Archive | March, 2014

12- Flippin’ Activities: Variety is Good

31 Mar
Even spider variety is good...(or interesting, at least!)

Even spider variety is good…(or interesting, at least!)

It is hard to believe that I have almost two years of flipping experience under my belt.  Sometimes flipping feels so crazy that I forget to acknowledge how much extra work is required to pull it all together. And there are so many layers in a successful classroom, flipped or not, that it is often quite challenging to effectively steer the ship.

During my first year of flipping, I spent most of my time recording video lectures.  This left the actual class time VERY unstructured, and I relied primarily on student questions posed DURING class to fill that time.  I struggled with low attendance throughout my first flipped year and I was chronically dissatisfied with the quality of student engagement during the “new” lecture hour.  In my second year of flipping, I reused most of my video lectures (for better or for worse).  This freed up my time to use the Life Science Teaching Resource Community (the Archive of Teaching Resources has a new name!) to improve the quality of my class activities. This, in conjunction with the fact that I also started using clickers (for which students earn 5% of their course grade), has improved the class tremendously, in my opinion.  But my students expressed a different opinion the other day when I failed to prepare a set of clicker-activities for my class on “Blood.”

First, I did NOT admit to my students that I was unprepared.  (Ahem.)  Instead, I started class by asking them what they thought was the most important concept in the lecture.  This began the discussion and I capitalized on their questions and confusions to engage them in a 90 minute review session.  At the end of the 90 minutes, several of them made a pronounced effort to tell me how helpful the class had been that day.  They actually explained that sometimes the interesting and creative activities I facilitate require so much application and critical thinking that, in their minds, they don’t get a chance to really review the material from the previous night’s lecture.  This was such an interesting perspective and while I can not concede that the “easier” review session was BETTER than the more challenging application tasks, it did make me think about the value of VARIETY in the flipped class.  We all know that Anatomy and Physiology are really challenging courses.  But we’re coaches, and good coaches push their players hard, but they also know when to let up and make sure their players know they can be successful.  The take home message for me?  Variety is good.

HAPS Leadership (#23): Secretary to the Board

26 Mar
She keeps us sweet!

She keeps us sweet!

An organization lives on its documentation.  You can sink or swim depending on how well you keep track of details.  When the details are there, they help you stay focused and moving forward.  When they’re absent, you meander directionless or backtrack with no idea that you’re retreading previous trails.

Carol Veil is the Secretary for the HAPS Board of Directors.  It’s Carol’s responsibility to keep track of the documentation during meetings and help us to keep our focus.  I had a chance to chat with Carol recently and find out what she thinks of her role and of HAPS.

1.      What’s the coolest part about being the secretary?

      The two coolest things about being secretary are how much I have learned about HAPS and how much better I have gotten to know the other HAPS members on the BOD. 

      There are so many details that must be handled to run an organization like HAPS.  Prior to being on the BOD, I was unaware of the many behind-the-scenes processes that are so necessary.  And as secretary taking the notes at meetings, I am focused on everything that is discussed.  Hands always on the keyboard – no daydreaming!

      It has also been cool getting  to know the other BOD members, some of whom I previously knew by name but had never talked to them more than a quick “hello” at a conference.  It’s fun to see both the “business” and the “casual” sides of everyone.   I must give a big shout-out to President Valerie O’Loughlin and Executive Director Peter English.  They are in constant communication with the BOD (not quite daily emails, but close) and are always working hard on behalf of the organization. 

2.   What’s the biggest challenge? 

     140326 (2) F grade For me, the biggest challenge of being secretary has been learning the appropriate level of detail to include in the minutes that are publically posted for all to read.  Personally, I tend to be very “anal” (I can use that term in an A&P blog, right?) about details. The first draft of minutes that I sent to the President for review included everything that happened at the BOD Google hangout meeting short of who coughed when!   That draft came back to me like an F-student research paper, covered with 140326 (3) A gradestrike-outs and comments.   It took me until the third BOD meeting to become the A-student, with minimal edits to my minutes and a big “thank you” of approval.  The take-home message for me – there is a big difference between personal notes for myself and public minutes for an organization!  

3.  Whose name do you have the hardest time spelling?

The name I have the hardest time spelling correctly is Shannon, Shanon, Shanan (Molnar – our Business Manager from ASG).  I have to remember … only one “n” in the middle and “a-n” at the end!  I got it now! 

4.  What was your impression of the mid-year meeting in JAX?

The mid-year meeting in Jacksonville was a delightful experience. It was the first time for me to meet with the entire BOD in person (as opposed to conference calls and Google hangouts).   In addition, the BOD had one afternoon meeting with the Steering Committee.  It was so nice to interact face-to-face with everyone, rather than electronically.  We got a lot of business accomplished in two long days of meetings. 

Cheers!

Cheers!

In addition, I was pleasantly surprised how beautiful Jacksonville is – I had no idea!  The St. John’s River runs right through the downtown, with numerous bridges crossing over as well as water taxis.  It’s a great location for the 2014 HAPS conference – hotel nicely situated, lovely for an evening walk, a ride on the river, and some good food (such as the tasty chocolate truffle torte at River City Brewing Company!).

11- Be Heard!

24 Mar
Robin_Hood_(1922)_-_Allan_Dwan

Even if you DON’T have access to the world’s biggest microphone (!), you can STILL make your voice heard!

I’ve talked about how valuable the HAPS email listserv is  (join HAPS and sign up for the listserv to see for yourself!) and I’ve analyzed WHY the listserv is so valuable.  It comes down to the active engagement of a knowledgeable community.  The APS Archive of Teaching Resources has the tools necessary to facilitate a similarly engaged community.

I noticed this when I was browsing the Archive.  I created an account with them which allows me to personalize my interactions with the archive via a tool called “myAPSarchive.”  This tool shows up on the left side of the website when I sign in, and posts suggestions for things I might like, based on the preferences I set when I registered.  I was delighted to find a collection of resources on “Interactive Lectures” posted there tonight.  Once you have an account, you can create your own collections.  This is a fantastic option for saving a group of resources related to similar topics!  But even if you don’t create your own, it is really fun to explore the collections posted by OTHERS.  I usually find topic-based collections (check out this cool collection on “Diabetes“), but I was excited to find this  collection based on pedagogy.

Here is where I so clearly see the value of the COMMUNITY.  The “Interactive Lectures” collection was rated by 3 people and had earned a total “star” score of 4.7 out of 5 (the rating  asks you how helpful the resource will be for your teaching).  Once you’ve created an account, rating the collections and activities is as simple as clicking on the stars.  And the more people that rate a collection or activity, the more valuable those stars become.  But  you can also comment on the resources at the bottom of the page.  These comments are very helpful and often provide insight into how the resource can be used.  The “Interactive Lectures” collection has two very thoughtful comments.

I think it is important that if we JOIN the archive community, that we also CONTRIBUTE to the community.  It is easy to do…and we HAPSters are good at it!  So be heard!

HAPS Leadership (#22): Safety Committee

19 Mar

140319 (1) Safety firstSafety First!  As educators, we want our students to learn and grow within a safe environment.  The HAPS Safety Committee takes this charge very seriously and has created a plethora of resources to aid you in providing the best environment for your students.  Karen McMahon is the interim Chair of the Committee, having helped create many of the resources of this group.

Spotlight on Safety has a series of features on safety basics (equipment, practices) that every lab which teaches A&P should have.

Karen McMahon, Chair

Karen McMahon, Chair

There are also articles on Gloves and Protective Eyewear, as well as information about the revised standard about safe exposure to such chemicals as benzene.

The HAPS Safety Guidelines cover all aspects of lab safety from the safe storage of chemicals to protective wear to safety contracts.  This is an invaluable resource for those concerned about the safety of our students in the laboratory.  Safety Cases studies are a fantastic resource in the members’ only section of the website.

HAPS has opened the Safety Survey for you to share your thoughts and concerns.  The Safety Committee created the survey – first – to remind members that lab safety should be foremost in all of our preparations for lab.  Secondly, it allows our committee to find out what type of lab accidents are most common in the A&P lab and see if the incidence and type of lab injuries can be correlated/prevented with certain practices.  The Safety Survey in on the HAPS website and will be open through April 1st.

A safe student is a better student!

A safe student is a better student!

The Safety Committee will publish the results of this survey in a poster at the Jacksonville Annual Meeting.  Come chat with us about lab safety.

10- What if Students Don’t Flip?

17 Mar
Image

Sometimes The Flip flops…

One of the most common questions I field about flipping my classes relates to handling the non-flippers.  I had a conversation with a colleague the other day about strategies for dealing with students who don’t flip course content before attending class.  She is a speech teacher and as we talked, I realized how LUCKY I am to teach Anatomy and Physiology.  My students often demonstrate an intense level of intrinsic motivation to understand the material, because most of the course content relates directly to the careers they are choosing to pursue.  So when she asked what I do when my students don’t flip, I hesitated.  Because the fact is, I do nothing.  If my students fail to come to class prepared, they will be fundamentally confused by the activities we are doing in class.  Most of my students don’t like this.  Additionally, the questions asked by the non-flippers (if they dare ask any) often reveal that they didn’t adequately prepare for class. I try to be kind when I tell them that I covered their question in detail during the video lecture and gently remind them that in a flipped class, they should probably watch the lecture BEFORE coming to class.  I’ve had some students confide in me that they DIDN’T watch the online lecture…ONCE.  And they were so lost and confused that they never repeated that mistake.  But this is in a class full of really motivated students.  So how can instructors ensure students come to class prepared?

I’ve been playing with the idea of making my clicker questions count for real points.  Right now, I give students 100% of their clicker points just for showing up to class and participating. (Clicker points count for 5% of their total course grade.)  Honestly, the idea of holding students accountable for correct answers on these clicker questions makes me really tired, because in addition to being very motivated to understand the material, my students are also very motivated to collect every single possible point, even if it means fighting to the death with their exhausted instructor (that would be me).  I find that my clicker questions (mostly multiple choice) often initiate extremely interesting debates and I gain insights into the thinking that guides their decision making.  I also get to vet my questions–and my students are excellent critics.  I’m not sure I could handle the bookkeeping drama that would accompany a change in my clicker policy.

Other instructors require quizzes or other pre-class assessments to “prove” students flipped the content.  I also think this would be an amazing thing to do…but only if I had the time to build really meaningful, interactive, and challenging assessments that easily fed into my LMS and required no grading.  Ahem.

I think one of the best things to do is to simply facilitate activities during class time that are so engaging and interesting that students really WANT to come to class prepared.  I’d say I get a C- in this area right now…which I suppose just means I have lots of room to improve!

HAPS Leadership (#21): Executive Committee

12 Mar

DESERT SHIELDHAPS One – the refurbished Huey helicopter – touched down in La Grange, Georgia at HAPS International headquarters.  President Valerie O’Loughlin was greeted by the security detail and taken into the secured compound.

“Ma’am, the presidents for ASM (American Society for Microbiology) and APS (American Physiology Society) are already here.  We’re still waiting for AAA (American Association of Anatomists) – oh, wait, I just got word that their submarine docked at the underground grotto entrance.  We should meet them in the West Boardroom.”

Let me show you something great!

Let me show you something great!

President O’Loughlin nodded and continued on her way towards the secure elevator that would take her to the fortified meeting room.  Today’s summit would determine the future of biological education for the next decade.  It was vital that HAPS led the way.

She punched in a security code known only to other Executive Committee members and entered the elevator.  As the elevator descended, she reflected on that elite group.  The HAPS Executive Committee is comprised of the president, the president-elect, the past president, the secretary, and the treasurer.  It is their solemn vow to uphold the standards of the Human Anatomy & Physiology Society and protect it from threats, both foreign and domestic.

Wow, she needed some caffeine.  Val was typing up notes for Tom Lehman’s weekly blog on the HAPS leadership and she seriously let her mind wander on that topic.  Oh well, shaking the cobwebs and refocusing on the questions.

Question #1: What is the difference between the Board and the Executive Committee?

140312 (3) Mini MeI see the Executive Committee as the “Mini Board.”  Despite the advances of technology, there are some decisions that need to be made very quickly, and we can’t wait on the schedules of all very busy Board members to reply to emails.  In addition, there are some decisions that don’t require the input of all Board members, but rather, a smaller component of the Board will suffice.  For those types of decisions, the Executive Committee is invaluable.

That said, there have been relatively few items that have been discussed in the Executive Committee instead of the entire Board.  And the Board typically is informed of these discussions after the fact, so it isn’t as if the Executive Committee is doing something that the Board is not aware of. Rather, it provides a way to streamline some actions so our service to HAPS members is not interrupted.

Question #2: Describe your President’s Initiative for this year.

The President’s Initiative is a way for the president to provide a long-term impact to HAPS well after the President’s term has ended.  My initiative focuses on expanding anatomy and physiology educational research in HAPS.  In a nutshell, my initiative is designed to:

1) inform HAPS membership about methodical ways of assessing teaching and learning effectiveness,

2) introduce members to the scholarship of teaching and learning,

3) showcase exemplary educational research efforts of our members, and

4) ultimately have HAPS serve as an example for producing rigorous A&P educational research projects.

The ultimate goal is to make HAPS members more knowledgeable about A&P educational research by providing them with the tools and knowledge needed to design, implement, and publish A&P educational research studies.

In addition to developing online ‘how-to’ podcasts for developing an educational research project, I am in charge of selecting speakers for our HAPS 2015 meeting, which will have a focus on educational research and scholarship of teaching and learning.

Question #3:  In your Fantasy Dodgeball League, which three President Emeriti would make your championship team?

Ooooh… good one.

  • 140312 (4) DodgeballBill Perrotti definitely would be on my team, because he can be quite sinister in getting individuals to volunteer for HAPS related activities and inspiring them to run for office (note to HAPS members – if you see Bill Perrotti come up to you and talk about volunteering – RUN!)
  • Kevin Patton of course – anyone who has worked with lions is fierce in his own right.
  • And Don Kelly – because the role of a past president is to make his current president’s dodgeball team look good.

9- Blood Pressure

10 Mar
Image of an alarm clock (in the public domain)

This device is not my friend.

It is late.  We lost an hour this morning, which means my alarm clock is going to be particularly vile when it cheerfully erupts in about 6 hours.  And I can’t go to bed quite yet, because I am still preparing for my physiology class on Blood Pressure in the morning.  I started my preparations by reviewing my flipped video lecture on the topic.  This was a painful task, as I quickly found about 62 improvements I would LOVE to make to that set of video lectures.  (This is an unfortunate aspect of the flip: improving one’s lectures requires a significant input of time that is usually unavailable during the semester.)

As I watched my lecture with steadily increasing disgruntlement, I decided to look for interesting activities to engage students in my  morning class.  I turned to the APS Archive for inspiration and when I resurfaced an hour later, I had about 62 new activities that I was really excited to try (out of 151 hits on my very broad “blood pressure” search).  (This is another unfortunate aspect of the flip: developing/vetting activities to replace “lecture” requires a significant input of time that usually is subtracted from the sleep column.)

While it is highly unlikely that I will be able to pull any of these activities together for class in 7 hours, I thought I’d share the WEALTH that is OUT THERE for you flippin’ crazies who are trying to add more active learning to your lecture time.  Here are three of the 151 hits on my “blood pressure” search.

  1. Laboratory activity: This article from Advances in Physiological Education describes a medical school’s efforts to replace a cardiovascular physiology lab that made use of anesthetized critters with one that makes use of fully conscious med students instead.
  2. Flow diagrams: This resource contains complex flow diagrams that are visually interesting and informative.  I have a very VISUAL brain and I love the idea of students building flow diagrams like these.
  3. Case study: This case focuses on neural control of the cardiovascular system.  It is extremely comprehensive and describes a scenario with a pregnant mama going into labor.

This is just a smattering of the amazing resources cataloged in the Archive of Teaching Resources.  Anyone else out there interested in adding MORE hours to each day?  Ahhhh, one can dream.  Enjoy the week!

HAPS Leadership (#20): Steering Committee

5 Mar

140305 (1) Herding CatsIt’s time to meet the person in charge of the HAPS Steering Committee (SC).  As you know, the Steering Committee is made up of Chairs of the various committees throughout the Human Anatomy & Physiology Society.  Herding this group of cats falls to Ron Gerrits, current Steering Committee Chair.

Ron became SC Chair this past July, having previously served as Chair of the Curriculum & Instruction Committee.  During his tenure with C&I, his committee worked on the Learning Outcomes and put together an incredible package.  Ron brought a strong sense of order and organization with him, which will serve him well as the head of the Steering Committee.

“Becoming the Steering Committee Chair has been a bit overwhelming.  I am still trying to figure out what needs to be done, by when, and by whom.  It’s coming together.  Much of my efforts have been spent getting comfortable with the technology that will make us more efficient and better record-keepers in the long-term.”

140305 (2) Ron GerritsRon’s coming into position during a bumpy time, technology-speaking.  HAPS has been instituting a new website this year, switching to a new email domain for the Board and SC, and a new online management system for documents.  However, Ron’s taking charge of his committees’ needs and helping them sort out what they need and where they can find it.

“In the end, the incorporation of this new technology will be a benefit to HAPS.  As we develop a better archive for documents, that will serve current and future chairs very well.”

It can’t be all a downer, can it?

“No, there are upsides, too.  One of the big benefits of being the Steering Committee Chair is the pleasure of working with like-minded people.  The committee chairs are dedicated instructors of A&P and want to see HAPS be a successful, well-run organization.  They’re all very busy, but they all know that HAPS is worth it.”

Ron’s already busy this spring, getting the Steering Committee ready for the annual conference in Jacksonville this May.  The Steering Committee will present a poster to describe how the various committees can help you.  They will hold their annual Scavenger Hunt for First-Time HAPSters.  They will also hold their annual committee meetings (most will be during the Tuesday lunch).  Keep an eye out for the Smart-device APP that will help you navigate through the conference; there’ll be lots of goodies from the Steering Committee on it.

Everything in its right place!

Everything in its right place!

The Steering Committee is an incredible herd.  Helping to keep them focused and moving forward can be a lot of work, but Ron appears to have the group well maintained.  Hee Yah!

8- Come to Florida!

3 Mar

I am a giant fan of HAPS.  I mean, I am a REALLY REALLY GIANT fan.  And one of my favorite things about HAPS is the incredible email listserv.  I’ve been participating on the listserv in various degrees for the last 3 years.  In fact, I originally joined HAPS because I wanted to be part of an online community of extremely knowledgeable professionals.  I had no idea that this online community would be so OPEN and WELCOMING.

A couple of weeks ago, Anya Goldina, a new HAPSter from Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown PA, posted a couple of content-based questions to the list.  Within minutes, a large number of responses were generated and as usual, I followed the thread and learned things I’d never even wondered about.  Just hours after  the question was posed to the list, Anya send this email to the group:

“Thank you all so much for your help!  It is incredible how much information I was able to obtain just by posting these questions here vs. what I have been able to find on my own while searching textbooks and the web for over a week!”

And then an email showed up in my box that captured the essence of HAPS in such a lovely way.  Bob Rawding from Gannon University in Erie PA sent this response:

“This is one of the best, professional exchanges ANYWHERE.  “Tune in” – learn – contribute.   And the people who are “regulars” are about as cooperative and congenial as you will find in your professional life.   But a lot of sporadic, occasional users give great advice too, as well as ask questions.  The minds here are simply amazing.  What is the most fun is being able to attend the HAPS Annual Conference at the end of May; finally, you put names and faces together.”

So make it happen!  Come to the Annual Conference in Jacksonville Florida and you can meet the Presidents Emeriti, learn how to join a committee, attend the Jacksonville Jazz Festival, have lunch with the cool cats you talk to on the listserv, and become a better A&P teacher.  It is a win-win-win-win-win.  See you there!

HAPS 2014