Showing posts with label academia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label academia. Show all posts

CFP: Teaching Popular Culture

The Northeast Popular/American Culture Association is seeking papers on popular and American culture, broadly construed, for its annual fall conference to be held on Friday, October 21 and Saturday, October 22, 2016 in Keene, New Hampshire from October 21-22.  NEPCA prides itself on holding conferences that emphasize sharing ideas in a non-competitive and supportive environment.  We welcome proposals from graduate students, junior faculty, and senior scholars.  NEPCA conferences offer intimate and nurturing sessions in which new ideas and works-in-progress can be aired, as well as completed projects.

CFP:  TEACHING POPULAR CULTURE



The Making of Harry Potter 29-05-2012

In particular, I am the chair of the Teaching  Popular Culture area and I'm really interested in hearing about and seeing the different ways instructors use popular culture in their courses--be it their core curriculum or even courses on popular culture.  If you have some ideas about a panel as a whole or individual papers that you would like to present on regarding this area, please be sure to submit.  A larger goal of this area is to create a place to foster ideas and approaches to teaching popular culture, regardless of the discipline.


Some particular ideas you might consider with regards to a paper in this area may include sharing unique approaches to:
  • Teaching courses focused specifically on “popular culture”
  • Teaching courses on an area within popular culture (e.g. courses that focus on the content and cultural aspects–not necessarily the “how-to” aspects of comics, video games, horror, Harry Potter, baseball, The Beatles, etc).
  • Teaching mainstream courses using popular culture (e.g. baseball statistics for explaining, statistics, Buffy the Vampire Slayer for explaining political theory, Star Trek for exploring biology).
This particular area is focused more on sharing successful and interesting teaching practices for other scholars and educators to learn or borrow from.

Presentations should be 15-20 minutes in length and lively in nature! The deadline for the submission of a 200-word abstract is May 1, 2016. Individual and full panel proposals are considered. Submission information is available at the Northeast Popular Culture Association conference page. 

NEPCA Fall Conference information, including the paper proposal form, can be found here.  Please submit the form, including a brief CV and abstract, located on the site.  Both proposals for individual papers and complete panels will be considered.  Please direct any questions to either 20165 Program Chair Karen Honeycutt (khoneycutt@keene.edu) and/or to the appropriate Area Chair.  For a complete list of Area Chairs, please visit the NEPCA website.   The deadline for proposals is June 15, 2016.

If you have specific questions about submitting to the Teaching Popular Culture area, please let me know!


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

CFP: Teaching Popular Culture

The Northeast Popular/American Culture Association is seeking papers on popular and American culture, broadly construed, for its annual fall conference to be held on Friday October 30 and Saturday October 31, 2015, on the campus of Colby-Sawyer College in New London, NH.  NEPCA prides itself on holding conferences that emphasize sharing ideas in a non-competitive and supportive environment.  We welcome proposals from graduate students, junior faculty, and senior scholars.  NEPCA conferences offer intimate and nurturing sessions in which new ideas and works-in-progress can be aired, as well as completed projects.
Black and white photo of an old classroom.  Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7e/Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-13055-0008,_Hohendorf,_JP_mit_Dorflehrer.jpg

In particular, I am the chair of the Teaching and Popular Culture area and I'm really interested in hearing about and seeing the different ways instructors use popular culture in their courses--be it their core curriculum or even courses on popular culture.  If you have some ideas about a panel as a whole or individual papers that you would like to present on regarding this area, please be sure to submit.  A larger goal of this area is to create a place to foster ideas and approaches to teaching popular culture, regardless of the discipline.

NEPCA Fall Conference information, including the paper proposal form, can be found here.  Please submit the form, including a brief CV and abstract, located on the site.  Both proposals for individual papers and complete panels will be considered.  Please direct any questions to either 2015 Program Chair Kraig Larkin (kraig.larkin@colby-sawyer.edu) and/or to the appropriate Area Chair.  For a complete list of Area Chairs, please visit the NEPCA website.   The deadline for proposals is June 15, 2015.

If you submitted prior to April 29th and did not receive an email confirmation of your submission, please contact nepca2015@gmail.com ASAP.  We've had some reports of people submitting their abstract and not receiving a receipt and we want to make sure we have everyone who has submitted.


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

Another CFP Reminder: Teaching Popular Culture

The Northeast Popular/American Culture Association is seeking papers on popular and American culture, broadly construed, for its annual fall conference to be held on Friday October 30 and Saturday October 31, 2015, on the campus of Colby-Sawyer College in New London, NH.  NEPCA prides itself on holding conferences that emphasize sharing ideas in a non-competitive and supportive environment.  We welcome proposals from graduate students, junior faculty, and senior scholars.  NEPCA conferences offer intimate and nurturing sessions in which new ideas and works-in-progress can be aired, as well as completed projects.
Black and white photo of an old classroom.  Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7e/Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-13055-0008,_Hohendorf,_JP_mit_Dorflehrer.jpg

In particular, I am the chair of the Teaching and Popular Culture area and I'm really interested in hearing about and seeing the different ways instructors use popular culture in their courses--be it their core curriculum or even courses on popular culture.  If you have some ideas about a panel as a whole or individual papers that you would like to present on regarding this area, please be sure to submit.  A larger goal of this area is to create a place to foster ideas and approaches to teaching popular culture, regardless of the discipline.

NEPCA Fall Conference information, including the paper proposal form, can be found here.  Please submit the form, including a brief CV and abstract, located on the site.  Both proposals for individual papers and complete panels will be considered.  Please direct any questions to either 2015 Program Chair Kraig Larkin (kraig.larkin@colby-sawyer.edu) and/or to the appropriate Area Chair.  For a complete list of Area Chairs, please visit the NEPCA website.   The deadline for proposals is June 15, 2015.


Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email.

CFP: Teaching Popular Culture

The Northeast Popular/American Culture Association is seeking papers on popular and American culture, broadly construed, for its annual fall conference to be held on Friday October 30 and Saturday October 31, 2015, on the campus of Colby-Sawyer College in New London, NH.  NEPCA prides itself on holding conferences that emphasize sharing ideas in a non-competitive and supportive environment.  We welcome proposals from graduate students, junior faculty, and senior scholars.  NEPCA conferences offer intimate and nurturing sessions in which new ideas and works-in-progress can be aired, as well as completed projects.
Black and white photo of an old classroom.  Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7e/Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-13055-0008,_Hohendorf,_JP_mit_Dorflehrer.jpg

In particular, I am the chair of the Teaching and Popular Culture area and I'm really interested in hearing about and seeing the different ways instructors use popular culture in their courses--be it their core curriculum or even courses on popular culture.  If you have some ideas about a panel as a whole or individual papers that you would like to present on regarding this area, please be sure to submit.  A larger goal of this area is to create a place to foster ideas and approaches to teaching popular culture, regardless of the discipline.

NEPCA Fall Conference information, including the paper proposal form, can be found here.  Please submit the form, including a brief CV and abstract, located on the site.  Both proposals for individual papers and complete panels will be considered.  Please direct any questions to either 2015 Program Chair Kraig Larkin (kraig.larkin@colby-sawyer.edu) and/or to the appropriate Area Chair.  For a complete list of Area Chairs, please visit the NEPCA website.   The deadline for proposals is June 15, 2015.

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

Technology Conference Bingo Take #2!


Last month, I created a Social Media Bingo card that I shared at a conference on social media.  It sparked some interest but it need some more development as it was done very last minute.  

So here is my second go round with Technology Conference Bingo, revised and some rules added in to make sense of it.  


Technology Conference Bingo Sheet
Click on the image to get a better version!

Rules for Technology Conference Bingo


1.  You must announce that you are joining the game.  The best way to do this is by talking a selfie with conference elements in the background (to prove you were actually there) and posting to Twitter with the conference hashtag and this hashtag: #TCBingo

2.  Whenever you find a spot, claim it on Twitter by identifying


  • The session (can be abbreviated)
  • The Bingo slot (use numbers and letters, e.g. "N2").
  • Use the tech conference & #TCBingo hashtags.
  • Tag the Game Judge (person should identify himself/herself early in the conference but using the conference and TCBingo hashtags.

3.  The first person to fill a row (horizontal, vertical, or diagonal) should tweet out: "I win!  [Conference Hashtag] #TCBingo with [provide full listing spots claimed:  "N1, N2, N3, N4, N5".  

4.  In order to claim a win, you had to have actually posted captured slots as you went along (that is, you can just sum up at the end).  

5.  Judge will confirm winner.  Award (real or imagined) prizes (if they are offered).  

You can find all of this in a more pliable form at this link and if you wish to comment on the actual Bingo for critiques or other ideas, you can also do that here.


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The Ultimate Bingo me for Social Media and Other Techie Conferences

Today, I'm attending a social media conference at UMASS Boston.  I am looking forward to it and figure that it should be a good time with lots of inspirational ideas, some great tools, and a lot of gabbing away on social media (#UMBSocial).  

While social media is somewhat new (depending on who you ask), there are still some clear and consistent things that happen while at an event.  With that in mind, I decided to create and share this Social Media Bingo chart.  

Try it out and use it at your next social media conference.  I'm sure it will be easy to get a straight line of Bingo but I wonder how easy will it be to fill them all up.  








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Hybrid Fluxed #03: It Sure Is Easy to Bash the MOOCs Part 1

A colleague brought this article to my attention on the concerns about MOOCs as apply to teaching history at the college level (and more than likely extend to many of us who teach in the Liberal Studies/Arts).  This article like so many written by people concerned about MOOCs are poorly constructed and limited in its value to the discussion.  While some of their claims are things we should be concerned about, others illustrate a failure to think flexibly or understand what they are actually discussing but feel more like reacting for the sake of reacting.  Such articles provide great opportunities to malign these new forms of technology and their impact on education, but do little to actually improve the situation.  In short, these articles are masturbatory acts that help no one when actually considering how to respond to the MOOCs.

The initial problem, I see is that the author, Jonathan Rees conflates the profession of history with the profession of teaching ("To me, Massive Open Online Courses (or MOOCs) represent the potential for the Taylorization of the academic workplace and are therefore a threat to the “rule of thumb” judgments upon which the historical profession depends.").  These are two different things.  Yes--many historians teach, but others do not, and still others consider it secondary or even a necessary evil to what their primary work is.  Also, if teaching was considered a serious part of the historical profession, why is there so little official training for it within history programs?  (More on this later.)

His critical assessment of unbundling seems to undermine or ignore what is par for the course for the majority of courses and the practice of history in general.  He asks, "Why should anybody provide content for their classrooms, they ask rhetorically, when the best professors in the world can be piped in via the Internet?"  Isn't the logical extension of this concern making sure all content of the course is solely from the instructor?  That is, are instructors performing an act of unbundling every time they use outside textbooks, articles, documentaries, etc?   Furthermore, then should we not expect historians to use technology to locate and collect the best materials possible when conducting research?  Why should we expect a world-wide scouring of solid evidence and resources when composing a history article but when it comes to students, assume that the instructor knows all and sees all despite having a limited and almost-singular focus on history (that is, a specialization)?  Unbundling is what all of us do every time we select materials that we ourselves did not create such as textbooks, journal articles, or documentaries.  Pretending that using video lectures from others who may have a better capacity to present the material is different is making a false distinction.  

His assumption that "there are very few history MOOCs compared to the number of MOOCs in other disciplines" because "many other history professors with the opportunity to teach MOOCs have been scared off by the pedagogical sacrifices this kind of teaching would require" is an inaccurate claim with no research.  That would be akin to assuming that since the earliest of films were largely documentary and depiction of the world as it is, it must be because storytellers saw nothing to be gained from storytelling in the cinematic form and never would.  He also seems to imply that no one is interested in doing history MOOCs and yet there are currently over 70 history MOOCS being offered (http://www.mooc-list.com/tags/history).  Maybe that is "few...compared to the number of MOOCs in other disciplines"--but his implication that this is a pedagogical choice is poorly researched and understood.  MOOCs started in the sciences which is why he offhandedly notes, "Computer scientists, for example, seem to love them."  In part because that's where MOOCs started in these disciplines in the late 2000s and took time to make the transition into other disciplines.  Yes, there aren't as many but there are clearly more and more coming.  

He describes "flipped classes" as "Loading them [students] down with taped lectures." Again, this appears poorly presented in that if he had researched flipped classrooms or enlisted the aid of an instructional designer, he would discover that when done with pedagogically sound methods, flipped classrooms are not merely "taped lectures."   Believing that a flipped classroom is just "taped lectures" is like believing that watching a recorded theater performance and watching a cinematic adaptation of a play are the same thing.   

He laments that "Unfortunately, any other historian making use of their content will have to adapt to their particular historical content preferences. I can’t help but wonder whether students will understand who their real professor is in this situation."  Well, here's a question: how often are instructors confused for the authors of the textbooks they use in the course?  How often is the instructor confused for narrator or host of a documentary watched in class?  The answer is probably never or so rare that, the question is silly.  

He also grows concerned about the potential use of celebrities in MOOCs.  Well, if using Matt Damon for the lectures (and in truth, this isn't much different from when an instructor uses a documentary with a famous actor narrating it) can show improved student learning and retention, should we not consider using it--just as we have used celebrities to endorse and encourage other beneficial content and behaviors?  Isn't part of what learning is about emotional connection and if an actor can help one emotionally connect, why is that not a legitimate consideration for learning?  How much training of faculty is there before they step into a classroom about emotional connection and engagement?  Unless you have acquired it outside the discipline through out means or training, there's little guarantee that you have this skilset for the classroom.  

I've listened thousands of audiobooks in the last two decades and professionally reviewed well over 800 of them.  Without a doubt, the professional narrator always does better than author who narrates his or her own book.  There are definitely exceptions, but on the whole, the professional narrator is better at communicating in his or her professional endeavor.  Wherein the author usually does exceedingly well is when he or she has a background in broadcasting already.  The fact is, training someone for years in researching, writing, and professionally presenting historical research is poor training for communicating and engaging with a lay audience (i.e. college students who have little to no interest in history).  How often have we been bored to death by a professional presentation or fought our weighted eyelids as we tried--TRIED--to get through some journal article?   

The real thing that scares the author is:  "Yet such sacrifices are only one way that MOOCs could de-­professionalize, or even de-­skill, large segments of the professoriate. Historians who do not select their own content or write their own lectures could easily be replaced by personnel with less training, perhaps graduate students or people with no training in history at all. Or perhaps the schools that license history MOOCs will hire no onsite teaching help whatsoever and simply let students fend for themselves."  

This brings us back to the earlier point about history as a trained discipline.  Rees is largely scapegoating technology for the actual threat: the history discipline.  How many master and doctorate programs are geared towards producing historians (not including those focused on creating middle and high school history teachers) actually spend any programmatic time on exploring pedagogy for teaching at the college level?  And assistantships do not count--given they are working with live specimens, have inconsistent levels of supervision, and largely are thrown into classes without any training about teaching.   The MOOCs are not de-professionalizing anyone; the discipline is doing so if it isn't actively and consciously training historians as educators (if in fact that is part of the purpose of the history discipline).  Yes, history programs often do well at training the historian to study history but studying history and teaching history are about as far apart as being a mechanic and being a race car driver.  Yes, there is bound to be some overlap but the history discipline largely leaves it to chance that the mechanic is interchangeable with the race car driver.  Pretending that one goes hand in hand with the other is a failure to understand that learning is not the same as teaching. 

Here's a great example:  The very university that Rees teaches at has a Master of Arts in History.  
  • How many courses are required by Masters' students on pedagogy to complete the degree?  Zero.  
  • How many courses on pedagogy or instruction are offered even as electives within the history discipline?  Zero.  
Yet, a graduate with an MA in History can often start teaching at the college level.  If Rees is bemoaning the loss of professionalism within the history discipline, he would do better to actually establish professionalism around instruction within the discipline .  With that in hand, maybe MOOCs wouldn't be as big of a threat as he poses them to be.  

However, he is right.  There are many concerns to MOOCs, though most of them are a matter of time and tweaking.  He points to optional readings as a concern or "sacrifice".  That's not a real concern.  One can require readings--they just need to be accessible to students and not externalized costs at the student's behalf.  If he considers this a "sacrifice", then may he should reconsider why he is critical of the idea that using other professionals' resources in his classroom since the books he assigns for courses are just that.  

What I find most damming about the article is that as a leader, he offers poor leadership in this regard.  He bashes the MOOCs (with poor arguments) but offers nothing in contrast.  He agrees with Aaron Bady that MOOCs "could be done well, I think, but it won’t be."  However, rather than identify and paint a pathway towards how it could be done right, he simply condemns the MOOCs and says that MOOCs are something that "no credit-­awarding university should tolerate."  

Whether it's MOOCs or some other use of instructional technology changing the standard way of things are to be questioned, but they are also to be considered for the ways in which they can improve current teaching and learning.  They are an active conversation happening on campuses across the world and Rees (at least in this article) appears to be saying, don't engage in the conversation.  Stick your head in the sand and wait till the threat passes.  I'm sure history abounds with examples of how well this strategy has worked.  

If Rees and others are truly concerned that the MOOC will create a poor product and potentially deprofessionalize instruction in higher education, then it's time to up the game.  If MOOCs are as true a threat as Rees wants us to think, then we better damn well have alternatives in place when administrators come knocking at our colleges looking to implement MOOCs for credit.  It then becomes our imperative to leverage technology, where professionally relevant, to improve and enhance the experiences of our students.  

In the next post, I intend to do just that: identify different ways we can enhance students experience, maintain professionalism, and save money.  In the end, I agree with Rees that we should be skeptical of new methods but that skepticism needs to be more than just disregard.  We have and create a lot of unnecessary roadblocks and tediousness for our students and as other colleges and alternative to colleges remove these roadblocks, we owe it to our students to make things more streamlined, accessible, and engaging.  



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The Hat Trick: 3 Masters Degrees

I just submitted my final project for my last class for my third (and probably not final) master's degree.  Funny enough, it is just under ten years ago that I started my first Master's Degree.  Having accomplished the aforementioned hat trick, I thought I would discuss a bit about the experiences and kernels of wisdom gleaned about the process.

Degree Breakdown

First, I should clarify what I have gotten.  Mostly because the first issue I'll be talking about is that not all Master's Degrees are equal in a variety of ways and it's important to note that my experience is not likely the same as other people who are pursuing degrees that are substantively different from the ones I've earned (e.g. biology, geography, etc).  Here they are:
  • Masters of American Studies at University of Massachusetts in Boston with a focus on gender and sexuality and popular culture.
  • Masters of Public Administration at Suffolk University with a focus on nonprofit organizations.
  • Masters of Education at University of Massachusetts in Boston with a concentration on Instructional Design

What led me down this course?

Most people go for a single Master's Degree, while others may end up with two by odd circumstances.  Yet I'm signing off on #3.  What am I thinking and why don't I just get a doctorates? All great questions and none of which I think I have a good straightforward answer.  To understand the Master's Degrees, one needs to understand the rest of my educational background.

When I entered into college, my plan was to become a high school history teacher after my mentor and all-around favorite teacher, Mr. Metropolis.  He was an inspiration to many and his class was intellectually intriguing.  In fact, that's what drew me to become a teacher was the draw to ideas, discussing them, relating them, and figuring them out.

Statue of Woman in Thinking Pose: Image Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/81/A_woman_thinking.jpg
A chance conversation with my adviser in the Honors Program, Dr. Pat Ould made me rethink the plan to go back and teach high school.  "You need to get your doctorate's degree," she declared with a sincerity and matter-of-fact tone that I still hear in my head today.  She quickly explained what it was all about and that given how excited and engaged I felt with the academic nature of college, that more degrees seemed obvious.  This made a lot of sense to me and thus, I re-shifted my focus toward attaining a doctorate and most likely teaching at the college level.  However, by the beginning of senior year, I was facing a bit of burn-out as a result of lots of work on my Honor's thesis and personal drama.  I realized that I wasn't ready for grad school and needed time off, so I got a job in the interim.

One side benefit of this job was tuition assistance for employees enrolled in a degree program.  The money would barely be enough to cover one or two courses a year in a graduate program at most.  However, if I took courses at my local community college, the money could go far.  I decided that since I still wasn't sure what I wanted to do for graduate school, I would go to community college and get an associate's degree (in criminal justice).  This choice did several things for me.  It staved off paying school loans (so long as you are enrolled in two courses or more, you do not have to pay your loans) and it helped me stay in an academic mindset until I was ready for graduate school.

Eventually, I realized that I had several different areas to pursue:  Media Studies, Writing, and Sex and Gender Studies.  Thus I applied to programs at Emerson College, Salem State College, and University of Massachusetts-Boston.  I got accepted to all three but for financial and just driving interest at the time, I went with UMASS Boston's Masters in American Studies, where I would focus on gender and sexuality.  It's still definitely one of the best decisions I made in my life.  The program was hard and kicked my ass regularly, but made me a much better critical thinker.

I barreled through the program in two years (which I did with all three degrees) and by the time I was finishing, I had shifted away from my first college job in an online retailer to working in youth residential programs.  The shift was significant especially as I thought about my next move.  I learned a lot about gender, sex, and sexuality over those two years and it had me thinking about how and what I could do with that learning.  Another degree made the most amount of sense because while the program was fantastic, it was also largely cerebral and abstract so I wanted some good technical skills to balance it out or at least apply what I learned in the program.  I applied to Suffolk University for a Master's in Public Administration and either Northeastern or Boston University for a Masters in Sociology (I forget which one).  I got into Suffolk University but not the other, so I went to Suffolk.

By contrast to UMASS, Suffolk University was disappointing.  It lacked the rigor and intellectual complexity that I was used to from UMASS.  However, I figured I would at least have a better sense of ways of how to work with the different systems in society to advocate for better understanding and appreciation around gender, sex, and sexuality.  While working this Master's Degree, I was witnessing another shift in my career.  Over the course of two years, I had turned into a full-time  part-time instructor at several colleges and universities in the Greater Boston area.  My involvement with this grew enough that by the time I was done with my Master's at Suffolk University, I turned to focusing on teaching and writing for a few years.

Then, I became the Coordinator of Instructional Design at North Shore Community College.  In acquiring the job, I realized that though I was qualified, I still needed a stronger background in education.  That is, there was much that I intuited from my experiences as instructor and student, but needed a bit more formal training and technical background to fill in gaps.  In looking for graduate schools this time around, I did not bother to search much.  With the new position, state colleges and universities were the best bet in terms of affordability and UMASS Boston has a Masters in Education with a concentration on Instructional Design that fit.

I do plan on getting a doctorate's degree, but I will start the search process next year with the goal of starting in 2015.  I have a few projects to get off the ground in the interim.

Professional vs. Academic Master Degrees

As I mentioned above, my American Studies Master's Degree was much more challenging than my Public Administration master's degree.  My Instructional Design master's wasn't much more challenging than the Public Administration degree.  The reason is that there tend to be (at least) two kinds of Master's Degree:  the Academic Master's Degree and the Professional Master's Degree.

A good way to contrast this different is in the total work per course one expects.  In an academic program, a course usually has at minimum five or more books, minimum reading of 200 pages a week, and requires at least two papers, one of which is likely to be fifteen pages or longer.  The professional program typically has at most two books, requires less than 100 pages a week, and rarely includes more than ten-page paper.

Lance Eaton - Zombie version
Sometimes, this is what it takes to get through
an academic Master's degree.
The professional degree is typically easier and demands less of students, which for some is a winning endorsement.  However, that's where the degree is at its weakest.  In both professional programs, what I found most disappointing is the level of feedback.  If we take that term "Master" to mean anything, I would think it meant mastery of said subject matter.  But mastery is something that takes a lot of work and since we're talking about intellectual mastery, then it should follow that there should be intellectual rigor.

One's brain should get a serious workout.  However, that workout comes in two forms.  It comes in the form of being exposed to new information (reading, viewing, discussing newly exposed content) and it comes in the form of critically revising prior understandings about the content.  The key to this happening is offering up one's take and having it evaluated and criticized.  That is, critical feedback about how the student is making sense of the new content and progressing towards mastery of the topic is needed.  To some, this can feel like a brutal process wherein one funnels their energy, mind, and heart into (what he/she believes is) an awesome paper, only to have it returned with ample feedback that can feel negative (and even petty--and sometimes, that is true).  But the criticism feedback loop is essentially to pushing thinking and understanding of the subject by the student.  And it's this element--critical and articulate feedback--that I've found most lacking in professional Master's degrees.  It's just not there to the degree that I experienced it in the academic degree.

Why I found that so irksome is that particularly the contrast in what I was paying for my first Master's Degree (the academic one) and my second (the professional one), was substantial.  I paid triple the cost for a professional Master's Degree that gave me 1/3 the quality and intellectual return.

Thus, if I have one nugget of wisdom to bestow upon people looking for Master's Degrees, it would be to spend some time thinking about what kind of degree do you want.  Are you looking to be fundamentally challenged on a subject matter or merely for more professional opportunities?  More than anything else, that could significantly help you find a program that fits your needs most.

What have been your experiences with your Master's Degrees?  What did you like or dislike about them?



Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email. 


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Teaching: Trying Not to Be Snide, Or, A Battle In My Mind

The student had already tried my patience.  Largely, because less than 24 hours earlier, he was asking for information about an assignment (due in 72 hours) that could be found right under the title of the "Assignment Guideline".  Thus before class as the student approached, I didn't have the best frame of mind (a problem unto itself).  He began asking questions about the assignment; questions that I had gone over in the previous class.  What to cover (also in the guidelines), how to deal with the subject matter (also in the guidelines), and other details.  He kept asking; I kept answering and suddenly, I caught myself (and wanted to smack myself).  This was THE tone.  This was the dismissal.  This was where a student becomes disconnected.  I had to take a step back and reassess what I was doing.

I spend a lot of time with a course, making sure I have everything the student needs in order to properly accomplish the task at hand.  This means generating about 20 pages of text (and increasingly 1-2 hours of self-created videos) to be made available for the students.  I couple this with setting aside class time to go over the assignment step by step.  So there is a tendency within me to feel like I've "done enough" for my students or that I'm happy to answer questions that are more substantive than when's the paper due (listed on the syllabus, the guideline itself, and each upcoming assignment is posted on the homework slide in class).  I believe deeply in the idea of transparency and that when a student steps into my course, he or she knows everything that will be expected of him/her throughout the entirety of the class.  Students may not always like the amount and the type of work that I expect in a course, but they are never misinformed on my behalf.  I do this, because I care about my students' success.  I want them fully aware of what success looks like in the courses that I teach and I want to make sure I've guided them in the right direction.

But there I was, slipping into that authoritative tone that looks to berate the student because I know it's in there and this student doesn't fully realize it.  I don't like the tone; it feels too distancing and comes at the expense of the student's lack of knowledge.  It's too matter of fact and not enough matter of concern.

I caught myself before slipping too far.  I was able lighten my tone and engage with the student about the assignment in a more meaningful way.  But the moment had me thinking (obviously).  I caught myself that time but what about the other times that I don't catch myself.  How many students have I lost or sent down the path of apathy because of my lack of sensitivity.

It's not that I look to baby my students in any way; they have ample work to do in my class.  But I would rather work from a vantage point of working with them-not against them.  The work will be hard in my class, thus I look to be a conduit to aiding them in making sense of and accomplishing it.  I want to guide and strengthen their skills, but that doesn't happen by shaming, disregarding, or (directly or indirectly) insulting them.  That alienates and distracts them from the purpose of education.  I regularly emphasize that the classroom is a place of learning and a key piece of learning is sometimes making mistakes (or even failing).  I know my own life is full of failures that have been great lessons on life.  It's moments like these that I have to hold onto that and communicate it better with my students.

So I guess that's something I need to keep working on.




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Letter to the Editor - Chronicle of Higher Education

To the Editor:

Perry Glasser is right: no teaching career was promised to Joshua A. Boldt ("Who's to Blame? The Adjunct?" The Chronicle, April 1). But Mr. Glasser's approach is rather disappointing.
"The fact that 70 percent of all sections are being taught by underpaid adjuncts may be a shame and is undoubtedly exploitive, but it is no secret," he writes. But what Mr. Boldt's Adjunct Project attempts to reveal is the depth and variation of that exploitation. Changing exploitative conditions starts with quantifying what the conditions are.


For the rest of the letter, click through here.




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Freeway Flyer Blog

How Come Everyone’s Talkin’ Smack About Adjuncts?

I have a request for the great wide Internet.  Please stop talking about me as if I’m some partially-crippled frenzied zombie.  I am not an invalid.  I am not incompetent. I am not ready to self-destruct.  Maybe I should blame myself for using the Google Alerts for letting me know when the Internet is talking about “adjuncts.”  I just know that I read a lot of negative press about adjuncts from full-timers, administration, other part-timers, and culture at large.  Sure, there’s the token appreciation from all the segments, but whether discussing us in positive terms or negative, the basis of the discussions is not necessarily something this Freeway Flyer finds useful.

For the rest, check out AdjunctNation.



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Freeway Flyers Blog Post

Unions Don’t Always Go Hand-in-Hand

Of late, I’m feeling like Jurgis; the protagonist of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.  Of course, my situation (as of right now) is not as dire, but the sentiment and issues still seem to be percolating.

The concern over adjunct faculty and their place within higher education has certainly gotten attention over the last two months.  While the Boston Globe dedicates a full article, The Nation certainly talks about (or at least around) the subject.  Meanwhile both The Chronicle and Inside Higher Ed continue to make mention of and discuss some of the concerns of the ever-growing adjunct faculty nation in Academe.  Meanwhile, adjunct faculty are voicing their own outright opposition to the status quo in hopes of creating a solidarity movement across campuses and secure rights for adjunct faculty who are largely left in some rather Kafkaesque situations.

To read the full article, check it out here at Adjunct Nation.



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Freeway Flyer Blog Post

Scheduling Classes and Learning to Cry on the Inside

“I’m sorry, I can’t teach that class.”  Now, I say this in a calm and mature tone.  But in my head, I’m screaming, kicking, and pouting like the five-year-old I know. I really am.  Recently, I was offered the chance to teach a course at a college I hadn’t taught at yet.  It was not the standard introductory course many adjuncts are stuck with after full-time faculty choose the crème-de-la-crème; it was one within my specialty.

For the rest of this blog, check out this Adjunct Nation.



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Freeway Flyer Blog Post

Digitalizing the Freeway Flyer

Recently, I listened to the audiobook of Chris Anderson’s “Free:  The Future of Radical Price” for free.  The premise is that behind the digital revolution is the mass amplification of cheap goods and services to be offered will increase and what people will get is the most basic model; if they want a more specialized version, they will have to pay.  Anderson expands upon this in a variety of ways, but that’s the gist.   This has me thinking about the uses and benefits of digital freebies as it relates to the classroom and the Freeway Flyer.

Too read more, check out the full post here!



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Freeway Flyer Post

Synchronizing Technology, Classrooms, and Material

Frequent Flyer adjuncts can feel like their life consists of repeatedly having to bring the mountain to the people.  Synchronizing information, technology, material, and communication across multiple schools can be next to impossible since most schools have no interest in doing so, thus Frequent Flyers are left to their own devices for maximizing their resources to reduce the amount of redundancy in their world.  But in the digital age, adjuncting can be much easier.

Copier technology has become a god-send and all those copies I used to have labor to make (fighting off other faculty tooth and nail for the copier) and lug about from campus to campus are bygone days.  Many of the new copies allow you to scan to email.  They operate as mass scanners in which you can turn those handouts into PDFs and put them online.  Nowadays, I hand out the syllabus at the beginning of the semester and all other material can be gotten online.

Get the rest of the article at:  Adjunct Nation's Freeway Flyer.



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Freeway Flyer Blog: Semester Success Story

It began with my Contemporary Affairs teacher in high school.  He was a copier.  His classroom and office were fire-hazards filled with 3-4 foot tall stacks of photocopied articles that he would share with his students.  In all of his classes, no one would escape a minimum of 5 handouts a class (there was no textbook; just handouts).  By the end of the year, I had hundreds of interesting articles.  But let’s face it, that approach is not sustainable and time consuming.  But with that in mind, last spring, I started up a blog that I would use for teaching.

For the rest of this article, check out: Adjunct Nation's Freeway Flyer.



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Supporting the Adjunct Addiction

I don’t want to call it an addiction; because honestly, I can walk away whenever I want.  But I realized that to support my predilection for adjuncting full time, I’ve assembled a range of jobs that help me keep doing what I enjoy.  In other words, I have jobs that help support my full-time job.  Granted, I’m not in the stuck in the situation of those full-time Wal-Mart employees who still qualify discounted state-funded healthcare, but I do find that in order to keep everything flowing smoothly, I hold onto several other jobs and am constantly keeping an eye on potential jobs to fill the gaps (for both current teaching and non-teaching gigs).  But really, I can walk away whenever I want.  

In total, I am employed by 10 places (5 colleges; 1 residential program, 4 publications).  Over several years, I’ve synergized my various skills, interests, and goals so that my jobs overlap or help one another.  For instance, some of my writing includes reviewing audiobooks.  The reviews themselves aren’t necessarily taxing but listening to 6-12 hour audiobooks could be.  Therefore, I often listen while commuting to the various colleges I teach at or when doing chores around the house and usually cover 2-3 audiobooks a week.  I work overnight at the residential program 2 nights a week, which may sound crazy, but the situation allows me to grade papers, prep and correspond with students via email since I have to stay awake and keep myself entertained for some 7 hours.  Ok, I can be a little sleep deprived at times, but I can still perfectly function and nobody notices…mostly. 

External jobs can offer a variety of things that can help and support your primary goals as a full-time adjunct.  They can provide you with benefits; the overnight job gives me my health insurance.  They can provide one with more diverse experience to further expand one’s CV and other opportunities.  Along those lines, they also provide “real world” experience to temper one’s pedagogical experience.  They can serve as financial padding when the course load is a bit too light.   They can provide a larger network of people including potential guest lecturers to bring into the classroom.  They can be a much needed source of relief and distraction from the demands of adjuncting.    So frankly, it’s better that I keep doing what I’m doing.  I’m better that way. 

The key is to blend interests, opportunities for double-dipping, and maximizing unused time to make it all fit.   In the short run, one may have to take a few jobs that were less desirable, stressful, and taxing, but in taking the long view, one can strategically shift into those positions that not only help to support the full-time adjuncting, but also, can be enjoyable in their own right.  That’s right; I make it look easy and enjoyable so that no one knows about my predilection.



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