More Opening Week Questions


What will students find motivating about this course?

I am never sure how to answer a question like this. Since I think all motivation is internal, I don’t know what experiences will cause students to resonate. Frankly, some students won’t be motivated by the course. These are typically the kinds of students who want to know if what I am saying will be on a test, ask how many points something is worth etc.

On the other hand, I do a lot of discussion. I do a lot of activities. You will be working in groups; the way I do it, people have told me that they like it. They like the skills I am teaching. So my honest answer is that I am not sure what you might find motivating. Remember that you bring that to the table too.

What is unique about the course?

The reference number. The make-up of the students. I am not sure what you are asking here. You want to know if I teach it differently than other instructors, probably. I am not sure what others do. I can tell you that I don’t rely on lots of quizzes or tests. I do rely on assignments and the effort you put into them. I rely on you bringing your authentic self into the classroom to engage with what we are doing, whatever that is. I’ll try and make it worth your while.


Will there be a curve?

I will throw a few curves, yes. If you are talking to me about grading on a curve then, no. I know of NO ONE who grades on an actual curve. That would be 3% A, 24%-B, 39%-C. 24%-D and 3% F, with grades starting with the highest score. That seems like a silly and meaningless competition among classmates who need to collaborate more than compete.

Will there be extra credit?

Why should there be extra-credit? Why not do the things I asked in the first place?

Are groups assigned for projects and presentations?

Groups are assigned. Selected by you and your fellow students.

Do we have to use Sketchnotes?

Yes. You will all be trying Sketchnotes.


Student Q/A About Online Learning


Do you feel it is possible for those of us taking our courses online to receive the same benefits from this class as those in a traditional setting? Do you have any specific suggestions for those of us who are taking the classes online to optimize our learning experience?

Those are two really great questions.  I struggle all of the time with how I make the online experience as rich as I feel the face-to-face classes are.  That is one of the reasons I have more longish assignment, but those take longer to grade.  It’s easier for and instructor to do low- value, low-quality assignments (like multiple choice stuff) because it is easier to do.

In terms of suggestions, I would take every opportunity to interact with others.  Talk with the professors. You can join me during online office hours. Those types of things will make the course feel less impersonal or mechanized.

– On the PowerPoint presentation, it shows attendance/daily quizzes/assignments as accounting for 40% of our grade. Can you advise how this works for those of us taking our classes online.

These are the smaller, shorter assignments. Attendance is how I can see if you have logged in and really if you are working on pace.  Many students think they can blow all of this off until the last minute.

– (Another online specific question; sorry) It’s ok Will we have the opportunity to work with partners or smaller groups in this class (communicating via email, etc.) or will this class all be individually based?

I am working to put together activities which will have you working with each other in meaningful ways.  You will have to let me know if you thought they were effective after.

– In the video you stated that we would need to develop a career plan. For those of us that have already chosen their career field and are returning to school, how will this work.

This will help you do research, specifically career research if you find yourself looking for a new job within a career or you are looking to change careers. There are lots of things packed into the project that even some of my more seasoned students have found valuable.

Why are we taught the way we are in high school if it is not the best way to teach us?

Why do you think that high school doesn’t do the best job? What is the purpose of high school? People lived on this planet for thousands of years and have rich and fulfilling lives and never went to high school. Somebody thought up the idea of high school. Who do you think that was and what was it’s purpose? Is it possible that the real goal is different than the stated goal?

When my son was about 3, he ran around all the time, especially right before bed. He would run and run so that he wouldn’t fall asleep. I would tell him, “Come her and sit next to me.”

“No,” he would protest. “I don’t want to go to sleep.”

“You don’t have to, just lay here for five minutes. Then you can keep running around.”

He would stop and lay next to me on the couch because I wasn’t telling him to go to sleep. Once he stopped moving, I knew that sleep would catch him and I could carry him off to bed.  Is it possible that high school is doing something similar to that?

My only question for the introduction video is why I have to even take this class in the first place. I really don’t have any questions about the syllabus. I don’t know how you can even form any about it.

I am sorry that you feel that you are forced to take this class.  I am trying to get you to harness the power your brain has by switching it on. Questions do that.

You seem to be saying that you simply are not curious about anything in this class. If you have no questions as you pass through this or any other class, you will see earning your degree as a series of obstacles to be avoided, not opportunities to grow and learn.

The short answer, frankly, is that you don’t need to take this class. You don’t need to be in college. You signed yourself up for this course and you are the one that can sign yourself out if that is what you think needs to happen. YOU ARE GROWN. No one in “making you” live your life. Decide what you want to do.

On a final note, I feel bad that that wonderful and creative person you are and the passion with which I am sure you entered this world with got kicked out of you during an educational process that turns learning to a chore.  Let me know what I can do to assist you

Great questions, thanks!

Stay Unpluggable

too much tech

“They say I’m crazy, but it takes all my time.”  — Joe Walsh

For the whole song =====>

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I use and generally like using technology. I think that students can get access to content for research and study.  Heck, I email and upload and blog and text and play games and network with the best of ’em. But lately I have been seeing students and faculty members completely disconnected from the place they are in because they are in the middle of a message or Words with Friends or whatever.

There is a state of being though that results in being completely unplugged.  This state once was a bit easier to reach.  One could sit with a book or a journal or a sketch pad in order to create, think, plan or meditate.  While I know that these things are all still possible and people even claim they can do this with their tech, but I have to say that the mere digital clutter with which we typically surround ourselves creates enough interior noise that it is nearly impossible to shut off. That noise seems to keep a low-boil of stress because it reminds us of what we need to do or who needs dealing with who isn’t near us right now and we end up ignoring the real people and experiences (learning and otherwise) that are in front of us.

off switch

I am going to encourage all of you reading this blog to exercise the off-switch on your technology from time to time. There are lots of ways to do it.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Short time-frame:

  1. Switch your phone off. Push away from your desk.  Take the headphones off and go for a walk in in a park or in the woods. Resist the urge to turn it back on.
  2. Go to the bathroom WITHOUT your phone. I know that sounds weird, but some of you know that it has been a while since you have been alone with your thoughts in the privy.
  3. Make dinner for a friend without having the phone or computer or TV on. Have everyone agree to “switch off” during dinner. Sit through a meal with that person (or group) and talk or sit in silence.
  4. Sit in a room with the lights off. Make sure you are not hungry or sleepy and just sit for 15 or 30 minutes with nothing but your thoughts.
  5. Attend a religious service. like vespers, that uses no technology for worship.

Longer time-frame:

  1. Take a hiking or canoe trip. Go with the intention of leaving your technology off. Cook your own food and plan your days according to a paper map and the weather conditions around you.  (If you have never done this before, maybe you should try it with a professional or a group with a guide).
  2. Spend a few days in a hermitage. Hermits usually don’t have a good reputation in our culture, but throughout time, different cultures and religions have created physical spaces without a lot of stimulation to increase the ability to contemplate. They do exist in these modern times and can be the thing to help you readjust to the pressures of your life simply by taking away stimulation, noise and the calls for your attention.

Stress (Part I) Stress Is Like the Rain

photo credit: Mark Hendrix (Franconia Sculpture Park, Fanconia, MN)

photo credit: Mark Hendrix (Franconia Sculpture Park, Franconia, MN)

You will hear people tell you how stressed they are as the semester begins to roll. Students on campuses all over the country will start looking at their schedules and their syllabi and it will cause them stress. In fact, during certain parts of the school year, you will see what I like to call the “stress tornado” as papers and projects and midterms and finals come due. It is always tempting to be sucked into this tornado, but let’s stop and see the role that stress actually plays.

What is stress? Stress, first of all, is a response to something that is happening. Many animals experience stress when confronting or fleeing from danger. Human beings have had stress about as long as we have been walking upright. When we were confronted with situations that threatened, us or our families; we have decided to fight or run from the danger. We have also used our larger brains to plan for situations, like building better houses or weapons to protect ourselves from danger.

Stress causes us to take action. A reasonable amount of stress is what gets us out of bed in the morning. People who push themselves to become better basketball players or who want to begin new relationships all have to face stress. They know that they will need to face something difficult, but they believe that the result will be worth it. They believe that their efforts will make a difference and they will be better for facing the danger. What causes this? Stress.

Prolonged exposure to stress causes problems. Our physical bodies are affected by stress. Your heart beats faster, your muscles get access to more blood and you become more aware of your surroundings. In short, it alters your state of consciousness, but it has developed as a limited response to a short-term dangerous situation to get you out of the situation. The stress response you feel was not meant to go on and on. So when you are burdened with perceived or real danger constantly and you cannot get away from it, it starts to take a toll on the body and the mind. It has been linked to heart problems, high blood pressure, susceptibility to infection, skin problems, pain, diabetes and even infertility. (Carlson N. R. (2004). Physiology of behavior, 8th ed. New York: Allyn & Bacon.)

So how is stress like rain?

  • It’s going to come to all of us; it’s part of life.
  • It is one of the elements that makes things grow.
  • Some people try to avoid it at all costs.
  • Some people use an umbrella or a raincoat and keep moving.
  • People adjust their plans to work around the around it.
  • Too much of it is a bad thing for anyone.
  • Preparation is the key to handling it well.

So how does one prepare and use stress to their advantage? Keep your eyes open for

Stress (Part II) Managing the Rain