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Press: Fulton Indiana Project with Purdue Women Lifting Communities in Krannert Magazine

From time to time I get the opportunity to be interviewed on various projects. When one is on the tenure track, one cannot be shy about one’s achievements. Self-promotion is part of the duties.

I was lucky to be interviewed for Krannert Magazine’s Fall Issue about a project I worked on with a couple of other folks inside of the School of Management. The project started with Joy Dietz and the Women in Management Program, but it sort of blossomed out into my Greater Lafayette Greater class and also into two groups of independent studies under a marketing professor.

Krannert Magazine front cover

Article with quote and pictures from Fulton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For those that do not know Fulton, Indiana, it is a very small (around 200 people) town outside of Rochester, Indiana. I went out there for an event last spring to better understand the issues of Fulton. Some of the issues involved the lack employment opportunities and net migration from the town. What we found was that while Fulton had approached the Krannert School of Management for help, the town has  a lot resources and a really nice new little community center. I like to try and help people help themselves. I don’t think that just because you ask for help it means that I need to find a problem to solve in your community. I am always happy to work with other communities.

Here’s the website to read about it: http://www.krannert.purdue.edu/konline/2017f/features/fulton-1.php

No-No-November: What Can You Say NO to in Your Teaching?

My excellent colleague Dr. Julia Kalish has been running something she calls No-No-No-November this past month. The concept, per Kalish’s blog post: “reduce, remove, quit, stop, and minimize as many nonessential tasks, belongings, activities, people, habits, and projects”. I love this idea, even though if there’s something about me you should know it’s that I am constantly saying yes to things. I do not consider the two to be mutually exclusive: you can say no in order to say yes to other things.

November is a great time to say NO to things in teaching, as you head into finals season and are probably thinking about what will go into your next syllabus. It’s been my goal since around early October to quit something every two weeks or so, or at least resolve to quit it. So far, I’ve resigned at least unofficially from my post as an editor of a column. I moved meetings with my supervisor from every two weeks to monthly. At first it’s really scary to quit things, because I often wonder that if I quit something if I am ever going to be able to get to that thing again. But then I remember all of things that I get to say yes to because I said no.

I love Julia’s idea, and I’m trying to extend the idea of NO to my own teaching. Here are some things I plan to say no to in the coming year:

  • NO to student emails. This next year when I teach my 120-student course, I’m going to have my Graduate Assistant answer all of my student emails in my large class. This is mainly for mostly practical reasons, since currently half of the students email the GA and the other half email the instructor. Why not simplify? Half of the time, I end up forwarding the email to the GA anyway.
  • NO to students turning things in on paper. It’s 2017, folks. You shouldn’t need to hand anything out. I’m resolving in the future as much as possible to only use paper when I need students to look at multiple things at the same time (the two monitor problem). And a definite NO to returning things to student on paper.
  • NO to database/Google comparison. This is more librarian focused, but I just hate it when people do this comparison. There’s no situation in the real world where you would try multiple different databases and just compare the results. That’s not a thing that real people do. More specifically, the results from one large database doesn’t reflect the total of databases..
  • NO to 5 minute guest lectures. If I’m there for less than 20 minutes, it’s like I wasn’t there at all. I don’t do many of these, but I am resolving in the future to do even less of these, maybe even none.
  • NO to internalizing my student’s performance as my performance as a professor. This is a tricky one, but I’m going to commit to saying NO. Students are adults, they can choose not to learn. I’m very critical of myself, I want to do well, but doing well isn’t putting too much stake on the performance of my students.

What can you say NO to in your teaching?

Motown, Dubstep and Classical: Using Background Music in Class

Learning is a five senses experience. Playing music is an easy way of throwing sound around as if to say “This is who I am, this is the type of learning environment that I’m trying to create”. Moving around chairs takes time or setting up things, but just by playing music you can create an entirely different environment.

Background music can cause what is called cognitive arousal, which improves mood. Music has been previously explored in the information literacy classroom and has positive correlations between background music and student comfort, retention, and confidence. Music can also increase certain type of perception as documented in the famous Mozart effect. At the same time, listeners should not doubt the fact that they are multitasking and can in some cases harm cognitive performance on tasks.

I have many opinions on music that I play in class. I typically play music in the classroom as students arrive. I teach in an active learning environment, so there’s lots of small tasks, bringing things together, talked about what you should do in small group type of work. I do this firstly because it allows me to check the sound in the classroom.  I then play music often when the students are working on a project, I think it makes clear when one task ends and another begins.

When I first started teaching I used to play music I like. Since I am from Seattle, that is mostly Indie Rock from the early 2000s, but I found that this was kind of really depressing. Also it is surprisingly discouraging when students make fun of the music and it is music that you like. This is also why you should not play music from your childhood.

I switched to Pandora station with a Stevie Wonder seed. I have carefully cultivated this Pandora station for the majority of the rest of my teaching career. I like Motown because it’s almost always easy to listen to and always a little upbeat without being too sickly sweet. It makes good background music that perks you up just a little bit.

The link to that Pandora Station: https://www.pandora.com/station/972927259948434106

My students make fun of me using Pandora, and I can see that Spotify is probably a superior product, but I have so many year of cultivation for the Pandora station I don’t really feel like I can leave it. I mean, it needs me, you know?

I play dubstep/electronica in other people’s classes, or during freshmen orientation, when I was trying to create an environment that says “look guys there’s a different teacher up here today you can tell because I am playing Dubstep” My favorite song to play is Space Monkeys from the Fight Club Soundtrack: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrReKwwtdsM&t=204s Another professor I know played Linkin Park for similar reasons.

I have also found that my international students actually prefer to listen to classical music. I’ve seen studies that show that music without lyrics is actually better for studying because then your mind isn’t microtasking as much. This is especially true for international students, where playing a bunch of English language over everything else is likely to give a lot of cognitive challenges. I created another Pandora station, based on Lord of the Rings. I like it, but I also think it can get a little Overly Dramatic Let’s Go to Mordor, so I only play it when there’s like an extra special or important assignment.

Link to Lord of the Rings Station: https://www.pandora.com/station/2363995905025458874

More information:

Lifehacker- The Best Sounds for Getting Work Done: https://lifehacker.com/5365012/the-best-sounds-for-getting-work-done

Why Teaching on Purpose

In my professional life I have a lot of doorway conversations with other academics, in an almost lewd manner, discussing what we do when we teach. I don’t mean like the large stuff. I’m talking about the small, everyday, boring dumb stuff that you don’t think about. Like the type of music they play in class or what they wear to work.

I started teaching by accident.  I found myself teaching mostly because I wanted as a librarian to help people, and in academia that means helping students, and the best way to help students is to teach them. After a certain point of doing things accidentally, it’s important to think about doing things on purpose, moving in a specific direction with specific intent. It’s important not to sneak, but to stride.

This blog is called Teaching On Purpose. It is a double meaning: one meaning is the need for more responsible teaching and learning, meaning ethical, sustainable, and purpose-driving teaching. But it also reflects an intent. Too often librarians end up teaching on accident. At some point in the information instruction game, we knew we wanted a seat at the table, and we wanted students to become more information literate, and the most logical way was for us to get into the classrooms and make it happen. We’re not unique in this. I think many academics didn’t plan to teach, but found that teaching was the best way to impact lives, to do life-giving research, to find their intellectual niche.

If we want to make real impacts through our teaching, we have to do it on purpose. Teaching purpose isn’t all the high things, it can also be the small things, the thing that you don’t do on purpose at first but then you stumble on it after a while and it just makes sense. It’s important that we find ourselves here. It’s the series of practices that makes us whole. To teach on purpose is the easiest method to a means. It’s not just because it seemed like a good idea at the time, but because it’s important, we’re important, and our students are important.

I don’t want to do things on accident so I have conversations in the hallways. I already write quite a bit for librarians, but I feel like most of my writing is often at the end of projects, and includes large, more serious questions. These aren’t conversations that are fully formed enough that you could “discover” them and publish in a scholarly journal. And they don’t really carry meaning that I would feel comfortable traveling to a conference just to share them. When I talk about teaching, I talk a lot about those things, but those conversations, because they are spoken, are often very ethereal. So I decided to start this blog. This blog is about the small little bits of intentional teaching that happen every day.