Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Why we don't change as instructors: data vs. emotion

Mary Ellen Weimer writes provocative things about teaching.  Here is one of her articles:

Here she is dealing with one of my favorite topics, faculty resistance to improving teaching even when we know there are better ways.  As one of her sources states, faculty approach faculty development the way our students approach learning in the classroom, although we fuss about how students do that.  I saw myself there.  See my post above on my current online learning experience.   

Monday, June 19, 2017

Academic Freedom, Marble Statues, and General Insanity

OK.  Is is getting to the point that anyone who says anything publicly gets death threats?  What exactly is a death threat?  (A generally, "You should die for your viewpoint" or "I know where you live and work and am coming there to kill you soon"?)

So, interesting article below from Inside Higher Ed about a common fact, a conclusion about that fact, the publication in popular media about that conclusion, and the response from people who take things too seriously.  Yes, everyone who has ever taken a humanities course knows the Greeks and Romans painted their statues.  But . . . does that mean they weren't racist? (are you serious?)  Does that mean that the beauty of white marble (which would have been normalized by the Renaissance and Baroque artists, not the 18th century) is a white supremacist statement?

If racism is only framed as black (African, dark-skinned) vs. white (Northern European, pink skin toned) then the discussion is over.  There are other "phenotypes" who have historically hated each other and tried to kill the other off.  Racism is far bigger than one country's historical struggle with slavery.  Not to minimize that; it is the U.S.'s unique and tragic problem and legacy. It just isn't the only instance of racism in world history.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Shout-out to ed2go

This summer I am engaging in two significant professional development activities.

I am going to get certification as a Quality Matters reviewer.  For those who don't know, that is an organization that credentials online courses.  It's about time, since I was an early adopter (1998) of online teaching.  My institution pays for most of it. 

Secondly, I am taking four courses with ed2go, which is affiliated with Cengage (Pearson) on teaching English as Second Language.  Right now I am taking two of them concurrently.  They are well done; not exactly graduate level, of course, or even undergrad, but informative and well designed. The assignments are easy, but the readings are at the right level for both a lay person and a professional with advanced degrees, as am I.

These are not without costs, but I found them very reasonable.  I had taken an ed2go class on epublishing several years ago.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Another Reason for College Instructors to Stay Off Social Media

From my go-to of the day, (along with Christianity Today), Inside Higher Ed:    

(I realize it is better to "hide" the link under a word but I want this to be transparent.)

My take on this:
1.  I tend to side with the student, for once, although she is only 49% right overall.
2.  The instructor lost my support when she went to social media.  Cardinal rule of teaching:  Never, ever, ever discuss classroom issues on social media.  It violates privacy, it will bite you on the butt,  it's nobody's business, and it makes the instructor look childish.   

Friday, May 26, 2017

How to Melt Snowflakes--or maybe harden them up

Good interview of a person I just learned about.  This is the kind of Republican and republican we need.  Not whatever passes for one in Washington now.


The other day one of my students was talking about his job at Walmart.  He said customers bring their dogs into Walmart all the time.

"You mean service dogs, right?" I tried to clarify.

"No, just dogs.  I just leave them alone," he answered. 

"Are you serious?" I asked.

"Walmart just lets them, and we leave them alone.  I'm not getting in trouble over someone's dog."

I was flabbergasted.  What are these people thinking?  Why would you think bringing a dog into a grocery store is your right or need?

First, I grew up when dogs, except for what was called "seeing-eye dogs" never went anywhere.  Second, dogs are not all house-trained and might go when they feel the urge.  Yuck.  Who gets to clean that up?  Third, children often walk up to dogs they don't know and get friendly--they shouldn't but they do.  As the owner and daily walker of a pitbull, I am extremely vigilant about children who have not been trained that all dogs are not sweet puppies and they should give strange dogs a wide berth.  Fourth, dogs are still ultimately wide animals; yes, they are thousands of years removed from wolves, but they are still genetically very, very, very close.  They sometimes just do crazy, wild things.

Even more, can these people not live without their dogs for the time it takes to go into Walmart (which, admittedly, can sometimes be long and is never pleasant, for people or dogs?)

But . . . now I have been told that students can bring pets to class not because of a clear disability (I had such a student last year, and her beautiful dog was a joy to behold), but because of a need for comfort. 

Add to this the most bizarre article I've read on Breakpoint in a while: Dog boomers 

I truly am afraid that not just the twenty-somethings but older people are becoming totally unable to cope with life and find alternatives that would have been scoffed at forty years ago.  Self-medicating, not being able to go anywhere without a pet, trigger warnings, seeing offense in everything, microagressions.  Is it going to get worse or are we going to get real?

I read that 28 Coptic Christians were killed today in Egypt.  Yet Americans have to have their puppies with them all the time.  Nowhere have I ever been so confronted with the differences in the West and the rest of the world. 

I'm going to write my Compassion Child in Rwanda now and be reminded of reality.

The Socratic Method and Getting in Trouble as a Professor

Excellent article in Inside Higher Education, which I read more than The Chronicle of Higher Education simply because IHE comes to my box everyday for free, but I also find the articles valuable.

This writer works in the same system I do and I know his situation.  I also have had the same kind of thing happening.

Sometimes when we play "devil's advocate" we are both trying to challenge critical reflection and expressing a viewpoint, or a half-way one.  I had a student skewer me on a student evaluation a few years back because I had the nerve to suggest that being a stripper was not a good career choice for women.

What I get from this is the granularity and care we must take with our language.  I am very guilty of letting my subconscious speak.  Sometimes this serves me well with some amazingly creative insights.  Other times I put my foot in it, and I'm not talking about my mouth.

At the same time, I agree with his syllabus disclaimer, and it should be common practice.  The students must be clearly told that their perception of a racist or sexist or otherwise offensive comment may be totally and only their perception and based on their own experiential biases. I will be doing that for my next f2f syllabus. 

It is odd to me that we encourage the students to express their own viewpoints and allow them to do so  but they would get upset in a discussion if the instructor does it, assuming the instructor (and this is important) frames it as his/her viewpoint and not as absolute, finalized truth.  Such a reaction on their parts is both a function of their immaturity and the snowflake condition, which is my next post.