Text Students Without Giving Out Your Cell Number

If you want to use this popular communication format to help students learn but don’t want to give out your cell phone number, there’s an app for that. In fact, there are several apps for texting in an educational setting. One of the most frequently used is Remind. It’s easy to set up, free to use, works with either a web-interface or a smartphone app, and keeps cell numbers private for both sender and receiver. Other features include audio texting, attaching files, and translating text messages into various languages. Students can choose whether or not they wish to receive your text messages, so this could be a supplemental and optional form of communication to help those students who feel they could benefit from it. You could text students a last-minute change in classroom location, an upcoming due date reminder, or anything else related to your course content, protocols, or assessments.

If you’re more comfortable using e-mail or making announcements in class to communicate with students, that is perfectly fine. Software such as “Remind” may be helpful if you’re searching for an effective tool to communicate with your students on a platform with which they are familiar, comfortable, and competent.

Design a Sensational Syllabus

Welcome to the Fall ’18 semester!

I hope this e-mail catches you while you’re developing or revising your syllabi this week. This document can be one of your most effective communication tools. A syllabus sets the tone for your course (Harnish & Bridges, 2011) so be mindful about what tone you wish to set as you create it. Here are three tips to ensure your syllabus effectively communicates what you want it to.

  1. Make it Inclusive  – Scan your syllabi for content that could potentially be exclusive, and thus perhaps inaccessible, to some student groups (e.g. first-gen, low-income, international, certain genders, athletes etc.). Consider a reading list that includes diverse authors. Consider allowing students to purchase previous (and thus cheaper and more accessible) versions of a textbook. Consider allowing students to vote on the sequence of some parts of the curriculum as suggested in the book Why Students Resist Learning. Most importantly, be sure that all sections of your syllabus meet accessibility requirements (see attached tips and contact info for assistance)?
  2.  Introduce Yourself –Sure, office location and e-mail address are important to mention, but consider including a photo of yourself along with a few sentences about your hobbies, where you’re from, something unique about you, etc. Academic achievement is linked to student-teacher connection (Konishi, Hymel, Zumbo, & Li, 2010) so anything you can do to strengthen that connection is a solid investment in your students.
  3. Be Aware of Bloat – Is your syllabus more like a novel? It can be tempting to include every bit of information a student could possibly need along with a series of disclaimers addressing any and all possible scenarios. A syllabus shouldn’t read like a smartphone’s Terms & Conditions that few people ever read. If a syllabus is long enough to discourage reading, then it ceases to be a communication tool. Aim for the sweet spot of including adequate and relevant information without overloading students.

Have a wonderful first week of classes!

Last Tuesday Tip of 2017-18

From all of us in FDEV and TLP, we wish you a restful, enjoyable, and productive summer. Since this is the last week that faculty are on contract, this will be the final Tuesday Tip until August. If you want to look back at any past Tuesday Tips, we have them all archived here on the FDEV website.

As a reminder, this Friday (May 25) is the deadline to apply for 2018-19 FLCs including Improve your Teaching Practice, Article in 12 Weeks, and Quality Learning & Teaching.

Final tip of the year…stay physically active, wear sunscreen, and spread loving kindness all summer long!

Acknowledge an Inspirational Colleague

In the early 20th century, educator John Dewey said “We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.” With another academic year nearing completion, it’s an opportune moment to reflect on life including the people who inspire us. If you have an inspirational colleague who is a leader or innovator in the classroom, consider nominating them for the Faculty Innovation and Leadership Award. One faculty member will be awarded from each CSU campus and will receive a $5,000 cash award and $10,000 to be allocated to their academic department for travel, teaching load reduction, teaching equipment, etc. Yes, nominations are time-consuming but they are also one of the most authentic ways to show a colleague how appreciated they truly are. The deadline is June 29 so there’s no rush.

As a reminder, May 25 is the deadline to apply for 2018-19 FLCs including Improve your Teaching Practice, Article in 12 Weeks, and Quality Learning & Teaching.

Also, the Grading Oasis (MLIB 459) is open with free coffee and snacks for the rest of this week from 8am-5pm for faculty to drop in and grade, write, read, or just escape for a while.

Make it a great week!

Grading Oasis Starts Today!

Based on your feedback, the Grading Oasis will begin early this semester! Starting now and ending May 18, MLIB 459 will be open to all faculty to stop by and grade, write, read, or just relax Monday through Friday 8am-5pm. We stocked up on snacks, coffee, and hot tea that will be available to you. Also, FDEV student assistant, Ariana, will be available some of the time to help grade, alphabetize papers, or whatever you need (as long as she doesn’t see names with grades).

Have a productive and fun rest of the semester!

Save On Hotels

Looking to save a few dollars on conference trips? Next time you travel on state business, be sure to ask the hotel front desk if they will waive the city tax since you’re a state employee. Some hotels honor this and some do not, but it’s always worth asking. Provide the hotel with a signed copy of the attached tax waiver and show your faculty ID. In some cases, hotels may honor the tax waiver as long as you sign their in-house form. For hotels that honor the discount, it will save you around 10-20%. More info on lodging expenses through Chico State can be found here.

-Josh

Staying Well in April

April is one of the most lively, engaging, and hectic times of year for faculty. Projects need to be graded, final exams begin in 3 weeks, and commencement is right around the corner. Our devotion to (and love for) our work can unsettle the work/life balance. Stress, which we all experience and a 2014 study suggests can be particularly prevalent among lecturers, can be detrimental unless managed effectively. A 2016  study found that as the stress of teachers increased, the academic achievement of students decreased. Thus, an argument could be made that faculty wellness is both a health issue and a pedagogical issue. If wellness can improve your quality of life and positively impact student learning, it is worth investing in.

If you do all you can to manage stress (sleep 8-9 hours per night, eat healthy, meditate, limit caffeine and alcohol, stay physically active, etc.) but still need additional help, consider using MyLifeMatters Services (see attached for more info). It is a free counseling service to Chico State employees and their dependents that can help with depression, anxiety, addictions, and many other aspects of wellness. You can call them 24/7 at 1-800-367-7474 and even arrange for up to three free counseling sessions if you choose. If you’re asked for a passcode, it is “csuchico”.

FDEV wishes you a happy, healthy, productive, and enjoyable remainder of the semester.

How Our Students Get Jobs

A common, and very important, question among faculty is “How do we help students secure employment after graduation?” Knowing what employers need for the modern workforce is part of the answer.

A survey conducted for the AAC&U asked employers what they seek when hiring college graduates. Over 80% reported that they valued the following broad-based skills even more than a college graduate’s specific major: oral and written communication, ethical judgement and decision-making, the ability to work in teams, critical and analytical reasoning, and the ability to apply learning to real-world settings.

Helping students learn discipline-specific knowledge and skill is, of course, critical for progress towards graduation and preparation for professional employment. However, guiding them to develop a well-rounded and broad-based skillset necessary for the modern work environment may be just as important. Implementing collaborative group work, active learning techniques, and civic engagement are classroom strategies that could accomplish both simultaneously.

Equality, Equity, or Both?

Have you seen these images floating around educational social media that offer a visual comparison of equality and equity?

The first image shows how some people need more or different resources to reach a goal. The second image sends the same message but acknowledges that some people start out standing on lower ground. If being able to see the baseball game is a metaphor for graduating from college, the fence represents the myriad of challenges that students must navigate along the way. The different ground heights in the second image are similar to the range of advantage or oppression students experience in their lives before arriving at Chico State. Equality (i.e. accessibility) is offering equal access to the educational experience. Equity goes a step further and offers all students, including those with persistent disadvantage, the opportunity to be successful in college and meet course learning outcomes.

Many courses on our campus are both accessible and equitable. Some may be accessible but not equitable. Some may be neither. Chico State has multiple programs and departments to help make the Chico State experience both accessible and equitable such as the Office of Accessible Technology & Services, the Accessibility Resource Center, the Educational Opportunity Program, and the Office of Diversity & Inclusion. Faculty have perhaps the greatest potential to impact students and can strive towards both accessibility and equity in the classroom. Some pedagogical techniques, including “differentiated instruction”, can maximize students’ chances for success. Here are a few examples…

  • Adjust pacing, resources, and methods of engagement for individual learners
  • Empower students intellectually, socially, emotionally, and politically
  • Include readings from diverse authors
  • Use varied socio-cultural context in test questions and assignments
  • Encourage multiple perspectives in class rather than consensus
  • Include partner and small-group work to engage multiple learning preferences
  • Offer a variety of ways for students to earn points and participate in class

Might there be one pedagogical change could you implement this semester to help students see over the proverbial fence in your course?

Mobile Devices in Class?

Should students be allowed to use smartphones and laptops in class? If so, they might get distracted and check e-mail or browse Facebook, although they could just as easily doodle on paper or daydream if mobile devices weren’t allowed. Technology is rarely the sole cause for students being disengaged. In fact, laptops and smartphones can increase student engagement and enhance the learning environment if leveraged properly. Here are five reasons to allow (and even encourage) mobile devices in your class…

  • Using iClickers Cloud, students can engage with you and their peers by responding electronically to questions (TLP can help you set this up).
  • Students can supplement lecture by following along with Blackboard content or searching the web to learn more about concepts presented in class.
  • Some students have illegible handwriting and laptops can create typed, well-organized, and searchable notes. Microsoft OneNote is a good example of this which also facilitates in-class collaboration.
  • Students with accessibility needs often rely on laptops and don’t want to be singled out by a classroom ban on mobile devices.
  • If you approve students to record lectures, they can replay them while driving or working out if that’s their preferred method of learning.

If you allow laptops but not cell phones, the Pocket Points app might benefit both you and your students. When a student locks up and puts away their phone during class, they earn rewards that are redeemable at local stores.

Whatever your policy, there is real value in educating students about mobile device etiquette both in and out of the classroom.

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As a reminder, please complete the 8-minute survey about the professional development programming you want from the FDEV office. Thank-you!