Showing posts with label teaching. Show all posts
Showing posts with label teaching. Show all posts

Monday, January 23, 2017

CFP: 1st Call: Teaching Popular Culture

So as some of you know, I am the Chair for the Teaching Popular Culture area for the Northeast Popular Culture Association (NEPCA).  As someone who teaches a course, specifically on popular culture, I am always interested in seeing and hearing what others are doing.  

I also tend to look at the Teaching Popular Culture area as a bit different than the other areas which are research focused.  I see this area more along the lines of providing some professional development, feedback, and reflection around how we employ popular culture in the classroom.  I feel like this is an often under-attended element of popular culture studies: how we meaningfully engage with it with our students.  

Therefore, I'm quite interested in hearing from people and encourage anyone who may teach a popular culture focused course or use popular culture in interesting and useful ways to put in a proposal.  Here are a few of the formats that I'm interested in seeing and/or participating in.  If you have questions or thoughts around these, please don't hesitate to contact me:  lance.eaton@gmail.com.  

Round-Table of Popular Culture and Teaching

Those who teach a popular-culture-focused course (specifically about popular culture or thematically structured around popular culture) can discuss some of the challenges, benefits, and experiences in teaching such a course.  I imagine this format entailing a list of questions that the participants can go through followed up with questions by attendees.  I would also think we could capture the comments and produce some kind of interesting resource for the NEPCA website.  


Panel on Teaching

If you and other faculty teach a similar topic, area of popular culture, or have different strategies and approaches that you want to illustrate, a proposed full panel about teaching on popular culture is of great interest.  

Panel on Teaching Popular Culture Online

I'll throw my hat into the ring with this one.  I'm really interested in working with and presenting with other faculty who have or regularly teach popular culture (or focus in some ways on popular culture) in an online environment.  I think there is a lot to discuss and explore with regards to this topic and would encourage anyone else in this vein to reach out to me.  

Individual Presentations on Strategies, Approaches, Resources

Honestly, if you've got something related to teaching and popular culture, please submit a proposal.  Every year that I've done this, we get some really fantastic presentations on a range of great topics relating to teaching and popular culture.  If you're stuck on the fence or need someone to brainstorm and flesh out your proposal a bit more, feel free to reach out to me and we'll see what we can come up with.  


First Call NEPCA 2017


Blog post in a word cloud in the form of an appleThe Northeast Popular/American Culture Association (NEPCA) announces its first call for paper proposals for its annual conference. The 2017 conference will be held on the campus of the University of Massachusetts Amherst the weekend of October 27-28, 2017.    

NEPCA is soliciting proposals dealing with all aspects of popular culture and American culture, broadly construed. NEPCA welcomes both individual papers and complete panels. We also encourage works in progress, and informal presentations. The only restrictions on presentations are that:

The proposal should be rooted in research. We do not automatically exclude original poetry, composed works of fiction, or musical/dance/storytelling performance, but such works must be connected to greater theoretical and research frameworks.
NEPCA generally avoids proposals whose intent is overtly commercial.
Proposals should appeal to a broad audience.


NEPCA conferences welcome graduate students, junior faculty, independent researchers, and senior faculty as equals. NEPCA prides itself on offering intimate and nurturing sessions in which new ideas and works-in-progress can be aired, as well as completed projects. NEPCA is dedicated to expanding intellectual horizons, open engagement, and constructive criticism. 

Papers are generally 15-20 minutes in length. NEPCA discourages (but does not forbid) verbatim reading of papers and strongly encourages creative delivery of papers. 

This fall it will also feature shorter presentations in pecha kucha style in which presenters show a total of 20 slides–one every 20 seconds (total presentation time: less than 7 minutes). The idea behind pecha kucha is for scholars to present material quickly so that discussion and new ideas can ensue. It is an ideal form for research in progress! 

The deadline for applications is June 1, 2017. The Program Chair for 2017 is Professor Marty Norden of the UMass Communications Department but, for tracking and logistical purposes, proposals must be submitted to an online Google Form that can be found on NEPCA's Website: https://nepca.blog/2017-conference/ This pages also includes a link to area chairs who can assist in any questions you have about your proposal. 



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

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Review: The Graphic Syllabus and the Outcomes Map: Communicating Your Course

The Graphic Syllabus and the Outcomes Map: Communicating Your Course The Graphic Syllabus and the Outcomes Map: Communicating Your Course by Linda B. Nilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Within the first chapter of this book, I already had a clearer picture of just what I should be aiming to do with a graphic syllabus that I was missing before. Nilson’s premise is clear and easy to understand (albeit, challenging to fully execute). Given that many people absorb much information visually and contextually, it doesn’t make entire sense to have a syllabus that is segmented into its different silos of: objectives, goals, assignments/assessments/readings. Her goal is to help the reader consider the ways in which one can depict how all these parts of the course fit together in the syllabus.

This is useful for two reasons. The first is that it helps the faculty member have a clearer sense of what he/she is assigning in terms of work and make sure it explicitly connects to objective and goals. This grants a clearer vision of what the instructor is doing. The other reason is that it gives students a stronger context of how it all fits together. Beyond just the “why do I have to take this course” questions, a graphic syllabus can instantly connect the student with context that clarifies questions of why as well as better understanding how information fits together for their growth within the course.

Nilson delves into a variety of issues and concerns about how to go about it and illustrates that there is good variation about how to do it. She provides readers with thoughts about how and why one might do it, but shows there are many ways to go about it. In particular, she provides dozens of graphic syllabi from previous courses (her own and others) in various disciplines to help stimulate ideas across departments. To help readers better envision their own syllabus in a new light, she regularly compares what a text syllabus looks like in contrast to the (same) graphically-enhanced syllabus.

Within the first two chapters, she already had me hooked and thinking differently about my own courses. I’m imagining a comic-book syllabus for my comic book course that would be “teaching” as one progresses through the different elements of the syllabus. But immediately, it helped me to reconsider that American Literature course I had created my first visual syllabus for. I’ve found that I like doing American Literature 1 by addressing different types of writing and moving through the significant pieces in chronological order. This works in many ways but is limiting because students will lack context (or forget) of how the different types of writings fit with one another. By thinking about Nilson’s ideas, it allowed me to craft something more meaningful for the students as you can see from the impromptu outline below.

And that’s probably the other element that I like about Nilson. She emphasizes that one does not need to be an artist to creating a graphic syllabus—nor does one need numerous programs and equipment. I did the image below in Excel. Both MS Word and Powerpoint have outline/mapping tools that you can utilize and master very quickly. You can go high-end (and she shows examples of such), but you can still be graphically rich and simplistic in the types of visual you use (Good thing too—I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler!).

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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Review: Specifications Grading: Restoring Rigor, Motivating Students, and Saving Faculty Time

Specifications Grading: Restoring Rigor, Motivating Students, and Saving Faculty Time Specifications Grading: Restoring Rigor, Motivating Students, and Saving Faculty Time by Linda Nilson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Nilson lays out a different approach to grading than what I have been doing most of my teaching career. She explains to readers the benefits and methods of developing specifications grading. Instead of grading along a continuum that doesn't necessarily capture or clarify what the student is able to do at the end of the course, she shows different ways in which you can create assessments that are clearly specified and graded on a complete/did not complete basis. It is--as most things--more difficult than it sounds and it will take time to create the specifications upon which to grade as they need to be clear and easy to follow, but I know what I will be doing for my next course. I generally provide strong guidelines for my assignments, but Nilson highlights the ways I can articulate through given assignments or assignment bundles, the means of accomplishing what it is that I'm looking for. Even if one doesn't switch to specs grading, Nilson gives a lot of food for thought about how you do assignments in general.

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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Review: The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control

The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control by Walter Mischel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mischel's text is a great book for any of us to better understand and develop our self-control in different environments. What Mischel does well to demonstrate how lack of self-control in one area isn't any indicator of poor self-control elsewhere. In fact, it might be an indicator that the person does have better self-control elsewhere because this is an area where that person doesn't. But Mischel goes beyond the traditional "marshmallow text" that much of his research began with and looks at a lot of different elements that contribute to how one can understand, express, and learn self-control.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Review: The Art of Explanation - Making Your Ideas, Products and Services Easier to Understand

The Art of Explanation - Making Your Ideas, Products and Services Easier to Understand The Art of Explanation - Making Your Ideas, Products and Services Easier to Understand by Lee LeFever
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Many are familiar with LeFever even if they may not think they are. He is the leader of CommonCraft which produces those great videos about technology "in plain English." This book provides a breakdown of exactly how they manage to create such accessible and easy-to-understand explanations of complicated and interesting topics. It's highly useful in that he provides a good set of tools to help the reader reconsider how one would properly explain things. He shows that we often think we are great at explain but very rarely are we as successful as we like to think we are. I found that it would be quite useful not just for "idea, products and services" but also for teaching.

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Friday, April 22, 2016

Reflections from Changing Lives Through Literature

In my two most recent sessions of Changing Lives Through Literature, I decided to have the participants do a reflection that I often do in my college courses that I teach.  On the last meeting, I asked all the participants to write a letter to themselves.  However, this wasn't a letter to their present self--but to the person they were months prior on our first meeting.  It's an interesting experience to watch participants struggle through this question and think about the ways they have (or haven't) connected with what's gone on in the course.  I also asked them to indicate if they would allow me to share out their letters (anonymously) to show other people their experiences.  While I will share them here in this blog post for others to read and appreciate, my favorite use of them is to show them to the participants in the next group as they get to hear from people at the other end at the very beginning. 

word cloud of post on changing lives through literature
It's a great exercise in coming full circle and feel free to use it with your group or in any other context. 

In reading the responses, I was so impressed with some of the different ways people embraced the experience and also in how they wanted to emphasize that change to themselves.  It's a pretty strong reward as a facilitator to seen the participants being such strong advocates. 

Participant #1
Hey, what's up!

You are going to enjoy it.  You need to be open to change.  You can't judge a book by its cover.  The stories need to be given a chance.  Don't be afraid and give them a chance.  I found myself reading the stories two or three times and learning a new thing every reread. Enjoy it!  It is not like school.  Plus you get $150 remitted off your fees.  Best of luck!

Participant #2
Dear Me

Hey man, how's life?  I just want to write to you to give you some advice about this course that I've taken.  It's called Changing Lives Through Literature.  It's a great class.  I have learned so many different skills in reading with the different stories and how to compare it to you and how it compares in life.  I will say, this class will give you a brand new view in life, like people have to go through difference obstacles just to get through or not get through the situation.  I will say, this class will change your life. 

Participant #3
Before class I was too quick to judge by not thinking before I acted.  Things just kind of ran together in my mind without though.  Over the course of the program, I realized a lot if I just thought things out.  The structure of the program also helped me think in a way where I can put things together a lot better in my head and my life has improved for the better.  If this was offered to me earlier on in life, things would have been different dramatically.  It will definitely last a lifetime with decision making. 

Participant #4
As I write this it is too late for me but maybe not for you.  Be aware of the various opinions and observations of the others in the class are not how you experienced the stories.  They all saw and felt something different.  They had and saw different things. 
            I was frustrated and wondered are they all blind or just different people who see and feel differently.  Does everyone experience everything so differently?

Participant #5
There are benefits to this class aside from the reduced probation time and fees.  Be sure to read each selection well in advance and be sure to reflect on the stories before class.  Think about how the different literary tools are used so you have plenty of points to bring up during the weekly discussions.

Participant #6
Please be as open-minded as you possibly can and consider where you yourself have been before placing judgment on things or people.  You can change and you can better yourself.  Even if it's small steps you take to progress towards chance, you are being pro-active in what you need to do. 
            Also and finally, advocate for yourself and ask for the help and resources if you need it.  Stay positive!

Participant #7
Dear Self,

This course is very helpful to be a part of.  It will help being in a group and sharing your thoughts with others as you discuss the readings assigned.  It will be fun to share in conversation about the readings and find others' opinions and ideas.  It will also help to open your mind through different characters in the stories and see through their struggles.  It will help you be more mindful about the days of your life as you move forward. 

Participant #8
Don't be so nervous and scared to be around new people.  It won't be as difficult as you may be thinking - stop thinking that everyone will judge you on what you have to say.  Realize what a great feeling it will be on your last day of class that you actually did it and followed through with a commitment.

Participant #9
Dear Me,

While recovering and thinking back on these 12 weeks of "Changing Lives Through Literature" I feel like a new individual.  This class is liberating, fun, and challenging but worth it all.  Please try hard and read twice, think deeper into the text; why and where and how are great questions to ask no matter what text, story or novel you are reading.  Try to have an open mind and enjoy.  I DID! XOXO

Participant #10
Dear Self,

Please come into this with a completely open mind.  That everything you know--everything you think you know best about--leave it at the door.  Be prepared to explore things about yourself you don't know anything about.  Be prepared to not always be right or that your opinion or ideas are not always right or the only way.  Be kind and generous to everyone you experiencing the adventure with.  That even when you think you are not able to relate to some of the stories or that they are so farfetched from who you are or what you have lived--changes are you haven't looked deep enough at yourself - so be open and willing to listen and learn from the stories and everyone in the class. 




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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 3, 2016

Review: You Are Now Less Dumb: How to Conquer Mob Mentality, How to Buy Happiness, and All the Other Ways to Outsmart Yourself

You Are Now Less Dumb: How to Conquer Mob Mentality, How to Buy Happiness, and All the Other Ways to Outsmart Yourself You Are Now Less Dumb: How to Conquer Mob Mentality, How to Buy Happiness, and All the Other Ways to Outsmart Yourself by David McRaney
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Books like McRaney's are great as I find them to help center me and keep a wide open perspective about how people come to see the world (including myself) and how even when we may think we are right or see something clearly, we are substantially bogged down by external and internal forces that lead us to believe we know more than we might. It earned a 5-Star rating (meaning I think it's required reading for everyone!) because I think so much of dialogue on so many different subjects could be enhanced through learning about the different ways in which despite our best efforts, we often fail at communication.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Review: A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas

A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas by Warren Berger
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's not about knowing the answers, it's about being able to ask questions. That's the message of Berger's text and he provides a great range of ideas about how to get to asking great questions. I appreciate this book a lot, especially since I have as a tag line on my emails, "I wish I had all the answers; better yet, I wish I knew all the questions to ask." This book helped with thinking about questions to ask but also about ways of encouraging questions in teaching and learning that could produce solid outcomes for students. It's a versatile book that provides a lot of different ways to think about asking questions for learning, for working, and for living.

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Thursday, June 4, 2015

Share This: Social Media for Personal Professional and Organizational Use

So many of my (so very few) readers know that I regular work with social media in my various capacities as instructional designer and instructor.  I have also been a social media strategist for NERCOMP and NEPCA over the years and provided consultations on social media for different individuals and organizations.  Social media is something I think, read, discuss, and use a lot.  So when I learned last year that Jeanine O'Neil had decided to step away from her courses on social media at North Shore Community College's Community Education (their noncredit courses), I talked with her and them noncredit program to find out about trying to fill the gap.  

For the second time, this summer, I will be teaching:  
Banner that reads: Share This: Social Media for Person Professional and Organizational Use.  A course from Lance Eaton @leaton01

This course will run on Wednesday, July 29 and Wednesday August 5th from 6pm-9pm at the Cummings Center in Beverly.  Previous participants have said that this course provides them with a strong understanding of social media that goes beyond just how to use it or why to use it, but a solid grounding in the benefits of using it for self or organizational promotion as well as developing an extensive social network of people to provide new opportunities and connections.  

The course description is as follows:  "Get introduced to social media and the various methods of using it for personal, professional and organizational purposed. We will cover the nuts and bolts of social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Blogger. Gain deeper understanding on how to use these tools for different opportunities and engagement with different populations. Explore marketing, advertising, and connecting with customers and communities. Review social media issues including proper etiquette, privacy and quantifying social media interactions."

To register, please visit NSCC Community Education page for more details (The course ID is: CSP207-ACN-17124).  

For those interested in learning more, below are a few artefacts of the course:  

Course Introduction Video on Youtube





Course Introduction Slide Deck on Slideshare:






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

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Comics in American Culture - Online at North Shore Community College

So the following is a Course Preview for a course I'm teaching this fall, Comics in American Culture at North Shore Community College.  Feel free to take a look at the video and recommend it to people you know who might be interested.

I'm quite excited about this course as not only am I teaching it online, I've also managed to design it so that students do not have to buy books for it, but will rely on the library's inter-library-loan feature to get a hold of many of the course works.  I like this approach because it not only gets students exposure to a range of graphic novels for free, but it also informs and encourages students to use the library, which I consider a win!

As I said, feel free to watch it and get a sense of what I'm doing as well as to share it with others who you think might benefit from it.  You can watch the video below or you can go directly to the video on YouTube, here.



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

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Changing Lives Through Literature Post

I recently wrote another post for the Changing Lives Through Literature blog.  Here is the post--feel free to follow the link and get all 10 tips for reading!

"The following is a handout I provide for participants on the first meeting to help them think about literature and how the program runs. What they receive is the numbered items, and the text below each is usually what I explain as we go over the handout.


1. Learning is a building exercise, not a filling station.

The research increasingly shows that one’s approach to learning can be pivotal to their ability to learn. To this end, it’s important to understand that learning is something they can continue to do throughout their lives and that their mind is not necessarily finite. Basically, so long as they maintain a belief that they can learn, they will continue to learn.

I make this point first because we often carry the limited view in our heads about our learning abilities and I hope to help them break negative expectations about their ability to do well in this program and life in general.


2. Reading fiction further develops your empathy and understanding.

Reading is often the closest thing we have to being put into someone else’s mind or to learn another’s point of view. By immersing ourselves in fiction, it helps us to stretch our mind and understand the world around us. Emphasizing the importance of empathy, I go further and explain that it’s more than just a “feel-good” emotion to connect with other people. Being able to understand and connect with other humans allows us to make better decisions, as well as present ourselves better in situations."

For the full post, feel free to visit the Changing Lives Through Literature blog


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

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Recent Post from LETS Blog: A Simpler Solution to Tablets and Laptops

The follow blog was posted recently on the NSCC LETS Blog and it's about my approach to using laptops and tablets in the classroom.

"David von Schlichten mentioned in his recent Conversation blog post on The Chronicle that he is fine with students using their digital devices to do whatever they want in the class and that it is their choice to engage or not engage. I can appreciate that hands-off approach but I agree with some of the commentators that while it may work for the instructor, it is likely to be challenging for other students in the classroom and they may be distracted. This point was made obvious to me when a student was once caught watching inappropriate material in my class. Granted, it was likely way more interesting than whatever I was teaching at the time, but his peers ratted him out by the astonished and bemused looks on their faces."

For the rest of the article, please visit the blog!

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

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My Two Hats in Higher Education: Adjunct Faculty & Instructional Designer

So this winter, a friend of mine asked if I wanted to write a piece for The Nexus, a publication for the Massachusetts College Personnel Association about my work as an Instructional Designer and Adjunct.  I took her up on the offer and here is an excerpt.  You can read the full article here.


The Nexus - February 2015 with an article from Lance Eaton.
"I wear two hats in higher education.  My first hat is pretty beaten up but still invaluable.  That’s my adjunct hat.  It’s a hat that I’ve dawned for some eight years and over 100 college sections.  If that math seems like it’s more the speed of a full-time instructor, you might be right.  Several years of part-time teaching included the adjunct shuffle wherein I scooted from college to college (4-5 per semester), stitching together a living.  These included community colleges, state universities, private colleges and for-profit colleges.  What can I say; I got around.  Much of that ceased when I became Coordinator of Instructional Design at North Shore Community College, my second hat.  I continue to teach courses because I still love teaching and also find that it aids me greatly in my role as instructional designer.

Connect With Us
In the adjunct hat, if there is one thing I would advocate to any part of the college to do in order for us to better help you is to make a concerted effort to connect with us.  The research shows that connecting with someone on campus is a major predictor of completion at a college and that an instructor is one of the most common people a student is likely to connect with.  Thus, it’s worth remembering that part-time faculty teach somewhere between half and two-thirds of college courses nowadays.  Fostering a strong relationship with part-time faculty provides additional layers of communication and support for the students."

Follow through for the rest of the piece in The Nexus.

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

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Share This: Social Media for Personal, Professional, and Organizational Use

So many of my (so very few) readers know that I regular work with social media in my various capacities as instructional designer and instructor.  I have also been a social media strategist for NERCOMP and NEPCA over the years and provided consultations on social media for different individuals and organizations.  Social media is something I think, read, discuss, and use a lot.  So when I recently learned that a Jeanine O'Neil was contemplating giving up her courses on social media at North Shore Community College's Community Education (their noncredit courses), I talked with her and them noncredit program to find out about trying to fill the gap.  

For the first time, this late winter, I will be teaching:  

Share This: Social Media for Personal, Professional, and Organizational Uses

This first course will run from February 24-March 10 on Tuesday evenings from 6pm-9pm at the Cummings Center in Beverly.  I hope that this course will provide individuals with a strong understanding of social media that goes beyond just how to use it or why to use it, but a solid grounding in the benefits of using it for self or organizational promotion as well as developing an extensive social network of people to provide new opportunities and connections.  

The course description is as follows:  "The program explores social media and how to use it for personal, professional, and organizational purposes.  The course covers the nuts and bolts of social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Youtube, and Blogger, while also providing some deeper context on how to use these tools for different opportunities and engagement with different populations.  The program addresses marketing, advertisement and connecting with customers and communities through the use of social media.  Participants will also have opportunities to consider issues of social media including proper etiquette, privacy, and quantifying social media interactions."

To register, please visit NSCC Community Education page for more details (The course ID is: CSP207-ACN-17124).  


For those interested in learning more, below are a few artefacts of the course:  

Course Flyer


Course Introduction Video on Youtube





Course Introduction Slide Deck on Slideshare:






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

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Blog post on On Campus: Degrees of Angst Part 1

The following is part one of a two part guest blog post that I wrote which was published on WGBH's On Campus blog.  It's in response to the most recent report, Degrees of Urgency from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education.


Snapshot of the Vision Project website.
Snapshot of the Vision Project website.
"In late October, the Massachusetts’ Department of Higher Education released its “Degrees of Urgency” Vision Project report. It addresses challenges for state colleges and universities as demographic shifts in the next decade will result in smaller student enrollments. In New England, colleges can anticipate a 9 percent or more population loss.   

The report arrives on the heels of a dramatic shift in Massachusetts funding for higher education.  The new funding formula focuses significantly on completion rates of students who start full time and complete a program within the expected time. The formula seems likely to exasperate existing problems since state institution populations have continued to grow significantly since 2000, despite over 30 percent drop in public funding during that same time."

For the full post, please visit the On Campus Blog here.

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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, November 10, 2014

Another Experience With Changing Lives Through Literature

I've talked before about my work with the Changing Lives Through Literature program.  I connect quite well with the program's purpose and goal. So I've wrote the following post to contribute to their blog.  It's published in part here with a link to the full post.  Enjoy! 


A road with a sign, "Success" at the end.  Image source: http://pixabay.com/p-115890/?no_redirect
"I’m a newbie to Changing Lives Through Literature, so what I say here might seem old-hat to some or naive to others. I’m about two-thirds through my second group and there are two moments in the program that I find most rewarding.

I choose a mixture of challenging and strange texts. There’s a method to my madness in terms of the range and type, as well as the alignment, but I often get raised eyebrows from the participants and even the parole officers. The texts are evocative, usually leading the participants to come in with clear opinions. These opinions are usually a mixture of confusion, frustration, and dislike because the readings don’t always have clear endings and are sometimes outright confusing."

You can read the full post by visiting the Changing Lives Through Literature blog.

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

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Literature As Reformation: The Changing Lives Through Literature Program

I just finished my first time running a Changing Lives Through Literature program this past week.  The program is consists of 8 weekly meetings with individuals on parole wherein we talk about assigned short stories or novels read.  Essentially, it's a reading club for people on parole.  It's purpose to help people on parole engage with ideas through reading and have the opportunity to accomplish something as part of their progress to full rehabilitation in society.  Depending on the elements of their parole, participants often volunteer to be in the program and in doing some, some may have time taken off their parole sentence.  


Prison Halls - Image Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8b/End_of_the_world_prison.jpg
It is a program that I found out about through a colleague and expressed interest in last year.  However, it was not my first encounter with the program.  In fact, I wrote this blog post for one CLTL group a few years ago on my love for the writings of Kate Chopin.  Earlier this year, I was contacted by an officer interested in starting up a new group in Salem and so I jumped at the chance.  I met with the officer and we planted to run this first group in March through April.  The logistics went according to plan and though, there is much to tweak, it certainly was appreciated by those who consistently attended and those who facilitated it.  

For the first few weeks, I was excited and a bit nervous about running this group.  I certainly brought plenty of experience to the group as a facilitator, having taught literature at colleges for the last six years, but I wasn't sure exactly how to approach facilitating the group.  I was less certain about how the group dynamics would be and less familiar with this informal setting.  Yet as the weeks progressed, I seemed to have found my foothold and determined how best to engage with the participants and guide the conversation.  

So what did we cover in this 8 week journey?  It was composed of short stories and one novel.  Some of the stories I was familiar with and others, I read for the first time.  

Session 1: “Greasy Lake” by T.C. Boyle

A pair of glasses on a book.  Image source: http://pixabay.com/p-83126/?no_redirect
This proved a strong opener.  Boyle's tale about kids returned from college thinking they are tough stuff and making a series of increasingly bad decisions clearly hit home for many of the participants and got them reasonably interested in the program when they might not have been otherwise.  

Session 2:  “To Build a Fire” by Jack London

Akin to "Greasy Lake," I like this story because it's about a series of bad decisions and the protagonist's decision to buck conventional wisdom and focus only on the outcome (potential riches by getting to the camp sooner).  It also had a good dialogue around understanding nature and humans and how we lose touch with the natural order of things.  It also was quite ironic that the night we discussed this story was the coldest day in March.  

Session 3:  “The Red Convertible” by Louise Erdrich

Erdrich's tale about the effects of war on a pair of brothers also spoke well to the participants.  However, we were able to move the discussion deeper to talk about the ways in which the outside world of American culture clearly took its toll on the inside world of the reservation and how that manifested in Lyman's final decision to walk everywhere.  

Session 4:  “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce

If the first three stories were safe to some degree in that while deep, meaning could be easily deduced, these next three weeks, I went in for something a little strong in terms of message and intellectual challenge.  They grappled with this but it was here that we often found some participants really pushing themselves to newer depths.  Bierce's tale of life between the drop a body and the snapping of a neck as the body reaches the full length of the rope, is a challenging one.  Told out of sequence, the story follows Farquahar, a plantation owner who does not serve in the Civil War but attempts to disrupt the Union army by blowing up a bridge.  In doing so, he has placed his family in direct danger and can do nothing about it because he is to be captured and sent to his death.  Our discussion around the perception of the noble act (blowing up the bridge) with the right and more important act (protecting one's family) also hit home for some of the participants.  

Session 5:  “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut

Though we had some good discussion around this story, it still felt a bit of a flop in that there was some confusion about what was going on.  I also think that the message of the story is not necessary useful either and need to find a replacement for this one.  

Session 6:  “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” by Flannery O’Connor

I warned the participants ahead of time that this would be the craziest story we read and many of them found that to be exciting.  However, they did get into the story and most interestingly, many of them expressed knowing exactly what was going to happen in the story within the first few paragraphs.  This was an interesting tell from the group in that it strongly indicated that their propensity for reading into stories had reasonably improved.  

Session 7 & 8:  Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

As one of my favorite short novels, I figured this could be a great book to end on.  It's short, it's fairly clear, but there's also lots of subtle elements about it.  We had a good conversation around the book and again, it was great to see them pick up on things that they might have missed entirely previous (e.g. the parallel between Candy's dog and Lennie).  

In the end, it was a valuable experience to me just as much as it was for the participants.  It's quite easy to disregard or devalue people have committed wrongs (and I don't negate that people should be accountable for their wrongdoings) and I see many ways in which we devalue and dehumanize imprisoned populations and create conditions that make it even more challenging for them to reintegrate back into society.  Programs such as this which help them build skills, find self-value, and engage in activities where they are valued as human beings and what they bring to a group is likely to go much farther in their success than the standard shaming and isolating manners that are out there.  


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Friday, May 2, 2014

My Annotated Bibliography: Publications of the Last Few Years

Academic writing can be hard and it can be tedious and often thankless job (besides your editors who are thankful that you finally got the damn piece in--oh wait, that's probably just me!). However, when the article is final complete and published, you do get a sense of accomplishment to see it in print.  Herein are some of the publications that I've had over the last 2-3 years.  


The Entries: "Hyde, Edward" "King Kong" "Robots" and "Extraterrestrials"

The Publication: The Ashgate Encyclopedia of Literary and Cinematic Monsters, ed by Dr. Jeffrey Weinstock from Ashgate Publishing Ltd. March, 2014.

The Ashgate Encyclopedia of Literary and Cinematic Monsters, ed by Dr. Jeffrey Weinstock from Ashgate Publishing Ltd Getting to write about monsters is always pretty fun.  However, the 10,000 word article on Extraterrestrials was a bit too much and I needed help in completing it.  But this encyclopedia is definitely an encyclopedia to have on the shelves!  I found writing about Hyde and Kong fairly easy because the word count was small and it was clear what I had to focus on since they were singular characters (essentially).  Robot and Extraterrestrials were a bit more challenging since covering both literature and film opens up a lot of content and ideas to address.  





The Entry: A Superhero for the Times: Superman's Fight against Oppression and Injustrice in the 1930s

The Publication: Ages of Heroes, Eras of Men eds. Julian C. Chambliss, Thomas Donaldson, William Svitavsky.  Cambridge Scholars Publishing.  July, 2013

Ages of Heroes, Eras of Men eds. Julian C. Chambliss, Thomas Donaldson, William Svitavsky.  Cambridge Scholars Publishing
The journey of this publication is epic in my own experience but also in the ceaseless efforts of the editors.  I first wrote this as a paper for grad school at UMASS Boston in American Studies in 2006.  The following year, I presented it at conference in Florida where I was on a panel with Thomas Donaldson.  Julian Chambliss and William Svitavsky were also presenting and if I remember correctly (which I probably don't) were also paneling the chairs on comics.  Donaldson had the brilliant idea of pulling all the papers on comics into a book and find a way to get it published.  Well, several years after ceaseless efforts on the editors' behalf, they pulled together a book and get it published.  My entry in this book I think is interesting because I highlight the intersection of sidekicks, censorship campaigns, and original perceptions around Superman.  


The Entry: The Hulking Hyde:  How the Incredible Hulk Reinvented the Modern Jekyll and Hyde Monster

The Publication: Fear and Learning: Essays on the Pedagogy of Horror edited by Aalya Ahmad and Sean Moreland, McFarland Books. Spring, 2013.

Fear and Learning: Essays on the Pedagogy of Horror edited by Aalya Ahmad and Sean Moreland, McFarland Books This article was born out of the opportunity to teach a course on monsters at Emerson.  I started using The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and eventually, found myself connecting it to The Incredible Hulk and continued to flesh out that connection to the point where I found that Hyde feeds into Hulk and Hulk eventually feeds into our modern-day perceptions of Hulk.  When this call for entries came around, I couldn't help but leap for it.  This collection as a whole is pretty great in helping to utilize horror as a teaching tool.  






The Entry: Larry Gonick

The Publication: Icons of the American Comic Book: From Captain America to Wonder Woman, eds Randall Duncan and Matthew Smith from Greenwood Press.  February, 2013.

This article was also born of my teaching.  I've used Larry Gonick's Cartoon History of the Universe regularly in the history courses that I've taught.  I find it a useful text for students to start thinking about the subjectivity of history.  I've also had the opportunity to interview Larry Gonick.  So when I had the opportunity to write an article about him, I took it.  I was also familiar with Smith and Duncan's work because I've used their book, The Power of Comics in the course on comics I teach which is an excellent book.   


The Entry: Speaking Over the Words: Realizing Text into Audio

The Publication: Journal of American Studies of Turkey, Issue 32, Fall, 2012

Lance Eaton - Speaking Over the Words: Realizing Text into Audio in Journal of American Studies of Turkey, Issue 32, Fall, 2012I was quite proud of this article as I feel it was a first real attempt for me to academically discuss audiobooks and what paths of research are possible when we start looking at them through an academic lens.  Originally, this article was supposed to be part of a book on adaptation but got cut at the last minute.  The editor, Lawrence Raw, was kind enough to then also include it in this journal that he edits.  It's probably not its most ideal home but it is a start to getting it out there.  





These are not the only publications that I have under my belt.  In fact, I have an ever-growing publications section in my CV.  The best place to keep up to date with my publications would be on my professional website.  However, these are some of the best publications I've had in the last few years.  


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