Think, Know, Prove

Think, Know, Prove is a regular Saturday feature, where a topic with both mystery and importance is posted for community discussion. The title is a shortened version of the Investigative Mantra: What do we think, what do we know, what can we prove? and everything from wild speculation to resource referencing fact is welcome here.

Today’s, TKP is a sort of Meta assignment–an assignment about the Harold Lounge. So far, so good, I think. But that’s easy for me to say. I’d like to know what we need more of here, and how to get it. I’ve got my own ideas, but if this is ever to be a real, vital community for the entire faculty, then it will have to get a bit more out of my own head. I assume that if you’re still coming here regularly, then you think it has some value, so I’m not fishing for compliments here. I’m looking for ideas about how to spread the word, or make it better, more relevant, more useful so that others will come here, too, share their knowledge, and benefit all of us.

Would a workshop on how to do a blog post at the Harold be a good idea? An open invite to anyone and everyone to post whatever they want, whenever they want? Should we control for the posters and postings by forming a committee (yikes!) with members? Should we just keep plugging away and continue to have faith that since we have built it, they will come?

What do you know, what do you think, what can you prove?

(PS: I am going to be reducing the number of posts–taking a weeklong hiatus of sorts–that I write this week, so as to encourage all of us to get a little space and a little fresh air for the final push. All of the regular features will return a week from Sunday, starting with “Next Up!”)

Comparative Education–Access to College in India

I don’t know a lot about systems of higher education in other places, particularly in regard to access, except a general impression that they tend to involve High Stakes Testing and extremely limited access. Reading about it though, makes me, again, grateful to be a part of a system that functions in a manner that is the polar opposite (or, I guess, more clearly, I’m excited to be working in the part of the system that serves as a sort of safety net for those who get shut out by the exclusionary aspects of American higher education. India needs some community colleges!

This last part of the article would be hilarious if it weren’t so horrifying:

She is so busy with test prep that there is one thing she almost never does.

“People hardly go to school,” she said. “They rely on their tutorials mainly.”

Fat-Cat Teachers and Public Servants Forced to Stop Stealing the State’s Money

Maybe this was discussed at yesterday’s Union meeting (I don’t know because I was teaching). We all know, of course, what a burden our luxurious and opulent remuneration has been to the State of Illinois for years now. Fifteen hours of work (less for administrators–meeting isn’t working!!), summers off, inefficient–one might even say ancient–methods and topics. It’s a wonder that the “host” has taken this long to recognize us for the bloodsucking parasites we are…

It should be noted, though, that the existing pension situation was not sustainable (without train-wrecking the state) and that the changes made in this new law (regarding maximum salary for pension benefit, retirement age, etc.) do not apply to those already in the system. If nothing else, I guess that will mean that in 25 years or so, HW won’t have its entire faculty (just about) turn over in a five year period. So maybe that’s a silver lining of sorts…

What Up?

The weekend, nay, SPRING BREAK, is nearly upon us.

What are you doing? Where are you going? Will you take the rest of us?

If you’re having a stay-cation and looking for something to do on Saturday Night, consider this show–it’s a benefit for Haiti Relief Organizations, and it promises to be HOT. I’ve seen Funkadesi (the headliners) a few times, and they are spectacular live. Like this:

I hope to see Isa there, too. I know she’ll go if she can.

Highlights from the Board Report–March

Highlights from the Board Report is a monthly regular feature that highlights what one person finds to be important from the most recent Board Report. We read it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

Highlights from the meeting dated March 4, 1010.

1. I think they may be onto us. This report was rather skimpy. There were none of the usual links to Human Resources and Academic Affairs reports and the like. All they have up there is a link to a notice about raising tuition and the resolution to hire our new Chancellor (and then the usual hirings, overtime assignments, etc.). I don’t know whether to be pleased at the brevity required for researching this post or troubled. I shall temporarily adopt the former position. Mostly because I’m all jacked up on Nyquil and in no condition to do any thinking.

2. Tuition is going up. Current tuition is $79 a credit hour. Next fiscal year, starting Summer 2010, the number will be $87 per credit hour, going up to $89 per credit hour the following year. The prices go up for precredit (half the credit rates) and continuing and vocational education as well (same as credit).  Fees are up, too: Registration goes up $5 (to $30), Activity fee goes up $20 (to $170) for ft regular term starting this fall, and in 2011 the summer activity fee goes up $10 (to $85). No change for PT students. CDL fees go up $5 to $45 per course this summer, and another $5 to $50 per course starting in the summer of 2011. I’m personally quite amazed that the activity fee is going up another $20. I haven’t heard any students complain that the SGA or clubs are short of money. $20 per student per semester is an awful lot of scratch when my understanding is that most of it goes to SGA and clubs who have a hard time spending what they’ve got now. I’m no accountant, but I don’t know how that helps. Maybe somebody out there does?

2. Cheryl Hyman is our new Chancellor. Welcome aboard (stifles yawn…old news).

3. HR News: Inggrid Yonata of the President’s Office was hired to a position of “Coordinator,” promoting her from Temporary Support Staff. I don’ t know what it means, but she’s great and I’m sure whatever it is she’s coordinating will be more than adequately coordinated. Love to see great people get gigs here.

4. No resignations or terminations. Not really anything else to report. There is something about a change to the Policy Manual in regard to Graduation Gradepoint, but there’s no link so I don’ t know what it is. Maybe you know?

5. The meeting was mercifully adjourned.

Braggin’ Rights Bracket–UPDATE

“Hey,” you might be saying to yourself, “I wonder who’s winning the Harold Lounge Braggin’ Rights Bracket contest.”

Well if you guessed Jashed Fakhrid-Deen, you’d be wrong. In fact, he’s in last place. AND his pick to win the championship? Out. He should be mocked with regularity and vigor.

Perhaps you guessed Ed Fians; he’s tall. Maybe he knows something about hoops. Wrong again. Second place and desperate.

If, however, you guessed Dave Richardson, then you, my friend, owe yourself a high five. In a commanding lead, having picked 32 of the first 48 games correctly, with 7 of 8 elite eight teams still alive and all four final four teams just a few wins away, the philosopher is, once again, making his case for Kingship.

And if you’re wondering about how everyone else is doing, well you’ll have to ask them, because the three of us were the only ones to sign up. Gotta be in it to win it people.

Next year.

Ephrem-Palooza Registration Closes Friday!

If you’d like to learn more about blogging or podcasting or wikis or the latest and greatest tech gadgetry for teaching, then you should attend the FREE Technology in Education Conference, hosted by our very own Blackboard Maestro, Ephrem Rabin.

The conference will run on Friday, April 9th from 8 to 4:30, and you can register by clicking on this link.

It’s easy and takes about 4 seconds. Click it.

Schools in the News

There’s been a flurry of school news lately. Layoffs are starting to hit districts across the state, as the state money crunch, and Governor Quinn’s proposal to slash education spending by $1.3 billion is becoming more real by the minute. We just found out from our daughter’s Principal that the States “Pre-School for All” program was among the items cut from the state budget this year, and they have no money for music either. And, apparently CPS is changing its menus.

As noted to be a possibility right here on the Harold awhile back, the four day week has been floated and passed the House. It probably won’t happen in Chicago, though, since neither the Mayor nor the CPS Union wants anything to do with it.

One glimmer of hope amidst the economic carnage is the fact that an increase in Pell Grant spending was attached to the Health Care Reform bill, and the feds will spend an additional $36 billion over the next ten years. There was also quite a bit of money attached for Community Colleges, though not as much as had originally been proposed by the President (or hoped for by the colleges).

Still, we’ll take any good news we can get, right?

Website Wednesday

Website Wednesday is a regular feature in which we highlight one (or a couple) of sites from the Billions floating around the Intertoobz that just might help you with your Herculean task of educating inquiring minds. Any and all suggestions for future editions are welcome.

Ever wish you had an easy to use listing of museums around the world that included brief descriptions of the museums as well as links to their home sites (and collections)? Looking for images? Looking for information? Looking for a way to procrastinate?

Well, here you go. Check it out. Like taking an art tour around the world. Or around the U.S. Or around Oregon.

Hours of fun.

h/t to Ivan Tejeda for turning me on to this one…

T.Y.B.O.T. Tuesday

T.Y.B.O.T. Tuesday is a regular feature, highlighting a practically useful, active learning strategy that you can implement tomorrow. Any and all suggestions are welcome. T.Y.B.O.T. appears on the last Tuesday of each month.

THE STRATEGY: Cocktail Party Review

Necessities: Mood music (I prefer Jazz, usual Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue)

Options: Index Cards (or some other form of assigning roles), refreshments (juice or a box of coffee from Dunkin Donuts or just a few cookies or munchkins. Students are pretty appreciative of anything you provide, and the props help to set the mood (and coax participation).

The Pitch: This is a whole brain learning activity, particularly useful for moving conceptual understanding into long-term memory, especially when there is a high volume of material. It works best with six to 10 learning items, but you can do it with more if required. It’s a fun way for students to review, and it can provide them with a highly salient experience to associate the term(s) with. Students collaborate, construct their own understanding, challenge each other, and do so in ways that they are likely to recall (because its fun and memorable). I totally stole/adapted this from Gitte Maronde and Denise Maduli Williams, who demonstrated an icebreaker version of this at a Faculty Development Workshop a couple of years ago, and the first time I did it I couldn’t believe how well it went. Since then I’ve worked it into the regular rotation and it is a consistent winner–almost always showing up in the evaluations as one of the best things we did and not just because it was fun. Apparently, it’s helpful, too.

The Plan: Students are assigned some concept or idea or skill (randomly or by choice), and then given five to ten minutes to review the topic with instructions that they should think about how they would teach it and maybe come up with a few examples. While they’re doing that, I set up whatever music and refreshments I have.

When the time is up, I announce to students that they’re all invited to my cocktail party, but they must attend as their concept. So, for example, when I use this activity to review fallacies, each student has to come to the party as the fallacy that they were assigned–somebody comes as “ad hominem,” someone else as “post hoc, ergo propter hoc,” etc. Usually, I plan it so that three or four people get each of the concepts (to protect against someone misleading the rest of the class about one of the topics), and I tell them as much, suggesting that they may want to go find the others at the party who share their background–you know, birds of a feather, or, instead, hang out with people who are different than them and meet some new people. The main thing is that they have to role play, they have to be the concept (or theory or thinker or text) they’ve been assigned and ask and answer people’s questions accordingly.

I tell them that there are only three rules at my party–no anti-social behavior and no notes/books (telling them that it’s rude to read or write in front of others at a party). The goal here is to force them to rely on their understanding (and figure out what the limits of their understanding are) and spend their time interacting with the others as people (rather than simply strangers holding answers). It’s important to tell them at this point that doing this helps them use their whole brain and that they should actively try to associate the concept their hearing with the face or manner or story of the person telling them about it, that doing so will help them later when they try to recall it or need clarification on something. These conversations will help, but only as much as they listen and work hard to know the others at the party. Also, I tell them that the responsibility cuts both ways; the more interesting they are, the more interested (and interesting) others will be. So the “party” will only be as good as they make it.

Then I start the music and start the clock, and let them go. I stay completely out of it for the first few minutes to let them get over their self-consciousness and so they know I won’t be checking on them. Around ten minutes in, I walk the room with a platter of munchkins or cookies, acting as a waiter, which allows me to eavesdrop on the conversations, clarify as required (briefly), and encourage people to mingle/wander. I usually let the party go for about 30 to 45 minutes, and then cut the music, turn up the lights and send everybody “home.” Then I take questions for the last few minutes, and that’s it.

Give it a try sometime. You may be surprised how willing our students are to play when given the chance and how much they can learn when it doesn’t seem like school. They will be surprised, too.

BlogRoll Additions?

Perhaps you’ve noticed the BlogRoll to the right. Maybe you’ve even clicked on a couple to see what’s there.

What’s there, right now, are some of the blogs and Web sites that I look at semi-regularly and have found helpful to my teaching (or thinking about my teaching). There are some general ones, there, but some philosophy-specific sites, too.

What other sites should we have there?

I ask because I think it would be cool (and helpful) to have a site to go to if I want to find out what Historians or Mathematicians or Child Psychologists or Biologists are talking about amongst themselves.

And it’s a big ol’ Web. Post a comment with your favorite discipline specific or teaching general sites, and I’ll put a link up in the Blog roll so everyone can go there, too, now and then…

UPDATE (3/24): If you want to post sites in the comments (please do, please do), limit yourself to two per comment, even if that means posting multiple comments. Otherwise the filter will mark them as Spam. If that happens, no worries, I can save them and approve them, but it may take a day or so for me find them. Feel free to put up multiple comments, though!

Tuesday Teaching Question

Welcome everyone to week 10 of class. This week has me looking forward to Spring Break and it also has me looking back assessing the general progress of my students, specifically in the area of reading.

As it happens every semester, a good number of the students start out strong with every intention of completing all of the reading requirements for my lecture-based courses. As the weeks progress, regardless of assignment due dates, a few students begin to fall behind. I ask questions in class and from the silence, I can determine that some of the reading (if not all) has not been completed. Short of turning class time into a mandatory reading session, what to do?

Now, I’m not one to force students to do what is required for a class. Remind them, yes, multiple times; but I believe in following Adrienne Rich’s words: “Students need to claim their education.” If I summarize too much of the reading in class, then it only makes some students sit back and expect me to give them their education. These are not the kind of habits I wish to foster.

So what advice do you have? How do you determine students are completing the required reading? What do you do when they start to fall behind? What are some suggestions you have for claiming good reading habits?

I look forward to reading your comments now and over the break. Thanks!

Chicago Studies related

For those of you interested in learning more about the history of Chicago architecture, I am posting this link for continuing education seminars provided to me by the Chicago Architectural Foundation. If you’ve got Thursday evenings free during the month of April, consider registering. Who knows, it may encourage you to adopt Chicago Studies emphasis in the near future.

By the way, one faculty member recommended we compile a list Chicago authors as a resource. Who do you believe should be on this list?

We would also like to compile a list of books related to Chicago, like this one:

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, by Erik Larson

Bring on the recommendation from your list of favorites.