Just read a cool article on parenting by Marcia Angell in the New York Review of Books: Why Be a Parent?
Posted at 08:35 AM | Permalink
Many thanks to my new faculty colleagues for a great first day together.
Here are some resources related to our syllabus workshop you may find useful.
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In my next post, I will begin sharing some of the Project Joy participants' ideas about how we could invest as an institution to support and promote the excitement generated when we asked each other what we love about teaching and learning.
syllabus quiz (sample syllabus)
week one and questions throughout semester
highlighting key ideas from readings
highlighting student discussion forum contributions
practicing / developing skills
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Welcome New Colleagues!
I am thrilled to have this opportunity to talk about teaching and learning with you. I hope our time together will help us develop syllabi that reflect who we are and provide powerful student success guidance for our students.
Here are some of the toys we will play with during our time together:
Powerpoint: Download Syllabusworkshop
Apparently, I am not the only one trying to re-imagine the classroom space to make it a richer learning environment (surprise, surprise!). Touring the web, I have found some inspiring images about the possibility for transforming onsite teaching and learning spaces, and I have compiled some of the most compelling images into this Google presentation: The 21st Century Classroom?
In particularly, two interesting models for designing classrooms that use different chair/desk configurations and technology integration seem to have emerged that look to me to have tremendous potential.
One, which the University of Minnesota seems to be spearheading, is the Active Learning Classroom Model. And here is Berkeley's variation to this theme For a discussion of these classroom innovations designed for the general public, check out an interview from Here and Now about Active Learning Classrooms.
The second approach, which MIT seems to be leading the charge on, is called Technology Enabled Active Learning.
Both models seem to focus on more interactive chair and table configurations (some with multi-modal possibilities) and integrated technology (multiple projection units/screens in the room, lap tops and other small computers at desks, integrated recording and video technology, etc.).
And here is a brief youtube video I believe the folks at the University of Minnesota put together.
Posted at 12:04 PM | Permalink
Here are some resources for colleagues working on their English 100 Syllabi.
1. The official Course Outline of Record
2. The handout with all of the elements from the COR that you must include in your 100 Syllabus
3. A sample syllabus that includes the required elements from the COR.
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the COR and/or your English 100 Syllabus
"Equiano's Nativity: Negative Birthright, Indigenous Ethic, and Universal Human Rights"
Early American Literature
Volume 48, Issue 2: 399-424.
This scholarly journal article analzying Equiano's Interesting Narrative enhanced my ability to contextualize early American literary texts through three lenses: indigenous studies, religion, and Enlightenment political philosophy. In this sense, the piece contributed to my teaching skills in both my American Literature and American Studies courses, and I have used ideas from this piece in both classes during this academic year when teaching works not only by Equiano but by other early American writers ranging from Samsom Occom and John Winthrop to Anne Bradstreet and Mary Rowlandson.
I have long taught students to pay attention to Equiano's appeals to Christian idealism as a way of challenging slavery through Anglo-Europeans own moral system. So Ben Svi's ideas were not particularly new for me on this level, but I did appreciate the passages he chose to analyze and will be including some of those in my own teaching to students about this text in the fall.
Ben Zvi's contextualizing of Equiano within the tradition of indigenous studies suprised and impressed me. (although I do like the passages he chose to highlight and his interpretation of them). But what I had not thought of before was contextualizing Equiano within the tradition of indigenous studies. I have long considered the Valladoid debate between Juan Gines De Sepulveda and Bartolome de Las Casas a crucial moment in early American history, but I had not considered the parallels between Equiano's argument nearly two hundred years later and the logic developed and presented in the Valladoid debate. Like Las Casas, Equino repudiates the label of barbarians by associating Eboe and African culture with the Christian idealism articulated early in the colonial process by Las Casas. And like Las Casas, Equiano argues that those who brutally impose slavery upon a people are themselves the cultural and theological "barbarians."
As I read up on the Valladoid debate to better understand Ben Svi's essay, I rediscovered a site I have long been impressed by put together by the amazing Edward Gallagher at Lehigh University: The Literature of Justification. This text provides scholarly essays and primary texts that provide vital context to understanding how Europe justified its theft of indigenous peoples and lands.
Another helpful moment in this Ben Zvi's article comes when he compares Equiano to Samson Occom: again, a move I had never thought of before. He writes that "Equiano might never have met Occom, but both writers were associated witht he same evangelical milieu, and both treat rights and liberty as universal Christian imperatives." Because we also read Occom in my American literature class, I will definitely explore this connection with my students this fall.
Posted at 10:54 AM | Permalink
"The Balcony and the Street: Gender, Virtue, and Politics in George Caleb Bingham's Antebellum America"
Wynne Walker Moskop
June 2013: Volume 65, Number 2. 243-270.
Moskop's article -- organized around a close study of George Caleb Bingham's 1855 painting The Verdict of the People-- modeled for me the kind of interdisciplinary approach to American Studies I believe is essential for the development of our Humanities based American Studies course. At most colleges, American Studies stands alone as its own department, but at MiraCosta, we teach American Studies as part of our Humanities program. This imposes a burden to present the history of American visual and performing arts in a way that most American Studies courses do not need to address.
In its exploration of the connections between the paintings of George Caleb Bingham and the great reform movements of the first half of the nineteenth century (women's movement, temperance movement, and anti-slavery movement), this piece practices exactly the kind of approach we need to organize our American Studies courses at Miracosta around. For this reason, I not only began to immediately apply ideas from this piece in my American Studies classes this year, but I also found inspiration in this essay for a fundamental shift in how we approach humanities based American Studies, a shift that characterizes the two new course outlines of record I composed this year for our American Studies classes.
Moskop's piece also encouraged me to visit some key terms and critical resources on colonial and 19th century women's issues:
The Cult of True Womanhood (or Domesticity)
Posted at 10:56 AM | Permalink
"Just in Time" Curriculum for the Basic Writing Classroom
Teaching Engish in the Two-Year College
Volume 4`: Number 2, December 2013: 118-134
Sullivan advocates for advancing high achieving basic students more rapidly through the composition sequence by allowing these students to earn credit for the next course in the sequence by completing a department approved accelaration assignment during the last four to six weeks of the semester.
Sullivan's piece gave me three sets of useful ideas: 1) a clear overview of the pedagogical and political parameters of the acceleration discussion, 2) a reminder about the importance of motivation in academic achievement, and 3) a detailed discussion of his "Lens and Artifact" writing assignment, a tool I hope to incorporate in my own courses.
I like Sullivan's proposal very much, and I agree with his enthusiasm for how the debate over the success rates for students in our developmental courses challenges faculty and educational leaders in important and productive ways. I remain concerned, however, about draconian political responses that may result in excluding people from college without providing the kinds of alternative learning environments those students will need to progress toward economic security and personal happiness. That last phrase may make some people uncomfortable, but I am old school on this one. I believe a college education empowers people in ways that transcend simple economic opportunity.
I also like the resources Sullivan's piece introduces. I have created links to a few of them below:
Hern, Katie. "Acceleration across California: Shorter Pathways in Developmental English and Math." Change May/June 2012. Online.
Connecticut Legislation Relate to Acceleration:
Sullivan's proposal also reminds me of the importance of motivation in student success in developmental courses (or any course for that matter!). He has written about this concept of motivation before ("A Lifelong Aversion to Writing: What If Writing Courses Emphasized Motivation?"). The potential to complete two courses in one semester has obvious motivational benefits for Sullivan's students, and I suspect this played a major role in the success of the students he tested his acceleration assignment upon. But on a larger level for me, the question of motivation is at the heart of a required transfer course like English 100 as well. How can I construct assignments that students want to complete--assignments they find engaging and beneficial. That is a question I constantly ask myself. Most recently, I have responded to that question by shifting the focus of my English 100 to ideas about work and the relationship between work and a college education. So far, I have seen significant progress in student engagement but I need better tools for direct and anonymous student feedback to help me continue to refine and evaluate these new assignments. How can I find out what students really think about my assignments via an anonymous tool that I can make sure they actually complete? Voluntary surveys do not give me the comphrehensive views I need have an authentic understanding of where my students are in terms of motivation and my class. So I will keep exploring and experimenting.
The Lens and Artifact Assignment
Sullivan's idea of having students apply one text to another--examine what one text says in terns of what another text says--strikes me as a superb tool for final assessment of the 100 level transfer writer. While I have not completely shifted one of my three key writing assignments to this lens and artifact model yet (students do apply course readings to their own experiences and their own experiences and beliefs to a full-length text) I use this approach frequently to structure classroom activities, blog posts, and the student's blog portfolios. I hope to eventually find a way to link one of my three core papers more effectively to the Lens and Artifact assignment model because I think such a model would be a good tool for our department to explore as a vehicle for SLO evaluation.
Sometimes re-imagining the discussion space--moving it from inside to outside your course or learning management system can open up the discussion and elevate engagement. Here are a few ideas that might help unleash your own creative powers:
Posted at 09:49 AM | Permalink
Presented today to MiraCosta's Learning Is for Everyone (LIFE) group. They were an amazing audience that transformed my "lecture" from something pedestrian to something exhilirating. Thanks to all who attended and to the group for inviting me.
This year we mark the 194th anniversary of Whitman’s birth (May 31, 1819) in the context of the 150th anniversary of many Civil War related events. With these American cultural landmarks in mind, this talk will explore Whitman’s epic "Song of Myself" and his powerful and moving meditations on the Civil War.
In it Maeda offers an explanation for the relationship between art and design that I found intriguing and inspirational. Arguing that the distinction between the two is vital, Maeda elaborates upon the distinction:
"Designers create solutions – the products and services that propel us forward. But artists create questions — the deep probing of purpose and meaning that sometimes takes us backward and sideways to reveal which way “forward” actually is. The questions that artists make are often enigmatic, answering a why with another why. Because of this, understanding art is difficult: I like to say that if you’re having difficulty “getting” art, then it’s doing its job."
Moving on from this defintion to an argument about Steve Jobs as this kind of artist (doesn't really work for me, but what do I know?!), Maeda then elaborates on his definition of art with two ideas that I find very compelling:
"But when we manage to shed our stereotypes of artists as psychologically unstable, we get to see what an artist really is: someone who often exchanges his own welfare and even his life for a cause that may have no meaning to anyone else, but means everything to him or her.
"In other words, an artist is truly in it for themselves – not just for reasons of wanting to get rich, or get famous, or find a path to comfort. The artist needs to understand the truth that lies at the bottom of an enigma."
And finally this on the artist and the economic context in which she / he must create:
"Art speaks to us as humans, not as “human capital.” Art shows us that human beings still matter in a world where money talks the loudest, where computers know everything about us, and where robots fabricate our next meal and also our ride there. Artists ask the questions that others are afraid to ask and that money cannot answer."
I quote Maeda at length because I was struck by how what is basically an homage to Steve Jobs can sound so much like a spot on description of Thoreau and his writing. As I mentioned before, I do not buy the Job's side--I think he gets too much credit for what has actually been an extraordinary collective creation (like Edison taking so much credit--and profit--for and from the work of others)--but I love how aptly Maeda's language describes what Thoreau sounds like to me at his best.
I have always been pretty sceptical about arguments over the difficulty of authenticating student work online, mostly because I structure my courses so that someone would have to make a pretty huge time commitment to complete the course for someone else.
Apparently I should worry a bit more. An article from the Atlantic starts with some pretty generic observations about buying papers--a reality since long before the Internet--but then moves to something that suprised me. The existence of at least one site where a student can hire someone to take a complete course.
Here is the paragraph from the Atlantic piece that interested me:
"And why stop with exams? Why not follow this path to its logical conclusion? If the entire course is online, why shouldn't students hire someone to enroll and complete all its requirements on their behalf? In fact, "Take-my-course.com" sites have already begun to appear. One site called My Math Genius promises to get customers a "guaranteed grade," with experts who will complete all assignments and "ace your final and midterm." And why should the trend toward vicarious performance stop with education? How long must we wait until some intrepid entrepreneur founds ""Do-my-job.com" or "Live-my-life.com?"
I visited the site referenced in this paragarph, and it is indeed more than a little scary for adovates of online teaching and learning like myself. Here is a quote from the home page; it comes from a featured box on the page:
"Got an Online or Distance Education Math Course? If you are taking an online math course with very little face-to-face interaction we might be able to find you a math expert to solve all your problems. Your math genius can simply log-in on your behalf complete the online assignments, exams and even the entire course for you!. You can be confident that when you pay your own math genius to do/write your online exam for you that the job gets done well."
One of the compelling arguments against anxiety about online cheating has been that most of the things folks seemed worried about happening online could happen onsite as well. Do I, for example, really know that my students in class are who I say they are? Can I guarantee the authenticity of student out of class work any more onsite than online?
But news of this web site forces me to admit that it is easier for students to cheat online than I realized. At least one site already exists that apparently could help a student work through an online class without doing any work and any learning. At a minimum, this seems to suggest that it would be far easier for a student to hire an online academic surrogate than an onsite academic surrogate.
Perhaps many of my online colleagues have already thought more about this than I have and have developed strategies for thinking about / responding to this challenge. But for me, this news means that the time has come to rethink this question...