No More Broccoli

My dad is an Episcopal priest. We moved to a new church when I was about 16. It is a medium sized church in Upstate New York, and one of the first sermons he gave there was about getting rid of “Broccoli Church.”

Sit down. Shut up. Eat your broccoli. It’s good for you.

Church, for many, is a place you go not because you want to, but because it’s good for you, your parents made you, or your parents made you and therefor you’re going to force your kids to go as well. You sit in your pew, sing when required, respond when required, and be quiet when expected because it’s good for you. My dad wanted to change that. He wanted projects and events that people were excited about participating in and that would help the community. The congregation rallied behind this message. Families got involved. They planned and put on events. Ministry wasn’t only coming from the pulpit, it was coming from the congregation as well. For Christmas that year, the congregation gave my dad a bottle of Heinz ketchup and the label read, “Can’t Help Broccoli.”

This class has been about ending “broccoli school.”

Sit down. Shut up. Read this. It’s good for you.

We want education to come from all sides of the room. We recognize that students have the ability to teach each other, and also teach us (the instructors). We want students to be motivated by the projects they are working on. We want students to put forth their best work because they want to, not just because we control their grades. We want students to become the best engineers, critical thinkers, critical readers, mathematicians, soil scientists, landscape architects, food scientists, and whatever combination of whatever else they can be.

There’s no one way to do this, though. You don’t need to radically change the physical appearance of your classroom. You don’t need to have everything done on a computer. You don’t need to do away with lecture completely. You don’t need every single project, activity, or reading to have a direct real world application. Vegetables are gross, but they are still good for you.

My dad didn’t stop giving sermons. He didn’t tear up the pews and place them in a circle. He did, however, engage with the congregation outside of the service. Before the service on Sundays, after the service on Sundays. He met with parishioners on the weekday mornings and evenings. He added more than he took away, and I think that’s an experience we can learn from. Add more to your classroom; don’t just take away. Engage with your students; build a rapport. Jig saws will work some places, and not others. Lectures will work in some cases; and readings as well. The more tools you add, the better prepared you’ll be. Work on perfecting the craft of teaching, not perfecting the application of theory.




Week 13: Final project progress

The final project is going well. I’m making a power point presentation I could present to a class that I’m teaching, dealing with the question of what is common knowledge and if you should cite things you could consider common knowledge.

I have found a study that compares what college professors think should be cited, compared to what undergrads and grad students think need to be cited. The numbers aren’t always drastically different, but it’s enough for students to be concerned. The examples used in the study make good power point slides so that students can read the examples, decide for themselves if the information should be cited, and then we can compare their answers to what other undergrads thought, and what professors thought.

I think this power point will make a good lesson for use in the future.

Week 12: Ethics and Personal Ethos

I’ve talked with alumni, frat boys in the 70s and 80s, who boast of their fraternity’s filing cabinet full of old tests and study materials. At least one has told me that the frat filing cabinet is the reason that he passed some of his classes. Like the CEO of Koofer said in the article, this type of thing has been going on for decades. The internet may have actually leveled the playing field for students not part of frats, or other groups able to maintain records to pass on year to year.  So this type of thing has been happening for 30+ years, and I can’t believe no one knew about it for all that time. It wasn’t until the old tests appeared on the internet that someone decided to do something about it.

Personally I think a retest was the correct decision.

Would I complain about it if it happened to me? Absolutely.

But if there wasn’t a retest, what would that say about the standards of the university? That they are OK with cheating? of course, that should not be the case.

Is it unfair to the students that didn’t cheat? Sure it is, but I can’t think of a better way to deal with it. Putting students on a level playing (as much as possible) for this particular test I think is in the best interest of the school, the students, and the professor.

Let’s say the professor never had a clue, and only found out because they saw the test online. What about the 30+ years of frat kids that have slipped by? What’s the correct ethical action? You can’t rescind three decades of college degrees.

What if the professors knew in 1985 and didn’t act then? That, I think, is ethically wrong, and set the stage for a culture of turning-a-blind-eye.



Week 12: insert interesting title

I don’t know if Google is making up stupider. I doubt it really. I feel like we are just now openly doing what we covertly did before. Did we ever really deeply read every academic article we came across? Or just skim it for relevant information and move on? I think the latter, now we just don’t lie to ourselves about it. Google just makes it easier to do what we were already doing, and harder to mask it.

The articles about a shorter attention span are interesting, especially concerning the genre of the novel. I think that constantly consuming small amounts of information has conditioned our brain to expect that; thus the not being able to read a single “longish” article or chapter without our brains wandering. If we can condition our brain to ingest short bits of information quickly we can condition it back; if we want to. That really makes me wonder, however, which is more likely. Will we spend the time engaging in “longish” works to recondition our brains to focus for longer? Or will the genre of the novel, and long form journalism start to disappear in favor of new genres that more closely sync up with our decreased attention spans?

Now, what I’m most honestly interested in is people’s opinions about laptops in the classrooms. I design a few activities where I have everyone on their laptops actively researching something. But other than that I ask them to put their laptops away during class (with the exception of the students who use them according to their disability statements. Why? I’ve been a student, still am, and let’s look through a list of things I’ve seen students doing on their laptops during class: Facebook, Pinterest, twitter, instagram, reddit, solitaire, WoW, spider solitare, chess,, shopping, photoshop, math homework (not in math class), chem homework (not in chem class), checking the weather, watching a baseball game, watching surfing movies, watching rock climbing movies, Mircrosoft paint (you know where you make a bunch of circles and fill the circles in with a different colors), message boards,, checking email, writing email… and I’m sure there’s more but I think this list will suffice. They pretty much do everything that isn’t paying attention. Then they ask questions that the teachers already covered, probably just two minutes before. Does closing the laptops make students pay attention? No, they can doodle or daydream or whatever. Does it help? I think so.

Week 11- The State of Higher Education

One thing that always annoys me with these conversations is the “I can’t believe we still conduct class similarly to the way we did 100 years ago” complaint, and then the setting up of dichotomies where you are either a progressive humanist revolutionary fighting to free the students from rote memorization and lectures and enlightening them by turning everything into an activity and stressing critical thinking above everything else… or you are a closed minded resident of the Ivory Tower who cares nothing for actual learning and only for scantrons, depositing information, and producing students that are nothing more than passive sitters. As if there is no middle ground.

Don’t get me wrong. Critical thinking skills are important, and honestly one of the reasons I like teaching English. The lessons were the students work through different sides of an issue and realize that there is more than just two sides are some of my favorite. I love seeing the conclusions students come to when they research different sides of an issue and and put the texts in conversations with one another.

However, not all lessons lend themselves to critical thinking skills. Sometimes there are just processes and conventions that need to be learned. Spelling, for example, in English; also some comma rules you just have to know. Outside of English, I’m not sure how much critical thinking is going to go into learning the Krebs cycle, or the foramens of the skull. Knowing this information can help you critically think about case studies, and situations in the future, but these are really foundational knowledge that doesn’t really lend itself well to critical thinking. Does that mean it’s information that’s not worth knowing? No. I’d think cellular respiration is pretty important to most biological sciences. Though, I’m not a biologist so maybe it doesn’t matter at all.

There’s also the constraints of time. I’ve been in classes that try to turn everything into some type of activity, and group project. I was often surprised about how long those activities took and how little information we got through.

BUT wait! Don’t I remember so much more because I interacted with the information? Doesn’t the information seem more relevant to my life because I didn’t read it off a slide and instead discussed it with a classmate?… Not really.

So when we are talking about introductory classes, Bio 101,  Chem 101, Anatomy 1, College algebra, etc. There’s a lot of information to get through, and that does not lend itself well to time consuming activities, or interactive technologies. Sometimes reading a textbook, or learning from a slideshow is the most efficient way to present and intake information.



Week 10-Research Guidelines

I looked at the CCC (College Composition and Communication) website to find their position statement on research. What I found was very similar the what the Virginia Tech IRB mandates. Many of the positions were concerned with recruitment strategies, and gaining consent of the participants.

One thing I found interesting was their stance on digital sources. It reads :

We do not assume, for example, that all digital/online communications are available for research studies simply because they can be accessed. Nor do we assume that we must always receive express permission from authors before citing their digital/online materials. A balance must be struck between these extremes, a balance that is informed by institutional regulation, consultation with published research and other researchers, discussion with members of the online communities themselves, and sensitivity to and understanding of the expectations that authors (including student authors) may have had in posting their materials.

I expected more guidelines. More you can use this, but not that, except in this case or with expressed consent of the author. However, this official statement seems to allow for more of a gray area. It admits that a balance must be struck, but leaves it up to the institutions and researchers to find that balance rather than prescribing a set of rules that must be followed.

Week 9-Copyright

At the moment I feel like I would be alright with sharing my work openly with people. However, I’m not profiting off of anything I’m working on at the moment anyway.  I’m also not really working on a project that I think could be monetized. To be honest, I don’t know if I’m working on anything that anyone would want to use for any reason. Maybe if I were working on a project that was going to be my main source of income, or that I should be receiving royalties for in the future I would feel differently. After writing this paragraph, I realize that I have no idea how I feel about people using my work because I don’t really have work people would want to use.

As far as using copyrighted work, if you are using it for school and not making a profit it should be fair game, like scanning a passage from a book. The practices by some of the academic publishing companies feel slimy. Text books are too expensive especially if you only need one chapter. The one article talked about the teacher who would just omit works she couldn’t get for free because people wanted too much money for permission. Maybe they could ask for less money for the permission. That might help everyone.

Week 8: Final Project Proposal

When teaching proper citation practices in the college composition classroom the idea of common knowledge generates more questions and confusion than any other single aspect. The notion of what constitutes common knowledge is ambiguous, and in many ways subjective. Common knowledge in a field such as mechanical engineering may not be common knowledge at all to a biology professor, or the english professor the essay is being written for.

For my project I want to create a lesson which can be taught in the college composition classroom to show students the subjective nature of what constitutes common knowledge. The goal for this lesson is to help students think critically about their citation practices and how they will navigate the minefield of citations throughout their academic careers.

The lesson will: 1) contain the definition of common knowledge and how that relates to MLA citation rules, 2) cover examples of the subjective nature of what constitutes common knowledge compared to information that needs to be cited, 3) briefly cover the consequences of both citing information that does not need to be cited, and the consequences of failing to cite information that does need to be cited, and 4) offer advice on how to navigate this dilemma as the student progresses throughout their academic careers.

Citation practices are a concern of graduate students in the classroom as a student, as a TA, and as an instructor of record. Knowing how to properly cite as a student is a crucial part of the writing process when writing about research; whether it is for a single class, or in a thesis or dissertation. TAs, from what I understand, often have to grade papers and projects and therefore could benefit from a lesson on common knowledge and how it relates to proper citation practices. In the same way those graduate students who are instructors of record will also benefit from such a lesson in that they may be responsible for teaching proper citation, and for grading the papers that result from those lessons.

Week 7: Authorship

I have not yet encountered much controversy about authorship within my department. Maybe it is in part because I’m in the humanities and many of the papers that are published are not large scale research projects that include multiple researchers from a lab.

Even when I’m researching, I don’t often come across an article that has more than one author. It happens occasionally, but probably less than 1 out of 10 times. Sometimes there are books that are authored by more than one person, but even these are often split up by chapters with individuals writing chapters for the books.

Maybe there could be conflicts with thesis advisors wanting some credit if the thesis is going to be published, but as I said I have not encountered anything like this, or even heard about it.

Week 6: Citations

I haven’t tried using too many different citations programs. The one that I have used is Mendeley. I can’t say that I’m terribly impressed. It’s not that it doesn’t work well, because it does exactly what it says it does. I just think that it takes more time to use the program than to just create the works cited citations, and type in the in text citations. I think making the extra clicks to insert an in text citation not only wastes time, but also stops your train of thought and hinders the writing process.

Citation formats also are updating fairly frequently, and citation generators aren’t always current with the updated formats. For example. Last year MLA updated its format to what it called MLA 8. It took the citation generators months to provide an update that produced MLA instead of MLA 7. Even after that update came out, you would often have to double check the citations generated to ensure they were in the MLA 8  format and not 7.

For the most part, I stay away from citation generators as much as possible. I consult Purdue OWL’s style guide to ensure that my citations are correct. I find it just as easy to follow their template, as it is to type in every bit of info into a generator. Or going through and double checking that the info the generator retrieved was the correct info. (I’ve also gotten burned there. Trusting a generator blindly to find the author… dumb on my part).

I’m interested to know how other people go about getting their citations.