HOF: Keeping Standards

I will not see the light. I will not.

I expect a single PDF attached in the CMS before midnight and it better be. I shall have my single PDF.

I expect one inch margins, stapling on the lop left, and a 12 point serif font. I shall have my staples, margins, and fonts!

I expect debits on the left and credits on the right, no matter what your mother or therapist told you about free expression. Debits, left. Credits, right. Forever.

I expect a salutation in every email. I expect a student name in every email. I expect proper grammar and standard English. I even expect complete sentences, b!tch that I am.

I expect that deadlines are deadlines. Better to learn that from me than your soon-to-be former boss, the IRS, or the SEC. Or, even the county probate judge or your ex-wife’s alimony lawyer. Deadlines are deadlines.

You will take my standards from my cold dead hands and then they will choke you in return because you didn’t read the part of the instructions warning you about the boobytrapped hands.

I will not see the light because I have a dream.

I have a dream that young adults can learn not only to read and follow instructions but also to solve their own problems. We start with small problems to give them some warm fuzzy feelings, then we move on to progressively more difficult situations. It’s called education and personal growth.

I have a dream that young adults, despite a myriad of disadvantages and a modicum of easy breaks in life, will rise up and learn to meet and even exceed the standards we set for them and that such young people will eventually look for higher standards to achieve and exceed, far beyond our wildest dreams.
From octoprof

Connected Courses

An invitation to join an online learning course about connected learning:

I’m so thrilled to extend a heartfelt invitation to all my fellow learners and educators out there who are intrigued by the proposition of “open education”. “Connected Courses” is a new online learning experience being put together by a group of amazing educators from the Connected Learning community. We are a collaborative community of faculty in higher education developing networked, open courses that embody the principles of connected learning and the values of the open web. Starting September 15th we’re going to be talking about openness and blended learning in a 12 week course that aims to help people run their own connected courses. The course is free, open, and you can jump in at any time. Everyone is welcome and no experience is required.

From Hastac.org, the blog has more information.

Tech to Support Learning

steampunk_archive_icon_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d5jsav0Bransford and Brown.“Technology to Support Learning.” How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2000. 206-230. Web. May 2012. .

“[T]here is a strong argument for electronically linking students not just with their peers, but also with practicing professionals” (212).

Scaffolded experiences can be structured in different ways. Some research educators advocate an apprenticeship model, whereby an expert practitioner first models the activity while the learner observes, then scaffolds the learner (with advice and examples), then guides the learner in practice, and gradually tapers off support and guidance until the apprentice can do it alone (Collins et al., 1989). Others argue that the goal of enabling a solo approach is unrealistic and overrestrictive since adults often need to use tools or other people to accomplish their work (Pea, 1993b; Resnick, 1987). Some even contend that well-designed technological tools that support complex activities create a truly human-machine symbiosis and may reorganize components of human activity into different structures than they had in pretechnological designs (Pea, 1985). (214)

This is an interesting set of options. I am most likely to use the first set, even though I know that often my students will need to re-visit the idea of learning. While always having a solo approach is very unrealistic, there are lots of instances when that is exactly what every single one of us has to do.

[T]he mere existence of these tools in the classroom provides no guarantee that student learning will improve; they have to be part of a coherent education approach ” (216).

This is absolutely true and not the way we consistently use technology in the classroom.

An added advantage of networked technologies for communication is that they help make thinking visible. This core feature of the cognitive apprenticeship model of instruction (Collins, 1990) is exemplified in a broad range of instructional programs and has a technological manifestation, as (220) well (see, e.g., Collins, 1990; Collins and Brown, 1988; Collins et al., 1989). By prompting learners to articulate the steps taken during their thinking processes, the software creates a record of thought that learners can use to reflect on their work and teachers can use to assess student progress. (221)

I like the idea of thinking being visible. I have always liked the apprenticeship model.

The introduction of new technologies to classrooms has offered new insights about the roles of teachers in promoting learning (McDonald and Naso, 1986; Watts, 1985). Technology can give teachers license to experiment and tinker (Means and Olson, 1995a; U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, 1995). It can stimulate teachers to think about the processes of learning, whether through a fresh study of their own subject or a fresh perspective on students’ learning. It softens the barrier between what students do and what teachers do.

When teachers learn to use a new technology in their classrooms, they model the learning process for students; at the same time, they gain new insights on teaching by watching their students learn. Moreover, the transfer of the teaching role from teacher to student often occurs spontaneously during efforts to use computers in classrooms. (226)

Sometimes we forget how long it took us to learn to do something because it’s been so long since we learned it. Learning something new, even if it isn’t technology, keeps us involved and remembering the process.

“At the University of Illinois, James Levin asks his education graduate students to develop web pages with their evaluations of education resources on the web, along with hot links to those web resources they consider most valuable. Many students not only put up these web pages, but also revise and maintain them (227) after the course is over. Some receive tens of thousands of hits on their web sites each month (Levin et al., 1994; Levin and Waugh, 1998)” (228).

While I think this is unlikely to continue, unless students are considering the net their memory space, the more practical we can be in our assignments, the more likely our students are to find them useful. …Unfortunately sometimes they are very practical but the students are not yet aware of that.

“The process of using technology to improve learning is never solely a technical matter, concerned only with properties of educational hardware and software. Like a textbook or any other cultural object, technology resources for education—whether a software science simulation or an interactive reading exercise—function in a social environment, mediated by learning conversations with peers and teachers” (230).

Gaming the Classroom

Having had some success with gaming the classroom in my spring 2013 British literature course, my eye was caught by “Why Gamification?” when I was reading a different post on Metawriting.

gamification_learning brain on games

The article begins:

Gamification, the use of game-design elements for a non-game purpose, interests me because I do not want my classes to be about the grade. I want my students to stop obsessing over what will please me enough to give them an A and instead focus on exploring and experimenting. Every semester and every class I find myself adding more elements of gamification to my classes because I believe gamification supports learning by motivating and engaging students and it supports writing development. And there is something about gamification that encourages community and collaboration that a traditional grading structure does not.

Learning from Students

I’ve been thinking about the question of learning from our students (what do we learn and how do we learn it). I saw a post on Twitter that caught my attention.

3 students studyingDeanna Mascle posted a link to a blog post she wrote last year. However, as many blog posts, its relevance is not time limited. “What Can You Learn From and About Your Students?” talks about doing IRB approval for pedagogical research each semester. That is something I had not considered before.

Radical Teaching Success

Wired has an article on a radical change in education.

I’ve seen the TED talk that Sugata Mitra gave over his successful experiment in educating the poorest of the poor.

I’m interested in the ideas found here, but am unsure how to implement them in the higher education classroom.

The study found that when the subjects controlled their own observations, they exhibited more coordination between the hippocampus and other parts of the brain involved in learning and posted a 23 percent improvement in their ability to remember objects. “The bottom line is, if you’re not the one who’s controlling your learning, you’re not going to learn as well,” says lead researcher Joel Voss, now a neuroscientist at Northwestern University.

For my literature students, I have given them the opportunity to vote on what kinds of papers they would write over the semester. (All short analysis papers, longer papers, or a single long paper.) They chose the short, regular assignments and the 3 exams (instead of 2). We actually just revised the syllabus yesterday and have added a cumulative final as well.

My business writing students were able to choose the topic of their major project, the primary form that major project would take, and whether or not they had a final exam or a brochure and digital presentation during the final exam period. That is not quite as much control over the entire class as could be had, but I do feel like it allowed them input and means they will be more prepared for the research and production of their major project.

Learning Techniques: Distributed Practice

The term distributed- practice effect refers to the finding that distributing learning over time (either within a single study session or across ses- sions) typically benefits long-term retention more than does massing learning opportunities back-to-back or in relatively close succession. (35)

Spaced practice (1 day or 30 days) was superior to massed practice (0 days), and the benefit was greater following a longer lag (30 days) than a shorter lag (1 day). (36)

Cepeda et al. (2006) reviewed 254 studies involving more than 14,000 participants altogether; overall, students recalled more after spaced study (47%) than after massed study (37%). (36)

Cepeda et al. (2006) noted that most studies have used rela- tively short intervals (less than 1 day), whereas we would expect the typical interval between educational learning opportunities (e.g., lecture and studying) to be longer. Recall that the classic investigation by Bahrick (1979) showed a larger distributed-practice effect with 30-day lags between sessions than with 1-day lags (Fig. 10); Cepeda et al. (2006) noted that “every study examined here with a retention inter- val longer than 1 month demonstrated a benefit from distribution of learning across weeks or months” (p. 370; “retention interval” here refers to the time between the last study oppor- tunity and the final test). (37)

However, the answer is not as simple as “longer lags are better”—the answer depends on how long the learner wants to retain information. (37)

distributed-practice effects are large for free recall but are smaller (or even nonexistent) for tasks that are very complex, such as airplane control (Donovan & Rados- evich, 1999). (38)

Several obstacles may arise when implementing distributed practice in the classroom. (38)

how students naturally study. Michael (1991) used the term procrastination scallop to describe the typical study pattern—namely, that time spent studying increases as an exam approaches. (39)

students may need some training and some convincing that distributed practice is a good way to learn and retain information. Simply experiencing the distributed-practice effect may not always be sufficient, but a demonstration paired with instruction about the effect may be more convincing to students (e.g., Balch, 2006). (39)

we rate distributed practice as hav- ing high utility: It works across students of different ages, with a wide variety of materials, on the majority of standard labora- tory measures, and over long delays. (39)

Dunlosky, et al “Improving Students’ Learning with Effective Learning Techniques” Psychological Science in the Public Interest 14.1 (2013): 4-58.

Learning Technique: Practice Testing

in contrast to literatures on other learning techniques, contemporary research on testing effects has actually used short retention intervals less often than longer retention intervals. (34)

Practice testing appears to be relatively reasonable with respect to time demands. (34)

Students can engage in recall-based self-testing in a relatively straightforward fashion. (34)

Although many studies have shown that testing alone outperforms restudy, some studies have failed to find this advantage (in most of these cases, accuracy on the practice test has been relatively low). In contrast, the advantage of practice testing with feedback over restudy is extremely robust. Practice testing with feedback also consistently outperforms practice testing alone. (35)

The feedback does not have to be immediate, however; in fact, it is better with delayed feedback.

Testing effects have been demonstrated across an impressive range of practice-test formats, kinds of material, learner ages, outcome measures, and retention intervals. Thus, practice testing has broad applicability. Practice testing is not particularly time intensive relative to other techniques, and it can be implemented with minimal training. Finally, several studies have provided evidence for the efficacy of practice testing in representative educational contexts. (35)


Dunlosky, et al “Improving Students’ Learning with Effective Learning Techniques” Psychological Science in the Public Interest 14.1 (2013): 4-58.