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What do bananas, Bonytail Chub, and teaching have in common? Prepare to get my take on life, the universe, and everything…

In my hastily written (and grammatically unsound) post on inclusion, I had two major regrets. The first was the aforementioned text level grammar (my only defense was that I did write it on a phone). The second was that the focus on the importance of inclusion and how it relates to title bias prevented me from talking about a related issue that fundamentally defines my personal world view: Diversity.

I love bananas. They are easy to eat, versatile to bake with, and potassium helps keep my blood pressure regulated naturally. Bananas also served as an important lesson in diversity. Currently, bananas are in danger of extinction. Even though most of the concern is recent, the situation has been long predicted because of the reliance on just a few varieties of the crop. Pre-1950 there were two main varieties in stores. Then Panama Disease devastated the then common Gros Michel variety, which made Cavendish the most likely banana you would purchase in the store today. The lack of diversity in the banana crop made it ripe for an extinction-level problem. There is now a real chance my breakfast of choice won’t be available for the next generation. Foresight into maintaining the diversity of the bananas, even if some of the varieties weren’t as “commercially ideal” as a cash crop, would have resulted in an easier solution to the possibility of extinction.

Bananas in a store (from Pexels image by Kio)
Breakfast is served… for now…

If you haven’t been keeping up on the amazing progress made in science in the last decade, you would be amazed (or horrified) at the godlike possibilities. The good news: those that worry about the human race ending in the next twenty years can take some consolation in the fact that we are a fairly inventive lot, and when push comes to shove can do some incredible things. The bad news: we really work best with templates, and as the banana issue shows, humanity often gets a failing grade in foresight.

Enter the Bonytail Chub, a cute fish native to the Colorado River system. Due to climate change and invasive species this little fellow (and many other native fish species) are also in danger of extinction like my beloved banana. Where the negatives of losing bananas are easy to digest, the negatives of losing the Bonytail Chub (and its many relatives) may not be as clear. Clarity is exactly the problem. Bonytail Chub’s live and thrive in muddy backwaters. Where many fish do best in clean fresh waters, the Bonytail Chub’s ability to live in less than ideal conditions make it unique. Remember how bananas wouldn’t be in their predicament if less ideal varieties had been maintained? With the very real (and aggravatingly rarely talked about) problems of dwindling freshwater supplies and water rights, having a species that contains the genetic puzzle pieces that allow it to thrive in poor water conditions could end up being what is required to save other species (moral questions of genetic manipulation aside).

Image of Bonytail Chub from FWS
Just look at the cute little face…

Bananas and Bonytail Chubs are just two examples showing the importance of diversity in the natural world. Diversity is just as critical in every other aspect of life, including one that most of you reading this might be more familiar with.

Teaching is not a zero-sum game. I spend quite a bit of time every week creating videos for my classes to explain the objectives for the week and recap issues from the previous week. I know from analytics that only a third of my students actually make use of these videos (even less if the videos are too long), but those that do have given me consistent feedback that the videos are a major help to them. In the same respect, some students respond well to written feedback and instructions, and others do best in group work settings. In thirteen years of teaching, I’ve learned that one lecture does not fit all. One assignment or delivery is not the end game. Everyone learns and excels in different ways, so trying to maintain a balance of approaches is important to success. In other words, educational diversity.

Over the last three years of writing on 6×6 I have often eluded to how one of the most important aspects of critical thinking is to be open to new ideas, my hope is that this post will explain my belief structure behind that advice. Simply put: diversity is the answer to almost every problem.

Educational diversity results in higher success rates for students.

Economic diversity fosters resilience during downturns.

Cultural diversity leads to a better more understanding society.

Biodiversity is key to the survival of the planet and the species that reside on it.

So next time you are sipping a cup of tea under a star-filled sky contemplating the meaning of life, the universe, and everything appreciate the fact that there is probably more than one answer and more than one question, and that is a very healthy thing.

 

♫ Community College Dreamin’ ♪

My husband and I found ourselves at In-N-Out Burger last Saturday just before midnight. (We’re old-ish but we occasionally have late nights. Leave it alone.) In all the fun with friends that evening we forgot to eat. And that’s how we found ourselves watching the choreography of the burger-joint food preppers as we waited for “Guest # 29” to be called.

Yep, 11:18pm!

What we saw were employees of all backgrounds united by a crisp uniform and the task at hand – feed hungry (and maybe hangry) late-nighters. What struck me is the buoyant banter and the bounce in their steps. It was like watching a well-timed ballet as they bobbed and weaved around one another. One particular food server had a booming laugh that broke us up every time it peeled out. At that moment, I yelled to my husband, “This is why I love teaching at the community college!”

His puzzled look prompted me to explain. I believe the work of these employees was fueled in part by the dreams they hold for their lives (while making the best French fries in the universe). These workers were young and full of energy and striving. And that is exactly the clientele I have the privilege of teaching every day. I get to spend a good chunk of my life around people who are in the very business of pursuing their dreams.

My late-night In-N-Out epiphany led me to ask the students in my statistics courses to share their dreams with me this week. (I told them I was a “dream catcher” – yuk, yuk!) Their responses did not disappoint, as seen in this sample:

“I want to be a journalist, to learn from the world around me, and share that information with others. I want to make life better for the people around me.”

“I want to help my kids become respectful/successful adults.”

“I dream of the possibility for humans to live in peace with respect for nature.”

“I want to be able to give back to my parents. That is my biggest dream.”

“A dream I have for myself is to become a registered nurse, working in a hospital saving and improving lives.”

“Dream #2: Win the lottery. Not the entire lottery, just enough to pay off all my student loan debt!”

As their professor, I have dreams for them, too. In my courses, I hope my students will engage in learning that sticks. I want them to get slayed (in a good way) by ideas and get hooked into the pursuit of knowledge. I want them to be stunned by new information and come to understandings that help improve their lives. Yes, I dare to dream!

So, the dreams of both teacher and student are inextricably intertwined. I want students to learn things of value, and they want to achieve their life goals. At this intersection is the motivational concept of instrumentality. For students to deeply engage in learning, it helps when they can see the relevance of what they are learning to their own goals.

To tap into their sense of instrumentality for what they are learning in statistics, I also asked my students this week, “How is this statistics course supportive of your dreams?” Teachers of statistics know that this question is not without risk. (To quote Jerry Seinfeld, “That’s a pretty big matzah ball
hanging out there.”) But, their responses were consistently positive. In truth, most students mentioned that this course will help them meet their major requirements, and we discussed how this type of extrinsic motivation is the way of things sometimes. However, some students mentioned more intrinsic value for learning statistics:

“This class helps me not believe every number I see.”

“It gives me the ability to think for myself and question information I am given.”

“It helps me to see the realistic numbers with life and how things are calculated in the real world. So it helps me to open my eyes to new things.”

“This course is helping me figure out how I learn best.”

“This course provides a way of spotting false research. It makes me not take everything at face value.”

“Taking this course supports my dreams by keeping my brain healthy and active!”

How can it not be anyone’s dream to teach at the community college? To be around people day in and day out who are on the cusp of making their dreams a reality. I attended a teaching conference today, and one of the presenters said, “Education is often done to students, not with them.” Having explicit discussions about the dreams and how their courses are useful to them is definitely an example of the latter.

This post is part of the Write 6X6 challenge at Glendale Community College.

The post ♫ Community College Dreamin’ ♪ appeared first on My Love of Learning.

Tough Times Create Tough People

by Dr. Krysten Pampel and Dr. Ashley Nicoloff

In my life as an educator, I have been faced with many difficult situations that were hard for me to navigate. The one that has stuck with me the longest was when I was teaching high school. I had two brothers who were both taking my algebra course, one a freshman and the other a junior. The only day that they both attended my class was the first day of school, from there on out I only ever had one of the brothers. About two weeks into the school year, I approached the older brother to enquire why I only saw him every other day. He chose to be vague and blame illness and bad timing of a family emergency. I didn’t push but I watched for another two weeks as the brother continued their alternating attendance in my class. They were both doing reasonably well in my course and they weren’t hurting anyone but the situation bothered me.

I decided that enough was enough, I needed to get to the bottom of this unusual behavior. I approached the younger brother this time and asked about the unusual attendance pattern. The younger brother explained that they were alternating days to attend because they had two non-school aged siblings at home and their mother was working a second job. They had to alternate attendance in order to make sure that the siblings at home were cared for.

I was astounded that this was the reason but checked with the older brother the next day to confirm the story since I was unable to get the mother on the phone, understandably, in the previous weeks. The older brother asked me to keep this quiet and that he appreciated my willingness to work with him and his brother for the assignments and tests. He admitted to me that they had been doing this alternating attendance for the past two years and he was excited to have his brother in high school so it could work more effectively.

I explained to him that I could not keep our conversation a secret and I would speak with the social worker to see if there could be any support given. It was risking to bring in the social worker since in some cases the students flee the school as a way to avoid the conversations that follow. In this case, I was happy that everything worked out. The school was able to find support for the family so that the younger children could receive care, their mother could work, and both brothers could attend school regularly.

This was a difficult situation for me to navigate but those two brothers were the ones that had “difficult situations.” Those two brothers will forever be a reminder to me that “tough times create tough people.”

 

My Dream Classroom

As I read the prompt this week, I heard the Barenaked Ladies’ song singing to me, “When you dream, what do you dream about?” (I’ve embedded the song below if you need to get this ear-worm in your head.)

Not actual bare, naked ladies. I’ve taken the Title IV training.

My dream classroom is a little far-fetched, but for the sake of the dreamers who dream big dreams out there, here it is!

I teach Communication, so all of my classes have different components and styles of speaking, including Public Speaking and group presentations. One important lesson is adapting to the environment, in our case, the classroom that we’re assigned. This replicates many “real life” public speaking situations where the speaker may not have control over the room chosen for the speech: the keynote speaker didn’t chose the city, the hotel, or the Gray Cliffs conference room where the opening banquet (and speech) will take place, nor did the speaker get to pick the audio visual equipment provided by, or absent from, the venue.

In these ways, adapting to a classroom situation and speaking with the tools available in the conditions available become an important skill for budding speakers. However, one annoyance for me as a Com teacher is the disclaimers we have to make due to the classroom restrictions. Outside of academia, it is rare to speak to a group of people who are each sitting in a desk… in a room not designed for public speaking… at a specific duration of time. These are the challenges my dream classroom would overcome.

In my dream classroom, the room would be magically adaptable to any speaking situation. The classroom could become an auditorium, with theater style seating (and theater-quality projection systems, just for fun!) This would include a formal, raised stage as many presentations take place in environments such as this. Students would then get to practice filling a large space with projected volume OR how to navigate the complexities of using a microphone (handheld, attached to a podium, ominously clipped to a shirt and worn around prior to the actual speech… begging for a comical pre-speech gaff.) Students would learn how to enter and exit from a stage, literally stepping into the spotlight of the audience’s perception. They may have to navigate speaking while professionally lit, where one often cannot see the audience… yet should still appear to connect with them.

Image result for stage
The Stage in An Auditorium: the first speaking location in my magical classroom

But this classroom is magical. (And sure, theater has it’s own type of magic.) It would not only be a stage, because often times, speeches are not performed in such a formal, professional venue.

My magic classroom would also become a Board Room. In the fashion of many Board Rooms, this one would be long and narrow and have artful (yet totally distracting) windows. A Board Room creates new challenges. First, it is an awkward set-up. The long, skinny format means that people in the back are craning around people in the front. If the focus is not the center of the table (and let’s hope you’re not here to table dance), then everyone in the audience, except perhaps the chairperson sitting at the head of the table, must turn their chairs or heads to see the speaker. Board Rooms usually have some sort of audio and maybe even a visual outlet, but for most meetings, these go unused. Therefore, when tasked with turning on this state-of-the-art equipment, most attendees will be pretty helpless, and technical difficulties will arise.

The speaker/student would be tasked with navigating these challenges of a real-life speaking situation. Did the student contact the venue prior to the speech to ask about equipment and set-up? Did the student arrive early to get their presentation loaded (and to allow time for the receptionist to call Duane from IT to come in and figure out how to get this speaker’s portable projector linked to the network and turned on)? Once this technical portion of the speech is running, the speaker must then find ways to connect with an audience in a much more intimate space while also maintaining professionalism and likability. Oh, and landing that client with superb persuasive skills.

Image result for board room
The fist hit on a Google search for “Board Room”: fully equipped with a ridiculously long table, windows to weird portraits, and (probably rarely used) electronics

But my magic classroom wouldn’t be complete without being able to transform into a Banquet Hall. Many speeches occur at special occasions such as weddings, graduations, retirements, and a multitude of awards ceremonies. Usually there is food served at these events. Speaker are tasked with presenting the oral tribute while the audience is tasked with orally ingesting banquet-quality food.

Banquets are usually arranged around the meal. Therefore, tables are usually circular, pre-set with dinnerware, and large enough to accommodate 4-12 diners. Speakers are usually on a stage or dance floor. This set up forces some members of the audience to move their seats or their heads/mouths away from their meal to face the speaker while others are forced to chose between their meal and the speaker while others try to manage eating while listening/watching. Add in formal clothing, and you can see the recipe for potential disaster.

Speakers are competing over multiple distractions and must plan their speeches accordingly. Good speakers manage the distractions by being captivating, epic presenters but also by being aware of timing and appropriateness of the occasion.

Image result for speaking at a banquet
Speaking at a Banquet: usually a task less appetizing than the day-old rolls and generic baked chicken being served

My magic classroom would be able to transition seamlessly from one set-up to another. We could replicate any type of speaking situation students might be preparing for from presenting a sales pitch to a group of investors to leading military training at Boot Camp to being a guest reader at Dr. Seuss Week at your child’s elementary school. My classroom would magically change shape, location, accessibility of equipment, all with the push of a button… or a swish of the wand. Accio, magic classroom. (I had to try.)

But until my magic classroom manifests itself, I will continue to do my best to prepare students for the many challenges of “real-life” speaking situations to hopefully create more aware, diligent, and ready students.

So maybe… the magic of the classroom lies within those of us lucky enough to teach.

I’ve got the magic in me…. and so do you! 🙂
 

Interviewing Tour

The writing prompt for Write 6 x 6 this week asked this question:

What would you love to be able to do to improve yourself in relation to your job or to change your job?

I would love to interview teachers from different professions in MCCCD, the state of Arizona, the U.S. and around the world. I want to talk to teachers who teach higher education, or karate, or piano, or knitting. I want to get a collective sense of why they are teaching , the keys to successful teaching, and what they love most about it. I would love to pull from their experiences and get a sense of what drives them everyday.

I just watched a You Tube video that’s an oldie, but a goodie, from someone known as the Kid President. The videos on this channel never get old, and is usually a good go to when my work week has been crazy and I haven’t had enough time to work on my blog post. In the video Kid President’s Pep Talk to Teachers and Students! He asks a central question I’d ask in all of my interviews: What are you teaching the world?

Have you thought about that? What are you teaching the world? I would love to jump into that question and unpack it with others in an interview. I feel their answer would really inform mine and would help me to grow as a person and as a professional.

 

 

 

celebrating the value of free speech!

*Note: The following was a piece I wrote to highlight the free speech atmosphere on the campus of GCC. After shopping it around for publication on various websites, no one picked it up–I think because it is too positive and in our time negativity sells. I believe it is relevant here in light of our quest for diversity and our desire to have difficult conversations with more light and less heat.

Celebrating the Value of Free Speech!

With the recent release of Dennis Prager and Adam Corrolla’s documentary No Safe Spaces, the American public has again been reminded of the dangers threatening free speech on college campuses.  Considering the examples of Berkeley, Middlebury College, and Evergreen State College, one might be forgiven for thinking that all college campuses are roiling with the desire to quench the free exchange of ideas that are deemed too controversial.  

There is, however, good news to be shared in that there are institutions that choose a different path from closing down free speech and, rather, pursue a path of reasoned discourse.  I participate at one such institution and wanted to share some of the events we sponsor which exemplify a free campus.  This exercise is useful for at least two reasons—celebration and emulation. The free exercise of speech and the open dialogue on complex cultural issues ought to be celebrated by those who long to see such things prevail.  Furthermore, by highlighting specific examples, this provides an opportunity for others to emulate and follow suit with similar types of events and opportunities.

Glendale Community College and Free Expression

Glendale Community College (AZ) in Glendale, Arizona has approximately 20,000 students and is part of the larger Maricopa County Community College District which comprises ten colleges in total. Being situated in Arizona is beneficial in that the laws of Arizona are very conducive and protective of free speech.  The Arizona Revised Statutes even have a bit of rhetorical flourish when they state:

“It is not the proper role of an institution of higher education to shield individuals from speech protected by the first amendment, including, without limitation, ideas and opinions that may be unwelcome, disagreeable or deeply offensive.”

GCC takes this admonition to heart and offers prime opportunities to engage in controversial topics in a civil manner.  Here a few examples from the past few years.

Glendale Community College broaches controversial topics every spring in their panel discussion series, “Critical Dialogues.”  In February 2018 this forum’s topic was entitled “Gender and Sexuality: Current Controversies and the Common Good” with a specific focus on the issue of Transgenderism. This was a controversial topic and it engendered (no pun intended!) a robust time of question and answer. However, at no time was there an attempt to shut down the discussion nor did the event devolve into the incivility of the “heckler’s veto.”  

Our last Critical Dialogues event examined the issue of religious freedom and civil rights in relation to the issue of gay marriage.  The 2019 Critical Dialogues panel was appropriately titled “Religious Freedom and Civil Rights: Balancing Competing Claims in the Courts and the Public Square”.  In light of the Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges legalizing same-sex marriage the issues surrounding religious freedom came to the fore in a number of cases around the country.  Glendale Community College invited participants from both sides of the divide on this controversial issue.  Alessandra Soler (the Arizona Executive Director for the American Civil Liberties Union) and  Jonathan Scruggs (Senior Counsel and Director of the Center for Conscience Initiatives with Alliance Defending Freedom) were our featured guests with other faculty and staff filling out the panel. The timeliness of this topic was seen in that just the previous month prior to the panel discussion, Jonathan Scruggs had argued on behalf of religious freedom and artistic free expression before the Arizona Supreme Court in the case Brush & Nib Studio v. City of Phoenix.  The relevant issues were, again, discussed in a civil manner with no one attempting to shut down the dialogue.

It was ironic that the same month that GCC was holding its Critical Dialogue panel, the Yale Law School was experiencing controversy over a similar type of speaking event. The Yale Federalist Society had invited a lawyer from Alliance Defending Freedom to come and speak about the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights CommissionSupreme Court decision.  This caused a number of student groups to call for a boycott of the event.  This did not speak well for their commitment to free speech and the free exchange of ideas.  Glendale Community College has chosen a different path in approaching controversial cultural issues—a path of civil dialogue and freedom of expression.  

The promotion of free speech is found not only in what GCC promotes but also in what it allows on the campus from outside voices.  In October 2018 the Center for Bioethical Reform( CBR) came to GCC for two days sponsoring their Genocide Awareness Project.  This consisted of huge billboards of, at times, graphic photographs of the aftermath of abortions which are thematically linked to other acknowledged instances of genocide.  Although the display was controversial to many, the administration of GCC, under the leadership of the president of the college, Dr. Teresa Leyba Ruiz, upheld the right of CBR to be on the campus.  Nor was there any attempt to stipulate an artificial “free speech zone” like other campuses have done.  Rather, the most prominent place on the campus mall was used by CBR and there were two days of peaceful interaction and education.

The Need for Vigilance

The culture of free expression and civil disagreement is healthy at Glendale Community College. This is partly a function of the laws enshrined in the Arizona statutes as well as the legal precedents handed down in defense of the Maricopa County Community College District.  For example, in a 2010 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit—Rodriquez v. Maricopa County Community College District—these powerful words are found:

“Without the right to stand against society’s most strongly-held convictions, the marketplace of ideas would decline into a boutique of the banal, as the urge to censor is greatest where debate is most disquieting and orthodoxy most entrenched.  The right to provoke, offend and shock lies at the core of the First Amendment. This is particularly so on college campuses.”  

Laws and legal precedent are necessary but not sufficient.  There is always the need for vigilance.  There must continue to be a firm commitment to freedom on the part of individuals who inhabit our institutions of higher learning.  As Alan Charles Kors and Harvey A. Silverglate remind us, “Freedom dies in the heart and will before it dies in the law.”  It is for this reason that institutions like Glendale Community College with their commitment to the free exchange of ideas ought to be celebrated and emulated.

 

You may say I’m a dreamer

For a few minutes, John Lennon was my brother. It all started when I bought a John Lennon t-shirt a few years back. When I looked in the mirror, I thought, “I look just like John Lennon!!! He could be my half-brother!”

I knew my dad had docked in Liverpool during World War II as a Merchant Marine. That fact alone was enough to fuel my claim to John as my sibling. Since Ancestory.com became popular, I had been yearning for some drama in my boring family tree. And this was it. What an amazing story I created in a matter of moments. Never mind any known facts about John’s family history, my dreams of finding a long-lost sibling had come true. And no one actually involved in this fabricated paternity situation was still alive to prove me wrong. Who needs DNA?

Me and John. Imagine if we had known each other. My life would have been so different…Imagine. No wonder his lyrics spoke to my heart…he was my big brother!

Then I did the math. John was born in 1940. That was years before my dad’s ship tied up in Liverpool. My dream dissolved before my eyes. Reality can be so disappointing.  

Maybe that’s why we have dreams. Dreams remind us to imagine.

Liverpool docks. Thinking of you, Dad. Imagine. For a moment, you were the father of the Beatles.
 

reflections on student engagement–Part three

In my previous two posts, I focused on the theory and structure of the Student Engagement Staff position created less than two years ago in the Philosophy and Religious Studies department.  In implementing the program we chose to take a two-pronged approach that focused on (1) Classroom presentations and (2) Individual student assistance.  In this post, I will focus on the classroom aspect and its impact.

Classroom

Recognizing that many students are unaware of the many resources for student success available on our campus, I put together a 15-presentation that would introduce students to some of these resources as well as acquaint them with my role as Student Engagement Staff.  I have been modifying the list of resources we highlight in these presentations each semester but the list of resources we used this semester was as follows:

  • Advisement:  I always ask how many of the students have ever seen an advisor and I am amazed at how many have never seen an advisor on our campus.  I stress the need to be connecting with an advisor every semester they are here.
  • Basis Needs Support Site: This is the relatively new link which highlights access to resources regarding food, housing, safety, transportation, and paying for college.  I stress the fact that, although there are all sorts of issues outside of the campus that can get in the way of your education, there are resources available on this campus and through this campus that can potentially help.
  • Disability Resources and Services (DRS): I make quick mention of DRS and the kinds of issues they can help with in students’ lives. 
  • Brainfuse Online Writing Lab: I provide a step-by-step tutorial on how to access this resource and how to use it to produce better papers.  By taking the time to go over this tool I’m attempting to do a number of different things—(1) Give the students an immediate takeaway resource they can begin to use, (2) create the potential for students to become better writers, and (3) help professors by making it easier on them when they have to grade the writing of their students!  I know of at least one professor outside of the Philosophy and Religious Studies department that invites me to his classes just so his students have access this to training on this resource.
  • Raise Me Micro-scholarships: I end with this resource and explain that they may qualify for some monies from four-year institutions simply based on the work they do here at GCC.  (If you are not familiar with Raise Me I would encourage you to check out this link and click the “Student Overview Tutorial.”)  I like to tell students about one student on our campus who has qualified for $32,000.00 from a participating institution in another state.  I, then, like to ask, “Based on what I told you about Raise Me, how many of you think you might create a profile?”  Usually, 80-90% of the hands are raised.

I recognize that there are a myriad of other resources on our campus for the promotion of student success.  I have chosen these resources in consultation with others to respond to the twin issues of urgency and immediacy—some of the resources may be urgently needed at some point (e.g., food issues) and others can have an immediate pay-off (e.g., the online writing lab).

Presentation Impact

We have been excited to see the reach and impact of these presentations.  For the spring 2019 semester, I was able to present in 23 classes with a total of 353 students.  In the fall 2019 semester, I was in 34 classes with a total of 776 students.  This semester, spring 2020, I was able to present in 39 different classes to a total of 691 students. 

Semester Classes Students
Spring 2019 23 353
Fall 2019 34 776
Spring 2020 39 691

A further development has been the expansion of these presentations beyond the Philosophy and Religious Studies department.  I have also presented in classes in the Mathematics, Psychology, and the Public Safety Sciences departments.

We have also seen some good trends in those metrics we can track.  At the beginning of the fall 2019 semester (August), there were 280 Raise Me profiles.  After presenting in 34 classes to 776 students the number of Raise Me profiles on January 8, 2020, was 711!  As of this week, there are over 865 Raise Me profiles that have been created by students.  Of course, my presentations are not the sole cause of this increase in profile creation, but we do have confirmation that a number of students have created profiles in response to the presentations—I’ve even had students create a profile while I was presenting!

Another area we have seen an increase of activity concerns the online writing lab use through Brainfuse.  Going back to figures from the school-year 2017/2018 in which there was a pre-Brainfuse electronic writing lab, there were 320 uses—remember, that is for two semesters.  After the spring 2019 semester, there were 222 uses of the Brainfuse online writing lab.  After the fall 2019 semester, there were 327 uses—which is more than the entire school year of 2017/2018. 

As excited as we are to see the scope and impact of the classroom presentations, we are even more enthusiastic about the individual lives we have been able to help.  In my next post, I will detail some of these stories.

 

A Blog Post About Nothing

I seriously can’t think of a damn thing to write about, so this is a blog post about nothing. This could be a sign of burn out or maybe I’ve lost my motivation. Motivation to write that is. I still want to live. 🙂 I’ve seemingly written about everything already over the past 20 years. That’s how long I’ve been blogging. My freshmancomp.com self-hosted blog was started in 2006 when I transferred over to GCC from SMCC, but I blogged on Blogger before that. It’s fun to go back and read what was so important to me back then in old posts. The very first post to this blog was about whiteboards in October of 2006, thirteen years ago. I wrote:

I’m teaching a developmental writing course here at GCC, and unfortunately I have no access to technology in the class itself besides my shiny white boards, overhead projector from 1950, and a vcr/dvd combo and television. This of course is no reflection on the college; it’s just a this is what’s left situation.

Ha! I remember this vividly. I was a temporary one-semester transfer, and I got stuck in a classroom in the CL building. I really didn’t know what to do with myself in that room. Luckily I was able to sneak over into HT1 often enough to salvage the semester.

As I reflect back and peruse other posts, one thing stands out about my posts. They are always about technology and teaching. In 2007 I blogged about using del.icio.us, Ning social network, Bedford Bibliographer and podcasting. Wow! Does anyone remember any of those things? Well, I guess podcasting is still around, but the rest are dead and gone. Good thing I’m not dead and gone although I do feel pretty old sometimes. Podcasting is still around, but the technology we used “back in the day” has definitely changed. Check this out.

I’ve been experimenting with flash players for my weekly podcasts in my freshman composition courses. This one from MyFlashFetish.com was pretty cool. I’ll paste the code into the course blog and see how students like it.

I wish I could say they liked it, but to be honest they probably couldn’t care less. Anyway, that website is certainly gone. I still podcast or create audio for my student, but today I use Soundcloud to host my podcasts. Anywho, I’ll end this rambling with a shoutout to two of my favorite podcasts on Soundcloud.

Shoutout to my girls in the CTLE – Two Profs in a Pod
This is my JRN203 Students’ Podcast: The Weekly Gauchos. Some are better than others.
New-season starts Friday.

The perfect stats

By Dr. Krysten Pampel and Dr. Ashley Nicoloff

One of my favorite classes that I get to teach every semester is my statistics course. Usually people hear statistics and give me a “ew” face. I love it! I love the content and seeing how my students grow in their capacity to interpret data. Unfortunately it is only a 3 credit course and I feel like I am always behind starting day one. I would love to have more time for material, examples and projects. Statistics is so applicable to everyday life and I would love to delve in with more hands-on examples and experiences for my students. If I could reimagine my classroom, I would see students going and collecting data, interpreting it and then giving a presentation of what they found to the class. Instead of using just a calculator to run the data, we would use statistical software so we could run larger data sets. 

Desmos has some cool applications for graphs and if I had the time, my class could spend the whole time playing around with the graphs to truly understand what a normal distribution is, what a scatter plot looks like and how we calculate the line of best fit. This is what I picture if I had no time restraints. Now, I know that it is great to dream, but I know that I cannot have this type of classroom. I try to bring in certain aspects that I have imagined as stated previously, but in small little pieces.  I try to liven up the class conversations by discussing current topics that are happening each semester ie. sports statistics, different hypothesis tests that they have seen on TV or even margins of error when voting is discussed . (This semester we talked about the upcoming Census 😉 ). I hope that by the end of the semester that my students leave with a basic knowledge of how to read and interpret research articles and love statistics just a little bit more than when they began the semester!