Important Things to Learn & Handwritten Notes

What is the most important thing you want students to take away from this course ?

The most important thing for students to take away from this course is that they are the ones who are responsible for their learning. They need to follow what is interesting to them and they need to challenge those who would stand in their way. I also want you to be able to monitor and gauge the effectiveness of your behavior. We will do that in a systematic way.

As I have said from day one, this class is about your behavior. If you are aware of your behaviors and you can direct your will to control your behaviors, there will be a good chance for you to accomplish your goals.

Syllabus questions : 1. Will you be grading our notes?

I typically don’t grade notes, but I will want to see them because I want to know how you are organizing your thoughts.

  1. Will we be working in groups often?

If you haven’t noticed the other people in the classroom already, let me be the first to let you know that there are other people besides you and me in there. Okay, I an being sarcastic and I will stop, but I want you to recognize that you are already in groups. I want you to formally work with those people and I will help facilitate that process. You affect the others in the room and they affect you already. We are going to “ride the lightning” on that.

  1. Do you prefer printed or handwritten work ?

That is going to depend. Research shows that it is better to take handwritten notes than it is to make them on a computer, but with tablets and electronic drawing/writing pads, that’s a tougher call. I would say for assignment, think about getting those done on an electronic device unless otherwise instructed.


Why take “Introduction to the College Experience?”

Online Learning

My question is why everything have to be done online?

The short answer is “behavior.” You don’t NEED to do things online, but if you don’t have that behavior and it is an expectation in the rest of your academic career, then I would have failed by not giving you the opportunity to practice while you are in this class.

Content, as we talked about on the first day, is delivered online. We will be practicing using Connect, LearnSmart and SmartBook in addition to BlackBoard. Many of the classes you will take will have these components and you will be expected to have a level of comfort using them. Your other classes will be diving into the content. We will actually make sure that you know how to use the tools.

And why cannot we bring back traditional way of learning back in school?

I am not sure there is a reason why we couldn’t bring back the “traditional” way of learning back in school. But I am not sure whose tradition we would be talking about. What might seem traditional way of learning to you my be vanguard to me.

I think we shouldn’t abandon tradition for the sake of thing that are new. But I think the measure we should use is that of effectiveness. Teaching/learning in school should be about about becoming more effective in how we learn and teach.

We could make the same demands of other professions. We could go back to a more traditional form or medicine and amputate limbs or apply leaches to let the bad blood out. But our understanding of the human body and the human mind was changed and developed over time so we probably won’t do that.

How is this class important to me?

You will need to decide that for yourself. The good thing about this class is that I will give you the chance to decide for yourself about what you think you need to get from this class, so you grow your ability to direct your own learning.

In terms of your comments about whether or not you need this class. I can honestly say that I don’t know what you need. I don’t know you that well and I am teaching skills you might already have and you could teach me something about them. But the college has decided that this is a good course and one that students need to take in order to prepare them for greater success as they pass through the college. Most student tell me that they learned more in my class that they thought. You have decided to attend PBSC and you are in my class. You are going to have to trust that we know what we are doing. Ask questions along the way and I am sure there will be things you can learn, people you will meet and skills you will acquire or refine. I know that I learn new things about this course every semester.

My motivations, Connect, LearnSmart and SmartBook


What motivates you to continue to teach this type of class?

That is an excellent question. Sometimes it is difficult for me to stay motivated when teaching this kind of class. But this class presents a lot of challenges in the form of problems that need to be solved. I like solving problems and that is what motivates me.

How do you come up with the material to grade?

Another great question.  I am fortunate that I have been doing this job for awhile and I have a number of activities and lessons that have worked with students in the past. I also have access to technology like Connect, LearnSmart and SmartBook. Those free me up to do more teaching in class and less of the review for the reading that students should have done.

What if someone in the group don’t turn my assignments in?

Well, first of all, you should be responsible to turn in your work and using BlackBoard and Connect, combined with the fact that you know when things are due, that you should be able to hand your work in on time.  If there is ever a reason when you need to rely on a fellow student, choose wisely

Re: Asking Questions, Attendance and Exemptions


1) Do we always have  to comment and questions even if we don’t have any?

I require students come to my Introduction to the College Experience class with questions.

Questions: Ever been around a 3 yr-old? They are question asking machines. You were 3 once. You could be that machine again and you would learn like you did when you were 3. Think about how many things you were taking in because your mind was set to question. I would say that if you cannot come up with any questions, you are on your way to dying. Questions are the things that keep us alive and make us strive. They send us to the moon. They solve crimes. They make art. They create cures for disease. No, questions are the most important thing you can have. They will keep you alive, never doubt it.

2) What will happen if we miss more than 3 classes because of being sick? What can we do if something came up at the last minutes and we cannot make it to class?

My class requires a 90% attendance rate in order to pass. We meet about 27 times so they can miss like 3 times. Students have some bad habits about class attendance they’ve acquired in high school, which this question seems to suppose.

Absence – You fail, automatically. Period. If you are too sick to show up for classes you need to ask yourself how you expect to pass classes.  If you have a major illness, by all means take care of yourself and we can see you next semester. What do you think would happen to the class environment if some people just decided not to show up.  Would that work in a workplace? What happens to people who don’t show up in the workplace?

If something comes up at the last minute, you need to do what adults do and decide what you are going to do about it.  Don’t expect the other adults to accommodate you. If you need to miss, you miss.  If you miss too many, you fail. That is the consequence. Adults get that. Kids expect to have an adult with authority fix the situation for them.

3) Can we be exempt from finals if we have a good grade?

Final Exemption:  No. My final is a actually a self-evaluation where you look at your own work and behavior and evaluate what you did well. Why would you skip that? If my class was a big Easter Egg Hunt for the right answers and you had a full basket of eggs, perhaps that would make sense. But it isn’t and so, no exemption.

New Qestions About Learning from New Students

too much tech

Question: Aren’t most college classes geared towards correct answers just like middle/high school?

Answer: No. The difference between college and K12 is like the difference between the K12 school cafeteria and working in a restaurant. In in the cafeteria, you show up with your tray and expect to have mediocre food plopped upon it. You’ll complain, but wind up eating it anyway. In college, the chef calls you into the kitchen and says, “You are working at this station and you will need these tools and skills to prepare this food, and it better be GOOD.”  The higher you go in education, the more is this is true.

In my experience, schools focus on getting the correct answers to limited questions. They rarely ask students to come up with questions. Often the reason that school is considered “boring” by many students is that no really important questions are asked and none of the answers seem to connect to things that people care about.

If you think about it, most of the really important things we learn in life are done outside of a classroom. Correct answers come with experience, failure and demonstrations. Whether we are falling in love, making a cheese cake or learning to drive a car, we know we are getting it right because we had to do something to get there. We had to perform and not just with little tiny facts on multiple choice tests. And yet schools and education has been reduced down to passing one or two tests.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in correct answers sometimes, but I am careful about the things which cause me to feel that I am “right.” If I am right about something, I lose my curiosity about it. I stop looking for answers. If I am curious and skeptical and I have just a little bit of humility, I am able to know, and I mean really know, just a little more everyday. Curiosity welcomes good answers because they always bring 3 more good questions with them to the party.

Mentor Interview: Regional Biologist

My name is Santiago Z, I am an Environmental Science technology student, and far more than being an environment student I consider myself an environmental activist because of the help I put into my everyday habits of life, so that my footprint isn’t so much that effective to harm our world’s environment.

My mentor is Mr. Ricardo Zambrano, he is a Regional Biologist for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, he is a wonderful professional who is
perfect for being my mentor because of his experience in the field of the environment and specifically his work with endangered species. Some of Ricardo’s experience is to have worked at the Yellowstone National Park from 1990-1991which I find outstanding, he radio-tracked coyotes and studied their behavior. He also worked as a sea turtle biologist in Mexico’s Yucatan
Peninsula from 1991 to 1994, there he researched and conserved endangered sea turtles.
Currently working with non hunted endangered species he focuses primarily on wildlife ranging from butterflies, birds, mammals, and herpetofauna, he researches, monitors and conserves wildlife. He has Bachelors in biology education from the University of California and a Masters degree in Ecology, Behavior and Evolution from Florida Atlantic University. His internship was studying the behavior of California Sea Lions and as a County Park Ranger. He did many volunteering jobs before he started to earn money in the field, one was as a wildlife rehabilitator in Sea World in Orlando, Florida. Another volunteer job was researching chimpanzees in Africa also using the GIS (Geographic Information System) tool. Below is our conversation about this exciting profession:
What are the biggest challenges that you overcame in this position?
Some of the biggest challenges are definitely first of all the pay range in this field, its not easy to start in this field, and of course having to deal with people that don’t care at all about the environment and its wildlife some of them include politicians and owners of huge companies.Another challenge is trying to convince people of what is right to save wildlife.

What skills do you use every day and how did you acquire them?
Some of the skills that you need for this career is to have good writing skills, good
communication skills, public speaking, knowledge of the habitats and the wildlife species, knowledge of the GIS tool, statistic software, genetics, botany and also recommended to know how to drive 4 wheelers, 4×4 trucks and boats.
What makes for a perfect day in your field/job/profession?
A perfect day in my profession is a day out doing field work, going out to different reserves to research, collect data and help species survive in their habitats.
What keeps you doing this job every day?
Definitely my awareness for the environment and my fight to keep helping to save the endangered species in Florida.
How do you maintain your professional skills or certifications? What professional association do you belong to and how do you interact with them?
This profession, for the most part, does not require certification although the Wildlife Society does have a Certified Biologist program. However, few institutions or employers require that. But in this career it is important to maintain your professional skills by keeping up with current research, techniques, software and hardware. Subscribing to scientific journals or reading the latest scientific literature on the subjects relevant to my work is one way. I will go through some
of the articles to see if there are any new research methods or techniques or equipment useful for that work.

For example, radio-tracking animals has changed quite a bit over the years. It used to be that all radio-tracking was done with VHF transmitter signals (similar to walkie-talkies). Now transmitters use satellite receivers or GPS receivers or even cell phone towers to track wildlife.

I belong to the Waterbird Society, The Wildlife Society, Audubon, and the Sierra Club but there are many more. I attend their conferences or meetings regularly and I am on the Board of Directors for a couple.
How has your opinion of this field changes since you started or since you were a student?
My opinion has not really changed. It is still an exciting field but as I mentioned quite challenging. It has gotten more difficult in one sense since there is always more development/construction but it has also gotten better since more and more people are becoming concerned with the environment.
What led you to pick this field?
I liked working outdoors and working with animals. As a kid my family took us camping a lot and that helped me appreciate nature and wildlife. Growing up in southern California I was able to regularly go to the mountains, beaches, deserts, and forests.

The Worst Thing to Ask Your College Professor


Not I know what you are thinking. There are all kinds of horrible questions you could ask your college professor like eating habits, film choices and mating rituals, but frankly, many of your professors can talk to a post about grape jam (and I am including myself on this one) and we’d have no problem talking to you about any sticky questions in those areas.  But there is one universally hated questions that unites us, science or humanities, democrat or republican, Jew or Greek. This one does not matter.  We all hate it.

This one was texted to me recently by a student and I have to confess that I went a little crazy. This student said this, “Hi i missed class yesterday. is there anything important that i missed? if there is could you send me the work i need to do?” Yeah, I thought I would lose my mind. Not that there is anything wrong with the text.  I gave them all my cell number, but it is the text itself. So let’s take a look at it.

“Hi” Seems friendly, but it isn’t followed by the student’s name or what class he/she might have missed so I have no idea who this student is, what class information is needed or anything that would help me. “i missed class” as I am certain the attendance record I am required to keep will show. Now the killer “is there anything important that I missed?” Before I start frothing at the mouth and talking about whatever I do being important, in a self-important kind of way, let’s look logically at responses.

If I say “NO” at seems to me that a student would need to ask him/herself why he/she is taking the class to begin with.  Really?! I spent 90 minutes and absolutely nothing of valued occurred? Time to take a trip to the dean’s office.  His/her contact information is probably in the syllabus.

If I say “YES” the student has tagged a request for information, like I was a study partner or a BFF or a team mate. I am a professor for the class. I was in class and I presented on the topic already. That is what class was for.  I make assignments available electronically. Start there.  Next step, ask another student.  If you are smart enough to make friends in your classes, that person can probably help you. I am not going to reteach a lesson that took me 90 minutes over a text exchange while you do your finger nails.  If I could, gotta wonder what is being done in class and it’s time to see the dean again.

If you find yourself tempted to ask this question of your professor, bite down on your lip and STOP. Tell the professor in a text or email who you are and when you have class.  GIVE YOUR NAME and how and when to reach you. Include your contact information. Gather as much information from the syllabus or online site to find out if there are things you need and ask questions based on the fact that you at least looked or tried to contact someone in the class.

Don’t make this rookie mistake.  It hurts your image as a student and drives your professors out they minds.