Category Archives: Uncategorized

Recording a Professor’s Rant

I try to live by this principle when it comes to teaching. Don’t say or do anything in classes you teach that you wouldn’t be proud to have made public in the news media. This is sometimes easier said than done, because after all, I’m human. I make mistakes from time to time. I’ve probably already made one today, and it’s only 5am as I’m writing this.

But I am reminded of this principle as I read the news out in California in which a student recorded the rant of a professor about president-elect Donald Trump.

Orange Coast College Student Threatened With Expulsion After Recording Professor’s Anti-Trump Tirade

Every student carries a mobile recording studio in their pocket. Yes, it is probably bad manners to record someone secretly. And it might even be illegal. But if you need lawyers to keep students from recording and sharing what goes on in your classroom, you are probably doing it wrong.

Authentic Experiences in School

If I think carefully about who my “influencers” are with respect to my teaching and my philosophy of education, probably the most influential are Postman and Weingartner and their book Teaching as a Subversive Activity. My own experience as a student, particularly before college, was frequently one of suffering. Some of my friends liked going to school, but for me it was painful drudgery. I enjoyed learning, but I did not enjoy school. While the suffering subsided in college, there were still a number of times when it arose again.

What was the root cause of the suffering for me in school? The inauthenticity of the experience. Those times when the teacher was able to “make it real” for the learners were the times that I was at my best as a student. I never bought into playing “The Great Trivia Game” that Postman and Weingartner describe:

It’s a kind of rigged quiz show. And it seems to work only if the participants value the “prize.” The “prize,” of course, is a “grade.” An appropriate grade permits the participant to continue playing the Trivia game. All the while, very little, if any, substantive intellectual activity is going on.

Examples of times the learning for me was not authentic:

  • Taking a public speaking class in which most of the time was spent listening to the teacher talk about public speaking
  • Taking a computer networking class in which the teacher read to us straight from the textbook
  • Taking a teaching methods course in which the teacher lectured to us 99% of the time.

Instead, I preferred to be involved in something that seemed important, interesting and real—something I could really sink my teeth into. Something where the students were actually doing something. Some examples from my own education experience when learning was authentic:

  • In 6th grade, social studies students (taught by Mark Treaster) were arranged into three groups, Europeans, Mestizos, and Indians/Slaves. The slaves worked their rear ends off doing academic drudge work – worksheets mostly. The mestizos worked less, and were supervisors of the slaves. The europeans assigned the work to the slaves and mestizos, but did no work themselves. I was a slave. By the end, I was angry, because the europeans kept moving the goal posts by which we could secure our freedom. When the tables turned, and the slaves became europeans and vice-versa, we really socked it to our former masters.
  • In Navy electronics service school, we were taught with lectures and with hands on labs. We had practical tests, usually each week to show what we had learned, using the exact equipment we would work on in the fleet.
  • In college, I had a history professor who engaged us in critical thinking. We had only one date to memorize – 1066 – the year of the last successful invasion of England. He made us think about all sides of an issue using evidence. We participated in many class discussions and we never knew where he personally stood on particular issues because he was fair in exploring all points of view.

While I am far from perfect in my own classroom, I do take pains to actively engage my students. It is something I am continually working on. It also varies on class size and topic how much I lecture and how much we are involved in activities.

Literature and Tech in Classrooms

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.

waiting for something

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.

Literature discussion on Facebook

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.



Yesterday proved to be insightful when talking with my students. I am constantly stumbling over cultural references when trying to reach them. I grew up in the 70s. They grew up in the 2000s. I realized just how big of a gap this is, when I asked them if they had heard of the Internet phenomenon, PostSecret.

Not one student had heard of it. I thought that PostSecret was pretty common knowledge, especially among Internet-savvy youth. I thought wrongly. So it is apparent to me that the tide has shifted from one where my students and I explore the Internet together sharing a wonder of discovery, to one where I can serve as a knowing guide on a well-travelled path. Of course, I will always be able to learn new things from them, but even while to me it is still quite new, I really, truly know much more about the Internet and it’s short heritage than they do.

The reason I mentioned PostSecret is that I was hoping for establishing a common reference point that speaks to the vulnerability and hurts that we all have. I am trying to build empathy for others.

Every single person has at least one secret that would break your heart. If we could just remember this, I think there would be a lot more compassion and tolerance in the world. – Frank Warren

I remember hearing the PostSecret founder state this truth, and it has always stuck with me. Probably no one has heard more confessions than Frank Warren, except perhaps the Curé of Ars, so he certainly has a firm understanding of the human condition.


Paper Citations

I have been working at Kansas State University for a dozen years now. Before that, I taught at Cloud County Community College. The main difference between the two institutions is the scholarship expectation for faculty members. At both institutions, effective classroom instruction is expected, as is service to community and to the institution. But when I changed jobs, the scholarship expectation was something new.

I rather like the scholarship requirement. It encourages us to stay current in our field, rather than stagnate. In our department, most of us have assignments of 80% teaching, 10% scholarship, and 10% service as the percentages of how we are supposed to spend our time. We still place a high priority on instruction, but the other two are requirements as well.

My own scholarship is in scholarship of teaching. The papers I have written and presented are all related to courses I teach in computer technology.

One thing that I haven’t really experienced though, is noticing my papers being cited by other authors. That all changed recently, when I was doing a search for my American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) papers. I found three papers with my name in them that I didn’t write. In other words, I’m a cited author. I suppose that for more preeminent scholars, this is to be expected. But for me, it felt really cool to see my work cited in someone else’s reference list.

Below are the papers that cited my work:





2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Expositionscreen-shot-2016-10-25-at-6-52-08-am




What The Amish Can Teach You About DS106

amish buggies

Amish DS106

The Daily Create for today was pretty interesting. Given a prompt from an idea generator website, we were supposed to write a blog post. A couple of people shared titles that had to do with the Amish and DS106. These two things, a religious group that eschews technology and a digital storytelling course that is centered on technology, seem to be as far removed from one another as possible.

Now I am far from an expert on the Amish, but I have encountered a few from time to time here in Kansas and have read a bit about their culture. So I’d like to take a stab at this one.

First of all, as I understand it, much of the Amish resistance to the adoption of new technologies has more to do with humility than it does with hatred for the new and high-tech. A few years ago, we visited the town of Yoder, KS, where a large community of Amish people live. We noticed that there were occasional telephone booths located along the roads in the countryside. A guide explained that multiple families share the telephone, and it is placed on a property line so no one can claim ownership. According to our guide, it is the ownership of these various things that can lead to the sin of pride .

This explanation cleared up another question I had long wondered about. Why could Amish people ride in automobiles, but would not own one? Well, now it made sense. According to the explanation we received, it has to do with pride and ownership, not a hatred of technology per se.

So what can the Amish teach us about DS106? Firstly, I would suggest that they have priorities established and they keep them. Participating in DS106 is highly demanding. To be successful, you have to have priorities in order, or you will quickly be overwhelmed. And it goes without saying that the Amish do not take the easy road. They are hard-working people. DS106ers should absolutely follow the Amish ethic of hard work.

Another thing about the Amish is they are frugal and resourceful. So are those in DS106. Both groups don’t throw things away. They remix, recycle, and reuse things. They look for whatever tools are available to get the job done. The Amish and DS106ers don’t need the latest, greatest tools to get the job done. They don’t upgrade for upgrading’s sake.

Finally, the Amish help one another. If a neighbor puts up a barn, the whole community is there. This attitude is central to DS106. We comment, we compliment, we support one another in our efforts to learn. I think the Amish have a lot to teach us about DS106.

Author’s Note: After writing this, I searched the Internet for “Amish Hacker” and found this must-read piece by Kevin Kelly on Amish Hackers. Check it out, it is spot on right.




Star Trek 50th Anniversary Celebration

Here is how I celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek.

Experts Talk Storytelling

Storytelling is hard. I’ve been studying it for some time, and I’m always learning. One book that I’ve enjoyed reading is Notes to Screenwriters by Peterson & Nicolosi.

Below are some of the best videos I’ve seen on the art of storytelling. All of these resources, the book and the videos have one idea in common – be respectful of the intelligence of the audience.  Give the reader/viewer something for the mind to work on without explicitly stating it. In other words show, don’t tell. This is easier said than done.

Anyway, here are the videos:

George Saunders on Storytelling (Coarse language alert)

Ken Burns on Storytelling

Ken Burns: On Story from Redglass Pictures on Vimeo.

Ira Glass on Storytelling

Kurt Vonnegut on Storytelling

Clyde 150th Celebration

KSU Digital Media Students

In our first week of class, the KSU Digital Media team (KSUDigMe for short) recorded a history of Clyde, Kansas to help celebrate the sesquicentennial (150th) anniversary of its founding. This coming Labor Day weekend, several thousand people from all over will attend the annual Clyde Watermelon Festival and hear this recording.

We spent over an hour taking turns reading the various nuggets of Clyde’s history. Then I spent the weekend editing the recordings down into a half hour recording using Adobe Audition. I also added some instrumental background music I found online. What a great way to start a semester!

Here is the track that is currently playing in downtown Clyde:

We received the following message from the Clyde 150th celebration planning committee:

Thank you so much to all of you involved in our recording of business histories for Clyde’s 150th Birthday!  We are seeing people randomly sitting on our city benches just listening to your recording!  They are enjoying it very much.  We also invite any of you who would like to join us for our celebration
to come to Clyde, Kansas this week and weekend!  It would be wonderful to meet you in person, but if we don’t, you have touched our community with your voices!

Thanks again.

Brenda Koch and the 150th Planning Committee