23- A Decision

"Sanity" and "Insanity" signs
Hmmm…left or right…left or right?

I’m a stubborn human.  I also have some pretty grave questions about my sanity.  Because it was just this morning as I chatted with my mom on the phone during a very slow jog through my neighborhood, that I AGAIN lamented about whether or not I was going to flip Human Biology in the fall.

Really??!  Does anyone else get the feeling that we’ve been here before?

But I think this time, I really did work through the issue (though I did ask my mom to remind me of this decision should I somehow lose focus before fall).

So here’s the ultimate reason I am firmly committing to NOT flipping Human Bio this fall.  There are only 17 students enrolled in the course at this time and the course will not be offered again until next summer at the earliest.  There.  So if I were to flip the class, I would invest the ridiculous amount of flipping energy for 17 students (whom I’m sure I will love very much, and who are probably quite deserving of the educational advantages that the flip offers).  But 17 students in 1 year just doesn’t justify the time it would take to prepare for an effective flip.

I think I feel peaceful about this decision.  The true test will be to see what the blog topic is NEXT week.  If I’m still talking about whether or not to flip Human Biology in the fall, you’ll know this peaceful sense is an illusion.  But if I’ve moved onto a new topic, then we’ll all happily put this one to bed and I’ll start trying to remember how NOT to flip a class!   HA!

22- To Flip or not to Flip?

Fair use image of Bart Simpson.
I will NOT flip the classroom upside down…I will not…really…I will not…

I’m slowly settling into the swing of summer…and it is time to pull the trigger on a decision I have been struggling with for a couple of months now.

In the fall, I will be teaching a new class that I have never flipped:  Human Biology.  This is a non-majors course that is general bio, anatomy and physio, IN ONE SEMESTER.  Obviously, we must do a very light survey of these three courses, all of which I’ve taught multiple times before.  I do not anticipate the prep being too difficult, from a content perspective.  But I am having an ongoing internal battle about whether or not to FLIP the class.

There are a million points on the “FLIP IT!” side of the equation.  Students love it.  I have more time to work with them during class.  We can do more FUN STUFF!  Plus, I’m the flipping QUEEN, right?  I’ve been flipping all over the place for 2 years now.  I’m a flipping phenom!

But maybe I’m growing up a little bit (!) because I am not sure I can handle the stress of DEADLINES that inevitably accompanies the decision to flip a new class.  I’ve spent two years under the “gotta get a lecture recorded before I go to bed TONIGHT” mandate.  Even my YouTube students who don’t’ even know me comment on the scattered and unfocused rambling in my video lectures that is directly proportional to the lateness of the hour (and hits a peak around 1am).

Besides that, fall already promises to be a very busy semester.  It will be my first semester as a full-time tenure-track professor (after 5 years as an adjunct in this institution).  Plus, I will be teaching Human Anatomy again, which I find to be pretty intense.  Add to that the fact that we have two brand new cadavers (who will be with us for the next 3-5 years)…and I am utterly confident my fall plate will be overfull.

Every cell in my body says, “Make the smart flippin’ decision, Riggs.”  And my cells have been saying this for, oh, a couple of months now.  So what part of me is still refusing to pull the trigger and admit that I will NOT be flipping Human Biology in the fall?  I know it is time…and I know what I need to do…it just makes me sad, because I really love flipping.

So I’ll probably just end up agonizing over the summer until it really is too late to pull off a quality flip, and then the decision will be made for me.  Ask me again in August.

21-The Post-Conference High

HAPS Logo
Proud to be a HAPSter…

Returning home from the HAPS Annual Conference in Jacksonville, I am trying to ride the high for as long as possible (though I’m definitely appreciating being back on West Coast time) .  It was an amazing week, as usual, filled with meaningful conversations and fun, committed people.  It was particularly inspiring to observe the unique camaraderie between HAPSters.   I continue to be a little star struck by the A&P celebrities who are HAPSters and find it so lovely that in spite of celebrity status, these A&P superstars are completely committed to sharing their expertise and passion with anyone who is interested.

Multiple times,  I suddenly found myself unknowingly (and rather clumsily) in the presence of GREATNESS.  For example, the last workshop session I attended was entitled “Regional Anatomy for Undergraduate Students”  with Mark Nielson and Robert Tallitsch.  I was glued to the presentation.  Somewhere in the middle, Mark Nielson said something along the lines of “…and you all know what I do in my anatomy lab.”  I  hesitated as the people around me nodded knowingly, then engaged in an internal debate…do I ask him what he’s talking about, or do I pretend that I (like everyone else) already know?  Not known for social grace, I opted for the honest approach and raised my hand and asked Mark, “What exactly DO you do in your lab?”

Well, let’s just say the room got really quiet and everyone turned to stare at me and one brave soul informed me that all the cadaver images in my textbooks?  Well, those came from the work Mark does in his Anatomy lab.  Oh.  That.  So I guess I DO know what Mark does in his lab.  Ahem.

But instead of feeling disrespected by my ignorance, Mark proceeded to offer to SHARE  his amazing resources with me, a baby anatomy instructor.  Seriously? Of all the incredible workshops I attended, I was most moved by the spirit of COMMUNITY present in this one.  It just captured the essence of HAPS and made me feel so grateful to be part of this organization.  I’ve started my countdown to the 2015 Annual Conference in San Antonio…only 11 months and 3 weeks to go.

Skully in San Antonio
I’m counting down already…

 

20- Learn, Discover, Share

The HAPS Strategic Plan
The HAPS Strategic Plan

Who would have thought that a meeting about a Strategic Plan could be remotely stimulating???  But after a day of inspirational update speakers and HAPSter-ific camaraderie, listening to people discuss the vision, value and history of HAPS was a nice cap to the day.

I’ve been a member of HAPS since 2011.  I was originally drawn to HAPS because of its amazing list-serv and through the list, was delighted to discover that HAPSters focus on TEACHING.  But  I didn’t realize that this was actually the original reason why the society was created.  The HAPS mission is epitomized in three words: Learn, Discover, Share.  This annual conference is staying true to that mission so far.

The conference started with a Welcome Reception on Saturday night with drinks and desserts (really yummy desserts).  You couldn’t walk more than a couple of feet before running into people talking about teaching and learning.  Folks are excited to share their methods and results, and learn from each other while discovering new things to do in their classrooms.  And the social connections and collaborations continued the next morning at the First Timer’s Breakfast (at the ungodly hour of 7:30am).  Then began the update speakers and poster sessions, and a wealth of new ideas were discovered and shared.  Top it off with a stroll through the exhibitor’s hall where every step makes you wish you had a million dollars in your pocket…and you already have an incredible conference experience.

The incredible thing is that this is only HALF of the annual conference. Tuesday and Wednesday are filled with workshops that will make you drool.  Really.

I better get some sleep before another ridiculously early morning with the HAPS Foundation fundraiser at 7am: The Fun Run in the Sun.  (And just in case you were about to, don’t forget to follow #HAPS2014 on Twitter!)

19- Get the Conference APP!

The HAPS App!  We can do THAT!
The HAPS App!  We can do THAT!

I’m super excited about the HAPS Annual Conference APP.  This little app, which can be run on your computer OR phone, is a fantastic tool to ensure you make the most of your Jacksonville adventure, which begins next weekend.  (It isn’t too late to decide to crash the HAPS party next weekend…online registration is available until May 26!)

The APP is a power-packed wonder of a tool to keep you organized and informed at the Annual Conference.  And even if you can’t attend next week (we’ll miss you), you can use the app to keep up with what’s happening at the conference.  So let me just tell you a few of the cool things I can do with my app:

  1. I can build a personalized schedule of conference events using the amazing app!  While this will certainly keep me organized and efficient, I am already finding the process to be particularly painful, especially as I attempt to figure out which workshops I plan to attend on Tuesday and Wednesday at Florida State College.  This process is painful because during most sessions, there are at least 5-12 workshops I really Really REALLY want to attend.  Last year I found it extremely challenging to narrow down the workshop options during each session to ONLY ONE. I am optimistic that the amazing APP will help me sleep in peace as I maximize my professional development potential.  (I wonder how many times I will revise my personal schedule on my app???)
  2. With the app, you can set alarms to remind you to get where you want to go.  This will be particularly helpful for the morning sessions, because I am NOT a morning person.
  3. We can TWEET!  There is a Twitter part of the app that lets us follow the Twitter-ific commentary from other HAPSters. Just tag your tweets #HAPS2014.
  4. Have a question?  The app can do that!  There are maps, exhibitor lists, sponsor information, and even a link to this fabulous blog.

So download the app and get ready for FUN TIMES AHEAD.  See you in Jacksonville!

See you there!
See you there!

18- Let’s Share

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Logo_Share_Your_Knowledge.png
Teachers share. It is what we do.

Information is cheap.  Teachers are no longer holders of ALL knowledge.  Instead, we help organize the massive quantities of information that are accessible to anyone with an internet connection.  Our task has clearly shifted from “Let me TELL YOU everything I know!” to “Let me show you how to understand all this information that is available to you RIGHT NOW.”  We do this by creating a path through the information that ultimately helps students build their own understanding inside their own brains.  The way the information is organized cannot be copyrighted…it cannot be “sold.”  And maybe because of this, many teachers are eager to share their ideas and methods.

I think by nature, teachers are a generous bunch.  The HAPS email listserv is an excellent example, as are the contributors to the Life Science Teaching Resources Community.  I know that I am extremely complimented when someone is interested in using my teaching resources.  It somehow adds additional validity to my work, making the investment feel more “worth it.”  And I think we all remember what it is like to teach a class for the first time (or to TEACH for the first time!)  We start out with nothing…but if someone shares with us, we start out with a glimpse of their experience and perspective, which can be invaluable.  This is what is so great about the HAPS Annual Conference.  It is an amazing opportunity to SHARE!

I do understand being shy to share…because it is easy to feel like our materials aren’t “perfect” yet.  But I know someone else’s imperfect materials are STILL a start for me!  (And I’m sure many of you are like me and don’t ever use anything AS IS.  We always have to tweak things!)

For most authors,
the greatest risk is not
piracy
but
obscurity.
-Tim O’Reilly

Sharing makes us all better educators.  What a lovely thing!

17- The Magic Assessment Machine

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:EEG_recording.jpg
The magic assessment machine…please build it for me!

I want a magic machine that scans a student’s brain and tells me EXACTLY what s/he learned in my class.  I want the machine to accurately make all the decisions and judgement calls around grade assignment and I want it to offer rich and meaningful feedback to the student.  I want this glorious machine to be connected to the student’s brain all semester long, so it can deliver a constant stream of personalized guidance…it would be like each student would have a tiny ME in their heads!  The machine would assess the ability to THINK, so that robot-like efforts to simply check off a list of requirements would never lead to an “A.” My magic machine would be completely “BS” proof, flawlessly detecting any attempts to defraud the assessor.  My machine would not be fooled!

I really wish I had this magic machine today, because assessment is really hard.  I know that someday I will no longer feel like a “baby teacher” and I will transition into a place where I am more sure of my methods…and maybe then my classes will feel like less of a daily experiment.  But right now, as I set my sights on final exams and research papers, I am confounded by the confounding factors that blur my ability to assess whether or not my students “got it.”  Physio has been tricky this semester.  I am not satisfied with the flipped lectures, the pace of content delivery, or the in-class activities.  Frustration levels (for all parties involved) have been high and exam scores have been low.  And our culminating research paper project has been a barely salvageable train wreck (though much improved from the last time I tried it!).  I struggle between owning responsibility for the difficulties (“my fault”) and requiring student accountability (“your fault”). Many students capitalize on this ambiguity and I find lots of fingers pointing my way.  It is a fine line to walk between acknowledging your mistakes and getting pushed into a defensive corner.

Today, I think the appeal of the magic assessment machine is the way it would first shift many of those fingers away from me…but perhaps the more important value is that it would also give me confidence that I KNOW what my students KNOW and their grades absolutely reflect this.

I’m pretty sure my magic machine is a dream (regardless of how hard textbook companies are working to make it a reality!)  Maybe I don’t really need the machine at all…maybe I will someday turn into a “grown-up” teacher and find myself just sitting more comfortably in my ability to accurately assess what students KNOW.  Yeah…I think this is the more likely outcome.

16- HAPS Annual Conference

April is drawing to a close (whaaaat???) which means May is almost here and there are about 500 reasons why that is REALLY fantastic news.  First, it means that SUMMER IS NEAR (oh glory days)!  And second, it means that we’ll all be celebrating teaching and learning in Jacksonville in just a few short weeks.

Image
May 24-29

So sign up for the conference and meet us in Florida.  You still have 2 days to register for the conference at regular rates (late registration rates go into effect Thursday May 1). There is a conference app (thanks Wiley!) that includes the entire conference schedule as well as relevant maps and even exhibitor contact information.  The dynamic app updates instantly to keep you apprised of schedule changes and I noticed it even has a link to this blog on the front page!  (I better start thinking of some good posts to share from Jacksonville…) While I haven’t quite mastered the elusive art of Tweeting, I am hoping to become a Tweeter by the time I arrive in Florida so that even if you can’t make it to Jacksonville, you can follow our adventures using the hashtag #HAPS2014.

The HAPS Annual Conference is an amazing event and I think it is because HAPS is like a giant a family.  I was a first-timer last year in Vegas, though I’d been participating on the HAPS-listserv for about 2 years.  And it was such a kick to meet the people I’d been learning from on the listserv.

Make it happen—you won’t regret it a bit.

15- Flipping’s Fatal Flaw?

Nothing's perfect...
Nothing’s perfect…

I love the flip.  I love what I can during “lecture” when students have already been exposed to the content.  But as I conclude my Anatomy and Physiology courses this semester, I struggle with the simple fact that I REALLY want to re-record MOST of my video lectures.

This is really bad news, because I have exactly 582 videos (which make up about 70 lectures) posted on YouTube right now.  Maybe it is just the time of the semester, but I can’t even imagine how exactly I would rally the energy and enthusiasm to go about re-recording these lectures.

I just watched my physiology lecture on reproduction.  Let me just tell you a few things that I observed.  While talking about oogenesis, something fell off the wall in my office, initiating a sympathetic nervous response.  I kept recording.  Then there was a sound outside my office, so I grabbed my cell phone and made sure Security was on speed dial.  I kept recording.  While checking my phone to make sure Security was on speed dial, I noticed a text message from my mother.  I kept recording.  I think I said the word “FOCUS” about 23 times.  One of my YouTube viewers commented, “LOMG she’s annoying…it takes her so long to get to the point.”

But how in the world could I re-record these 70 lectures?  It has taken me 2 years to arrive at the place where I am finally re-using previously recorded content.  And rather than finding I suddenly have lots of time, I am working just as hard to build good clicker-based activities to do during what used to be lecture.  I actually feel like this might be a fatal flaw for the flipped method…at least my version of it.

I am planning to deeply contemplate this question, because I’ve invested very fully in the Wendy-style flip.  I can’t imagine delivering a  traditional lecture…but I also can’t quite visualize how I am going to re-record my 70 existing video lectures.  Because we all know, iterative improvements are an invaluable perk that comes with teaching experience.

Maybe I am just suffering from a case of “end-of-semester burnout.”  Any thoughts?

14- HAPS-I Courses

AES_Workshop WIKIsmall
It is always fun to see how OTHER people teach! This “Adventures in Engineering and Science” instructor looks interesting…

Professional development is a key component of maximizing your success as a teacher.  I feel lucky to be able to take advantage of many opportunities for professional development provided by HAPS, such as the Annual Conference and the email listserv, for example.  But HAPS offers other opportunities for professional development that perhaps you weren’t aware of.  For example, we all have access to graduate level courses through the HAPS Institute (aka HAPS-I).

There are three new HAPS-I courses beginning April 18.  The majority of each course takes place online, though all three courses have a face-to-face component that will happen at the Annual Conference in Jacksonville FL at the end of May.

  1. Current Topics in Anatomy and Physiology is being taught by Jason LaPres from Lone Star College in Houston TX.  The one unit course focuses on the specific research presented in the update seminars at the Annual Conference in FL.
  2. LaPres is also teaching a course called Teaching Respiratory Physiology I- Functional Anatomy and Ventilation. This two credit course requires participants to create lesson plans that facilitate the teaching of respiratory topics to undergrads.
  3. Dr. Bryan Schmeafsky, also from Lone Star College, will teach Physiology of Death and Senescence. This is another two credit course that explores the physiology of these two inevitable conditions.

Sign up to take one of these courses and maximize your learning at the annual conference.  What a great opportunity!