Large Classes Thursday, Apr 21 2011 

A bit late in relation to class, but figured I’d weigh in on the large class subject.  This is something that I find daunting and have no idea why this is thrown at new faculty members…the only thing I can come up with is that no one else wants to do it, so here you go low man on the totem pole.  It makes me think of my time as a therapist and particularly when I left Northern VA and returned to Richmond pre-license and had no choice but to partake in the in-home therapy fad.  Yes, I say fad because inevitably, after millions of Medicaid dollars are spent, the powers that be will realize that this is a generally futile practice….that’s a whole different topic though.  Anyway, individuals without a license are the ones spending eight to ten hours a week with families who are about to have their children removed from their home as a last-ditch effort to “save the family.”  This is something you think would be handed to the most experienced clinicians, but no, again low man on the totem pole practice.  There is at least light at the end of the tunnel in regards to teaching large classes.  For everyone who participates in PFF courses and other such programs, we at least know what to expect and have pointers on how to make the best of the situation and shake things up a bit to keep it interesting.  I must say, I was shocked by some of the examples given by our guest speakers about the observed behaviors in some of their large classes…I don’t know if it’s a generational difference or what, but I never would have dreamed of watching a movie in class…I admit I might have thought about shopping for shoes when in large lecture classes, but I wouldn’t have done it.  They also offered good options for ways to engage the students.  One thing that is still difficult to navigate to me is choosing what to actually cover during the class period…usually large classes are introductory courses in which each chapter can and usually is an entire class unto itself.  What do you emphasize in class?…what is most important?…what you find the most interesting?…figuring out what the students find most interesting? 

Not something revolutionary as we’ve already discussed the use of clickers, but here is a video of one of my former professors at William and Mary using clickers in his large class.

Testing, Testing, 1-2-3 Thursday, Mar 24 2011 

I really enjoyed the reading for this week about authentic assessment.  Recently, I had to retake the GRE because my scores expired and I am in the midst of trying to get into a doctoral program in Educational Psychology.  They should change the name to the GRRRRRR…..I was incredibly annoyed, particularly by the quantitative section.  Concepts includes mainly Algebra and Geometry…subjects I haven’t studied in over 10 years.  Why not have separate quantitative sections depending on if you’re going into the bench sciences or social sciences and humanities?  Then social sciences/humanities people can have statistics and the bench sciences have calculus or whatever best fits quantitative reasoning in those disciplines.  Instead study guides straight out tell you to memorize strategies to correctly answer the specific types of questions in order to score well–exactly what we don’t want students doing, especially graduate students!  The analytical writing section is an improvement over the analogies, but it is still not the greatest assessment.  You have 45 minutes for one essay and 30 minutes for another.  The topic I was given to cover thoroughly in 45 minutes was essentially “What is effective instruction?”.  Okay, perhaps some can cover this quickly, but for me this is something that requires much more than 45 minutes to cover thoroughly. 

Can’t wait to see what will come up this evening in class!

Tweet, Tweet Thursday, Feb 24 2011 

I will admit that Twitter is a service I have refused to join since it came out because I’ve only thought of it as the one aspect of Facebook with which many users go overboard–constantly posting where they’re at/what they are doing.  It’s really not of my concern that you’re eating dinner in front of the TV or going shopping at this exact moment.  Why would you waste the time to continually post what you’re doing every moment of the day?  I am driving in the car…I am at X restaurant…I am eating XYZ…I am driving back home…etc, etc.  Seriously, either you have way too much time on your hands or your ego is so enormous that you feel everyone is dying to know what exactly it is that you’re doing. 

The readings (here and here)for this week have introduced me to a new side of Twitter; increasing communication among students and between students and professors among other benefits.  We’ll see what additional information comes from class tonight…maybe I’ll be converted and jump on the Twitter bandwagon, well, at least for academic purposes.  You don’t have to worry about me posting my every action of the day.

Diigo, Delicious and RSS…oh my!! Friday, Feb 18 2011 

Okay, deep breath in….sometimes when first learning about new technology it can be overwhelming.  This is something my group was discussing tonight during class.  While the prospects of refining the information available on the web and having concise information to suit your needs and interests delivered right to you is thrilling, it is also daunting at the outset.  Diigo, delicious, RSS…oh my!  Setting up the various accounts, more log-ins, more passwords; oh wait, what are the various features of the different accounts?…cross-reference notes, confer with classmates, okay now I remember…deep breath out.  I think I’ve got it.  Well, at least the basics.  I am certainly not at the skill level of many others when it comes to embedding things and other such fancy tricks. 

I definitely see the benefit in personal learning environments over blackboard when it comes to educational experiences.  Blackboard disappears when the semester is over ending the connections and conversations between a student and a professor and other students unless the student makes an effort to continue conversing with the professor and classmates via other services such as email (readily available information on most campuses).  There have certainly been times where I couldn’t remember a classmates full name from a previous semester to be able to look up their email address and thus that connection was lost unless I saw them on campus or at some point later ended up having a class together again.  In some of these instances, continued conversations through some of the technological advances we’ve discussed thus far–blogs, tags, RSS–could lead to important connections whether it be for networking purposes or for the acquisition of knowledge.  This makes me think of a moment I had earlier this semester in another class.  My assignment was to look up four research articles related to Educational Psychology.  In the process, I found multiple journals dedicated to my research interests that I previously didn’t know existed.  All of this due to having a background in psychology versus education…the key to a plethora of research related to my interests lie in the area of Educational Psychology which I did not become aware of until this past year.  I will remember this experience as I continue in my time as a student and then a professor in higher education…Any person might hold the key that unlocks the door to someone else’s quest for knowledge.  Blogs, tagging, and RSS used in the academic context can greatly expedite students’ journeys along the educational road toward that magical key that unlocks the door to the wealth of knowledge for which they are searching.