Mindfulness, Mindful Breathing, and Metta Bhavana

Nurturing Loving Kindness through Mindful Breathing

Hearing. Touching. Seeing. Thinking. Feeling. Breathing. These are some of the faculties through which we construct and process the human experience, the human substance. These are the senses that construct what it means to be a human being. But what about the “being” part of being human? How often do we succumb to the pressure to produce things with our time, to do something productive with our time? Bombarded with to-do lists, we multitask our way through our days often at the expense of our to-be list. Our worries are perpetual, sending our minds to hundreds of places, lingering in the past or fretting about the future—but what about the place that matters most? What about the here and the now, the present moment? Where, for example, is your mind while you’re reading these words? You may have thought of a few or dozens of other things while you were reading. Your phone may have beeped or blinked, prompting your attention away from what you’re reading. Or perhaps another tab on your web browser is blinking, and you’re finding it hard to focus on just one thing. But that’s OK. This is not your fault. We live in a world that attempts to sap every second of our attention at every turn, yet there are ways to shape a space for ourselves. First, grant yourself permission to answer any important messages or do any important tasks that you need to do. When you’re ready, come back and grant yourself the permission to focus on just one thing: you.

Mindfulness - Strive to be alive in the presentTake a moment to breathe in gently and deeply, focusing on the feeling of the air passing through your nose and filling your lungs, and think to yourself, I am in the present moment; then breathe out with a soft smile on your face, feeling your shoulders relax as your lungs un-wind, and think to yourself, this moment is beautiful. Repeat this for a few minutes. If this is your first time, you might try breathing and being for, perhaps, two to three minutes, but feel free to go longer if you want. If you become distracted, that’s ok: forgive yourself and use your breath to re-center yourself. In-breath: you are the present moment. Out-breath: the present moment is beautiful.

How do you feel now?

When we bring our senses off of auto-pilot (often driven by our stresses and anxieties), when we bring our body and our minds into unison, we transition, paradoxically, from a doing thing to a being thing. The verbs of our human substance shift from passive to purpose: instead of hearing, we listen; instead of seeing, we look. This is the essence of mindfulness, and if you spend some time breathing a moment ago, bringing your breath into your being, your consciousness, you’ve already engaged in a mindfulness practice: that was mindful breathing. There are no secrets to this. Anyone can do it. And you can do it at any time.

Following is a framework for developing Loving Kindness which I invite you to read. You may also enjoy listening as a guided meditation which you can do from this point forward. I invite you to engage in several minutes of mindful breathing before moving forward from here.

Engaging in Metta Bhavana, or “Loving Kindness,” is—in my view—an extension of mindful breathing. Through mindful breathing we bring our being to the present moment, and in Metta Bhavana we persist in the present with thoughts of empathy and compassion across the spectrum from ourselves to the entire world around us, freeing us from feelings of fear, doubt, anxiety, odium, and the stress that continually cripples us.

The first phase of the Metta Bhavana meditation is to bring your being to the present moment, to bring your mind and body to unison, to make your purpose singular. This and every phase may take several minutes or more, and that’s OK.

Once you’re ready, and you feel like your focus is singular, begin wishing yourself well. Think and breathe:

May I be well.

May I be happy.

May I be free from suffering.

As you repeat these wishes to yourself, imagine your mind and your heart illuminating a warm, golden light. Feel the light’s warmth, its radius growing each time you wish yourself well. Feel yourself settling into the embrace of the Earth as it holds you as the warming lights from your mind and heart converge and join. This is your Metta. Nurture it until it surrounds your entire being.

When you’re ready to move on, consider someone with whom you are close and have a special bond. Think and breathe:

May they be well.

May they be happy.

May they be free from suffering.

As you repeat these wishes to your kindred spirit, imagine your mind and your heart further illuminating your warm, golden light, its radius extending from your being each time you repeat your loving kindness.

When you’re ready to move on, consider someone with whom you feel neutral. Think and breathe:

May they be well.

May they be happy.

May they be free from suffering.

As you repeat these wishes to this neutral person, imagine your mind and your heart further illuminating your warm, golden light, its radius extending even further from your being each time you repeat your loving kindness.

When you’re ready to move on, consider someone with whom you sometimes have difficulty. Think and breathe:

May they be well.

May they be happy.

May they be free from suffering.

As you repeat these wishes to this challenging person, imagine your mind and your heart further illuminating your warm, golden light, its radius extending yet further from your being each time you repeat your loving kindness.

When you’re ready to move on, consider someone with whom you are presently in conflict. Think and breathe:

May they be well.

May they be happy.

May they be free from suffering.

As you repeat these wishes to this person with whom you’re presently in conflict, consider that this person is—like you—a collection of their own world experiences, and that at times, the world has perhaps not always been revealed to them in the same ways as it has been to you. Imagine your mind and your heart further illuminating your warm, golden light, its radius reaching far and wide from your being, now beginning to surround your community.

When you’re ready to move on, consider all sentient beings including yourself. Think and breathe:

May we be well.

May we be happy.

May we be free from suffering.

As you repeat these wishes to the world, imagine your mind and your heart illuminating your warm, golden light, its radius extending around your surrounding community and growing beyond it. Now your being is a furnace of understanding, compassion, and empathy. You are the present moment; you are an agent of peace; and, thus, the present moment is beautiful.


The contents of this post grow from my readings of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and Jon Kabat-Zinn. If you are interested in further reading, here are some books that may interest you.

Kabat-Zinn, Jon. Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment–and Your Life. Boulder, CO: Sounds True, 2012. Print.

Kabat-Zinn, Jon. Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life. New York: Hyperion, 1994. Print.

Hạnh, Nhất, Mobi Ho, and Dinh Mai. Vo. The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation. Boston: Beacon, 1987. Print.

Hạnh, Nhất. The Sun My Heart: From Mindfulness to Insight Contemplation. Berkeley, CA: Parallax, 1988. Print.

Why Study English and Literature?

World Peace

English Literature and Literacy as Movement Toward Peace

My immediate and future goals in English studies and scholarship grow, at least in part, as a response to the literacy needs of the communities in which I have been studying. In a variety of ways, my local community is a borderland: generally speaking, the millennials—those who make up the majority of my peers in my local chapter of English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta along with the base population of my own students at the same university—encounter, interact, and experience literary texts through technology in a way that is quite different than I did just a few years ago; the central valley of California is also home to immigrant families from Latin America and is also refuge to several cultural groups recently subject to diaspora, all of whom possess home discourses that are unique yet on the border from the discourse presently valued in academia. Both the hegemonic and non-hegemonic millennials I have mentioned are on borders and are seeking literacy, if only implicitly by their choice to be at the university—thus I see it as my mission to help them, through various literatures, to seek and to have genuine encounters with other minds who may have world experiences quite different from their own, encounters that are independent from space and time though at times contextualized by both. This is at the heart of collegial literacy as I see it.

Through composition and literature, my goal is to help nurture the minds of my students and colleagues so that they become the peacemakers of the future. To that end, I am presently working on my master’s thesis in English literature along with a certificate of advanced study in composition.World Peace My next step is to apply for a PhD program where I hope to extend my work in literature and composition studies with a movement toward teaching language to communities that are technologically and culturally diverse. Ultimately, through my master’s thesis, certificate, and future PhD program, I wish to foster literacy in my communities because I believe in the power of language to do the work of that which has no other antecedent motive or purpose: although reading and writing are indeed practices of self-discovery, literacy in language and literature defragments diverse discourse communities. Literacy is the path from war and separation toward understanding, unity, and peace.

PAMLA 2014 Reflection on Technology and Education

Although not purely a conference on Educational Technology, the Pacific-Area Modern Language and Literature Association (PAMLA) conference had a few panels related to the use of technology in literature and composition curricula. My goal is to use this space to reflect on those specific panels and their potential to inform my own curricular practices within my discipline. Additionally, I noted the use of technology at the conference itself and have some thoughts as concerns the “proper” use of technology at academic conferences. As an initial disclaimer, too, I should note that I was not able to attend the entire 2.5 day conference: in order to defray the costs of attending the conference in Riverside, I forewent the first sessions on Friday and drove up early Saturday morning. In sum, I attended a total of six panels in addition to being on a panel myself. I found the panels “Teaching with the Internet & Technology” and “Rethinking Remediation: New Approaches for the 21st Century” to be especially insightful with regard to my approaches to teaching with technology and overall curricular strategies. Additionally, the differences in the uses of technology as a means to present ideas—namely from the panels “Comparative Literature 1” and “The Uncanny Art of Reading”—has informed my own attitudes and assumptions about using technology as a delivery device both in conference formats and, by extension, in the classroom itself.

One proper use of technology in the classroom is as a means to get “multiple stories” into our classroom. Sibylle Gruber (2014) from Northern Arizona University argued that students who are not members of the hegemonic tend to be less willing to take risks by offering responses to curriculum in public venues such as a classroom. Students not presently members of the hegemonic are those who represent racial, cultural, ethnic, and religious minorities as well as those who self-identify as LGBTQ. The particular dangers here are that 1) the public sphere only gets to hear stories from the hegemonic and thus loses on a crucial opportunity to critique itself and 2) those outside of the hegemonic continue to be silenced and marginalized. Creating a discussion space online is one way to provide a space where there is less critical distance between those within and outside of the hegemonic, giving representative minorities a chance to share their stories without being put immediately on the spot and having to defend their stories against the more dominant discourses. Gruber (2014) does note a risk with this strategy though—online discussion spaces are asynchronous, so teachers / discussion moderators cannot respond in real time. So the risk of an asynchronous learning environment is having unchecked bigotry that attempts to shut down non-dominant discourses and worldviews. This unchecked hostility can potentially pollute a learning environment, defeating the purpose of creating a safe, equitable space for learning and meaning making to occur (Gruber 2014). PAMLA LogoMy initial response to this problems grows from my studies of Kenneth Burke’s rhetorical theory (which applies directly to the discipline that is was the subject of this panel): if we teach rhetoric and argumentation as a means to achieving mutual understanding and peace—and I mean explicitly teaching that kind of response as a rhetorical move we must make in argumentation—then not only do we teach language as working toward the larger project of human peace, we also give ourselves tools with which to question and respond to bigotry. Perhaps with the work of peace in mind, students will be more mindful of their responses before the bigotry even surfaces. That being said, I think using online discussion boards is and will continue to be a fantastic way to enable students outside of the hegemonic to share their stories, worldviews, responses to ideas we’re discussing together, and so on.

More particular to literature studies, David Sandner (2014) from CSU Fullerton presented a real-world example of using technology to teach literary studies. He and his students created a website using Google Sites to document and archive their ongoing scholarship on a writer specific to their locale, Phillip K. Dick (author of A Scanner Darkly). Although Sandner (2014) did not make this strategy explicit in his presentation, he was using pieces of the ARCS model to construct this project, either consciously or unintentionally. Because their focus was on an author specific to their locale, the project had not only the attention of the students but of the community around them. The project was likewise relevant because it 1) concerned a local, widely-celebrated author and 2) engaged in media that students find important to their daily lives. Because students worked together and collaborated on this large project, they had confidence. Finally, because their labor culminated into a product that the scholarly and non-scholarly community could benefit from, there was a great deal of satisfaction. In my view, working with digital scholarship, research, presentation, and archiving is chalk full of potential! Though unstated in Sandner’s presentation, I especially like how this kind of labor does work to bridge the gap between the university and the community, narrowing the space between scholar and citizen.

Designing curriculum with a shift from extrinsic motivation to intrinsic motivation is crucial in getting students to make real meaning from their time at the university. This is what Nancy Barron (2014) from Northern Arizona University argues, and as a constructivist, I find myself in complete agreement. Leaning on psychology, this look at motivation forces us to think of assignment sequences and even course administration policies that encourage students to think about and value knowledge and learning for its own sake (Barron 2014). The reason why students cheat, plagiarize, or otherwise try to “work the system” is because they’ve been indoctrinated to value grades and not learning. Like Sandner’s real-world example, Barron (2014) urges us to think about designing curriculum that appeals to the current student population. When students become motivated because the processes they do are relevant to their needs and interests, they will naturally begin to shift from an extrinsic (environmental) sense of motivation to an intrinsic (internal, “of itself”) sense of motivation (Barron 2014). Although I believe this approach values (and evaluates) process more than it does product—and I’m not suggesting that this is a bad thing at all—more attention and value toward the process will naturally lead to better, more genuine products that students actually care about beyond the letter grade they’ll potentially receive.

In another session and panel titled “Rethinking Remediation,” Richard Hishmeh (2014) from Palomar College proposed a new methodology for “basic skills” instruction and textbook approaches that treats reading and writing as inseparable from each other; he thus calls for composition textbooks that resist partitioning reading and writing activities (and thinking along those lines) from each other. The idea here is to construct writing activities based off of the adjacent readings and reading activities that respond to and engage with the rhetorical feature(s) presently being studied. For example, if the current rhetorical topic is “introduction strategies,” we might think about constructing reading activities that ask students to look at introduction strategies being used by authors from the unit’s readings. One caution that Hishmeh (2014) has about this approach is that it can potentially generate a lot of materials that need to be assessed and that we should be mindful of the “constant threat of assessment” that basic skills students face; I would also make it explicit that this “constant threat of assessment” also generates fear and anxiety that becomes associated with reading, writing, thinking, and learning, which is clearly counterproductive to the purpose of attending college. As an aside, my extended analysis of fear and anxiety in the writing classroom along with strategies to address those problems, i.e. mindfulness practices, is forthcoming, and I will be presenting my findings at the 2015 Conference on College Composition and Communication in Tampa Bay, FL. Meanwhile, an additional solution to this concern is to stop assessing student writing altogether! Consider using grading contracts that derive course grades based on student behaviors like doing the work to the letter and in the spirit in which it was asked, actively participating in class, discussions, etc.—thus we continue to move toward valuing and evaluating process rather than product. Ultimately, I support Hishmeh’s (2014) idea of creating basic skills composition texts that are half as long and half the price of those presently available, and I adore the idea of trying reading and writing as intimately interrelated. One question I have and will continue to ask my students during class discussion is, “How might this thing help us as readers of this text? Ok—how might this same thing help us as writers?” The dyads here are simple: use reading to teach reading; use reading to teach rhetoric; use rhetoric to teach rhetoric; and use rhetoric to teach reading.

As I’ve suggested at least implicitly to this point, the use of technology becomes right and proper when we think about using technology rhetorically. We must ask ourselves what our audience needs from us. If we use technology in order to service the needs of our audience, it is right and proper. If the use of technology is a disservice to our audience, it is perhaps not right and proper. For example, one of the speaker’s during the “Comparative Literature” panel leaned heavily on PowerPoint slides throughout her presentation, and I quickly became mindful of how distracted I was. (Indeed, I was mindful of being distracted). I found myself struggling to figure out if I should be paying attention to the wall of text from the projector or to what the presenter was saying. I believe that having to switch between those input channels kept me from being able to fully engage with and comprehend this presenter’s argument. On the other side of the same coin, a presenter from the “Uncanny Art of Reading” panel also leaned heavily on projected slides throughout their presentation, but they did it in a way that merely supplemented their discussion rather than drove their discussion. Too, the slides were much more visually than textually driven, allowing my brain to multitask because it wasn’t being bombarded by different inputs on the same sensory channel. The lesson here is this: use technology in a way that allows your audience to engage with the material on multiple sensory input channels; in the case of lecture or presentation, the delivery device should complement and/or supplement the presentation, not drive it. This includes the everyday use of technology in the classroom.


References

Barron, N. (2014, November). It’s 2 a.m. Finish Your Own Paper: Writing, Technology, and the Comprehensive Website. Paper presented at the annual PAMLA Conference, Riverside, CA.

Gruber, S. (2014, November). Online Learning Environments: Ideologies and Multiple Stories. Paper presented at the annual PAMLA Conference, Riverside, CA.

Hishmeh, R. E. (2014, November). The Basic Skills Textbook: What We Need…What We Get…. Paper presented at the annual PAMLA Conference, Riverside, CA.

Sandner, D. (2014, November). Darkly Scanning A Scanner Darkly: “Philip K. Dick in the OC” and Teaching Digital Literary Studies. Paper presented at the annual PAMLA Conference, Riverside, CA.

CSS for MLA and APA Style Works Cited Entries

This is a useful bit of CSS I came across for getting the hanging indent working correctly for Works Cited or Reference entries in HTML. Here’s the CSS:

p.reference {
padding-left: 2em;
text-indent: -2em;
}

Now the HTML, for example:

<p class="reference">Sturluson, Snorri. <em>The Prose Edda: Norse Mythology</em>. Trans. Byock, Jesse L. London: Penguin, 2005. Print.</p>
<p class="reference">Tennyson, Alfred Lord. <em>Idylls of the King</em>. New York, New York: Penguin Putman Inc, 1983. Print.</p>

Generates…

Sturluson, Snorri. The Prose Edda: Norse Mythology. Trans. Byock, Jesse L. London: Penguin, 2005. Print.

Tennyson, Alfred Lord. Idylls of the King. New York, New York: Penguin Putman Inc, 1983. Print.

Alternatively, you can do this styling in-line with your

tags as follows:

<p style=”padding-left: 2em; text-indent: -2em;”>Sturluson, Snorri. The Prose Edda: <em>Norse  Mythology</em>. Trans. Byock, Jesse L. London: Penguin, 2005. Print.</p>

And you still end up with …

Sturluson, Snorri. The Prose Edda: Norse Mythology. Trans. Byock, Jesse L. London: Penguin, 2005. Print.

Thanks to the work done on this page for the help here. Happy trails :)

Submerging the Subersive Pagan in Tennyson’s Idylls of the King – Handout

Jeremiah Alexander Henry | www.jeremiahhenry.com | twitter: @jhenry0302 | jhenry0302@mail.fresnostate.edu

Download a PDF copy of this handout here.

Common Mythopoeic Features: Movement from Chaos (Primordial) to Order | Ambiguous, Anomalous, or Unknown Creators

Selected Passages from Egyptian Myth: A Very Short Introduction

Atum-Ra “acted as both father and mother by giving himself an erection, taking his ‘seed’ into his mouth, and spitting out the first divine couple, Shu and Tefnut. . . . The androgynous nature of the creator was sometimes made clearer by personifying the hand of Atum as a goddess who united with his penis to create life” (Pinch 48-49).

Selected Passages from Metamorphoses (Book 1, “The Shaping of Changes”)

“Before the seas and lands had been created / . . . / Nature displayed a single aspect only / throughout the cosmos; Chaos was its name” (6-9).

“Some god (or kinder nature) settled this / dispute by separating earth from heaven, / and then by separating sea from earth . . . “ (26-28).

Selected Passages from The Popol Vuh

“Whatever there is that might be is simply not there: only the pooled water, only the calm sea, only it alone is pooled” (Tedlock 64).

“Only the Maker, Modeler alone, Sovereign Plumed Serpent, the Bearers, Begetters are in the water, a glittering light. . . . and then humanity was clear, when they concedived the growth, the generation of trees, of bushes, and the growth of life, of humankind, in the blackness, in the early dawn, all because of the Heart of Sky, named Hurricane. Thunderbolt Hurricane comes first, the second is Newborn Thunderbolt, and the third is Sudden Thunderbolt. So there were three of them, as Heart of Sky, who came to the Sovereign Plumed Serpent, when the dawn of life was conceived” (Tedlock 65).

Selected Passages from The Prose Edda

“’Niflheim was made many ages before the earth was created, and at its center is the spring called Hvergelmir. . . . First, however, there was that world in the southern region which is called Muspell. It is bright and hot. That region flames and burns and is impassable for foreigners and those who cannot claim it as their native land. . . . Just as coldness and all things grim came from Niflheim, the regions bordering on Muspell were warm and bright, and Ginnungagap was as mild as a windless sky” (Sturluson 12-13).

Selected Passages from Idylls of the King, “The Coming of Arthur”

“For many a petty king ere Arthur came / Ruled in this isle, and ever waging war / Each upon other, wasted all the land; / And still from time to time the heathen host / Swarm’d overseas, and harried what was left. / And so there grew great tracts of wilderness, / Wherein the beast was ever more and more, / But man was less and less, till Arthur came” (5-12).

“I know not whether of himself [Arthur] came, / Or brought by Merlin, who they say, can walk / Unseen at pleasure” (345-47).

“And Arthur and his knighthood for a space / Were all one will, and thro’ that strength the King / Drew in the petty princedoms under him, / Fought, and in twelve great battles overcame / The Heathen hordes, and made a realm and reign’d” (514-18).

“. . .he heard of Arthur newly crown’d, / Tho’ not without an uproar made by those / Who cried, ‘He is not Uther’s son’ . . .” (41-43)

“. . .‘Who is he / That he should rule us? Who hath proven him / King Uther’s son? For lo! we look at him, / And find nor face nor bearing, limbs nor voice, / Are like to those of Uther whom we knew” (67-71).

Then from the castle gateway by the chasm
Descending thro’ the dismal night – a night
In which the bounds of heaven and earth were lost –
Beheld, so high upon the drery deeps
It seem’d in heaven, a ship, a shape thereof
A dragon wing’d, and all from stem to stern
Bright with a shining people on the decks,
And gone as soon as seen. And then the two
Dropt to the cove, and watch’d the great sea fall,
Wave after wave, each mightier than the last,
‘Till last, a ninth one, gathering half the deep
And full of voices, slowly rose and plunged
Roaring, and all the wave was in flame:
And down the wave and in the flame was borne
A naked babe, and rode to Merlin’s feet,
Who stoopt and caught the babe, and cried “The King!
Here is an heir for Uther!” And the fringe
Of that great breaker, sweeping up the strand,
Lash’d at the wizard as he spake the word,
And all at once all round him rose in fire,
So that the child and he were clothed in fire (369-89).
‘And there I saw mage Merlin, whose vast wit
And hundred winters are but as the hands
Of loyal vassals toiling for their liege.
‘And near him stood the Lady of the Lake,
Who knows a subtler magic than his own –
Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful.
She gave the King is huge cross-hilted sword,
Whereby to drive the heathen out: a mist
Of incense curl’d about her, and her face
Wellnigh was hidden in the minster gloom;
But there was heard among the holy hymns
A voice as of the waters, for she dwells
Down in a deep; calm, whatsoever storms
May shake the world, and when the surface rolls,
Hath the power to walk the waters like our Lord (279-293).‘There likewise I beheld Excalibur / . . . / rich / With jewels, elfin Urim, on the hilt, / Bewildering heart and eye . . . / . . . / Graven in the oldest tongue of all this world, / “Take me,” but turn the blade and ye shall see, / And written in the speech ye speak yourself, / “Cast me away!” And sad was Arthur’s face / Taking it, but old Merlin Counsell’d him, / “Take thou and strike! The time to cast away / Is yet far-off.” So this great brand the king / Took, and by this will beat his foemen down’ (296-308).

Works Cited

Ovid. Metamorphoses. Trans. Martin, Charles. New York: W.W. Norton, 2004. Print.

Pinch, Geraldine. Egyptian Myth: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004. Print

Sturluson, Snorri. The Prose Edda: Norse Mythology. Trans. Byock, Jesse L. London: Penguin, 2005. Print.

Tedlock, Dennis. Popol Vuh : The Mayan Book of the Dawn of Life. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996. Print.

Tennyson, Alfred Lord. Idylls of the King. New York, New York: Penguin Putman Inc, 1983. Print.

Flipping the Classroom, Constructivism, and Grading Contracts

Flipping the Classroom Word Cloud

Flipping the Classroom, Constructivism, and Grading Contracts

Trends in Education Technology, Journal #9

Although I have been a teaching associate with my university’s first year writing program for three years now, we all have an orientation at the beginning of each academic year. During my orientation this fall, one of my colleagues presented an altered curriculum—or rather an altered approach—to teaching English 5A/5B. The most significant alteration was that her course was part of a larger faculty cohort across the disciplines that is piloting the university’s DISCOVERe program—an initiative to run classes 100% through tablets. Throughout her presentation, she kept referring to this idea of the “flipped” classroom, and while I found the term fuzzy at the time, I got the sense that it was something of a colloquial term for a constructivist approach to instruction—an approach that redirects or “flips” the emphasis in the classroom from the teacher/lecturer/professor/master to the student/learner. While my intuition was close, further investigation in the 2014 Horizon Report neatly bridges the gap between the idea of a “flipped” classroom and a constructivist approach to instruction.

The idea of pointing learners to objective knowledges outside of the classroom is not new to me. Jordan Shapiro (2013) talked about this in his article on forbes.com when he shares how instead of delivering the materials for objective knowledge inside of the classroom, he “flips” this paradigm by delivering those materials digitally and outside of the classroom. This enables us to redirect our face-to-face energy from ingesting material to digesting material. In the reading and writing classroom, for example, instead of focusing our time on reading a text together, we do stuff with texts together—together as collaborators, teachers and learners make meaning. As Johnson, Adams, Estrada, & Freeman (2014) explain, this paradigm “[enables] students to spend valuable class-time immersed in hands-on activities that often demonstrate the real world applications of the subject they are learning” (p. 36). So “flipping” the classroom is essentially a move toward a constructivist paradigm, utilizing digital technologies as a mediator to serve instructional materials to learners outside of the classroom.

Flipping the Classroom Word Cloud

Johnson et al. (2014) points to a resource on flipping the classroom which I have found particularly useful. Jennifer Demski (2013) offers a list of 6 tips from experts on how to flip a classroom. One thing she points to which I believe takes considerable skill and energy on the part of the teacher is to anticipate what students need during the first moments of class, letting the students decide what the particular foci will be during class time. She offers some strategies from Robert Talbert—professor of mathematics at Grand Valley State University—including having students use clickers to take a quick quiz at the beginning of class. This is essentially a quick kind of formative assessment, one that requires a certain flexibility and agility in class planning. To be successful with this strategy, instructors must have the ability to respond to their learners needs at a moment’s notice, and if they teach the same course more than once concurrently, different groups of learners may have different needs on any given day with any given topic, adding even more demand from a teacher’s curricular agility. The benefit here, though, is that you always enable students to pursue not what you think they need but what you know they need. Because they tell you exactly what they need. This approach is not without its perils and pitfalls, however.

Unless curriculum and assessment has built in to it a way to value and evaluate the labor that must take place outside of class, this flip is destined to flop. Flipping the classroom depends on student labor outside of the classroom, so if they show up to class not having done the assigned labor, they’re not able to do anything because they do not have the foundation on which to do anything. Suddenly we’re back to the classroom and lecture being the point of delivery of instructional materials. Essentially, if students have not been motivated to do the labor outside of class, they are not likely to do it. This is why I believe implementing a grading contract is crucial. Grading contracts nudge evaluation away from the product and put it on the process; it asks the question, “Did you do the labor (outside of class) to the letter and in the spirit in which it was asked?” and so long as you construct that labor as something that is assessable, i.e. have them turn something in electronically in advance of the class that’s scheduled to do something with that labor and attach that labor to their grade for the course in some way, students will be motivated to do the labor they need so that we can collaborate and construct meaning with those materials in class.


References

Demski, J. (2013, January 23). 6 Expert Tips for Flipping the Classroom. Campus Technology. Retrieved October 26, 2014.

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., Freeman, A. (2014). NMC Horizon Report: 2014 Higher Education Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Shapiro, J. (2013, August 26). We Need More EdTech, But Less Technology In The Classroom. Forbes. Retrieved October 26, 2014.

Accessibility in Mind with Curriculum Design

Trends in Educational Technology, Journal #8

As a teacher of composition and rhetoric, I feel as though I already have a special affinity for the concept of universal design for learning. In the composition classroom, we spend a lot of time and energy with unpacking our attitudes and assumptions we have about the things we hear, see, and read; along the same lines, we spend equal amounts of time and energy in developing tools to unpack (i.e. detect and question) attitudes and assumptions held by the writers of texts that we encounter. This is a major piece of my curriculum on analysis. Additionally, as my teaching is aligned from a rhetorical perspective, I’m always urging my students to be conscious and considerate of their audience when they compose something. The only way they can give their audience what their audience needs is to first know who their audience is and what their needs are. It only makes sense that as a teacher I do the very same thing: I must be aware of who my audience is (i.e. my students) so that I can figure out what they need from me. To that end, I completely identify with Lewis & Sullivan (2012) when they assert that when students encounter barriers with the curriculum just as those with disabilities encounter problems accessing a building, it’s not the fault of the student or the disabled but of the curriculum and the building (p. 348-49). Curriculum that fails to acknowledge the diverse needs of its audience is not the audiences’ problem, it’s the curriculum’s problem. As such, curriculum must be revised in order to be more universal for learning.

One thing I have been doing recently to make my class more universal is making sure that every single electronic document I generate meets accessibility standards (as assessed by the Microsoft Word Accessibility Checker)—this insures that all of my documents can be read accurately and efficiently by a variety of eReaders and other assistive technologies. Just as Lewis & Sullivan (2012) suggest, I find that I save quite a bit of time designing those documents with accessibility in mind rather than having to revise old documents where I did not have accessibility in mind (p. 348). I also quite like the way it forces me to think about accessibility and my audience as I generate materials for class consumption.

In my ongoing interests in the conversation of whether or not to incorporate tablets into the classroom and beyond, this chapter helped me realize that tablets have the capability of decreasing the both the learning distance and the social distance between disabled students and non-disabled students. Lewis & Sullivan (2012) suggest that in addition to assistive technologies being expensive and bulky, they can often alienate or distance the user from the rest of the students not using assistive technologies (p. 349). Tablets, on the other hand, are capable of doing the same things that a variety of assistive technologies can do. So not only are they multi-function devices in the sense of having a multiplicity of assistive features: they’re also the same devices that everyone else is using. That being said, I can only conclude that tablets, being a universal technology, would eliminate the problem of “assistive distance.”


References

Lewis, J., & Sullivan, S. (2012). Diversity and Accessibility. In R. Reiser & J. Dempsey (Eds.), Trends and issues in instructional design and technology (3rd ed.). Boston: Pearson.

The Media Debate is Fresh

The Media Debate is Fresh

Trends in Educational Technology, Journals #6-7

Initially, Richard Clark’s (1994) argument seems to be in line with my own argument regarding Fresno State’s tablet initiative. Clark writes that “media are mere vehicles that deliver instruction but do not influence student achievement any more than the truck that delivers our groceries causes changes in our nutrition” (p. 22). This is exactly what I mean to point out and is at the heart of my critique of DISCOVERe thus far: there’s too much focus on the grocery truck and not the nutrition itself. But the core of this argument is that the wide variety of media carries with it no distinct effects on learning; in other words, regardless of the type of vehicle delivering the groceries, no one type of vehicle alters the groceries in a way that’s different from any other vehicle (p. 22). With the technology and media available during the 1980s when Clark first argued these points, I find myself on board with this, though readily admit having very little literacy in Clark’s work. However, my initial reaction from a 2014-15 perspective is to think about Moore’s Law and the exponential increase of technological power over time. Today, the smart phone in the palm of my hand is exponentially more powerful than the most sophisticated computers from the era of Clark’s original arguments. So in light of the vastly more complicated spectrum of available media and technology (along with new ways to interact with that technology and media), I’m not so sure that we can say that there isn’t a single media that doesn’t have its own unique effects on learning.

The Media Debate has had a weighty impact on my ideas of high technology and its relationship to learning. Though I’m partly finding myself in agreement with Clark—that media is merely a delivery device for instruction—and I find his metaphors of the grocery delivery truck not affecting the nutrition of the food it’s delivering and the form of medication not affecting the healing power of the medicine rather convincing, I believe that metaphor is now past its expiration date (p. 22, 26). Decades after the initial media debate, high technology has become exponentially more powerful—the delivery trucks of 2014 are so vastly different than those of 1994. Clark’s metaphor struggles to keep pace for the simple reason that today’s delivery devices are no longer single-function devices.

This is the new media debate: high technology of the new millennium alters learning experiences altogether. Personal computing devices such as smart phones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers are multi-function devices that are changing the landscape of learning. They search for and find data; they consume data; they manipulate and interpret data; they record and generate new data. These are new trucks whose functions both include and transcend mere delivery of goods. Additionally, as Dempsey & Van Eck (2012) suggest, the Internet highway is an altogether new highway on which these trucks may drive (p. 281-82); as such, the rules of the road have evolved. So when it comes to this business of whether or not we should implement new technology in curriculum, the response cannot be as easy as the “mere-delivery device” arguments of the past. Multi-function devices are more than mere points of access for instructional materials. Thus I share Dempsey & Van Eck’s (2012) view when they claim that “we are not just ‘adding’ technology; we are changing the very nature of the learning experience” (p. 284).


References

Clark, R. (1994). Media will never influence learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 21-29.

Dempsey, J., & Van Eck, R. (2012). E-Learning and Instructional Design. In R. Reiser & J. Dempsey (Eds.), Trends and issues in instructional design and technology (3rd ed.). Boston: Pearson.

My PAMLA Agenda

My Itinerary and Agenda for PAMLA 2014

There are so many great panels at this conference! I wish I could attend more.

Day 2 (Saturday)

Time

Event / Title / Notes

Location

Breakfast

On the road

Session 6

10:30-12:00 Teaching with the Internet & Technology RCC Meeting Room 9

Lunch

12:10-13:45 Plenary Address and Luncheon RCC Ballroom A/B

Session 7

13:45-15:15 Comparative Literature I RCC Meeting Room 3

Session 8

15:30-17:00 The Victorians and Literary Theory Marriott Embassy

PAMLA Forum

17:10-18:40 The Uncanny Art of Reading RCC Ballroom A/B

Conference Reception

18:45-20:00 Dia de los Muertos Marriott Grand Ballroom

Dinner

20:00

Other

Back to the Hotel

Day 3 (Sunday)

Time

Session Title

Location

Breakfast

8:00 Eat and check out Rodeway Inn

Session 9

9:00-10:30 Rethinking “Remediation”: New Approaches for the 21st Century RCC Raincross B

Session 10

10:45-12:15 Folklore and Mythology
(my session)
RCC Ballroom B

Lunch

12:30-14:00 Food

Depart for Home

14:15 On the road

Arrive Home

19:00 Home

Assessment and Evaluation Models Should Include Reflection

Assessment and Evaluation Models Should Include Reflection

Trends in Educational Technology, Journal #5

I believe that assessment is about more than merely providing a kind of currency-value to students’ learning—assessment and evaluation should also be used to help teachers and instruction designers assess and evaluate themselves and their own curriculum so that they can revise it. Formative and summative assessment are tools that I’m already familiar with, and since I became aware of these assessment methods during my time in English 270 back in 2012, I frequently use them as tools to tweak my curriculum on week-to-week, unit-to-unit, and course-to-course bases. Of course we need ways to assess and evaluate what our students are doing—we are subject to educational structures that demand an accounting of students’ learning, but if 100% of our evaluative focus is on something as slippery as “student performance of learning outcomes,” we miss critical opportunities to see that if students are failing curriculum, there may be problems with curriculum. To that end, Scriven’s (1991) definition of evaluation has given me something to think about.

Evaluation and assessment of instruction design and curriculum should take into consideration each piece of Scriven’s (1991) definition of evaluation, but I would extend that strategy to be even more reflective. Scriven (1991) defines evaluation as a “process of determining the merit, worth, and value of things” (p. 97). So in terms of curriculum design, we must figure out a set of learning objectives or outcomes and have a way to assess the degree to which learners are able to perform those objectives over time. What I particularly like about this model is that designer’s should think about the merit of those learning outcomes. Indeed, learning outcomes should be those things which have intrinsic ed-u-ca-tion, evaluation, assessment value within a given system. And in my own thinking, I believe that another important step in this process of designing and revising curriculum should be to constantly ask the following questions: Why do we value these learning outcomes or objectives? What is the nature of their merit? For example, Stufflebeam’s CIPP Evaluation Model calls for an evaluation of context, “the assessment of the environment in which an innovation or program will be used to determine the need and objectives for the innovation” (Johnson & Dick, 2014, p. 97). I would take that a step further and suggest that we must ask why that environment (context) has those particular needs. Concerning my post-structuralist analysis of these evaluation models, the same thing holds true for Rossi’s Five-Domain Evaluation model. The first dimension of that model is the needs assessment: “Is there a need for this type of program in this context?” but that question neglects an equally important question: “WHY does this context have this particular need to begin with, and is that need justified based on value systems that are of intrinsic value and benefit to everyone?” In other words, we should constantly seek to understand the underlying structures that attempt to justify the connection between a thing and that thing’s merit. This is especially crucial if we think about how those structures change over time or how the objects within those structures change over time.

Absolutely vital to the design process is Stufflebeam’s input process in the CIPP Evaluation Model. It calls for an accounting of all resources that are required to make a program’s goals attainable (Johnson & Dick, 2012, p. 98). Growing from my experience in having to teach the Early Start English program in summer 2014, this is definitely something I’ll keep in mind for the future. One of the reasons why I believe this program failed is because it failed to deliver on what was agreed upon during the program’s input process. During the input process, we were promised specific spaces and equipment, thus we designed our curriculum and it’s learning outcomes with those spaces and equipment as a key component thereof. When the university failed to deliver on that space and equipment, the curriculum could not adapt. Ultimately, if the input process fails, an entire program could also be destined to fail.


References

Johnson, R., & Dick, W. (2012). Evaluation in Instructional Design: A Comparison of  Evaluation Models. In R. Reiser & J. Dempsey (Eds.), Trends and issues in instructional design and technology (3rd ed.). Boston: Pearson.