On Tuesday, faculty will come together at 30 East Lake Street for HW Faculty Development 2014. On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, our excellent CAST leadership, Megan Ritt and Andrew Cutcher, have arranged (like John and Gitte in the past) for boxed lunches. Only on Friday will we have to brown bag it. And, I’m not complaining. Food is expensive.
I’ve written a few posts this year, and I’ve mentioned how grateful I am for the sabbatical I have been on and the research I have been able to undertake and write about. I am grateful for past (and current) union leadership who have laid the groundwork for the concentrated (and paid) professional development sabbaticals provide. I would not have been able to eat without earning my salary while on sabbatical.
On Monday, August 25, I, like my colleagues, will greet new students, and in my ENG 101s, I will use the course I designed two years ago. The theme of the course is food, and in it my students begin by learning about food deserts in Chicago. No, not sweet desserts that follow a meal, but food deserts–the places in the city of Chicago that Mari Gallagher made noticeable with her research.
Ever hear of a food desert? A food deserts is a place where access to fresh produce and meats, like those found in a supermarket, are miles away. You might live in one. Our students live in food deserts. Our employees live in food deserts. Regardless of access to food, or even with access, some people can’t afford it.
In 2013, the Mayor’s office released data suggesting that 400,000 people in Chicago live in a food desert with the nearest grocery store 1/2 a mile away. And still, putting grocery stores closer to those who live in food deserts doesn’t put money in their pockets to buy food. I’m sure the content of this post comes as no surprise to most, especially educators in the CCC system.
If you’ve read your CCC e-mail recently, you may have noticed the announcement regarding stolen lunches on the 11th floor. In the e-mail, it states, “Please be aware that theft is an offense punishable by termination,” and while I agree with the e-mail, I found myself wondering, or better yet trying to understand, why someone would steal food from the break room?
If whomever is stealing food is hungry, then stealing the food isn’t the crime. If a member of our HW community is hungry, what can we do about it? What should we do about it? What can we do about it? We can be complacent, and we can enforce rules that deny the nuances of the situation, or we can see this for a problem that plagues our city and our college and strive to solve the problem. We can start in our own community at HW.
A few weeks back, I was aimlessly reading FB post updates, and I noticed Jenny McCarthy (an actress and comedian) was being skewered, once again, in the media and on Twitter, for her views on vaccinations and immunizations and the autism-vaccination hypothesis. You may recall, years ago, McCarthy using her son as evidence for the validation of this hypothesis. People listened to Jenny McCarthy, which was odd to me.
I remember watching the MTV show, Singled Out. The Nerdist himself, Chris Hardwick, (and current host of Talking Dead) and McCarthy co-hosted the show. It was a dating game, and while I wasn’t interested in dating at the time, I was interested in anything MTV. I remember McCarthy and Hardwick being funny, and in retrospect, I probably didn’t really understand the humor on the show, but they were funny: they were comedians.
Around the same time, a British physician, Andrew Wakefield et al. (1998), misanalyzed data from an Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) study and misreported findings that included a supposed link of MMR vaccines to autism. His study was reported in The Lancet, and eventually, after severe outcry from the medical community because of a lack of rigor in the analysis among other problems, the article was retracted. The message was clear: Wakefield (and the other authors) were out of line and off the mark: there was no link between MMR and autism. (For a more thorough account, read the Harvard Health article.)
The difference, I think, between McCarthy’s anecdotes and Wakefield’s bad science (and that’s an understatement) is that the audience in Wakefield’s case new better: they knew that in order to continue to build knowledge, they would need to be critical, and they were. So, what is it with celebrities? McCarthy is a comedian and actress, but why was she given so much press, and why did so many people believe her anecdotes? What made McCarthy a better source of information than Wakefield?
I don’t think the answer is simple, but I do think it is ingrained in the culture where we reside here in the U.S. We don’t mind getting advice from celebrities, on the whole, and I think we encounter this each and every day in the classroom. For some reason, our society and our culture of celebrity have merged and confused popularity and fame with ethos (credibility) and value. In fact, in class, when we explicitly discuss logic and reasoning, I show a clip of an interview Matt Lauer conducted with Tom Cruise (2007).
In the video, Cruise discusses Ritalin and post-partum depression with the enthusiasm and the expertise of a professional. But, he’s not an expert; he’s an actor. I usually remark that if Cruise wants to discuss what it’s like to dance around in his underwear while filming Risky Business or being Suri’s dad, he’s more than qualified to do so–he has that expertise and ethos; however, if I want to know about post-partum depression, I’m probably going to talk to an expert (and definitely not Tom Cruise). Discussing an appeal to a false authority (which is what I try to exemplify by showing the clip), is a good reminder for me to beware of where I get my information.
Recently, Adriana Tapanes-Inojosa shared a Sun-Times letter to the editor, “Under Emanuel, principals have no voice.” I read the article, and as an educated reader, I know I intrinsically look for clues to evaluate the credibility (and ethos) of the author. The author is a principal who provides his credentials, including his experience as a teacher and his experience as a principal. While I can’t speak to the experience of being an educator or principal in the CPS system, I can speak to the issue of appealing to false authorities, like Jenny McCarthy and Tom Cruise.
And Troy LaRaviere is an authority. He has the experience, which isn’t anecdotal–he is a professional educator. I encourage you to consider the underlying issues LaRaviere is pointing out, implicitly, in the article: a lack of appreciation and value for those who are in the classroom and a de-valuing or undervaluing of experience and expertise. I am not suggesting to merely accept credentials at face value (remember Wakefield?).
I am strongly suggesting maintaining a critical and thoughtful framework. And I am strongly suggesting valuing the expertise and experiences of educators after they successfully navigate your critical and thoughtful framework.
(NB: The most succinct response to an attempt to de-value or undervalue expertise was on Fox News. You can see it here.)
While I’m putting some finishing touches on an Excel spreadsheet template to calculate interrater reliability for our writing placement test scorers at HWC, I decided to tool around on the Internet a little bit and find out what CCC and HWC tell students before they take the writing placement test. Before I go into what I found, let me tell you about that part of my sabbatical project.
Part of my sabbatical project is to create a guide and template for calculating interrater reliability for HWC’s writing placement test. And, I am almost finished; I submitted a proposal, yesterday, for DWFD in August, and if accepted, I hope to present and show how each campus can very easily calculate (and triangulate the three embedded tests and scores in the spreadsheet template) for their campus’s interrater reliability. Interrater reliability shows that we place students consistently in writing courses, and it sets the groundwork for longitudinal studies that can track students through their writing courses.
So, now that you’re all caught up, let me tell you what I found when I Google’d “hwc writing placement.” I found Yelp reviews of HWC. I didn’t know our college was reviewed on on Yelp, and it has been reviewed 30 times and not anonymously. There are first names and last initials with links to profiles. And our students have had a lot to say. If I were to analyze the results, which I did cursorily, I think one consistent theme throughout all the reviews is that the faculty are fantastic. And, I know spring break starts today and tomorrow for some and Saturday for others.
Here are some quotes that demonstrate how well faculty are doing (and there are some that show, well, that we aren’t), So as an extra boost for the remainder of the spring semester, please read:
I took several advanced math classes there in prep for grad. school and all three teachers I had were pretty good. They genuinely cared about teaching.
Overall the teachers do care a lot and want to help you transfer to a four year university or ear your Associates. The classes are NOT easy and are pretty challenging.
Teachers are excellent. Have had little to no issues in that area.
The instructors here are pretty good though. I’ve been to a big university where it feels like you’re not connected with the instructor at all, but at harold washington [sic] all my profs at least make an attempt to learn everyone’s name and that means something.
The English and Math teachers I have had so far were smart and up to date on the topics in their area. I have learned a ton at Harold Washington from their teachers.
One of my professors is possibly one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. I didn’t expect that at a community college, but I am pleasantly surprised. Another one of my professors also teaches at a university, so I’m basically getting that exact same education for a fraction of the price. I only planned on going to HWC for one semester, but now I am thinking of staying another semester because I am so impressed by my professors.
There are thirty reviews as of today (04.10.14), and some of the reviews are as old as 2006. It’s interesting that some of the complaints about HWC have and haven’t changed. It would be an fascinating study to categorize the reviews and correlate those findings with various CCC/HW initiatives and when those initiatives went into effect. What I find most interesting about these Yelp reviews is that they are not anonymous; students put their names with their reviews, which, I think, may suggest that they should be weighted higher than reviews on websites like RateMyProfessor dot com (but maybe not as interesting as DrawMyProfessor), which are anonymously submitted.
Nonetheless, if while over spring break, you’re in the need for some light reading after eating at the new Big Cheese Poutinerie in Wrigleyville, you might find the Yelp reviews of HWC and the poutinerie worthwhile. I was pleased as a member of the faculty to confirm what I know about my colleagues already via these Yelp reviews.
I had no idea. Really, I didn’t. In 1999, a movie was released called The Matrix (you may have heard of it). In this movie, there are several references to Chicago. Recently, and I mean fifteen years after the initial release of the movie, I watched it. In 1999, I was an undergraduate. In 1999, apparently Neo was on the run and moving toward “an old exit [at] Wabash and Lake,” aka Harold Washington College–an exit from the matrix.
Here’s the clip where you can see the reference.
I remember when The Wit wasn’t there or Dunkin’ Donuts, and I remember Old Timers, too. Some of you have been teaching in the neighborhood a very, very long time. And PhiloDave’s post about Ephrem (and I couldn’t agree more!) got me to thinking about what our little corner of The Loop has looked like over the years.
My goal in this post is to gather a little bit of institutional memory about how The Loop has changed and what our colleagues remember about those changes. I was quite fond of Old Timers, and the conversations I had with colleagues there.
Anyone care to wax nostalgic and provide a little piece of their HW Loop memories? Anyone remember that matrix exit on the corner of Wabash and Lake? Anyone know if it still works?
Before I drift too far into my dissertation research while on sabbatical this spring, I wanted to express some ideas that have taken root in my teaching philosophy regarding the equalizing power afforded by smart phones as computers.
If you had asked any student of mine between 2006-2010, you would have found out that I would give a “surprise quiz” if there was a cell phone that went off during class. I asked students to put them away and keep them away. And I meant it. NO CELL PHONES.
Then I thought about cell phones in a wildly different way; and my thoughts began to change while taking Classical Rhetoric in the spring 2012 semester then progressed further in the summer 2012 while taking a course in Advanced Issues in Composition. Both of these courses were taken with now emeritus faculty member Fred Kemp for my PhD program. He really got me to think about smart phones in a different, more productive way.
So, before I am beyond my ankles in dissertation research, I know there was some talk regarding the HW and CCC cell phone policy earlier in the semester, and I understand the resistance to letting students use them in the classroom. But, this is was Fred Kemp had to say about it.
He remarked that cell phones (i.e., smart phones) contribute to lowering the bar of inquiry. What he meant by this is that if you want to know something, you can Google it on your smart phone in an instant, depending on your connection speed. You don’t have to look it up in the library or elsewhere anymore. While our student may not be able to afford PCs or Macs, I think I can’t be the only one who has noticed that our students have smart phones with operating systems capable of working like computers in the palms of their very real hands.
And I am sure I am not the first to articulate ideas like this regarding cell phones as smart phones being an economic equalizer, allowing students who couldn’t normally afford computers to access the same advantages.
And I embrace them now (well, not now, but when I am teaching I do).
I tell students that they are allowed to use their cell phones in class to look up words or do anything class-related, like checking to make sure they have access to the technology we use in class: Blackboard, Drop Box, Google Docs, etc.
And, mostly, with only a few exceptions, my students do use their phones appropriately. Yes, I am sure they check Facebook every once in a while, and yes, I am sure that they send text messages, too. However, by and large (and the vast majority of the time), I think the basic psychology of not making it a forbidden activity prevails here, and they use their cell phones to access the Google Doc I am working on during class in a room with a black box on the 6th floor.
On the first day of class, I have students download a free Quick Reference (QR) code reader called inigma to scan the QR codes I have made for the syllabus and other first day of class papers they need. No more paper copies for them (unless they specifically request one, and then I request copies from Reprographics). The QR code allows students the ability to scan multiple codes with links to documents (and a history of the downloads) to access documents on the train or bus or wherever.
And they use their phones to make sure they have access to documents they need for class on Blackboard or Drop Box; and they use their cell phones to clarify information during class. I think they use their cell phones to learn; however, I had to show them how to do just that: use the Internet and apps to learn and lower what Kemp called “the bar on inquiry.”
[I once had a group in class (during class) take a group selfie to send to a missing classmate and post it on Instagram; the missing classmate showed up for the remainder of the class sessions devoted to the group work.]
I do not think technology should drive our pedagogical choices. I’m not going to use the latest bells and technological whistles if they don’t fit what I am trying to accomplish in my classroom (and I strongly urge you not to either), but if there is a pedagogical function that smartphones afford us as instructors for our students, then I think we should try it out, at the very least.
And here are a few ways you can (along with some other accessibility tips).
- Post everything on Blackboard or wherever (even e-mail attachments) as Portable Document Formats (PDFs). This allows students who do not have Microsoft Office and programs to open the documents on their smartphones.
- Use Google Docs, if there is writing involved. Not only does Google Docs (when a user is logged in to Google) provide a history of their writing contributions, if they share the documents with you, then you can see who contributed what.
- And, oh yeah: you can download a Google Doc as a PDF or docx or rtf. Students do not have to own, once again, Microsoft Office. There’s not only docs in Google, but spreadsheet and power point, too (or use Cloud On—another free app).
There are issues with privacy and Google owning content or whatever, but there’s so much on there (on Google) that I don’t think it’s a real worry, although I don’t (and would never) store private information on a Google Doc. I’m sure others are more knowledgeable about this.
You don’t have to use these, obviously; however, letting our students know they have access to free technologies to meet some of the writing demands (and via their smartphones) is worthwhile, I think.
I’m sure this may be contentious. I know there are some of us who will never welcome cell phones—no matter how smart they are—in the classroom. It is just as harmful to endorse as it is to reject all technologies, I think. If the technology fits your pedagogical aims for your students, it might be worth a shot, right?
Somewhere, in the history of teaching, there had to have been someone who consistently lamented the change from chalk to chalkless chalk to dry erase markers, don’t you think?
And even if you disagree, we know the job market our students will be entering, regardless of the current unemployment rate—it’s damn competitive. By showing our students smart ways to use their smartphones, we may be helping to be more competitive in the job market, thinking of using technology in professional ways to suit their learning needs.
Okay, now I return into the research recesses of my sabbatical (and I’m thinking about evaluating information, now . . . ).
I just spent some time with Transfer Center Director Ellen Goldberg. During this time, Ellen graciously acquiesced to contributing a podcast (about 6 minutes) about the services the HWC Transfer Center provides our students.
If you’re not sure what the Transfer Center offers our students, take a listen, and please consider sharing the podcast with your students via the following url: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/0com1ciqrg3lem0/zzddVtiibj