Tag Archive for 9x9x25

We Can’t Curve Reality

My original idea for this post was completely different 2 days ago, but today’s discussion in SPAN101 inspired me. I couldn’t tell you how our class got off topic, or what propelled the conversation in the direction it went, but I feel the subject matter that was brought up is worth the attention it got, and I wish to discuss it further.

A classmate of mine brought up the idea that education is taken for granted in the United States. Other countries begin to instill the importance of education in their children at pre-k ages, whereas Americans don’t seem to put as much merit into the school systems or our children. Many of my classmates (of many different ages, mind you) chipped in with their thoughts and opinions, but I chose to be an active listener. I only input my opinion a marginal amount, deciding it would benefit my thought process/development to focus on absorbing the perspectives of my peers. However, now that time has passed and I have let my thoughts and opinions solidify for a while, I am prepared to delve into this particular subject matter. And boy, do I have a lot to say.

First off, I think a bit of background knowledge about me is necessary. I moved to Prescott in August to play softball for Yavapai College. Before I moved, I’d lived in New Mexico my entire life. I attended public school the entire way through too. I was fortunate enough to go to one of the more respected public high schools in the state, but that isn’t saying much, considering that as of 2016, New Mexico was ranked 51st in education in the nation -District of Columbia included (Bernardo). We are, in every sense of the word, dead last.

I grew up in the worst educational setting I could have. Granted, just because our state average is deplorable, I still had a handful of phenomenal teachers, like my 7th grade gifted teacher and my Junior AP Language and Composition teacher. They were the metaphorical beacon of hope for me. But, as the laws of nature state, all good must come with bad, and vice versa. The same way I had stupendous educators, I had the abysmal ones. It’s the public school yin and yang, and there is no escaping it.

Along with good teachers, good working relationships between teachers and their students go a long way to help the educational process as well. However, the entire responsibility of education rests neither on the shoulders of the teachers nor the students. No matter how engaging the teacher or how motivated the student, there are still things that hinder the educational process. You may be questioning me right about now; wondering why on earth I think I have the credentials to pose an opinion on subjects like this, but I can tell you one thing.

Although I have never been a teacher, I know the struggle surrounding it, because my very own mother lives that struggle every day she goes to work.

I’ve witnessed the frustration of writing lesson plans for irrelevant topics. I’ve heard the complaints about not being able to teach in more efficient or concise ways because of state (sub)standards. I’ve helped grade papers and watched test averages plummet. Call me biased, but my mother is an incredibly hardworking, empathetic, motivated person, and I know she tries her best to ensure the success of every student she has ever taught. But her herculean efforts can only take her so far, before state-implemented things like Interim testing and Common Core intervene.

Interim tests take entire days out of instruction time in order to “evaluate where students are in their learning progress and (2) determine whether they are on track to performing well on future assessments, such as standardized tests or end-of-course exams (Hidden Curriculum).” The logic behind Interim tests is convoluted, for they are halting progress for the sake of progress. And as a student, they were nothing but an annoyance.

Common Core is defined as “a set of high-quality academic standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy (ELA). These learning goals outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade (Common Core State Standard Initiative).” The idea behind CC is good, but the execution has been incredibly poor. From a student’s perspective, all CC does is “teach to a test.” In other words, instead of learning things that will actually prove to be beneficial to us in life, we are only taught what will be on the state-issued test (PARCC, SBAs, etc.). And it certainly has not done me any favors in my post-secondary studies.

This convoluted mess of superiority doesn’t just begin at the state level though. It starts when congress passes legislation requiring states to implements these grueling standards for teachers to follow, and then attempt to instill in students.

I couldn’t even begin to propose solutions to America’s education crisis, because there are flaws on every single level of the institution. Out-dated congressmen pass out-dated legislation, which move down to disorganized states (at different rates with different requirements), shoved onto overworked teachers, who try to educate apathetic students.

Our educational system needs it cogs oiled, because they’re hardly moving anymore. And if we come to a standstill, I can’t even imagine what will happen to out country.






Reflect and Investigate


In my doctoral program, I’m learning about a lot of ways to conduct research.  I always knew research was complicated, but it’s eye opening to find out just how complicated it needs to be in order to be deemed ‘valid’.  Qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods… variables and phenomena…. Data analysis….it all gets overwhelming.  However, take away the methodological details and aren’t we, as teachers, all researchers?  I am constantly questioning:

  • Are my students understanding?
  • Is there something I can be doing differently to help them understand at a higher level?
  • Is this information meaningful to students?
  • Is there a way I can make it more meaningful?

The list goes on and on.  Some people call it being a ‘reflective practitioner’, but I think we can take it a step further and start recording our observations and then gathering and interpreting data.

In the last few years, I’ve noticed instructors crunching numbers to find out how successful students are in their classes as related to attendance, or whatever other variable.  I’ve heard talk in the halls about general observations, like how many grandparents die around finals time.  But recently, while reading posts submitted by many of our talented and wonderful adjunct faculty, I noticed some awesome observations that I wouldn’t have ever considered.  For example, one instructor noticed that in online classes, it takes people a few days of looking around the course before they feel comfortable posting in the discussion board area or submitting assignments.  I thought about how lucky I am that I get to see students in 3-4 courses in the AAEE program, so they’re comfortable with my course structure after the first class and are often are the first to post in the discussion board, which really breaks the ice.

This type of unofficial qualitative research could really be informative if we had a forum from which to share these seemingly small, but meaningful, observations.  Maybe a future 9x9x25 theme to consider?  Additionally, if there were a forum where students could share their ideas with one another, or their observations about the education process, etc., in a respectful and constructive way, how much more could we learn about what’s working and what isn’t?  I’m not talking about ratemyprofessor.com, but something more real time and meaningful than course observations.  I’m sure there would be some ranting and some totally off the wall ideas, so we would have to consider suggestions carefully, but sometimes my perceptions, when reflecting on a lesson, may be very different than the perceptions of my students.

We are constantly monitoring and adjusting.  Maybe we can learn from one another and from our students along the way.

Critique Critique

We left off last week all excited about the class critique. Follow up: went great! They nearly all posted in their reflections that the feedback they got was beneficial.

They’re talking more freely and starting to use the language of the discipline. Score!

There was one especially provocative comment: why are we doing this? That’s a paraphrase, actually. The comment came after I suggested using video effects to alter the look of some shots, and they were really questioning criticism in general. It’s ‘art’ after all, and how can it be judged when it’s in the individual beholder’s eyes? Good question, and I had an answer.
pandora_2732043bEven the most objectively introspective seeker has to get outside perspective to clarify their vision – and it could be anyone, not just a mentor, who can give perspective that spurs a person to grow. Growing into one’s artistic practice is not a solitary journey, despite legend and lore to the contrary, and those with caring and wise teachers are the lucky ones! I could’ve used more of them as a student and am thankful to those I have now.

That’s not exactly how I responded in class, however.
Basically, I said that constructive criticism was the purpose of the school setting. Anyone is free to do their own work any way they want; close the studio door and paint and draw and make videos all you want! If you enter school, you are asking for judgement and feedback. Well, maybe not asking, but at the very least, being a student assumes one is open to learning. Passage through the academic wormhole requires listening to words one may not like to hear, as well as adjusting yourself to go in new and uncomfortable directions.

It is said that once a tree is pruned, it must always be pruned. Similarly, things once learned, can never ever be unlearned. I recall the heavy feeling I had coming home from my first semester of college, being slightly amazed and daunted by the shedding of youthful things. It is tempting to reject learning in order to keep the purity of ‘first vision’ intact. Another child’s destiny perhaps, this ship has sailed.

I am learning how to provide some of that feedback in the best way possible. I tell students that they don’t have to think or see like I do, but if I withhold my honest truth then I am cheating them. For better or worse, I have the most expertise (not necessarily the most talent) in my classroom, and that’s what I’m there to share.
You’re hearing me talk myself into it…. It takes more courage and confidence than I have on some days to let them know my real thoughts. They might not like me after they hear some of those. But am I here to be liked? I’m here to give what I have, like it or not.

I Turn My Back for Just One Minute and My Inbox Blows Up: How Email and Other Tech Makes Us LESS Effective

I worked 15 straight hours at YC yesterday.  Yeah, it was epic.  I showed up at 8:15am, as usual; I prepped for 10:15am class and then I gave the class.  After class I ran straight to Prescott Valley where I teach from 1 to 3pm.  Then I rush back to YC and prep for my night class that starts at 5:30pm and gets over at 7:30pm.  In class, one of my students said, “how come you never answered my email?”  Another student answered for me, in a sarcastic tone, “Yeah, getting back to emails isn’t Professor Kleinman’s strength.”  I rushed straight back to my office and checked my messages.  The email had come just 15 minutes prior to class.  Yet, I was so hurt by the apparent “culture of laziness” that I seemed to be portraying to my students that I resolved to stay late (it was about 8:15pm by this time) and catch up on each and every last languishing email in my inbox.  I left the office at 11:15pm.

Just as I was about to turn out the light, I rechecked my hard work.  I had to get back to some students who needed letters of recommendation and finish some committee work that probably could have been put off a few more days, but I wanted to admire my empty inbox one last time before heading home.  To my horror, at 11:15pm I’d already received two more student emails wanting immediate reply and one email that got through Barracuda about eye-lash enhancements that would work no matter what type of mascara I use.

I taught at 8am this morning and again at 10am.  When I finally got back to my “clean” inbox, sometime after noon, this is what I saw:


Yeah.  Inbox?  Not so clean anymore.  All my hard work and long hours, wasted—pretty much.

A few years ago my wife and I were listening to some marriage counseling CDs.  It’s not that we had trouble in our marriage, quite the opposite, but the psychologist on the CDs was highly recommended by friends of ours and after hearing them rave about how much better marriage could be, we started listening.  Skittles didn’t come pouring out of the speakers or anything like that, but the guy had some good ideas.  One thing I remember him saying was that you shouldn’t comment on everything that happens in a marriage.  He said that at first you’ll have to fight back the urge—“But I have a mouth, and a comment!?”  He counsels that nine times out of ten we should just listen to our spouses and not comment at all.  I wish we could just listen attentively to our students, but they usually require some kind of action on our part, and it’s usually an emergency.  I saw an email tag line not long ago that I have come to love, it read, “The older I get, the more I recognize how few things actually need my comment”.

Yet, students comment.  And very often, they shouldn’t.  Usually, the info was in the syllabus, or the comment was mis-informed, or we’d already addressed the topic in class; you know the drill.  And, for some reason, we teachers hold ourselves infinitely accountable to these comments.  We feel, because we are teachers and it is our noble quest to single handedly civilize all of humanity, that we have to validate all of these comments with a response.   My time and attention are completely sequestered by a ridiculous comment or question in a discussion board or an email, just because they “have a comment, and a mouth” (or in this case, a keyboard).  I used to respond with “see the syllabus”.  But, (don’t tell anyone this), I just don’t respond at all anymore.

A good friend once told me, “there are no emergencies in higher education”.  I couldn’t agree more.  I used to be that guy.  You know, the one that treated every student email like an emergency.  I responded immediately.  I gave copious feedback and examples.  I was complimented for being “a teacher who always gets back to me promptly”.  To be honest, most of my teacherly being still yearns to be that guy (even though my logical side totally realizes that most students delete my emails before they even finish reading the subject line).  That’s just how the good Lord, or science, or Darwin, (or whatever you subscribe to) made me.  But I’ll be honest, I just can’t anymore.  Is it that I’m getting old, or burned out, or jaded?  I don’t know; it’s probably a combination of all three, but I just can’t do it anymore.  I let them languish.  Mostly because I think that it’s probably good for them to languish and wait for something for the first time in their lives.  And because, if they languish for, gasp, 24 hours, I’ll address their issue in class, or (more often) they’ll discover from their classmates that I’ve already addressed the issue, or they’ll find a solution to their problem in some other way that does not involve me.

This all leads me to the question, does having such easy access to instructors help our students learn?  Does email, discussion boards, text messages, phone, and even facebook and twitter augment or deplete the learning process?

A few years ago, I wanted to see how much I, a typical community college teacher, worked.  I put a stop watch around my head like a track coach ready to time his 4X100 meter relay team and I started clocking in and out, literally, every time I worked on anything for YC.  I tried to pick a normal week, nothing too crazy, but not the lightest week of the semester either.  Guess how much I worked that week.  Wrong.  68 hours.  I found that a lot of what I did was answer emails.  Whole days would go by that saw me doing little more than answering student emails and anxiously distracting myself by looking at the push notification section of my screen in anticipation of more emails to squelch before they got out of hand.

What would it be like for us professors to not have email constantly hanging over our heads?  Twenty-five years ago, email-a-goraphobia (fear of leaving your inbox) didn’t exist.  It simply wasn’t an available condition with which one could be diagnosed.  I’m convinced that Email, for a very long time, made me a less effective instructor.  I focused on the nit-picky details and never had time for the big-picture-real-pedagogy-improving stuff.  But, I’ve learned to let go.  To not hold myself infinitely accountable to every single email that students happen to shoot my way because they have a thought and a keyboard.  It wasn’t easy.  I had to fight the instant gratification culture that my students expect and to which many faculty members cater.  I think of Lyndsey Henning.  She responds to your email in lightning fast “industry standard” fashion.  In “industry” (where Lyndsey worked for many years) people are expected to be chained to their desk nights, weekends, holidays, and during their own son’s bah mitzvah.   Lyndsey, bless her heart, has notations and citations and annotations to your original quandary and she fires them back to you less than an hour after receiving your email.  Lyndsey, you are my hero and I have no idea how you do it!  But, lately, I’ve often found myself thinking that these “industry standard” responses might actually be enabling our students and perpetuating the instant gratification culture that causes students to think shallowly, be entitled, and send me their offhanded emails in the first place.  We have to break the cycle man!  By instantly responding to these communications, we often rob students of vital learning experiences that they might have gleaned from being resourceful and figuring it out for themselves.


It’s not just email that makes us less productive.  Text messages, Facebook, and especially any and all push notifications, train our minds to crave distraction and they steal away our ability to deeply focus.  Push notifications are designed to push you over the edge and elevate your stress level.  Just having a cell phone out on your desk elevates your anxiety in anticipation of the digital narcotic push that will eventually emerge on the screen (that is, if I can ever get my Club Penguin account back online) [citation needed, -Personal communication with Mark Shelley].

So, email, an innovation that was designed to improve communication, does exactly the opposite by making my communication choppy, irritable sounding, and superfluous.  Were we better communicators when we sent out concise, timely, and well-crafted paper-based memorandums via inter-office mail?  Maybe.  Maybe not, but we were definitely more free to focus on what really matters—the pedagogy.  And, we were likely more efficient in our communications as well.

What other technologies, designed to improve our lives, actually surreptitiously do the opposite?  What about this very MS Word program on which I’m “writing” this blog post?  I read an article recently that argued that novels today are more linear (less intricate) and boring than they have ever been, because nearly every new novel is written in WordMS Word, as opposed to a hand written manuscript, lends itself to a very long (linear) scroll down.  In ancient times, writers would hand write manuscripts on actual pieces of paper, then, they would lay them out on the undoubtedly filthy carpet in the living room in front of them (because, what authors worth their salt actually have time to vacuum, am I right bloggers??) and move whole chapters at a time forward and backward within the scope of the novel as a whole.  Does MS Word actually make today’s novels too linear and boring?  I’m not sure, but it’s very possible.  (As an aside:  I have thought about writing future novels in OneNote, to avoid this debacle).

Others?  What about PowerPoint?  Of course we know that our speech teachers, the Woolseys and Amber Davies-Sloan, have been decrying the evils of PowerPoint for years now, with linear, locked-in presentations that leave the presenter no-wiggle room and leave the audience underwhelmed by presenters who stand at the lectern and do little more than read text-heavy slides to them.  But PowerPoint has to be an improvement over the old poster board presentations, right?  Surely!?  Nope.  PowerPoint is doing to the Poster Presentation the same thing that MS Word is doing to the novel.  PowerPoint ties us down to a linear presentation, one slide at a time, step by step, choppy by choppy.  What about a process that has to be explained in a global way, by pointing, zooming and panning back and forth across multiple slides?  Well, we have Prezi for that, but, let’s face it, we could give 20 poster presentations in the time that it takes us to prepare one Prezi, and the poster presentations would probably be better, truth be told.

Our novel writing teacher, Kristen Kaufman also informed me of the evils of typing in general.  She mentioned that she can write more than 100 words a minute (which would be a huge ace in my hole for shooting down all of these ridiculous emails), but it’s actually a disadvantage when writing.  She told me that it all comes out “too fast.  It starts to sound choppy and too terse.”  She explained to me that her writing now sounds “too string of consciousness” because she can type fast enough to literally record her string of consciousness.  She could never do that with a hand written manuscript.  She told me, that to combat these ills, there is a resurgence of writers putting paper to pen, and, RoyalTM surprise, writers are starting to once again pull out type writers in order slow themselves down.

What about note taking?  Jenny Jacobson often heralds the note taking literature, which seems to conclude that students are more effective at taking notes when they write with pen and paper than they are when using a computer (see Jenny for citations).  Mark Shelley (who is the guru in this line of investigation) suggests that this is because when students “take notes” on a computer, they are not actually taking notes at all; they are taking dictation.  Students simply try to type every word the teacher says.  This often leads to the production of a messy transcript of the lecture that they never paid attention to in the first place.  The transcript will do little more than collect digital dust on their hard drive because reviewing the sheer magnitude of their “notes” before a test will eventually prove too daunting a task and will result in the students’ eventual surrender to their urge to engage in a binge watching session of Breaking Bad on Netflix.  In response, Dr. Jacobson forbids students from using a computer for note taking in her class.  (Aside:  This ban seems a little sever though because I know for a fact that I would not have passed some of my brutal open note stats tests without the power of OneNote and its “keyword” search function—I’m eternally in your debt Bill Gates).

In Sum, technologies designed to simplify our lives and make us more efficient often complicate our lives further and send us into tail spins of triviality where nothing of real import ever gets done.  We do more and more of less and less and this counterfeit “productivity” makes us feel happier and happier about it.  Our “productivity” is a delusion and we are diluting ourselves.  Whether we are willing to face it or not, we are all in the thick of thin things!

Do you have a technology that’s killing you?  Has the advent of email made us more, or less effective?  Were you too distracted by technology to even get to this point in the current diatribe?  Comment below!  <{:0)


October UDAL Tip of the Month -My Kind of Writing

My UDAL tip of the month is the type of writing I like to do. I like to learn to use tools and help others to use them well, for the benefit of as many people as possible. I believe in content that is accessible to all, or at least to most people regardless of ability or learning preference. Universal Design for Active Learning (UDAL) is UW Bothell Universal Design initiative to promote awareness of universal accessibility and support student learning and engagement. We have a core group of people at UW Bothell from IT, Disability Resources for Student and Advancement who meet and discuss ways to spread awareness and make our campus better. At UW Bothell we have such wonderful people and culture, which remind me everyday how thankful I am to be here and be part of it.

I am in academia because I love making a positive difference. I love seeing the expressions of people when long awaited understanding finally arrive, feel the awe when achievement of a goal is accomplished. My hope is that the little tidbits I find and share are helpful to others.

Maximize Readability and Consistent Look/Feel in Documents

One of the ways to maximize readability and consistency in documents is by using built-in styles instead of just manually adding emphasis and changing font sizes. Whether you are creating a document in MS Office Word or in Canvas, heading levels, bullets and numbered lists provide an easy way to make your document readable, consistent and accessible to screen readers.

Some commonly used styles are:

  • Heading levels are marked as H1, H2, H3, etc. – These mark sections according to its order level within the document.
  • Bulleted lists – Used for unordered items
  • Numbered lists – Used for ordered items

Styles in MS Word

Styles, bulleted and numbered lists are located in the ribbon under the Home tab.

Ribbon - Home Tab - Styles in Microsoft Word 2016

Styles in Canvas

Style and formatting options are located in the Rich Text Editor. Header levels start at H2 because the name of the document is already set at H1 and are located under Paragraph drop-down menu.

Rich Text Editor Styles and sample formatted text