Category Archives: Teach on Purpose

Gimmicks in Teaching

Sometimes I imagine doing a class where the theme is “College is kind of stupid like all the things that you have done previously and it has dumb rules, and that’s okay.”

As a teacher I am very aware that lots of things that I do are very, very stupid. Life is silly. A little bit more learning is silly. How dumb it is that you don’t know things? How can you not know things?  If it was important than you should have known about it already. You are a grown adult. You know plenty of things.

Which brings to gimmicks. Gimmicks are dumb. You might have good reasons for using them, but they are suppose a little stupid. Because learning is important, but it doesn’t have to feel like every moment is live or die. Most of it

Some gimmicks I have in my teaching

  1. Prizes- Okay no one needs another prize. Despite what you have been told about Gen Z, they don’t need a trophy all the time. But it can be fun.
  2. Competition– People like to win. Students in management are often very competitive with one another so.
  3.  Audience participation– Sometimes legitimate active learning isn’t possible, such as in a large lecture hall. For those moments, there’s audience participation! I use the Delphi method wherein you plant questions in the audience. It’s a great way to get ther to be some back and forth without having to change very much about the classroom dynamic. I think that there should be a formula, for however much you choose to change the classroom dynamic, the more you change the way that people experience the class.

Guilt (and Academia)

I went to the International Critical Management Studies conference this last summer in Liverpool, England. For sure, I was most interested in understanding how management, arguably one of the most neoliberal parts of the academy, arguably the inventor of neoliberalism, arguably the force behind many of the problems that we see in the world today. In my studies I have found this to be a very robust community and at the conference I was not disappointed.

In my own work I see a lot tension within the work I try to do in terms of empathy and sometimes the practicality of making things “work” for now. I wondered if they saw this problem as well, or perhaps they were too focused on their own struggles (the struggle for a recognition for qualitative approach and against free market, for example). Critical management scholars (or critters as they are most adorably called) were very aware in some ways of how their work affects themselves and others often in ways they can’t control or anticipate.

During my time with critters, we talked of many things. I was in an action research track that was interested in making an impact on the community in which they work. Towards the end, there was an activity where people tried in our smaller group to draw findings. One thing we talked about, which was quickly dismissed but was incredibly interesting to me, was when someone pointed out how guilt played so much into what we did. I found that so incredibly interesting, I wrote it down on the piece of paper, and that was the thing that I ended up taking home. How do we process our work as academics, in writing, thinking, action? That was my momento from my short time in England.

So many things I do are motivated by guilt, especially when I do things involving social justice. There’s guilt I feel as part of being in the librarian community, as being an academic person, being a business educator, being part of a double-income no-kids family where both of us are paid living wages, being white and female.

I didn’t think about it until this conference, but I have done a lot of good because of that guilt. But not all good. The thing about guilt is that it feels good when you are doing it. You feel bad, you want to do better, and the best way to do better is to learn to do better, and actually do better. You feel like you have gotten beyond your guilt when that happens. You feel like you know more.

The thing about guilt is that doing things from a place a guilt is probably the most selfish thing you can do. Because in the end you are doing it because you want to feel better. You are ultimately not doing it to make the world a better place, or because it should be done, but simply for your own feelings Once you feel better, you are not going to motivated to do other things. And if you can’t feel better, in fact if you actually feel worse, you are likely to do even more destructive things in the future.

Guilt often motivates you to do things that are wrong for the people involved. In academia, we are really interested in getting involved in the community. I think that academics do try to understand the world all around us. We really want to get involved. We often push each other into working more with community often out of a place of guilt. I think that’s the most destructive type of guilt – the guilt that we have as a community. We also should know that the world is always, always more complicated than academia, so our attempts to change it might be slow, much slower that our guilt allows. Yet still we push and pressure each other into getting involved. We suggest that people make themselves burn out doing things for community because that is only way.

I think it’s very dangerous to do things out of guilt. It feels good, but guilt isn’t what should motivate you. So what should you do if you are motivated out of guilt? I think it’s important to use reflection to find ways other than guilt to motivate you to do good work. Motivation is so important. Maybe we do things for that moment where we make a difference. We might also do other things because we want to try something new, or maybe we like the thrill of learning new things. Maybe we like to do things because they challenging.

Let’s try to not do things because we want to be better, let’s try as academic to do things which we think are valuable. If we are teaching on purpose, let’s teach not for the purpose of making ourselves feel better. Let’s teach because we believe we can make the world better. That’s vital.

WAAL 2018 “All Hands on Deck: Social Justice, Empathy in the Age of Information Literacy”

I was invited to give the Keynote at the Wisconsin Association of Academic Librarians’ Annual Conference. It was a blast! Not least of which because I won beer.

I won delicious home brewer beer for tweeting. #waal2018 pretty much best library conference ever

Slides below:

Thank you to everyone who attended!

Better Conference Presentations

So as a tenure-track newly tenured library person, I tend to think a lot about how to present better. I would never say I am an expert presenter, but if you combine my teaching with my presenting of my findings, you would see that I do quite a bit of presenting.

Here are my tips for conference presentations.

  • Test, test, test again. If you plan on playing any sort of video, make sure that you test the sound. Test any graphics that you are going to use. Test your Powerpoint to make sure all the fonts have come over. Over time I’ve been less and less reliant on internet widgets.
  • Back things up. I tend to bring my laptop to presentations (in case there isn’t a laptop in the room) with my presentation downloaded onto the desktop. I save my presentation onto Dropbox, and email it myself. I also bring it on a flash drive. I also save my presentation in both ppt and pdf form in case the formatting gets messed up.
  • Keep it simple, or have a backup plan. Videos sometimes don’t work. Internet is spotty in conferences. I like to keep things simple. Versus using something like Poll everywhere, just have participants raise their hands, or vote via thumbs up and thumbs down. If you want people to respond, put the prompt up on the board and have them do so via worksheet.
  • Remember that your audience is TIRED and OVERLOADED. I want to imagine that conference participants are more attentive, but that’s a lie. I’ve learned the hard way that if you want people to remember something, you need to say it more than once. As part of a recent conference I even said it three times. If you have a complicated idea, make sure to slow down and explain it.
  • Watch your breath and volume. I first started presenting as a Girl Scout camp counselor so I would call my presentation style “VERY EXCITED TO BE HERE” When you are very excited you tend to speak very fast. Speaking very fast is not a good way to confirm that people have heard what you have to say. So try to take breaks, try not to fill every moment, and try to find a balance between talking loud and fast.
  • Bring your business cards. I think that this is great way to connect with people. Sure, they could probably find all of the same information online since when you present they do know your name, but I find that giving someone your card is a great way of making a little to-do task that they should contact you. People assume that just because people have a lot of questions for you that many people will follow up with you about collaborations, questions, sharing, but it’s really not the case. You want to try to find some way to encourage them.
  • On your last slide put a question for your audience. Often people have their own questions, but having a question can help center the conversation on things that you might be interested in exploring further.

Some more specific tips and hacks:

  • You can embedded animated GIFs into Powerpoint presentations. It makes the Powerpoint very large, but it often a great effect.
  • You can embed a timer into Powerpoint. I only recently found out about this! What if you could start a timer without leaving Powerpoint? How awesome is that?
  • Slideshare is great way to share slides. Often in the past I’ve posted my slides on slide share and had them tweet out as my conference ends.
  • Twitter is a great way to get conference feedback. At larger conferences, I try to pay attention the tweets. Sometimes people will ask you questions, but it’s also interested to see what sorts of conversations grows as you continue your presentation. I do not recommend having a Twitter feed going behind presenters, I find that very distracting because you don’t really have much control that and more specifically it is very hard to respond in real time while presenting.
  • Buy a slide advancer. Most slides advancers work with all sorts of presentation systems. They really allow you to move around. Put it in your purse. Bring it with you. It really makes a difference.


Teaching, Talking, and Talking about Teaching

Talking, teaching, and talking about teaching are all very different activities.

When I was in grad school at the University of Michigan I had a chance to work for the New York Public Library as part of their Alternative Spring Break program. The program was wonderful. University of Michigan provided the housing and gas money. I wasn’t paid for the week but I did get to work with such a cool group as the New York Public Library.

I worked for the Bronx branch, which has a beautiful building. The project that I worked in was called “Demonstrating a Dozen Databases”. The idea was that you would learn as much as you could about their library databases and then run a workshop on the databases for paraprofessionals. This was a perfect blending of my interests as a budding business librarian. I got to play around with a bunch of different databases and then tell people about them. There was a pretty clear deliverable. I could say at the end that I had presented to a whole room of people about something that I was relatively knowledgeable about. The workshop was one hour. One hour, 12 databases. I ended up picking 13 databases to trial because I wanted to be thorough. The picture is of me in 2013, but I probably looked pretty similar in 2011.

Thirteen databases, one hour, you can tell where this is going. I wanted to be thorough, so I decided as opposed to doing live demonstrations I would make screenshots. In the end my perfectly crafted presentation was over 120 slides long.

I practiced it. I know how to present in an engaging way. I added jokes. I had lots of outlines. I think I made a handout. I gave my presentation. It fell completely flat. Even I got a little bored listening to myself. It was at that point that I realized that teaching wasn’t the same talking. It was also about considering where your users were, what they could listen to, how you provide that information them. You could be really good at one but not as good at the other. That’s when I discovered a new respect for teachers.

Talking about teaching is its own skill. For a year I was an IMPACT consultant and I spent one day each week talking about teaching, and then going and teaching. I was very surprised to find that talking about teaching is very different from actually teaching. In fact, that’s some of my impetus for doing this blog. I also talk about teaching quite a bit as part of my job.

Talking is about preparation. As long as you are prepared you should be able to talk. Teaching is very contextual to your students and where you are at. As long as you general understand where they are and where they need to be, then you should be able to be successful at teaching. But talking about teaching is all about story telling. The person to which you are explaining the teaching is by definition not in the class where you are teaching. So they need to understand where you are coming from.



Teaching While Weird

I had a student once who was responding to a question about how he had selected his major within the school of management. He wrote a story about how when he was a kid, he built himself a little tiny cubicle with little office equipment. That’s how he knew that someday he would be an accountant. That’s how I know that students were not the same as me.

As teachers we often tend to lean on our own educational experiences. In order empathize properly with my students, I often try to understand how I experienced things when I was in school. My experience of school was deeply reliant on my experiences as a sort of weird creative kid.

As previously mentioned in this blog, I was mostly a weird human. This is me pictured. I’m hanging upside down on a tree outside my parents’ house (as a kid I spent a lot of time in trees, which is something that happens when you grow up in the Pacific Northwest). I like this picture of me, because it’s a good description of how I feel most of the time; I feel like I just see things differently than other people. Perhaps a little weirder than other people. As example, walking around campus, I often imagine people what kind of pirate people would be.

At an earlier stage in my life, I accepted the moniker of “nerd” and just went with it, but I think nerd doesn’t really describe it. I’m just a really weird person.  I eventually came to realize that the way I see things just isn’t the way that other people see the world. I spent a surprising amount of my time as a teenager trying to prove I didn’t care what people thought of me.

All things considered, now is really a great time to be weird. When you don’t see things like everyone else, sometimes you have ideas that other people don’t know to have. You get branded as a “disruptor” and a “next gen thinker”. At an earlier time in in life, people who were weird probably would not have been very successful, but increasingly weird people end up leading.

My students are often the type of people who care about what other people think. In business that is a really good attribute. If you care about what other people think, then you can do things like better serve people, better understand what they need and design products accordingly. That’s what business is – caring about what other people think.

I’m trying to figure out what it means to teach while weird, and here’s some thoughts

  • Being your weird self helps other people feel comfortable being their normal weird self
  • Being weird does not necessarily mean that you can’t teach well. You have the same skills as other nonweird people.
  • Weird teacher are out of the box thinkers, and we need more out of the box thinkers.

What does it mean for my students who grew up not seeing things weird? The kid who dreamed as a kindergartner of someday having his own cubicle? Weird people will find that they have more skills for compassion than they think. It turns out lots of students have experiences differences than you. As a weird person, you already spend a lot of time trying to think like other people. How can you be yourself as a weird person and also imagine what’s important to these cubicle loving students? What do these nonweird people need? I think you can. Because we need weird people like you.


Spring Break Cognitive Bias Assignment

I’m really interested in how people make decisions, and I think it’s very applicable to information literacy. I wrote this article about it. It’s kinda my thing.

It’s spring break here at Purdue this week. The Purdue academic calendar is really mean to second half semester classes in spring. You start the eight weeks, then immediately go on Spring Break the next week. After the break, I have honestly had multiple students who actually forgot that they are taking my class and forget to show up. The assignment can’t be too much of a burden, since I have only instructed these students for a week and don’t know what they are capable of. This assignment acts as a bit of an introduction among students and also a way for students to apply the concept of bias.

For this lesson sequence, students read the Harvard Business Review Article “Before You Make that Big Decision”. This article is really great summary of lots of different cognitive biases that might happen. Student then select a decision they made as a group that may have been affected one of the biases. The group aspect is really important because I think that decisions are more interesting when you make them as a group. It also allows them to not have to take blame if the outcome was bad.

I like this assignment because I have found that students make all sort of decisions as a group. It usually gets pretty silly and I think the conversations students have are often very frank with each other. It usually builds community while bringing home the idea of thinking through your decisions.

The debrief after break is especially interesting. When students come back, we talk about the outcomes of the decision. Students are asked whether or not they think their decision was good or bad and why. The ‘why’ is interesting because student usually end up in two camps: people who think a decision is good because the outcome is good, and people who think that a decision was good because the process was good. This is actually a big schism in decision science between the two. Often students will ask which the best way is, and the answer is that you need both ways. The decisions-that-are-good-because-the-outcome-is-good people tend to be more scientific, in that they observe what happened and try again, and again and again. That’s how new knowledge gets discovered. On the other side, you would not like to have an accountant, for example, who was an outcome-best decision maker. For those decisions, you want someone who consider all outcomes, crosses every T. Imagine is your accountant would consider your taxes filed if no one sent you to jail for tax fraud. That would not end well for you.

This assignment also a great way to get students to think through their decisions without telling them their way of making decisions might be misguided. That’s not exactly the point. We all make decisions in different ways and in different contexts. Thinking about thinking is crucial.

Assignment Description: Spring Break

The reading “Before You Make that Big Decision” is all about checking biases and pitfalls when making business decisions. But it applies to every day decisions as well.

Pick a type of bias mentioned in the article (self-interested bias, affect heuristic, groupthink, cost fallacy, endowment effect, disaster effect, loss aversion, overconfidence, planning fallacy, optimistic bias, competitor neglect, etc).

Over the next week, look for a time in which you made a decision AS A PART OF A GROUP that may have been affected by this bias. Describe that that situation below, and how that bias affected that decision (minimum 150 words)


Before we start class…

There’s so much theatrics in teaching. Some classrooms have literal stages and podiums. There’s a definite feeling of what should be called the Fourth Wall There’s a moment when the teacher stops being whatever they are before they start each class and then they become The Professor. You can feel it like sharp intake of breath: you become the content at that moment. College classes are bound by space (RAWLS 1086, Purdue Campus), but mostly time. If it’s 8:30 on a Monday, you know that you are “in” MGMT 190 and are “listening” to The Professor.

The interesting part of “class” time is that it’s very fragile and very hierarchical. You are in MGMT 190 from 8:30 until 9:20 only if I, The Professor, say you are. I could cancel class. We could end early. Then the time becomes your own again. I remember in college I had a professor who used to joke that if he ended class early that you should take it out of our tuition checks. We decide their grade, we decide when they have met the objectives; they are to whom we deal the precious As and slap down with the dreaded Fs.

As such, the start of class is very interesting, since it’s ultimately up to you (The Professor) when the class starts and you become The Professor. Of course we know as educators this start is a fallacy. Learning doesn’t stop when The Professor says it has to stop. That’s in fact a great crises in high education: we tell the students “now you learn” and somehow that isn’t enough. Learning doesn’t happen on command. But it can be invited in.

It’s something like this:
Before we start class, I want you to think about the last time you had to use information to make a decision. Where did you look? When did you know that you had enough information to decide?”

Sometimes I do this because I know students are going to be late and the start of class actually is postponed. Sometimes it’s because I want students to answer less formally and think about their lives not as students but as people. It’s a little of a trick to create a space for teaching that has is a little disconnected with the formal space of the classroom.

This question situates the learner to act before the formal confines of the “class” where students “learn”. That’s very important, especially in so-called soft skills like information literacy, because often the spaces where students have to use that information are outside the narrow confines of when “official” learning happens in classroom. We care more, possibly the most, about informal learning as librarians. Like most things in a classroom, this is situational. Sometimes you don’t have the rapport with a group of students to create an informal learning space. After all, creating an informal learning space requires trust, sometimes trust that may have been broke already by someone else. But I think it’s important to think of opportunities to invite such learning.

Teaching on Purpose: What would you ask your students to learn if you were not afraid?

It’s January 1, which I think is a day in which a lot of people try to think more intentionally about things in their lives as they start the new calendar year, so I thought I’d use this day to talk a little bit about secret learning objectives. People like to write about learning objectives in teaching. They like to talk about learning objectives very hierarchically or very sequentially. When you have done this and this and this, then we know that you can do this other thing. All very logical and straightforward.

But there’s a secret wild irrational side to learning objectives. Like any form of goal setting, learning objectives are a form of wishing hopefully. These are the type of learning objectives that you sometimes don’t even want to speak out loud. Perhaps what you want sounds a little foolish. Because they sound too simple, or they make it sound like you or someone else you value isn’t doing their job to train the students prior to this point. Maybe you just don’t think it can be done.

At the stroke of midnight, sometimes you want to wish for something grander, something more special, but you don’t know if you want to let yourself down. We all know from psychology it’s much harder to change behavior than just to wish.  There’s a part of you that thinks that maybe, just maybe, what you want is kind of selfish. What you want is maybe for students to finally understand what you want for the students. Maybe you don’t write them down because you are after all a very reasonable person with completely reasonable reasons for wanting what you want. You don’t want people to think less of you.

Sometimes I wish that someone would hold a little more space for those irrational learning objectives, to hold back the floodgates of practicality just a little while longer. So I’ll be your librarian fairy godmother here, and give you this moment to think about what your secret learning objectives are, and in exchange you can be my librarian fairy godmother and I’ll tell you one of mine.

If I could teach students, and not be afraid, I would teach how to think and act with purpose. I would encourage them to live their lives with purpose, hope with purpose, and decide with purpose. If I had a secret objective it would be that the students would learn about purpose. Not just about the purpose of other people, but also that they would learn how purpose affects so many aspects of their lives.

College is a lot about pretending. We talk about practice sets, quizzes on knowledge, about the idea that there’s some sort later time in your life where you would apply all the things that you learn here. It’s more important to teach them that their decisions hold power, even when it feels like everything that around them wants them to believe that their decision are completed without that power. I think that there’s something even more important than the students knowing the difference between right and wrong, or always acting in the way that I instructed them to act. I want them to do things in their life with purpose.

I consider teaching a compromise activity, and I know to live on purpose is a lot to ask of my student. I know that this is one class and one semester, and people have to go through the rest of their lives. But that’s my selfish wish. I want students to think on purpose, research on purpose. In exchange I try to teach on purpose.

In 2018, let’s teeter on the edge a little more. Let’s imagine new worlds, see new possibilities, and give us all permission to dream with purpose. Happy New Year!

Recall, Reverse Logistics, and Ethics: an active learning assignment

I get very frustrated with assignment repositories. One reason why is that just putting an assignment up in a document repository really doesn’t tell you the whole story. Why did the instructor choose to do this assignment? Why do they think it works well? What types of students does that university have and are they similar to my students? It’s also very frustrating to me because as far as I can tell, the assignment repositories do not have good SEO and they don’t show up in Google searches. From time to time, I’d like to talk about an assignment that I use and why I use it.

I first thought of this assignment when I was in graduate school and the University of Michigan. While there, I worked at the business library at the reference desk and I had many opportunities to look up many different types of reference questions. One of the questions that I looked up was about recalls. There was a student who wanted to know what made recalls successful. After searching around, I found that recalls in the databases were more likely to be referred to as “reverse logistics”, both because that was a much more encompassing terms (it included things like recycling programs) but also because it was much more polite and didn’t bring to mind scandals.

I like to teach on purpose and one way that I exert effort in this direction is to try to make students understand how their decisions might affect other people. One way to make students think about how their decisions hold value is to confront them with ethical scenarios, and in these scenarios give them the opportunity to act ethically and in the best interest of the community. In this Group Challenge, the students are a crib manufacturer and their cribs have been found to be unsafe. Their goal is try to get the cribs off the market as quickly as possible. Their company was in the wrong, but now they have decided to do what’s right. It is in their business’ best interest to now be good logistics business people.

In the interest of acting most ethically, the student must consider how to get the information out. In this case they have the chance to help as many people as possible which will allow them to think differently about the role they might have. I don’t think that problems in business are always public versus business, but they are actually more nuance. You can find ways to do what’s best for the business while also doing what’s best for the community. Or maybe you don’t. But whatever you do, you want to make sure that you base your decisions on the information that you found, and back that up with solid reasoning and thinking.

In librarianship there is also great discussion about scholarly versus public sources. In my area of librarianship (business), there is a greater amount of discussion about scholarly versus trade sources. The good thing about recalls is that they are public events so there are often many  examples of what happened.  What companies are doing can be found in trade articles, which could be (depending on who you ask) newspapers like the Wall Street Journal, but also things like Fortune magazine or Grocery Review. If you were looking for trade articles on a recall you would search “recall”. You search “recall” because you were looking for specific company examples of when recalls were done.  If you are looking for scholarly journal, you will most likely want to use the term “reverse logistics” because recalls are but one part of an overall structure of approaching the details of getting things that were on the market off the market. Scholarly articles in management are very much about models and processes.

Group Challenge : Operations

DUE: End of class today, to Blackboard. This is a group project that will be graded for overall accuracy, following directions and completion. Put the name of your group members present in the comment box when you submit to Blackboard. Problems submitting to Blackboard? Email it to your instructor.

This is a group assignment that will be graded on its merits. Points will be award for accuracy, ability to follow directions, for the quality of the recommendation using the information, for grammar and spelling, and for clarity.

You work for a successful furniture manufacturer located in the Midwest. You have recently found out that 14,000 of the baby cribs you manufacture were deemed unsafe by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. There is a risk of an entrapment hazard, meaning babies can fall becoming entrapped in the crib bars, or suffer cuts. You need to issue a voluntary recall so that you can give your customers a free (safer) replacement mattress support with newer brackets. In order to avoid large publicity issues, you need to recall these baby cribs in a short amount of time.

You are on the team to research potential solutions for implementing the recall in the short amount of time. Your team has decided to research two forms of evidence to help decide how to recall the cribs in the fastest manner. First you are going to research two companies (IKEA and Bexco) who have done recent recalls. Second, you will located scholarly approaches to reverse logistics, recall management or product recalls for best practices. For this case, you are most interested in doing the recall most efficiently and effectively.

Suggested way of breaking the project up:

8:30-9: One group member works on finding the scholarly journal article. Three student work on locating the three recent events and writing up the paragraph summary. As the Question 1 students finish they check each other’s work. You may also want to put an additional person on finding/reading the scholarly article.
9:05-9:10: Bring all information together and discuss what you think the company should do.
9:10-9:20: Write up two paragraph response. Submit.

Questions to answer as a team:

1) Use either ABInform Collection or Business Source Premier Complete to locate three recent articles (since 2008) describing recall events involving IKEA, Bexco. Summarize them briefly (1-2 sentences each) and then describe how all of them would affect your recall (1 paragraph).

2) Use either ABInform Collection or Business Source Premier Complete to locate one scholarly (peer reviewed) article which might be a good model for you to consider when implementing the recall.

It does not need to be about baby cribs or furniture but does need to be written in the last 12 years. This article could answer any (but does not need to answer all) of the following questions:

  •  How do companies maximize the efficiency of their supply chains when implementing reverse logistics? (more questions on back)
  • What are the most effective reverse logistics systems?
  • How do you write the most effective product recall message to get people to participate?
  • How does someone plan and implement a successful product recall?
  • What are factors affecting implementation of reverse logistics?
  • What frameworks do scholars use when they study reverse logistics?

Summarize your article briefly and how they might help you in your decision (1 paragraph)

3) Based on your answers above, what do you think your company should do? Were any of the two companies using a model you would follow? Did your scholarly article point to any specific things your group should consider when implementing the recall? Support your decision with information from your articles and summaries (2 paragraphs)

4) In all, you will have located four articles. Please give the citations for the articles.