Chocolate Quote of the Week

Life is like a box of chocolates… you never know what you’re gonna get.
Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks)

So are students….and teachers.


RSS Instructions without Video

Some folks asked for a non-video explanation of how to get an RSS feed, so here it is:
How to use RSS to get The Chocolate Box (or other web content)

First, you need a reader. These are free programs that are also called “aggregators”. Once you have one, you can subscribe to news services, blogs, etc. and the new content will be delivered to your desktop. No more remembering to check someone’s blog or your favorite news outlet.

The one I know best is  Google Reader.   However, if you use Yahoo, they have a reader that integrates into myYahoo and there are many other readers. I like web-based readers like Google and Yahoo because they can be accessed from any computer that has web access. Some readers sit on your desktop, so you would need to download them on all computers you use. Firefox has a feature called Live Bookmarks that collects just title information – you can then click on titles of interest. Most of the popular blogs seem to feed right into either Google or Yahoo.

Once you have the reader, then subscribing is easy. Just click the RSS icon (it’s usually orange but sometimes black and looks like this:

RSS icon

RSS icon

Sometimes the icon is in the address line of the webpage, other times it is on the page itself. Once you click it, you will be asked for subscription information or you’ll see an icon for Google or myYahoo. Click whatever is appropriate and enjoy.

High Impact Educational Practices

In his recent AACU publication “High-impact educational practices: What they are, who has access to them and why they matter” noted education scholar George Kuh summarizes the research literature on higher ed practices that increase student retention, engagement and deep learning. Evidence suggests that these practices are beneficial for students from widely varying backgrounds. The good news is that we are already implementing many of these ideas. The question is, how can we do more and do it better? Although Kuh’s research focused on undergraduates, many of these ideas are equally appropriate for graduate programs. There’s something here for everyone – which of these practices would YOU like to get more involved with?

First-Year Seminars and Experiences
“The highest-quality first-year experiences place a strong emphasis on critical inquiry, frequent writing, information literacy, collaborative learning, and other skills that develop students’ intellectual and practical competencies” (Kuh, 2008, p. 9). Our DISCOVER 101 seminars are already showing a positive impact on student retention – where can we build on this foundation to improve both semesters for first year students and extend into the sophomore year experience?

Common Intellectual Experiences
These go beyond the idea of the core curriculum and focus on thematic instruction, linked common courses, integrative studies courses and curricular/co-curricular partnerships. How can graduate cohort programs take more advantage of their linked courses? We have some beginning projects here and our new strategic plan talks about campus themes – how can we make this happen widely?

Learning Communities
Learning communities help students begin to “live” the learning; taking at least two common courses that link across disciplines. Learning communities may or may not feature a residential component. Frequently learning communities focus on a broad theme and explore it from various disciplinary perspectives and also extensive out of class collaboration such as service learning or other projects. Presently, Marymount also has a couple of disciplinary-based residential communities (Women in Science and Men & Women in Business). How can we create vibrant cross-disciplinary communities? How can we help faculty connect with colleagues in other disciplines to facilitate the growth of learning communities?

Writing-Intensive Courses
We will be implementing WI courses next year. However, the skills and attitudes fostered in these courses will need to be sustained through writing across the curriculum as well. All faculty need to start thinking of themselves and their courses as opportunities for student writing. What do you need to get started or develop your expertise in helping students write effectively?

Collaborative Assignments and Projects
Working with others and learning from others, especially others who are different from ourselves, is a necessary skill in most work environments, contributes to successful lifelong learning and growth and can also build a sense of community. Collaboration can be as basic as requiring study groups within a course or as complex as joint research or artistic ventures. How much collaborative work goes on at MU right now? How do we prepare students to be successful collaborators? How do we design collaborative assignments that work?

Undergraduate Research
Although it is still most common in the sciences and social sciences, undergraduate research is spreading throughout the disciplines. Inquiry teaching is one form of preparation for more independent undergraduate scholarship. The overarching goal of the DISCOVER program is to engage as many of our undergraduates as possible in some form of inquiry-based learning and research. When students actively engage with important, unanswered questions along with peers and professors, they are more likely to persist and learn more deeply. What else can we do to expand the availability and quality of undergraduate research, scholarship and creativity?

Diversity/Global Learning
Intercultural studies is more than spending time abroad or taking a course! One of our strategic plan goals is to expand our students’ global perspective, our core curriculum has a global perspective course requirement and our Global Studies office is eager to support faculty and student study abroad. We also are blessed with a diverse campus – how can we put all these pieces together to develop a more comprehensive approach?

Service Learning, Community-Based Learning
These programs go beyond volunteering or the provision of services to the “needy” to develop true partnerships that are mutually beneficial. The goal of community-based learning is to give students concrete experiences that mirror what they are learning in the classroom plus the experience of applying disciplinary knowledge to a real world problem. At its best, community-based learning offers the opportunity for students to experience, analyze and reflect on their learning. It also can develop a sense of engaged citizenship. While we have some excellent community outreach programs in the School of Health Professions, community-based learning is not widely practiced at Marymount. It is a natural fit with our Mission, Strategic Plan and values. How can we develop effective courses and programs that integrate coursework and community action?

Required, credit-bearing internships have long been part of a Marymount education. How can we make sure that our internships are academically rigorous, tied to strong outcomes and linked to the students’ major and career goals? Where can we improve this program?

Capstone Courses and Projects
Whatever they are called, a culminating experience requires students to integrate and apply their learning to a project that is important to them. Depending on the discipline, this can be a performance or exhibition, a research or service project, or a paper. Great capstone experiences allow students to see how far they have come since they started their programs and also can give us the opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments with them. How can we raise the profile of capstone experiences, celebrate them and use them to inspire and motivate less advanced students?

Kuh, G. D. (2008). High impact educational practices: What they are, who has access to them and why they matter. Washington, D.C.: American Association of Colleges & Universities.

Promotion (sigh) Is Part of Publishing

Writing in the Chronicle of Higher Ed last year, Cooper Union dean William Germano pointed out that it’s not enough to do the research and write the book: you’ve got to talk it up.

Hard times and high costs are pushing academic publishers toward new collaborations and new business models.  Building a broader audience for your work through blogging, speaking, and writing spin-off articles helps you–and the industry.  Give an earful to a nonspecialist.

If you’re still working on the book part, UC-Santa Barabara linguistics professor Mary Bucholtz offers tips, especially for first-time authors.  One of the first: abandon perfectionism.

Debunking Myths about College Writers

Mark Richardson, assistant professor of writing and linguistics at Georgia Southern University, gives this rebuttal to “some common myths of literacy”:

  • Students who do one kind of writing well will not automatically do other kinds of writing well.
  • The conventions of thought and expression in disciplines differ, enough so that what one learns in order to write in one discipline might have to be unlearned to write in another.
  • Writing is not the expression of thought; it is thought itself. Papers are not containers for ideas, containers that need only to be well formed for those ideas to emerge clearly. Papers are the working out of ideas. The thought and the container take shape simultaneously (and develop slowly, with revision).
  • When students are faced with an unfamiliar writing challenge, their apparent ability to write will falter across a broad range of “skills.” For example, a student who handles grammatical usage, mechanics, organization, and tone competently in an explanation of the effects of global warming on coral reefs might look like a much weaker writer when she tries her hand at a chemistry-lab report for the first time.
  • Teaching students grammar and mechanics through drills often does not work.
  • Patterns of language usage, tangled up in complex issues like personal and group identities, are not easy to change.
  • Rhetorical considerations like ethos, purpose, audience, and occasion are crucial to even such seemingly small considerations as word choice and word order.
  • Writing involves abilities we develop over our lifetimes. Some students are more advanced in them when they come to college than are others. Those who are less advanced will not develop to a level comparable to the more-prepared students in one year or even in two, although they may reach adequate levels of ability over time.

Richardson’s article “Writing Is Not Just a Basic Skill” appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education, 7 November 2008, Section: Commentary Volume 55, Issue 11, Page A47.

Short-term link to whole article for anyone

Long-term link for subscribers

Keeping International Students Legal

A reminder from Aline Orfali, director of international student services:

1- Students must maintain a full course of study. For undergraduates, a minimum of 12 credit hours each semester is required.  For graduate students, 9 credit hours are required.  Students must first get approval from the International Student Services office if they intend to drop below full-time, even if they are failing the class.

2-         Students can only take 3 credit hours of on line classes per semester.  Immigration law does not allow an F-1 student to count more than 3 credits of on line classes toward their full-time enrollment.

3- Students must not accept unauthorized employment. They must obtain employment authorization from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security through the International Student Services office before beginning any employment activity, including paid internships.

4- Students must notify the International Student Services office whenever there is any change in their academic program.  This includes a change or addition of program, a change of level, or a leave of absence.

5-         Student must notify the International Student Services office within ten days if they change their address.

Failure to do any of the above may result in the student becoming illegal in the United States. As you advise international students, please keep in mind the points mentioned above.  If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at the (703) 284-5797.

Class of ’13 … for whom “text has always been hyper”

For insight into your first-year students’ frame of reference, check out the annual Beloit College Mindset List.

For incoming freshmen born in 1991, “women have always outnumbered men in college,” “McDonald’s has always been serving Happy Meals in China,” and “someone has always been asking: Was Iraq worth a war?”