Tuesday Teaching Talk

Tuesday Teaching Talk is a regular feature which, as the name implies, is an opportunity to talk explicitly about teaching (and learning) in the practical and philosophical sense that happens on, you guessed it, Tuesday. It could be a question, an article or a tip to name a few options.

Let’s let today be a teaching tip day.  If you’ve got a teaching tip, post it in the comments.  I’ll get the ball rolling with a few tips.

1.  When grading short answer/fill in papers, they can be lined up on a long table and graded item by item.  This saves a bit of time despite the amount of space required.  It works great for short computational math problems.

2.  On Bb, use the copy feature if you have common items between courses. It’s a huge time saver.

3.  Ask students if they’re familiar with the technology you’re using in the classroom. I created a few Prezi’s.  I was surprised to see how few of them knew about it but even more surprised by how excited many of them seemed about using it.

4.  As a time saving device, I created a discussion item on Bb in front of my class.  This allowed me to let them watch the “magic” happen while also giving them a very quick tutorial on posting to the discussion board (now called discussions).

Tuesday Teaching Talk

Tuesday Teaching Talk is a regular feature which, as the name implies, is an opportunity to talk explicitly about teaching (and learning) in the practical and philosophical sense that happens on, you guessed it, Tuesday. It could be a question, an article or a tip to name a few options.

The semester is upon us.  Anyone have any tips to a successful start to the semester?  Let’s tear down the classroom walls, open the doors (which may be unnecessary given the lack of walls to hold them in place) and get a look into our individual sanctuaries. What do you do that first day/week?

Tuesday Teaching Talk (TTT)

Tuesday Teaching Talk will replace the Tuesday Teaching Question as the regular Tuesday feature. Tuesday Teaching Talk, as the name implies, is an opportunity to talk explicitly about teaching (and learning) in the practical and philosophical sense and it happens on, you guessed it, Tuesday. It could be a question, an article or a tip to name a few option.

Today’s TTT is reminiscent of one I’ve done for the past few semesters.  Here goes.

Here I am at 10 to 7 the week before classes are set to begin.  I’ve yet to put the finishing touches on my syllabus nor exact the changes that I vowed to make at the end of last semester.  If you’re at all like me, at the end of any given semester, you look at what you’ve done and attempt to determine what worked best. What’s your process?  Are you excited about any new things you’re going to try?

Tuesday Teaching Question

Tuesday Teaching Question is a regular feature that attempts to get a conversation going about teaching.  Typically, the questions attempt to be very practical and begin with an excessively long preamble.  TTQ is brought to you by CAST.  If you have a question that you’re dying to have featured in an upcoming TTQ, e-mail me at hwc_cast@ccc.edu.

Here’s last week’s, back by unpopular demand. 🙂

Yesterday (now one week ago) seemed to be a day full of waiting…waiting for the Red Line to get to work, waiting for various websites to load at HWC, waiting on line (yeah, I said “on line” instead of “in line”; I’m from NY) to submit my midterm grades (they’re due today BTW), waiting for students to stop in during office hours, etc.  If you’re like me, when you’re waiting, your mind starts to wander.  Today’s TTQ is inspired by the time I spent waiting.

I was thinking about our new president’s letter and his blog (and now his 2nd entry about academic “coaching”).  I jokingly asked the class I was teaching yesterday if the building felt any different.  They asked me why I’d asked this.  I went on to tell them that we had a new president.  They asked me if this was a good thing.  I said, “so far, so good.”  I remain optimistic.  Anyway, here’s the ending of President Laackman’s letter.  Maybe we can jump start the “getting to know you” process.

Our mission is central to who we are. All of us bring that mission to life. I am trying to learn how you do that and what you need to do an even better job for our students. I look forward to working with you to support our students and prepare them to realize their dreams.

What do you need to do an even better job for our students?

What do you do currently that you think others should know about?

Tuesday Teaching Question

Tuesday Teaching Question is a regular feature that attempts to get a conversation going about teaching.  Typically, the questions attempt to be very practical.  TTQ is brought to you by CAST.  If you have a question that you’re dying to have featured in an upcoming TTQ, e-mail me at hwc_cast@ccc.edu.

The mayoral race has been heating up and the primaries are a few weeks away (2 weeks from today to be exact).  I’m attempting to get the preservice teachers in my Math for Elementary teachers classes thinking about the impact that the new mayor would have on their future livelihood by asking them to read the candidates education platforms and discuss them.  (Phew, that was a long sentence!)  Anyway…

Are you incorporating the mayoral race into your classes?  If so, how?

The last Tuesday Teaching Question(s) of 2010 (I think.)

OOPS, this should have gone up at 11:59 last night.  I had it scheduled for 11:59 tonight, giving people only one minute on Tuesday for the Tuesday teaching question.  Sorry for the delay.

The end is here.  The multicolored pen business is booming as we in the education business (ha, according to who?) do our business so we can enjoy a much earned vacation (if such a thing is truly possible).  I figured I’d keep it incredibly practical and low level this week in order to respect the cognitive demands of grading.  Here goes.  The even-numbered questions are slightly meatier than the odd-numbered ones.  In fact, the one that is divisible by 3 and even (i.e. divisible by 6) is likely the meatiest of them all (and my original TTQ idea).

1. Are you procrastinating from grading right now?

11. Do you have a red pen to lend me?

24. Since it’s likely that many students won’t come back to collect their final work from you (assuming it hasn’t happened already)…

a) What do you do with you students’ work?

b) Are you as careful “marking their work up” knowing that they will likely never see it?

40. Do you use a percent based grade weighting scale or points?  Why?

115. Would you be more likely to grade in room 1046 if there was music playing?

Let’s see if we can get more than 2 responses this week.  Thanks for reading.  Good luck in this final week.

Tuesday Teaching Question

So the mid-term is nearly upon us, as we work our way through week 7 of the semester, and I’m thinking about putting out a survey for the students or gathering anonymous feedback or opening some other channel of communication, just like all the student-centered instructional advice says I ought to do, but, like always, I hesitate. Not out of fear or anything else, but because I have a pretty good idea of what I’ll get if I ask: they’d like their papers back faster, I’m sure; also, less reading; also more reading; also, no pop quizzes (they always seem to come on the one day the student has not read); also, more pop quizzes (to force more people to read); more time with each text; move faster through the material; and so on and so on.

The point is that I don’t seem to get helpful information back, when I give it, and most of the suggestions end up being canceled out (which I guess is potentially informative for the students (i.e., not everyone feels the same way about the class), but I also don’t see how finding such information out would be helpful and it comes at the cost of time when I’m already behind.

So, I guess today’s question is twofold: #1) do you seek feedback from your students mid-semester (or along the way) and if so, what questions do you find provide you with helpful information?

‘Trying to Teach’ Tuesday

My question for the week is one that I have thought about for the past few years:

What do we, faculty and administration, mean when we use the word technology in our syllabi, mission statements, goals, assessment plans, committee charges, lectures, and assignments?

Do we mean that we have hardware, software, and peripherals?
Do we mean that we are using hardware, software, and peripherals to improve teaching and learning?

For a while, it meant that we were capable of placing a computer with an LCD projector on a cart and sending the teacher into the classroom with the power to alter the learning experience. Now we’re placing “smartboards” in the classrooms. Why? What does technology have to do with student learning? How does one compliment the other? Tell me how to define technology so I can proceed to implement it in my classroom.

I’m not sure what the word means in our academic environment and why we must stress the need to have and use technology in the classroom. Has the use of the word technology become obsolete? Do we still refer to planes, trains, and automobiles as new modes of transportation? Do we tout the heating and air conditioning system of our building as a perk to prospective and returning students? The answer is no and no, even though at one time or another these systems were seen as technological marvels; now, we just take them for granted to the point where we expect them as part of our privileged lifestyle.

So why do we still use technology as a word to promote dedication to, and progress in, our academic environment? Isn’t it a given that ALL academic institutions in urban settings have computers for faculty and students? That puts us on par with every institution, doesn’t it? So why do we take extra care to use this word in writing? Let’s promote our fluorescent lights and our “state of the art” security cameras. We don’t because it’s expected. So why do we still promote technology? Isn’t it also expected? What’s so special about our use of technology? What do we mean by this word?

I do not understand. This is why I seek assistance. How do you define technology?

‘Trying to Teach’ Tuesday

We have entered the official last week of summer classes. As I was running errands last week and seeing children outdoors and on their bikes, I found myself wondering: Should students attend school year-round?

There are pros and cons. I often thought that if year-round school was the standard, maybe summer school could focus on outdoor activities such as sports, and educational excursions away from the school building.

According to this link from CPS, there were 41 year-round schools at the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year.  Then this CPS link from May 11, 2009 states “the number of year-round schools in CPS to [be] 132 schools.” Followed by:

Teachers and students have said they like the regular and better-spaced periods off from school, which has turned into better attendance rates for both. Additionally, teachers like the schedule because it allows them more time to design more meaningful lesson plans that can translate into greater student achievement.

We will continue to have schools on the traditional calendar as long as that is what school communities prefer. However, the Track E schedule holds a lot of promise for many of our schools and students as we strive to keep the district’s progress moving in the right direction.

What do you think?

‘Trying to Teach’ Tuesday

I’ve been told that reading a book and “listening to a book on tape” are not the same. In other words, if I read a book from cover to cover, I would understand and absorb the material better than if I were to listen to the same words being read to me by another person. Is this true?

Do you or would you allow your students the option of listening to a book instead of reading a book? What’s the difference? If listening to the spoken word is not valid, then why do we sometimes read passages out of books during class and ask our students to listen?

BTW, ALL faculty may comment; including our retired faculty members.

‘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?

‘Trying to Teach’ Tuesday

Last week, the majority of CPS students officially began their summer break.

CCC students are now in week 3 of their summer semester.

Is it just me, or does anyone else see a disconnect between these two public institutions when it comes to facilitating the transition for graduating high school seniors? Why can’t CPS and CCC coordinate academic calendars?

Administrators can argue that seniors represent a small portion of the student body so why bother doing anything. Well, here’s how I see it:

According to CPS stats and facts, for the 2009-2010 school year there were 115,770 students in grades 9-12. Divide that number by 4 and you have a possible 28942.5 graduating seniors. Take that number and divide it by our seven major city colleges and that averages to 4134.6 possible incoming freshmen. How many can consider starting in the summer? The number is ZERO.

Are we doing all we can to provide learning opportunities for our young citizens, or are the overlapping calendars interfering with our educational goals?

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.

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!

Tuesday Teaching Question

So we’re in Week 9, and mid-term grades are due next Monday. I’ve had a few students ask, “How am I doing so far?” this week, and I tell them. I announce to the class when their mid-term grades are turned in and that they can find them on my.ccc.edu by the end of the week that they’re turned in.

Last semester I even (finally) figured out how to post them on Blackboard in the gradebook.

Every year I think about doing more, though. I’d like to hand each student a card with their attendance, their other numbers and some sort of affective feedback (smiley face, frowny face, etc.), but it’s usually about all I can do to get the grading done. I’d really like to have some sort of giant data set (something that says the average attendance for students getting an A at the mid-term was XX% & students getting an A were a jillion times more likely to visit during office hours, etc.), but that isn’t going to happen until I get a lot more organized.

In the spirit of brainstorming and goal setting, though, I’m wondering what y’all do with your mid-term grades. How do students get them? What other information do you give? What do you do and why? And what would you do if time (and load) were not an issue?