Question of the week – what does it mean to have balance in your life? Regardless of work- life balance, family, projects, we all have to find our own balance within our life. And here are my personal issues with balance:
- I have a hard time balancing the family/me time with job/student investment (emotional and physical).
- Finding balance of my physical capabilities: the physical activities I would like to do versus what I am capable of doing.
Both are rearing their ugly head this week. And by the way, weekly, it amazes me how conversations during the week feed my creativity when Sunday night I have no idea what I am going to write about.
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If you pay zero for something, does it have value? Clint Ewell has done an amazing job at keeping us afloat during these tumultuous years and now that things are evening out in the economy (perhaps), Dr. Ewell wants to start a progressive program for providing education at YC for a select few students at no cost. Clint has been so visionary in the past, I initially wanted to jump into this project and help; however, as I ponder the ramifications, I’m cautious.
During my junior summer of college, I worked for NAU’s forestry department. They ran a week-long camp that sought to teach elementary school children about forest management and the environment. It was a pet project of some very heavy hitters in one of NAU’s most respected programs, so the camp was well funded. If families couldn’t pay the hefty camp tuition, often scholarships were procured and interested families paid nothing at all. However, I noticed a trend. The scholarshipped campers did not value their endowment. They were often leaving the camp early, or not showing up at all. They were extremely flaky, both the campers and their parents. So, the camp director got a brilliant idea, she would charge, even the scholarshipped students, a “camp fee”. As soon as she started charging the fee, the campers’ behavior changed. Suddenly, they were fully committed. Once they had some “skin in the game,” they started taking their involvement in the camp seriously. It was the same exact product, but now they were paying for it as opposed to getting it for free, and suddenly we had greater participation.
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Our task for the week – to write about motivation and where we find our motivation. My initial reaction was, “that is easy!!” and quite awesome. But after some thought, I decided to tweak the approach.
My question and what interests me: What motivates students? When first asked, students responded with “in life or in school?” I said both and either!! And on that initial request, I asked they email what motivates them; I didn’t get many responses. So in class on Wednesday, I gave them time to discuss the topic with me, and the answers were as diverse and amazing as I thought they would be. Here is my re-phrase of what they shared.
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This week I am excited to write about my newfound teaching help via technology. By “help”, I should clarify that I feel like it is helping me to improve my online course. With the assistance of TeLS (thanks Thatcher) I am using Panopto (the name reminds me of Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon, but that’s another blog post) to provide feedback on student essays. Since Essay 1 was just due, it was perfect timing for me to try it out. I edited their papers, then made a video with explanations for my edits. If there were questions about grammar, I made a separate video for them about that. I feel so good about being able to use this tool, because as we all know, online students often don’t get a lot of student/teacher interaction. I also feel like it’s easy for the students to just glance over my edits and comments (and we all know how many hours we put into grading, so I really want them to read them) without really absorbing the information. I don’t put the grade on the paper, just because I know that the students are just looking for that, but it’s still obvious that it’s too easy to ignore the comments. I’ll also use Panopto to make videos explaining assignments, and giving mini lectures.
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So, last week I tried to convince you that NOVELTY forms the basis of learning—if something is “new” we pay attention to it. We can’t help it, that’s just the how the brain works!
But on the other hand routine, standardization, automation and sameness work well for us as teachers—it makes our professional lives a lot easier! But it also may prove a disservice to our students. It may metaphorically (or literally) put our students’ brains to sleep.
So what are we to do?
Here’s the bottom line: We choose. As harsh as it may sound, we choose our own ease and comfort, or we choose to prioritize student learning. Ouch. But this is what excellent teaching is all about. I can be a mediocre or even a good teacher, or I can choose to strive to be an excellent teacher. And the result of that choice is the kind of learning experienced by my students.
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