I am always learning new things from my students. This week, I learned about the Denny’s Restaurant blog. It is full of wonderful, punny food GIFs like this one:
This is a great example of self-deprecating humor that shows it is ok not to take one’s self too seriously. Certainly this approach cannot work for all businesses, but it seems to be working for Denny’s.
I like the Denny’s work so much, I challenged my students to make a series of food GIFs and release them in their own social media campaign on Twitter. We’ll see what happens.
One of the ideas I regularly try to convey to students is that Social Media can be used for serious, professional purposes. A good example of this was an online conversation I participated in this past week about teaching literature.
It all started with an innocent post from my Internet friend Scott Andrews, a professor of literature in California. I’ve never met Scott in person yet, but we’ve become connected online through a mutual acquaintance.
I really appreciate these discussions, because I can see what professors from other disciplines are thinking about.
I shared a comment about a speaker I saw earlier this year, Jean Twenge, author of Generation Me, and researcher of young adults and their culture.
I couldn’t remember where the data on the plummeting levels of reading came from exactly, Dr. Twenge shared so much with us last spring. But I need to find out. In short, it is a real challenge getting students to read anything substantial these days.
But I seem to recall seeing a graph that showed the rise of the smart phone and the decline of substantial reading happening around the same time. Certainly Internet access has reduced the amount of novels, magazines and newspapers we read. But mobile tech has taken our reading habits to new lows.
My approach lately has been to break a text down into manageable chunks and have each student read and report back to the group. Although no one reads an entire work, we can get a summary of one with a group effort.
Anyway, this was a great discussion online, and a good example of how teachers can collaborate and learn from one another using social media, even if they’ve never met in person. Anyone can use a similar approach to learn in any field, if they desire.
I recently submitted an abstract to the ASEE Educational Research and Methods division for the 2017 national conference and it was accepted. When I first began work at K-State, a trusted colleague advised me to avoid this particular division because there were other divisions that would be more likely to accept my proposals. However, since I recently finished my Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction, I thought I might now be up to the challenge. It felt really great to receive the acceptance e-mail this year!
But it turns out that my colleague was correct. While the feedback I received was positive, there also were a number of concerns raised that I need to address in the full paper. I can do that. I am always trying to get my students to push themselves and take the more rigorous path from time to time. Hopefully, I demonstrate this attitude myself from time to time.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard the expression “fire writing” before, as mentioned in this Edutopia article, New Teachers: Inspire Your Students to Write, Write, Write. However, it is exactly how I got things going with my PhD dissertation. I just wrote. And I didn’t worry about how it looked or sounded. It was messy and chaotic, but I cleaned it up later. First I dumped my ideas out of my brain and onto the page as quickly as I could. Then I went back and ruthlessly edited. I cut out huge chunks that I loved and was left with the essence of what I was trying to say.
Another great idea from the Edutopia article is something I first read about years ago in Zinsser’s classic book, Writing To Learn. Students tend to write for an audience of one – the teacher. They need to stop it, and we as teachers should stop encouraging it. Zinsser suggested writing letters to a friend or family member about the day’s learning. I think it is a great approach. Instead of getting hung up on perfect mechanics, get to the main ideas, reflect and write about them. Quit worrying about what you think the teacher might want, and write the important ideas in a voice that someone who loves you and cares about you would recognize as you. If it comes out wrong, you can always improve and revise.
I teach a class that includes a lab activity and requires lab reports. I wonder what those might look like if they were composed in the form of a letter? Right now, I have a prescribed format that I’ve been using since I first started teaching the course. I inherited the report structure from the person who taught the class before, and haven’t ever questioned it. Perhaps it is time for me to take a closer look at that important writing assignment.