Not To Be Trusted With Knives

The Internet’s leading authority on radicalized geese

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A Very Long-Winded Explanation of Why I Haven’t Blogged in Nearly a Month

Hey, remember that time I agreed to teach all of the courses in the universe this semester, in addition to my day job, while saying “this is a terrible idea and I’m going to be so freaking exhausted for the entire four months of this!”? but then also “but they will pay me money and that mortgage doesn’t pay itself!” Well, it turns out that I was right on both of those counts. Since December (when I started working on all of this stuff in earnest), my calendar has been jam packed with course prep, teaching, and marking for three courses:

One course is an online stats course that I’ve been teaching at the Justice Institute since 2011. After having taught it eight times already, I’m pretty happy with the course and only need to make minor tweaks to the course material. The majority of my work for the course is marking assignments – so I put it into my calendar when those are due to make sure that I get through them as quickly as possible.

My second course is also at the Justice Institute – late last year, they asked me if I’d be willing to teach a class on data and research management (using Excel as a tool for managing data and doing some data analysis). This class is on campus – right in my very own town!1 – and it’s a night course – so I actually can teach it despite having a day job. I’m a huge nerd, so this is actually stuff that I really enjoy. Plus, the JI lets sessionals in on the pension plan (which no other school that I teach at does) and I’m down for some extra free money.

And then the opportunity to teach a Program Planning & Evaluation course at UBC over a couple of weekends in March arose. I’ve taught a Program Planning & Evaluation course a few times and while this one I’m teaching in March is shorter (1.5 credits instead of my usual 3 credits) and it’s a different audience (people in leadership roles rather than those earlier in their career), I have all the content I need for the course – I just need to streamline it, create assignments better aligned to the audience and the duration and structure of the course schedule, and devise some learning activities around that content2 – all of which I have underway. The course is at the downtown campus, which is so much more convenient than having to trek out to Point Grey!

Anyhoo, all this to say that this has been me since mid-December and will continue to be me until the about mid-April:

upset-534103

I’m going to also write a quick posting about all the various things that I haven’t posted about in the last month, but I’ll do that as a separate posting because I imagine most people stopped reading this boring posting several paragraphs ago.

Image source: From Pixabay, shared with a “free for commercial use” license: https://pixabay.com/en/upset-sad-confused-figurine-534103/ 

  1. So much better than trekking up Burnaby mountain to teach. []
  2. Active learning is always great, but when teaching half and full days as I will be in this course, it’s a necessity – no one wants to hear me lecture for 8 hours! []

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Happy PhDiversary To Me!

As detailed in a previous posting, Nov 16 marks the anniversary of the day I received my PhD, according to my transcript. The convocation ceremony for my PhD was Nov 22, 2006 and my current theory1 is that Nov 16 marks the day that Senate voted to approve candidates for convocation – but I based that entirely on speculation.

At any rate, I am commemorating this, my 7th PhDiversary, in the traditional fashion, by posting this picture of a Tumbeast in a puffy PhD hat:

PhD Tumblbeast

And speaking of the puffy hat, it will soon be making its reappearance in my life as I have a grad photo session booked for Nov 252 and, as detailed in a previous posting, I will be yet again donning the pink robe and puffy hat of a UBC PhDer for that photo, as well as for the convocation ceremony next spring. Long live the puffy hat!

  1. Translation: I’m too lazy to actually investigate this. []
  2. I’m actually dreading this a bit, as I don’t really want to see how much older and fatter I’m going to look in these photos compared to the ones that were taken in the same robe and hat 7 years ago! []

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Since Five Years Is A Long Time To Not Be A Student

Hey, remember that time I said that a government agency wants to give me bucketloads of money so that I can get an MBA and that I needed to write the GMAT and then apply to the program and then hopefully I’d actually get in so I can have the aforementioned bucketloads of money? Yeah, that all happened. Schools starts for me in January.

Now, before you all going telling me (again) that I’m a Crazyface McGee, it’s merely an intensive 28-month, part-time program that I’ll do while still working full-time and that costs $41K+. You may now all call me crazy. But only half crazy, really, because of the aforementioned bucketloads of money.

Stack O'Money!
Not the actual pile of money I’ll be getting. Mine will be Canadian.

After the crushing level of student debt I incurred to get my first three degrees, I swore I’d never borrow another penny for education again, but when I found out about the scholarship to do an MBA, it was really too good of an opportunity to pass up. Especially given that I actually won the scholarship!

I just found out about my offer of admission last week, celebrated on Friday with a fine wine and a three-year-old cheese, both of which I picked up in Oregon in the summer and have been saving for just such a momentous occasion, and paid my tuition fee deposit yesterday. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what this time commitment will mean for my life and a lot of planning of how I’ll get myself organized to juggle my life, work, and school, but the reality of the situation is really starting to sink in now. Expect some think-y blog postings about such topics over the next little while – please bear with me! Or, you know, tell me I’m crazy.

Image Credit: Posted by docwonder on Flickr.

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Falsifiability is the new hot pink

About eleventy bazillion years ago, I did an invited guest lecture in Dr. Dan’s class. I had such good intention of blogging about it at the time. Better late than never though, right?

Picture it! The course is Dr. Dan’s graduate level Experimental Design course. The location is a classroom in the hallowed halls of my alma mater #2 of 3, the University of Guelph1.The topic is The Scientific Method. Which is awesome because it allowed me to wax poetic – and engage in discussions with the students – about such things as philosophical world views unpinning research, qualitative/quantitative/mixed methodology approaches to research, falsifiability, and “what is an experiment, exactly?” In case you are interested in such thing, here’s my Prezi:

Now, the Prezi doesn’t really stand on its own, given my belief that one’s visual aids for a presentation should be a visual aid that compliments the person yammering at the front of the room (i.e., me) rather than replacing them. After all, if the Prezi was a complete package without me, then no one would want to pay me the big bucks to do these invited guest lectures2. Also, I’m a big fan of getting the class into a discussion about the material3, so that isn’t really captured in the Prezi either. In conclusion, you had to be there. Which you weren’t4.

*Note: The title of this blog posting was shamelessly stolen from Rick’s comment on Dr. Dan’s blog posting on this very topic.

  1. To which I had not been, I will add, since I finished my Master’s back in August 2000!! []
  2. For the record, I was paid no bucks, as is customary for guest lectures, but I may or may not have been paid in Americanos and coconut milk ice cream. And an offer for a Dr. Dan guest lecture in one of my classes. []
  3. The class was maybe not so into that at first, but I find that if you leave enough silence, they’ll get talking. And they did! []
  4. Unless you were, in which case, how the heck did you find my blog? []

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A New Teaching Gig

So I’m teaching a new course at the Justice Institute starting today – a online statistics course!  Clearly, hanging out with Dr. Dan, statistician extraordinaire,  has rubbed off on me.

Also, almost everyone I’ve told that I’m going to be teaching at the Justice Institute has said, “The Justice League?”  I wonder if I can get Superman to do a guest lecture?

Anyway, I’m really looking forward to teaching this course. Wish me luck!

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Because I Know You Are All *Dying* To Know What I Wore To Class Today

So, I totally wrote this on Thursday night and was completely sure that I posted it. Apparently not.  Anyway, better late than never, right?

Today was the first day of class. And for the first time in many, many years, I’m not teaching a brand new class!1 Hooray for being able to use the same syllabus and some of the same slide decks again! And to be able to implement some of the what-I-can-improve-for-next-time ideas I always have after teaching a class for the first time!

The class I’m teaching is probably my favourite of all the classes I’ve taught. It’s all active learning, where the students learn by engaging in formal debates and giving interactive seminar presentations. And this year I’m trying something new – instead of a writing a paper, students are going to be creating (or substantially revising) a Wikipedia page. It’s an idea I got from hearing Brian Lamb talk at a teaching & learning conference about this guy’s assignment. Rather than having students write a paper that will only ever be read by one person2 and then never be heard from again3, why not have them contribute quality information to a public project that will be read by thousands of people?? And learning about working in wikis. And learning about the strengths and limitations of online resources like Wikipedia. And working collaboratively with colleagues (and total strangers) through an ongoing editing and revision process, learning from feedback and being challenged to support their points with evidence4. I figured the students would either think this assignment is awesome or think it’s crazy and, despite the fact that only one person in a class of 40 has ever edited a wiki before, they seem to think it’s awesome5.

And, of course, the question you really all came here to read about: what did I wear on the first day of class?  I chose this fabulous ensemble:

outfit by you.That’s my current favourite skirt. I bought it at a thrift store6 and I get compliments every time I wear it.  And it is the skirt I wore to the job interview for my current day job, so that counts for something.  And the boots, of course. Gotta have the boots.

In addition to what you see in the above photo, I also had with me my new sweater, which is black and awesome and kind of cape-like, which pretty much makes me Batman. But I didn’t wear the sweater to teach, because I prefer to teach as my alter ego, Beth Wayne Snow.

  1. which just so happens to be #37 on my 101 list! []
  2. i.e., me []
  3. the papers, not the students []
  4. I mean, I challenge students to do this, but it’s usually feedback on a paper they hand in, and then there’s not an opportunity for them to respond and thus learn from that feedback. []
  5. either that or they are just sucking up. But they did seem genuinely excited about it, so I’m going to say it’s the former []
  6. of course []

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No Title For You, Blog Posting #937!

I was about to write a blog posting entitled “Can’t Blog. Marking Papers.” But that title seemed eerily familiar to me, so I Googled through my blog and discovered that I’ve already used that same title1.  I’m so original.

Anyway.  I’m pretty beat after a long day of a nutrition symposium + lunch with friends I haven’t seen in ages + Christmas shopping + dinner with Kalev, but I’m trying to get some more papers marked before I go to bed because my poor students have been waiting forever for me to mark their papers.  Because I’ve been spending every waking hour working on a ridiculously large grant application that was due yesterday.  I mean, remember when I sent out this report?  That pile is not even as big as one copy of the grant application I just submitted yesterday.  And I had to submit the original plus FIVE copies.  I was going to take a picture of this behemoth report, but we2 were scrambling to get the final package assembled in time for the FedEx guy3 to pick up, so I didn’t have a chance to run back up to my office to grab my camera. I do have my own copy of the submission, so I’ll snap a pic of that and then you can imagine it x5.  Suffice it to say that it filled up nearly two full boxes – the kind of boxes that you get photocopier paper in (you know, with like 10 packages of paper per box).  So, yeah, I killed a small forest and I hope it results in me getting the grant that we were applying for, so I can still have a job.

And speaking of jobs, I have another one and it requires that I go mark some more papers now!

1Or 3/4 of that title, anyway.
2 We = the four people it took to assemble the damn thing!
3Who we had to ask to give us 10 more minutes to finalize our package.

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Research Methods Rule!

So, I’ve picked up a new class to teach next term: Research Methods. I am stoked because I *love* research methods.  This may or may not be because I’m a nerd.

Thus far, I have two issues with this course.  One is trying to find a good text book.  As you can see from the photo, I’ve got quite a sampling of books (plus I have a number of other evaluation copies on their way to me).  I haven’t reviewed them all in depth yet, but from scanning them, I haven’t found one that gives me what I want.  The problem I’m having with a number of them is that they overwhelmingly focus on quantitative methods and barely even touch on qualitative methods.  I should clarify here what I mean by “Research Methods,” as I’ve discovered from talking with people, “research methods” means different things to different people.  I’m not talking about library research (which was a number of people’s first impressions when I said I was teaching RM); I’m referring to designing scientific and social science research projects – experiments, quasi-experiments, survey research, qualitative interview type research, etc.)  It includes things like the philosophy underpinning different research approaches, research ethics, research writing and a bit about analysis of research results (but not super in depth as there is a separate statistics course).   I’d been hoping to get a kinesiology methods text (as this is a Kin Research Methods course), but so far the books I’ve seen have really skimped on the qualitative.  Like, a 400 page textbook will have 20 pages on qualitative research.

The second issue I’m having is that, while I’m super stoked to be teaching this course because (did I mention?) I love research methods, but everyone keeps telling me that it’s a course no one wants to teach because students don’t like it.  I even got a book on “best practices for teaching stats & research methods” and the whole intro was all “Students hate taking research methods. It’s like torture to them!”  And I’m all “*gasp*! How could anyone not love methods??” I think methods is super interesting and can be readily made interactive (hello! create a research proposal! hello, critique a research paper! hello, conduct a research project!) and relevant (even if you aren’t going to go to grad school and do research yourself, you need to be able to critically assess research that other people have done to, say, know what the best evidence is for any given situation).  And making things interactive and relevant, in my experience, is key to catching students’ interest and helping them learn.  But, seriously, I’ve been told by multiple people that students are really resistant to research methods course.

So, I’m putting the question to you, dear blog readers: Have you ever taken a research methods course?  If so, what did you think of it?  What would you recommend?