Cultures and Learning

September 2, 2013

I found this segment on NPR to be very interesting. It’s about learning cultures east (China, Japan) versus west (U.S.), but it might be helpful as we think about “stress” and “challenge” with our current college students. Struggle can be *good* and I’m concerned about some of our college events that seem to indicate that if things are hard, or challenging, that it indicates that something is wrong. Some of the most important things I’ve ever learned were things that were hard to do – and when I struggled. Like learning the subjunctive in French. Or passing my ancient Greek language course. Or figuring out problems in my oil paintings when I had gotten stuck in a rut.

Struggle – and challenge – is not to be avoided. It sometimes brings about the deepest learning.

How can we teach our students that challenge and struggle can be good?


My Online Teaching Adventure Chronicle

May 29, 2013

I would first of all like to apologize for not posting very often to this blog in the past year. I really don’t have an excuse except to say: Middle States. When I was not teaching, advising, scheduling, I was mired in All That. I have no idea if anyone even follows this lame-o blog anymore, but I am committing myself to write some of my adventures in online teaching to chronicle how that goes.

I am teaching my first online course this summer. It just launched yesterday – May 28. I have about 10 students in it, so it is hardly a MOOC!

The first thing I can say is that teaching online is just a whole different experience than what I’ve heard some people say. It’s not just plopping content online and expecting people to read or watch it. Where is the learning there?

What I know about teaching online so far has come from Steve Kerby’s course about teaching online – best practices. I took that class in March and April and learned a TON. Mostly I learned about how online teaching has to be based on a learning community. This is not that hard for me to understand as I have seen the power of Reacting to the Past – and how that community that is built in playing the games of Reacting create learning. I’m not brave enough yet to try a Reacting game online, but I do want to try that.

During the online class, I stumbled across the Khan Academy’s “Smarthistory” site – which is essentially a web-based textbook for art history with videos about works of art that were recorded ON SITE in the various museums where the works of art are housed, and links to other web resources and text within the site itself. It is all arranged by a timeline of Art History. The site is **fantastic** and is the core of my classroom for this course.

Then, students comment, post, describe, watch, read, listen, write — as part of the class. I have had some very good posts already on Day 2. There have been a few hiccups – one student said she saw a unicorn on the wall of Lascaux. Uh, no. And I’m not sure what image she was looking at so that is hard to discuss. But I’m thinking about how to answer that little problem. So far I’ve asked the students themselves to think about why that might not be right (they are listing everything they see in the cave paintings before suggesting what they mean and I’m hoping the “unicorn” stands out to someone as the UNREAL thing in a list of all real things – horses, lions, bears – oh my).

So. I will continue to chronicle. And if you are still hooked up for updates to this CFE Blog, you’ll get them, too. And if I figure out how to link this to Twitter (I think I got FB figured out), you’ll see it there, too.

Teaching Naked: Jose Bowen

May 2, 2013

The Teaching Naked Guru, Jose Bowen, has recorded at Ted=talk about teaching. Watch it here.

What do you think?

Come on. Take a break from grading and watch it.

I met him at a conference in January and am intrigued by his whole idea. It’s the face to face experience that makes a liberal arts college worth its weight. So how can we make that experience richer for our students? He’s got great ideas.

What are yours?

Is Higher Education “Just Fine”?

October 7, 2012

This article suggests that it is.

As a UVA Alum (M.A. and Ph.D. degrees), it did not feel so healthy this summer. The attempted ouster of UVA President Theresa Sullivan seemed an awful lot like an attempted take-over of higher education by those in the business world. Their feedback is sometimes very useful, but at the time, it seemed like they were making very important decisions. And there was no faculty input.

The entire UVA debacle has led me to question the role of faculty in governance. The UVA faculty united and sent a strong message.

Can we? Or are we not threatened enough at present? Is there no “Clear and Present Danger” as this article suggests? Are we making mountains out of molehills? Thoughts?

Technology and Education

August 13, 2012

I read this essay with great interest today. It is a good reminder about the role of technology in education. Technology – particularly podcasts – are not going to fundamentally change education. Because a podcast, for instance, can convey information, but that is not Teaching. Teaching is not just relaying information. We all know that.

I am a UVA grad (M.A. and Ph.D. degrees) and in part the online course madness led to some serious problems there this summer. I spent a good amount of time this summer rallying the troops to get the Board of Visitors to reverse their decision to force the president to resign because, in part, she was not embracing MOOCs quickly enough.

This piece clarifies for me my role in student learning. To that end, I’m including three library visits that are an integral part of my FYS this fall. No library tour. These sessions are going to get them searching, looking, obtaining, and analyzing books and articles as part of a push for more information literacy/fluency on the part of my students.

The quote from this essay inspires me as I think about starting back in a few weeks:

“Education is not the transmission of information or ideas. Education is the training needed to make use of information and ideas. As information breaks loose from bookstores and libraries and floods onto computers and mobile devices, that training becomes more important, not less.” (Pamela Hieronymi, Chronicle, 8/13/12).

Read the rest of this piece here.

I hope this inspires some of you as we begin a new academic year as educators.

Mid-Career Faculty Member and Stuck?

June 25, 2012

I am sorry that I took such a long hiatus from the CFE Blog – spring semester was a wild ride.

I saw this opinion/advice piece today in and thought it might be a good idea to post it now, during the summer, when some of you, who might be feeling “mid-career stuck” could have a chance to think about the issues you are facing.

I’ve heard from a few about how once tenure is granted, it’s like you fall off the face of the earth. There is a very big shift that takes place. And, recently there was an article about the tremendous dissatisfaction that exists at the associate professor level (you can read about that study here, too).

If you’re finding yourself a bit adrift, check this out for some ideas on how to get “unstuck.”Read this piece and feel free to post a comment about it here for your colleagues.

How Critical is Critical Thinking?

March 1, 2012

If you are not sure that you need to find more ways to teach critical thinking in your classes, you should read this article from University World News.

I have also been reading about information literacy for a workshop I’ll be attending after Spring Break. My goal for that workshop is to find better ways to help my students in ancient world topics (like the Athens game in the FYS) find material, research, and sort through the tons of information out there.

This article and the reading I’ve been doing indicate that students are tuning out some of the information because there is so much of it. Instead of sifting through it – assessing and evaluating sound argument from ungrounded reasoning – they ignore all the but the easiest sounds bytes.

The conclusion of this article states: “In summary, despite the tremendous educational potential of the information age, students seem to be less prepared to critically evaluate information or determine and defend what they believe. Colleges and universities need to find ways to leverage this resource to create the kind of learning demanded by our changing times.”

If you agree that this is so, then we have to find ways to help our students navigate this vast sea of information!