As I teach Social Psychology at Carroll for the last time, I welcome feedback from former students, former Ohio State social psychology classmates and professors, fellow social psychologists, and present students about what should be taught in the courses and how it should be taught. I have always been impressed by the under heralded contributions of Scott Plous in his creation of the Social Psychology Network. Thank you, Scott, for your many contributions and your rekindling my interest in the discipline. There are so many social psychologists whom I continue to admire and learn from, even if vicariously.
I’ve invited my students to visit the SPN network as a starting point.
I love the sounds of a bustling campus – the chimes, physical plant staff changing shifts, the chattering of students as they discuss their athletic practices – though the predominant sounds this morning are those of the many construction workers trying to complete Rankin Hall’s renovation before classes begin. When completed, the renovated building will indeed be magnificent. Thanks to the many donors, some of whom have become my friends across the years.
Almost time to leave the new office and drive out to the Graduate Center for another morning of meetings dealing with implementation of Carroll’s new Strategic Plan and contributions the College of Arts and Sciences can make. It is interesting to reflect upon how much of my life has been spent in meetings. In retrospect, was that time well invested?
To prepare for my meeting I opened my newly purchased package of pencils.I try to find the right balance between high tech and low tech tools! Now if I can only remember how to sharpen them. I may have to consult the help desk.
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.
Across the years I have been fortunate to have learned from a number of global educators. Luis Miguel Miñarro, an educator in La Mancha, Spain, shared with me how he used Animoto to make a Carnival 2014 video. Now we interact on Linked-in. Thank you, colleague, for helping me to discover new ways of learning and sharing my learning.
I treasure the “care package” received from educator friend, Inci Aslan, in Turkey who was the principal investigator of an Etwinning project I closely followed…
Thank you, Inci. I hope that you are well, safe, and happy. I admire what you have done in the classroom.
Lithuanian educator Irma Milevičiūtė befriended me on Epals years ago and whetted my interest in global communication. Heartfelt thanks, Irma–though we have lost touch, what I have learned from you and with you has been enduring
Thank you, Australian educator Julie Lindsay, for expanding my global horizons with your seminar Flat Connections Global Project . My world continues to expand as it shrinks.
I try to keep reasonably aware of international events through reading articles in the Chronicle of Higher Education and The Guardian. I occasionally shadow Global Education Conferences and follow several WordPress blogs dedicated to Global Education. And yet I remain so globally illiterate.
Here are my some of the reflections on this topic a few years ago.
The world is open. I’ve been thinking about how to make our campus and curriculum more global. Here are some incipient thoughts about how that might de done.
It’s amusing and edifying to revisit the last “Curious David” blog piece I wrote for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (JSOnline) before they discontinued (terminated) their educational community bloggers. I still stay in touch with one of those community bloggers–and a number of the students who took this “Pioneering Learning Tools Course” a decade ago. They taught me much.
Pioneering Web 2.0 Learning Tools
By David Simpson
Monday, Sep 1 2008, 09:32 AM
I’m nervous and excited. Time to take off my invisibility cloak. Tomorrow (Tuesday, September 2, 2008 at 8:00 a.m.)
I meet in person for the first time with my 20 first-year students. What an immense responsibility to be their first professor!
We’re going to explore 21rst century learning tools such as blogs, wikis, podcasts, social networks, virtual
worlds, and Youtube. The idea for this
course emerged from my experiences writing this Curious David
blog column. Last year’s opportunity to write for JSonline was transformative for me as I learned from elementary and
secondary school teachers, high school students, virtual school advocates, retired faculty and readers about innovations,
challenges and successes they faced promoting learning.
In this first-year seminar we shall focus on some of the 25 free learning tools described by educator Jane Hart. As we examine these learning tools we hope to answer questions such as these:
1. To what degree can these web tools truly enhance student learning?
2. To what degree are they just cool tools?
3. Could they be used to develop critical thinking?
4. Do they improve or degrade communication skills?
5. Might they be applied to fostering cross-cultural or international understanding?
6. Might they strengthen or weaken writing skills?
7. What are their weaknesses or dangers? Should they complement or replace 20th century learning skills/tools?
8. How can one evaluate their effectiveness?
We shall read two books—Little Brother, a work of fiction (maybe it is fiction) and a work of nonfiction Dispatches from Blogistan. My intent is to assist students in the transition
from high school to college–and to investigate Web 2.0 learning tools which might be useful across classes and in the
workplace. I want to involve them in educational experiences that will develop and enhance abilities in reading, writing,
reflecting, presenting, thinking, and producing. Writing exercises will include papers, journals, blogs/wikis, and exams.
Presentations will be both formal and informal; individual and in small groups. Collaboration will be both with fellow
students and with me I welcome reader feedback about
this course. I’d gladly share a course syllabus in .pdf format which has many hypertext links. (Indeed, I’d welcome reassurance that I still have readers after a two month hiatus from writing!).
email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tomorrow’s final exam may give me some insight into what the students have learned. I received an email today from someone in Great Britain interested in the course. It is my intent to begin (renew) serious writing in a blog format starting in January. I’ll most likely use Type Pad.
As I continue my investigations and writing about brain health and brain training, I am interested in “vetting” resources that I think are best evidence-based, rich in fact, and readable. Here are ten current favorite resource links. Click them for details.
Please forgive any duplication of earlier blog posts as I continue my mastery of the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org and winnow my writings of the past 10 years before grouping them into e-books. I am attempting to make sure that the pieces are still germane and that there are no dead links.
Curious David Redux:
For Christmas nephew Alex gave me some “brain challenging” puzzles. For a very short while I was able to fool him (and myself!) about my mental acumen by solving two of them in a few minutes. Then my beloved, intellectually curious grand nieces and grand nephews (ages 5 through 8) exposed me and put my achievements into context. They quickly took apart the remaining two puzzles which I had avoided because I thought that they were too difficult for me! I still haven’t figured out how to put the puzzles back together!
Later that evening grand nephew Cole invited me to play a board game “Brain Games for Kids.” I had reason to heed the warning on the box!
My mind was indeed blown away as he outperformed me very quickly — answering all questions correctly and gleefully (but kindly) correcting me when I failed to know the answers.
Putting his success into context, 1) he probably had memorized all the questions and answers and 2) he is quite precocious. Still, the children taught me a number of lessons and raised a number of questions for me to ponder. Are these additional signs of changes in my aging brain? Should I stop comparing myself to those younger than I? Are there brain fitness strategies they use which could inform me? Are there deleterious effects of their constant use of of iPads and cell phones? Is this why I focus much of my research time on the topics of brain health and aging?
In an earlier blog piece I summarized five preliminary conclusions I had reached as a result of my immersing myself with my research students investigating the claims of brain fitness training companies. I hope to continue that research in the Fall and to build upon what I learned at a Brain Health Virtual Summit. (I also am looking forward to participating in the 2018 SharpBrains Brain Health Virtual Summit.)
“Brain Training” and brain health products is a huge, lucrative and growing industry with very expensive market research reports! Alas, I did not have the $7,150 to purchase such a report. Click this link to read the abstract.
There exist excellent scholarly reviews of the efficacy (and validity of claims made) of “brain fitness” programs. The best such review is by Daniel J. Simons et al. which can be found here: (Click this link to see it in full).
Among the authors’ important conclusions and advice most germane to this blog piece (and the next series i am contemplating writing) are the following:
“Consumers should also consider the comparative costs and benefits of engaging in a brain-training regimen. Time spent using brain-training software could be allocated to other activities or even other forms of “brain training” (e.g., physical exercise) that might have broader benefits for health and well-being. That time might also be spent on learning things that are likely to improve your performance at school (e.g., reading; developing knowledge and skills in math, science, or the arts), on the job (e.g., updating your knowledge of content and standards in your profession), or in activities that are otherwise enjoyable. If an intervention has minimal benefits, using it means you have lost the opportunity to do something else. If you find using brain-training software enjoyable, you should factor that enjoyment into your decision to use it, but you should weigh it against other things you might do instead that would also be enjoyable, beneficial, and/or less expensive.
When evaluating the marketing claims of brain-training companies or media reports of brain-training studies, consider whether they are supported by peer-reviewed, scientific evidence from studies conducted by researchers independent of the company. As we have seen, many brain-training companies cite a large number of papers, but not all of those directly tested the effectiveness of a brain-training program against an appropriate control condition. Moreover, many of the studies tested groups of people who might not be like you. It is not clear that results from studies of people with schizophrenia will generalize to people without schizophrenia, or that benefits found in studies of college students will generalize to older adults. Finally, just because an advertisement appears in a trusted medium (e.g., National Public Radio) or is promoted by a trusted organization (e.g., AARP) does not mean that its claims are justified. Consumers should view such advertising claims with skepticism.”
5. Many helpful insights into memory loss can be gleaned from literature such as Lisa Genova’sStill Alice and from individuals sharing first-hand experiences such as in the beautiful bogging in Sally Remembers.
Today I made additional considerable progress obtaining, reading, and vetting information about brain health issues. Thanks to Alvaro Fernandez at Sharpbrains.com for corresonding with me about the forthcoming 3rd edition of the Sharpbrains Guide to Brain Fitness. I look foward to “attending” the 2018 Sharpbrains summit in December. LinkedIn feeds are now alerting me to a number of resources about Brain Health Summits (such as this one) and dead-ends in pharma funded research (such as this one).
Increasingly there is a need for paying attention to the good work of organizations such as the Truth in Advertising Organization (truthinadvertising.org). Recently they did good work exposing false claims about memory enhancement supplements such as Prevagen.
I still hope to pull all this information into one place in e-book format before I leave Carroll for the summer on May 13. I have now discovered several easy ways to convert WordPress files into Word or pdf formats. Stay tuned!
The closer I get to retirement, the more meaningful Carroll graduations, past traditions, and the relationships I have formed with students, faculty, alumni, and other members of the Carroll Community become. Carroll has changed greatly since I wrote the message to seniors below. Baccalaureate is now at 5:00 Friday evening without Faculty regalia. Commencement (no longer on Mothers’ Day) is now at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday. The physical appearance of Carroll continues to change daily with new or renovated buildings.
Carroll has a new President, Cindy Gnadinger. I have personally known five other Carroll Presidents since I arrived in February of 1978. And Carroll Emeriti, faculty, and students look younger to me every day :). Certain Carroll music triggers strong emotions.
My feelings about my overall Carroll experience haven’t changed from what I wrote years ago (or how I felt here forty years ago) so I re-share them here–with a few photos taken since then!
Curious David Redux: Reflections from a few years ago:
As is my habit of the past many years, I am sitting in my office on this graduation day morning reflecting. I drive in early to ensure getting a parking place before the proud families start arriving. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, babies, babies-soon-to-join-the world—-the campus explodes with sounds, colors, emotions, and celebratory chaos. Often I walk around campus taking photos (or accepting an invitation to be photographed).
My emotions are mixed–not unlike that of the soon-to-be-graduates. Joy–sorrow–elation–sadness–weariness–rejuvenation. At the end of a long Commencement Day I experience some emptiness and some poignant, positive residual reminders. I often tease my graduating research assistants that upon their exit from campus I “exorcise” our shared office space to better allow me to adjust to the temporary emotional vacuum caused by their absence from “Dr. David’s Neighborhood.” You know of course that when you graduate, you remain in my memories as I have come to know you–and you remain forever at that age! Forever young.
I can hear chapel bells. Soon I’ll hear the chimes of the campus hymn and that of the alma mater. My sitting in the front row has its liabilities as I’ll feel that I must behave in an uncharacteristically well-mannered fashion!
Each Carroll Baccalaureate and Commencement ceremony is special to me just as is each student whom I have gotten to know. I have chosen (or been called) to teach and to learn and though they (you) may not realize it, I truly do learn so much from my students and from the challenges of trying to teach them well.
Thank you, graduating seniors past and present (and for a few ever so short more future time) for all YOU have taught me. Put to good use your many talents, your energy, your playfulness, your empathy, your resilience and your creative ideas to make the world a better place. Come to appreciate (as I did upon graduating from Oberlin College in 1971) that you have been privileged to receive a good education due not only to your own sacrifices and hard work but also due to the many members of the larger community whom you may never have met or whom you took for granted–Board Members, Administration, Staff, Faculty, Physical Plant Staff, and Alumni–who deeply care about you.