Take an academic guess…

Since this is February and we’ve already heard from “the prognosticators of prognosticators” (that famous groundhog from Puxa-can’t remember-how-you-spells-it-tawny Phil), I thought it’d be a good time to ask the following question:

Can you predict what will happen to the printed book and book stores during the next year?

What’s the rationale for this post? I just received a message from Borders CEO stating they were reorganizing through the Chapter 11 process (not protection). I wasn’t THAT surprised to read the email, but it made me wonder what would happen to book stores in our lifetime. (Think Kindle and all those digital devices out there now, and our publishers slowly moving to electronic textbooks.)

Instead of long-term prognosticating, I went the way of short-term guessin’ like those “inquiring minds” like to do in late December. Couple that with PhiloDave’s magical post from last Saturday and thus this Lounge-iversary post.

Go on, take a guess and check back from time to time.

To FC4, From District Office

Each week, FC4 representatives (and our own FC president (TBD)) will be sent the upcoming events from District Office. Please relay questions and concerns here or to your local FC (or FC4) representatives.

1. November 19, 2010 is the deadline date for online training for faculty to enter their final grades. For face to face training, please check with your College’s Registrar.

2. December 1, 2010 COMPASS test scores will be automatically loaded into PeopleSoft.

3. December 11, 2010 is the last date to enter your final grades on line in PeopleSoft.

4. December 17, 2010 students will have access to one CCC transcript, which will list transfer credit as well as all the credit courses taken from the various CCC’s. A separate transcript for Continuing Education courses will be available.

5. January 3, 2011 testing for foreign language proficiency using the ACTFL or the CLEP will be available at each campus.

6. January 3, 2011, additional advisors and tutors will be hired for each college and will be paid for by an ICCB grant.

7. The CCC catalog is available in three versions: print, CD, and on-line. The Spanish version of the CCC Catalog is under development and may be completed as early as January 2, 2011.

8. Please inform adjuncts about the availability of services to assist at-risk students, especially, tutoring and advising. Students are currently being contacted regarding their mid-term grades.

9. A draft version of the Credential Guidelines, first distributed in 2007, has been updated and distributed to Deans of Instruction and Vice Presidents for their review and comments.

10. Please check with your Dean of Instruction regarding date for submission of your tenure portfolio.

Letters of Recommendation Actually DO Matter

I’ve been getting utterly killed by letters of recommendation this semester–I think part of the issue is that they’ve been trickling in non-stop, one or two requests a week (which is flattering and makes me very happy in the moment EVERY SINGLE TIME), from students that I had last semester, last year, and quite a while ago (e.g., 2004), so this semester I have felt like I always have a letter to write.

I know, I know, it sounds whiny when I look at it. I was belly aching about it to my beloved last week, and she cut me off. “You know what those are?” she asked. “A future.” Mumble, mumble, I responded.

So, anyway, in light of all of that, it’s nice to know that letters of recommendation actually do matter. A lot, it seems. Check it out:

Most students want to know if the recommendations matter, if we even read them. At Connecticut College, we require two teacher recommendations, and yes, we read them.

Whether or not they matter depends on the quality of the recommendation.

A good recommendation — well written with strong praise for the student — will certainly help us make our decision. And, of course, we will take note if the writer has reservations about recommending the student. But if the recommendation is poorly written or clearly a form letter with the name of the student simply filling in a blank (you’d be surprised), we won’t include it in our review.

In short, a good recommendation can help, but we don’t hold it against the applicant when we receive a poorly written one.

And what’s really helpful about the piece is that they (finally) talk a little about what makes a good letter from the perspective of an admissions person (with more info in the comments). I had some guesses, but it’s nice to get some info straight from the source.

Hope it helps.

Video Chat Takes Off

From last week’s Tribune article on Video Chat:

Long the darling of science fiction aficionados, video chat has never much caught on for personal calls. But this year, with the technology being incorporated into a widening array of digital gadgets, professionals specializing in one-to-one services are experimenting with video chat as a way to vastly extend their reach.

Office hours. Advising. Guest Lectures. Writing conferences. Grade appeals. Friday meetings. Cross-campus meetings/presentations. What else? It would be great if our new laptops had cameras built in. Maybe the next generation will. Then all we have to do is get someone to update the academic policy so that office hours might be conductable by video chat (some of them anyway) and we’ll be taking off with it…are you ready?

Registration highs and lows

So here I am, rather, here we are, once again, registering students at the college. I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with several colleagues and the consensus is that we can be more efficient with this registration process or, we can be doing better things with our time, such as working on syllabi.

On the one hand, I like and appreciate the opportunity to be in one room with all of you.  Sure beats DWFDW.

On the other hand, I am concerned that while we enjoy the company of each other (a priceless experience, if you ask me) we may be doing ourselves and our students a disservice. I feel that we’ve all been reduced to being gears of an antiquated or archaic system. I’m talking about both students and teachers.

I know this is old news so, here’s my question:
What can we do and what should we do to transform this registration experience?

One idea that Chris (Sabino) and I brainstormed was to take faculty out of room 404 and just have students register online. (Wasn’t this the reason for going to PeopleSoft? To automate the enrollment system? And yet we are still enrolling as if we are using SPAS?)

Faculty could then be in their offices working on syllabi and meeting with students that  have specific questions about our respective programs. Yes, we’d all have access to quick enroll.  This would be a better use of our time (teachers and students).

I believe students keep depending on faculty because they know come rain, shine, sleet, or snow we will be at the college to look-up courses on their behalf. Why are we reduced to typists? I’ve simply been a query specialist or a U-Pass magician these past few days and it must change.

How shall we institute change so that next year at this time we are truly serving our community? I’m left wondering.

‘Trying to Teach’ Tuesday

The other day, my daughters entered a contest. They mentioned that if they were lucky enough, they would win the prize. At this point I wanted to speak with a mathematician and a philosopher to ask the following question:

Are we lucky to win a prize when we enter a contest, or is it a matter of odds and probability?

Suppose I purchase a raffle ticket. Suppose mine is the only ticket in the drawing. My chances of winning are 100%. Suppose another person also enters the drawing. My chances of winning are now 50%, right? As more tickets are purchased and added to the drawing, my odds are reduced. At what point do I go from having favorable odds to just being lucky to win?

Sorry to sound self-serving, but the ramifications run deep. How many of our students consider themselves lucky to get into college or lucky to get a good grade, without thinking about the concept of probability and the fact that they are in control of their actions?

When students prepare for the Fall semester, are they lucky to get a class (before the section is full), or are they taking the right actions, thus improving their odds, by registering early?

Just sharing – in case you’re not checking your emails…

This is from Sarah. I thought I’d help her spread the word.

Hi Everyone –   The link below is to a very short (approx. 5-10 minutes), anonymous survey regarding Writing Across the Curriculum. I’m hoping to gather information and faculty input regarding student writing, Writing Across the Curriculum programs in general, and specifically, the potentials and concerns of starting a program here at HWC. I appreciate your responses and thank you for your honesty and time in completing it.  If possible, please complete the survey by June 25th.    SURVEY LINK:  https://www.tfaforms.com/139289 (if it does not link automatically here, please copy and past it)   Also, in the near future, I will be contacting some faculty from across disciplines to see if they would be willing to give a brief (very brief since I know summer sessions are busy and there is much information to cover in class time)  survey to their students regarding writing they do across disciplines and their attitudes toward it.

Again, thank you so much for your time and if you have any questions regarding the survey or Writing Across the Curriculum, please let me know.

Sarah Liston

Sarah Liston Assistant Professor – Dept. of English Harold Washington College 312-553-5894 Office #634

A Letter about DWFDW

So far 28/33=85% agree that DWFDW should not occur Fall 2010.  3/33=9% are  on the fence about it or are on the fence.  There’s been a lot of traffic to yesterday’s post about the district proposal for DWFDW.  I know PhiloDave was going to post something tomorrow about what we’re going to do next, but I’m going to jump the gun slightly.

First of all, if you haven’t voted in the poll, please do so and check out some of the replies/reply to the post. The more input we have, the better.

In terms of moving forward, Theresa Carlton, Math faculty, has drafted a letter for Chancellor Hyman and V.C Henderson.  If we decide to express our concern in written form, this is definitely a good start.  Here’s the link to the letter in Google docs (my new best friend).  If you’d like to add to this letter, please reply to this post and I can give you access (I’d just need your e-mail address).  I thought this would be better than giving access to anyone with the link in case we have other visitors to the site.

This letter came as a result of conversations that Theresa and I have had over the past day, though she’s the author and deserves the credit for it.  Is there anything we should add (other than a conclusion)?  Is the tone suitable?  If we send it, when should we?  Who should sign it?  (Theresa? FC? CAST? HWC faculty?, etc.)  Do we want faculty from across the district involved in expressing our concerns to district?  Should we act or wait to see what happens since nothing is set in stone with respect to DWFDW?

CCC Alert System

The CCC alert system will be put to the test today. I prefer to think of it as a beta roll out since we will all be testers. The information has been provided in writing and it appears that all precautions have been taken.

At our last department meeting, several members raised possible and plausible concerns. I thought it may be a good idea to share our faculty concerns and assist in the enhancement of this program. Detractors are also welcome. Speak your mind, I mean, write it down.

Provide your comments and concerns now or AFTER you’ve gone through the drill(s).

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!”)

Moves Toward Mastery

Did you see this Thursday in the New York Times?


Dozens of public high schools in eight states will introduce a program next year allowing 10th graders who pass a battery of tests to get a diploma two years early and immediately enroll in community college.

The supporters of the plan suggest that this approach “would reduce the need for community colleges to offer remedial courses because the passing score for the 10th-grade tests would be set at the level necessary to succeed in first-year college courses. Failure would provide 10th graders with an early warning system about the knowledge and skills they need to master in high school before seeking to enroll in college.”

It certainly would provide some warning, I suppose, presuming that the tests used are an adequate measure of student readiness for college, but I’m not sure it would fx the problem. Important questions would remain regarding what the high schools would do to intervene and whether they would be any more effective in their efforts than they are now. Plus, there are other interesting questions, too, particularly for community colleges regarding supporting and educating 16 and 17 year olds who would amount to a whole new bag of beings.

Still, the move away from social schooling toward skill mastery seems like a good step to me. What do you think?

UPDATE (2/19): The Times invited a number of interested parties to opine on the proposed project. You can read their responses here.