Why Graduation Ceremonies are Important to Me

I've never really been one for pomp, and few circumstances warrant a love for ninety minutes of "Jon Doe, Master of Science in Science of Science Science and Science..." But I decided to walk the walk yesterday, and here's why.

First, a little backstory.

I successfully defended my dissertation in March 2011 and was told at the time that I was then eligible to participate in the commencement exercises that would take place in early May. I said, "Great!" but quickly learned that a successful dissertation defense doth not a graduate make. So, last year's commencement came and went without my presence and I finished my doctoral requirements two busy weeks later. Why celebrate the completion of tasks when those tasks aren't really complete? My diploma came in the mail four weeks later, and my email signature has read "Darren E. Draper, Ed.D." ever since.

Next, more backstory.

One of the most meaningful aspects of graduate work, for me, has been the opportunity that research and deep, concentrated thinking provides to form strong, lasting relationships.

In August 2011, I noticed that a colleague hadn't yet completed his dissertation. Being the strong friend that I was, I took the opportunity to verbally abuse him first. "Quit your slackin' you slacker slack slack!" I then made him a deal that if he finished his dissertation on time, I would walk by his side at the next USU commencement.

At the time I made that deal, there was no way in a million years that he'd ever finish in time to graduate yesterday, so naturally he finished in time to graduate yesterday.

And so I walked.

We weren't twenty minutes into the ceremony yesterday when I remembered why I'd skipped every other similar opportunity to be miserable since high school (an Associates degree at UVU, Bachelors degree at BYU, Masters degree at USU, and an ESL endorsement in between). I also felt guilty for asking my wife, my kids, my parents, and in-laws to attend this grueling event with me; because two hours of crowded boredom can seem like a steep price to pay just to view dad dress up like Dumbledore for 20 seconds of hooding.

In the end, though, I'm really glad I did.

Because I "walked" and my family was there, they were able to see firsthand that some projects really do have an end; that even though the road might be long - and believe me, this one has been long - there's value to setting goals, working to accomplish them, and carrying through to the end. Because I "walked" and my family was there, I was able to thank them in person for their help and support. Yesterday, the words that I wrote in my dissertation's Acknowledgment were real, heartfelt, and expressed.

I would like to thank my committee chair, Dr. Jim Dorward, for his helpful and pointed advice throughout this entire journey. Few know the pain involved in climbing a mountain, but those that have climbed it before.

I also give special thanks to my family and colleagues for their encouragement, support, and patience as I have worked my way up the mountain. I couldn‘t have done it without you, and wonder if my children will ever recognize their father not hunched over his computer while sitting at the kitchen table.
So, I'm glad that I walked the walk. Even though it was nearly a year later. Even though it was boring and long, and even though it was painful for my kids. That's what families are for, and I love them dearly for their support! Here's to the hope that yesterday's experience might aid in inspiring my kids to succeed in school and understand its benefits.

Here's to their eventual, hard-earned, college and career success!

Drape's Recommended iPad Apps

This was a fun email I wrote tonight. If you find these recommendations helpful, all the better.


With Scot wanting to tour my favorite iPad apps yesterday and Hollie asking for recommended math apps today, I thought I'd throw together a quick list for you tonight. Hit delete on your keyboard now if you're not ready for a lengthy email: I won't be offended in the least. :-)

First, the iOS Report that Katie Blunt and others recently created includes dozens of recommendations. I asked them to include specific examples by subject and evidence-based instructional priority and think they've made a solid start. Be sure to use the clickable Table of Contents on page 2 to quickly jump to your interest.

Download here: http://cnyns.org/JwiKj8

Next comes my list. Because I come from a secondary background, these apps are probably best suited for older users - including adult learners - although many are also mentioned in the more elementary-slanted iOS Report.

Some of the apps included below are free, but most are not. Therefore, you can at least rest assured knowing that if I recommend an app here, I've given it a try and found it worthwhile enough to recommend to you. If you'd like to try any of these apps before you buy, you're more than welcome to take them for a spin on my iPad. (Would a list of apps to avoid purchasing be worthwhile to publish on our site?)

To be sure, iOS apps keep getting better and better every day! More to come, if you're interested. Which apps can't you live without?



Drape's Recommended iPad Apps
(Random Order)

iThoughtsHD - Decent mind mapper for brainstorming and thought organization.

iMovie - Very well-designed nonlinear video editor. Easily publish to YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook and elsewhere.

iPhoto - Powerful photo editor and organizer. Great for digital storytelling and organization!

Comic Life, Skitch - Digital storytelling, different apps for different projects and audiences. I also like Skitch for annotating photos, quick note summary of meeting slides.

PDF Pen - Edit PDFs, think of a textbook that is now editable by each student.

GarageBand - Teach music theory and generate a love for music creation and organization. Try it, you'll like it.

360 Panorama - Quickly and easily create panoramas. 2D pictures are so 2011.

Reminders - Now ties to Outlook Tasks (and has replaced ReQall and IMExchange for me with Siri - thanks Paula Logan for the suggestion).

Quick Office Pro HD - Nice alternative to iWork (Pages, Keynote, Numbers). At $20 for the suite, it's $10 cheaper than iWork if you're going to purchase all three, but doesn't yet support the retina display. Ties into more storage providers than iWork. If on a Mac, though, I prefer iWork - mostly because I'm bored to death of PowerPoint.

Noteshelf - Note taking app, with a Cornell template.

Remote - Control Keynote presentations from your phone, allowing you to wander the room. A little buggy, but better than nothing.

Goodreader, Dropbox - De facto storage solutions for iOS.

Star Walk for iPad - Interactive star map, smells better than most astronomy professors.

Google Earth - Interactive map with geographical highlights. I love using this for historical tours.

ArcGIS - Tap into ESRI's online GIS or create your own maps. Also GeoMobile for ArcGIS. 

GeoMeasure - Would've loved to have had this app when teaching geometry! Have students measure the area of a sector in real life (like a football field or section of lawn), verify answers with GeoMeasure.

iTunes U - Now on the iPad. See also Newsstand, iBooks, and iBooks Author!

ShowMe - View and create digital tutorials. Simple, yet very effective for electronic explicit instruction.

SCOtutor for iPad - Free for a limited time, video tutorials on how to use the iPad!

Study Apps:

TIPPS - SAT Prep, not ACT but still decent
ACT Student - Practice ACT questions
Khan Academy - Instructional videos by topic
Wolfram Alpha and most Wolfram Course Assistants - Nice supplements to traditional instruction
Simplepedia for iPad - Wikipedia reader with offline support
Which apps can't you live without?

My Personal Ed Tech Mission Statement

Power On.

Adapted from a conversation held during last week's round of job interviews. Solid candidate, refreshing perspective.

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