Posts

I’m Watching

My worlds – writing mysteries and teaching college –  have finally collided and I couldn’t be happier. Thanks to technology, I’m now able to apply my fictional super-sleuthing abilities to my actual classrooms.

Eek – does that mean she’s spying on us?

In a way.

Yes.

I am.

Spying.

On you.

And here’s how……

Almost every student as this point has participated in either an online course or a traditional course with an online compliment. I’ve been teaching online for years, but until recently, I haven’t taken advantage of the tools offered by the educational software packages. This summer, I decided to delve into the myriad of reports offered by the software. Once, I got the hang of it, I spent time coding my digital classrooms to capture just about any type of student behavior.

How often do you log on? What pages do you look at? How long do you spend on each page? How many times did you open a video? When was the last time you logged on? How does your behavior compare to your classmates? How long did it take you to complete a test? Did you look at the calendar, the announcements, the emails?  Your test crashed and you need an extension? Really – because it has to open first before it crashes. You get the idea.

Holy cow! This is insane and so powerful because now I no longer have to have fake conversations with students. In the past, I had to sift through the stories, the tears, the excuses and the inevitable death of Grandma who, for some reason, could never stay alive through final exam week.

The question is whether I will use my newly acquired electronic knowledge for good or evil. Before you panic, there’s a word for this in the educational field and it’s called an Early Warning System.  What I’m supposed to be doing is tracking student behavior and alerting you before it impacts you negatively.

Translation“Hey Student, I see you’ve only checked in once this week. Do you need help?”

Now that we’re on the same page, I have only one request. If you know that I know, then let’s both come to the table and have an honest conversation about your progress.

I’d love to hear from students! Let me know how you feel about being tracked in your online coursework.

 

Grade Bullies

I’m coining a new phrase that I know teachers are going to love. The Grade Bully. It’s a new phenomenon most likely driven by a shift in parenting styles beginning in the 1990’s. If you think this corresponds with the emergence of the Millennial generation, you would be correct. I like to call this generation the ‘sticker generation’ where any effort, no matter how paltry, received a happy sticker. Some like to call it the ‘trophy generation’ whereby by small silvery statues which were distributed for doing nothing more than showing up. If you’re reading this and you’ve got a box of trophies in your childhood bedroom, then you may want to take this post to heart as it is most likely impacting your GPA negatively.

 

 

Grade bullies are students who communicate to teachers, in no uncertain terms, the grade they believe they deserve. These edicts usually include statements like:

 

“But this grade is not good enough for me.”

 

You’re supposed to be making me a better student.”

 

“My grade doesn’t reflect my efforts.”

 

“Your job is to inspire students.”

 

“I don’t like being compared to other students in the class.”

 

“I’m paying money for this course.”

 

If you’ve used any of the above statements, please read on.

 

For the record, I do compare your work to other students and not just the students in your class, but also all the students I’ve had over the years as well as national standards.

 

I don’t grade on effort. Effort is the sticker or the trophy. I grade on the quality of the finished product – i.e. goals scored, home runs hit and baskets made.

 

I can’t make you a better student, but I will present you with higher-level concepts that make your brain hurt. And worse – there may be more than one answer. You may not be used to this type of exercise, but it’s imperative that you learn how to think cognitively. Making mistakes is part of the process. That’s why everyone doesn’t get an A. Some students are better at it right out of the gate. Others have to work harder and some never get there.

 

Your classroom is not a movie set, and I’m not Cameron Diaz or Michelle Pfeiffer playing the role of a teacher. If I inspire you, great and if not, welcome to the real world.

 

Yes, you are paying for an academic course. You are not, however, paying for a specific grade. If you could, I’d be very rich.

 

I know all of this sounds horrible to your virgin ears, and it might paint me as an old-fashioned teacher with an axe to grind. Descriptions aside, I do have a goal and that is to prepare you for the work force where any of the above statements will earn you a pink slip.

 

Your future boss isn’t hiring you to make you a better person. They will hire you to produce for them, and your paycheck will not be delivered with a hug, kiss and endless praise. Your future boss is going to expect you to get the job done with little to no direction. Work is competitive and your boss is evaluating you versus your peers. Whoever is better gets promoted, and your boss is not obligated to explain why.

 

When employers call me to ask about hiring students the most common question is: “Can they work without supervision? Can they problem solve without direction? Can they take a project and run with it? I don’t want to babysit anyone.”

 

Normally I encourage students to respond to my posts, but I’d really love to hear from employers. What qualities do you look for when hiring recent grads?

 

 

High On Education?

This semester I spent the better part of a class sniffing students. Yeah, that’s weird,

but I was on a mission. The room smelled when I walked in, and the aroma grew

stronger after I closed the door. That meant the “O” was still with the “B.” (Please

binge watch Seinfeld if you’re lost.)

 

I walked up and down aisles pretending to make friendly chit chat, but I was really

just smelling people. I narrowed it down to the first two rows, but I couldn’t figure

out who the offender might be. I considered telling a joke so stupid, you’d have to be

high to laugh, but it’s kind of hard to seamlessly weave a knock-knock joke into a

lecture.

Knock Knock. Who’s there? Mary. Mary who?

Then I started to wonder why a student would come to a 9:30 am class high. Am I

that bad, you can’t take me sober? Or maybe, I’m just not a buzz kill. Either way, I

think we can agree the taboo has been broken, and I blame it all on Colorado.

 

Here’s the issue. As a society, we’ve trained ourselves to drink alcohol after 5 p.m.

Happy hour was invented to keep us from sneaking a sip in the morning. If you can

just hold out until 5, you can get plastered – no questions asked.

One of the problems with legalized pot is that we haven’t established social norms for this drug.

Not only are students smoking before class, they think it’s okay – even outside of Colorado.

Maybe I should be teaching geography?

 

I’m not advocating for a marijuana happy hour, but you see where this is going. In all

the years I’ve been teaching, I’ve never had a student walk in with a lampshade on

their head, and I’ve never wondered what was in that water bottle.

 

So yeah, this pot thing is bugging me. I’d love to hear your opinion. (And how about the photo? Are you laughing yet?)

 

When Am I Ever Going To Use This?

I know you’ve asked yourself – “When am I ever going to use this stuff I’m learning?”

I hear you and I get it. Sometimes school can feel like a pile of notes, but without enough hands on activities to mimic the workplace.  I decided to give my students’ penmanship a rest and instead I put them to work developing a commercial for my book series. The final version is here – but don’t miss the blooper reel!

A big thanks to Chris Saave who directed, filmed and edited.

http://www.chrissaave.com/

 

Blooper Reel Advertising Project

 

 

 

Is Skype Right for School?

Please Welcome Guest Blogger – Nancy Valencia

Is email the perfect tool for communicating with your professor? What if your course is online, but you feel the need to see the teacher in-person? I like to ask questions so that I understand assignments more in depth so I can better accomplish what I’m being asked. Sometimes email just doesn’t work.

That being said, I don’t think it is right for students to misuse email to make up excuses for a missed class or assignment. We live in a generation where we don’t get to know each other and develop a relationship of humans between student and professor. I think e-mail makes it easier to hide behind the computer and not have to go to campus or schedule meetings.

That’s why I’d like to suggest Skype as a communication tool for students and professors. It’s a dream come true for all the parents who work full time and can’t drive back and forth to campus. I, personally, would rather speak to a professor than to send e-mails back and forth. The truth is that I need to pay the bills and sometimes I have to put my job first. So, when I do need to speak to a teacher, it would be so much easier to do it in-person – through Skype.

I’d like to see a day, in the near future, where professors drop e-mails and use Skype instead. It would be like an online meeting which would be more humane than e-mails. Bottom line, our professors are not dumb, and they know we use email strategically. They know it’s easier for us to give them an excuse through email. Be upfront and simply say I procrastinated and never finished my work. Imagine all the excuses they have heard, over 100 times but with different tweaks here and there.

But if we really want to learn and accommodate our busy schedules, Skype might do the trick. Let’s say that we get snowed in for a week and can’t have class. Skype would be a perfect way to teach class instead of all this reading that drives us all mad. I suppose that is a whole other blog to write.

 

Please let me know your opinion!

 

Are You Too Old For E-Textbooks?

I feel sorry for Millennials – the world has branded them the first high-tech generation yet they already seem too old to master digital learning. If you’ve ever screamed at your computer screen because your online test abruptly closed before you finished, you know what I’m talking about.

As young as Millennials are, their elementary school teacher was still a person, not an avatar and their textbooks were hard covered and at least 20 years old. Remember when teachers passed out a textbook and you couldn’t wait to see who had it before you? And who didn’t love the ridiculous names scrawled inside the cover – James Bond, Homeroom 007. Give it up, people. There’s nothing like a 12 year-old with a sense of humor.

Fast forward to college where tests, readings, assignments and course announcements are all online. And your teacher? A mere thumbnail picture on your screen. We all thought Millennials would love it, yet it seems to be backfiring.

Last semester, we tested an online component to a traditional lecture course where teachers could track student progress through a series of online exercises and tests. It bombed. Students were frustrated, grades dropped and my student reviews took a beating. For the record, it wasn’t my idea.

So what’s up Millennials? You tell me – how do you like to learn?

Is Your Teacher Burnt Out?

If I gave you a five page speech on any topic, asked you to memorize it and then had you repeat the speech regularly for 5, 10 or maybe even 30 straight years, your head might explode into a fiery ball followed by a simmering sizzle. This phenomenon is called teacher burn out and it’s caused by repetition. Remember when you were a kid and you repeated the same word over and over until it sounded unrecognizable. You see where I’m going with this. Teachers are in the business of presenting similar material consistently each semester.

Can’t teachers just change-up the lectures and format? Yes and no. Teachers are required to teach the core material as outlined in the syllabus. There’s not a lot of wiggle room there. (I’d be hard-pressed to get through a semester without reviewing basic marketing concepts with my students.) Teachers can, however, add new and updated information to supplement the basics. But even then, your teacher might, after years, become robotic in their delivery.

Here’s my question. How can you, as a student, help prevent the inevitable teacher meltdown? It’s easy. If you want to snap your teacher back to the present, bring your own material to class. This can be in the form of questions, experiences, internships, and good old-fashioned curiosity.

d2bd

See me in this picture? I’m with two students – Dan Clark and Khalid Michel-Simms. They’ve launched their own line of clothing under the brand Dare to Be Different (D2BD) and their hands-on experience added a new dimension to my Marketing 101 class last semester. My standard lectures soon turned into interesting conversations about their business. The whole class benefited from their shared entrepreneurial spirit. And I got a much needed slap in the face and a renewed sense of purpose. I love the topics I teach and these students’ genuine energy reminded me of that fact.

A big thanks to the Dare to Be Different business partners –Dan and Khalid. Please visit their site and check out their stuff. http://www.d2bdglobal.bigcartel.com

 

5 Things You Should Never Say to Your Business Professor

Here are 5 things students say that make me cringe.

1. I’m terrible at math.

2. I don’t understand why I have to come to class on time.

3. I never read, watch or listen to the news.

4. Why would I want to dress up for my presentation?

5. Office Space? It’s a movie? Never heard of it.

I don’t want to burst any bubbles, but if you plan on pursuing a career in business, it will be hard to avoid math, getting to work on time, the news, a professional dress code and at least one reference to a red stapler.

Comments?

 

 

 

Blog Mash-Up – Returning Students and Cosmetics

I polled students for new blog topics and two topics bubbled to the surface. A blog about students returning to college as adults and make-up tips for college students. I will now attempt to combine these wildly different topics in my first ever Blog Mash-Up.

This semester I returned to school. I, voluntarily, enrolled at my own school for a math class. Yup, you heard right. I chose to take a course that most students avoid at all costs – Algebra. Twice a week, for two hours my classmates and I attempt to solve for ‘X’. For the record, students have been trying to solve for “X” for years. Some things don’t change. So if you’re an older, returning student, don’t panic. Academic changes move slower than a pre-global warming iceberg. There’s a very good chance that the way you remember it, is the way it still is which means you are more prepared than you think. Even when classes require an online component, the basic model – study and then take a test, still exists.

What does change are styles and that’s been my demise.

We are now eight weeks into the class and students are starting to wonder about the older lady who hasn’t missed a class. From the first day, I realized I didn’t fit in. I’m wearing ‘go to work’ clothes, I don’t have piercings or tattoos, my hair has no gel, coloring or obscure angles, no wires dangling from my ears and worst of all – no make-up.

There’s a student that sits two rows over from me. She’s got mad make-up skills. Even if I had time in the morning, there’s no way I could pull-off her look. I’m wondering how anyone has time to do more than shower because I still haven’t solved for “X.”

Here’s my recommendation when it comes to college cosmetics. The majority of your day is spent sitting at a desk staring at someone’s back. You rarely have a chance to see your classmates’ faces. Therefore, I suggest investing your extra time decoding the mystery of “X.” Save the make-up for the weekend!

 

 

How to Cheat on a Test

I was prepared to write a lengthy blog on this topic, but I’d rather toss the question out to my readers. If I let students use the bathroom during a test is it really nature calling or an excuse to cheat? I’m suspicious, but I’d like to hear from you.

Here’s the scenario.

Last week a student asked to use the bathroom during a midterm. I said no. He offered to submit to a body search. In his defense, he turned his pockets out and raised his arms. I told him it would be weird, and potentially a YouTube disaster – Teacher frisks student during a test. Instead, he took his seat and crossed his legs for the remainder of the exam.

Then another student, this one with a runny nose, asked for permission to get a tissue. I honored his request to a sea of complaints. How come you let him go? I pointed out that the sniffling student had produced sufficient evidence in the form of mucus. Some students attempted this method but came up dry.

What would you have done?