentioned one of our community hospitals.

On Wednesdays I scan online publications I subscribe to find hot topics in medical education and biomedical science that may be of interest to our community. I tweet links to these articles, or email them to faculty, or post a link on our university’s Linkedin group. It only takes an hour or two, but often generates discussion that may lead to a new innovation or an evaluation of current practices. On Fridays I receive an automated message from Linkedin which informs me if anyone commented on the articles I have shared in our university group; I then follow up on comments and questions.

Once per month I analyze my social media strategy by checking statistics gathered in HootSuite and other tracking tools. I compare activity with our web analytics reports to see how many web visitors were referred by my tweets or other people’s tweets or blog posts. What I am looking for is a return on investment (ROI) so I can report out to my boss and others and prove that social media is not a waste of time.

To make a long story short (too late)
Social media is valuable once it is understood, used with some discretion and time is managed appropriately. My advice is to find tools to help manage the information overload before it becomes daunting. Suggest that you use the applications to learn about the applications. And keep practicing; you’ll get it.

October 26, 2010

Local blogger shares cancer stories

Jeff Barnard fist came onto my radar screen a few years ago when I ran a Google search for the keyword 'Wormtown'. My husband is the person who originally coined the city's nickname so we frequently scan the net to see who is using it and in what context. Jeff has a blog called Wormtown Taxi. As you might surmise, Jeff is a taxi driver in Worcester. He is interested in the city itself, its people and its politics. His blog posts were of general interest - some great city scape photos, random tales of taxi cab riders, and commentary on City Hall happenings. Some of his most notable blog posts were in response to a city ordinance requiring people to shovel their sidewalks lest they be fined. Jeff shared many pictures of the un-shoveled walks of city councilors that winter, and gained hundreds of fans, followers and friends.

Earlier this year, Jeff was diagnosed with cancer. An openly engaging member of the local community, he shared the diagnosis on his blog and has been chronicling his misadventures with chemo, pain meds and the challenges now found in completing mundane household chores. He has continued writing about the city he loves, the politicians who run it, and the people he enjoys spending time with - whether they be family, close friends or the local bloggers who are rallying to support Jeff during his illness. Recently the podcast team behind 508 visited Jeff in his home to do an hour long episode of their local news podcast with Jeff. You can watch the video podcast on the Pie and Coffee blog

This week Jeff reached two milestones - he had a stair lift installed in his home and he received handicapped placards for his car. He also talks about the significant difference Social Security is playing, now that he is officially handicapped. Just reading it makes me choke and its hard to believe he's not choked up when he's writing it. It amazes me how gracefully some people can handle health crises. I can't imagine, if it were me, a day without massive sobbing and feeling sorry for myself. Jeff amazes me with his positive mental attitude when he writes - "It really does make a big difference, too, because we've had a long dry spell here for the last four or five months, financially. People have helped, and I've really appreciated the generosity, to be sure. But I think we've finally made it to the other side of this money rift, and I thank everyone who helped out to get us through it. Things are looking up."

The man knows how to keep things in perspective, focusing on day to day needs, being thankful for whatever help he gets, and counting his blessings. Many of us without cancer have a difficult time doing that. You can read Jeff's 'Things are looking up' blog post here.

Another important thing about what Jeff is doing - he is a patient using social media to write about his illness (reflection can be therapeutic) and share his experience (outreach) and find support for himself and his friends and family. Social media is powerful. Jeff is shut in his house most days but he can contribute to the community and connect with people with the Internet. He has a sense of purpose. He has something that is his, that he has control over, and that he finds satisfaction in doing. I think that is amazing.

October 21, 2010

Social Media in Medical Education | AAIM2010

Had a great time at national conference #1 this fall. Looking forward to national conference #2 in November.

Slides from Social Media workshop for medical educators at Academic Internal Medicine Week 2010. Presenters represent 3 different universities and different roles in medical education. Please contact us for further information and re-use or for guest speaking engagements. We do birthday parties.

September 30, 2010

SlideShare: Publish your presentation graphics online

What is SlideShare?

View carrisaari's profile on slideshare is a free online service that allows you to publish your presentation graphics (ie PowerPoint, Keynote) online. You can create a profile, upload presentations and associated documents, and share them publicly or privately with other SlideShare users. Your presentations can then be searched for, accessed, viewed, rated, tagged, saved, and shared by many other people. You can use SlideShare as a means to archive your presentations then include them in your website, blog or other social media profile, such as LinkedIn, to demonstrate your expertise. You can search for and find other users' presentations to view and share.

Why would I want to do that?

SlideShare is a social media tool. What that means is is a place where you can find other people with similar interests (social) and see what they are creating (media). If you want to either learn about the wine industry or medical simulation, odds are you can find presentations about that subject on Finding those topics on SlideShare means you can connect with people who are interested in that subject, just like you. Reviewing their content can either inform you of something new and lead you to other resources, or remind you of your own expertise and perhaps compel you to share your knowledge via SlideShare.

By contributing your slides you demonstrate your expertise and allow other people to learn from you. Does this mean you should create brand new slides just for SlideShare? You could, but most users don't. Most users upload their slides after they have given a presentation or series of lectures. It's a way to share the slides with people who attended your lecture or seminar AND share them with people who were unable to attend.

What are the risks?

To avoid negative effects of sharing your slides publicly: Publish under your own name. Don't publish someone else's slides - publish only your own work. Practice copyright adherence in all that you create. Double-check all materials prior to publishing on SlideShare. Do not - ever! - publish confidential material. Do not publish company or institution information (ie internal information).

View my SlideShare!

After you have started an account and published a slideset or two, share it! Let people know that you published something so they can check it out. If it is a lecture you present at a national conference, email a link to your colleagues. If it is a slideset from a seminar you led, let the attendees know they can review the material online. If you create a tutorial on cooking with wine, let your friends and family know.

You can view my SlideShare profile here:, or check out this slideset on Plagiarism in Academic Medicine which I created for a graduate school course:

NOTE: This post also published simultaneously on the blog.

September 10, 2010

Plans for 2010: UPDATE

In January, I posted my Plans for 2010. Today I stumbled upon that post while searching for another post. I figured it was a good time to reflect to see what goals I have hit, and redirect as necessary to hit those I have missed.

Getting physical
In January I was bored with the treadmill routine and vowed to be more active outdoors. I started walking to the park down the street (2.3 miles) in the spring, then began the garden installations after graduation. Once the gardens were established I began weekend hiking trips with a gal pal - we've hit Mount Wachusett, Purgatory Chasm and Moore State Park as well as covered the 6 mi rail trail numerous times.

Gadgets & toys
Got a MacBookPro at work, just in time to learn Mac stuff in order to lend assistance to faculty who are now teaching the incoming class of med students who were required to have a laptop for class, and who chose Macs (>90% of the class of 2014).

The battery is dead on my personal laptop so I picked up a netbook on Woot! as a travel unit. Just in time for fall conference season! Woot, indeed.

Never did get the camper I longed for in January, but I did get to camp out in the tent a few times at Nickerson State Park in Brewster.

Social interaction
Disc golf has been fun and social. Also my weekend hikes with a friend have been social. I have hit a few more events, clubs and house parties than in recent years. Been a bit more social at work, too.

Professional development
In January, HEWEB2010 was a definite on my list. However, it's not going to happen. I submitted proposals to two national medical education conferences and was accepted for both. They happen to fall just before and just after HEWEB so traveling to a 3rd conf in October just isn't going to happen, even though HEWEB is the coolest high ed conf on the planet. Attending is just as important as presenting, so I will be hitting the #140conf in Boston in September as well as a regional seminar series sponsored by the university system that employs me. I have also requested admission to a Sloan-C mini-course on social networks for learning which runs during the fall semester this year.

I have pretty much eliminated the idea of a PhD or EdD. I would be more likely to get a second master's at this point or a CAGS. I'm still not sure which route I want to take - instructional design and technology, content management and marketing, or teaching and research. I don't feel pressure to decide. When it's right, I'll know it.

Goal setting, for work
The social media seminar series was great. I worked with the campus library team and developed a 4-part seminar series which was well received, well attended and well evaluated. Over the summer we began developing sessions for both the fall and spring terms this academic year. However, I lost the library co-sponsorship and since then I have been floundering, not sure I can commit to manage it all on my own. I'm not surprised that I put it aside - in January I actually predicted there not being 'room for growth' in academic medicine, and by that I meant academic medicine is not supportive of the new technologies I am ready to explore. I wondered then, in my January post, if I could commit to 3-5 years here, an optimistic prediction that in that time, the university would awaken to the concepts of social media and mobile technologies and incorporate them into their academic and business practices. I find that I can't hold my breath and wait that 3-5 years, and even if I did, it would be naive of me to think they would choose me to lead the efforts. There are other opportunities out there - I would be a fool to ignore them.

Goal setting, for home
I have done a great deal on the home front. Installed an 8x16' raised garden and have grown cucumbers, tomatoes, pumpkins, beans and peas. Have installed more flower beds and have grown perennials both from seeds and from starter plants I've gathered from friends. I built a 2-bin compost unit. We installed a new mailbox, a gift for my hub from his daughter on Father's Day, and added some garden mums around it. Never did get to the shrubs, but then there are still a few weeks to do that before frost season begins.

How did you do on your goals this year?

August 12, 2010

Pumpkin update

Until my brain and I return from our annual August camping trip and write a real blog post, here is a pumpkin growing contest update. The contest manager says I am in the lead.

Aug 10

Aug 3

July 26

July 20, 2010

Great Pumpkin 2010

Now that grad school is done and I have FREE TIME! again, gardening is a priority. The fresh air, the dirt, the sunshine, the pleasure found in growing things from seeds. I am living it.

A group of us are engaged in a pumpkin growing content. We all shared in the seeds of a gigantic pumpkin from last year's harvest. We each took 3 seeds. Here's mine so far (top to bottom: 7/19, 7/13, 7/4, 6/15)

July 19

July 13

July 4

June 15

July 14, 2010

Why I Love HootSuite Today

I recently posted my 2,008th Tweet. I marked it as a special occasion because I started using Twitter in 2008. Of course there was a typo in that special tweet so the following post was simply #facepalm.

But I do love Twitter. It has been 2+ years of thousands of 140 character or less updates that have led to great working relationships with higher ed people (tweeple) around the world. And one of the reasons why my experience has been so good is because of HootSuite.

In the video below I proclaim my love of HootSuite and in particular, the 'show conversation' tool. There will be more of these screencasts. Stay tuned.

June 15, 2010

Caution: lack of blog posts

Gone to the beach. Back soon.

June 01, 2010

Summertime blues. For real?

Two weeks after graduation and I MISS SCHOOL. I miss the mental stimulation. I miss the collaboration, the discussions, the debates. I miss someone giving me a list of reading and a few thought provoking questions to ponder.

Actually I have been missing all that for several months. My last semester was finishing up my research project and writing my paper. I haven't had a real class since last fall. Oh, I do miss it. Yes, dork, loser, whatever. But I like - I mean REALLY LIKE - developing new ideas and studying theory and debating principles and applications.

My best guess is that I'll end up back in school within a year.

May 23, 2010

with highest honors

May 20, 2010

It was a beautiful summer-like day. After the 1.5 hour drive, Hub and I stopped for lunch at a harborside restaurant before heading to campus. The ceremony was just for the graduate schools so the audience was fairly small although there were hundreds of graduates. The auditorium was overly warm and everyone was wishing the event had been scheduled outside. People were restless through the commencement address given by Sara-Lightfoot Lawrence whose speech was unnecessarily depressing, a litany of the atrocities committed by the human race in the last 60 years, from racism, to genocide to 'priests raping our children'. Not ceremonious, nor inspiring. Finally the graduates were called forth to receive their degrees. After we filed outside to find...nothing. Budget cuts eliminated the traditional champagne toast and chocolate covered strawberries. Hub and I left and headed for the brewery where we had a feast and cooled off in the AC before driving home.

The next day I completely crashed. I was wiped out - physically and emotionally drained from the last 2.5 years of hard work and study and the final weeks of anxiety and elation.

May 18, 2010

Graduation is the day after tomorrow

And I haven't got a thing to write about!

Been busting hump on finishing the graduate assistantship project that has plagued me, er, that I have been working on since last fall.

Been busting out ideas for continuing the social media seminar series in the fall. I actually have enough material to do a semester long course so if any of you higher ed peeps out there need a PT or temp faculty, let me know!

Oh, and I have gotten in a few rounds of disc golf, so that's a good thing, too. And I have seedlings growing in the back yard. My 2nd attempt at getting some blooming perennials into the yard; last years seedlings did not take. And its been warm enough and not raining in the evenings so I get to walk outside after dinner. Nice.

May 11, 2010

And Here Is How I Work…Everyone else is blogging about it so why can't I?

Bloggers this week are posting answers to a few work related questions. I'll jump on that since all I seem to do is work.

1. How many days do you work per week?
I work 5 but more often than not I am logging in to check work email and rid my inbox of simple random tasks that could really ruin my Monday morning. Sometimes it is just adding an event to the web calendar, or replying to a simple question. I spend 30 -60 min over the course of the weekend doing that. If I have something due Monday I'll work on it over the weekend to be sure it is ready and done correctly. Last weekend I spent about 5 hours working on lecture materials for a talk I was giving.

2. How many hours do you work, in total, every week?
50-60, depending on what's happening. In higher ed everything goes in cycles - recruitment, orientation, training, exam prep, exams, break,
training, exam prep, exams. In medical education the cycles are shorter, vary from academic year to year, and run July 1- June 30 so there are no breaks. I like my work. I am happy with work so I don't mind. When I start to feel burned out I cut it back by taking on fewer projects. I am lucky to have a great deal of autonomy where most of the time I can pick and choose projects.

3. Do you have a fixed work routine? How does it look like?
Email and phone message come first. Anything that can be handled quickly gets done immediately. Anything that is fun or interesting gets done second. Anything dreadful or dull gets done last.

I take care of routine web updates on Mondays (news, events) and manage the list-serv tool (adds, drops, stats). I get into major web creation and renovation on Tuesdays. Wednesdays I use for scheduling meetings and consultations, so I get to spend the middle of the week out & about, meeting with people in different places on campus. Thursday is project day - working on pieces of whatever projects I have going. Friday is 'Photoshop Friday'. I save any graphic design stuff (banners, buttons, templates) or digital imaging work (scanning EKGs, manipulating clinical images) for Fridays.

4. How many times per year do you take vacations, and how long are they?
In June I go to the beach for a week - I go without any technical stuff. I go with my beach chair and a stack of books. In August I do the same but camping instead of the beach. I take a few days off between Christmas and New Years, too. I schedule a few long weekends here and there to do gardening or to do nothing at all.

I consider my conference attendance as vacation, too. I try to hit one national and one regional higher ed or med ed conference each year. The national ones are 3-4 nights away from home. This year it'll be San Antonio TX. Regional ones are day trips.

5. How many hours per day do you spend on email?
I'm in email all day. Since I work in web tech, people are always emailing stuff to me - Can you put this on our web page? Can you add this to the web calendar? It is a steady stream of such requests. I don't let them pile up since I'm logged in most of the time anyway.

6. When you are not working, what are you doing?
The last two years have been grad school. I look forward to being done and having real free time again and lots of it! I have plans for landscaping the front yard. I'd like to paint the shed and finish staining the woodwork in the kitchen and living room. I'd like to improve my disc golf game. I might get a bicycle.

If you write a blog, answer the same questions to continue the meme.

View the source of this meme here: , Daniel Stucco on

May 07, 2010

Cap. Check. Gown. Check.

The photo is crappy but you get the point.


April 23, 2010

Create a fun staff development day activity

Today I caught this random tweet and it brought in a memory from about 8 years ago when I worked at a residential facility for at risk youth. I caught myself smiling immediately, remembering planning a fantastic staff development day. In this tweet, a teacher reflects on a young student activity using a camera to complete tasks on a scavenger hunt. She adds that the photos were really good. I remembered how much fun my teams had and how impressed my boss was with the result. I want to share the project in more detail than Andrea was able to in her tweet. It can be adapted for many different things and is really a fun and engaging large-to-small group activity for team building, training and program development. Can be done with any age group of students or adult learners, or staff and faculty.

Background & Purpose: The facility where I worked was a Job Corps center. Kids, aged 16-24, lived there 7/days/week. They had educational and vocational activities during the weekdays, and recreation and residential activities at night and on weekends. The day staff and night and weekend staff were very different, obviously having very different goals and responsibilities. Because of the 24/7 operation with 3 different shifts, often the evening and weekend staff did not know the edu and voc staff nor had they ever been in the classrooms or shops while students were in class. My plan was two-fold: to introduce the night and weekend staff to the day staff and also let them see their kids at work so they could get a better sense of the day program.

Method: I split my team of residential advisers (RAs) and recreation staff (Rec Aids) into small groups of 6 or 8. Each group was given a Polaroid camera and 2 packs of film and the scavenger hunt task list. The task list included things such as "Go to the Masonry Trade facility. Find the trade instructor and the student foreman. Take a group photo with them in front of the cinder block pile.", and "Go to Culinary Arts. Put on aprons, chef hats and rubber gloves. Pose for a group photo with oldest and youngest culinary students." and "Go to Ms Murray's math class. Sit at the student desks to pose for a 'class' picture."

These types of varied activities required that they interact with the students and instructors at each site and not just 'drive by' to look around. Of course the day staff all knew what was happening so they could plan accordingly, but we kept the students in the dark. The students LOVED IT because they were pleasantly surprised to see their RAs and Rec Aids visit the shops and classrooms. The had a really good time showing off their work and projects and introducing teachers to their dorm staff. Many of our kids had broken homes or were foster kids and their RAs were sort of surrogate parents on some level, so this type of teacher-'parent' day was very moving and inspiring for them.

When the small groups were finished with their scavenger list, they were all to come back to the training room to finish the exercise. I had drinks and snacks brought in so they could have some refreshment. Each group was given a large poster board, glue, tape, and markers. They sat in groups to review their photos and create a poster board to share during 'brief-out' with the large group. On the poster, they were instructed to write what they learned about each place they visited. This ensured the group discussed their experience together, by talking about the program, what their students did during the day, the instructors they met, and the campus locations they rarely got to see.

Wrap-up: The small groups briefed-out to the larger group, by sharing the things that impressed them or surprised them most. In some cases, staff reported being surprised to learn that a notoriously disruptive kid in the dorms at night was actually very good and hardworking in trade class, or that a very shy student was a reading class tutor. These insights helped night and weekend staff understand that maybe some kids were bored outside of class or that they simply hadn't been recognized for their strengths and abilities. Some staff were pleased to know that instructors knew their names because students had spoken highly of them at some point. Small groups hung posters on the wall for the rest of the day and people enjoyed looking at all the photos. The teams had gotten very creative with their group poses!

My boss was pleased with the outcome of this event. It did improve communications between day staff and night staff. It helped all staff feel more welcome to communicate because the name/face connection was made. And it improved student/staff relationships. Students who do well in trade were proud to show off to their RAs and students who needed extra help were identified and started receiving it.

Reflection: One of the reasons I wanted to get my master's degree in education is so that I can have a more important role as a facilitator, leader and program developer. I don't know where this road will take me. I am excited to discover the possibilities. My ability to plan engaging staff development activities is an asset. Now, how do I market that and create opportunities to use it?

April 16, 2010

Huzzah! I feel validated!

This morning over coffee and Rice Chex, I checked my email and found this message,

Hi carrisaari,

Your presentation Social Media Seminar 3: Google, beyond the rainbow is currently being featured on the SlideShare homepage by our editorial team.

We thank you for this terrific presentation, that has been chosen from amongst the thousands that are uploaded to SlideShare everday.

P.S - Why not blog/twitter this and let the world know about this awesome masterpiece you have created?

Oh, hell yeah. Need validation for work? Uh, our school logo is being seen by a thousand or more people today. Hell yeah!

April 14, 2010

Overdue for a blog post

The run down, real quick as there are just 13 minutes left until I need to get ready for work.

1. The social media seminar series I launched at work is going great. Good turnout for all sessions. I am learning a great deal about teaching - real teaching. I have so work to do to master the skills - staying on time, on topic during the course of a 1.5 lecture is a challenge for me. I can talk web stuff for hours so I get carried away. We have one session left and then I have 2 goals: 1) secure funding to continue the series next year and 2) leverage the experience to land a PT teaching gig at a college somewhere.

2. Home is good. Have done some yard work since we had a few weeks of unseasonably warm weather. Feels so good to be outside in the sunshine everything smells good and looks good and the birdies are chirping. Love this time of year. I remembered to put up the little green wire fence around the garden this year so no one (deer, rabbit, woodchuck) has eaten my daffodils and tulips. I have yet to increase my physical activity (one of my goals for 2010) but walk 3mi/day, 5 days/week. I have friends training to do a 5k walk and I realized that I do a 5k 5/days a week. I definitely need to move up to something more challenging. Hub is doing OK; still out of work, but OK. We are counting down days until we head to the beach for a week. This year our 1st summer vacation week falls shortly after graduation so I am extra doubly excited.

3. GRADUATION! May 20th I am officially done school and have earned a master's degree in education. I have been diligent with my ePortfolio. I have made progress on my research project. I am feeling good energized and completely fulfilled. I am just happy. I have a boatload of work to do between now and then. An MD at work the other mentioned Steven Covey's Important/Urgent metric while we discussed prioritizing web updates for his division site. So I printed it out and have it taped to the monitors at home and at work. I need it right now as I finish up my two semester long research project. Maybe after grad school that last item in the 4th quadrant won't seem so impossible.

March 31, 2010

ePortfolios 3

Ok, so after considering all my options and even looking at new-to-me tools like Posterous and Weebly, I decided to go with good ol' Google Sites for my ePortfolio.
So far I am having fun building it. Its definitely more functional than Epsilen. I am building pages to showcase all my social networks - LinkedIn, SlideShare, Google Reader, Delicious, YouTube, so far and there will be much much more. A hidden objective is to use it to land a part time teaching gig in the fall. Holler at me if you want a sneak peek!

Below, a table of options as requested by a reader. ((Scroll way down - sorry for the gap - I have tried tweaking the template CSS but can't seem to get the table to fall correctly in this post.))

Epsilen Blog Wiki
Text Fill in the boxes Posting Pages, with various layouts nad variety of design options for color, height& width
Images Yes; upload/insert standard formats Yes; upload/insert standard formats or embed from web Yes; upload/insert standard formats or embed from web
Attachments Yes; standard formats or via link to pre-pub No. Link to prepublished document; linking out to Google Docs works fine Yes; standard formats or link out to pre-pub docs
SlideShare Link to site Link out and/or embed Link out and/or embed
Video Link out and/or embed Link out and/or embed Link out and/or embed
Feedback Allowed for authorized users General blog comment tool with options Comments section can be toggeled on or off for each page; login may be needed to add comments (depends on platform and privacy settings)
User interface Traditional layout with traditional left nav Reverse chronological posting with comments. Modules/widgets depend on platform, template and layout options Nav based on posting date, or tags Functions like a website. Variety of nav options - top, left, right, bottom and combined. Customizable nav options, modules and widgets; tables of content can be added to any page for subpage nav.
Template Color options only Variety depends on platform and your knowledge of CSS and HTML Variety depends on platform and your knowledge of CSS and HTML
Layout No variations Single 2- or 3- column options. Variety depends on platform and your knowledge of CSS and HTML Variety depends on platform and your knowledge of CSS and HTML
Accessibility Open (Public) or access key required. Access key prompts for content sections Open (public) or private. Open (public), private (login required to view); or combined (read-only; login required to add comments)

March 17, 2010

eportfolios, part 2

Me to colleague on sister campus, via our campus technology Google Group:

Neither (grad school) nor (work) had an eportfolio platform. (Work) was promised eportfolios via Blackboard years ago (I'm sure you remember) but it never came to fruition. So, on my own, I started exploring tools with RCampus and Epsilen. Epsilen won out because of cleaner appearance and simpler UI. Note - I have web dev background so it was easy to figure out modules and folder structures, adding files and managing links - a 'normal person' might be stumped without formal training in either environment.

Flash FWD 2.5 years and now it's time to finalize my eportfolio for submission. Most students in my grad program submit a CD-R with files on it. Boring! And hello, this is a teaching w/technology program - let's use web resources, people! I return to Epsilen to start updating. I see changes such as there are more templates to personalize it, but it's still not robust enough for my liking. It's online storage, essentially. So I am considering building an eportfolio in a wiki, so I can create pages and embed my slidedecks from SlideShare and my tutorials from YouTube. Neat, hunh?

But then I learn from a member of my PLN that her grad school rejected her online eportfolio because it was too complicated. So she had to go back to standard document files on a CD-R. She was disappointed and annoyed, as you can imagine, because what she built was dynamic and engaging - the panel simply didn't bother to take a few minutes to explore; they obviously just wanted a list of files they could check off. So this makes me take into consideration people who will be viewing my eportfolio. I like building and I may be able to use it in the future, so a wiki portfolio would be cool. And maybe I'll put it all on a CD-R, just in case.


March 09, 2010

Sometimes people say exactly what you need to hear when you need to hear it

Here's a snippet from a conversation I had with a faculty member today. Note, this conversation was a text-message conversation. She is the only faculty member who I converse with this way. I think it is useful, powerful and easy to do - we actually get a lot of stuff done via text-chat.

We were talking about adding Twitter or Polleverywhere or something like that to an upcoming 1/2 day student event. We were talking about the faculty involved and their level of tech. We talked about the event and what the agenda is looking like so far. Then we talked about the audience and where they are at right now (med students have it rough, this group of students in particular). This is the summary of our text chat late this afternoon as I started to wrap things up and get ready to hit the treadmill.

I had had a difficult morning having to 'go there' with a colleague. I felt stressed, emotional and pinned down most of the day because of that morning encounter. Having an intelligent, productive conversation with this faculty helped to shake off that 'icky' feeling from this morning, but what she said in closing really made me smile. Sometimes people say exactly what you need to hear when you need to hear it. My treadmill won't get such a beating now.

me: don't like the ads. don't see a mobile app for it. never mind... : (
might work for the (project) though, if we ever needed an online chat room.

suzanakm: yup.. might work there... :)

me: At any rate, could talk more about the (student event) and adding a tech piece to it. But i dare repeat: know your audience. They are tired (student group), at this stage in the AY most of 'em are just wanting to get their rotations over with and move into 4th year and start applying for residency. If you can engage them somehow so the day is fun that's good, but the fun should support the learning objective first & foremost.

suzanakm: ok.. That makes sense. Keep it simple, focus on the learning objectives, pick tech that can enhance and avoid that which can distract - and don't overuse. Does that summarize it?

me: you got it, suzanakm!

suzanakm: btw - EVERYONE loves you at UMMS!

me: LOL....thanks. i needed to hear that today.

suzanakm: all I need to say is "Ca..." and I am interrupted with fabulous, positive words and sentences about you. I ask, You are speaking of (carrie@umass), aren't you? They nod enthusiastically. :)

me: LOL... : )

February 28, 2010

Quickie End of February Post

February was filled with head colds, flu-like symptoms and trips to the MD with hub. We had plenty of snow and opportunities to shovel. There were shows to hit and bands to see. A few run-ins with family members here and there but no major drama like we had in January when my nephew died unexpectedly.

In prep for writing final reasearch paper for school, I have been reading Groundswell. Excellent book! Great big ideas in simple language to help relate info to non-social media types. I think reading more stuff like this will help me push my social media initiative forward at work - what I lack is the ability to convey what I'm doing in a way that non-users can understand. Its simply a matter of learning to translate my native social media language to that of the powers that be. On deck after Groundswell is Clay Shirky's Here Comes Everybody.

Got some projects in development and am working with MDs from Washington DC and Chicago to develop conference workshop proposals. Conference acceptance might mean trips to Washington DC, San Antonio TX and Cincinnati OH in the fall. I have been wanting to hit Capitol Hill as an adult (only trip there I was 13 and soooooo not interested in history) and bring hub along. I think he'd really dig the Smithsonian museums, so I am hoping my work group and I get accepted for the DC conference. When I first heard about HEWEB2010 I was thinking Cleaveland not Cincinnati - so I'm a little bummed that I couldn't hit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on that one, but maybe a trip to WKRP would be cool, too.

Considering putting in an application to speak at commencement. The apps are due March 8th so that's not much time. Do I need the additional stress? No. Would it be fun? Maybe. Is it something that goes on my CV? Not likely. Do I like standing in front of people to talk? Yep. We'll see how my week goes. I'll jot down some ideas and see if anything gels.

Tomorrow is March 1st. I look forward to doing some brush burning. I look forward to warm sunshine in the afternoon. I look forward to robins in the yard, crocuses poking up in the garden, and deer eating the daffodil and tulip buds (must remember to put the garden fence up early this year!).

New stuff I learned about and got to play with included, a social learning platform, and Google Buzz, respectively. Very excited about Shot some emails back and forth with one of the project leaders after attending a virtual meeting on the subject. The concept is dead-on with my grad thesis. I will be looking for opportunities to learn more, do more in respect to social learning environments and platforms. Google Buzz was sort of fun to play with, but more interesting was watching the media buzz on it - the entry, the fallout, the subsequent backpeddling. I think Google knew exactly what they were doing and intentionally side-stepped user preferences (they made it opt-out instead of opt-in) because of what they learned with their less than stellar release of pre-beta Wave. Google got much more useful info via user complaints about Buzz than they did user feedback about Wave.

So that's the haps, my friends!

February 08, 2010


A cosmic occurrence in my PLN this morning. My email delivered an invite to a campus tech users meeting at the end of Feb on ePortfolios. Then I got an email in my regular email from grad school detailing eportfolio requirements for graduation with a link to Chalk & Wire.

Because I didn't know we had Chalk & Wire at grad school, I have been building an eportfolio on my own. I have tried several platforms - rCampus and Epsilen have decent packages, although I do like opportunities that exist in free-form atmospheres like wikis and blogs.

At any rate, so these emails come to me this week and then as I catch up on Twitter and Google reader to find that @sarahstewart has blogged about a preso on eportfolios. So I check out the SlideShare she linked to and find it to be useful and informative info. It also helps to review the basics as I finish up building my own portfolio, and it ties into my social media initiative and our campus need for eportfolios. Cool, I think.

It is interesting that (according to the work event invite) the people who will present their eportfolio project chose Adobe Acrobat Pro as the format. I wonder how long they have been working on this project and I wonder why they made the decision they did. I also wonder if they are sharing the portfolios via Adobe server. If so, does that mean we have a functioning Adobe server and someone that can manage it? Important questions, I assure you, and the answers could be helpful to many of us looking for an internal mechanism to share forms and collect form data.

I know that the Acrobat Pro portfolio tool does offer some neat and easy to use tools for formatting, layout and color scheme. It is also fairly easy to slurp a folder of Word Documents into the portfolio without having to convert each individual file. That's cool. But I wonder about delivery of the portfolio, or sharability. Acrobat does have easy tools to make things look pretty whereas with a web option like a blog or wiki you have to a now a little bit about web publishing (although there are some platforms that are simple to use). I just think about who the portfolios are for. Why build a portfolio that only you and your teacher sees? You both have already seen your work.

Having to email the portfolio as a file requires that you make a decision about who is going to see it, and/or hope that someone asks you if you have a portfolio to share and provides you with their email address. If your portfolio is online, it may be discovered when someone Googles you; it could be a link on your Facebook, LinkedIn or Blogger profile. Why email an Adobe folder when instead you could include a link to a website in your email signature? Your portfolio is supposed to be exemplary work that you are proud to share as proof of your ability and knowledge and skill. Share it! You worked hard. Show it off!

Even though my grad school did not provide guidelines or platform for online eportfolios last year when I began building, I am happy to see they have ventured that way.

Below, what Sarah shared on her blog (org slide source: Helen Barrett).

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

January 16, 2010

Plans for 2010

It's 2 weeks into the new year and I'm still seeing fellow bloggers publishing their to-do lists for 2010. I am a planner by nature and my 5-year plan only took 2.5 years so I'm behind the 8-ball. I definitely have that, 'OK, now what?" feeling and it is causing me to procrastinate work on my final project for school, simply because I don't know what I'll be doing when I am done.

WebWorkerDaily contributors (a new favorite blog in my Google Reader) have been posting their plans for 2010 and today's post by Nancy Nally's is what inspired me to write mine. I appreciate her post, as well as Simon Mackie's, where they set simple goals to improve their quality of life, professionally and personally. I think that is what is about - improving quality of life. It's not about changing who you are/I am because there is nothing wrong with you/me. It's about taking steps, moving forward and growing. So, here we go.

Getting physical
I'm starting 2010 more physically fit than I started 2009. My daily 3-mile walk on the treadmill plus getting an elevated workstation at work has helped tremendously. I feel less tired at the end of the week. My posture has improved. I simply feel better. The human body is just not meant to sit at a computer desk for 8 hours a day.

This year I'd like to spend more time outside - walking outside for sure, once spring arrives - and spending more time in the yard and less time in front of the computer. The vitamin D and fresh air will do me good, and the bending, squatting and stretching of working in the yard won't hurt either.

Gadgets & toys
For work I want a Macbook. I have already gotten a price from our campus vendor. Just need approval. Sweet.

Last year we looked into getting a camping trailer. If we get the axle on the Jeep fixed, maybe we'd have something to tow one with. So maybe we'll get back to looking at campers.

Social interaction
I'd like to try to add disc golf to my routine. I've played before but never regularly. I'd like to get in with some people who play weekly, who can teach me to play and who are cool to hang out with. If I could play every weekend, that would be awesome. OK, at least twice per month. The point is to do something fun, outside, with cool people.

Professional development
Must. Hit. HEWEB 2010. I love conferences and HEWEB (High Ed Web Association) is one of the best in the country. I must also find a conference to present something on academic medicine, perhaps something on social media use for professional learning networks.

I discussed PhD pursuits with a colleague at work. She is in her 3rd year. Since I cannot financially commit to a program at this time, she suggested I do find a program that interests me, contact the program director and see about taking a few of the required courses. It would help me stay focused on prof dev and it would knock out some credits toward a PhD if I do decide next year to go for it. I think that sounds OK. So the hunt is back on for a program.

Goal setting, for work
I must think about where I am professionally and envision where I'd like to be in five years. Its about creating a need and then filling it. Part of that is committing to staying where I am for another 3-5 years, which is significant commitment. I worry that there isn't enough room for growth in academic medicine. But then again, as I just mentioned, it is about creating a need and then filling it. Can I create a need for myself where I work?

Goal setting, for home
Dammit, this year I am tackling the front yard. Flowerbeds, shrubs, maybe decorative split rail fencing. This is the year. Got to get me a rototiller. Dig up some wild shrubs from the back yard and put them out alongside the steps to the front porch. Put in perennials on either side of the walkway and install a new mailbox.

Do you set annual goals for yourself? How does goal setting affect our self-esteem? our mental health?

January 02, 2010


On New Year's Eve, when someone asked me if I made any resolutions for 2010, I replied no, I am more of a five year plan kind of girl.
The five year plan I made at age 35 took less time to complete than I expected so here I am 2.5 years later needing to set some goals.
I have pretty much ruled out pursuing a doctorate. I simply cannot afford to do it. Not right now anyway, not in this economy with my husband out of work. I did get excited when I read about Harvard's new PhD program in education and my brain was happy to imagine me having a PhD from Harvard hanging on my wall. Imagine.

Although there have been some frustrating moments at work in recent months, it has not been unbearable. Am I getting itchy to do something new? Yes, I cannot deny that. Sometimes I feel like I am driving in the far left lane and people at work are in the middle and right lanes. I'm not driving crazy fast, but am moving a little faster than the pack. This happened at GJCC, too. I have the same feeling I had there about a year before I left that job for the university gig. I have no plan other than to be open to new opportunities.
The need for a salary increase may become more significant in the new year if no work options for spouse materialize when his unemployment runs out. Other than him I have so many friends and relatives who have been in dire straits for that last one or two years. There could be no better thing than to see a significant improvement in the job market this year. I would love to see my hub and many friends go back to work this year. What a sigh of relief it would be if the unemployment rate dropped significantly. Imagine.

Counting down the months until summer vacation at the beach. That 2nd week of June on the Cape has become an important touchstone for me, for us. I look forward to it a great deal. 6 months and 1 week from today we will be packing the truck and driving down to Pretty Penny, our little rental on the dunes, the sun sparkling on the heads of the little seals in the water as the waves move in and away from the beach. Imagine.