Archive for November, 2006

Fifth Time a Charm?

It is working! You can now hear the Madrigal group from Godwin High School.

I need to edit the music file some more. There are about 15 seconds in the beginning when you can’t hear anything, so don’t panic. Then it starts out very quiet–don’t turn up your sound too loud!

On the technical end: I had to upload the mp3 file to my bluehost account space. I used Fetch to do this. The trick was getting it into the right place so that WordPress could find it. So–I put it in wp-content/uploads. Then in podpress I did “specify URL” and put in the whole URL. When I clicked auto detect –success! IT filled in the numbers. Newbies, that is how you will know.

I am still unclear on why WordPress would not let me directly upload the mp3 from my desktop to WordPress. I guess because it is a large file. I don’t care–I am just darn glad to get it up there! Enjoy!

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Males and Learning

This interesting essay caught my eye. I am such a minority in my household that I think that I am perhaps oversensitive to gender issues. But I have certainly seen how the school system in K-12 doesn’t fit the way my own boys learn, and many of the faculty I work with worry about the “back-row-baseball-hat-boys” who can sour a whole class with their attitudes if not handled properly. And yet, when they are engaged, they can play leadership roles. How to get them engaged?

Working with a faculty memeber the other day, I noted that 22 of his 30 students were male. He said this was common in his field. I detailed for him the evidence of lack of engagement during his hour and 20 minute lecture: 3 people took random bathroom breaks, about 1/3 of students actually took notes, 2 students fought off sleep unsuccessfully. The problem was not his lecture: he was interesting and well prepared and the material was good. So what is the problem? Sitting and listening for long periods of time just isn’t the best way to get engaged–for either gender. I ran through a list of about 10 ways to break up a lecture and invite engagement and participation, and then he made a really interesting point: “Isn’t that infantilizing the students?” Many professors feel it is the students’ job to be motivated. (I don’t agree; I believe learning is a dance with responsibility for both partners.) But at the same time, we have to be careful. If students feel they are being “babied” or treated like elementary students, they will rebel.

The essay linked above quotes  George Gilder in National Review:[ The American university is now a ]”fluffy pink playpen of feminist studies and agitprop “herstory,” taught amid a green goo of eco-motherism . . . �  ”

There is an association of “feminine” with “childish” and both of those things as being anti-masculine. But I think we really have to fight these notions.  Good learning theory is good learning theory, and neither gender does too well after 15 minutes of sitting still and listening passively. We need to create intellectual challenges for students that draw them into the conversation.  It is crucial to not leave words and conversation and collaboration in the realm of the feminine alone.  Kimmel says it very well:

Perhaps the real “male bashers” are those who promise to rescue boys from the clutches of feminists. Are males not also “hardwired” toward compassion, nurturing, and love? If not, would we allow males to be parents? It is never a biological question of whether we are “hardwired” for some behavior; it is, rather, a political question of which “hardwiring” we choose to respect and which we choose to challenge.
The antifeminist pundits have an unyielding view of men as irredeemably awful. We men, they tell us, are savage, lustful, violent, sexually omnivorous, rapacious, predatory animals, who will rape, murder, pillage, and leave towels on the bathroom floor unless women fulfill their biological duty and constrain us. “Every society must be wary of the unattached male, for he is universally the cause of numerous ills,” writes David Popenoe…
By contrast, feminists believe that men are better than that, that boys can be raised to be competent and compassionate, ambitious and attentive, and that men are fully capable of love, care, and nurturance. It’s feminists who are really “pro-boy” and “pro-father” who want young boys and their fathers to expand the definition of masculinity and to become fully human.

I wonder whether faculty are really partly afraid of “feminizing” when they express concern about “infantilizing”?  And it may be even more of a fear for female faculty.  I know that I often fear that if I project too much in the way of nurture or creativity that I will lose students’ respect and they will not work hard.   But I know from experience: we have to have high expectations for all students.  Part of those expectations are that girls can do math; the other part of that is that boys can do the “touchy-feely” stuff of literary interpretation and collaborative group projects.

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I was impressed by Daryl’s thoughtful blog post on the Dennis Trinkle article on the The 361° Model for Transforming Teaching and Learning with Technology (http://www.educause.edu/LibraryDetailPage/666?ID=EQM0543)

I’d like to respond to Daryl and to the article. I think we all can agree that “putting learning first” is a good idea, but the devil is in the details. Daryl linked to some great resources dealing with needs assessment. And while I don’t disagree that this can be key, I want to take it one step further: technology is helping us to change how we think about teaching and learning. The emphasis now is more on the learning, and professors as mentors for learners and not just keepers/dispensers of knowledge. The article talks about Depauw’s emphasis on learning outcomes. How widespread is the intentional tracking of learning outcomes on our campus? How do we assess and measure higher order thinking? Creativity?

About “Technology as the New Liberal Art” I have 2 separate thoughts. First, I am interested in the potential for collaboration inherent in this idea and the ways we have been talking about “information fluency.” Neither have agained a foothold in our curriculum and I think that needs to happen. Second, Daryl says: “dependent on a body of faculty willing to swap their teacher hats for learner hats on a regular basis. The current context of technology in education allows too much for the faculty to step aside so students are allowed direct access to technologists.” This is a really interesting observation. It is good practice for professors to be fellow (if more advanced) learners! But I wonder if it is true that it is not good for students to just go for it and use technologies they are comfortable with (or can get help with) to complete projects even if their professors aren’t proficient with that particular technology. I think of a project my students did one semester using iMovie. They understood I wouldn’t be helping them with the technical aspects. It went fine. But this isn’t always the case. This would be an interesting topic to talk more about. What kind of model are we going for?

One major block in our road has to do with number 2 on their list: align IT with institutional mission and culture. I had to do some digging to find our University Mission Statement, evidenced by the URL:http://president.richmond.edu/board/Mission_Statement.htm. It says:The mission of the University of Richmond is to sustain a collaborative learning and research community that supports the personal development of its members and the creation of new knowledge. A Richmond education prepares students to live lives of purpose, thoughtful inquiry, and responsible leadership in a global and pluralistic society.

I can understand the second sentence more than the first. But I am still pondering how we “align” with it… The IS mission statement is pretty clear, as is the CTLT’s, but the DePauw people make a point that I am hearing over and over: mission works when eveyone is clear about the mission and working on the same one!
Finally, I just wanted to note that we are using Dyknow on our cacmpus and that Dave Berque has been here to talk about it. I have seen how the tool has really transformed the math professors’ classroom time, assignments and even exams. I think this shows that technology works 2 ways: Berque saw problems and developed a tool to solve them, but now other professors using the tool find new ways to improve their classes! It works both ways: starting with the tool and starting with the problem.

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