Tag Archives: academia

Wiki Wiki Waaa?

So, I’m in a quandary.

For the past 6 years, I’ve used this book as the textbook for my Intro to Music Tech. It’s over 10 years old, which is an eternity in music technology, but nobody has really written anything that’s as clear and usable since.

loudspeakersThis morning, I stumbled across the Wikipedia article on loudspeakers. It’s … fantastic. Clear, concise, well organized, contains everything it should. It is, in fact, much better than the chapter on speakers from the textbook I’ve been using. That led me to the entries on microphones, MIDI, digital recording. Some are great, others are written by engineers using inscrutable symbols and mostly made up vocabulary.

But even the one’s that aren’t great are still pretty good. Which really has me considering why I make my students buy a $25 book every semester.

So, I’m considering a switch for the fall. Instead of having a required textbook, I think I might just have a page of assigned links instead, some from Wikipedia, some from other sites that cover the material well. The content is there, I think I can organize it in a way that has some continuity and logical progression. Maybe I’ll put together a few pages of my own on my academic site to cover the gaps.

Anybody think that’s an awful idea? Phil?

Universal Grade Change Petition

Well, it’s that time of year again, when I grade thesis papers and final projects, and students begin the equally arduous task of protesting their final grade. To make the whole process flow a bit more smoothly, this year I will be using a universal grade change petition. Students may fill in the appropriate blanks and submit the petition to the Dean, Provost, or University President, saving everyone a lot of time and hassle.

—————— copy and paste from below —————–

To: (professor/teacher/instructor)________________________

From:_____________________

I think my grade in your course,_________________, should be changed from___to___for the following reasons:

  1. ___ The person whose paper I copied got a higher grade than I did.
  2. ___ The person who copied my paper got a higher grade than I did.
  3. ___ This grade will lower my GPA, and I won’t get into (__) Medical School, (__) Dental School, (__) Chiropractic School, (__) Graduate Program, (__) Starbucks Managerial Training.
  4. ___ I need an “A” in this class to balance out my “F” in ___________ .
  5. ___ I’ll lose my scholarship.
  6. ___ I’m on a varsity sports team, and my coach couldn’t find a copy of your exam.
  7. ___ I didn’t come to class, and the person whose notes I copied did not cover the material asked for on the final exam.
  8. ___ I studied the basic principles, but the exam wanted every little fact and vocabulary term.
  9. ___ I studied every little fact and vocabulary term, but the exam asked for general principles.
  10. ___ I understood the material, I just couldn’t do the problems on the exam.
  11. ___ I can do all the problems, but the exam expected us to understand the material.
  12. ___ You are just prejudiced against (__) Males, (__) Females, (__) Jews, (__) Catholics, (__) Muslims, (__) Atheists, (__) Blacks, (__) Whites, (__) Asians, (__) Jocks, (__) Adult Learners, (__) Young People, (__) Progressive Thinkers, (__) Libertarians, (__) People.
  13. ___ If I don’t pass, my father will stop sending me beer money.
  14. ___ I have a learning disability that prevents me from (__) understanding new ideas, (__) writing, (__) following directions, (__) applying concepts, (__) doing research, (__) critical thinking.
  15. ___ You told us to be creative, but you didn’t tell us exactly how you wanted that done.
  16. ___ I tried to finish the paper but my computer doesn’t like me.
  17. ___ Your former students all said the class was easy; it was totally unfair for you to suddenly give a hard exam.
  18. ___ The lectures (__) were too detailed to pick out the important points, (__) did not give sufficient detail, (__) too boring, (__) all jokes and no substance.
  19. ___ All my other profs have agreed to raise my grades.
  20. ___ This course was (__) too early, I wasn’t awake, (__) too late, I was always tired, (__) at lunchtime, I was too hungry to think.
  21. ___ You never said we couldn’t do our thesis paper in groups.
  22. ___ My (boyfriend / girlfriend / sibling / grandmother / roommate) was (ill / dead / sleeping around / going through a hard time) and I (needed to be there / was very emotionally involved / had to confront them) so I didn’t finish the final project.
  23. ___ The one time I went to work on my paper the library was closed.
  24. ___ There was no Wikipedia entry on this subject.

plagiarized from here

Faculty Training Day

Today is our all day faculty training day. The theme is “Achieving Student Outcome-based Learning Goals: the journey, not the destination.”

So, clearly the day promises to be very meaningful. I’ll give live updates through the day so you can share the experience with me.

9:13 Somebody saw fit to bring their one year old infant. Seriously.

9:40 oh $”@$! There is a new federal requirement for standardardized assessments in higher education in order to get accreditation. Hooray, we get all the joy of No Child Left Behind, a whole new layer of administration, and several new committees to serve on. Just the thing we need to revitalize university education.

10:46 I used the excuse of a meeting with the VP in charge of staff to duck out of the training day. I met with her and the small group leader, and then it just seemed rude to interrupt the meeting by walking back in, so I’m hanging out in the school of music.

11:01 I got caught by the dean. crap. Back to the meeting.

12:00 Taught another faculty member how to build a course website in 20 seconds using iWeb. I love that feeling you get when people see the light.

1:00 Rod Cathey wins the Inspirational Faculty Award. Woo-Hoo!

1:05 and, scene. We actually got out early!

Academic Cynicism

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a website where professors can anonymously bitch about their students, their administration, their colleagues, their facilities, their parking spaces …

It was funny at first, and a little cathartic. Then, after reading through more and more of the site, the cynicism started to get to me. It was post after post of profs talking about how apathetic and sarcastic their students are (where do we think they learned it?), about the sense of entitlement that students have these days, how dense they are, blah blah blah.

I know that sites like this are a caricature; nobody has a great day of teaching, or a meaningful interaction with students, and thinks, “I should bitch about this on my favorite anonymous professor blog.” You get people reacting to their most frustrating experiences of the semester.

Still, it reminded me again of something I’ve often thought: I have no desire to be a part of academia at large. If my position at APU goes away for some reason (like, if they find a dead body in my office. Or a copy of ‘Generous Orthodoxy’), I probably won’t even bother looking for a similar position somewhere else. I’m not all that interested in being a professor – I’m very interested in doing what I’m doing here, at this place.

I love our students. They are, for the most part, optimistic and intellectually curious. When we bump into each other outside of class, they want to have conversations about ideas; how cool is that?

I love the faculty that I get to work with. They have that critical mix of high intelligence and pragmatism; they are interested in what actually works, not in what theoretically should work (you have to spend a little time at academic conferences in order to appreciate how rare that is).

I respect my departmental leadership. The Dean is a political monster, able to bob and weave with the best of them, but he uses it to protect his faculty from administrative interference, and to advocate for student learning. His authority doesn’t just come from his position, it comes from his ability in the field. He can deliver. He’s a musician, who also happens to be adept at the politics of administration.

They give me the proper tools to teach my subject matter. I teach a technology class. Every 3 years, they rebuild my teaching lab from the ground up with the latest technology. Getting the right software for the job is rarely a fight. We have our turf wars with the IT guys, but it hasn’t yet inhibited the teaching environment.

I dunno. Maybe if you check back 10 years from now, I’ll be bitter and jaded and will spend every moment complaining. But not now.

Maybe it’s the two bottles of wine that I polished off over lunch while writing this, but I’m feeling blessed.

Why You’re Not My Favorite Student

Yes, I do have favorites, and no, you’re not one of them. This is why:

1) You ask bad questions. You ask questions designed to make you look smart, not to advance your understanding. You ask questions that have nothing to do with the subject at hand, simply to let other students know that you’ve already mastered these petty concepts, and are ready for something more challenging. You use big words that you learned just this morning, because you think it projects intelligence. It doesn’t. It makes you look like a pretentious jack-ass. I’m not smiling because I think you’re smart; I’m smiling because you just used that word wrong.

2) You are lazy. You ask me things that you could find by reading the syllabus. You turn in assignments with spelling errors. You leave out those segments of the project that are designed to make my life easier. You do this because you survey the world with lazy arrogance, and assume that the 3 minutes it would take you to format the project correctly are more valuable than the extra hour it takes me to grade 60 projects that ignore the formatting. You email me to ask for special treatment to accommodate your uniquely difficult circumstances, which look amazingly similar to the difficult circumstances of every other first year student at a University.

3) Your knowledge is bounded by your bigotry. I get it. You’re indie. You hate everything that reeks of formalism and conformity. You like bands with names like “The Decemberists” and “A3”, but you will immediately stop liking them as soon as you hear that I know they exist. Every time I give you an assignment like writing 4 part choral harmony, or programming a funk drum part, you have to protect your indie cred by informing the entire class that this type of music sucks, and that you don’t need to learn how to do this, because your own unique artistic voice will always only consist of poorly played guitar riffs layered 50 times and washed out in reverb. Two things: first, the fact that you think Coltrane sucks does not, in fact, make Coltrane suck. It makes you a narcissist with a myopic range of cultural influences, which is basically the exact opposite of people I like. The second thing is this. Your parents are spending $30,000 a year to send you to this school, where you chose to study music in a formalized setting, from people who make their living in this industry, and where a significant portion of your education will come from imitating the artistic masters who came before you. I don’t know what indie cred is, but I’m pretty sure that you lost all of it when you chose this path. Wanna be indie? Drop out, move to Silverlake, rent a room from a cross-dressing coffee shop owner, work at an organic grocery co-op in NoHo for minimum wage, and practice your instrument 9 hours a day. If you want to be the thing, be the thing, don’t just wear the clothes.

4) You only care about your grade in the last two weeks of the class. Here’s the thing. If you don’t care about grades, and just want to drift in and out of class to absorb the knowledge when it suits your whim, I can respect that. I honestly don’t mind it. But if that’s your mode, don’t come to me two weeks before the final and ask what you can do to raise your grade up from an “F” to a “B”, so that you won’t lose your scholarship. The answer is nothing. There’s nothing you can do. I’m not going to grade 15 projects that you turn in on the last day of the semester for late credit, and there aren’t enough points in the final to move your grade that much. I do sometimes allow students extra-credit assignments, but I reserve it for students who have worked their asses off all semester long, and need 1 or 2 percentage points to bump up to the next grade. I like students like that. I don’t like students like you. If getting an “F” in my class means you lose your scholarship, there’s a damn good chance that you shouldn’t be here on scholarship.

5) You assume that your approval is important to me. It isn’t. I don’t need your approval, or encouragement, I don’t need to be hip in your eyes, I don’t live or die by how you rank me on www.ratemyprofessor.com. I couldn’t care less what you think of me: I have friends for that. When your response to my policies, assignments, teaching method, whatever, is “that’s so uncool”, I silently laugh inside at the idea that you think I might care. I’m 30. I teach at a University. I’m a dad. I listen to Jazz. I’ve played keyboards on songs for Radio Disney. I’m the opposite of cool. And guess what? I’m at peace with it. My job isn’t to make you like me. In fact, sometimes my job goes better when you don’t like me. Sometimes, there are students who get that, and they respect it, and we end up being friends after they graduate. I think that’s cool.

Please, be assured that none of this will affect how I teach you. I’m quite adept at swallowing my own bile and doing unpleasant tasks. I also realize that sometimes, my least favorite students end up maturing nicely, and actually become decent human beings. Here’s to hope.

Until then, please stop IM’ing me at 2:30 in the morning to ask when the next project is due. It’s due tomorrow. And no, you can’t turn it in late.