Thursday, March 23, 2017

Review: How Great Science Fiction Works

How Great Science Fiction Works How Great Science Fiction Works by Gary K. Wolfe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm a sucker for programs from The Great Courses. They are phenomenal primers on diverse subjects that provide listeners with a rich understanding of the topic. This production only reinforced my positive experience with them. Wolfe provides a complex and dynamic exploration of science fiction that traverses not just time but themes, styles, and formats of science-fiction. He knows his stuff and the complexity of it but provides easy-to-follow lectures that trace out different ideas within science fiction (e.g. time travel, alien invasion, evolution, etc) and some of the most know works grappling with those ideas. He also delves into issues of authorial influence, politics of the time(s), and the impact of publishing industry on the content. The over 12-hours of listening slipped by and I landed at the end wanting to hear more and with a "to-read" list 100 pages long!

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Monday, March 20, 2017

Navigating Privilege As a White Middle-Class Male

I live in a culture where aspects of my identity present me with concrete and abstract privileges that I am at times aware of and unaware of.  I'm a white, middle class, perceived-as-heterosexual, male.  Historically and to still today, this intersection of identity attributes represents one of the most powerful groups in our culture.  (If you are unfamiliar with what I mean by privilege, I recommend checking out Peggy McIntosh's "White Privilege:  Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" for a quick primer and there are several other useful knapsacks out there including ones on sexuality, sex, class, etc).  

Not all of these identity attributes operate at the same time or same level; the context of any given situation indicates just how much one will be more salient than any others.  Walking down the street in any part of the city, I am significantly less likely to be seen as a victim or perpetrator of robbery or sexual assault.  While driving, I'm not likely to be pulled over (in 20 years of driving, this has only occurred when caught at speed-traps, when I was well over the speed limit).   When applying for a job, my name doesn't raise questions or seem "foreign" or "ethnic" during the screening process.  These are but a few of examples--there are plenty more. 

None of this negates that I am hard-working, care about equality, or believe people are largely good.  However, it notes that I was dealt a different set of circumstances in a particular place at a particular time--and historical forces shape that place and time to give me preferential treatment while others are denied the same treatment or given unfair treatment.   

Word cloud in the shape of a cube

A "Woke" Kin

There are some people out there, like me that like to think they have better awareness of privilege in American culture than the average person who benefits from an intersection of privilege such as being white, male, and middle-class (to be clear, I include myself in recognizing that I am making the assumption that I am better aware; I always have my doubts about this and should as I note below).  That, of course, is a slippery slope to balance upon.  The term, "woke" can often be used to describe such people.  But when I think about the term "woke" and what it means, particularly for white people, I feel it gets complicated and challenging.  This NY Times article captures a lot of my concern with it:

““Woke” feels a little bit like Macklemore rapping in one of his latest tracks about how his whiteness makes his rap music more acceptable to other white people. The conundrum is built in. When white people aspire to get points for consciousness, they walk right into the cross hairs between allyship and appropriation. These two concepts seem at odds with each other, but they’re inextricable. Being an ally means speaking up on behalf of others — but it often means amplifying the ally’s own voice, or centering a white person in a movement created by black activists, or celebrating a man who supports women’s rights when feminists themselves are attacked as man-haters. Wokeness has currency, but it’s all too easy to spend it.” 

For those reasons above, I am skeptical of using the term woke for myself or other white people. It's more than that though.  The thing that people with privilege (woke or otherwise) don't realize is that to understand systematic inequality, be aware of it and to thoughtfully consider the experiences of those who do not have the same level of privilege means regularly engaging and learning from others who have experienced it and/or studied it. 

Woke is a process of staying awake, not an end destination.   

Engage, Reflect, Repeat

Many people of privilege have taken the time to read a book, blog post, or article, attended a workshop, or watched a video or documentary to inform themselves of the ways in which people are "othered" in our culture.  I appreciate those that have done so and felt changed by it.  But for me, I don't think that one-time or even the occasionally toe-tipping is enough.  In a culture where so much of the system of privilege is made invisible to those who benefit from it, dominantly repeated in our discourse, and blindly ignored through the myth of pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps individuals, it feels like using a single cup of water to put out a fire.  It might help, but the submersion in the fire is inevitably likely to evaporate the water so quickly that it barely leaves a mark. 

While I have taken courses, attended seminars, workshops, and retreats, I have also read thousands of academic, professional, and online articles about understanding this.  I've watched movies, documentaries, TV shows, and online videos that address this.  I've read a lot of books (check out this bookshelf for some good recommendations) to continue to inform myself.  The goal for me is to regularly find ways to keep this in my view as our culture makes it extremely easy to forget.

For some, I'm sure this sounds like a lot of "work,"  right?  Why do it? Two reasons come to mind:  

1.  It's not a lot of work. It's a pleasure to expand my horizon, reflect critically about my life, and the world around me.  It's enriching, rewarding, and empowering to understand the roles I play in perpetuating privilege and learning ways to address and dismantle privilege.  Every time I learn something new, it helps me to better understand the world and my (privileged) place in it.  This helps me to better address and articulate the problems that exist as best I can.  It also means that I can better enrich my relationships with others, more consciously work towards being genuinely welcoming to others, and help other people of privilege understand these things.  It also helps me to better understand hostile or toxic thoughts that occur in my head (or in culture) and where they come from within our culture. 

And yes, I have toxic thoughts--thoughts that undermine, devalue, and disregard others that are not based on the facts and context of a given situation but informed by the numerous messages about marginal identities that I have been exposed ot since before I could remember.  Given that thoughts appear like lightning in one's head, "not thinking" isn't the issue; I can't necessarily stop these thoughts from happening.  But I can recognize these thoughts and call them out in my own head as they occur and do my best to unpack them and disregard them.   

2.  Our culture's messages reiterate the privileging of those identity attributes are strongly and repeatedly reinforced.  When we live in 2017 and (white) people claim there was no racism before President Obama (yes, the article is from 2016 but this sentiment still holds true for many) or that Obama is the cause of the racial divide (the second, told to me by a white male police officer), it tells me we are still far from really understanding folks who are different from the dominant group.  When we have a President in 2017 whose presidency fixates on the threat of "the other" to the point that KKK and white supremacists across the country are empowered to be increasingly hostile to non-whites, we're not really thinking about this whole thing as seriously as we should.  

These misinformed views, of course, largely miss how racism have been infused into politics for generations (well, actually, centuries) and is still a prominent intentional approach by Republicans with their Southern strategy and repeated attempts to block African Americans from voting.  To read the words of Lee Atwater from 1981, they resonate with how the Republicans have actively codeswitched to play upon white privilege:  "You start out in 1954 by saying, 'Nigger, nigger, nigger.' By 1968 you can’t say 'nigger'—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… 'We want to cut this,' is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than 'Nigger, nigger.'"  And none of this is to implicate that other political parties don't play with privilege in direct and indirect ways, but I'm struck by how blatant and open the Republican Party has been about it in the last 50 years.

Moving forward, for those at the intersection of privileges, it can be easy to miss things like this or dismiss non-privileged positions in our society given our rhetoric of individualism; it puts responsibility and success on the individual at the cost of realizing or recognizing the systematic forces at play.  

Thus, culturally, we pretend that humans are produced in perfect uniformity as if we were spit out of an assembly line--different models (e.g. a white male, a black female, a middle class latina, etc.  If a person fails, we assume the failure is a fluke, something wrong with the person, not the assembly line.  We never question how we are constructed and what parts go into composing us.  By contrast, it makes more sense to think about humans as building construction.  We all start with blueprints, thus some universal similarity, but our success and longevity has much to do with what precedes our existence.  Does the land we are being built on been made stable or environmentally sustainable?  Did the people involve in the construction use the same standards, the same tools, the same resources?  Is the community going to give the building the same level of support through reinvestment and upkeep?  Will the building be held to the same standards and regulations by inspectors?  In the building metaphor, it becomes more clear how privilege can produce 2 very different buildings from the same blueprints, but no one is likely to see the collapse of one and assume that it was just the building's fault and that other factors contributed to the collapse.

So to me, it is important to regularly re-engage with the subject matter that reminds me of how our culture values me as a building (of white, male, and middle class) and devalues other buildings (e.g. non-white non-male lives).  It's not a guilt thing either.  It's a matter of wanting to better understand myself, the culture that I participate and perpetuate, and the world at large.  I am intentionally blinded to the systematic justice going on behind the veil and therefore must repeatedly seek it, engage with it, and use it to inform me of how to better align my values with my actions.  

For those that are interested in doing similarly, there are some great suggestions that I've harvested over the years.

  • Read (or listen). There are many many many great books out there (many of them in audio).  Get reading/listening.  Here's my full reading this that I continually add to.  
  • Mix up your feed.  If you use social media, be sure to like/follow/link/subscribe with writers/creators/artists/publications that provide a strong lens on marginal voices along race, ethnicity, gender, sex, sexualiy, gender, religious, class lines (Everyday Feminism is a good place to start given that ways they tackle intersection).
  • Get in on the conversation.  Join discussion forums or listservs that are actively having these discussions.  Often, you can join and listen to the conversation, without having to participate until you feel you have a meaningful contribution or sincere question. Another means of doing this is to research the relevant hashtags and follow the public conversations on the topic.
  • Hit the documentary circuit.  There are some great documentaries out there if reading/listening are not your thing.  Start with 13th on Netflix, but then check out others like the I Am Not Your Negro, The Birth of a Nation and feel free to find others--there are many.
  • Look around for local organizations that represent marginalized groups and voices.  I'm a big fan of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), which has groups around the nation and put out great newsletters that allow for many different opportunities to learn, engage, and advocate for marginalized voices.  
  • Share what you find.  Some of my best discussions and opportunities arrive when I share what I've found and others benefit or challenge what I post.  This opens up dialogue that is sometimes contentious (especially when a commentator is disregarding the view) but is always educative for me in understanding the roles I play in privilege.  Also, please come back to this post to share what you find!
  • Be willing to regularly look in the mirror.  As you encounter so many of these things, there are going to be times you will try to disassociate yourself (I'm not like that; I don't do that; I'm a good person).  As I said earlier, nothing about privilege negates you are a good person.  You are going to encounter struggles that you have overcome, because privilege doesn't negate struggle, but rather changes the probabilities of different types of struggles and the degree to which you experience them. Don't use those struggles and challenges to avoid looking at and considering how you may have experienced privilege or seen it at play in the world around you.  This is hard but it is often necessary because it means unpeeling layers of culture that have trained us not to see that privilege. Find ways of looking in that mirror by writing/journaling or talking with trusted people who also understand privilege to better parse it out.

Other recommendations?  Other thoughts about what I've been talking about there?

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Review: SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver and More Resilient -Powered by the Science of Games

SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver and More Resilient -Powered by the Science of Games SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver and More Resilient -Powered by the Science of Games by Jane McGonigal
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So I first fell in nerd-love with Jane McGonigal when she performed a TED Talk and wrote her first book (Reality Is Broken). SuperBetter is even better and there's also a great TED Talk to introduce it. Or rather, if Reality Is Broken gave readers a well-researched argument for why gaming is an important part of our human nature, SuperBetter gives us the guide on how to actually make life more like a game and improve mental, emotional, physical, and social health. She stacks the first half talking about the game she has devised (SuperBetter) and the research it has been built and tested upon. For the second half, she breaks down how you can play the game on your own and with friends. There is even an app and website you can log your gaming efforts into. What I like so much about McGonigal's prose is that it is accessible and lively. She's encouraging throughout for people to make even the smallest bit of progress to their goals. Additionally, the ways to play the game she offers up are actually really smart ways of just improving one's life without having to start some dread and draconian regime. If you want to change your life and have fun doing it, check out this book!

View all my reviews

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The PhD Chronicles: PhD'ese

Here I am at the half-way mark of the final semester of my first year, almost done with my fifth and sixth course.  Things are going well and I'm enjoying the different challenges the program affords.  This semester's courses offer a bit more practical exploration, though still embedded in theoretical contexts, and I'm finding that a different experience from last semester which focused more on conceptual underpinnings of higher education (though still with practical considerations)  However, this week, I noticed at two different times when it was clear that my learning was kicking in.  

These were curious self-aware moments where as I engaged in dialogue, I began to hear echoes of things discussed in class or recalled things that I had read.  My mind switched into the "what's the 360 degree higher education understanding of this subject?"  I have had these moments before when working on previous degrees but never taken the time to sit with them as I did this time.  

Word cloud of this blog post
These are powerful moments in my learning journey as they represent the absorption and application of the learning that is happening.  The semesters are so intense and often, it can feel like I am rushing to get through the readings, rushing to get through the papers, rushing to just make sure I am in the right class at the right time.  It's a bit of a chaotic whirlwind that is largely marked with grades and credits.  But these moments where I begin to speak the language of my program, PhD'ese, if you will, I realize it's more.  I can feel the paradigms changing and the filters becoming more complex.  And I absolutely love it!  It's these moments that cement me to the educational journey as much as the small progress points or the congratulations I get along the way.  

But these moments are tricky and challenging for me because they sometimes come with an awareness of changes and what assumptions others might make about those changes.  That's fuzzy, I know, but I'll get to explaining it.  

I'm in a PhD program in Higher Education.  Basically, I'm going to be a doctor of higher education, which can sound a bit meta but also for many, they see this as having one of two career paths:  Become a scholar who produces knowledge about higher education or become a practitioner in the form of administrator.  For those not in higher education, "administrators" have a dubious reputation and are largely cast as one of the big ticket items as to "what's wrong with higher education!"    They are often represented as the enemy by faculty and staff.  To move into administration is to move into the "dark side."  (No lie, that term has been used in reference to moving into administration so often in the places that I've worked, that one needs only say that someone is going over to the "dark side" and everyone knows that means administration).  

I get the question regularly, "what are you going to do with that degree?" and the real question they are asking is, "are you going to become an administrator?"  I cringe at this question.  I do.  I strongly identify with faculty.  I have taught over 100 college classes, I have been teaching for 10 years and for me, the classroom experience between students and faculty is sacred.  But this question asks me to declare my trajectory.  The tension under the question often seems to suggest what they are REALLY asking is, "can I trust you or not?"  Some may suggest this is my imagination but unfortunately, it's hard not to see the vitriol geared toward administration (and I'm not claiming this is unjustified--administrators can often be aloof, insincere, disconnected, and problem-inducing) and assume that this will be directed towards me.  Maybe not at first, but by answering that question in the affirmative, I can anticipate a slow parting of the ways and that kills me.

It hits me so hard because I believe in so much, have such respect for, and much understanding of the faculty.  The idea of a wall slowly forming between me and them seems strange given how much I work with them day to day and in general believe so much in faculty-support.  The second reason is that it's these exact relationships that I need and want so that I can be a more effective and responsible administrator, if I choose to go that route (notice, I'm still not committing within this post).  By identifying my trajectory, it means losing some of the honesty and transparency that I currently enjoy and am able to do my work successfully.  It also kills me because many of these faculty are friends and I've grown to appreciate so much over the years, that on a personal level, I hate the idea of not being able to have those same relationships and interactions in the future.  

So what does this seemingly tangent have to do with my realization that I am occasionally slipping into PhD'ese?  Well, one situation had to do with two colleagues who are faculty members.  We were discussing an incident that Faculty Member A had encountered, one that included several different facets of the college.  There was one particular action that seemed to feel problematic for all of us involved.  We began to slip into sensemaking, defaulting to the old chestnut that is blaming these two administrators for being out of touch or disconnected from the real issues.  However, it's at this point that a few other thoughts that came into my mind that I began to share.  As I shared them though, I became aware that, were it not these two faculty members whom I've been friends with and interacted with outside the office for years now, that it would have sounded like I was defending the administrators' decisions.  

Defending wasn't necessarily my goal but merely to understand in what contexts they may have performed their actions and there were a few that came through.  The ideas that came through were the product of my training and learning in my program, and yet, the concern that I might come across as "defending" the administration was also generated by being in the program.  But as I shared my thoughts I could only hear the back of my mind, what might go through other people's minds when I share my learning,  "Oh, he's going to become an administrator...and he's already on his way, defending their actions."

And that's where I get a bit scared about PhD'ese, even though I enjoy these moments.  Learning at a fundamental level is change.  And the learning at the PhD level is significant change.  I want that change and I appreciate that change.  I'm a life-longer learner; it's par for the course.  But It's moments like these that I worry about those changes which may distance me from the people who I work hard to support and feel so much a part of.  

This post was meant to be a reflection on the changes I feel happening as I go through my program and I suppose it is still that, but I guess it wasn't the reflection I was thinking it would be.  I'm still glad to have written and shared it as I feel like it helped me to get something out that had been needling at me since starting the program.  So thanks for reading!

Want to catch up on my previous reflections about being in a PhD program?  Check them out:
  1. Acceptance
  2. Orientation
  3. Day 1
  4. Week 1
  5. First 2 Courses Completed
  6. First 2 Courses Finished
  7. Semester 2, Here We Go
  8. The Existential Crisis of the Week
  9. The Balancing Act
  10. Negotiating Privilege in Higher Education
  11. Zeroing in on Research
  12. Completing the Second Semester
  13. Dissertation Journal #1
  14. Dissertation Journal #2
  15. So Starts The Third Semester
  16. My Educational Philosophy...for now
  17. Dissertation Journal #3

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Goals Check-In 2017 - 2 Months In

March 1 marks the 2-month point into the year and rather than wait until next year to think about my progress (or digress?) from my yearly goals, I thought I'd take a gander at where I am today.  I put forward a good amount of goals for 2017 and well, I'm middle of the ground on progress on some of them and others, not as much.  2016 was a decent year in goal-setting and achieving and I'm hoping this year I will be able to do better. So let's do the run down:  

Word cloud of 2017.
Original image for word cloud shape provided by

Complete a Triathlon

Ok, this goal hasn't been met and I haven't been swimming as much but now that I'm back into the rhythm of the semester and over a recent cold, I will be back on track with this, hopefully.  Ideally, the triathlon will be completed during the summer, so I've got some time on this.  

15000 a day

I deserve a gold star for this one.  Despite the busy schedule and getting a cold, I've hit 15,000 steps every day thus far for 2017.  

15 more pounds

Progress is in the making.  I'm down five pounds, so ten pounds to go.  That's not too bad considering the aforementioned cold that knocked me out for 3 weeks and January/February having its fair share of temptations.  

Stay on Target for Running

I was doing steady with my running until the cold and then largely avoided it for 3 weeks.  I'm back on the treadmill and feel I'll be back up to speed soon.  Beyond that, I need to determine which races I want to sign up for in the ensuing year.  

Complete the Book

Ok, chapters are getting done (1.5 to be specific), so progress is in the making.  I'm hoping to be done with chapter 2 soon and then only the next.  

Less Mindlessness

We'll call this one a work in progress.  I've been more away mindless scrolling on Facebook and eating.  But this is also a skill that will forever need tweaking and developing, so I feel like as long as I can keep bringing my attention back to the moment, I should be fine.

Focus on the Breath

I'm getting better at this one but like the mindlessness, I have some distance to come and know it's a longer journey; not a destination.  I can do it with the bigger things and when it's clear that I've gone past the moment of agitation into frustration.  But I'd like to bring it forward more to bear when I hit agitation and circumvent moving into frustration.  It's not that I am avoiding frustration but at times, the things causing frustration are not necessarily worth getting frustrated over or I could better use my energy in other capacities.  I want to be more aware of my agitation and examine what's underpinning it.  So, I need to take some more breaths.  

Figure Out My Dissertation

This one seems to be on target.  I had a brain-blast in January and have written about it here.  I feel like this could be the direction that works best for me and pulls together the different aspects of my interest.  We'll see if it lasts past the next year of work on it.  

More Politically Active

This is the tough one.  Time is limited with work and the program, but I have done a mixture of letter writing, calling, attending rallies or town halls, and other activities.  I want to have a more focused lens on this but am not sure I can do so until other things fall into place and I am not in constant doctoral mode, but I feel like I'm at least heading in the right direction.

So that's the goals and my progress.  It feels like I'm in the right place with things.  What about the rest of you?  Any New Year's Resolutions or goals that you're working towards?  What kind of progress (or otherwise) are you making towards them?  What do you feel needs to be in place to achieve them?

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Friday, March 10, 2017

The PhD Chronicles: Dissertation Journal #3

So it's been longer than I wanted in terms of blogging about my dissertation thoughts but that's not because of an absence of thoughts but an absence of time to put them down on paper (or blog, I guess).  

In January, I was struck by a more specific idea about a potential dissertation topic after attending and presenting at a NERCOMP Event on OER.  It's been on my mind a lot and though there's a lot more I need to do with it, I figured I would take the time here to flesh it out so that I can discuss it further with some of my advisors and cohort members--as well as you, dear readers.
Word cloud in the form of a lightbulb.
Original image from here.

Development of Open Initiatives and Their Impact on Pedagogical Approaches

At this workshop, we were discussing how the open education resources (OER) movement has been expanding and shifting language from OER to openness initiatives.  This is in part because there is a good discussion about it being more than just about resources but really thinking about what knowledge and learning can mean in an open environment.  So with this comes the idea of "open pedagogy" and thinking about how teaching and learning can change when thinking differently about the tools of learning and the premise of openness (equitable and ease of access to, use of, and sharing of knowledge).  

Therefore, the area that I am circling is to look at the influence of how open initiatives at colleges shape and influence how the instructor approaches their class in terms of asset and deficit based approaches to teaching and learning with OER. (And yes, I'm about to break down that I'm talking about here!).

More specifically, I want to look at the relationship between asset-based and deficit-based views of faculty and the framing of open initiatives at Massachusetts community colleges to better understand what features may more increasingly influence and empower faculty to either move beyond deficit-based views of their students or understand if the framing of open initiatives inhibit asset-based views of their students.

So let's work our way through the questions:

What does this contribute to?

This project would contribute to several different areas. It would contribute to the open education movement, faculty development, and teaching and learning.  In terms of open education, it might help identify the challenges and considerations in developing open initiatives and how to frame such initiatives.  Currently, I see a lot of concerns about students "lacking" (that is, a deficit view) that drive the open movement.  This concerns me because it frames the student immediately as insufficient.  Exploring if this framing impacts the classroom could help to change the narrative and the practical uses of open content and practices in the classroom.  In terms of faculty development, this project might highlight the importance in the frame of students to faculty (and vice versa) that perpetuate deficit-views and therefore, negate the abilities and intelligences that students can bring to a learning environment.   

What's the problem to study?

The problem I want to look at is if the framing of open initiatives perpetuate some of the same problems that other types of learning materials and methods perpetuate which is the banking-method of education where students are empty containers to be filled (the working of Paulo Freire to be specific).  In such instances, open initiatives that frame the student as unable or helpless to access course materials because of costs, potentially perpetuate students as incapable not only of absorbing the text, but getting a hold of it.  I fear that this may unintentionally nudge faculty to become further incensed with students because now they "have no excuse" but still are consuming the course materials.  

What's the thing that needs solving?

The problem to solve is whether this actually is happening or to what degree that it is and how different framings of openness initiatives may impact the asset/deficit frames of the instructor towards the students.  Does it improve asset-based views or perpetuate deficit-based views (or to what degrees and ways does it do both)?

What does this subject/topic mean to me?

I am a strong advocate of the democratization of knowledge and learning and the empowerment of the students.  We're great at cheering on the students that meet our expectations of "good students" but fail to recognize or work with students who don't meet our views of what good students should be.  I believe that engaging with open initiatives has the potential to empower students and unlock different ways to learning and communicating about their learning, but that means rethinking methods and approaches to teaching and learning long held and perpetuated in our education systems.  I want to make sure that in moving forward with and supporting open initiatives, I am aiding in empowering student learning.  

Other Aspects

This semester, I am doing a pilot of this project with one community college for my Qualitative Analysis course.  If it goes well, I feel like this will be a good pilot to then move into a larger study for my dissertation.  Right now, I'm learning towards qualitative as I feel like that will give me the opportunity to dig deep into conversations and resources to consider how these different practices are framed and impact people.  

So that's what I got thus far...what do you think?

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Review: Interactive Open Educational Resources: A Guide to Finding, Choosing, and Using What's Out There to Transform College Teaching

Interactive Open Educational Resources: A Guide to Finding, Choosing, and Using What's Out There to Transform College Teaching Interactive Open Educational Resources: A Guide to Finding, Choosing, and Using What's Out There to Transform College Teaching by John D. Shank
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Overall, this book is a good introduction into the world of open educational resources and their implementation. it focuses on interactive open educational resources, which are free materials the require a bit more engagement from students. It's definitely a book geared towards instructors or instructional designers that have yet to really engage with OER as there are many sections that those familiar with OER will likely skim over. But where it's most useful is the guidelines, instructions, implementation and evaluation considerations it walks readers through to actually using iOER. It also has an abundance of resources that the readers will benefit from. It's definitely for the neophyte but even the seasoned OER person will find some good uses by looking through it.

View all my reviews

Monday, March 6, 2017

Short Story #408: The Adaptive Ultimate by Stanley G. Weinbaum

Title: The Adaptive Ultimate

Author: Stanley G. Weinbaum


Book cover to The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum.
Dr. Daniel Scott has a theory about evolution and adaptation and he enlists his friend, Dr. Herman Bach to help him out.  He has created a serum from fruit flies (the supposed most adaptable species) that can heal illnesses in animals.  Now he needs a human to test it on.  Initially appalled, Bach does not look to actively help him but then a terminally ill patient with no chance of survival arrives at the hospital, Kyra Zelas.  They explain to her what they are going to try to do, explaining that it’s unlikely to be successful but she chooses to be a subject.  To everyone’s surprise, it works overwhelmingly well and she recovers full in a short time.  Upon release though she commits murder, with no justification other than to obtain the man’s wallet.  In the court trial, Scott and Bach expect they will need to help her but as she is described by witnesses, her appearance changes, leaving the court incapable of prosecuting her.  The doctors bring her to Herman’s home with hopes of studying her further as they begin to realize that she can mutate and adapt at will in response to any dangers.  As the doctors realize what they have done, Zelas becomes increasingly aware and comfortable with her abilities.  She leaves them for long stretches and takes up with increasingly more powerful men and they attempt to stop her but are powerless to directly attack her.  They devise a plan to suffocate her with carbon dioxide when she visits them again.  Once asleep, they manage to kill her by destroying her pineal gland through her nose.  Once dead, her physical beauty disappears and she returns to what she had previously looked like; except for Dan, who couldn’t help but love her, still sees the beautiful version of Zelas.


Much like his previous stories, I'm impressed with some of the scientific questions that Weinbaum is grappling with in this tale. It's clearly a Frankenstein-inspired tale that raises interesting questions about the evolutionary idea of adaptation and ideas around gene-splicing.  I'm less impressed with Weinbaum's view of women or at least Zelas.  I think it was noticeable for me because his previous two stories that I've read are devoid of women and this story has at best a dubious representation of women.  Elements of it remind me of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, wherein two men bet upon how a lowly impoverished girl can make it in high society, but much more nefarious.  As doctors, Bach and Scott use their authority to convince a nearly-dying girl to accept an untested drug.  They follow this with the assumption that then Zilas is their property and when she does not act as such, their only recourse is to knock her own and while she lay asleep, kill her (by penetrating her face).  Needless to say, it leaves one a bit dubious.  

Rating:  5 (out of 5 stars)

Source:  The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum by Stanley G. Weinbaum.  Ballantine Books, 1974.  You can read the story for free on this website.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Friday, March 3, 2017

My Current Bookshelf - February 2017

Slow month for reading--there were a couple longer reads that I came into contact with as well as it being just a busy (and shorter) month than others.  But as usual, there are still some great reads to be had.  Pretty much all of my reading was audiobooks this month because I'm in full reading mode with my program--no surprise.  But that should reiterate the importance and value of audiobooks.  Despite the busy reading of academic articles, I still managed to enjoy 10 books that I would not have otherwise gotten to.  Given that, I've only got one book that stands out particularly and want to talk about today.

Book covers read this month.

The Making of Asian America: A History by Erika Lee

Where do I begin with this review besides just saying, "WOW!"  I knew about some of the aspects of this book such as strong anti-Asian immigration laws and racial discrimination in the US toward Asian-Americans since the 1800s.  But Lee provides a meticulous and nuanced exploration of the history of migration and representation within the Americas since the 1500s.  She traces the history of discriminatory practices by different American countries that challenge, limit, devalue, or pit against one another the many different immigrants from the numerous Asian countries.  In doing so, she helps the reader understand the denial of identity and culture that comes with the term "Asian American", and how it masks the distinct experiences, cultural dynamics, and sense of history that different immigrants from Asian bring with them.  In tracing the history to the present century, Lee further aids readers in considering the experience of Asian Americans whose families have been here for generations and the more recent Asian American immigrants fit into the rhetoric of immigration for various discourses and for different dominant-group purposes.  It's definitely a must-read for people trying to better understand race and ethnicity in the Americas.

Check out other reading recommendations from 2017 (and you can always look at all of my books that I've read on GoodReads):


  • Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin
  • The Making of Asian America: A History by Erika Lee
  • Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children, #1) by Seanan McGuire
  • Master Harold...and the boys by Athol Fugard
  • The Dispatcher by John Scalzi
  • The Vegetarian by King Han
  • The War Doctor: Only the Monstrous by Nicholas Briggs
  • Doctor Who: Death and the Queen (The Tenth Doctor Adventures, #1.3) by James Goss
  • Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous by Gabriella Coleman
  • Grim: Classic Fairy Tales Updated for an All-About-Me-Age by Joseph Burgo

What about you reader?  What book recommendations do you have for me?

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Review: The Smarter Screen: Surprising Ways to Influence and Improve Online Behavior

The Smarter Screen: Surprising Ways to Influence and Improve Online Behavior The Smarter Screen: Surprising Ways to Influence and Improve Online Behavior by Shlomo Benartzi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Benartzi's insights about usage and experience in the online world and what it means for how and why we interact (or don't interact) is quite insightful. He emphasizes the different decisions that designers make in constructing websites and apps that could enhance our user experience. Sometimes, they are as simple as where to place action buttons, other times, they emphasize how to reduce confusion and elicit clearer understanding by visitors. In total, the book calls upon a variety of research of the last two decades to help us shape a virtual landscape that helps us rather than hinders us. As an educator, I found there's much within this book to explore and make me think differently about online courses or even any kind of online content that I use or develop for students or faculty.

View all my reviews