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

Review: TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking

TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking by Chris J. Anderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Anderson, the head of TED, the central repository for engaging ideas in small 7-18 minute speeches by many key industry leaders (of almost every industry) presents a concise and clear guide to organizing and preparing to give the best speech of one's life. Focused largely on giving a "TED Talk," which is not necessarily every talk one is likely to give, Anderson walks readers through everything from different approaches on preparing, to technical considerations to delivery styles and wardrobe questions. He draws upon many of the most famous TED talks to illustrate the best examples of what he is discussing and while he does refer to bad examples, he usually is vague on the details, sparing the targets (and probably himself from lawsuits). I appreciate Anderson's ability to pull together different aspects of a speech and clarify with each, what is the essential consideration one must keep in mind. Anderson's guide provides a lot of great information and ideas about how to improve one's speaking technique and is likely to be useful to anyone trying to hone their presentation skills.

View all my reviews


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CFP: 4th Call: Teaching Popular Culture

The final reminder, I swear!  The deadline is approaching so be sure to get in your questions and submissions soon!

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. 



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.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Review: For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood... and the Rest of Y'all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education

For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood... and the Rest of Y'all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood... and the Rest of Y'all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education by Christopher Emdin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Edmin's book shows the depths and methods needed to go in order to institute transformative teaching and learning in a classroom that engages all students. He names his approach reality-based pedagogy and its core idea is that it is impossible to teach students if you do not embed their realities into the classroom; altering how one may teach, how power is negotiated, and what it means to demonstrate learning. Clearly from the title, there is a specific context to which he is speaking, but the application of his approach can potentially open up any classroom (e.g. it's easy to imagine how this could play out in a rural environment). He explores his pedagogy through his own triumphs and setbacks as he aims to help his students channel their enthusiasm and interest into productive learning experiences that reflect what he hopes they will learn with how it fits within their worlds. It's a powerful book that in many ways takes the ideas of Paulo Freire and Lisa Delpit and demonstrates particular ways one can execute them in the classroom.

View all my reviews


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CFP: 3rd Call: Teaching Popular Culture

More CFPs are coming and I'm getting quite excited!  Here's another reminder for those looking to submit something!

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. 



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. 

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

The PhD Chronicles: Dissertation Journal #3

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

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


Development of Open Initiatives and Their Impact on Pedagogical Approaches

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

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

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

So let's work our way through the questions:


What does this contribute to?

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


What's the problem to study?

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


What's the thing that needs solving?

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


What does this subject/topic mean to me?

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


Other Aspects

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

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

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



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. 

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

CFP: 2nd Call: Teaching Popular Culture

So the submissions are starting to trickle in so I thought I would take the opportunity to remind people about this CFP!  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. 




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. 

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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. 



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. 

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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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!).

View all my reviews

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

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

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.