Future professor? Perhaps. Prepared? Not a chance.
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  • New Cure for Monolingualism!

    Posted on February 28th, 2014 sarahann No comments

    For those of us headed off on the GPP in a few months, check out Mango, a language learning program hosted by the Newman Library. Brush up on your German, French or Italian (sorry, no Romansh!). Or if you’re already fluent in all of them, try something new. You know, like learning to speak Pirate!

  • Roots of Revolution

    Posted on February 28th, 2014 sarahann No comments

    During a TED talk, Ron Finley makes the statement that, “Gardening is the most …. defiant act you can do.“ This brought to mind a natural food store in Eau Claire, WI, where I attended college. Their logo is as follows:

    Accompanying the picture is the line:

    The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution.”     — Paul Cezanne

    In a nation where nearly everything we buy is mass produced, it is somewhat unnerving that our food is often in the hands of large agricultural corporations. The things that are most basic to our health are produced by companies that (by necessity) are significantly concerned with the bottom line. Forget about banks that are too big to fail – what about the industrialized agriculture on which we are almost entirely dependent?

    During World War II, home grown “Victory Gardens” produced nearly 41% of all the vegetables in the United States. At the time, it was considered a matter of national security. Now, it is more a matter of health equality, as well as environmental sustainability. As human beings, we should all have access to fresh, healthy food that isn’t controlled by companies concerned with making a profit.

    File:Sow victory poster usgovt.gif

     (Victory Garden picture from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victory_garden)

  • Better to Say Something Nice…

    Posted on February 18th, 2014 sarahann No comments

    We are taught, early in our education, to “think critically.” We learn how to point out the problems in an argument, the logical missteps, and the missing pieces. However, one thing that is not so deeply imbedded is how to offer and construct solutions. It is a scene that can be witnessed at any conference: a presenter states their piece, and then the “questions” offered by the audience serve more to point out minor flaws than to further the research and discussion.

    I might suggest, that we instead default to optimism. Barring some obvious gross negligence on the part of the speaker, I think it is far better to give them the benefit of the doubt. As Shushok and Hulme wrote, it is so easy to default to pathology and point out the problems. Even though there will always be shortcomings, they must not be allowed to eclipse the validity of a work.

    Also, I think that while it is important to know and develop our strengths, this should not be hold us back from learning new things. In all likelihood, something that is now a strength was once a weakness. Anytime we start to learn or do something new, we are going to be pretty bad at it.


  • Forgetting to Remember

    Posted on February 14th, 2014 sarahann No comments

    During class last week, one student made a point that I think warrants further investigation. We were discussing the merits and drawbacks of Langers’s teaching myths, specifically the that it might be a myth that forgetting is a problem. Our colleague commented that forgetting can be an opportunity to refresh or reset one’s memory, and may lead to better understanding in the long run.

    We’ve probably all had some experience along the following lines: You’re in school, and the teacher asks a question. You rack your brain. You should know this. You do know this. But it’s just not there. When the teacher finally (mercifully) supplies the answer, you mentally kick yourself. And you never, ever forget it again.

    Now, admittedly, being traumatized into remembrance is probably not the best way to learn. However, forgetting doesn’t have to be traumatizing, as long as it is handled gently in the classroom. Also, new research is showing that, without forgetting, we wouldn’t be able to learn new things.

    So, if you don’t know the answer, “fuggedaboutit”!

  • What do Blogs Have to do with Rocks?

    Posted on February 3rd, 2014 sarahann No comments

    I’m in geology. With any luck, someday I will teach geology to myriads of young minds who do not yet know just how wonderful rocks can be. But when teaching about a world that is 4.6 billion years old, how do you incorporate media that has been in common use for (arguably) less than 5 years?

    When I first had to write a blog for a class, I was resistant. And to be perfectly honest, I’m still not sure that I agree with blogs as an effective online “conversation.” Sure, people can leave comments, but only after reading a full article. That would be like a “conversation” in which I delivered a 5-minute monologue, and then asked, “Questions?”.

    I more agree with Gardo’s interpretation of a blog as an essay. An attempt. So what shall I ask my students to attempt? There aren’t many opinions involved when it comes to learning the 15 most common minerals found on Earth.

    But a picture is worth a thousand words, and that’s where blogging comes in. Generally, people get into geology because they want to be outside. However, the epic field trips experienced by upper classmen are usually not available to introductory students. So if I can’t bring the students to the outcrop, perhaps I can bring the outcrop to the students.

    One of the things that I have found is that students seem to enjoy seeming pictures of famous places, followed by an explanation of why the geology of the area is so important to their fame. Perhaps one option would be to have students post pictures of their travels, and point out some of the geology that they didn’t know they were experiencing at the time. We’ll call it social geology.

    So, questions?