Friday, August 16, 2013

Facebook makes people feel worse?

As we approach the time of year when students leave home without really leaving, because they remain tethered via Facebook. That makes reports of this new study a bit more interesting than it might otherwise be. (It reportedly contradicts other studies.) What I do know, just observing, is how addicted students are to Facebook as well as the regular flow of text messages from friends. They can't even enjoy a pleasant walk across a beautiful campus! But that is only half of it. It would be great to see a study of the academic effects. The big problem I see is that they cannot concentrate in class, when doing homework, and probably when writing longer papers. I see the first two cases regularly. The short distractions of "social media" simply feed their impatience with any frustration when working unsystematically on a problem. But it must be particularly bad in the teen years, seeking social approval. I saw a truly classic example the other night when marveling at one of those stories about folks prepping for the apocalypse. You should have seen the look on the teen daughter's face when she learned that her cell phone would not work in their underground bunker where they plan to hide out while crazed, hungry, armed people rampage through the city.

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Tips on Teaching

Fascinating article today in IHE from a young whippersnapper about what he has learned about college teaching in his first few years in the classroom, all before earning the PhD. I don't have time to do much commentary, but a lot of it looks like what I might have said when I was still wet behind the ears in grad school. And a lot of it is very good advice. Nice way to start the semester. I may get back to this and fill in a few remarks later, but one that I do want to mention is his policy on cell phones. I have moved in that direction as well. I make a mental note of who is not engaged at a time when we are doing something I know is important, and then compare my mental notes to their performance when the exam is graded. Most fail to succeed at their multi-tasking exercise. He also has a rather amusing set of fifteen tips for students. Amusing because getting students to do most of these things strikes me as wildly optimistic! And some are utterly irrelevant to science or engineering majors.

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Learning Outcomes and Assessment

Interesting story in IHE today about mandatory assessment of learning outcomes in Iowa. What I found most interesting, however, was the vast amount of naivete among those posting comments. Folks, this is coming to a college near you whether they pass a law or not. This is a requirement for every college and university that wants it accreditation reaffirmed in the southeastern US, and in many other regions from what I can gather. It was, for example, prominently mentioned as an issue at San Francisco City College. I'm not sure if we are in the second or third wave of colleges required to do it, but we are early enough that I can understand why this is still news to the majority of faculty. My opinion, having done this for awhile, is that it is a useful exercise. I've learned a lot about what my students learn, even if it is relatively short-term learning as reflected at the time of the final exam. My main objection is to how we report our data, but I keep my own version as well since that can inform future development of the course. They want the results for every student in the class, but IMHO it is a mistake to lump failures in with those who passed. To me, it is a good thing when students who failed the class did so because they failed to achieve most of the expected outcomes defined for the course. And I don't think it is a failure of the course if they didn't learn because they chose to not attend class or do the homework or participate in active learning exercises in class. (They think I don't notice when they are playing on their phone, but I know exactly why person X could not do the kinds of problems that dropped him from an A to a B.) I'm most interested in what was missed by students who fail (to help them learn those topics) and what was missed by those that pass (ditto). In both cases it can be quite surprising to see what they learn from specific subsets of the course. PS - The significant extra work required to develop these and collect the data is one reason that I have not blogged very much lately.

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Happy Pi Day

And a Happy Birthday to that rather famous son of an electrical equipment salesman. When I was looking up a link, I noticed that it has been over a year since I've written anything here on this blog! Too busy with both necessary (did someone say assessing outcomes?) and even more necessary (unbloggable) job-related tasks to even pull out a bunch of semi-written stuff in my draft folder, but I have been blogging parasitically on Matt Reed's blog, usually on the "old" original Dean Dad one. He always produces lots of stimulating things to write more about. I really do need to get back here, though, because there are, indeed, lots of things to talk about. Maybe I should start by updating the census data about who has a college degree that came to mind this week.

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