Website Wednesday: Syllabus Project

Website Wednesday is a (mostly) weekly 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.

I read about this week’s site in the NY Times in an article written by the researchers associated with the project. Their baby is called The Open Syllabus Project, and it has a really interesting tool associated with it called the Syllabus Explorer.

I’ll let you read about the origins and aims of the project, but, if nothing else, check out the Syllabus Explorer, which features a list of the most frequently assigned texts (across all disciplines or filtered by discipline). Then, when you click on one of those texts, you see a list of the texts most frequently assigned with that one. it’s awesome. I’ve already added four or five books to my Amazon wish list for next summer (if I can wait that long).

It is a rabbit hole, for sure, so make sure you’ve submitted your NSW’s first!

PS: If you’d like a laugh, be sure to check out the Syllabus of the Month post on their blog, and if you want to be inspired, check out their post about David Carr’s syllabus (click on the link to check out his syllabus–it’s magic).

Website Wednesday: Wait But Why

Website Wednesday is a (mostly) weekly 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.

Yes, it’s a day late–weeks that begin on Tuesday always mess me up. But still, here we are. I have no recollection whatsoever of what I was looking for when I came across today’s site, called “Wait But Why?”, but I’m positive it wasn’t anything to do with this site. It pulled me in, though.

This post, which begins, “Humans are good at a lot of things, but putting time in perspective is not one of them,” drew my interest in part because I finished a book a couple of weeks ago called Sapiens that I found to be fascinating in part because of the perspective it provided on human history (as well as various parts of the argument posed in the book).

Other interesting posts include one on Artificial Intelligence, one on the Fermi Paradox (about extraterrestrial life in the universe), and one on Horizontal History–all three have cool visual graphics that do as much work presenting and supporting the the ideas presented as the words in the post.

Website Wednesday: Blank on Blank

Website Wednesday is a (mostly) weekly 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.

Check out Blank on Blank, a (new-ish) YouTube channel (here is the home site) associated with PBS Digital; this is their trailer:

It features voices of the past (John Coltrane, Grace Kelly, Fidel CastroLouis Armstrong, John and Yoko) and the present (Tupac Shakur, Maya Angelou, Kurt Vonnegut, Bill Murray) talking (in five to six minute excerpts from interviews) about some topic that is timelessly contemporary over cool animation. I can imagine it serving various purposes in various classrooms–as a writing prompt, as a tool for practicing argument (or visual) analysis, as an introduction to important figures of pop culture, music, and cinema history, as a knowledge probe in a sociology or anthropology class, as a model for a project in a digital media class (or other art class), as a snapshot of an historical moment or period, and much more.

On a personal note, a couple of days after I first ran across the site (the Vonnegut video was featured as ‘Video of the Day’ on “The Browser“), I came home and my beloved said, “Hey check this out–David Gerlach (a former teaching colleague of hers at a Chicago High School) has an awesome new project!” and it was Blank on Blank. David was a history/humanities teacher, and now he’s an Executive Producer for a digital video series. I’m not sure what he studied in college, but I’m sure there’s no straight line from what he chose as his major to what he is doing for a career. But I digress. It’s always nice to see cool people doing great things, and this is most definitely that.

 

Website Wednesday: Chicago and Guns

Website Wednesday is a (mostly) weekly 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.

When fall rolls around–and I mean real fall: crunchy leaves, frosty ground, 40 degree mornings–I get excited about going hunting. Growing up that way, and continuing to do it (and love it), give me a little different perspective on guns than most of the people with whom I share political commitments (somewhere between hippie and pinko, according to my father). But guns and gun usage are undoubtedly a problem in Chicago and in the United States.

Four pieces for your consideration:

~”America’s Mass Shooting Capital is Chicago

~And it’s not just your imagination–it really is worse this year

~But it’s also true that some of the most notorious, recent mass shooters got guns that they shouldn’t have been able to get if the current laws were enforced

~And it’s not clear that an outright prohibition would be better

And sometimes it’s hard to know what exactly is going on, since crime data (like all data) isn’t exactly (ever?) truly raw data.

 

 

 

Website Wednesday: Active Learning Protocols

Website Wednesday is a (mostly) weekly 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.

Over the years I’ve been teaching, I’ve had a number of colleagues ask about or ask for ideas related to discussions and active learning. For a long time, my primary recommendations was Stephen Brookfield’s Discussion as a Way of Teaching: Tools and Techniques for Democratic Classrooms. It’s a great book, but maybe a little wonky and philosophical (in the sense of being really thorough in its consideration and discussion of discussion), which maybe not everyone is as enthusiastic about as I am.

Happily, this summer I read a book called Discussion in the Classroom by Jay Howard, and it is my new first recommendation. Howard is a sociologist and so the book features his findings on the sociology of the college classroom (with a nice overview of others’ research, too) and makes a few critical, simple points about a couple of classroom culture obstacles (e.g., norms like “civil attention” and “consolidation of responsibility”) to good discussion. The book also integrates multiple various, easy, effective (in my experience) remedies to address them. Some of the ideas I knew from my own trial and error, some I learned from other sources, including colleagues, books, and (mostly) my personal teaching hero (to whom I’m married). For me the book was less helpful in terms of providing new strategies than it was helpful in clarifying why some of my favorite approaches turn out to be effective (and why some others that I liked before trying them didn’t work so well). It also includes chapters on grading participation and online participation, among others, and it’s short and easy to read.

But maybe you don’t want a book to read. Fair enough.

Lucky for you, some of my favorite strategies are published in slightly different form on a website dedicated to Common Core-related teaching resources. They are published in the form of “protocols” which are basically recipes for action. The site describes them as practices for elementary and middle-schoolers (3rd to 8th grade), but they are easily adaptable to our classrooms given the similarities in size and set-up. In truth, the protocols could be used with first graders as well as college students–the complexity of the task derives from the complexity of the text, not the protocol (though, the protocols can be adjusted in that regard, too, just by taking the basic structure and altering the specific task or questions as appropriate. Favorites  for processing text (and, in the process, learning to effectively summarize/analyze/compare texts) include: “Concentric Circles,” “Jigsaw,”  “Say Something,” “Written Conversation,” “Rank, Talk, Write,”  “Popcorn Read,” “Tea Party,” and “Take a Stand.”  Check ’em out.

 

Website Wednesday: Library of Babel

Website Wednesday is a (mostly) weekly 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.

I love Jorge Luis Borges’ short story, “The Library of Babel” as much for what it is as for the literature it has inspired–especially Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose–but because every time I read a book with a library in it–from Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore or The Strange Library to Carlos Luis Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind (which I didn’t even like that much) to children’s literature like Lissa Evans’ Horton’s Miraculous Mechanisms–I can’t help but think about it again. And there’s so much to think about!

Anyway, you can imagine my delight when I encountered this article about a Brooklyn author who has created a virtual Library of Babel. And then, I found this explanation by the creator himself of his project and motivations.

And then I went to the Library of Babel, itself.

I browsed around a bit, and then decided it would be more fun to search. What did I search for? This: “When others paint a biased and incomplete portrait of all of our contributions, it is critical to state the facts clearly so that everyone at CCC and all of Chicago can continue to rightfully take pride in the great endeavor in which we are involved” and there it was on page 56 of Pkjyfjzj.pbfen Qdbxcp located in 137y3o6u9dvns
xb8l7n393oqcbc2i6djh1nu2ys…-w1-s4-v02

Though, to be honest, that’s only one location. According to the search engine there are approximately 10 to the 29th power other matches, too. Kind of a goofy way to spend time, but it beats stewing, I guess, and it definitely beats grading midterms. At least for a little while. And if it doesn’t, then go find some Borges (or something) to read…

Website Wednesday: The Atlantic

Website Wednesday is a (mostly) weekly 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.

The Atlantic has been killing it for a few years now, especially on topics related to race, class, and sex/gender, but the pace of excellent readings has picked up decidedly in the last six months or so.

Let’s start with their star. If you’re not on the Te-Nehisi Coates train yet, you should be. Coates’ book Between the World and Me came out last spring and if nothing else introduced a new generation of readers and activists to the work of one of America’s great writers–James Baldwin–through his adoption of of Baldwin’s essay trope. In the book, In his book Coates, like Baldwin, writes a letter to a member of the next generation about what it means to be a young black man in America. The book has provoked a ton of commentary–a review by Michelle Alexander, another by Tressie MC (who also published a really interesting description of her reading process–which I wish I’d read when I was an undergrad or grad student) and ALSO publishes provocative sociological/media commentary like this in The Atlantic), not to mention David Brooks and elsewhere.

But that’s not all he’s done. He also published an EPIC consideration of and argument for Reparations and, more recently, a discussion of “The Black Family in the Age of Incarceration.”

And, as suggested above, it’s not just a one man show. Want to know more about the Black Lives Matter movement? They’ve got you. Want to know more about what some politicians are doing to try to stem the disproportionate violence faced by young black men? They’ve got you.

Maybe you need a break from reading about race? Or you’re interested in intersectionality and want to read and learn more about Gender, or Class (especially as it affects adjuncts–as here in “The Cost of an Adjunct” or here in “There Is No Excuse for How Universities Treat Their Adjuncts.” 

Or maybe you’re interested in seeing what else they’ve written about teaching and learning and colleges–maybe you’re interested in trigger warnings and the recent, splashy argument titled, “The Coddling of the American Mind,” or the bad science of Alcoholics Anonymous, or the cognitive benefits of doodling, or a technological solution, called Project Euler, to learning anything, as told through the author’s efforts to learn coding, or a consideration of the state of stand-up comedy (and, by extension, free speech) on college campuses, or municipal disaster preparedness (and the lack of it), or immigration/political arguments, or privacy and corporate data collection, or David Hume and Allison Gopnik’s mid-life crisis (such a great writer–you should read her stuff and you don’t have to know a thing about Hume to enjoy it).

Check out what they’re doing over there. It’ll make you smarter and give you at least one thing that you can post as a Blackboard link for your students. Promise.

For example, I’ve posted this one for my philosophy students…

Website Wednesday: Models and Data

Website Wednesday is a (mostly) weekly 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.

Here in week 7 of our semester, I’m a little less far behind than usual for some reason, but a little further behind than I was last week owing to a cold and so I didn’t have enough time to put up the post I’d planned (maybe next week!). Instead, in keeping with Kamran’s theme, I offer you three gifts:

~a truly great (and short) read called, “The Deception that Lurks in Our Data-Driven World,” that includes stories about bathroom scales, the German “Normalbaum” disaster that ensued from human efforts to make an unruly ecosystem easier to quantify and an overabundance of faith in their understanding of they system they were quantifying, and the sentence “Raw data is an oxymoron;”

~an even shorter, quicker read on one example of what happens when a model (even a good one) is mistaken for reality; and

~this fun, heretical presentation on “Big Data” (you can skim through the slides and summarizing text by clicking HERE if you don’t have time for the video):

Enjoy!

And when you’re done, go read Kamran’s piece…

Website Wednesday: TurnItIn

Website Wednesday is a (mostly) weekly 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.

For years now, I’ve treated plagiarism as a learning opportunity for students. Given how differently students are taught (especially taking into consideration national and international variation in terms, definitions, and valuations) and how varied the levels of enforcement may have been in their educational past, I provide students with a definition in my syllabus and an explanation of the consequences (students found to have plagiarized may dispute the claim and choose to have their paper/appeal reviewed by the college disciplinary committee OR receive a Zero on the assignment, watch a Web tutorial about plagiarism (it’s the one you’ll find in the list of links), and complete an assignment that demonstrates their new, thorough knowledge of the most common varieties of plagiarism prior to submitting their next assignment. A second instance, then, results in an F for the course and referral to the disciplinary committee.

For years I relied on my own sense of students writing–honed through in-class exercises and multiple papers–to find violators, and I still rely primarily on that. Over those years I scrupulously avoided using plagiarism detection software on account of various objections I had to the way it worked–specifically I did not like that students papers would become part of the database and, so, contribute to the profits of the company without compensation to the students (not to mention the possibility of false positives on account of self-plagiarism). Similar objections to mine are discussed here. After years of experimenting (and failing to find) a way to speed up and improve the feedback I got my students on their writing, without sacrificing detail, Jen Asimow finally talked me into giving TurnItIn a try, persuading me that it is easy to provide common comments, as well as paper specific ones, offers a great option for voice recorded feedback, has an opt-out option that allows for keeping the students’ papers out of the company database, and otherwise convincing me that it is a pretty swell tool, and my experiences since have confirmed all that she said and more.

It remains true that some plagiarism slips through, but I don’t care because I don’t really use it for that. I almost never look at the originality reports unless I have suspicions. I’m using it for the feedback capabilities, and I like it pretty good.

Still, plagiarism is their bread-and-butter and this fall I found that they had put out some pretty good stuff on feedback and plagiarism. For example, there is this infographic (and white paper) about student and faculty perceptions related to effective feedback was interesting, and I put this online quiz about plagiarism in the folder full of “Writing Tips” that I post under “Course Resources” in Blackboard for all of my classes. I didn’t tell them that I got two wrong, though.

Anyway, if you’re interested in making more use of TurnItIn, you can (and should) check out their instructor training videos, sorted by topic.

Website Wednesday: The Digital Quad

Website Wednesday is a (mostly) weekly 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.

Wright College President, David Potash, was less enthusiastic about the New York Times Education articles than I was, apparently. How do I know this? Because I check out his blog every couple of weeks to see what he’s been reading (and writing) about. In fact, you have two options! There’s The Digital Quad for his reviews and thoughts about Higher Ed and then hynagogicfun for everything else,

You’ll mostly find book reviews, though he sprinkles in the occasional essay (such as this recent one on transcripts). They are well written and thoughtful engagements with the books and brief enough to read pretty quickly. They are also consistently and deliberately structured and unfailingly fair in their presentation of the books, regardless of the quality of his views of them.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve thought about using one or another of his essays more than once as models for student writing about the books we’re reading and examples of the “They Say, I Say” approach, exemplifying how to say something about a book, present a summary of it, and then elaborate on the original thesis.

I am grateful that he’s willing to read a lot of stuff that I have no interest in reading or have interest in but not the time. It’s also interesting to see what he has to say about books I’ve read and admired (such as Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow and Edward Tufte’s The Visual Display of Information). I don’t always agree with his assessments, as I didn’t with respect to How College Works, but even in those cases, I appreciate the value of reading another view and being forced to rethink my own. The posts tend to follow the rhythms of the semester, you can expect a flurry (ok, that might be overstating it, but whatever) of new posts as semesters begin and end, with a post or two sprinkled in the middle. More in the summer and over breaks than during the semester when the responsibilities of the college press a bit harder, but it’s clear that whether reviewing or not, the reading is a constant

If I were forced to provide a criticism, either by a structural commitment or a forceful interlocutor, it would be that it’s impossible, ti seems, to post any comments on his site. I tried to once, but after writing it up and then signing in and then rewriting it and then hitting various buttons, I was faced with a prompt that rejected my attempt.

So, don’t try to talk back–these communication channels only run one way. But, all things considered, I guess that’s appropriate, in a way, too. Anyway, check them out, particularly The Digital Quad. It’s worth your time.

Website Wednesday: New York Times Magazine Education Issue

Website Wednesday is a (mostly) weekly 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.

So, this is less of a specific site recommendation and more of a reading highlight package from last week’s New York Times Magazine, a.k.a., the Education Issue, which was chock full of interesting stuff for reading and thinking about and forwarding to people who talk about higher education but only from the narrow perspective of their own experience, or by parroting “conventional wisdom,” or in blissful unawareness of their own ignorance (or some combination thereof). Anyway, lots of interesting stuff to poke through and ponder and argue about with other people, including:

~What is the Point of College? (by a philosopher I like a lot, Kwame Anthony Appiah)

~Are Lectures Unfair?

~New Data Gives Clearer Picture of Student Debt

~Teaching Working Students

~Is College Really Tuition Too High?

~Teaching Martin Luther King Jr. in the Age of Freddie Gray

~What the Privileged Poor Can Teach Us

Plus there’s this book review–a cautionary tale about how NOT to go about educational reform…”There is another way to approach reform, a way that includes collaboration with the teachers, instead of bullying them or insulting them. A way that involves the community rather than imposing top-down decisions. ”

Sound familiar? Happy reading!

Website Wednesday: New Rambler

Website Wednesday is a (mostly) weekly 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.

 

The New Rambler is my favorite kind of book review site–the kind where I leave feeling smarter. It’s funded by the University of Chicago law school, but it publishes book reviews on more than legal issues. Their own samuel_johnsondescription of it is as follows: “The New Rambler publishes reviews of books about ideas, including literary fiction. It takes its name from Samuel Johnson’s periodical, The Rambler.” (Yes, that’s a picture of Samuel Johnson there, reading away.)

The reviews cover books on Social Science, International Relations, Business, Political Science, Public Law, Legal Theory, Law and Politics, History, Religion, Literature, Philosophy, Psychology, the Arts and Humanities, and Science, as well as Middle East Studies, Gender and Sexuality, Film and Media Studies, Journalism, and more, all easily searchable by category.

Best is the fact that the reviews are so well written, that by the end of them, I feel like I have read the book (and almost certainly know more about the subject than I would have if I had ONLY read the book). Scroll through the reviews on the first page and see if there’s something that grabs your interest. I bet there will be…

Website Wednesday: BBC’s History of Ideas

Yeah, it’s been awhile since I’ve run this feature, but I figure that since HW is the Online college now, it’s probably the best one to revive.

Not only that, but I got some unexpected inspiration this morning when I fell on this little video about Karl Popper and Falsification:

Which reminded me that the BBC has a great series of videos on big ideas. Check out the Playlist for their whole collection and find brief, fascinating overviews on some huge ideas in Philosophy, especially political philosophy and epistemology–two hot spots in contemporary philosophy.

And be quick about it–from what I understand, the BBC has some financial challenges of its own

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.

Flowing Data is a “Data Visualization, Infographics, and Statistics” site that makes beautiful, fascinating pictures out of numbers. Want to see a visualization of “Where People Run” in a bunch of major cities (such as Chicago)? No problem. Want to see a poster with visualizations of famous movie quotes? No problem. Want to learn about how to make data visualizations or recognize liars or see some great ones? No problem. It’s all there.

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.

It’s Olympics week, and this calendar of all the events is a marvel of design and information display is a bazillion times cooler than a TV Guide. It won’t tell you where and when you can watch what, though. But it’s a start…and its beautiful.