“I’m not racist; I just hate black people.”

No this isn’t about education. Bear with me.

I went to a protest this weekend here in Baton Rouge in response to the Eric Garner decision and other instances of police brutality. A couple of hundred people were there: students, ministers, various other members of the community, of all races. We heard the account (from his father) of Victor White III, who supposedly shot himself in the chest, while in police custody, with his hands cuffed behind his back. We heard the account of another unnamed man who, after being sent to prison in Angola, was killed 4 days later in an altercation with prison guards. His family doubted the story they were told of the altercation, and his body was not allowed to be released to the family; he was buried in Angola. We heard a mother talking about how she returned to her car from a convenience store, to find a cop physically roughing up her children in the back seat, because one of them was playing with a laser pointer. We heard from a 12 year old black girl who was terrified that her 10 year old brother would be killed by police. We heard from a man who was beaten by police because he said to the officer “Why did you stop me?” These stories are, sadly, not unique.

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A Cheat Sheet for Looking Professional Online

Normally I post about much more serious things, but today I’m going to post about the fine art of being as comfortable as possible while still looking professional when you work online (aka: How to wear sweatpants and tshirts every day, but still look like you are fully dressed for battle at the drop of a hat.)

I may be shattering some illusions here, but here goes. I work exclusively from home, and I teach and have meetings from a webcam. I also have a toddler. So that means I’m not getting dressed in silk blouses, wool suits, and heels every day. I need to be applesauce and finger paint ready, and also meeting with the Dean ready at any moment. So, what’s a hardworking professor-mom to do?

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Academic writing “rules” you should break

As a teaching professor, I read a lot of papers. In those papers, I see a lot of wonderful writing, and a small amount of terrible writing. I spent a fair amount of my time while reading these papers correcting grammatical errors. Some of these errors are things that absolutely must be fixed. You do need to have complete sentences. You also need to have subjects that agree with verbs. In academic writing, the rules are rigid for a reason. However, there are a couple of rules that I would love to see fall by the wayside. Students, if you’re reading this, the answer is yes. This is your permission to ignore these rules when writing papers for me.

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Teachers instead of Tests

It is no secret that I am no fan of standardized tests. I strongly believe that they are killing public education, and I am terrified at what our educational system will look like in 20 years. We desperately want to be the best, and so we devise test after test to hold students and teachers accountable.

Who is it that we think we need to hold accountable? We have these mythical “bad teachers” who just aren’t doing their jobs. Those teachers do exist, but they are a small percentage. The vast majority of teachers out there are good teachers. Because, you see, teachers don’t become teachers for the money (or even for the summer breaks). They become teachers because they have a passion for inspiring and educating young minds.

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Voting for School Board

I live in a somewhat rural Parish in Louisiana. We’re mostly oil refineries and plants, with a few towns thrown in. Now, in my district, we’ve got a contentious school board election happening. What that means is that every intersection is peppered with campaign signs, including a sign campaigning for someone with the nickname “Worm.” It’s Louisiana – what can I say? I’ve had numerous pamphlets dropped off at the door, quite a few robocalls, and several candidates knocking on my door. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for them) they all knocked at inopportune times so I wasn’t able to talk to them.

If I had been able to talk to them I might have asked them simple questions like:

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Web 2.0 Tool Review: PowToon

I love to use little video clips or images to supplement my online class sessions; today’s class was on social constructivism and connectivism. I had no problem finding a video summarizing connectivism, but one that focused solely on social constructivism was, surprisingly, more difficult to find. Thankfully, the one I found on connectivism was really cool. The creator, Mike Penella (@MikePenella), had used something called PowToon, which I, of course, had to investigate (LOVE the bee analogy, by the way, Mike!).

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How to be Successful in Grad School

I spent a lot of time in grad school (with the loans to prove it), and I’ve been teaching exclusively grad students for the last 5 years. So, I fancy myself somewhat of an expert on how to be successful in grad school. Now that the new academic year is almost upon us, here are some tips for getting the most out of your grad school experience:

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Why I don’t lecture

As a professor in the MAT@USC program, I occasionally get a question from a student that goes something like this:

“I enrolled in this program so that I could learn from the top-notch USC faculty. So why am I spending most of my time talking to my classmates instead of listening to YOU tell us what is important for us to learn?”
I appreciate it when a student asks this question, because I think it takes guts to speak up when you think a learning experience isn’t working for you, or isn’t being productive. I think it is an important question to ask. WHY, when I have a very expensive and hard-earned set of letters after my name, would I sit back and let my students teach each other? Why am I not bestowing this wisdom upon them? How are they getting their money’s worth out of a prestigious program from USC, when the professor isn’t the center of attention? Shouldn’t I be lecturing about Bandura and Piaget as so many of my academic predecessors have done? Lecturing is a time-honored tradition in academia, so why am I not honoring it?

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