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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Dealing with mobile devices

The SDSU Center for Teaching and Learning finally has a new website and I have to say hallelujah! It seems like a small thing but as someone who spends a lot of time on the Web, the old site was sooooo painful to deal with. But we've now moved to Wordpress so there's a blogging feature, which means I can tag stuff and people can actually find it, and there are cool plug-ins to deal with stuff like the events calendar and faculty profiles. Yeehaw!

One of the challenges of moving to the new site is that I've been killing myself to get content on the site so there's actually something there worth looking at. Before we went live, I added a bunch of back-dated posts for old events, but I also am trying to create content that is actually useful for instructors who want to know more about some specific topic. Given the wealth of information that already exists, I'm mostly curating links from other places but also trying to highlight 'best practices' and provide some guidance for people who may not have thought about these things much before. I'll be adding these topic pages over time and since they are mostly things of general interest to anyone who cares about teaching, I'll likely cross post here.

I just added a page today on 'dealing with mobile devices in the classroom', following a CTL event we had on this topic last week. Go take a look and let me know if there's anything I should add... Regular readers of this blog already know I like to use cell phones as clickers, but I thought it was interesting that at last week's event, one of the suggestions that no one seemed to have heard before was the idea of breaking for a 'tech check' - that is, if you are going to restrict device use, it can be helpful to let students know you will stop periodically to allow them to check their phones. Not only can this alleviate the anxiety students might have about putting their devices away, for those who mostly lecture, it can be a reminder to break up lectures into smaller chunks (which, if you're going to lecture, is definitely a good idea!). Anyone have other suggestions for dealing with mobile devices in the classroom?

Sunday, January 17, 2016

What kind of teacher are you?

I'm "teaching" a new "class" this semester - the quotes are because the "class" is a faculty seminar and it's really more like I'm 'facilitating' than 'teaching'. But the work I'm putting into it feels very much like prepping a course and I had forgotten how much work this is! The seminar is on "High-Impact Teaching", which is really just a term I made up, mostly to appeal to those in my administration who are all about High-Impact Practices, and which I am using to encompass scholarly teaching and using evidence-based pedagogy (if anyone is interested, the details are here).

Anyway, the first meeting was Thursday and in preparation, the participants were asked to complete the Teaching Perspectives Inventory (TPI) and the Teaching Goals Inventory (TGI). I thought I'd share these tools with you all because I think these are both really interesting tools for thinking about who you are as a teacher. The items on the TGI measure your affinity for one of five perspectives: Transmission, Apprenticeship, Developmental, Nurturing and Social Reform; what I found particularly interesting was the breakdown of Beliefs, Intentions and Actions within each perspective. The idea is that no one perspective is "best" - it's just useful to better understand whether what you think you are doing actually lines up with what you want to be doing and what you believe is important. The TGI is similar but breaks things down a little differently and focuses more on the goals you believe are more or less important.

I wasn't particularly surprised that I scored highest on the Apprenticeship and Developmental perspectives on the TPI, which is also consistent with my highest rating on the TGI falling in the cluster emphasizing 'Higher Order Thinking Skills'. But I am not sure what to make of the fact that my average rating on the TGI was lowest in the cluster representing 'Liberal Arts and Academic Values'...

If you've never used done this sort of self-evaluation, I'm curious what you think of your results. Feel free to come share in the comments!
 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Love 'em, hate 'em

Economists, that is. For the first time in a couple years, I attended the ASSAs, and for the first time in even more years, I interacted with some economists who are not involved with either ed policy (my research home) or teaching. Ugh, lesson learned. I had somehow forgotten that the majority of people in this discipline (or at least, the majority of those who go to the ASSAs) are white male blowhards who actually think all the math they make grad students do is useful (NOTE: I am totally not talking about YOU, awesome person who reads my blog - I am absolutely certain that no one who is a math-obsessed blowhard would find my blog remotely interesting :-)).

I guess I should take it as reassuring that I managed to forget what the 'typical economist' is like; certainly 20 years ago, when I was in my grad program at Wisconsin, I was very, VERY aware of it. But ed policy is one of those applied micro fields that is pretty equally gender balanced (particularly at the Association of Education Finance and Policy, my research home, which attracts both economists and ed school people), not to mention attracting economists who actually understand market failures and who are interested in social justice; similarly, econ ed is also quite gender-balanced, and most people interested in teaching are also interested in (or at least aware of) diversity issues. And economists interested in teaching tend to recognize that making mathematical models as complicated as possible is NOT the way to turn on undergrads to the awesomeness of our subject. So over the years, I've managed to insulate myself from many of the aspects of this discipline that I hate and the fact that I could do that does give me hope.

But the reality that struck me at the conference is that in many ways, the discipline hasn't changed at all in 20 years (longer - I read Colander's Making of an Economist in the early 90's) and that makes me despair a bit. How can we ever really move the needle of public perceptions (and misconceptions) about our field if those at the leading econ programs can't even recognize or admit there is anything wrong with what they are doing? Graduate school, in any field, is an indoctrination process so those who survive tend to have an inherent interest in defending and sustaining what they have been taught; although people who think differently might be able to find each other in the aftermath, it's hard to see how the cycle itself can be disrupted on a large scale.

That doesn't mean I'm throwing in the towel and will now start teaching all my classes with calculus and no intuition. I do think there have been small changes - when I tell people I'm an economist, one in three might now mention Freakonomics instead of the stock market or GDP, and many fewer seem to be surprised that an economist is working on education policy. And the growing number of economists interested in teaching is awesome. So I can't despair completely. And maybe it's good to be reminded every once in a while that there IS still much work to be done - maybe it will even motivate me to blog a little more often :-)...

Am I wrong? Has economics changed more than I think it has?