Recent Post on LETS Blog: eContent: What’s All That About?

Last week, as part of the Center for Teaching and Learning Assessment’s annual “Teaching and Learning Conference,” Academic Technology hosted an eContent Fair for faculty to meet with different publishers to discuss and discover what kinds of resources were available to them.  Over the two days, we had four different publishers talking about what they have available for a wide range of disciplines.  Cengage, Macmillan, McGraw-Hill, and Pearson had representatives to talk with faculty about what more these is to offer besides the traditional textbook.

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Tales from 9 Runs: Run 3

The third run which coincides with the 1/3 mark of this journey was a 10K Gold Star Run for Honor-CPL Scott Procopio.  It was a little discouraging, but that will hopefully be fuel to push me further and harder.  My tweeted reaction was: "#running went well...1 hour exactly for 10K...1 year ago I would've said I couldn't do it...now, all can think is: #ICanDoBetter"  My time was 1 hour and 3 seconds, which averaged about 9 minutes, 40 seconds per mile.   Ok, slightly better than 10 minute miles which I couldn't have done last year, but still want to do more this year.  However, less impressive than the HAWC Run which I did 9 minute miles for (and was only about 1 mile shorter).   I hit two slumps where I needed to walk for about 50-100 yards and that certainly injured my time.

I found it hard to strike a good rhythm and maybe that was because it just wasn’t a familiar place.  Thus far, the first two races were in places I’ve either run before (in the case of the HAWC run) or where I live (and know roughly the distances—as in the case of the Patrick Downey 5K race).  But this race was in Saugus and I know little of it or the route.  Thus, I think for future races, I really do need to look at the map ahead of time and get a sense of distance and maybe even drive it, just so I can visualize and pace myself better.  There were a few hills in this which actually weren’t back, except that I pushed too hard, too early on one of them, not knowing how much longer of the run was left.  Lessons learned, I supposes.

The other interesting observation I experienced was the pre-run jitters.  These aren’t the same as the jitters I get prior to teaching a new class.  These jitters start from the moment I get up and get into my routine to prepare for the run, up till the point at which I’m actually running the race.  These jitters generate a mixture of doubt and futility.  I find that inner antagonist telling me that I should not bother or I should just go back to bed.  After all, no one will notice my absence.  It pulls and tugs at me, telling me to not bother and don’t worry about it.  Obviously, I managed to ignore it, but I wonder how many other runners and would-be runners hear this same little demon challenging them.  Granted, I know in my own personal history where that voice comes from.  It comes from every run I’ve ever done from elementary school to college where I came in dead last, usually by a good 20+ yards for the shorter runs (1-2 quarter-miles) or 1-2 minutes for the longer runs (1 mile or longer—though there were so very few of these given my proclivity to avoid them).  This failure at running became part of my narrative about running and certainly encouraged to not run for so long.  Despite proving that I can run, it clearly still echoes my mind yet not substantively enough to keep me from running, which is the most important thing.   It just amazes me how the narratives of the past still creep and haunt us in our present endeavors despite overcoming substantial obstacles.

So here I am.  One third of the way through.  I’m not feeling that I’ve hit my stride yet (pun intended).  This past week, I did do a 7.2 mile run and I felt rather good about it.  However, I need to start doing that regularly and not just once a week.  I think more likely, I need to find an actual program to follow to help me work my way up.  The run is 13 weeks away and I’m at 7 miles.  I need to add 8 more miles to my routine in order for me to get to a point where I can run it entirely (and we’ll worry about “time” either at a later date—say the second time I run it).  Anyone know of any good training run programs out there.  A friend recommended this one and said it was successful.  What about others?  What advice can you give a newly minted runner trying to build up to a successful first 15 mile run?



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Recent Post on LETS Blog: Books We’re Talking About: The Graphic Syllabus and the Outcomes Map

So during winter break, I caught wind of an interesting idea with regards to syllabus.  What if you made a more visually-oriented syllabus to emphasize information and step away from the text-overload that syllabi (particularly mine) tend to be.  Having finished my syllabus with hours to spare, I decided to spend those hours visually re-creating the syllabus. I liked the finished product, but it wasn’t much more than just adding glitter and flare, but not necessarily doing much with how I used the visual dynamic to enhance learning and the student’s experience.  I planned on still using it, but wasn’t feeling the full potential of the visual syllabus.  But then I read The Graphic Syllabus and the Outcomes Map:  Communicating Your Course by Linda B. Nilson (Jossey-Bass, 2007).  

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Tales from 9 Runs: Run 2

Since I started running, I've been contemplating a memoir on health and fitness.  I've half a dozen chapters composed.  I start each chapter with one of the many failures I've had in my own personal health-war and move through the ways I improved and eventually, to some degree, overcame it.  I've tried a lot of different things over the years:  diet pills, bulemia, ove-exercising, under-eating (not quite to the point of anorexia), exercise equipment, strange diets, and others.  In hindsight, I've come to understand why I did each one and where I was faulty in my approach to health.  So the chapters would move from mistake to understanding the shortcomes of such decisions and how I've moved past (or at least reasonably ahead) of such things.  The title of this forthcoming book (should it ever be published) is:  Fatboy Shuffle.


Race number: 113
Why start off my second post in this series about it?  Largely, because as I run and work my body to succeed in race after race, this one project cycles (or run, perhaps) through my head.  In some ways, it propels me through each run; the idea that I could write this book; the idea that I could in less than 4 months time, run a half-marathon (ok, more than a half-marathon) and that this will have been a significant transition that occurred in just over a year's time.  So every time I take to running--particularly, races--my mind considers what it would mean to write this book; one accomplishment propelling another; one foot in front of the other.

Today's Results

Lance Eaton making his way to the finish line.
Chugging away...
Today's race was ok; not great, but ok.  I ran the run in 28:40.  Originally, I thought I did 27:40 which would have been much better.  It would have been a full minute from where I finished last year at my first 5K.  I'm not disappointed in the time; though I wish I had done better.  Being at the same time as my first 5K makes a certain amount of sense.  I put on some 10-15 pounds since then and I've not been running consistently for more than 2-3 weeks.  So yes, it's the score I deserve I suppose.  What fowled me up most though was that this course had more hills than I usually work with.  Uphills are totally fine.  I rather enjoy them actually, but downhills are killer.  With the Vibram 5-finger shoes, going downhill sucks because you feel the impact of every step.  There are ways to alleviate this such as maintaining your core, keeping your back straight or even slightly back.  However, with steep hills, I find myself almost doing a fast-walk rather than run for fear of injuring or slamming too hard.  And since I've been informed that the Around Cape Ann 25K is very hilly, I clearly need to do some extended training and do some research about how to improve on hills with these shoes.

My next run in two weeks is a 10K.  I'm hoping that I'm in better form to perform at something beyond where I've been.  I think in order to do so, there's at least 2 things I need to do.  The first is to run in the rain/not so fun weather.  I've been resistant to run outside in weather that wasn't under 55 degrees or reasonably agreeable.  When those days came along, I'd often use my spinbike for an equivalent amount of time, but it's clear I need to kick it up a notch.  Secondly, I think I should try to run in the morning more often.  Running in the afternoon has been good, but I feel the morning might be easier to maintain without interference from food.  Several times now, I've been running and still feeling the affects of lunch or hitting a slouch in energy.  I'm finding that the morning is a pretty active period for me (both mentally and physically) so it would make sense to take advantage of it.


The shoes done did
make the difference.
It's funny how much we tend to be like our parents.  My mother has always been an early riser.  For many times in my life, I was too.  For the six years that I worked overnight jobs (as did my father for a stint of about two decades), this changed a bit and even now, I'm inclined on weekends to sleep until 8am-9am.  But there's a part of me that likes getting up at 5am-6am and being awake.  Moreso in the summer than the winter, of course.  As my sleep has normalized in the year since abandoning overnights, I do enjoy the arising early and taking advantage of the quiet time.

So I guess I have my plan of assault for the next run.  Run more in the interim--despite conditions.  Research more on running--particularly hills and particularly with these shoes.  Aim to run more in the morning or better plan my afternoon/evening runs with my food/drink consumption.



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Tales of 9 Runs: Run 1

Many of my friends are aware that I have found myself with a new-found passion for running.  This flies in the face of all logic and to have known me at this time last year, they (and myself) would have found laughable—downright crazy.  But sometime last July, I found myself enjoying running; after a 31 years, 10 months HATE-HATE relationship with it.  I’ll post more about why and how those changes occurred when I get closer to the 1 year anniversary, but for now, it’s enough to know that this was a major paradigm shift.  It’s not just enjoying running that’s significant here, but the degree to which I have taken to it (as this series will reveal).

And like so many things I become passionate about, I’m compelled to write, to share, and to dialogue with others about the experiences and rewards.  Therefore, this starts the first in a series of blog posts around running.  This particular series will focus on the 9 runs that I have signed up for this year, between this past Sunday (May 6) and Labor Day.  The Labor Day run will be a major test and my major accomplishment for the year as it is a 25K (15.5 miles or so) run.  It still sounds somewhat surreal in my head and when I talk about it.  Not only am I running, but I’m compelled by the idea of running 15+ miles.  A very strange world indeed.

I think that just running in and of itself, I could be ok with, but that I want to run so publicly—join races and run with others (i.e. run with the herd) is rather remarkable (for me).  One needs to understand that I always hated running.  Whenever I had to do it for sports, I always came in dead last.  I ran slowly enough that I could often skip an extra lap since I was that far behind.  This is what I mean about running publicly.  It’s always been part of the shame and dislike about running:  how badly I did in comparison to others.  But I find in these runs, it’s really not about competing with others, but just having the others help me run faster.  It’s about enjoying working one’s body communally.  It’s kinda amazing.

My First Races

But getting to run in races comes in large part from my first run that I did last September at the behest of my brother and sister-in-law, the Lynda J. Talbot Memorial Run/Walk.  It was a 5K.  Not only did I really enjoy it, but I had managed to shave several minutes off the previous 5Ks that I had run on my own.  I’ve always known that competition or at least community has a means of propelling us to work harder, but it was awesome to see how it worked for me as I completed my first run.  I followed this up with two more runs in the fall:  The Devil’s Chase (6.66 miles) and The Wild Turkey Run (5 miles)—both of which I will in all likelihood run again this year.  In the fall of 2011, I finally “got it” about running.


My Running Numbers Thus Far
As I approached the spring, I thought more and more about running and what progress would look like.  I decided that by this year’s end, I’d want to run a half-marathon.  It didn’t feel as overwhelming as a marathon does at this point and I realized that as I’ve managed to build up endurance to run for 1 hour; running for 2 to 2.5 hours is feasible.  After all, I managed the same development when I was cycling and building up to a century bicycle ride.  I also felt that a half-marathon would be significant progress for about 1 year of running.  I started looking at runs that are in the area over the next 6 months and signed up for 9 of them (though I anticipate I will add more as others encourage and convince me to join them in their runs).

This past Sunday, May 6, 2012, I had the first official run of the season:  The 5 Mile Run for HAWC (Housing for Abused Women and Children).   My results were reasonable.  I had roughly 9 minute miles, which was what I was running when I did the Wild Turkey Run back in November.  This was a good base for me because it meant I didn’t lose much shape over the winter when I wasn’t running nearly as much nor nearly as active overall.


My jersey and tag
for the HAWC Run
The run itself was enjoyable.  I ran as part of a team with North Shore Community College.  The weather was highly agreeable—in the 60s, partly cloudy.  The run was similar to both the Devil’s Chase and Wild Turkey Run, so I felt I could pace myself since I had a rough idea of how much further there was to go (besides the mile markings).  I found myself jockeying with a colleague from NSCC, which proved invaluable for keeping me going at a decent pace.  Additionally, HAWC is a great nonprofit that has been serving the North Shore for decades now and do some really great work to battle domestic violence.

So what are those other races that I’ve signed up for?  Care to join me for any of them—let me know:

Second Annual Patrick Downey 5K 
Sunday, May 13, 2012 (Peabody)

Gold Star Honor Run for Scott J. Procopio - 10K
Saturday, May 26, 2012 (Saugus)

Xtreme Urban Run - 5K
Sunday, June 10 (Salem)

Jennifer Tinney Memorial 4th of July Road Race - 5 Mile
July 4, 2012 (Boxford)

Seacoast Seven Road Race 2012 - 7 Miles
July 21, 2012 (Gloucester)

25th. ANNUAL FIREFIGHTER “5” MILE ROAD RACE
SATURDAY, Aug. 11, 2012 (Hamilton)

Greenbelt's 3rd Annual Beverly Commons Trail Run - 7.3 miles
Saturday, August 25, 2012 (Beverly Farms)

AROUND CAPE ANN 25K ROAD RACE
Monday, September 3, 2012 (Gloucester)

Let me know if you are going to be joining me for any of these or have other runs not conflicting with these.



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Recent Post on LETS Blog: Freeing The Course Part 4: Assignments

In this final entry on freeing the course (check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3), we are looking at free tools and resources relating to assignments.  These might be ways of changing up assignments, making them more interactive, or even in some cases, easier to evaluate and access.  Many of these resources we’ve mentioned before in different capacities, but they are definitely great for thinking about assignments as well.

GoogleDocs

Yes, GoogleDocs, again.  Whether you want them to develop a document, spreadsheet, or presentation, you can use GoogleDocs for the space to be used.  You can also create surveys and possibly quizzes if you want to engage your students further.  What’s great about GoogleDocs is its collaborative nature and the ways you (or your students) can share files coupled with the document history where you can directly compare differences between older and newer versions.

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On Becoming a Reader – Part 2

The last post in this series focused on places that infused me to read.  Here, I venture into books that hit me.  Some of them can be considered important and culturally prominent books, but most of them aren’t.  And I think that’s an important piece of this.  This is in part why I can’t hate the Twilight effect.  There are gimmicky elements that got me to read and for that I am forever grateful.  They are not privileged texts but popular and sometimes, rather lacking in substance by any literary standards.  But they opened the gate and led me to reading.  So while I can loathe the larger messages about Twilight, I can appreciate that Meyer has turned kids into readers they might not have been otherwise.

My friend recently asked me about my decision to keep books.  As mentioned, I read a lot, and wouldn’t have room to keep all the books that I’ve read.  My decisions for which ones I keep are based on how much I enjoyed the book and how relevant I think the book might be to work, research, or possible future projects.  But she raised the question of why keep them at all.  Well, these are literary photos was the way I could best explain it.  This is my breadcrumb path to the places I’ve been and adventures I have had (real or vicariously).

So here are the books that have changed me.  Laugh if you must, but know that I have no shame and proudly defend my choices.


The Fall of Freddie the Leaf

Book cover of "The Fall of Freddie the Leaf"
This is the earliest story that I remember reading.  My father had both my brother and I read it.  It a children’s story that deals with and explains death.  I can’t say where the line between understanding death and hoping I understand death is, but I know at a young age, this story largely helped me accept that death is a central part of the whole life cycle—sad as it can be (and should be), it is part of our common pact with the world around us.


The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Book cover of the Spanish version of The Hobbit by J.R.R. TolkienI saw The Hobbit as a cartoon well before I ever read it.  And it was the movie that sent me into the book.  Now, I know that the book on so many levels is better.  But The Hobbit will always be the animated cartoon with its music and nostalgic 1970s animation.  That being said, it was the cartoon that led me to book in a deep desire to learn more about the story.  This would not be the first time that that the cinema led me to the book and perpetuated me into reading.  Indeed, this probably played a large role in my pursuit of fantasy books that read continually even through to today.




Deadline for Danger

I can’t say I remember much about this book.  I remember finding it in the Higgins Middle School library and reading it.  It had to do with someone writing for a school newspaper and unraveling a murder mystery.  What I remember mostly about the book is that this was a book of suspense and I enjoyed wondering what was going to happen to the protagonist.


Fear Street Books by R.L. Stine

The Fear Street books by R. L. Stine were a fun series that I read regularly in middle school.  While I don’t remember much of the substance (loosely used here, I know), I remember what lead me to them.  Somehow, within my head I made an association between “Fear Street” series and the Nightmare on Elm Street” film and TV series.  Therefore, it was almost perfectly natural to drift to these books.  In fact, I can remember sitting at a table during the spring, regularly reading these books while having dinner out under a tree in my backyard.  They weren’t great, but they were quick and engaging reads that most likely also attributed to my interest in horror.


Star Wars books

Sometime in seventh grade, I discovered something amazing.  A classmate showed me something I did not know and was ecstatic about.  There was a recently published book that took place in the Star Wars universe.  It was 1991 and Timothy Zahn had written Heir to the Empire.  I had to get the book, and the next, and the next.  In total, over the years, I’ve easily read 25-30 of the Star Wars books (not even including the graphic novels of which I’ve read plenty).  Here again, the films lead me into the books and sent me beyond to a great many other book series including DragonLance, Star Trek, and Forgotten Realms.


Battle Axe by Sara Douglass.

Book cover of Battleaxe by Sara DouglassOk, this was unequivocally the book that made me a reader.  More than all the others, this was the book I couldn’t put down.  I picked it up while in Australia in summer 1995.  It was about 600 pages and I read it in 2 weeks, which was unheard of for me (though we had 3-6 bus rides, so that helped).  But I was pulled into the story of Axis in the world of Tencendor and ached to read more.  When I got to the end, I was aching because it was a trilogy that at least for the time being was only published in Australia.  By end of 1996 or early 1997, I found an online bookstore in Australia to ship it to me.  I paid somewhere between $30 to $40 for the next two books.  Worth. Every. Cent.  After reading the first book and not having any chance to read the next two for nearly 2 years, I sought out large books to devour.  This lead me to epic fantasy including Robert Jordan and Terry Goodkind (though I regret being trapped with Goodkind cause of where he took his story/rant).


Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Book cover of The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
This is the book that turned me into a listener.  I had tried reading it (for summer reading no less) several times before but it never stuck.  Nobody explained that this was British sci-fi humor.  However, when I stumbled upon the audiobook in the library that was read by the late, great Douglas Adams himself.  I was hooked on Adams and hooked on audiobooks.  Adams opened me up to humor/genre fiction such as Terry Pratchett, Piers Anthony, Robert Rankin, and Terry Brooks (his Landover series, mind you).  Eventually, it also led me to the Red Dwarf TV series, but I digress.





Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen

Book cover to Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen
Recommended to me by my advisor at Salem State University, Dr. Avi Chomsky, this was the first real academically-related book that made me think analytically and challenge knowledge in ways that I had not previously considered.  As I pursued a degree in history and later, American studies, it proved a good reminder to me to always be suspect of the given account—most especially, when it was my own.





Inventing Reality by Michael Parenti.

Book cover of Inventing Reality by Michael Parenti.
Also recommended by Dr. Chomsky, this book further pushed me to appreciate and consider not just the ways books can send me into a fictional world to enjoy, but how books can send me into the real world armed with knowledge or better yet, ways of challenging and questioning the world around me.  In this case, Inventing Reality fundamentally changed how I approached televisual media as a whole, making me more aware of the ways in which information in televisual form has the potential to subdue the mind much easier than text.


I was going to add Kate Chopin's The Awakening, but I have talked about this at length as a full blown post here.

One other note—the image of The Hobbit above.  It’s a Spanish version of the book.  I acquired it in Cuba.



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On Becoming a Reader – Part 1

I’m feeling nostalgic today and am in a peak reading mode.  Does that happen to you?  You may be a regular reader but then all of a sudden you get the surge to do more reading than usual—scheduling extra time to devour more books.  I guess I’m in that spot.  Maybe it’s also because I’m trying to make sure I stay on track for about 200 books this year.  I blame GoodReads.com.  You make it a game or give me quantative feedback and I’m a sucker.

Maybe it’s because I’m surrounded by bibliophiles whether it’s my academic friends and colleagues, my librarian friends, or just avid readers who I find solace with.  Books are just a central part of my life and I think back to why and how I got here.  After all, I grew up in the age of cable television and video games—both of which I indulged tremendously.  When people get dismayed with people that don’t read, I get it, but I also get why people don’t read, especially in this age.

However, books have been a major part of my life since a very young age.  Clearly, my parents (particularly, my father) had a huge role to play in it, but that doesn’t make it all.  After all, I’m an avid reader and my brother isn’t.  He tolerates books but generally, doesn’t take to them out of reading pleasure.  Same house; different outcomes (there are other reasons too, but no need to get into them).

The following are some of what I can only describe as my “book moments” or elements that contributed to becoming a “book person.”  In this post, I’ll cover the elements that I remember fondly and most likely contributed to me being a reader.  In the second post, I want to identify the books that were game-changers for me. They are not the only books that have left an impression, but they are the books that led me inevitably to be the reader I am today.


The Book Sale at Welch Elementary School.

I can still remember getting the small booklet of books to order when there would be a booksale at school.  I remember scanning through it to find out just what would be offered.  I think it’s a school book fair catalogue that first introduced me to Bruce Coville and one of my earliest favorite book series, My Teacher Is an Alien.  Besides that though, it was a moment during which I learned the literal value of books.  These books cost money and were therefore something important.  I had to pay (or get money from my parents usually) to get the books.  Interestingly, this is also where I started my fondness for comics.  By this point they were anthologizing the Garfield strips and I remember every time the bookstore came, those were some of the books I had to have.  It was also where I bought The Hobbit—but more about that in following post.


The Library.

The other day in a discussion with a librarian, I realized that I had been going to the Peabody Institute Library for some 25 years now.  Wow.  That says a lot.  I have lots of fond memories of hanging out at the library and yes, even getting kicked out for doing punk things (let me show you my mad skillz at chair surfing perfected at said library).  But I remember story time as a kid and I remember visiting it regularly and just spending hours perusing the books and finding new books, new information, new ideas.  I remember for large parts of middle and high school I went there regularly—just to enjoy and learn.  There was just so much at my finger tips and so many opportunities to get lost in a book, as they say.

An addendum to this is the Welch School library.  Smaller by comparison, I can still remember perusing it and getting to take home books.  I can also remember meeting the Mayor of Peabody (Mayor Torigian) there and being totally impressed that our class got to meet the Mayor.


Summer Reading.

Finally, there was summer reading.  No, not the summer reading required by schools.  That always felt forced rather than pleasurable.  But growing up, my father maintained a silent-sustained reading in the mornings before going to camp.  The rule was that he would make breakfast (usually something good like scrambled eggs) but we would have to read for a half hour to 45 minutes.  At times (of course), I resisted, but it was not often since the rule was we could read what we wanted, so long as we read.  Later on, between my junior and senior year of high school and once in college, I had life-guard gigs where the pools were minimum risk (5 feet deep in the deep end and often, no kids), so I would spend entire summers just reading.  I think my junior to senior year of high school, I read over 40 books ranging from 300 to 1000 pages each.

These events and places still sit with me in some way when I open a book.  There's a timelessness that connects me with those moments of my past whenever I crack open a book.  Its both a familiar home and a new place for me to explore.



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