Axe, Meet Learning Objectives. Part. I: Introduction

Cue wavy waterfall effect: Remembering when. The first teaching gig. 12 years ago, I received a huge cement block from the department chair. That cement block was the A&P textbook. My first teaching gig.  I didn’t even blink. All I did was nod and shrug. Afterall, I had an extensive archive of science smarts from years of undergrad, grad, and postdoc imprisonment.

Volume and intensity. That comes with science territory. I can do it and so will these 18yo students. So, the routine began. Each class loading up 1GB of lecture slides and letting the geyser of A&P erupt. And I did this…for a while…like years.

Let me take a second to throw some innocents under the bus. At the time my colleagues were doing the same thing. In fact, we seemed to take pride in this tortuous exercise. One week of the semester remaining? Sure, I’ll squeeze in the entire autonomic nervous system chapter and, for grins and giggles, the senses chapter. It can be done. The students just need to listen faster!  

An enthusiastic Dr. Clark with his pile of slides ready to rock!
An enthusiastic Dr. Clark with his pile of slides ready to rock!

Cue wavy waterfall effect: Remembering when. The first crack in the system. Do you remember when you noticed? A couple of semesters ago, I stumbled upon a podcast from a stand-up comedian. On her podcast, she described stage presence and reading the crowd. Knowing when the jokes are working and when it’s time to improvise. Her description of comic timing and body language resonated with me as the overlap with teaching was never more obvious. The next class I applied some of those comedic strategies. I read the audience….and wow… I was losing them. I improvised. Moved around more. Got animated. Anything to make the information stick. The crowds’ reaction? Frantically scribbling blocks of run-on sentences or slipping into a defeatist’s coma. This method was not working, but what method would? 

Falling asleep in class by John (https://www.flickr.com/photos/jonatz/524709483/)
Falling asleep in class by John
https://www.flickr.com/photos/jonatz/524709483

To fix this, I enrolled in a lengthy year-long workshop learning some amazing teaching strategies and classroom management. I built up such a library of techniques that I had to refrain myself from unleashing it all in a single class. But, the opposite happened. Very little, if any, novel strategies were implemented. Why? No time!!! To make good of these strategies required me to momentarily pause my slides, stop lecturing, let students interact, and miss some, maybe a lot, of the detail.

Then, I had an out of body experience, and my astral projection slapped me in the face several times. “Wake up! It’s not working. 90% of blabbing is seeping out of their ear.” 

2020 SPRING EMERGENCY ONLINE TRANSITION (because of…well, you know). It was now or never. No one was looking, no one would ask any questions. I seized the opportunity. I hacked away at the remaining chapters for the semester. And I did it again in the summer…and the fall. And doing it as I write this globally anticipated blog entry.

Oooohh…so liberating. I had time. Time to do things in class. But, why am I so dang nervous?. And scared? Why does this not seem right? Over the next two installments, I’m going to lay out what, how and why I purged materials. I discuss strategies, rewards and mistakes of this reformation. Not just the lecture, but also the lab…yes, I’m talking to you with the 200-item spreadsheet of skeletal muscles (and that’s just axial). I’ll address the 3 big questions

  • Did I cut too much?
  • Are they learning enough?
  • Did I make the course too easy?

clark-headshot-1

Jordan Clark is the course coordinator and head instructor for anatomy and physiology and applied microbiology at Sam Houston State University. He earned a BS in psychology at Florida State University and a Ph.D in neurobiology at University of Kentucky, where he conducted research in spinal cord and brain injury. He served four years in the US Army. Currently, his primary research interest is developing engaging and active teaching strategies for large capacity courses. Free time? Consuming synth wave pop culture, daydreaming of being a master woodworker, and always seeking great geeky adventures with his awesome wife and and two kids.

New Teaching Tips Submission Process

This post is provided by the HAPS Curriculum and Instruction Teaching Tips Review Team

For more than two decades, HAPS members have been sharing Teaching Tips (formerly EduSnippets). These Teaching Tips are descriptions of learning activities that others in the HAPS community may find useful for their own teaching practices. The Teaching Tips often include both instructor’s guides and formative assessments.  They are published on the HAPS Teaching Tips Website, grouped by HAPS Learning Outcomes, and available to all HAPS members. 

We are excited to share with you that the Curriculum and Instruction Committee has recently updated the Teaching Tip format and submission process!

One of the improvements we have made to the HAPS Teaching Tips is a consistent format, including a uniform header, with a brief description (summary abstract of 100 words or less), intended audience, keywords/terms, approximate time for completion, and type of activity (case study, demonstration, discussion, etc.). We hope that this will make it easier to determine if a Teaching Tip might be useful for you and your teaching!  We have also added a *NEW FEATURE* — if the Teaching Tip addresses diversity, equity, and inclusion, if it includes accommodation suggestions for students, and/or if it is adaptable for remote instruction that information will now be directly noted on the Tip’s header.

As a reader, you can expect all Teaching Tips to include student activity pages (i.e. student worksheets, guided problem sets, in-class clinical cases, etc.), a formative assessment with answer key/rubric, as well as a detailed instructor’s guide.  

Submission deadlines for HAPS Teaching Tips are January 15, March 15, May 15, July 15, September 15, and November 15. Each submission will be evaluated by the HAPS C&I Teaching Tips Subcommittee Review Team. Accepted Teaching Tips will appear on the hapsweb.org website within six weeks.

We are currently calling on all HAPS community members to consider submitting a Teaching Tip for our upcoming May 15th deadline! Those interested in preparing a submission are invited to review the HAPS Teaching Tips Instructions. Not only are HAPS Teaching Tips peer-reviewed (a great addition to your professional portfolio!), they are also a terrific opportunity to showcase your teaching expertise and be recognized by your professional organization. 

We look forward to reviewing your submission! 

Links to sample Teaching Tips (in the new format):

Pelvic Vasculature Guided Demonstration 

Short Case Study of the Urinary System


C&I Teaching Tips Review Team


Danielle Bentley
Teaching Tips Subcommittee C&I Committee Member 
Assistant Professor, teaching stream Faculty of Medicine University of Toronto
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Abbey Breckling
Teaching Tips Subcommittee C&I Committee Member 
Clinical Instructor Kinesiology & Nutrition Department Anatomy & Cell Biology Department University of Illinois at Chicago 

April R. Hatcher, PhD
Teaching Tips Subcommittee C&I Committee Member
Associate Professor, Anatomy, Embryology, and Histology Department of Neuroscience University of Kentucky Lexington, KY

Jessica Loomis, M.S.
Teaching Tips Subcommittee C&I Committee Member
Professor, Biological Sciences Department of Biology Cincinnati State Technical & Community College Cincinnati, OH

Ellen Krumme, DC, MS
Teaching Tips Subcommittee C&I Committee Member 
Associate Professor in Arts and Sciences Galen College of Nursing, Cincinnati Ohio

Edgar R. Meyer, M.A.T., Ph.D.
Teaching Tips Subcommittee C&I Committee Member
Assistant Professor Department of Neurobiology and Developmental Sciences, Division of Clinical Anatomy, College of Medicine University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Wendy Rappazzo
Teaching Tips Subcommittee C&I Committee Member 
Professor, Biology Harford Community College
Bel Air, MD

Rachel Hopp
Chair of HAPS C&I Committee
Assistant Professor in Biology University of Louisville

My Experience in Striving for Equitable Education in A&P Curriculum: Why it Matters to my Students

I want to invite you to read some words that may make you uncomfortable, and I encourage all of my readers to read, reflect, and keep an open mind. We often find our greatest opportunity for growth by stepping outside our realm of comfort and into an arena of discomfort. Use the movement from comfort to discomfort as an opportunity to understand how our identities lead to bias and create a lack of equity among our students.

As educators, our experiences shape biases and these biases can create disadvantages for students. The biases we carry can influence how we teach and respond to students. Likewise, how our students participate and engage with faculty and course content is influenced by their biases, experiences, and preconceived expectations of us and the course content.

The start of each semester presents me with an opportunity to remember that my students bring their own cultural and societal experiences and biases, impacting how they experience my courses. Cultural humility, which involves recognizing and reflecting on the difference between my own culture and identity and the cultures and identities of my students, requires ongoing reflection and growth on my part to understand who my students are. I have realized that in order to create a more equitable and inclusive classroom, where all students are valued and respected, I must practice cultural humility and acknowledge my students’ differences in race, ethnicity, class, sex and gender.

Why do the identities of students and instructor matter at all? The mistrust that underrepresented minority (URM) students have in white faculty has been building for decades due to personal experience, discrimination and mistrust within our medical and legal systems, and an increase in social justice unrest. The oppressive stresses felt by URM students in society are carried into the classroom and intensified when URM students see white professors as authoritarians.

According to a 2017 Pew Research looking at college faculty and student diversity, 76.5% of all faculty that students encounter is white. Comparatively, according to the AACU, students of color enrolled in undergraduate education, in 2016, comprised 45.2 percent of our student population. At the graduate level, students of color represented 32.0 percent of enrollment.  This means that only 23.5% of college professors represent communities of color.

To give an idea of how my institution compares to the research, during the 2019-2020 academic year 84.8% of the faculty identified white, compared to 8.9% of the faculty identified as Black and 4.3% of faculty identifying Hispanic. Our student body is 26% Hispanic, 17% Black, and 48% White. Our total population of students of color is 43% of the student body, but faculty they can identify with only make up 13.2%. URM students are enrolling in courses and being educated by professors who cannot empathize with or relate to social, family, and justice experiences. How does your institution compare with the data?

I believe that the biases brought to the classroom by URM students requires me to work harder to break down barriers of race, sex, and gender and establish trust with my students that allows for greater success and perseverance. The delay in establishing instructor-student trust relationships is sometimes the culprit behind the achievement gap seen at community colleges. In a report published in 2014 in the JSTOR, researchers found that the performance gap (withdrawal rate and grade performance) for students of color enrolled in courses taught by instructors of color was reduced by 20-50%.

This data is reinforced by my own experiences, and consequently, I owe it to my students to not be a gatekeeper of their education, to not subscribe to a fixed mindset. We must see our students’ color and attempt to unravel their biases; it is only in seeing color that we can start to understand their experiences, history, and biases that they bring to our classrooms.

Diversity Hands by Kolette Draegan

What are some “quick to implement” strategies in building trust with your students? Here are changes that I have made to build relationships with my students.

  1. I start with my syllabus. It is the first introduction to me that students have. So consider: Is it inclusive? Is the syllabus written in a “negative” or “penalizing tone”? What support do you outline in your syllabus? Do you identify your pronouns after your name?
  2. I take risks. I inject personal stories of difficult periods of my journey and allow students to share their stories. I listen to and validate their stories. In doing so, I validate my student’s experiences. In becoming vulnerable, students will see you as being human and relatable to them.
  3. I am mindful of words spoken. I correct instances of microaggression within my classes. I also need admit when I misspeak or engage in microaggression-infused conversations, even with colleagues.
  4. I recognize my own privilege. I acknowledge it, and I use the acknowledgment to start discussions of race and sexuality within my courses. I allow students to express their experiences, encourage different views – made sure to allow and encourage ALL students to offer opinion, even if it had already been spoken.
  5. I am open about my support of students of color. I hang fliers on my office door that promote DEI events on my campus. I participated in Safe Zone training on my campus and display the insignia on my door, scanned it and put it in my syllabi, visually showing support with my words and action.

More specific ways to increase inclusiveness will be the topic of future blogs in this series.

We owe it to our students to be the best advocates for inclusive, equitable educational practices and for working collaboratively with peers to support greater diversity in our classrooms, departments, and fields of study. What challenges with developing cultural humility can you perceive? What changes can you make to your classroom to break down barriers caused by our different identities? What steps can you take in earning your students’ trust in order to transform their educational experience?


Larry author picLarry Young is Professor of Biology and Anatomy & Physiology at Polk State College in central Florida. In addition to his teaching, Larry works with the colleges Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program as a research mentor and campus coordinator/club advisor. He earned his B.S. in Biology from Richard Stockton University, New Jersey in 2000 and his Masters in Life Science at the University of Maryland, College Park in 2008. His work in DEI education has led him to incorporate social justice relationships to A&P content taught within his courses. He also teaches Biology of Sexuality and Gender. When not teaching and hanging with HAPS humans you can find Larry, and his wife Niqui, paddle boarding in the Gulf of Mexico, enjoying the beach, working out, and when traveling, finding the local distilleries and breweries to enjoy the regional flavors, but also learn of the history, experiences, and diversity of communities brought together by some yeast, grains, and patience.  

Serve HAPS by Joining the Board of Directors

This post is from Kyla Ross, Chair of the Nominating Committee

As your current President-Elect, I have the honor of chairing the Nominating Committee, which is responsible for compiling the ballot for the 2021 HAPS Board of Directors (BOD). I am working alongside the members of my committee: Anthony Edwards, Kerry Hull, and Tom Lehman. The BOD is composed of nine officers: Past President, President, President-Elect, Secretary, Treasurer, and four Regional Directors. Four officers are elected by the membership each spring, and terms begin July 1. All BOD members participate in monthly E-meetings, attend two leadership meetings (one in October and the other in conjunction with the Annual Conference in May), and attend the General Membership Meeting that takes place during the Annual Conference. 

I recognize that this has been a challenging year, and so many of us have been impacted personally and professionally. Whether you are just getting more involved with HAPS or have been a long-standing member of our Society,  I hope that you will consider serving in a leadership role on the HAPS BOD. Becoming part of the HAPS leadership team is a great way to give back to the organization and to enhance your personal and professional development. Whether you, or someone you know, would be interested in this opportunity, please let us know before February 26, 2021. 

This year, the four officers that we are electing are 1) President-Elect, 2) Secretary, 3) Central Regional Director, and 4) Southern Regional Director. 

1) President-Elect

President-Elect is the first office of a three-year term on the Board of Directors. The President-Elect serves as a voting member on the Board of Directors and, along with other Board members, establishes and manages the policies and affairs of the Society.  For the second year of the term this person becomes the HAPS President, and the third year becomes the Past President. This person’s term on the Board of Directors is completed at the end of the third year.  Additional duties of President-Elect include the following:  1) Works closely with the President and Treasurer to determine the content of the budget for the next fiscal year to be presented to the Board for approval.  2) Participates in monthly e-meetings with other Board members. 3)Attends Board of Director and Executive Committee meetings held in fall and in conjunction with the Annual Conference.  4) Attends the Annual General Meeting held in conjunction with the Annual Conference.  5) Chairs the Nominating Committee.  6) Performs other duties as assigned by the President or the Board.

2) Secretary

The Secretary serves as a voting member on the Board of Directors for a two-year term.  Along with other Board members, the Secretary establishes and manages the policies and affairs of the Society. In addition, the Secretary’s duties include the following:  1) Takes and keeps minutes of Board of Directors meetings, the Annual General meeting, and other meetings as deemed appropriate by the President.  2) Participates in monthly e-meetings with other Board members. 3)  Attends Board of Director and Executive Committee meetings held in fall and in conjunction with the Annual Conference.  4) Attends the Annual General Meeting held in conjunction with the Annual Conference.  5) Performs other duties as assigned by the President or the Board.

3 and 4) Central and Southern Regional Directors (see website for boundaries):

The Regional Director serves as a voting member on the Board of Directors for a two-year term. Along with other Board members, Regional Directors establish and manage the policies and affairs of the Society. A Regional Director serves as the representative of a HAPS Region. It is required that Regional Directors reside or work in the region they will represent at the time of their nomination. Regional Directors may complete their terms of office should they no longer reside or work in their region.  The Regional Directors ensure currency and continuity of policies and procedures as well as acting as liaisons between their constituencies and the Board of Directors.  Additional duties of a Regional Director include the following:  1) Promotes increased involvement of the region’s membership in the activities of the Society.  2) Communicates with his/her constituency via email at least once annually. 3) Participates in monthly e-meetings with other Board members.  4) Attends Board of Director and Executive Committee meetings held in fall and in conjunction with the Annual Conference.  5) Attends the Annual General Meeting held in conjunction with the Annual Conference.  6) Attends Regional Conferences in their region for the purpose of welcoming attendees and promoting membership in HAPS.  If unable to attend a Regional Conference, the Regional Director will find a replacement. The regional conference registration fee shall be waived for Regional Directors.  7)  Performs other duties as assigned by the President or the Board.

If you, or someone you know, is interested in one of these positions, please consider submitting your nomination (self or from colleagues) via our online form prior to February 26, 2021. 

All discussions of potential candidates will remain confidential within the Nominating Committee. The Nominating Committee will review all nominations and verify willingness to serve. A final slate of candidates will be recommended to the BOD for approval, with a maximum of two candidates for President-Elect and maximum of three candidates for each of the other offices. The final candidates will be asked to provide a biography and a position statement for the ballot. 

A&P Cyber Style Part 4: Asynchronously Out of Sync

This is finale of a multi-part series of posts from HAPSter Jordan Clark. Check out his introduction post and his thoughts on synchronous lectures and synchronous labs while you’re here!

Fast food. Sure, sure…I know. Your palate is too refined. But ooohhhh the convenience. Because you’re hungry. Because you’ve been ripping out kitchen drywall all day (long Christmas break…don’t ask). You don’t want to shower. You don’t want to wipe off the stove. You don’t want to pull out a classic southern supper dish passed down through generations. Nope. You just want to eat. Eat something that kinda resembles food. All you need is some wheels and a vague sense of direction.  Chances are it’s already made and sunbathing under heat lamps. Go get it and guess what? You don’t even have to eat it at that very moment!! Take your time, eat it when you are ready in your busy schedule.

And once you declare chow time, chow down. Inside the grease-blotted bag is something that….ehh…sorta resembles food. Something chemically bonded and partially digestible.

Doesn’t really look like the pictures. At all. Whoever slopped this together is not getting a Hollywood handshake. But you eat it because it’s there. And, come midnight, you’ll probably regret it.

Compilation of images by author. Figure 1 is from AZ_RN and Figure 2 taken by SteFou!, both via flickr

Where am I going with this? I’m hitting an all-time high score on the snark-o-meter, but this is how I view asynchronous online courses. Self-paced online course. The drive-thru fast food of academia. Lectures and assignments prepackaged and sitting under a heat lamp. Pick it up when you want. Finish it when you want. It kinda resembles learning. Looks nothing like the pictures. And, come midnight, you’ll probably regret it.

And like fast food, it’s an easy sell. Heck, I hit the drive thru and picked up a delicious, fried bag-o-knowledge.  Recently it was from a menu of online workshops. It was a great experience. But not for the upgrade in my tree of pedagogical skills. But because I experienced, what many students experience, when enrolled in self-paced online courses (and I’m comfortable speaking for many students). After about 2 weeks of the workshop, I was no longer focused on learning. I was only focused on completion. And like the buzz I hear from so many students, I settled in with this regretful thought bubble:

No matter how flashy the video production or interactive the activities, I’m tuning it out. Putting everything off until the due date. Just complete the dumb thing.

In a couple of weeks, I’m teaching some asynchronous online courses with enrollment of over 260. How am I going to keep my students from disconnecting? What happens between posting and collecting materials? How do I shift the objective of completion back to learning?

Well, I picked up a few tricks. Nothing earth shattering, but easily overlooked as convenience is too tempting with this format.  As with all these ramblings, I cannot recommend or discuss any programs I’m using (Just check your inbox. It’s full of solicitations).

These info nuggets stem from the Spring 20 Emergency Transition. I did them to save my sanity. I used them sparingly during that time, but I will supersize them for this semester.

  • Dress Rehearsal: There are no mandatory scheduled meetings for these courses. Thus, when I recorded my lecture, I sent out an invite to attend. Doesn’t matter what time or day. I could be recording a lecture at 9pm on Saturday. I’d invite all students to attend. It’s like watching a live dress rehearsal. They got to hear me screw up, swear, restart the recordings, swear some more
  • Study Sessions. I held live study sessions periodically. And not just for exams, but after a couple of heavy lectures (good ole neurophysiology). Kept it short and focused.
  • Posts: I used a discussion board. Posted some trivia about A&P. Made sure I commented on any responses. I made goofy 10 min videos from my nerdcave discussing fun facts about physiology and human health (and showing off my Atari memorabilia).

What did this accomplish? I didn’t leave them out in the cold. I held open the lines of communication. Will this work in the Spring? I think so. That’s a massive line of cars pulling up to the drive-thru window (Remember….over 260 kids). I don’t expect all to participate, but at least they’ll know I’m alive. The worst thing I (or anyone teaching this format) can do is dump everything on a Sunday and check back in at the end of the week. Come semester end, maybe I won’t get that Hollywood handshake, but I will win the technical!


clark-headshot-1Jordan Clark is the course coordinator and head instructor for anatomy and physiology and applied microbiology at Sam Houston State University. He earned a BS in psychology at Florida State University and a Ph.D in neurobiology at University of Kentucky, where he conducted research in spinal cord and brain injury. He served four years in the US Army. Currently, his primary research interest is developing engaging and active teaching strategies for large capacity courses. Free time? Consuming synth wave pop culture, daydreaming of being a master woodworker, and always seeking great geeky adventures with his awesome wife and and two kids.

Upcoming deadline: HAPS Awards

This post is from Chasity O’Malley, Chair of the Awards and Scholarships Committee

Hey there HAPSters!!! I hope you are doing well, heading back into the new term refreshed and ready to tackle whatever challenges come your way this year. As you’re planning out your January, I would like to call your attention to an important date: Monday January 11th. This is the date that the awards applications are due for the 2021 Annual Conference which is virtual this year. There are several award options (briefly described below- make sure to visit the weblinks for complete details on who is eligible and what is required). I’m sure you’ll find you can fit into one of them and I highly encourage you to apply! Please keep in mind that you need to be HAPS members in good standing at the time of application and at the time of the HAPS Annual Conference (like all the cool kids are!).

  • The Sam Drogo Technology In The Classroom Award
    • Applicants should use technology in the classroom and be able to elaborate on how
    • Award is $1500 to attend the Annual meeting of the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society.  One award is available, sponsored by ADInstruments.
  • Gail Jenkins Teaching And Mentoring Award
    • Applicants should focus on active learning in the classroom and elaborate on how
    • Award is a cash award of $1,000. Annual HAPS Conference registration fee is waived. One award is available, sponsored by Wiley.
  • John Martin Second Timer Award
    • Applicants are HAPS members attending their second HAPS Annual Conference
    • Award is a cash award of $500 to help fund attendance at HAPS Annual Conference. One award is available.
  • The HAPS Conference Award
    • Nearly anyone who a is HAPS member can apply
    • Award is for the registration fee for the 2021 Annual Conference, multiple awards are available.

I hope this gentle nudge reminds you to get those applications in!

A&P Cyber Style Part 3: The Sounds of Synchronicity…in the Lab

This is part 3 in a multi-part series of posts from HAPSter Jordan Clark. Check out his introduction post and his thoughts on synchronous lectures while you’re here!

Admittedly I was surprised with my own positive reflections for synchronous online lectures. An audience, a community, and the freedom to text at will. But…..there is that one thing. The other component of the course. The labs!!

Compared to the online lectures, planning for synchronous online labs is like planning a hack into ENCOM’s mainframe, without being detected by the MCP, to find code fragments of games you developed like Space Paranoids…(you guessed it..Tron reference). But labs come with the bundle, so I planned and schemed and guess what??

I think it kinda, sorta, weirdly, worked. Now I cannot recommend any A&P programs and will not disclose programs I used. I can, however, lay down some snappy tips that should apply to many online lab strategies. Remember, this is for synchronous online formats. Ready?? I used a little-known pedagogical strategy called 80s-kid-in-the-mall approach.

Figure 1: Young Dr. Clark Exploring the Mall

Basically, as a kid, my parents would take me to the mall, provide me with a set of instructions, set a timer and set me free to explore. Once my time expired, I’d rejoin my parents for a debriefing (and receipt audit for those Hair Band cassette purchases). That’s essentially what I did in the labs.

  • Family Arrival at the Mall: We all showed up on the webcam for lab. Welcomed everyone. Reviewed any assignments from last week’s lab. Gave an introduction to the current week’s online lab activity. Did some pre-lab activities. Doing a virtual cardiophys lab? How about a pre-lab debate? Set the tone and have them argue the effects of energy drinks on heart function. Got them interested and got them talking.
  • Parent-free Mall Exploration: Let them loose to complete the online exercises, whether it’s a simulated experiment or virtual cadaver dissection. They could work in groups, they could even log off and go solo, but I, you, lab TA, stayed logged in just in case there are questions. Gave them a timeline…let’s say 45 minutes (to include food breaks).
  • Rendezvous with the Parents: Once time has expired, I brought them back. This part was critical. Everyone rejoined into the live virtual sphere. Reviewed the activities.
    • Did some anatomy post lab stuff such as…
      • Anatomy ID gameshow with student teams (they can circle stuff on your slides)
      • Demonstrate movements and application of said anatomy, like exercises that work certain muscles
      • Clinical studies on injuries…use x-rays, MRI’s, etc. Applied the anatomy!
    • Did some physiology post lab stuff such as…
      • Discussed the experimental design. Controls, variables, hypothesis, etc.Reviewed the data. Answered questions just using graphs
      • Did some mini case studies

In other words, wrapped it all up!

As a champion of traditional classrooms, I really find this online style effective. However, I know we brought this up in the last blog entry (you did read that one…right?). These synchronous online courses may be a rare offering. If I come across as a bit defensive, well…there is a lot of scrutiny (to be polite) in the current academic climate of online courses. But, it can and does work. When does it not work? We’ll discuss that in the next blog. Until then, I’ll be at the food court enjoying some Sbarro before heading off to Camelot Music to spend my allowance.

“Say, would someone mind checking the ratings? I seem to have any audience of two,” Max Headroom


clark-headshot-1Jordan Clark is the course coordinator and head instructor for anatomy and physiology and applied microbiology at Sam Houston State University. He earned a BS in psychology at Florida State University and a Ph.D in neurobiology at University of Kentucky, where he conducted research in spinal cord and brain injury. He served four years in the US Army. Currently, his primary research interest is developing engaging and active teaching strategies for large capacity courses. Free time? Consuming synth wave pop culture, daydreaming of being a master woodworker, and always seeking great geeky adventures with his awesome wife and and two kids.

A&P Cyber Style Part 2: The Sounds of Synchronicity

This is part 2 in a multi-part series of posts from HAPSter Jordan Clark. You can find the introduction post here

By the time you’ll read this, the Fall 2020 semester reviews are limping in. And it is ugly. My first bit of advice: Maybe don’t read them. Consider giving yourself a mental and spiritual cleanse over the winter break. 

We all knew it was coming. The low-pitch student (and faculty) grumblings from September that devolved into whimpers and cries of surrender. For many first-time online teachers, sucked into the master control program (Tron reference. Nerd alert), there may be great temptation to swear off this cyber format forever. See Fig.1. Is that your laptop?

Figure 1: Me 1/ Laptop 0 from steviep187 on flickr

Wait!  Check this out. There I was. Venturing into this strange webcam world. I knew just enough from the Spring 20 EMERGENCY TRANSITION that “certain” online formats are greasy fast food, dumpster blazes (more on that in upcoming installments). But this…this synchronous stuff. Rarely advertised. Some say it’s urban myth stuff, but it does exist. And…it actually, kinda, weirdly works. 

Synchronous online learning: Teaching an online course with scheduled live meeting times. There’s more to it, but that’s enough for this blog.

My synchronous A&P class (25ish students) met mornings from 8am till 930am. I had no idea what to expect, but within a few class meetings I found a rhythm and quickly established a quirky community: My floating webcam-head (ball cap, unkempt quarantine beard) teaching to geometrically organized panels of cartoon avatars, filtered selfies, and anonymous blank nothings.

Figure 2: Author’s own work with contributions from Tarak Zadark ..Just a Pop.. (Vampyre Warrior) and Ape Lad (Hell Kitty Twitter Avatar) on flickr

But there we were…

And for all the online software and interactive programs peddled through (borderline harassing) emails, the best tool was talking. Yes, talking. Here’s how I think I pulled it off…presented as a few tips for the reader:

 ●     I quickly recognized the students’ preferred method of communication. They loved the text-chat option. So, I engaged each and every text. Called them by their names. Laughed. Let them know I appreciated the absurdity of the situation. Let them know I was alive. If I went longer than 10 minutes without a student text, I knew I lost them. I often got the “slow the #$%@ down” text. So, yeah, I had to slow things down. Surprisingly, no one really wanted to use the microphone to actually speak. Kids these days!

 ●     Most webinar (arrrggghhh that term) software allows for small break-out sessions. I used it. I let the students talk to each other and not just me. I’d poke my head into some of their break-out sessions. Chatted with the small groups. Did it early in the semester. Started connecting everyone immediately and creating that wonderfully weird community.

 ●     I had to keep them busy. Chat messages only goes so far. The trick: I used the virtual whiteboard and let them draw on my PowerPoints. Yeah this slowed down the lecture and I had to jettison some material…but so what. They, not surprisingly, really liked drawing on things. ALERT:  Some of those drawings started dangerously morphing into…err… some inappropriate anatomical structures…kids these days.

Notice some common themes here? One being the pace. I had to slow down. That 200-page chapter on the cardiovascular system (slightly exaggerating)? I couldn’t cannon-blast it in a single breath. I broke it down. I used student sharing options and reviewed their notes during the lecture. I held Q&A sessions during lecture.

Of course, there is much more detail that is better suited for an elaborate keynote speaker presentation. But this is a blog so I’m laying down the basics. And though these tips may be a no-brainer, you’d be surprised how easy it is to forget the students on the other side of your laptop. Plunging deep into your web lecture, totally oblivious of time and space. You must adjust your style. Strategies used in a lecture hall may not work when teaching from your dining room table (I really need better lighting in my house). Remember, life is a little wonkier on the webcam. Glitches, drops, crashes, Window updates (let’s not go there).

Unfortunately, as I have discovered, the synchronous format may not be an option at your institution. I’ll address that in upcoming installments. If it is….go for it! I actually loved my surreal virtual family. It’s almost 2021. This is the here-and-now of commo. Dare I say we bonded? I’d like to think we formed some kind of bizarro kinship. They opened up in ways not experienced in a lecture hall. Did I have to remind them to keep the text comments clean? Often…but, you know…kids these days. 

*I’ll talk synchronous labs in the next installment.  


clark-headshot-1Jordan Clark is the course coordinator and head instructor for anatomy and physiology and applied microbiology at Sam Houston State University. He earned a BS in psychology at Florida State University and a Ph.D in neurobiology at University of Kentucky, where he conducted research in spinal cord and brain injury. He served four years in the US Army. Currently, his primary research interest is developing engaging and active teaching strategies for large capacity courses. Free time? Consuming synth wave pop culture, daydreaming of being a master woodworker, and always seeking great geeky adventures with his awesome wife and and two kids.

A&P Cyber Style Part 1: My Experiences in the New Virtual Norm of Remote Teaching

Growing up in the 1980’s, I was constantly reminded that one day “it’s all gonna be computers and robots.”  What did they mean by “it?” Did “it” mean entertainment, jobs, transportation, teaching? Surely not teaching. 

Original photo by Jordan Clark

As a child, I embraced all things computers and robots. I dreamed of being derezzed and transported into a virtual world, racing light cycles on the grid. Oh yeah, there was even this thing called videoconferencing. Every deep space vessel came fully equipped with such communication instruments.

Remember “Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan?” When Khan pops up after 15 years and surprises Kirk…..with a videoconference call? Classic!

Turns out, Khan and Kirk were forecasting the evolution of classrooms. So those around the early-80’s me were right, it has become all computers and robots and the “it” is teaching. Online. Virtual environments. Videoconferencing (Ok…maybe not the robots, yet).

I actually entertained the idea of creating a virtual A&P course about 5 years ago. I could see it kinda, maybe being successful for the ultra-dedicated. The eager and ambitious. This “plan” was largely relegated to thought bubbles floating above my head. Nothing ever came to fruition as the general consensus was “meh”. To be honest, I never really took a consensus. I think I asked a colleague his opinion in the parking lot. Case closed.

And then last spring…well, you know. Over the span of a few days in March, I was ambushed by emails and phone calls from veteran publishers, software wizards, and scrappy overnight start-ups. All were dazzling me with sales pitches on how to online this and virtual that. I actually listened to a couple of them.

Remember those fluffy thought bubbles from 5 years ago? They violently burst into fragments on my office floor. Half-baked ideas that needed serving ASAP because: Emergency Spring Semester Transition.

And there I was. Transported from my cozy, flesh-and-blood classroom into a virtual vacuum. Yep. I was derezzed. But, hey! Just like Kirk, I was videoconferencing…with my dog barking, daughter stair-stomping, wi-fi dropping, neighbor’s roof replacing.

And just like that the spring semester abruptly ended in a complete haze.

What the #@$! just happened?

Redemption came in the name of the summer semester. A full-on dress rehearsal for the inevitable Fall Overhaul. I went whole-hog online right from my dining room (the only room in my house with actual lighting).

Starting in June and into the foreseeable future, my syllabus would embrace first ballot hall-of-fame cringe terms such as:

  • F2F
  • Webinar (ugh, this one especially)
  • Hybrid
  • Zooming
  • Asynchronous (never even heard this term before)

At the time of writing this, I’ve earned my stripes teaching synchronous and asynchronous online A&P and am slated to teach 240 online students for the Spring 21.  Over the next few installments, I’m going to share my experiences and offer some unfiltered advice. From quirky virtual gatherings with students, their pets, and questionable wall art to smoldering dumpster fires of abandoned learning systems, this is my adventure in the A&P cyber zone.


clark-headshot

Jordan Clark is the course coordinator and head instructor for anatomy and physiology and applied microbiology at Sam Houston State University. He earned a BS in psychology at Florida State University and a Ph.D in neurobiology at University of Kentucky, where he conducted research in spinal cord and brain injury. He served four years in the US Army. Currently, his primary research interest is developing engaging and active teaching strategies for large capacity courses. Free time? Consuming synth wave pop culture, daydreaming of being a master woodworker, and always seeking great geeky adventures with his awesome wife and and two kids. 

Arts, Anatomy, Leonardo and Queen

Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen – Leonardo da Vinci.

This post is the conclusion of my overseas journey during the summer of 2019 with a team of anatomists and physiologists, professors, and medical professionals. I went to get a taste of London, Paris, and Amsterdam from an anatomical artist’s perspective rather than as a tourist. If you missed my first post with details about the Apothecary Museum and Gordon Museum of Pathology at King’s College, start here!

Before we traveled, the part of the itinerary which attracted me most was the visit to the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace. Leonardo da Vinci’s original art, part of the Royal Collection, was on display there to mark the 500 year anniversary of his death. Most people know Leonardo as one of the greatest artists of all time; as an anatomist I know him as a great scientist and designer whose creations from 500 years back will still awe a scientist of the modern era.

Though Leonardo’s drawing of Vitruvian Man in the Renaissance Era was well-known for his concept of symmetry in humans and nature, most of Leonardo’s anatomical sketches remain unnoticed and unappreciated. Frustrated, Leonardo never published those masterpieces of anatomy-oriented art. 

Entrance to Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace, London
Introduction to the exhibition at the Gallery Hall
Introduction to the exhibition at the Gallery Hall 

His original art was acquired by the Queen of England and was displayed for the public, and I think we are fortunate to get the opportunity to see the original drawings of Leonardo. Two hundred of his original pictures were on display which included the bulk of his anatomical sketches which I was waiting eagerly to see. It was indeed a great idea by Dr. Petti to design his study abroad course around the time of the exhibition.  It was amazing to see how Leonardo’s curious mind unveiled minute anatomical details. 

Leonardo’s passion led him to perfectly portray the intricate complexities of human anatomy. All the red walls with these paintings and sketches attracted our group members like magnets and the same thought came over and over, that this will be truly a lifetime memory to cherish forever. There were sketches of horses, a human skeleton, a human heart, and the list could go on and on.

We stopped at one corner, where we saw a framed piece, but there was nothing on that piece of paper (see below). A mystery no doubt! That paper which apparently looked like everything was washed out to the naked eye under normal light showed amazing details when exposed to high-energy fluorescent rays and we came to know about an amazing technique. 

Adoration of Magi - Picture framed on left apparently invisible in normal light; on right - Sketches revealed with Fluorescent technology.
Adoration of Magi – Picture framed on left apparently invisible in normal light
On right – Sketches revealed with fluorescent technology

That framed blank picture was from the Adoration of Magi series by Leonardo. He used a pen with a stylus made of copper and over the period the metallic copper chemically changed to copper salt with exposure to air showing no marks. When exposed to high-energy fluorescent rays, energy rays were absorbed by the paper and revealed the sketches with amazing details once drawn by Leonardo, and the mystery was solved too!

For thousands of years, humans showed advancement in designing sophisticated tools which is a reflection of higher brain function. Recent use of imaging techniques like MRI not only mark advancements as one of the most important diagnostic tools in different medical fields, but certain imaging techniques are now helping us to unveil the past. One such modern use of contrivance is C14 and potassium 40 dating for fossils and rocks to determine their age. Carbon dating has been known for years, but when it comes to the handwritings or sketches as mentioned above, luminescence technique using UV rays provides some hidden facts.

More information about the display and other technology used to create and decode Leonardo’s art can be found here

Every corridor, every room of the gallery displayed an extravaganza of artistic expression and anatomical excitement and I left wondering how advanced a person could be for his time to create all those beautiful artworks which paved the foundation of the knowledge of human anatomy almost 500 years back.

Leonard’s anatomical sketches
Leonardo’s anatomical sketches

Author bio: Dr. Soma Mukhopadhyay did her Masters in Zoology and her Ph.D. in Nuclear Medicine in Calcutta, India, and subsequently did postdoctoral research in Cellular Physiology at the College of Medicine, University of Cincinnati. She is a Lecturer at the Department of Biological Sciences, Augusta University, and has also taught at Pennsylvania State University, University of Cincinnati, Xavier University, University of South Carolina. Her areas of research are cardiovascular physiology and molecular evolution as it relates to human anatomy & physiology. Her passions are music, art, and photography.