Category Archives: classroom management

All You do to Me is [TED] Talk, Talk

Not to brag, but I teach at three colleges. It’s a cold hard fact of the college professor lifestyle.  One is a traditional community college where I teach in the classroom.  Another is a non-profit liberal arts college operating mostly online.  My third and longest employer was a publicly traded for profit college that went into the hands of private for-profit investors in 2016.  I teach here in person and online.

I appreciate my varied teaching history for the simple reason that it provides ample evidence and example to test my beliefs as they relate to higher education.  Further, as I believe higher education’s delivery methods and purpose is experiencing rapid change, it may be best to keep many eggs in my basket.  Historically (a good critical thinking lens to employ), I know at least one will falter and one will flourish.  I take the same approach to financial investment – buy what you know but diversify as much as is reasonable.

I’m preparing for a July class at University of Phoenix (UOP), which means it’s time to dust off the syllabus and see what to cut and what to revise.  Certainly, more about spotting fake news is appropriate.

Related to that, I have been reading and re-reading this: the [ill] logic of climate denial and still crafting details to make it a classroom exercise rather than a lecture.  I’ve found the really important thinking parts of the class need to be discussed. I can test terminology knowledge and MLA formatting with little effort.  It’s the big points, mostly that your thinking is at the very least a “shared” phenomenon, I want them to analyze.

Each college schedules under a different philosophy. However, each of those philosophies embrace TED Talks!  UOP holds all undergraduate classes once per week, at night, for four hours, over five consecutive weeks. With twenty hours of class time to fill, my behavior is like a shark’s. I am in constant motion, seeking the signs of new content and relevant activities and useful discussion topics.  I just bought a thesaurus, thanks for asking.

This TED Talk video, linked below, is wonderful on many levels. I find it best to introduce at the end of week one (analysis of the state of our own thinking) or the start of week two (exploring ways of asking questions to uncover knowledge…aka the Socratic method…named for Dave Socrates).

First, it breaks the ice.  Giving people a video demonstrating how silly “other people’s” ideas are generates some laughs.

Second, it aligns with the learning outcomes of the course and the pace of the textbook reading.

Third, it let’s me introduce my personal biography and history with critical thinking.  The section on backward masking transported me to junior high, the early 80’s. I completed 4th-12th grade at an evangelical Christian school. I grew up learning the facts about the Bible and America that are on full display today at the highest levels of our government.  Backward masking was introduced as the means by which secular society influences behavior.  We mostly just found it funny, at times a bit scary.

I learned then that if you want someone to believe like you do, you must teach them. It rarely happens organically.  Yes, I do believe the best higher education is non-organic.  I might someday come to the conclusion that the best higher education is delivered by non-humans. I might even concede that it may be best to circumnavigate the person entirely, and just teach AI inspired devices directly.  But that’s a blog for another day.

Living as a human my entire life, the last decade paddling around in higher education, shaped my belief that teaching via processes like “childhood” and “school” generate behaviors and values we desire most consistently.  The everyday observations by a child regarding adult behavior, and the standardized lesson planning in education shape our beliefs, often to the detriment of other types of critical thinking evidence.

Media often gets the credit.  Media however, is the wall of your echo chamber, bouncing back what you’ve already put into the universe.  When it reaches your ear again, it sounds like confirmation. But it’s not…

It’s like this video I show in my critical thinking class.  When we are told what is “there”, lo and behold, we usually “see” it. And that is where critical thinking begins in earnest!

 

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Filed under belief, classroom management, college teaching, critical thinking, higher education, leadership, metrics, training, Uncategorized, UOPX

Will You Be a First Responder to ITT Tech Students?

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Teaching and college administration has been my calling for well over a decade. From 2005-2009, I fulfilled that passion at ITT Technical Institute. When I read the news today, that they were no more, my first thought was, “Good! This is long overdue.” It was quickly followed by, “What will happen to all those students?” I am going to put aside the analysis of all the bad things done under the banner of higher education while the colors of ITT Tech flew high upon the helm.  I am not going to think about the fortunes gained and lost by shareholders, employees, and taxpayers.  Today, I want to talk about that secondary concern…the students.

Now that the school is closed, where will these students finish their education?  As outlined, some will seek loan forgiveness, some will drop out, the rest will seek a new college. My hope is that most of them will find another college. My fear is that many that wish to finish somewhere else, will find that there is no room at the inn.  State and private schools have record numbers of applications and not enough seats to accept them.  A similar scenario for different reasons awaits them if they remain in the market driven college realm. Those systems have experienced significant slowdowns, with several meeting the same fate as ITT Tech, or operating as a much smaller college.

If you are like me, you look at that data and ask yourself – “What can I do about this?” My brief answer, in two parts:

  1. I will prepare myself to meet more students who have had a negative education experience, or hear more negative than positive these days regarding college overall. It is more than school closures – it is noticeable safety issues, degrees with few marketable skills, high debt, the list is truly without end. When I hear these issues in class, I will actively listen and not try to defend. I will facilitate understanding.
  2. I will support local movements that seek to meet with students and provide options to them. Even though these students are not “mine”, I am pledging my willingness to educate any one of these affected students. I will do so formally through my University, but also ask other education leaders in the region what can be done. I think about the RED teams that a city will dispatch to court an employer or secure a regulation that will facilitate solid job creation and economic development.

I choose these two actions because they are within my area of control. I proudly work as an associate professor at University of Phoenix. I have been active in causes supporting business and education for two decades in and around Riverside, CA.

One thing I teach first year students is that they need to assess their skills and abilities, then apply them to the problem at hand. I can imagine no better service to students than to follow my own advice and work tirelessly until I make a positive difference in their lives and help them reach their career and academic goals.

What will you do? #ITTTechstudents

Note – Bruce Baron and the San Bernardino Community College District are already doing great work, see the article here

 

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Full Time or Adjunct? Which one is better for students?

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First, let me confess my bias:  I was hired as a full time faculty member with University of Phoenix back in February of 2015*. Prior to that, I spent the previous decade as a full time college administrator and an adjunct faculty member. I like being fully engaged in higher ed.

Is full time better for ME? You bet! But it’s not about me, cupcake, it’s about the students.  So, is it better for students? What’s happening in higher education.  Moves by Maricopa Community College District tells part of the story.  For the rest, join me, won’t you, for a few minutes in the classroom.

New college students must overcome external obstacles, internal doubts, and regular distractions from their studies if they wish to be successful (ie, graduate college and progress in their career). While those barriers are typically within their control, it helps to have someone in their corner.

Nearly all of the adjuncts I know are pressed for time. They usually have a full time job. In a growing number of instances, an adjunct may work for a half dozen schools, stringing together a bunch of courses to get them as close as they can to full employment.

What happens outside the classroom has a significant effect on the goings on inside the walls, or your CPU for those online educators. Day one, students respond positively to both backgrounds. In my experience, they are most interested in my work as a writer and literary advocate. Those in the job hunt, and really, if you are in college, you ARE in the job hunt, appreciate my two decades of employment, placement, and career development experience. What matters again is not my experiences, but how I present them that first day that matters.

My solution to the dilemma is to try and understand my audience and my purpose walking into that room or logging in for day one. When that is a consistent part of my practice, the student benefits. And I think that was why I meandered onto this career path in the first place.

Feel fee to share your own experiences, as teachers or students. I would like to profile others in a future post. Thanks!

 

*To add another layer, I was laid off in April 2016. I am now an Associate Faculty member at University of Phoenix…aka Adjunct.

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Filed under belief, classroom management, college teaching, employment, higher education, Uncategorized

Great TED Talk for Critical Thinking

I like to think of my classroom as a place for solid infotainment, to steal an idea from television news.  Students need new content to dissect and discuss constantly.  Like it or not, we live in a fast paced society, and that lifestyle has found its way into the classroom. Better to embrace it and adapt then to “fight the good fight” to the bitter end.  The fact is, students need teachers to look for many different ways to facilitate open communication and expose new college students to a wide range of ideas.

Which is why this talk comes in handy during week one.  Why People Believe Weird Things from @michaelshermer is the perfect antidote to the clock-watching and smartphone searching that begins in earnest as we start the fourth hour of class together.  It’s funny, moves from point to point with purpose, and uses so many cultural references (UFO’s, drugs, music, religion) that almost anyone can find a part to enjoy.  I particularly love the backward-masking section because in high school, we actually studied how to find all the hidden satanic messages in heavy metal 80’s rock.

The title gets people talking. Students come to understand the joke in the title…what we consider weird is usually a matter of perspective. What I think is normal; what you think is weird.  Five weeks of critical thinking will cure most of that illness.  A video that makes people laugh, makes people think, and provides dozens of discussion topics, is certainly worthy of any educator’s attention.

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Filed under belief, classroom management, college teaching, critical thinking