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


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!

First Year Student Questions: Learn without Cheating, Taking Notes, and Types of Thinking

Senecio-1922 Klee

  1. Exactly how are we going to learn how to get correct answers without cheating?

You are going to learn by thinking critically.  I am going to show you the process of how to be curious and skeptical.  I am going to show you how to verify answers you get from sources so that you will know when they are right, or you will at least of good reason to believe that they are right. That’s the thing about cheating; how do you know the answers you have are correct? They might be correct or they might not, but the cheater cannot tell. He/she is only going on faith that this information is correct.

Imagine that you broke into a home in the dark.  You might know that there are some valuables in the house, but unless you know for sure what they are and where they are, you run the risk of getting caught or stealing some worthless object or both. If you knew what you were looking for, you would have a greater chance of success. Heck, you might be smart enough to get your own valuables so you don’t have to steal from someone else.

Questions for the syllabus.

  1. What is the difference between Divergent thinking and Convergent thinking?

Divergent thinking is being able to think in different ways or to think of lots of possible solutions to a problem. Convergent thinking is bringing many ideas together to create, from the best options, a good solution to a problem.  Really great places to learn or work seem to have a nice balance of both things. My opinion.

  1. Do we have to take notes the same way that is shown in the syllabus video, or can we take notes however we like?

You can always use notes in any way you like, but if you only have one way to take notes, there will be some times when that one way is what is called for and another time that it is exactly the wrong thing.  Think of note-taking as a tool. The more kinds you have, the more likely you will be able to complete different jobs. If all you have is a hammer, everything is a nail.

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.

5 Bad Habits High School Students Learn that Won’t Help Them in College

“Human beings get better at what they practice.”

I tell my students that at the beginning of my course “Introduction to the College Experience.” They are all taking my class because the school I work for recognizes that many students are coming to college without the skills and behaviors they need to be successful. It’s largely because of what they have been practicing and most of them are coming from the K12 system as their last educational experiences.
Also, having taught high school and junior high school and adult education before becoming a college professor, I know the skills that those institutions value. Even if you have never taught high school, most of us remember what it was like being 17 or 18 years old and still asking permission to use the toilet. Practicing that and other behaviors long enough and it does something to you. So what lies does one learn in high school that will need to be unlearned?
LIE NUMBER ONE: Compliance is a prized character trait.
High schools tend to prize students who are compliant with the rules that create order and efficiency in that system.  Think about it for a second. Can you close your eyes right now and picture the “good students” that you went to school with? Weren’t they the people who either followed all the rules or at least charmed the teachers and administrators into thinking they followed the rules?
Fact is that many high school students think that the rules of school are laid out for their benefit and if they follow them all, we will do well. What actually happens is they lose their “intellectual virginity” when they give up on what they think is important and comply with what is expected of them.
Think of it like this: Do you remember when you started taking multiple choice tests? I recall doing it in about 3rd grade. At some point, we all read a question that had an ABCD answer we were supposed to select, but in our hearts, we felt that none of the answers were correct, but the thought enters our heads, “What do THEY want me to say?” We pick C or whatever because we believe it is the one that will get us points on the test. We comply and learn to value what someone else wants over what we care about. For lots of us, we have to unlearn that throughout our lives.
LIE NUMBER TWO:  Someone else will plan your schedule.
One of the skills I work on in my classes is to teach students how to manage their academic time. This is done in a variety of ways, from planning what classes to take (so they know how long it will actually take to graduate) to planning time to study for tests or get their reading done.
Part of the reason I have a job is because many of these students have not have not learned these skills. It’s not that they’ve never heard of them before, but they’ve never had to practice them before. They have gone to school and picked up their schedules that their guidance counselors have made for them so that their lives from 7:30AM – 2:30PM, five days a week, was planned out for them for 4 years. My students knew that if they followed the rules (See Lie Number One) then they will graduate on time.
When they get to college, there is no guidance counselor who tells you what to do to get into the programs they want. They begin to realize, in my classes at least, that there is no ONE way to get to graduation or that successful career they are looking for. There is a dizzying array of classes and majors and internships and programs and scholarship deadlines. Often they want me or an advisor to tell them what to do. While I am happy to help them plan, and many of them sit in my office to do that, when they express how difficult this planning is, I tell them: “Welcome to the rest of your life.”
LIE NUMBER THREE: Teachers will always care about your success more than you do.
As a former high school teacher and as a younger person, I got into the whole teaching gig because I wanted to help people learn. High school teachers often equate “learning” with “doing well in my classes.” That being the case, high school teachers often will make a way for students to “be successful in classes” that has little to do with learning in their classes.
When a student has done nothing all semester and comes to a teacher during the last week before grades are due and cries “How can I pass this class? My parents are going to kill me if I fail?” Or some version of this (“I’m going to get kicked off the football team” OR “My car insurance rates will go up.” High school teachers often fall for this line of reasoning. They care too much to let the student fail on his/her own. They create extra credit assignments or alternative ways for students to pass without having them put in the time that the other students who did the work and showed up in the class have been doing.
In college, this is not a helpful behavior. Professors are not invested in whether or not you pass the class or even attend the class.  While many professors need to keep a record of who attended classes for financial aid, they have little investment in whether students turn in assignments or pass classes.  High school students who have been practicing behaviors where their teachers want them to pass more than they do are in for a hard lesson.
LIE NUMBER FOUR: Grade grubbing is more important than learning.
Grade grubbing, the practice of scrounging for points to pass the class. is a time-honored tradition in education. While I cannot say that it doesn’t go on in higher education, it does seem to be a learned behavior that starts in junior high and high school. Let me be a little philosophical for a moment on this.
American education is steeped in the behaviorist tradition ( Students learn early that if they listen to the teacher, follow instructions and complete activities without disruption, they will be rewarded. Conversely, if they do not, they will be punished (this is the internal logic embedded in LIE NUMBER ONE). Behaviorist believe in a system of “target behaviors” (i.e. “learning the stuff”) and set about coercing students into those behaviors by a system of “reinforcements” (i.e. good work=rewards from the teacher, bad work/no work=punishment from the teacher).
In his book, Punished by Rewards (, Alfie Kohn, debunks the relationship between target behaviors and reinforcements. It seems that, according to Kohn’s research, the more a student concentrates on this reinforcements/target behaviors system, the more the student shifts his/her focus from the target behavior (learning) to the reinforcement (reward or punishment). So it is easy to see K12 education as a highly refined system where learning is less prized than grades, and high school students refine the techniques they use to get the prizes for the least amount of effort, while ignoring the actual reason they are there.
In college, many classes and programs (especially the really good ones) pose interesting questions and come to understanding materials or acquire skills related to that discipline through tests, but often projects, group work, rubrics and other external evaluations. Work is often taken outside of the confines of the classroom and feedback comes from places beyond the control of the instructor. High school students who practiced in the number of points they can collect from an instructor will not be prepared for the different facets (benefits and pitfalls) inherent in this type of learning, which again is a large part of the really interesting academic and professional activities they could be involved in.
LIE NUMBER FIVE: Doing well on standardized tests is something you will need later in life.
While standard testing seems to be a staple in the experience of K12 educators, most college do not really on standardized testing in their programs. True, that colleges use placement tests (like the ACT, SAT, Accuplacer, COMPASS or PERT) as part of their admission processes, most college recognize most placement test don’t predict how well a student will do beyond one or two semesters.
Many professors either write their own tests or draw test questions from a test bank that comes from their textbook publishers.  They are not standardized for all students in all classes in the state or in that discipline or even in the same class that is taught be different instructors on the same campus at the same school. Professors have academic freedom to teach their courses as they see fit.
Even if they use multiple choice (or other objective) test, they will not be telling you whether or not you know what you need to know about that subject or discipline.  Students will have to make that determination.  Students need to know, as they near their professional aspirations, whether or not what they are learning is in line with what they need to know for their professions.
It is a good habit to know what is the expectation for your profession or discipline rather than relying totally on your professors and simply the tests they use. Let’s face it, we have all had bad teachers. Standardized or objective tests don’t tell you who you are, don’t measure intangibles (like perseverance, engagement or just plain hard work). High school habits where one believes one knows something or can do something simply because he/she passed the knowledge test about it is about defies what most of us actually know. If that were the case, no one would smoke, no one would get HIV/AIDS and no one would be pregnant who didn’t want to be. Simply put, the practice of a thing is different than knowing about a thing,
Be careful what habits you practice.
by Mark Hendrix – a professor at Palm Beach State College ( in Palm Beach County, Florida, who teaches “Introduction to the College Experience,” “Career Development” and “Introduction to Leadership.” He also serves as an editor for Bedford/St. Martins and as a faculty consultant for McGrawHill. He has taught high school, adult education, college and university classes in Minnesota, Kansas and Florida.