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Entries in Cameron Romney (3)


End of the year ‘spring’ cleaning

By Cameron Romney

One of my favorite Japanese New Year’s traditions is the end of the year cleaning. It’s a great way to review the year and get organized for the next one. My cleaning extends beyond just my house and office, but also to my computers. I make sure to back-up all of my files and reorganize and clean out all of the worksheets, handouts, homework, assignment, etc. that I created throughout the year. It is amazing to me just how much data I create in a year.

One of the big problems that I have with data is that I use more than one computer. I have a computer on my desk at work, one at home, a laptop and of course the computers in the various classrooms and computer labs that I teach in. The problem is keeping the data on all of these computers in sync. I’ve used all sorts of methods, emailing documents to myself, carrying around USB flash drives, but these solutions are not perfect. For example, if I make changes to a document at home then I have to email it back to work and keep track of which version is the latest. The big problem with USB flash drives is forgetting them. I can’t tell you how many times I have walked into class only to realize that I left the drive on my desk, or worse, at home.

This year I started using a cloud computing solution. Basically this means that any documents that I am using on more than one computer are stored both locally and ‘in the cloud’ on the internet. I am able to access these documents from any internet connected computer. I can then make changes and when I hit ‘save’ the document is updated on all of my computers. It has proven to be an excellent solution.
My first attempt at cloud computing was with an Apple Mobile Me account. There were some nice features, but I found the service to be quite slow. It took a long time to upload and update documents to the cloud. Currently, I am using the excellent Drop Box service. It is secure, easy to use, fast and the first 2 GBs of storage are free. I highly recommend it.

If you would like to try Drop Box, and see how much cloud computing can improve your work efficiency, you can get an extra 250 MBs of storage by signing up via a referral. Remember that accounts are free up to 2 GB and by using a referral you can increase your space. Click this link to create a Drop Box account today and get an extra 250 MBs of storage in the cloud.


How I use QR codes in the classroom

By Cameron Romney

Over on the EdTech blog, Kimberly talks about Quick Response (QR) codes and how she uses them in the classroom. QR codes are something that I have been using for years and is something that I have talked about before (you might have seen one of my presentations about it at Tech Day), so I thought I would post something here on the Osaka JALT blog about them as well.

Hands down my favorite use of a QR code in the classroom is to give the students the answers to their homework. In many of my classes I give the students a handout that has extra activities for in class on the front and a homework assignment on the back. Of course, with hundreds of students each week, I couldn’t be checking each assignment myself and I didn’t want to leave the students in the dark. I was tempted to give the students another handout with the answers, but that just seemed like a waste of paper. I also thought about writing the answers on the board, but that seemed like a huge waste of class time and I don’t think my arm would be up to writing the same answers again and again for each section I was teaching. Instead, I create a QR with the answers embedded right in the code and put it on the top of the next week’s homework assignment. Students can scan the code with their cell phones and check their answers at their leisure.

This system has worked out great. I have avoided using extra paper and kept my blackboard free for class activities. My favorite QR code generator is Kaywa. Just select the ‘text’ radio button and start typing. When you are finished, chose the size that you want and click ‘generate’. A QR code will appear on the screen; right mouse click it, copy and paste into your document. It’s that easy. Keep in mind that the more you type, the denser the code will be and students might have trouble scanning it if your copy machine doesn’t make clear copies.

Below is what one of my handouts looks like:


Teacher burnout and weight loss

By Cameron Romney

In the current issue of the Language Teacher (Nov/Dec 2010), Joseph Falout writes another great article about motivation, specifically about some of the psychological pressures facing non-Japanese teachers working in Japan and how these pressures lead to burnout.

He begins the article by giving the reader a laundry list of some of the problems that Non-Japanese teachers face while living and working in Japan. Some of these problems include “work in insecure and uncertain contexts” and “high stakes testing goals and rigid curricular policies” (p. 27) and even workplace “bullying and mobbing” (p. 30).

His list, for me, is unfortunately all too familiar; reading through it was like looking in a mirror. Everything that he listed I have experienced. Not on his list is the most demotivating kind of incident that I have experienced – a lack of respect from the students. This comes in many forms, from the direct, like having a students say to me, “I hate English, I hate this class and I hate you” to more subtle, like a student bringing a pillow to class to make his naptime more comfortable.

The most disturbing is when students intentionally make fun of me. Maybe it’s just an Osaka thing; there are so many comedians here. Nevertheless, it always happens in Japanese and usually early in the semester before the students find out that I understand what they are saying. For example, on the first day of class in April this year, I walked in and student said, in a loud voice for the benefit of his classmates, “Wow! Look at the teacher. He is so fat! He’s definitely got metabo (metabolic syndrome). He must eat at McDonald’s everyday!”

Of course what the student said was correct, I do suffer from metabolic syndrome, I was obese and I did regularly eat at McDonalds, but no one likes to hear directly, especially not in a comic tone of voice. However, these comments inspired me to lose weight and I am happy to say that after seven months I have lost nearly 20 kilograms (44 pounds).

I will continue to struggle with my weight and I hope to lose even more in the coming months. So, all I can say to Masahiro is… by being a complete jerk you’ve motivated me to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle. So, thank you... I guess. Oh and you still fail you cheeky bugger. Good luck in the repeaters class next year.