The semester is almost over, and it’s time to start wrapping up your college success course. Which means that now is the perfect time for your students to complete the ACES Progress Report found in most of our LaunchPad products. Students will take the same inventory that they did at the start of the semester, and can provide a great insight into their growth and the effectiveness of your course. There are three different reports you can view: Progress Report: The second time students take ACES, at the end of the semester Comparison (new this fall): See Initial and Progress report scores side by side Change (new this fall): Looks at change in raw numbers Note that only students who have completed BOTH the Initial AND the Progress Inventory will show up in the end-of-semester report. The Progress Report will look similar to the Initial Report you’re already familiar with, but with new scores, on both the Class Report, Roster Report, and Institutional Report. The Comparison Report compares how your students scored on the ACES Initial Report at the beginning of the term with how they scored on the Progress Report at the end of the term on a side-by-side chart. On the Change tab, you can view reports showing how students’ raw scores (their scores before they are run through the national norm table) have changed from the ACES Initial to the ACES Progress self-assessment. This is a more precise method of calculating change. For more information on using the reports, you can read our knowledge base article or sign up for a session with your Learning Solutions Specialist.
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“I am passionate about study skills, and I bet you’re wondering how that’s possible…”
I always start my classes this way and most students either laugh out loud or look at me in disbelief. Then I explain that I am passionate about study skills because they saved me. I struggled mightily my first and second years of college, especially in Economics, and I was close to failing. I was struggling in other classes, too, including a Science requirement. It was the first time I had ever seen my grades so low and I hid by not telling a soul. But a teaching assistant who really cared noticed that my tireless efforts didn’t mesh with my grades. He told me that I wasn’t stupid, I just hadn’t been taught how to manage college level work. I needed study skills support.
He was right, and I got help from my college’s academic resource center. I learned how to change my old habits, which ultimately changed my life. I finally felt like I could “do” college; that I wasn’t the mistake. Over time I learned there were “college ways” to becoming a true critical thinker that meant I studied more deeply, wrote papers more analytically, debated more effectively, and simply learned a whole lot more.
So yes, I am passionate about study skills, but it can be difficult to instill this passion in students. And I get it. Study skills topics like time management, setting goals, critical thinking, taking notes, test taking, etc., are simply not thrilling. Many students think they already have study skills so they don’t see the point in a class dedicated to them. On top of it, study skills are very personal in that we all have individual learning styles and preferences so there isn’t a “one size fits all” approach.
Which gets me to the real reason I’m writing this blog post: to share a number of approaches that instructors can take when teaching study skills. I believe there are opportunities to meaningfully engage students in study skills topics if self-reflection and personalization are built into the curriculum. When the topics start mattering to students, they are more likely to walk away interested, willing, and able participants. But, it is very hard to “teach” study skills because they are so personal and individual.
And this is how the Instructor’s Manual for Pocket Guide to College Success came about. It was developed as a way to offer very specific tools for instructors to consider as they plan for each class, with the goal of actually engaging students and helping them find their own “passion” for the topics. You’ll see that the Instructor’s Manual is filled with ideas focused on individuself-reflection through journal writing, small and large group discussions (starting with small group discussion channels, which can be more meaningful than large group discussions), relevant guest speakers, hands-on activities, and online videos and discussion boards.
In reality, there are probably too many ideas in this manual. It’s not possible to use every activity or suggestion and I honestly have not been able to use every single one in my own teaching. But, I always revisit the manual when I am preparing for each class because I know I must use a variety of strategies to keep the students engaged in the topic at hand. I have a pattern of always including time for written self-reflection, asking students to share with one or two others about their personal experiences, and providing opportunities for those willing to open up to the larger group. I try to talk less and listen more. And ideally, I dedicate at least ten or more minutes for students to apply the study skills to the academic work they are currently engaged in. It’s a lot to fit in, but I hope it means I am making the material accessible to all students given the variety of learning preferences represented in each class.
Authenticity also matters. It’s important to be real about your own experiences if they are relevant. If that’s not possible, I try to bring in “experts” who can speak more deeply about the focus of class and personalize the material, especially experienced peers who have truly been there. I don’t sugarcoat the often challenging and difficult parts of college, especially since my students come from academically disadvantaged backgrounds. The more honest I can be, the more likely students will be honest about their own struggles. And that is such an important opening because the information now matters to them. They then become more willing to make the effort to try out new study skills strategies that can really help them tackle and overcome their college obstacles.
I don’t ever promise that students will suddenly become passionate about study skills. But I do promise that if they actually take study skills seriously, they will increase their chances of true learning and engagement in those college subjects they are passionate about! And that means more personal growth and college success!
The Pocket Guide to College Success provides straightforward and easily consumable coverage on all the topics typically found in a full-size College Success text in a handy, affordable, highly-customizable format. For more information on the Pocket Guide, please go to www.macmillanlearning.com.
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The ACES that you know and love got some amazing updates last week to make it more user friendly and more useful for both your course and your institution. Now available in the LaunchPads for Connections, 1st and 2nd editions, Connections Essentials, Step by Step and LaunchPad Solo for ACES, we have new unit organization, a new instructor dashboard, and new reports. Before we dive into the details, it’s important to note that to avoid issues and to make sure all of these awesome updates show up in your course, you will want to create a new course from scratch, rather than copying a course from a previous semester. Directions for how to do so can be found here: https://macmillan.force.com/macmillanlearning/s/article/LaunchPad-Create-a-new-course When students take ACES at the start of the semester, the inventory is now called the “Initial Report.” Everything with the inventory itself is the same, with the same scales, still norm referenced, though the norm group has been updated and now represents over 42,000 college students, and there are 3 new demographic questions. The Inventory is in its own unit folder, along with the Student Guide. All LaunchPads also now contain a unit folder at the bottom of the chapter listing for students to take ACES a second time, at the end of the semester. This folder is called the “Progress Report and Activity.” Depending on which LaunchPad you used previously, this may be a new name, and we’ve removed the Likert Scale quiz you may have had. It’s been replaced with a Reflection Activity, which has students look back at their Initial and Progress scores to observe and explain any differences. The biggest changes come in how instructors review student results. Rather than having a dashboard in the activity itself, all instructor facing resources live in a unit folder called “ACES Instructor Resources and Reports,” seen in the screenshot below. As before, instructors have access to a guide, the inventory questions, and feedback, though they are now more easily accessible. The ACES Instructor Report Dashboard is where things get even more interesting. All reports and scores that you need are all in one place, in a well organized, symmetrical pattern. There are 4 types of reports: Initial Report: The first time students take ACES, at the start of semester Progress Report: The second time students take ACES, at the end of the semester Comparison (NEW!): See Initial and Progress report scores side by side Change (NEW!): Looks at change in raw numbers, not on the national normed scale. Then, each of these reports break down into three different ways to review data: Class Report: What you’re used to seeing, all student scores on all 12 scales Roster Report: Previously, this was in another window. View each student’s score on an individual topic Institutional Report (NEW!): Normed results for ALL students at your school who have taken it, including your class, to see how your class compares to the average course at your school If you’d like more detail on these new reports, you can read more in our Knowledge Base, we’ll be hosting webinars throughout the summer, and you can always sign up for a one-on-one session with your Learning Solutions Specialist. Hope to hear from you! Instructor Reports Knowledge Base: https://macmillan.force.com/macmillanlearning/s/article/LaunchPad-ACES-Using-ACES-Instructor-Reports Webinar sign up: https://go.macmillanlearning.com/Register-for-Comm-Webinar.html?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiWm1Oak5ESTBOVGxoT1dVMyIsInQiOiJVWjJ5M1M1MW5NVkhQK1pMZWp3UG5HeGh3emxhNzVqc05DRUN0bGhEMjJFcmJpclE3V3QrTE1TUytmQTBUOTZxNnREdU1hQzRuOWYwdml3eHNPSmZzdz09In0%3D One-on-one meeting: http://www.macmillanhighered.com/Catalog/support.aspx
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As a Learning Solutions Specialist at Macmillan, it’s my job to help instructors get their LaunchPad courses set up, offer advice on which activities to assign, and make sure they’re comfortable using the technology with their students. I often begin or end my LaunchPad demo and training sessions with the idea that students WILL be using tech at some point through college, why not start them off with it right away? While they’re prepping for and/or adjusting to college? That’s all we did at my old teaching gig. Before coming to Macmillan, I taught, and was an adjunct for my school’s college success program. All online students took the exact same class during their first 4 weeks of school. We had a prescriptive course because we wanted each student on equal footing. And, because their programs were totally online, we wanted to make sure they knew how to use the technology they would be using the rest of their college careers. We offered “remedial” activities for students who may not be very familiar with laptops. Their very first assignment was to download AOL Instant Messenger (this was many years ago…) and send their instructor an IM, as all instructors on campus were constantly logged in during office hours, and that’s the best way to reach them “live.” We also worked through applications and websites that may be helpful in their other courses, and spent a fair amount of time on conducting research on the Internet. All that being said, of course it is important to teach study skills, time management, etc. But make sure you’re focusing on the little things too. The little things that will also make their time in college a little easier. If you’d like a personal tour of LaunchPad, sign up for a session with me, your Learning Solutions Specialist: https://www.macmillanlearning.com/Catalog/support.aspx
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Matthew L. Sanders is an Associate Professor of communication studies and an Associate Dean of Humanities and Social Science at Utah State University. He holds a Ph.D. in communication from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Matt conducts research in the areas of nonprofit organizations and student empowerment and his work has been published in acad emic journals in communication, business, and public administration. He is the author of the book Becoming a Learner: Realizing the Opportunity of Education, which is used in First Year Experience programs at several universities. Tell us about one initiative you are currently working on that you are really excited about. I’m working on a project to infuse the idea of becoming an educated person into our general education curriculum so students will hear that important message more times than just their FYE course. I think general education reform is the next step in improve the first year of college. What motivates you to work in college success? College can be a transformative experience. It was for me; I wouldn’t be who I am without it. I want to do what I can to help it be a great experience for all students. What advice would you have given to your younger self as you embarked on your first year in college? To remember that the overall goal is to become an educated person and to worry less about what major I might choose. And I would take more classes that would really challenge me and stretch my abilities. What are some trends and developments you are currently seeing in the college success/First-Year Experience course? There is a trend toward focusing on helping students understand the “why” behind everything. It’s just starting, but people get it. Our textbooks of the future won’t just have a short chapter on it or treat it as self-evident. The premise of our work will be to infuse meaning into how students view college. What did you enjoy the most about writing Becoming a Learner? Writing in my teacher voice. Rather than write as an academic writes to other academics, I was able to write and in a way speak directly to the reader in the same way I do in my classroom. That made the writing exciting and meaningful. And I think that’s why so many students respond well to it. And on a personal note... What book has influenced you the most? Parker Palmer’s book, The Courage to Teach, had a big impact on me as a brand new teacher. It made me realize that teaching is about connection. What is something you want to learn in the next year (related to higher education or otherwise)? I want to learn how to lead change among my peers at my university. If you hadn't pursued your current career, what do you think you would have done? I would have worked in training and development. What is your ideal vacation? A guided fly fishing trip to Alaska. Tell us an interesting fact about yourself that not many people may know. I speak Spanish.
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John Gardner and Betsy Barefoot were some of the early innovators of the college success course. In keeping with that theme, the LaunchPad which accompanies the 13 th edition of their text, Your College Experience, we include innovative ways to engage your students with the course content. As your Learning Solutions Specialist, let me take you on a tour of what’s available. Each chapter contains a n interactive self-assessment quiz, which gives students an opportunity to reflect and learn more about themselves and the chapter topics, providing targeted advice to help them develop a personalized learning plan. Multiple-choice Case Study Quizzes ask students to apply practical strategies and concepts discussed in each chapter. Students receive instant, helpful feedback after each response to help them contemplate the scenarios further. My personal favorite resource is our student voices videos, which shows real college students sharing their experiences. Accompanied by a set of open-response questions, two Video Activities per unit allow students to reflect on course topics and deepen their thinking, as well as encourages application of helpful strategies discussed to their own lives. You can talk and talk and talk about how important time management is, but it might not really hit home until they hear it from their peers! All of these live alongside an interactive ebook, instructor resources, and LearningCurve Adaptive Quizzing. If you’d like to learn more about how LaunchPad can help enhance your course, sign up for a one-on-one session with your Learning Solutions Specialist: https://macmillanlearning.com/Catalog/event/training-demos/LaunchPad/Demos
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ACES, the Academic Career Excellent System, is the flagship feature of our College Success list. Though it is a student inventory, it also has benefits for instructors. As the Learning Solutions Specialist for College Success, it is my job to help get instructors up and running with all of our digital resources, including ACES. And, as a and a former instructor myself, I'm personally invested in making sure your classes are using the resources in the best way possible. We’ll explore its many uses throughout the semester, but, today, we’ll just start with the basics for those not familiar with it, or as a refresher if you haven’t checked it out in a while. Specifically we’ll focus on the Initial Report and its use as a Pre-Test. It is found within several of our LaunchPad online platforms, including the Connections Franchise and LaunchPad Solo. Typically assigned during the first few weeks of class, the inventory looks at how prepared students are for college in 12 key areas: Critical Thinking and Goal Setting, Motivation and Decision Making, Learning Preferences, Organization and Time Management, Reading, Note Taking, Memory and Studying, Test Taking, Information Literacy and Communication, Connecting with Others, Personal and Financial Health, and Academic and Career Planning. Students rate their level of agreement with statements such as “My notes are legible and well organized”, on a 6 point scale from “Strongly Agree” to Strongly disagree.” It consists of 80 statements and takes about 20 minutes to complete. Once completed, students see how their scores compare to our national norm based on college students across the country. They are also provided with information on what their scores means, and how they can improve upon certain areas. As an instructor, you see the aggregate of your class on that same national norm. Scales with green bars indicate a high skill level, consistent with the highest 25 percent of the national sample. Scales with yellow bars indicate a moderate skill level, consistent with the middle 50 percent of the national sample. Scales with red bars indicate a low skill level, consistent with the lowest 25 percent of the national sample. When given as a pre-test at the start of the semester, you get a glance of what you should focus your time on throughout the semester. Spend more time covering the areas in red, and maybe less time in the green areas. And of course, you can also work individually with students as well. We’ll look at more ways to use ACES in your course in future “Tech Tuesdays.” If you’d like to learn more right away, or get assistance setting up your LaunchPad course space, sign up for a demo with your LSS Specialist. http://www.macmillanhighered.com/Catalog/support.aspx
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The morning after the 2016 election I found myself driving—bleary-eyed after a restless night—to the English department at Florida Atlantic University to host a book fair. Weeks earlier, when I had scheduled the event, I overlooked the fact that it was the day after the election, though I could not have predicted the dramatic turn of events and the resulting atmosphere of charged emotion. At the time, I was the Macmillan Learning sales rep for South Florida, before coming in-house as an editor, and I never felt closer to my virtue as a Macmillan rep than when hosting a book fair. I think that in all of the talk about learning and course objectives, people can forget the tremendous power that books have to simply help us understand one another. On that particular morning, instructors stumbled in, grabbed a hot cup of coffee and sat with me and the books for a long moment or two, before heading on to the rest of their day. We shared some laughs, and some cries, but above all—despite the confusion we were feeling—we felt connected to all of the humanity I had spread out across the table. The textbooks and the readers, but also the Macmillan trade titles I had brought—George Packer’s The Unwinding , Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones , the essay collection This I Believe ... While moving slowly in South Florida traffic on the way home, in my mind I began writing my own This I Believe essay. I helped Broward College select This I Believe II for their College Read program, and I had been meaning to write one. A week or so later, after sharing my essay with a few professors, I was invited by Broward to read my essay and lead a discussion on a documentary, Glen’s Village , they were showing in conjunction with College Read. After the screening of the documentary, I led an open-forum discussion about the film. In one of the most striking parts of the film, Glen and his community fight to keep his public high school from being closed and demolished due to budget cuts. When they lose the fight to keep the school open, Glen then fights to preserve at least "the culture of the school." I asked the attendees to talk about the culture of their school, Broward College. What is it, what should it be, what role does it play as a part of your community? We had some really heartfelt discussion. One student said that the school "is like a piece of you, and when you lose the school, a little piece of you dies." A professor said that so many of us as individuals come from broken places, and he saw Broward as a place of healing, and that all of us need to be part of that feeling for ourselves and each other. I then talked a little about the College Read program, and the idea that everyone reading the same book and sharing their stories can help strengthen their community. I read a selection from This I Believe II—a quote from Edward R. Murrow about why the “This I Believe” project was founded. I asked if his words resonated with them, particularly after the election—lots of nods and yesses. Then I read my This I Believe essay, and invited students to read their own essays—or to read ones from the book they wanted to share. One student picked "Living with Integrity" by Bob Barrett. In closing, one of the professors read "The Right to Be Fully American" by Yasir Billoo, from This I Believe II. It opens: "I am an American and like almost everyone here, I am also something else. I was raised to believe that America embraces all people from all faiths, but recently, that long-standing belief--along with both parts of my identity--have come under attack. And as an American Muslim of Pakistani descent, this attack is tearing me apart." Before reading the essay, she gave a very moving speech to students: "In light of the recent election, I just hope and pray that we as individuals and we as a community can still hold on to our integrity and our values and to understand that each and every single one of us, regardless of our background, of our heritage, of our religious beliefs, of our height, our weight, our color, our anything, that we all treat each other as human beings. And nobody--nobody--is better than you. Nobody. And nobody on this planet is worse than you. And please always, always remember that. Take that with you in every walk of life." As an editor, I believe my job is helping build communities. Because that’s exactly what a good book is--textbook or trade--a means for helping us understand one another, heal us from the broken places we’ve been, and reveal to us our enduring, common humanity. Allen is the Program Manager for College Success & Human Communication at Macmillan Learning. He is an advocate for College Read programs as a way to foster social belonging on campus and in our larger communities. You can read his This I Believe essay, Crying in Baseball , here.
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Since we first launched the ACES self-assessment back in 2016, we’ve seen program after program make the simple decision to give each one of their students, on their first days of college, one of the most powerful gifts--self-knowledge. It all starts with the simple, 20-minute ACES activity: a set of survey questions expertly designed by three counseling psychologists, through which students create a quantitative self-portrait of their strengths and growth areas--the ACES Initial Report . Over 30,000 students have now taken ACES in their first weeks of college, so many of them for the first time discovering the power of a growth mindset, goal setting, and how to cultivate their inner assets to overcome adversity and be their best selves. Over the past year or so, we’ve been beta-testing an ACES “post-test,” so that students could take the assessment again and reflect on their progress. An impetus for developing the post-test was that instructors could now have a powerful tool to help quantify the progress students were making in their FYE course. But the real driver behind this second instance of ACES is a pedagogical reason--its metacognitive benefits. Having a second ACES report, at the end of the term, provides students with an important opportunity to reflect on their progress, practice gratitude, and gain valuable positive reinforcement. It also gives them an updated version of their quantitative self-portrait. By seeing change in their skills, abilities, and attitudes, the end-of-term ACES report provides them with real, first-hand experience with growth-mindset, neuroplasticity, and above all, the power to change oneself for the better. To emphasize these powerful benefits, the beta post-test will be replaced in early Summer 2019 in all ACES LaunchPads with a new, permanent, second instance of ACES to be taken at the end of the semester. The report students will receive from this second instance of ACES will be called “ The ACES Progress Report .” Instructors will also have a new “ Comparison Report ” in their report dashboard so they themselves can reflect on the impact their course has had on their students. In addition, there will be a brief guide added to all ACES LaunchPads to help students compare their Progress Report with their Initial Report from the beginning of the semester. Connections, Second Edition --the new edition of the textbook program developed in conjunction with ACES by the same team of counseling psychologists--gets an even more powerful end-of-semester feature: an assignable Capstone LaunchPad activity that automatically pulls in students’ ACES results from the entire term, and leads them through a metacognitive reflection to set them up for long term success. These new features--the ACES Progress Report , the ACES Comparison Report , and the ACES Capstone Activity --are truly the product of the collaborative spirit at Macmillan Learning. I’m so inspired by how our wonderful authors, our senior editor Christina Lembo, our senior media editor Tom Kane, our technology team, and our faculty and student partners across the country, came together to bring you these new products, fostered by our spirit that together we can achieve more. With these new features, our hope is that you will now be able to give your students something as powerful as the self-knowledge you offer them when they walk into your class--self growth, as they walk out.
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It’s #TechTuesday! Here are 10 useful and free apps we love for both instructors and students to live informed, balanced, simplified, and successful lifestyles:
Some of us just aren’t morning people, but sometimes life throws us 8 a.m. classes anyway. Whether you’re waking up just to be at class or you have to teach it, attendance and punctuality are important. Alarmy is one way to ensure that you get out of bed -- your alarm will be set with tasks that must be completed to turn off the dreaded noise.
Who has time to watch or read the news everyday? Morning Brew delivers a newsletter of major updates to your email inbox every morning. Designed for millennials, the app provides quick and quality news coverage of diverse topics including a stock market recap, business news, and a short lifestyle section.
Whether you tend to procrastinate a little or a lot, physically blocking out distractions can be helpful in completing assignments in a timely manner. SelfControl lets you block your access from certain sites and apps for a predetermined period of time. Even if you restart your computer or delete the app, you won’t have access to blacklisted sites until the timer is up.
In need of a professional, direct means of communication between organization members, students, and instructors? Slack is a cloud-based messaging and collaboration app that offers organized instant communication, file sharing, screen sharing, and calling through its free and secure service. It’s the perfect real-time alternative to email.
Find yourself without your wallet and with a growing list of IOUs? Venmo makes it simple to pay back your friends for split meals, Uber rides, concert tickets, rent, and much more. The app securely connects to your bank account or credit card to send or request money to friends, family, colleagues, and now even many businesses .
If you’re a big list person like me, you’ll love Google Keep , one of the lesser known apps in the Google Suite. You can take notes, make checklists with tick boxes, create drawings, insert photos, change colors, and set reminders.
This mobile and web based app allows students to study content through flashcards, quizzing, and a variety of study games. Quizlet is extremely popular with students because it can be used on the go and study sets can easily be shared. Instructors can use it as a tool to review course information, track progress, and engage students.
While writing a halfway decent essay is a prerequisite of college admission, properly citing one is not. EasyBib makes it easy for students to correctly cite their sources and avoid plagiarism. All you have to do is plug in the link to the article you’d like to cite and the app picks out and formats the necessary information.
My Fitness Pal
Students and instructors alike can fall prey to bad eating habits under the stress and time constraints of school. My Fitness Pal is a free app by Under Armour that keeps track of daily exercise and diet habits, allowing you to set attainable personal fitness goals. Users simply enter their current and goal weight, then input their meals and daily exercise to track their progress against the recommended calorie intake suggested to achieve their goal.
College is often the first time young adults manage their own money, usually with little guidance on how to do so responsibly. Try Mint to proactively (or counter-actively) save money. It’s an all-in-one app for budgeting, investments, bills, security, and credit.
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Last summer, we looked at schools with Common Reading Programs, where institutions assign or recommend titles for students and instructors to read over the summer, so that they can come together to discuss the book as a community in the fall. Believe it or not (I don't), but summer is here again, and so are these reading programs. While several schools have already announced their picks, there's still no way to tell which books will be the most common (pun intended) choice. While some common reading programs include the entire student body, many of them are aimed specifically at students entering their first year of college. This gives incoming students the opportunity to share something with their instructors and peers before they step on campus, and provides them with a taste of what they can expect from their institution over the course (pun not intended) of their studies. So, for those of you still deliberating on your common reading choices, or those of you who simply want more reading recommendations, take a look at the Macmillan catalog on Books for the First-Year Experience. These critically-acclaimed books are ideal for the first-year experience: they're accessible and challenging, timely and classic, broadly appealing, stimulating, and moving. They foster individual growth while also inviting campus-wide discussion. Overall, a perfect summer reading for an incoming student who wants to start their first year on the right page (last pun, promise!). Here are some examples of books featured on Macmillan's Books for the First-Year Experience Catalog: The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton with Lara Love Hardin Oprah's Book Club Choice for June 2018! In 1985, Anthony Rae Hinton was arrested and charged with two counts of capital murder in Alabama. Stunned, confused, and only twenty-nine years old, Hinton knew that it was a case of mistaken identity and believed that the truth would prove his innocence and ultimately set him free. But with an incompetent defense attorney and a different system of justice for a poor black man in the South, Hinton was sentenced to death by electrocution. He spent his first three years on Death Row at Holman State Prison in despairing silence—angry and full of hatred for all those who had sent an innocent man to his death. But as Hinton realized and accepted his fate, he resolved not only to survive, but to find a way to live on Death Row. For the next twenty-seven years he was a beacon—transforming not only his own spirit, but those of his fellow inmates, fifty-four of whom were executed mere feet from his cell. With the help of civil rights attorney and bestselling author of Just Mercy , Bryan Stevenson, Hinton won his release in 2015. With a foreword by Stevenson, The Sun Does Shine is an extraordinary testament to the power of hope sustained through the darkest times. Hinton’s memoir tells his dramatic thirty-year journey and shows how you can take away a man’s freedom, but you can’t take away his imagination, humor, or joy. Anthony Ray Hinton spent nearly thirty years on death row for crimes he did not commit. Released in April 2015, Hinton now speaks widely on prison reform and the power of faith and forgiveness. He lives in Alabama. Check out his chat with Oprah about his book on her Facebook page here. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming birth, injury, and infectious disease from harrowing to manageable. But in the inevitable condition of aging and death, the goals of medicine seem too frequently to run counter to the interest of the human spirit. Gawande, a practicing surgeon, addresses his profession’s ultimate limitation, arguing that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. Gawande offers examples of freer, more socially fulfilling models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly, and he explores the varieties of hospice care to demonstrate that a person’s last weeks or months may be rich and dignified. Nursing homes, preoccupied with safety, pin patients into railed beds and wheelchairs. Hospitals isolate the dying, checking for vital signs long after the goals of cure have become moot. Doctors, committed to extending life, continue to carry out devastating procedures that in the end extend suffering. Being Mortal asserts that medicine can comfort and enhance our experience even to the end, providing not only a good life but also a good end. Atul Gawande is author of three bestselling books: Complications ; Better ; and The Checklist Manifesto . He is also a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, a staff writer for The New Yorker , and a professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health. He and his wife have three children and live in Newton, Massachusetts. In the Country We Love: My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero with Michelle Burford Diane Guerrero, the television actress from the megahit Orange Is the New Black and Jane the Virgin , was just fourteen years old on the day her parents were detained and deported while she was at school. Born in the U.S., Guerrero was able to remain in the country and continue her education, depending on the kindness of family friends who took her in and helped her build a life and a successful acting career for herself, without the support system of her family. In the Country We Love is a moving, heartbreaking story of one woman’s extraordinary resilience in the face of the nightmarish struggles of undocumented residents in this country. There are over 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., many of whom have citizen children, whose lives here are just as precarious, and whose stories haven’t been told. Written with bestselling author Michelle Burford, this memoir is a tale of personal triumph that also casts a much-needed light on the fears that haunt the daily existence of families like Guerrero’s and on a system that fails them over and over. Diane Guerrero is an actress on the hit shows Orange Is the New Black and Jane the Virgin . She volunteers with the nonprofit Immigrant Legal Resource Center, as well as with Mi Familia Vota, an organization that promotes civic involvement. She has been named an Ambassador for Citizenship and Naturalization by the White House. She lives in New York City. Walking to Listen: 4,000 Miles Across America, One Story at a Time by Andrew Forsthoefel At twenty-three, Andrew Forsthoefel walked out the back door of his home in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, with a backpack, an audio recorder, his copies of Whitman and Rilke, and a sign that read “Walking to Listen.” He had just graduated from Middlebury College and was ready to being his adult life, but he didn’t know how. So he decided he’d walk. And listen. It would be a cross-country quest for guidance, and everyone he met would be his guide. Thousands shared their stories with him, sometimes confiding their prejudices, too. Often he didn’t know how to respond. How to find unity in diversity? How to stay connected, even as fear works to tear us apart? He listened for answers to these questions, and to the existential questions every human must face, and began to find that the answer might be in listening itself. Ultimately, it’s the stories of others living all along the roads of America that carry this journey and sing out in a hopeful, heartfelt book about how a life is made, and how our nation defines itself on the most human level. Andrew Forsthoefel is a writer, radio producer, and public speaker. After graduating from Middlebury College in 2011, he spent nearly a year walking across the United States. He first recounted part of that journey in a radio story featured on This American Life . He now facilitates workshops on walking and listening as practices in personal transformation, interconnection, and conflict resolution, and is currently based in Northampton, Massachusetts. This post was adapted from an entry in A Word from Macmillan tagged 2017, A Word from Macmillan on 10/19/2017.
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Since joining Pinterest in....wow, 2012, my boards have been pathetically bare. But as you may have seen from my last post, this fall I've been on an organization kick, and so I've been looking to Pinterest for inspiration. For those who are not already familiar with Pinterest, it's is an image-sharing site, where people collect ideas and web pages by pinning them to their boards. It's essentially the internet's solution to scrapbooking, but instead of preserving old things, you're searching for new things. Pinterest currently has approximately 150 million active users each month, and among those users are students and, increasingly, instructors of all grade levels. Here are just some of the ways that instructors can utilize Pinterest to make their classrooms more engaging, more creative, and more internet-friendly. Get Inspired One of the best aspects of Pinterest is the ability to find and share some of the unique ideas that your colleagues have posted to the site. Whether you're looking to decorate and organize your classroom, find templates for class activities and projects, or even just to find some tips for time-management and stress relief, you'll find plenty of ideas within your first few minutes of searching. You may even find something that you weren't looking for, like the inspiration to learn a new craft or explore new places. Personally, I've been looking for bullet journal ideas and templates Share Ideas This is something that can benefit you, your colleagues, and even your students. Pinterest provides a space for people to share ideas, so if you want to offer your students some study tips, they can provide you in term with some ideas for outside material that could be discussed in class. Remove All the Clutter Is your desk often covered with articles, journals, and memos? Save all of that information on your phone, computer, or other electronic device instead. With the option to create folders and boards for different categories, it's much easier to store and organize your data on Pinterest, so if you ever get a chance to actually read all of those articles, you'll actually be able to find them! Student Work A great way to get students excited about their studies is to let them explore what they're learning on their own. This helps them develop independent study skills, and gives them an outlet to be creative with their coursework. Students can use the site to brainstorm and research topics, create digital portfolios and journals, and collaborate on group projects. This is also an excellent opportunity to get students thinking about the source of the photos, ideas, and information they're finding, teaching them not only about copyright law but about critically evaluating information and its source. Build a Creative, Collaborative Environment As previously mentioned, Pinterest is a place to share with others, and this can be your space to share with your students. You can start group discussions, share feedback on work, store ideas that have come up in class discussions, and create a space to display impressive work. By allowing students to explore their creativity in class, you'll not only get them thinking about the course material in a new way, but you'll also give them the chance to build communication skills, confidence, and self-reliance. These practices could help students succeed in the classroom, in their careers and, of course, on social media.
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Fall may not mark the beginning of the calendar year, but it certainly presents an opportunity for growth and change with the beginning of the academic year. Think back to the end of the last semester, or the end of your last assignment – do you feel it went well? Is there something you wish you had done ahead of time to make things easier for yourself, or some project that you felt could have used more work if you had had the time? Work piles up fast, sometimes before you realize what’s happening; use these first few weeks of school to get yourself prepared for the busy season ahead of time. Get Organized Spring cleaning isn’t the only time for clearing out space and reorganizing. Whether you’ve moved to a new living situation or work station or you’re returning to the same old office space, organizing now will make life much easier when there are stacks of papers and books to go through later in the semester. When you’re organizing, keep in mind that you should arrange your space in a way that is most efficient for you - your desk may look great cleared off, but if that doesn’t fit in with your working style, your work will probably be undone quickly. Need inspiration? The following image from CCN Money shows how you can organize your desk for maximum productivity. Dedicate a Study Space Whether you like to work at a desk, in your room, in a library, or another public setting, try to pick a spot and dedicate it just for your work. If possible, avoid bringing distractions like your cell phone and snacks to this space, so that your brain will get in the habit of treating these places as work-only spaces. Try to avoid working on your bed, as this can make it more difficult to concentrate on your work and make it more difficult for you to fall asleep later. In fact, it’s generally better to avoid doing work in your bedroom altogether, though that’s not always possible. Finding a spot, as small as that spot may be, to work consistently will help your brain concentrate when you’re in that space. I used to waste so much time procrastinating on my final papers by deliberating over work spaces, but three of my favorites were the desk carrels in the library, the table in the laundry room, and the floor of my bedroom, when it was too late to use a public space. Plan Ahead The great thing about a college syllabus is that it provides a roadmap for how you can expect your semester to go. Most instructors will include the due dates for writing assignments, exams, and even your midterms and finals. Mark these due dates on a calendar, in a journal, or on your phone so that you can keep them in mind when making plans for travel, friends, or extracurricular activities. You can also compare the due dates for different classes, so you can try to get some of the lighter assignments done early when they conflict with larger priority assignments. Also look out for particularly lengthy reading assignments – bring some of the longer works with you when you know you’ll have some reading time, so that way you won’t be cramming it all in at the last minute. If you decide to record these assignments on paper, be sure to use a pencil, as the course syllabus is likely to change as the semester goes on! Find a Study Buddy / Form a Study Group Nothing makes preparing for a final exam or writing a final paper easier than having friends in the class to help you brainstorm. During the first few weeks of class, talk to your peers about your ongoing assignments, and see who might be interested in joining you for future study sessions. By reaching out now, you’ll ensure that you have someone to get in contact with if you ever have a question on an assignment that your instructor might not be able to answer right away, and someone to keep you company in the library when writing papers or completing reading assignments. Note: Unlike the study group in Community, you want to form a group that actually studies. Think Back to Last Semester If this is your first semester in college, think back to the last time in your life when you were really stressed out with a lot of work piled up. Back then, what did you wish you had done earlier? What do you think could have helped you avoid that stress? Premeditating your future needs and taking proactive measures will help you make this semester as productive and stress-free as possible.
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When I was a very homesick, unsure, unfocused first-year student, failing most of my courses, one day my political science professor, R.S. Hill, asked me after class “Mr. Gardner, would you like to be a good student?” He really caught me by surprise, that he would ask me anything at all and what specifically he asked me. I stopped and thought about his question and answered that I would, silently acknowledging to myself I had no idea what I would have to do to become a “good student.” His answer astounds me to this day, some 56 years later. He said: “Well, for starters you would start reading a good newspaper.” John: “And how would I go about doing that; what is a good newspaper?” Professor Hill: “Well, of course, The New York Times. There is no other like it. You should read The Times because then you won’t need anyone, including me, to tell you what some politician or judge said or wrote. You will be able to read the full text of what was said or written and then you can decide for yourself what the meaning and the importance of the message.” John: “Ok, sir, well how would I go about doing this?” (I truly didn’t know because I had grown up in a staunch Republican household where my father thought—and said—that The Times was a “communist newspaper” and he wouldn’t allow it in the house.” So, I knew that to read such a paper would be an act of sedition defying my father who was paying to send me to this college where this professor was giving me such advice. Professor Hill: “Come with me, Mr. Gardner, and we will walk right now two blocks to “People’s News” where if you don’t want to read the daily copy in the College library you can have your own personal copy. The Times comes in every morning on the 11.22 Greyhound from Pittsburgh (the bus terminal being one block from the news store) and it will be available to you every day by noon. The Greyhound is never late (I had never thought of the Greyhound bus as an agent of civilization and an intellectual lifeline to the rural American heartland in southern Appalachia in Ohio and no one today would extend such a compliment to any airline). And that’s how I started reading the daily Times, which I still do quite faithfully, in the paper edition, even though I also have a subscription for the online edition which I read when I am traveling. And all because a professor introduced me to an adult habit. He explained also to me that “Mr. Gardner, you should know that in addition to you, the other most influential people in the world will be reading that same paper on the same day and will know then what you will know.” And fifty-six years later I still want to know what the most influential people in the world are reading each morning. And I know one who lives during the week at 1600 Pennsylvania who doesn’t like what he reads in The Times. A few weeks later in the term, I had an appointment with my academic advisor, a professor of speech, one Dr. Thomas Fernandez. He reviewed my mid-term grades and made this pronouncement: “Mr. Gardner, you are the stupidest kid I have ever advised!” I left his office and removed the dagger he had inserted in my self-concept. I didn’t quite know if what he said could be true. I knew I wasn’t doing well, failing most everything. But was I really the “stupidest kid” the guy had ever advised? But I made a decision anyway: to get another advisor. I was pleased it was easy to actually switch advisors, something many of our students probably ought to consider doing. And my successor advisor became one of the keys to my eventual success in college, Professor Kermit Gatten. He really embraced me and I began to flourish. He and his wife had me in their home for visits and meals numerous times. And his advice, which I took, served me incredibly well for the balance of my college career. I later was told that my first advisor ultimately became a college president in Texas. Wonder how many other people he labeled as “stupid"? Two years later, in another political science course, designated as “American Political Parties,” the professor was lecturing on the legal actions leading up to the 1954 Supreme Court ruling in Brown vs Board of Education, declaring legally segregated schools both unequal and unconstitutional. One of the preceding cases he discovered was one banning the infamous southern “white primaries,” which the Court struck down in 1944 in Smith vs. Alright. The only reason I remember this now is because of what followed. I asked the professor, Eugene Murdock, what the court’s rationale for its ruling was. He replied to me: “Mr. Gardner, I do not know. How would you like to do some research and determine the answer to your own question yourself, and then report to the class what you found?” It was not a rhetorical question. I knew he meant it. I did not think he was trying to pressure me, let alone punish me for asking him a question to which he did not know the answer. I thought he was just being honest. I later realized that he was also being a wonderful role model for the professor I was going to become, but didn’t know that at the time—specifically, when a student were to ask me a question to which I did not know the answer, I would so indicate. Well, I accepted his invitation; did the research; determined the Court’s rationale; and made an oral presentation to my class on what I had learned. In my four years of undergraduate school, other than Speech 101 when I did have obligatory public speaking in class, this was the only presentation I was ever allowed to make in any course in any class. That’s right, one in four years. No wonder it really stood out in my mind and still does. I was nervous about doing this before my peers and my professor. But it went well. Professor Murdoch praised me publicly. And I soon realized that this one gesture on his part had truly given me a sense of empowerment and presence I had never experienced before. On another occasion during college, I was studying in the library and a professor I respected greatly walked by, stopped, and approached my study carrel and said: “Mr. Gardner, I just read your paper and it was truly excellent.” To have unsolicited praise like that from someone whom I knew was REALLY gifted intellectually (unlike me, a neophyte just beginning to learn how to be a college student) that pushed me on to a cloud nine and boosted my confidence and self-esteem. Two weeks before I was to graduate, someone broke into my rental house and stole only my lecture notebooks, for all my courses. What a hostile act. I was in a small college and many of us students knew each other all too well. And I was known as a compulsive note taker for whom his lecture notes were a critical ingredient to his academic success. I was very active in campus politics and, obviously, had made an enemy. I went to one of my professors and asked for an incomplete for the term that would give me time to reconstruct my notes. He agreed and told me he would allow me to take a make-up, take home unproctored final exam—with the words: “Mr. Gardner, I trust you. I know you are a person of honor.” I have been trying to live up to that ever since. One by one my professors were writing the script of my adult life. I didn’t know it then. But I know it now. How are you writing the script for your students? What are the succinct verbal, or written, messages are you sending them that they will remember for the rest of their lives, and that will shape the development of their character and self-concept profoundly? Several months ago, my early forties son related to me his recent professional encounter with a woman in South Carolina with whom he talked about her experiences at the University of South Carolina. He asked her if she had taken University 101 as a first-year student. She said she did. Then he asked her who her professor was. She said she didn’t remember but she remembered things he said and taught her. As she shared an illustration of the professor’s advice to her my son realized that she had to be talking about his father, me. Apparently, the professor admonished the students at the end of the term in December not to make any major life decisions (such as to drop out of college or transfer, or get married or get divorced) as the end of first term of college, especially at holiday time was a very sentimental, often emotional period and not a good context for making rational decisions. She told him that she practices that advice to this very day, over 30 years later. We have no idea what we say to our students that may really sink in at present time or later. We just have to believe that the messages we send them do matter and hence chose our words intentionally and affirmatively.
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Recently I was asked by one of my publishers to complete an author survey. And one of the questions was truly impossible for me to answer as requested. It read something to the effect “what was the book that has influenced you most significantly?" What I found impossible was to choose one! I found the exercise interesting and worthwhile not only because of the sheer number of books that I would so classify as having been of “most significant influence,” but what those books were and especially what time of life was I exposed to these written ideas/experiences, and how this would help form my ideas on social justice. So, they began coming to me almost as a crescendo. There were two books in my first-year of college, when I was doing terribly on the academic front and was lonely, homesick lovesick. And they were mandated by one of my first-term professors to read and to be the subjects of an oral examination if I wanted to raise my final grade in Speech 101 from an F to a D. Most valuable D I ever received. He had me read David Riesman’s The Lonely Crowd (1953), a book really for academics but one that sold well beyond that for laypeople. Riesman, a Harvard professor, lawyer and sociologist, one of the greatest of the 20 th century, and also a scholar of the American college and university presidency. The Lonely Crowd was an argument that America produces two kinds of people: the Inner Directed Man and the Outer Directed Man (the direction being in reference to who and what are our influencers, inner vs outer oriented stimuli. My professor wanted me to examine that question for myself. What kind of person was I—was I becoming—or could become? Riesman analyzed a number of our culture’s favorite stories for children and he forced me to think about how I had been influenced by the stories I had read as a child. And nineteen years after being made to read his book, Riesman wrote me an unsolicited letter in 1980 raising some questions with me based on an article of mine he had read in the Journal of Higher Education, about one of my—and as it turns out—his favorite subjects. Riesman was also the founder of Harvard’s first-year seminar, in 1959, two years before I became a first-year student. The other book was Escape from Freedom, by Erich Fromm, a German psychoanalyst, who escaped from the Third Reich and wrote a compelling analysis of why the German people, at the time the most literate of any of the European democracies, had voluntary given up their freedoms in 1933. The book was really about what for some of us is the burden of freedom, the challenge of making decisions on our own. And there I was, as the professor knew full well, a young man who had abused his freedom by overcutting this class, six times in fact. Why do some college students, for example, voluntarily decide to give up a number of their freedoms to join certain groups that make many of their decisions for them (such as with whom to associate), groups especially like fraternities and sororities? This book invited me to consider the uses, the choices, albeit the abuses, I was making with my freedom. And I concluded that I needed to reconsider some of those choices. And it was several years later, also while in college, that I read Fromm’s perennial best seller, The Art of Loving, which argues that before anyone can love anyone else, they have to be capable of self-love, meaning self-respect. And then there was my reading of Plato’s Republic in the fall of my junior year, in a political philosophy class. We examined some of the most important questions that any society has to constantly be in the process of deciding: who should rule? Plato was having Socrates argue that philosophers should be kings. And the related question, that my whole adult life has been in pursuit of: what is justice? By then I was getting the idea that what was really happening to me in college is that I was learning that the questions can often be more important than the answers. To have a meaningful life you have to be asking and pursuing the right questions. In this same course, on the day of class that the professor was going to lead us through Plato’s argument about “who should rule” our class was interrupted by the shocking news of the assassination of President Kennedy on November 20, 1963. And then also that fall, in a course on Transcendental American writers, I was taking a very deep dive in the complete works of essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson. I have never been the same since reading Self-Reliance. Thank goodness. I was really ready to receive Emerson’s call to intellectual individualism. And I was so fortunate I had a professor who knew just how to do that so skillfully. I didn’t go to college expecting that I would come to love Emersonian prose but that’s exactly what happened. The course influenced me to do a research project to ascertain what might have been the influence on Emerson of New England Unitarianism. And I thought that to understand this question and possibility even more thoroughly I should try to grapple with it experientially. I did so be joining a small handful of other congregants who attended the weekly service of the Marietta, Ohio Unitarian Church. I learned that that faith was all about what my college experience had become: a search for the truth, my truths, which were being discovered by me through reading and interaction with the interpreters of those readings, my professors. What powers they had over me. And I allowed them to help me discover my own powers for discovery, and then to influence others. In my junior year, I took an elective biology course in a course titled “Conservation.” We were required to reach Rachel Carson’s The Silent Spring; the work that is generally credited with launching the now more than fifty-year-old “environmental” movement. Before this book, I had not given one thought to what I and my fellow men and women were doing to our environment. This work really changed me. In my senior year, I read Joseph Heller’s first novel, Catch-22. Sadly, Heller was a one author great thinker. Try as hard as he did in a succession of following books, all of which I faithfully read, none of them did for me, let alone any of the critics, like what Catch-22 did. The first time I read Catch-22, I really didn’t get it, the “it” being the power of his satire of the insanity of bureaucratic life and thinking, as personified by Heller in the US Army of World War II. But two years later when I was on active duty in the US Air Force, and read Catch-22 again, then it hit me. He had finally showed me how bureaucracies work, often making some of their members literally crazy, by the non-rationality of some of their arbitrary rules and processes. So, as I was recalling what I had read of greatest influence, and when I did that reading and thinking, that all these greatest influencers had come during undergraduate school. How could this be? This doesn’t mean I stopped reading upon graduating from college! Absolutely not. But I can’t think of anything that I have read since college that had the same level of formative influence on my most important understandings—of myself, my work, my culture, my role in society, human group and individual behavior—you name it. I can only conclude then that I was in a unique period of openness to new ideas, to being influenced, to self-discovery. But that openness had to be facilitated, nourished, encouraged, reinforced. And my professors and a few fellow students were the ones who did so. I was developmentally ready, hungry even. And the college experience was there for me, ready for me, able to develop me in only ways that it could. I am so thankful. I have often asked my workshop audiences what they remember reading that had some influence during their first-year of college. Almost to a person, each group member can recall something specific. Maybe this is just because I work in the world of the academic bubble. These people liked being in college and so they have stayed in it for their adult lives. They truly were influenced. I know that once I experienced this influence I never wanted to leave it. I have had much less success asking my students, particularly first-year students, what it is they read before college that has influenced them. They struggle with this, in part because no one has asked them this before. In conclusion, I ask you: what were the great written works that influenced you? And what do you have your students read with the hope that this work and your guidance of them to and through it will be of significant influence? I know, it took me a long time here to get to my question. And the question for you should be much more important than the answers I have offered, just as has been the lasting impact of some of the questions I learned to ask in college, especially: what is justice? My whole adult professional life has been devoted to that question. Originally published on jngi.org on May 10, 2017.
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