The End of the Summer Session (and so much more)

“It is with a heavy heart that I write you this message today” began the email message from our FC4 President, and Child Development faculty member from Daley College, Jennifer Alexander.

Here’s the rest of her message:

In the interest of time, I will only speak briefly to this matter.

Last Thursday, July 16th, the Presidents of the 6 City Colleges that currently offer Child Development classes (all except Wright) and any faculty who happened to check their email (sent at 6 pm the evening before) participated in a very short conference call with district officers.

In this conference call, we were informed that the Child Development programs at all of the colleges will be closed and are “consolidating” at Truman College for the Fall of 2016.

This notion of “consolidation” completely undermines the mission of a COMMUNITY College.

Further, the conference- call delivery of a top-down decision that significantly impacts faculty and students at 6 colleges, with no faculty having ever been included in the decision-making process, is the OPPOSITE of shared governance.

There is so much more to say about this and so many other issues that have arisen this summer: tuition hikes, registration changes….. If I wrote to you everything I want to say, this email would be 10 pages long and not ready until next week. And so I decided to send out this shorter, quick communication just to make sure you knew this is happening and also how it happened.

More to come, soon. Take heart though: we’re taking action.


Perusing a recent Chronicle summary of “How Great Colleges Distinguish Themselves,” four areas were identified as contributing to collegiate greatness: leadership, communication, alignment, and respect.

I’ll just leave that there.

Policies that Cause Rather than Solve Problems

Today I received an email from a student in my 9:30 am class. it read:

“Forgot my id. I will be late. I’m in the front but they won’t let me in.”

This particular student is a student with special needs, and so this student has a note-taker. The note-taker was there at 9:30, but the student was not. By 9:45, the student had not arrived in class. Unfortunately, I checked my email early this morning, but did not check it in the time between my arrival at school and first class, and so, following policy, the note-taker left.

 

About 20 minutes later, just under the halfway point of the class, the student came in to see a board full of notes and material on Categorical propositions. The work we did in class today laid groundwork for the next three weeks worth of material. Students who were there experienced a huge and important front-load the second major unit of the class. Students who missed it will be scrambling to catch up  right up until the mid-term exam.

Her email was sent at 9:04 am, by the way.

So, this student did everything right except bring her school ID with her, and now her success in the class is imperiled. All for a policy that is ostensibly aimed at “improving student safety.” Do we really need to say that most of the college shootings of the last 10 years have been carried out by people who had IDs? Do we need to point out that our college is objectively safe–relative to other colleges and other City Colleges, based on the Clery Report data? Do we really need to point out that the last time we did a security survey, there was much more concern among faculty about students than about strangers? About being alone in stairwells and hallways and offices than about people without ids wandering in?

If a few students can bring about a policy change (that was the reason provided at the State of the College address, right?) with major potential implications on student learning and work and the rest–without consulting Faculty Council or anything else–then perhaps a few faculty belly aching about a stupid policy that creates problems without solving any can get a similar result. Let’s say my bag is stolen with my wallet and ID in it. Let’s say further that I don’t have cash on me (typical). I suppose I could borrow some, but let’s say I arrive at a time and day where the people I see that I know are, like me, without cash or access to their ATM cards for some reason. Should I take a sick day? Should I send a note to my students to wait, ride the train home, scrounge up some quarters from the couch and laundry room and my kid’s bank and return and pay $10 so I can work?

“Of course not,” someone will say. You will see someone who will vouch for you or loan you the money or whatever.” And they’d be right. I would be slightly and probably only temporarily inconvenienced by the situation, because I’m white, I’m old, I’m male, I’m employed, I’d be in professional (or semi-professional) dress and so on–take your pick of possible reasons I’d have it easy.

My student, however, and likely many students, does not live with the same privileges. My student was sent home on a day that she needed to be in class, on a day when she arrived 30 minutes before class was to start, only to return to find that, because she had been sent home to get a piece of plastic with her picture on it, she had not only missed important material but missed out on the chance to have her special needs accommodated. And for what? To what end?

I am hopping mad right now.

Food Tomfoolery on Eleven: Considerations for Consideration

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.

Assessment Committee Request

Jen Asimow, friend of the Lounge (and me) and Chair of the Assessment Committee this semester, asked if I would post the following letter. For those who don’t have the full background, I hope to get another post up some time after I’ve finished midterm grading.

Dear Faculty,

 

It has come to the attention of the Assessment Committee that there are faculty who are disheartened by the way the CCSSE (Community College Survey of Student Engagement) is being administered this spring.  As you all know, we have a long tradition of voluntary assessment practices at HWC, refusing to mandate any form of assessment that comes through our committee.  We continue to honor that practice.

 

This spring, CCSSE is being administered through the Office of Academic Affairs, under the direction of the Office of Research and Planning, not the Assessment Committee.  A random sample of course sections is chosen by the CCSSE administration in Texas and is sent to the college.  Normally, colleges then require faculty to administer the survey at specific times in specific courses.  Our college is trying to make this scheduling as flexible as possible, allowing faculty to choose the time in their courses that is best for their students and them.  Faculty have been given a fairly wide window to get this done, within the CCSSE requirements.

 

Understandably, this is frustrating for many of you.  Time is precious and teaching time, even more so.  No, it is not ideal and it is not the way the Assessment Committee has done things in the past.  However, the information they receive from this survey is important as student engagement is directly and indirectly related to learning.  We are hopeful that you can find the time required to honor this request from our administration.  If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me at jasimow@ccc.edu.

 

Sincerely,

 

Jennifer Asimow, Assessment Committee Chair

On behalf of the Assessment Committee

Using Smart Phones in Smart Ways: Cell Phones as Economic Equalizers and Stuff

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 . . . ).

Cognitive Dissonance: Offensive Team Names Edition

Cognitive Dissonance is a regular Monday feature in which a post is presented that, if read, may provoke “a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.” I hope these pieces will provoke thought, if not conversation.

Given that it’s the Monday after the Super Bowl and there are still lingering football conversations to be had and this one has a history of some controversy on this site, I thought I might toss this one out there today:

Did you see it? Do you care? Do you have any interest in the team’s activities to preserve the name? Or in the origins of the name?

Would you like to see a nuanced explanation of one somewhat-ambivalent Native American man’s analysis of the term and the controversy that makes connections to African-American culture and history?

I thought you might.

Cognitive Dissonance: Real Education

Cognitive Dissonance is a regular Monday feature in which a post is presented that, if read, may provoke “a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.” I hope these pieces will provoke thought, if not conversation.

The stories in this piece are familiar enough for most of us. By the end of it, though, the author seems to be at a loss about what to do. Which begs the question: what to do?

In The News

You may have missed it amid the finals hoo-hah, but Hector Reyes (Physical Science), Rochelle Robinson-Dukes (VP, CCC faculty and professionals union), Dolores Withers (President,  clericals’ union), and Floyd Bednarz (President, adjuncts’ union) wrote a letter that garnered some national news coverage. The comments section of the latter is particularly interesting, I thought. There’s even a cool image on the HWC union website that you can print out and put up somewhere if you’re of a mind to do so.

In other news near and dear to Hector’s heart, AAUP investigators issued a report condemning the President of Northeastern Illinois for retaliation against a professor there (coverage here and here).

Adjunct Solidarity Day

Hope you are wearing red today to show your support for our adjuncts as their union continues negotiations on a new contract. Anyone who has done it knows that it is a hard road to walk. And it is a mistake to think that they are second rate teachers; research shows that many of them are excellent–even better than their full time colleagues. It is also a mistake to think that what happens to them doesn’t affect the rest of us, and it is ridiculous to ignore what is happening to them everyday. To wit:

Un-Hired Ed: The Growing Adjunct Crisis
Source: Online-PhD-Programs.org

The Background on the New Authorship Policy

So, there’s been more than a little drama about posts and authorship over the last six months while I’ve been mostly absented from the blog helm. For selfish and other reasons related to giving things enough wait time that they solve themselves (masterful inactivity one might call it), I tried to stay uninvolved for the most part. Alas, I am no longer uninvolved and opinions over the last six months have strengthened with opinion holders becoming much more vocal that “something must be done.” But what? And how? And why? Well, here’s my version of things: (more…)

A Programming Note and New Policy for the Lounge

As of Monday morning, authorship and editorial status on the Lounge will require that authors be:

  1. Full-time Faculty members;
  2. Clearly identifiable by name, either by writing under their own name or writing under a pen-name that is easily traced to the person using it.

The second criterion is new and means either the disclosure of all authors’ identities or the end (or spin-off onto another blog) of the Realist and 12Keystrokes projects. I do not know what they will do, but I guess we’ll find out by Monday morning.

I will have more to say about how this decision evolved (probably tomorrow) and why, but the short version is that two editorial sidebars, conducted by email–one back in March, and one this week–revealed support for, first, taking some kind of action, and second, taking this particular one.

This policy ONLY applies to posts. Readers will still be able to comment by name or pseudonym or anonymously.