Thursday, April 24, 2014

Oft-repeated complaints that our students can't read long and complicated materials may not be as accurate as the observation that they simply don't want to.

A Washington Post article by Michael S. Rosenwald said that researchers were finding that the habit of scanning and skinning material online was changing the human brain and hindering people’s” ability to read long, complex and dense material. Cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham, a professor at the University of Virginia, is highly skeptical. Instead of rewiring our brains, which are not likely to have the capacity to evolve so quickly, it is more plausible that our relationship to content is changing. In other words, oft-repeated complaints that our students ʺcan't read long and complicated materialsʺ are probably not as accurate as the observation that they simply don't want to. It's not brain function at fault but, rather, the will. The counter-argument suggests that the internet provides us with so much opportunity to find other information that we are less willing to put up with something that doesn't interest us or that we find disagreeable. The problem is social, not biological.

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Facebook in the Back of the Classroom

We all know just how frustrating it can be to look across the students in your classroom and see clear evidence that many of them are paying more attention to the latest Snapchat message or texting their sibling at another school. But what are we to do? Should we rail about incivility? Should we demand a technology-free classroom? Should we punish them for their insensitivity with pop-quizzes or calling on them when we know they haven't been listening (that great cinematic trope)? Or should we accept the technology and it's capacity to distract? Should we even embrace it? A recent column in Inside Higher Ed seeks to open up a discussion about good tactics for dealing with what many of us feel is an unwelcome intrusion into our pedagogy, but which others feel offers new opportunities for teaching our material in innovative ways.

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Faculty Forum with Francesca Seaman - The Truth of the Poetic Experience: A Vital Confrontation with History, Dino Campana

This presentation will discuss the question of poetry as a fundamental experience of loss and of displacement through a brief analysis of the works of the Italian 20th century poet Dino Campana. Placing Dino Campana’s works within the norms of a literary movement is an uproductive procedure, yet the influence Campana exerts on the poets who came after him, is incalculable. He does not propose norms for the use of poetic language, nor does he model an imitable rhetoric. On the contrary, he declares useless all ideologies, all thought that conforms itself to a system, or that reduces life of an individual to a paradigm. His works stand alone in the literary tradition, so we cannot measure Campana’s affect as a poet in as much as his works are taken as a point of reference. The relevance of Dino Campana arises from a new meditation on poetry, a lesson that questions the power of images, the coexistence of life and poetry, the violent search for an absolute, and the ethics of a poetry of freedom.

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Friday, April 18, 2014

AAC&U GEMs: Exemplar Practice

AAC&U GEMs: Exemplar Practice


I promised . . . to write-up an exemplar practice of how digital tools and practices can help support students in their journeys through GenEd. (This article also discusses assessment of flipped classroom learning.)

A while back, I wrote about my early experiences as a member of the Digital Working Group for the AAC&U General Education Maps and Markers (GEMs) initiative and promised that I would do my homework for the group in public. Today I will make good on that promise. The homework is to write-up an exemplar practice of how digital tools and practices can help support students in their journeys through GenEd. As I said in my original post, I think this is an important initiative. I invite all of you to write up your own exemplars, either in the comments thread here or in your own blogs or other digital spaces.

The template for the exemplar is as follows:
Evocative Examples of Digital Resources and Strategies that can Improve General Education: What are these cases a case of?

Brief Description of practice:
In what ways is the practice effective or transformative for student learning? What’s the evidence? How do we know? (If you can tie the practice to any of the outcomes in the DQP and/or the LEAP Essential Learning Outcomes, that would be great.)
How does the practice reflect the digital world as lived student culture? What are the skills and content associated with the digital practice or environment? How does the practice deepen or shape behavior of students with digital tools and environments with which they may be variously familiar? What does it take to make the practice work? What is the impact on faculty time? Does it take a team to design, implement, assess? What are the implications for organizational change?
How is it applicable to gen ed (if example doesn’t come from gen ed)?
Are there references or literature to which you can point that is relevant to the practice?

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Writing Better Grants

Bert Holmes (UNC - Asheville) will speak about writing more effective grant proposals.

Changes to NSF Directorates

Bert Holmes (UNC - Asheville) will discuss changes to the NSF directorates.

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Extended Studies Workshop

FDC, CTL, and the Winter Term Committee will be holding a workshop on the specifics of building syllabi and co-ordinating with other courses during Winter Term. Both on-campus and off-campus courses will be covered. Individuals are encouraged to come with specific questions and ideas.

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Sabbatical Lunch

The Dean of Faculty and the Chair of FDC will hold a meeting for any faculty members eligible for leaves in 2015-16 and 2016-17. The meeting will be focused on providing the necessary information for applying for and managing sabbaticals and pre-tenure leaves.

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Chairs Workshop

The Dean of Faculty will be holding a workshop for acting chairs on how to deal adequately and appropriately with legal issues that departments and/or individuals might face.

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Friday, April 11, 2014

"In union there is strength" or "Too many cooks spoil the broth"?

In this session we will be looking at the positives and negatives of group work, group projects, and group presentations. Please feel free to bring group assignments that have succeeded as well as those that you want to tweak.

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STEM Brown Bag Discussion

Discussion of issues affecting STEM education.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Group Work that Works

Too often we ask our students to work in small groups in class only to find that they rush through the prompts too quickly (in order to get to socializing). The result is, at best, mediocre class discussion. The flaw, though, may not be with the students but with the design of the assignment. This article provides a model for what effective group assignments in class might look like, focusing on problem solving and decision making. According to the article, four elements that should be part of every group assignment are: significance, specificity, similarity, and simultaneity.

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Students Can Transfer Knowledge if Taught How

One psychologist described it as education’s holy grail. Another called it ʺthe very measure of learning itself.ʺ

They were talking about the transfer of learning. Such transfer occurs in its most cognitively valuable forms when students draw on something they learned in one context, ideally by generalizing its core principles, and apply it appropriately to a situation that is far different from the original.

For example, a student in a military-­history course might learn about a general who attacked by dividing his army into many small groups so they could safely move through terrain infested with land mines. In a biology course that student might learn how a doctor treats a tumor by using many low doses of radiation to damage the tumor while preserving the tissue. The underlying strategy was the same.

While it is a longstanding goal, transfer of learning has gained renewed appeal as critics press institutions to prove the worth of a college education.

Teaching students to transfer their knowledge, say many faculty members and administrators, is also imperative in a world in which troves of information are a mouse-click away. If professors continue to see themselves as dispensers of content, they will have little of lasting value to offer.

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Academic Publishing Waiver Raises Concern

Faculty authors who contract to write for the publisher of Nature, Scientific American and many other journals could be signing away more than just the economic rights to their work, according to the director of the Office of Copyright and Scholarly Communications at Duke University.

Kevin Smith, the Duke official, said he stumbled across a clause in the Nature Publishing Group’s license agreement last month stating that authors waive or agree not to assert “any and all moral rights they may now or in the future hold” related to their work. In the context of scholarly publishing, “moral rights” include the right of the author always to have his or her name associated with the work and the right to have the integrity of the work protected so that it is not changed in a way that could result in reputational harm.

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Friday, April 4, 2014

Can Writing Be Assessed?

Can Writing Be Assessed?

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Extended Studies Workshop: Building a Traveling Academic Community

Building a traveling academic community.

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Teaching Roundtable Mike Sinowitz: The Thesis-Driven Essay, A Debate and Discussion

The quest for a thesis forms the center of much instruction in academic writing.  Professors demand it; students find it as elusive or mystifying as Benjamin Braddock found his future (“plastics”).  Despite these struggles, the thesis-driven essay has typically been seen as central to academic writing.  Some faculty, in recent years, have been moving further away from this type of writing or exclusively assigning this type of writing.  The essay, as genre, did not start this way; in fact, in its original forms pioneered by Montaigne in the 16th century, it tended towards being experimental and some times, as in Montaigne’s--as the origins of the word suggest--a try at something or sometimes just plain full of tangents.  The focus of this gathering is to debate the relative merits of this kind of writing for our student, as well as to discuss some other forms of essay that might also have important roles to play within the academic setting (and perhaps beyond).

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Faculty Forum Dan Gurnon: The first person ever cured of HIV and other amazing tales of science

Stories of biochemistry for the non-specialist, plus a discussion of non-traditional teaching tools including computer animation and physical models.

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