Three for Thursday

Here are three options for you to check out to see what’s going on in a discipline other than your own:

~Declining Student Resilience: An article from Psychology Today about the massive spike in recent years of student needs for psych services. I have MANY criticisms of our district office, but I cannot deny that they did a really great thing in establishing Wellness Centers across the colleges and putting Michael Russell in charge of all of them. I have not seen as much of the kinds of things discussed in this article as they report–perhaps our students are more resilient than the typical, traditional student?

~The Hit Charade: From The Atlantic, an eye–opening article for anyone interested in Pop Culture (or with kids who listen to a lot of Top-40) about how a handful of unknowns who are the architects of the ear candy that dominates the pop radio airwaves. Also has some interesting stuff about re-use, artistry, and the music market.

~What Does the Giraffe Say: Speaking of music hits from Scandinavians, it turns out that giraffes DO have something to say, though not quite as catchy as “Jacha, chacha, chacha, chow!”

Website Wednesday

Website Wednesday is an occasional 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.

Looking for something else, I came across this article about Bertrand Russell and “everyday philosophy,” which led me to an essay of his that I hadn’t seen before. But I was intrigued by the subtitle, which said, “Part 7.” So, I poked around a bit and came upon THIS–a pretty great index of columns from The Guardian, collected under the header “How to Believe.”

Written by philosophers and theologians, writing for popular audiences, they take readers through topics and thinkers (e.g., The Book of Genesis, the thought of Spinoza, or the poetry of Rumi)  in a series of five to eight columns. It’s a great place to start for someone looking to get a toe-hold on some topic or other on the way to autodidact-ing, and might even make a decent source for secondary, background reading for students. Check it out.

Things You Could (Have) Do(ne) Over Break #6: Chicago Studies Edition

So, if you’ve been a reader of this blog for awhile, you might recall that I sometimes throw up some stuff before or after breaks that you could do/could have done as here, here, here, here, and here. This is one of those.

~This piece in Wired describes the role of social media in exacerbating violence in Chicago, with the Chief Keef/Lil JoJo beef as the prime example. It’s fascinating and disturbing;

~Check out the work of documentary photographer Carlos Javier Ortiz;

~UIC faculty have authorized a strike. May 1st? More on the situation here;

~Isabel Wilkerson did a big chunk of her research for The Warmth of Other Suns at the Newberry Library;

~Chicago State administrators are trying to shut down a faculty blog. (Not that there’s anything to be critical of. Hardly a thing–remember when we used to have students who transferred there? It’s been forever since I’ve had a student who has taken classes there or intended to transfer there). They’re not alone, though. Apparently it is something of a trend as administrators at schools across the country have grown more and more concerned with “message” and their “brand.” Read it and weep for the future;

~This piece on temp agencies, raiteros, and immigrant workers was eye-opening;

~Reading about Nelson Algren’s life is almost as good as reading his work. If you are a fan of Chicago: City on the Make, or ever heard of it, you’ll enjoy this. If you aren’t, you should read one or the other and then decide;

~Columbia College got a new President last July. Speaking of Columbia, their philosopher, Steven Asma (who hired me for my very first real life classroom teaching gig back in January of 2000) wrote a book on fairness and favoritism. He writes a bit about it here;

~The Old Town Ale House is a great bar. So says Roger Ebert, and he knew some things about bars and drinking, and about other things, too–the most important things;

~College football at the University of Chicago;

~A Tribune editorial says that, “The City Colleges of Chicago may not be this area`s most prestigious institution of higher learning, but they have the potential to be one of the most important, offering education and training to vast numbers of people who don`t have the dollars, credentials or access to attend other schools. The system has seldom lived up to its potential…largely because no one outside the system cared much or paid much attention. Now, finally, there is an opportunity for real change…Chicago has a critical need to train residents for skilled work, both to help its citizens gain productive jobs and to keep and attract businesses that need competent workers. These needs can be merged and served in a revamped City Colleges of the `90s.” That’s right. The editorial is from 1991;

~Another Tribune article talks about how the City Colleges “should focus on remedial education for students who did not learn the basics in high school; instruction in English as a second language; and offerings that prepare students who plan to move on to four-year institutions.” That one was from 2000.

Weekend Reading

Weekend Reading is a regular feature with three links to fascinating, provocative, or particularly well-written, (usually) long-form pieces collected over the last three years. There will not be a test, but there may be a theme.

This one goes out to VC Pernot! Enjoy…

~Why Privacy Matters (Even If You Have Nothing to Hide)

~The Seductive Teaching Machine Model (and its history)

~What if Machiavelli Were Analyzing Higher Ed Reforms?

Oh, and one last piece of (unsolicited) advice:

Things You Could Do Over (the Coming) Break #5: Science Edition

In recognition of the new, formerly chemistry teaching Pope and in anticipation of some spring break free time that you may want to fill up with fascinating reading, here is a list of some interesting things I’ve found laying around the intertoobz:

~On Science and its metaphors;

~Learn about Quantum Biology;

~Black holes have firewalls and physicists are confounded;

~Check out Symphony of Science;

The rest of the list is below the “fold”…


More Stuff To Read

Looks like they’re getting close to the end of this strike–which is good because I have a still huge and growing backlog of reading to share with you people. Here’s some:

~I have been pained every time I read in an article or a comment about that “Chicago teachers make $71,000, on average” because standing alone that number means nothing. ‘What’s the median? What’s the mode? Is the value set skewed and which way? Who is included in the list? Is that salary or income (i.e., does it include summer school, coaching, etc.?” I shout at my screen. Makes me crazy. Probably because I remember when they used a similar number against us in 2004. Anyway, I’ve been hoping for and waiting for and finally found someone willing to give a little attention to all of that. Here you go:

That aside, there are typically two ways one might choose to compare teacher salaries to determine how they fit into their competitive context. One is to compare teacher salaries to non-teachers of similar age and education level. The overall competitiveness of teacher salaries tends to influence the quality of entrants to the profession. The other is to compare teacher salaries – for similar teachers – across districts within the same labor market…

So, here’s a quick run-down on salaries and student populations – and funding equity (or lack thereof) – in pictures and tables.

~CTU is reminding people why we have unions (included is news about their high levels of support among both parents of CPS students and likely voters, putting the lie to some of the things we’ve heard about the toxicity of the current environment for all unions and Wisconsin, Wisconsin, Wisconsin–boogedy, boogedy, boogedy):

The strike by Chicago teachers is reminding all of us of the reason we have unions, and the reason why they are so feared and hated by those who are in command. The ability of these 29,000 teachers to act as one, to withhold their labor, gives them a power far mightier than the sum of their parts. So long as they stay unified, and have the support of parents in their community and others across the nation, they will prevail.

And in other news, if you’re in line somewhere to get the new iphone (or even if you’ve never had one) this article describing how Apple invented it is fun to read and fascinating:

Put it all together and you get remarkable story about a device that, under the normal rules of business, should not have been invented. Given the popularity of the iPod and its centrality to Apple’s bottom line, Apple should have been the last company on the planet to try to build something whose explicit purpose was to kill music players. Yet Apple’s inner circle knew that one day, a phone maker would solve the interface problem, creating a universal device that could make calls, play music and videos, and do everything else, too—a device that would eat the iPod’s lunch. Apple’s only chance at staving off that future was to invent the iPod killer itself. More than this simple business calculation, though, Apple’s brass saw the phone as an opportunity for real innovation.

Finally, just in case you’ve managed to stay focused on your teaching through all of the strike and GradesFirst and copy code and new ids and assorted hub-bub, there’s been some good stuff over at Truman’s Center for Teaching and Learning, for example this suggestion on how to get students doing their reading. I do some similar kinds of things and have found them to be very helpful for the class of the day and the course as a whole. Good stuff.

Updates over the weekend or next week on Faculty Council news from our meeting on Tuesday, GradesFirst language and updates, Reinvention stuff, and more.

In the meantime, remember that your Day 10 list is DUE TODAY and you (and your students) need to have your new ID by Wednesday or you’ll be standing in line waiting for a pass to get in…Have a great weekend. Mine is off to a spectacular start!

DWFDW Bibliography

Speaking of Faculty Development Week, over the course of it, I heard numerous references to articles and studies and what not, and tried to keep a running list, and then at some point I thought, bah, and stopped doing it.

Then Kristin Bivens (she’s back!) was kind enough to forward me a link to an article that she’d heard mentioned, and so I thought that maybe it would be useful after all. Anywhere, here are the ones I heard about and found. Please add any others in the comments:

~Is Algebra Necessary? (h/t to Kristin Bivens). Also posted on Don’s Desk. For a response (and links to others, you can go HERE.

(Sample: “Maybe we can start by reaffirming the importance of learning for the sake of knowledge, in stark contrast to the commodification that has overtaken our educational system. No employer has ever asked me to analyze a Petrarchan sonnet, or expound on the intricacies of a Bach fugue, but I’m not sorry I have that knowledge, even if the latter meant suffering through the daily grind of musical scales on the piano as a child. The drudgery meant I might one day, in my teens, attempt Chopin. Granted, I didn’t become a professional musician; I didn’t ultimately have the chops. But my life is so much richer with Chopin in it.

I spent ten years training in jujitsu, yet I have yet to use my skills to defend myself from a real-world attack. So I guess those ten years were a waste, right? Wrong! The most important lessons I gleaned from martial arts had to do with learning to fail: getting my ass kicked and getting back up, again and again and again, until I mastered a given skill. Why wasn’t I willing to do the same for math?

All we’d end up teaching kids with Hacker’s strategy is avoidance. I was a master of avoidance. But learning to buckle down and do unpleasant things that don’t come easily to us prepares us for life.”).

~CUNY’s New College (mentioned in Alvin’s talk).

~A description of Austin Peay’s Course Picking Software  (Tristan Denley’s thing) and an article in the Chronicle.

~Uri Triesman was full of interesting quotes and references:

~”All of our services were built on someone else’s ideas of the students’ weaknesses.”

~”There is no shortage of opportunities for humility in institutional improvement.”

~”Start with what’s working.”

~”Institutional reforms can go awry and many times the first thing that they do is kill off what’s best about your institution.”

~”Being a college president is like running a cemetary; you have lots of people under you, but no one is listening.”

~”People like changes until they happen.”

~”If you can’t change the culture, enculturate the change; change, in the words of Adrianna Kazar, ‘requires a joyful conspiracy.'”

~”Placement is a criminal enterprise.”

He also said some stuff about research on how they’ve learned to predict, using data through the third week of classes who will be left in the class at the end. I found him after his talk and he said to look up the SENSE study by Kay McClenney (who runs the CCSSE and it’s associated research) and David Yeager from the Carnegie Foundation, but all I found was this link to a press release and this video (which I haven’t watched yet). They were also in the news this week when the Gates Foundation pulled funding for some of their splashy reform efforts, but that is a something else. He also mentioned Peabody models of decision making (which might be this?), Robbie Case’s work on mathematical learning called “Number Worlds” (here’s a description, but this is better), and an op-ed by Madeline Levin in the New York Times, which he connected to Placement (I don’t see it).

After that I went to a session on the new Learning Analytics, but I’m going to save my reading on that one for another post.

What did I miss?


The Inside(r) Story

Between the midterms, the other stuff, the hoops, and Chicago’s High Holy Day, I’ve had a hard time making any space for much posting over the last few weeks, and even less time for thinking about any even slightly creative posts…sorry about that.

Still, I have  a backlog of 17 pieces I’ve read/skimmed lately from Inside Higher Ed.Why 17? Because that’s how many centuries it’s been since Patrick led the snakes off the cliff of Croagh Patrick (or something like that).

Come back and check them out when the weather is worse:

~Data can now predict student futures; another one on a similar project/topic is here

~On First Year Composition and civic/civil discourse

~Cheaters, cheaters, everywhere

~Philosophers advocate for one of their own: an Obit for a 20th century brain-giant

~Controversy at Columbia College: Reinvention redux?

~On post-tenure review

~Supporting seniors on campus (and why it’s good to have them around)

~On Student Success courses at community colleges

~On men teaching women-oriented courses

~DePaul’s Transfer Partnership Program with CCC and others

~A guide to doing research at the Newberry Library

~Academic Assistance Research: If the students who need it most don’t use it, should it be mandatory?

~It’s not the massive course delivery, it’s the badges that will change everything

~The President of the MLA on adjuncts and their summit

~Playing with students

~Term papers versus blogs; another one on research papers here

~A new book on Hip-Hop and college students




This one goes to 31, because that’s how many days there are in March. Enjoy:

~Emma Goldman was cool. Still is, actually.

~In my dreams, I write this well. One of the best essays I’ve read this year, in terms of its writing at least. Glorious.

~On Math and Magic.

~How research on memory should affect the way you teach (this is actually the second of two parts, but the first part is linked in the article; I’m sure you can do it)

~Barry Schwarz (who’s awesome) and a co-author argues that colleges should focus on teaching intellectual virtues

~Badges as the real, looming higher ed disruption

~How the presence of uninformed individuals can spontaneously inhibit a large group from being swayed by an opinionated minority, a fish study (or, why momentum is so hard to maintain)

~Critical University Studies would be an awesome research field, I think. Oh, wait. It is.

~Nessie says that Business majors study the least (insert joke here).

~MIT says we should pay extra attention to re-admitted students and makes some suggestions for doing so

~On a fascinating aspect of Wikipedia (and another reason to steer students from it as anything but a starting place)

~The Accidental Activist: A piece about Jonathan Boldt, the adjunct who started the Google doc on adjunct working conditions

~A Consideration of the Public Discourse on Education

~Politicians insulting professoriate.

~This is about typewriters. Sort of.

~Interesting research about death and death rates.

~On the study of foreign language and internationalization (or, shut your data portal, Larry Summers)

~Work on the value of college (as defined narrowly–as earning power)

~Is new, better? It seems not to one who once thought maybe so.

~An Academic Abroad: this made me laugh out loud twice.

~Upper class and non-upper class terminology tells

~On the Freshman Reading Experience (or class-wide books)

~Tenure under attack–an explanation

~Another thing on college and work

~Ostensibly about philosophy and the urgency to “make it matter,” you can substitute other disciplines in there, too.

~Turns out “Rate My Professor,” Chili peppers aside, provides a more reliable picture of students’ consensus view of what’s going on in the classroom than typically suspected.

~Just in case anyone is on the academic job market…some advice.

~Texas phases out an astonishing number of degree programs

~Advice for getting published.

~On the current campus culture–how (traditional) students live their school lives and how that’s changed from 20 years ago.


Website Wednesday

The Browser is one of my new favorites for finding reading for the train.

It’s jammed with editors choices of great reading (and they’re great) and has something called, FiveBooks, which I’d like to steal if I had any time. They interview smart people about something those people know about and get suggestions for five books people should read on the topic. It’s tremendous.

If you go there once a week, at the end of the year you will be 520x smarter than you were at the beginning of the year. I promise you.

Random Readings

Here is a bunch of stuff that I’ve collected for you:

~I know I don’t make enough room for reflective solitude in my classroom. This article reminded me how important is to make space in the classroom for a little solitude now and then.

~If you have not yet read these investigatory pieces HERE and HERE (I’m betting that they win the Pulitzer this year) on one of Apple’s manufacturers in China, you need to.

~I liked this article on Metacognition so much that I posted it for one of my classes. It’s a topic that always arouses student interest I think because it puts words and structure to an idea that makes intuitive sense as important and helpful but rarely explained.

~Speaking of arousal, reading this story was horrifying and kind of funny in a “nutty professor” kind of way. Don’t worry–it’s safe for work. I found it here under the title, “Worst Lecture of All, Or Greatest?” from a link on Inside Higher Ed; some of the comments are amusing.

~Have you ever heard of the Collegiate Learning Assessment? I read about it in this article and then went to the site. It’s interesting.

~Ever heard of a “leap second”? I hadn’t, at least not until I read THIS and THIS (with video!).

~I liked this one, advocating for more working and less thinking as a BS prevention strategy.

~A couple that I pegged for administrators (current or future) were this and this–not that any of our administrators don’t already know these things (they do), but just in case they might want to share them with any peers who might not.

~Here’s the list of free museum days through March.

~An important piece on meetings (namely, how to make them better) is HERE.

~There are a number of new faculty who have recently received (or will soon) their first set of student evaluations. I think this post has helpful advice about how to use them productively.

Random Readings

I have a huge backlog of stuff from the last five weeks or so of last semester through the break, so every once in a while (until I get behind again), I’m going to slap a bunch of it up at the same time for you to see/pick through/come back to (as you wish). You’re welcome! And yes, they will all go to 11. Because that’s how I roll, people.

1. There must be something in the air (or maybe it was a topic at the MLA convention), but I find two pieces about the use of the word “like” on the same day (HERE and HERE);

2. Google asks some interesting questions in their interviews (answers here);

3. Our neighboring state (Indiana) is already revamping their Performance Based Funding formula (established 2009) to include new metrics that focus on first year mile markers and not just completions;

4. The editors of The Atlantic listed the best book they read last year;

5. More on Moneyball for colleges;

6. I’m thinking about using this essay as the “easy part” of my initial critical reading assessment in my classes this semester–it’s called “Is College a Scam?”

7. Again, not sure why, but within a few days back in August, there was a rash of stuff about author Nicholson Baker, “America’s foremost author of sex novels;” maybe its a sign of my shelteredness, but I’d never heard of the fellow–made for some interesting reading (HERE and HERE);

8. An interview (audio!) with an amazing philosopher, Kwame Anthony Appiah, from a great series;

9. Did you know that Blackboard was bought this summer? Here’s the news, and here’s a look at some developing competition and here’s a guess at what the future of LMSs might hold;

10.For the sports fans, one of the editors of, posted a list of the ten “best” long form journalism stories from 2011 for Deadspin–I’ve read about half of them, and every one has been spectacular;

11. And just in case you were puzzled, as I was, by today’s Google doodle, you can go HERE to read about Nicolas Steno, the “father of Geology”

A Few More On Penn State

These came in over the transom:

From Hedy Cohen: “An interesting ethical angle on the whole thing

From Michael Heathfield: A “Great piece…about Penn State from the ‘invisible’ view of faculty noting the real importance of shared governance”

And one I found to be particularly thought-provoking (I’m such a sucker for the counter-factual), pondering what the reactions would have been if it had been a 10-year old girl in the shower with the coach. Read it HERE.