Category Archives: The Good Stuff

It’s Good to be Back

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, so today, which happens to be any old day, I have made a commitment to blog regularly and to enter a 10K race (why not?).

Blog topics have been coming to me in droves since I decided to spend more time doing, wait for it…

Staring

Nothing!

And by nothing I mean reading for pleasure, going for walks, watching my kids play, drinking tea while staring out the window, burying my smart phone deep into my purse where I won’t see it or hear it, and you know what? I’m feeling mentally refreshed.

And you can too!

Ok, I have to admit, the Christmas holidays helped make this practice a reality. It was a big advantage that my institution essentially shut down for a week and a half so no one was doing much work (unless you are the professor like me who failed to complete all grading).

Even though both students and faculty alike are back at it, I am taking a pledge to continue to incorporate my daily practice of “nothing” I introduced over the holidays for all of the many benefits it provides.

Research by Hallnäs and Redström has suggested that introducing slow technology, which involves incorporating pause and reflection as alternatives to efficiency, rationality, and productivity, may actually help individuals restore a level of calm so many of us desire.

A more recent study out of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, by researchers Oppezzo and Schwartz found that walking boosts creativity (thanks Daphne Gray-Grant). Hey, I’m all for multitasking when it can improve my ingenuity and waistline at the same time!

The takeaway here is that we are not necessarily more productive when we are “busy”. Taking time for yourself can actually improve your efficiency, creativity and satisfaction levels so why not try it. You might really like it.

 

Hallnäs, L. and Redström, J. Slow technology: Designing for reflection. Personal & Ubiquitous Computing 5, 3 (2001), 201-212.

Oppezzo, Marily; Schwartz, Daniel L. Give your ideas some legs: The positive effect of walking on creative thinking. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, Vol 40(4), Jul 2014, 1142-1152.

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrew_clarke/9011391104/”>voithite</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

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To Get Support Show Support

Helping HandYesterday’s class brought tears to my eyes.  But in a good way.

Does this happen often? Not really.

In my decade or so of post-secondary teaching I have experienced the odd classroom situation that has made me want to run as fast as possible from the room, curl up in a corner of my office, grab my tea and a box of kleenex and let loose.

Why?  Because I care.  Even though I’ve learned to distance myself from student issues, disappointments and frustrations, they still get to me from time to time.

Fortunately yesterday’s class was nothing like that at all.  In fact, by the end of class I wanted to call for a group hug and tell my students how proud I was of them.  You know, a regular “Kumbaya” session.  I’m writing this post to share what happened and why what happened is so important to student learning.

The Story

Yesterday, groups of students from my management class presented details of the business ventures they have been working on for the past three months.  This is a huge project involving lots of coordination, research, writing, number crunching, organization and group drama.  The project ends with the presentation.  It’s generally a happy day for most students as they are truly relieved that the process is over.

After each group presents, the class is invited to ask questions.  It was during this time that I observed a major difference from past years in the classroom tone.

In the past this Q&A session has let’s say, been a little tense.  Students on the receiving end are often on the defensive because they are really completely invested in their ideas and research.  It’s their baby and they will do what it takes to protect it.

Students on the delivery side are often on the offensive.  I believe that some students feel that in order to make their project seem more impressive it’s a good idea to pose questions that are designed to make other groups feel inadequate and uncomfortable.

That did not happen yesterday.

Yesterday’s questions were posed with a genuine desire to better understand the business plan that the presenting group had developed.  Even though some of the questions were similar in content to those posed in the past (remember, the ones with the bad intent) there was something different about the delivery that made the difference.

For the first time I had a presenter respond to a question with “That’s a really good idea.  Thanks for bringing that up.”.  I also had comments from students that simply recognized the hard work, something unique about the idea or presentation and the excellent job put forward.

The supportive and encouraging atmosphere created by the students was what brought the tears to my eyes.  I was so proud of them.

So What?

A supportive environment must be present in order for most students to take risks.  And taking risks is necessary to foster student learning.

What do I mean by risks?

I mean asking questions of faculty and fellow students.  I mean sharing information and opinions.  I mean asking support services on campus for help or guidance.  I mean reaching out to fellow students and simply making an introduction.

Let’s face it, some students don’t necessarily need a supportive environment to take risks.  They would do so regardless.  That’s their personality.  But many students are in no way ready to take such risks, especially in the first couple of years of university.  They NEED this environment in order to grow.

What About You?

What do you need to do in order to be in a position to take risks?  How can you help create a supportive environment?

Here are some ideas:

  • When you are “shopping” for institutions or classes, pay particular attention to the “community feel” you get from the place or from what past students have experienced.
  • Get to know your fellow classmates.  Just say hi.  Start the conversation and you’ll be surprised how easy it takes off.
  • Do the work so that you can be an active contributor in class or in discussions with your professor or fellow classmates outside of the classroom.
  • Take advantage of opportunities to work in small groups (seminar/tutorial sessions or simply smaller class sizes).
  • Work well in groups.  Know the tools that exist to help manage plans and progress and use them.

Don’t wait for someone else to create a supportive environment for you.  Take initiative and do it yourself.

Support is a funny thing.  You get more when you give more.  So, are you doing everything in your power to be supportive?  If not, what can you do to be more supportive in your classrooms, in your family, in your life?

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/mandajuice/562954687/”>Mandajuice</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>

 

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End of Term Magic Moment

Stars

It really is the most wonderful time of the year.

Exams and papers are graded, I can see over my filing pile and I am up to date with all of my reference requests.  I still haven’t starting writing “that” paper for a conference submission but at least I feel optimistic it will happen.

The best thing to come out of this entire term’s grading (and there was a lot of it) were the takeaways and key learning points, otherwise known as the “ah-ha” moments, identified by numerous students in their final business communications course papers.  In a previous post I pointed out that professors don’t take any joy in grading poor papers but I didn’t mention the immense joy some of us do get from grading insightful, original and well-crafted documents.

The specific points identified by the students don’t really matter to me at the end of the day.  What does matter to me is that the students demonstrated that they learned something from the course content and from the experience in which they participated.

I have known some of these students for two and even three years and to see them grow and mature in their communication effectiveness and analysis was wonderful.

Although I’m going to enjoy my break from the student’s smiling faces over the holidays I know that when classes resume I’ll be ready to smile right back.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sleepykisser/298046370/“>水泳男</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a>

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