So the first article I want to talk about is from the Chronicle, which I hope is not behind a pay wall for anyone. It has two interesting ideas, the first is professors who embed Easter eggs in their syllabuses to see who is actually reading them. So there is an example of a professor who asked his students to email him pictures of Alf. Its a gimmick which can’t be done every semester, but it gives one an idea of how many students a) read the whole syllabus to note the Easter egg and b) took the initiative to actually email. The second interesting idea from the article is about professors who let their students co-write the syllabus. I first heard about this idea five or six years ago, and I was skeptical of it at the time. However, since then I have worked with several faculty who employ this strategy and I am amazed at the final product. It is one thing for a faculty member to say in their syllabus they are either strongly for or against cell phones, tardiness, poor grammar…. It is another when the students help come up with policies or assignments. Perhaps my greatest surprise is that the students oftentimes come up with stricter policies than some of the strictest faculty I know. And the rules are better followed as well. I would say this is something to try, at least once, and see how it goes.
The second article fits into that category I like to call, “sure I’d like to try something, but I need concrete examples”. Well the author, building on some educational psychology and teaching experience, gives ten great examples of activities which can be used at the start of class for engaging students in thinking and writing. So these are Bell Work assignments which can create a community and empathy within the class and lead to more learning. I’ve seen 7 of these activities done in classes before, I’ve used 2. All 10 are not for everyone, but there should be at least one for everyone. Again, try one, the worst thing that could happen is you waste 10 minutes, the best thing that could happen is you engage the class in learning!
The third article is about our new era, the Anthropocene. All living generations: the greatest generation, the baby boomers, the gen-xers, the millenials, and the zgens can all take credit for this one. Scientists need to find a specific marker they can point to define the era such as radiation or plastic in the water or air or earth, but most things are pointing towards this new era in history. Its something we should all take note of, and fits nicely with the xkcd I read today.
Finally in the ongoing PR hunt to increase the coolness factor of STEAM, Marvel is highlighting the importance of these fields, with five special covers. Presumably STEAM fields are important for making radioactive spiders and flying suits of armor. They also chose specific characters to highlight these fields, characters from under-represented groups in STEAM fields. I might have to go buy a few more comics….for research.