Christine Smallwood has a thoughtful review in the June 9 & 16 2014 New Yorker “Ghosts in the Stacks” of Phyllis Rose’s The Shelf: From LEQ to LES.
Smallwood raises some issues about reading books which is of considerable interest to me:
how we choose books today has been dramatically changed by technology (our preferences and reading habits are monitored and curated
what scholars read and how they read has changed (a distinction is made between close reading and surface reading)
I was appropriately admonished by her last paragraph:
And what about the books right in front of you that were published, even purchased, but, for all you know, might as well not have existed? My own bookshelves are filled with books I haven’t read, and books I read so long ago that they look at me like strangers. Can you have FOMO about your own life?…The alphabet is great, but there is nothing quite as arbitrary as one’s own past choices. Reading more books begins at home.”
Timeout on buying new books to read until I review what is filling my home office bookshelves. This is also a wonderful opportunity to use my LibrarianPro app.
Hmm—32 books in shelf # 1 beginning with father-in-law’s 1927 copy of the Best Known Works of Edgar Allan Poe and ending with Philip Tetlock’s Expert Political Judgment. How delightful!
Summer is a time for reading, reflecting, re-energizing, refocusing, and rejoicing about the beauty of living.
Now is a good time to gather together some last thoughts about and for you while i am proctoring my last final exam of the 2017 – 2018 academic year. This year for the first time since I came here Commencement will be Saturday morning rather than on Mothers’ Day afternoon. Because of my age seniority length of time at Carroll and my rank of Full Professor, I march at the front of the line at Commencement. That gives me an ideal seating position for seeing and hearing speakers, but forces me to be on my best behavior — awake, disconnected from my Ipad, and resisting wearing my Brewers’ or Carroll College hats. I even got a hair cut!
For those of you I have met, I have done my best to teach you well but alas I am only human. Each student I teach is different, special, and always teaches me. You have enriched my life, and I welcome the opportunity as you become alumni to continue and perhaps to even expand upon our relationships. That happens a lot!
Thanks for the many lessons you have taught me.
Many people (family, staff, faculty, administrators, and trustees) have worked very hard, in addition to you, to try to provide you with the best education that Carroll can provide both within and outside of the classroom. I often think that we ought to set aside a time for recognizing those unsung “guardian angels” who have done their best to make Carroll a caring community and a better place.
I urge that as time and circumstances allow you join them in giving back (without expectation of receiving “convocation points”) your time, wisdom, networking resources, prospective student recommendations, and examples of skills or values developed here at Carroll that have served you well. Carroll for me has always been a Caring Place.
Give Carroll its due credit when it has earned it, but I also encourage you to offer constructive criticism when the institution has failed to meet your expectations or deviates from its values which you value. Be appropriately skeptical of bland, branding platitudes. Seek out opportunities to do “a” right thing. Use your mind to think carefully and critically, but don’t forget that there are indeed many times when it is appropriate to follow one’s heart.
I envy your youth and the many opportunities that lie ahead or you as you share your talents and to make the world a better place. Stay in touch. Oh, yes… Here is a final exam.
With many fond memories,
David Simpson, Professor of Psychology and fellow, flawed human being.
“How long have you taught at Carroll?” I am often asked. I now tend to give the answer that my father-in-law, Golden Pioneer Walter G. Schmidt, gave when I once asked him how long he had been married. With a twinkle in his eye he retorted “forever.” Suffice it to say that when I came here senior faculty looked older to me and students at that time seemed much more my age! And, according to an online quiz my student assistant alerted me to my personality is most like Thanos!
I presently am proctoring my first final exam as I attempt to bring this academic year to a close. By my calculation I have made, given and graded more than 500 final exams since 1977. I am amused by some of my prior rants reflections (below) about the value of giving finals, the challenges of disciplining oneself to complete the task of grading, and the distractions (most self-induced) that temporarily knock me off course winding down. Somehow putting the semester to bed always gets done in time, with integrity, and with a sense of accomplishment.
Curious David Redux: Reflections on Grading.
Two books to read laid out before me: David Pogue’s Essential Tips and Shortcuts (That No One Bothers to Show You) for Simplifying the Technology in Your Life and Jocelyn K. Glei’s Unsubscribe: How to Kill email Anxiety, Avoid Distractions, and Get Real work Done. Each lends themselves to reading and learning when one has short “down times” for learning.
I should be finishing the grading of the exam I gave yesterday while I proctor the exam I am now giving. Yesterday Leo the Grading Dog and I devoted five hours to the uncompleted task–and decided that we needed sleep to continue. I playfully attempted to engage former students on Facebook in a crowdsourcing grading “experiment.” Alas, a lot of LOL’s. About as successful as my tabled crowdfunding proposal:)
Instead, I am reviewing all my past WordPress posts, Tweets, and Facebook Photos as I plan for major projects next semester. I am contemplating pulling all that material together in a “Best of Curious David” e-book. I hope to engage in extensive self-publishing with students, teach a research seminar dealing with “brain fitness/training” apps and interventions, and pull together 40 years of Carroll-related archival documents that really should not be forgotten. My physical office environment could be challenging as the Rankin Hall reconstruction begins–necessitating a moving from the office.
Here are some previous (unedited–I have not checked the links’ viability) musings about final exams. Clearly the fact that I pondered these questions before suggests that I still haven’t come up with a clear answer–yet I see value comprehensive, multifaceted finals despite the costs of time to grade them.
Final Reflections on Final Exams Dec 20, 2009
The last final exam has been graded–the grades submitted electronically.
Final exams began on Thursday this year, but my finals were the following Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Moreover, I chose to do something new within each final exam. These innovations resulted in my not having exams (newly made) ready until the day before I administered them. Such are academic opportunity costs!
This semester I introduced innovations in each of my classes, some common across each class and others unique to each course. Common to each class, I chose to complete the formal part of instruction a week before the end of the semester. I used the remaining scheduled class time for review and for preparing students for the final exam.
For each class, I wrote a blog about the class and invited students to respond to the blog. My primary goal in that assignment was not to increase “hit rate” on my blog site! Rather, I’d like to increase the likelihood that students subsequently might recognize how easy it is to comment responsibly to something “published” on the web. Though it is too early to say whether that goal was met, I was very pleased by the thoughtful comments from my PSY101 students.
Unique to PSY101, I also asked students in my Introductory Psychology class to visit a psychology podcast site and critique for me two episodes. Since I am exploring whether (video) podcasting is something I wish to do (is Audacity the answer?), I found their feedback quite helpful. Their final exam was the easiest to produce (50 multiple choice questions covering the fundamental concepts I cover in the course and 50 points of terminology questions)–and easiest to grade –in part because they provided compelling evidence that they knew the material. They were a fun group to teach and to learn with!
Unique to PSY205, I invited the students (once they had completed their 13 page, cumulative final exam —50 multiple choice, 30 points of terminology, 20 problems requiring students to indicate what data analysis was appropriate—to accept the Robin the Christmas Newf extra credit challenge.
Though I don’t believe in giving extra credit (it undermines intrinsic motivation), I was curious about their abilities to recognize flaws in published articles (the same article I gave my PSY303 class to critique for their final) and poorly designed surveys (the same survey administered to a sample of Carroll employees last week to assess the quality of the workplace). Though only one student (almost) identified the published data analysis error–and none recognized that the response scales of the survey had categories which were not mutually exclusive (and hence potentially invalidate most statistical break-downs), I was pleased that several students rose up to the challenge. And, more importantly to me, a number of students from this class clearly have a mastery of which data analysis to use. But will they have that same degree of mastery the next time I see them–or will they be singing this swan song again?
Unique to PSY303, I gave students in my Experimental Social Psychology course in advance two published journal articles. I also gave them a sense of the kinds of questions I would be asking them about the “Scrooge Effect” and “God is Watching You“ articles. I elected to assess students this way (rather than over course content—e.g. names, terminology, theories, concepts) since a major emphasis of this course involved thoughtfully reading and critiquing published research through weekly student presentations and discussion. I was most impressed by the thoughtful, reflective, insightful responses of almost every student–though none noticed the data analysis flaw.
Why bother giving final exams? Aren’t the 3 to 5 regular exams I give throughout the semester enough? It surely would be so much easier for me to give all multiple-choice questions which students respond to on a computer readable form. However, choosing the easy route would eliminate my opportunity to both assess and to teach during final examination period.
How odd it is that course evaluations occur before final exams are given. Wouldn’t a fairer evaluation of a course (and of the instructor) require that students have taken and received feedback from their final examinations? How frustrating it is not to be able to go over the final with my students and get from them suggestions for improvement in a timely fashion.
Maybe finals should be the last week of class and feedback should be during finals week. Alternatively, maybe a component of course evaluations should be a reflective writing piece the first day of classes. Maybe the first day of classes should be an exam covering the course prerequisites!
Too much grading leads me to think like this and hallucinate about Sugar Plums.
Happy Holidays from Curious David!
December 2014 Musings about Final Exams
It was a foggy 5:30 a.m. morning when I let the Newf out for her morning “duties.” One of many good reasons for driving carefully to Carroll this Saturday morning at 6:30 a.m. I surely would NOT like to hit another deer–nor would Santa or my car.
I can still see fog outside my Rankin classroom. Thirty-seven years ago I was in this very building giving a sample lecture illustrating how I teach as part of my two-day job interview to become a faculty member at then-called Carroll College in Waukesha, Wisconsin. I still have a copy of that presentation–and I remain at my first and only job for better or for worse. So much has changed–buildings, enrollment, technology, the institution’s name, the organizational structure. I feel obligated to protect traditions and overriding institutional historical values, but there are fewer and fewer here that remember them. So many of my former mentoring faculty and staff friends have moved on through retirement or from life. I miss their wisdom but try to preserve their gifts to Carroll.
And here I sit proctoring an 8:00 a.m.Saturday morning final exam covering “Statistics and Experimental Design” taken by students several of whose relatives (aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters) were former students or advisees of mine.
There are times when they look and behave very young and I recognize that I am 65-years old. Many other times they keep me young with their energy, willingness to learn, and playfulness. I feel that way especially in the present of my student research assistants–four of whom are graduating this year.
It has been a rough semester. I continue to find challenging teaching three consecutive seventy-minute courses in a row with 10 minute breaks even when two of the courses are the same. And this year I am co-chairing the Planning and Budget Committee (with a delightful colleague and poet BJ Best).
It has been the Dickens of a task: The Wurst of Times and the Best of Times. Younger colleagues like BJ, though, and the fewer and fewer remaining colleagues from my past reinforce my willingness to remain here and make a difference before departing.
The chimes just sounded. 10:00 a.m. Eight students remaining. Very good students among which several, should they wish, might join Dr. Simpson’s Neighborhood as student research assistants.
Carroll’s 2014-2015 theme is “Time.” I just finished reading David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks. Time to start grading so that I can finishing reading The Book of Strange New Things.
I am still emotionally drained reflecting on the life lessons from the Milwaukee Rep’s performance of Thornton Wilder’sOur Town that Debbie and I enjoyed last Sunday. As a high school student and undergraduate, I used to keep journals documenting how literature and the arts impacted me. Thornton Wilder was born on my sister’s birthday and attended my alma mater Oberlin College.
Precious Moments: The entrance to this world by a new grand-nephew, Finn William O’Connor. Welcome!
Precious Moments: Quality time with Debbie, Dog, and Friends.
What to do when a few minutes after beginning a 3 hour exam the lights go off? The students smile and turn on their cell phone spotlights. After I ascertain that there is no health risk (it was a campus-wide outage), they choose to finish the exam by flashlight. I am impressed by their good humor.
Fiat Lux: Let there be light (more than an hour later).
As Dr. Simpson works on revising his past blog pieces, he gave me the task of testing out different eBook software. The promises of Designrr.io (found here) intrigued us. It allows authors to easily display their written work (blog pieces, articles, etc.) and uses their URLs to combine this work into one big eBook.
Dr. Simpson suggested that I create a basic guide to Designrr.io in order to help aspiring authors in the future. Then he would attempt to use my Student Guide to Designrr to pull together an e-book from a subset of his blogs.
Here’s my first draft:
Once an account has been created, one can start a project by clicking “Create A New Project” button. The author can then name their project and import their URL. After this, the author can then choose a template they desire. The author can always skip this step or choose a different template later on while creating the project.
After following these simple steps, Designrr.io should automatically create a default book of the content the author just downloaded. The author can choose to publish this eBook immediately or choose to make some minor edits.
Before the editing process begins:
This website includes a feature called that will automatically save one’s work over a period of time. To enable this feature, click on the Settings Tab, then the subcategory Auto Save, and finally the Enable AutoSave button. Below this button, one can set the autosave delay. I usually have mine set on 5 minutes; however, the time ranges from 5 minutes to an hour.
To change the background image of the cover of the book, click on the Inspector Tab and then the subcategory called Background. By clicking on the Image then Media Manager box, one can either choose a picture on their computer or search for a photo. The Textures option, located right below the Media Manager box, will help the author change the rest of the pages’ backgrounds. However, make sure to select one of these textures on the desired page, not the cover page.
Editing Text, Headers, and Footers:
By double-clicking on the text of the header and footer, Designrr.io will bring up two tabs (inspector tab on the left and simplified tab located near the text). In both tabs, one can change the font’s size, color, style, and border. I found that the Inspector Tab was the easiest to follow.
Changing Font Using Inspector Tab:
Start by double-clicking on the desired text one wants to change. One should be directed to the Inspector Tab and the subcategory Text Styles.
1) Size- Manually type in the size font by clicking on the box under the italicized box. The box one should look for should have the label px (Ex: 28px).
2) Color- Click on the long grey rectangular box under the box one just used to change the size. Then choose or create the desired color using the color wheel.
3) Font Style- Click on the top left-hand box, next to the G box, to look and pick the default styles Designrr.io offers. By clicking on the G box, one can view a variety of fonts from Google.
Changing the Border Using Inspector Tab:
Start by double-clicking on the desired text one wants to change. One should be directed to the Inspector Tab; however, one needs to manually click the subcategory Border. I highly suggest editing the borders in this order.
1) Style- Click on the box that reads None in order to choose the style of the border.
2) Color- Click on the long rectangular box next to the None box. Just like the Test Style Color box, one can either choose or create a color they desire.
3) Size- Use the slider above the two previously mentioned boxes in order to change the thickness of the border.
Adding More Posts to A Generated Project:
To add a new post/URL onto an already generated project, one must first click the Element tab and then the subcategory Components. Click on the New Article box and drag it to the desired spot. After this, paste the URL and it will automatically generate one’s blog piece into their eBook. In this tab, one can also add new pages and create a table of contents.
After the Editing Process:
If one wants to preview their work before they publish, click on the eye box located on the bottom left-hand corner. After the author is satisfied with their work, to publish the eBook click on the box to the right of the preview box. Desginrr.io gives authors the option of converting this draft into a PDF, .mobi (Kindle), and an Epub. Click on the desired format and press the Export box. If one wants to export their work into multiple formats, they must repeat this step.
Although there is an abundance of other features on this program, the ones mentioned in this piece seemed to be the most useful in the creation of an eBook. By following these simple steps, one can successfully use Designrr.io.
Here is what Kristen and I were able to produce using the Designrr.io software. Though there is always more to learn (I would have it no other way), it may prove useful in my tool kit. (Click here). Not bad for two beginners.
I draw upon this material in the introductory chapter of a book I am working on.
Dec 7, 2009
As I’ve documented elsewhere, I have now taught more than seventy times a course required for the Carroll undergraduate psychology major. Can it really be that it was more than 30 years ago that my first student assistant, Larry Jost, and I proudly announced in our “journal,” Occasional Papers in Psychology, our successful translation of some 40 BASIC statistical analysis programs (obtained from a psychologist in South Africa)? We were so thrilled that we were able to introduce them into my PSY205 class using my TRS80 Model I Level II microcomputer with 16K RAM!
There exist a number of excellent resources on the Web, today, for supplementing a course like “mine.” Among my favorites is the Rice Virtual Lab in Statistics. I also find very well done and useful for our students the online resource Research Randomizer.
I’m wondering, though, whether it is time (or past time) for me to pass along the course to someone else. Indeed, is it perhaps time for the course to “go away” (though parting is such sweet sorrow 🙂 )— either by assuming that its content is addressed by other courses (such as are offered by my colleagues in Mathematics) or by merging it with another course, say, a two semester psychology research course. Both ideas have been proposed and discussed with faculty colleagues in recent years.
Though I think I have been unusually successful at developing rapport with students in a course whose subject matter is often anxiety-arousing, anyone teaching the same course time-and-again runs the risk of losing touch with new ways of teaching, failing to understand changes in student needs and student abilities and neglecting to capitalize on new and perhaps better ways of teaching the subject matter.
Is time to teach the course in a way more in “sync” with students of today to help students avoid choosing the wrong statistic? Should I offer the course in a totally online format? In a hybrid format ? Is there continued value in teaching a “canned” statistical package such as SPSS? Might it make more sense to teach the data analysis capabilities of open source statistical software freely available online? Should I incorporate more applications or draw more upon the work I do for Schneider Consulting which I strongly believe enriches my teaching? Should I make room for the more systematic teaching of effect sizes and statistical power?
I’d love to incorporate material on ethical issues of data analysis, provide opportunities to discover inappropriate data analyses, create opportunities for action research, and help students realize the limitations of statistics. Might it be worth my following through on my idea of a number of years ago of creating a highly trained group of undergraduate, cross-disciplinary, student data analysis consultants? Do I delude myself in thinking that my “Statistics and Experimental Design course” is the most important class that I teach?
I invite former and present students of mine who have taken this class with me to share their insights for possible new directions for this course.
As I attempt to bring the semester to a soft landing, I thought that I would try creating a screen cast of some of my book-writing efforts using an earlier version of some screen casting software. Odd how sometime an earlier version of software (Voila) better fits my needs than the new improved version. Forgive the lack of editing. I am burning candles at both ends today. I am probably over ambitious trying to write three books simultaneously using three different pieces of self-publishing software. Ars longa, vita brevis.
So much unfinished business forfore putting the semester to bed. I see that I have 100 drafts of unfinished blog posts. Some of the drafts ooks like their ideas are still worth developing. Other drafts I have no recall of having even of having written! Clearly it is time either to delete them or to bring the ideas to fruition. My modus operandi has always been to have a plethora of unfinished tasks.
In November 2009 I wrote this draft about the Zeigarnik effect:
“I was first introduced to the Zeigarnik effect (people typically recalling interrupted tasks better than their recalling completed ones) by my first Oberlin College Introductory Psychology professor, Celeste McCollough. My participation in her visual perception studies of the “McCollough effect” formally introduced me to the science of psychology. I remember being both amused and fascinated by Professor McCullough’s sharing an anecdote where she intentionally used the Zeigarnik phenomenon as a motivator for her to resume working on manuscripts that she was writing for publication. I find it curious how a phenomenon such as the Zeigarnik effect can be discovered, experimentally investigated, popularized, misrepresented, forgotten, and rediscovered.”
I was able to use that anecdote in a review I completed of Bob Cialdini’s newest book Pre-suasion. Equally important, I was able to use that Zeigarnik tension to motivate me to complete the revisions suggested by my editor and to successfully have the review accepted for publication.
One common theme among my unfinished work is the tensions I feel between rigorous, experimental psychological science and well-intentioned attempts to popularize psychological findings. How can one avoid avoiding overstatement and misrepresentation? Why is there such a disconnect between what is popularized (or advertised) and what empirical evidence actually shows? Across the past fifty years I’ve seen oversimplification and misrepresentation of research investigating learning styles, mindfulness, subliminal perception, and most recently brain fitness training.
Based upon my thinking about the links above, I’m convinced that I don’t want a perfect memory—nor do I want technological tools for remembering everything. Still, as I grow older I am increasingly sensitive to issues of memory loss. I am haunted by the descriptions of dementia so graphically and accurately described in Walter Mosley’s novel The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey. Here is an interview with the author.
There is so much hype interest today in using technology to improve one’s brain power, health and well-being. Try, for example, doing an online search on “brain fitness.” You’ll be overwhelmed with the results though (hopefully) be underwhelmed by the validity of the claims. The challenge is to know how to decide which claims are “snake oil,” which represent vaporware, and which are truly science-based. Consider these Internet “tools” (none of which I am endorsing but each of which I am considering investigating with my students) … and their promises and claims of success at improving one’s life
Which (if any) is based upon valid psychological science? Which is merely entertainment? Which make false or unverifiable claims? Which is patently wrong? Do brain training programs really work?
A very thoughtful and thorough scholarly review was recently completed which provides some useful caveats and preliminary answers. A shortened summary of that report can be found here and the complete article is here. A relatively recent citizen science project, the game “Stall Catchers” (found here) provides an interesting crowdsourcing avenue for conducting Alzheimer’s research.
I hope to share my answers to these questions in the near future. Hopefully these thoughts won’t merely end up in my draft pile!