Wednesday, April 01, 2009


I've decided to move. You can find me here.

Protesting the Protesters?

A story on today notes that "activists have a reputation for being early adopters of technology" and they use new communications methods "to disseminate information, connect with each other and gather en masse." From the article:

". . . Internet technologies -- particularly mobile technologies -- have made it dramatically easier to organize groups of people in protest -- and far harder for police to know where to target their defensive efforts.

"[Protesters] have made it impossible for the defenders to adopt a cut-off-the-head-and-the-body-will-die strategy," he told CNN. "[Technology] has made the idea of a frontline of protests almost completely amorphous."

So the police are crying because they can't figure out who is the leader or organizer of a particular protest? Don't we have the right to assemble peaceably in order to protest actions we find disagreeable? As long as the protesters don't begin to act out violently, it seems that the police don't really have any need to know who organized the protest. This complaint seems to me to be the government lamenting the fact that more and more people are dissatisfied with what our elected officials are getting away with and allowing their friends to get away with. These elected officials seem to be afraid that the people will remember that the government is supposed to be “by the people and for the people” and that when the government oversteps its bounds, “it is [the people’s] right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government.” The elected officials and police would like nothing better than to quell any opposition before it begins, and that’s why they’re lamenting technology that allows people to rapidly spread news and ideas.

The CNN article notes that the invention of the printing press “made broad dissemination of information possible” and was adopted by early civil and religious libertarians to help spread their messages. Maybe our political leaders would like to go back to the days before the printing press when the people learned the news of their government’s actions too late to do anything about it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Nothing to see here

Just as I was getting ready to head home from work yesterday afternoon, I got the text message that advised the campus community of a gunman in one of the buildings on campus, two buildings away from where I happened to be. Because I didn't hear any sirens, I figured it was safe to go on out to my truck and leave, and it was. Outside my building, there was no evidence of any emergency except for the police officer who used his motorcycle to block the road leading to the KUC building. This officer wasn't allowing any vehicles through to that area, but pedestrians still lingered on the sidewalk past the barrier, where they stood and chatted and watched the KUC building as if they were watching the scene of a car accident. I'd be willing to bet that mothers at home who have signed up to receive the text alerts were much more alarmed by the situation than we here on campus were.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I No Longer Trust the Weatherman

This morning, based upon the weather information on the news, I cancelled my afternoon classes. According to the weather forecasters, we were to experience freezing rain and sleet which would change to snow, and this would last most of the morning, giving us about two inches of snow. Furthermore, the temperatures would fall throughout the day. One could assume, listening to this information, that we would have snow/ice on the ground, and that this snow would last at least until tomorrow, based upon the promise of low temperatures.

No more than thirty minutes after I cancelled classes, it stopped snowing, and the snow that was beginning to stick onto surfaces began to melt away. Right now, I am looking out my window and can see the shadow of my house because now the sun is starting to shine.

Today, the weather forecasters look at several computer models and pick what they think is the most likely one, but I think that the weather people did a much better job years ago before they began to rely on computers. I think that the old folklore that people used to rely on (example: number of fogs in August equals number of snows in winter) are more accurate than most of the computer models.

Next time, I won't cancel class until I can't get out the driveway.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Nothing to say except that I like dates

I haven't blogged much in a while because I just don't feel like writing about anything. I don't want to write a complaint about the government because I've already said it all before. I'm not feeling creative, so no creative writing. I'm reading things, but nothing I really want to blog about. So that doesn't leave much except for what I ate today.

Actually, that's something pretty good. Last week I ordered some fresh jumbo Medjool dates from Dateland, Arizona, and they arrived today. Take my word for it--they are delicious! If you want to stop eating processed sugary sweets, get yourself some really good dates. They'll make you forget about candy!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas-time Home Improvement

I hope everyone had a nice Christmas or just a nice day if you didn't do Christmas. I've been away from the blogs because Husband and I have been doing a home improvement project. This seems to be our Christmas tradition. This year it's our living room. We took up the carpet (you wouldn't believe how much dirt was trapped under there--scary!) and are putting down porcelain tile. We also repainted the walls. We're installing the last of the tile today, and we'll probably grout it on Sunday--we have to take tomorrow off to go have Christmas with his family.

We did take some time to have fun by going to the Ryman to hear Vince Gill and Amy Grant. It was the first time we'd gone to one of their Christmas concerts, and we weren't disappointed. Great show!

Back to work.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

They all know my name

Do you remember on the TV show Cheers whenever Norm would come into the bar, everyone would yell "Norm!" like they were glad to see him? I just had my last class meeting with a group of students who always yelled "Hey Mrs. G!" every time I walked in. It's been really cool. I'll miss them.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

You might want to start saving up to send your kids to a private university.

In light of heavy budget cuts and an economy that continues to deteriorate, the Tennessee Board of Regents is looking for ways to save money. Specifically, the TBR wants to change its current business model so that Tennessee's universities achieve "a greater level of productivity" particularly in the way that faculty interact with students. The TBR is seeking ways to save money in the long term by reinventing the way that college instructors disseminate information to their students, and the board recently sent a memo to its university presidents seeking input from the universities on ways to accomplish this goal.

The memo briefly describes the way that the TBR sees the current educational experience and then asks if this model can be changed:

(My questions and comments will be added in bold.)

The faculty is the overseer of the educational process, and the business model for higher education recognizes the importance of the faculty's role. Our current business model (Education is simply a business whose only concern is a bottom line?) has faculty teaching courses populated by students. What are the possibilities for the role of faculty evolving more toward the orchestrators of an educational process to the point they are not directly involved in the dissemination of course material (Is that all that faculty do--simply deliver information?) in a classroom setting? Would such an evolution provide opportunity for a business model that increases efficiency while continuing to improve the quality of students' educational experience?

Within this concept there could be possibilities for productivity and quality enhancement in at least the following five areas: 1) collaboration across a large system; 2) empowering students with technology for understanding a concept and for drill and practice (How does technology replace discussion for understanding a concept?); 3) collaboration among students (Students forming study groups? What a novel concept!) and use of advanced students to assist beginning students (Tutoring sessions? Nothing new there.), along with a similar peer to peer collaboration by faculty (Do the administrators think that faculty do not already share ideas with each other?); 4) focusing by faculty on learning outcomes and using technology to deliver and monitor the learning process (Students already spend enough time focusing on the outcome--the final grade. Most of them don't really care about the "learning process." I guess faculty are supposed to shift their attention away from getting students to learn something and just "teach to the test" so to speak.); and 5) abandoning some of the ingrained structures that restrict our approach to traditional models.

How could these goals be accomplished? The memo goes on to outline possiblities, some of the more "interesting" of which are:

  • Increase the number of students completing on-line courses by taking steps such as
Providing a discounted tuition to students who expect to work online with no direct support from a faculty member except oversight of testing and grading when the student is ready. (So teachers simply post assignments and grade tests. No discussion of concepts.)

Specifying in the curriculum that students must take a defined number of on-line courses in order to graduate at the baccalaureate and associate levels.

Designing master's level degrees and work to be taken exclusively on-line. (Shouldn't earning a higher degree involve intensive discussion of theories and concepts? The collaboration between students that is spoken of earlier cannot take place in an exclusively online setting.)

  • Formalize a system that anticipates even greater use of adjuncts (part-time, low paid faculty--one cannot live on adjunct salary alone) to help in the delivery of education under the oversight of full-time faculty and clearly delineate and expand that relationship (Senior, PhD level faculty spending less time in the classroom where students could benefit from their knowledge and experience?).
  • Build into students' curriculum and into financial aid that advanced students are expected to assist beginning students and financially support the advanced students in that effort (We already do this to an extent with the use of graduate students to teach labs and some beginning courses such as freshman writing or math).

Obviously the TBR would like to see more students enroll in more online courses which are taught by fewer full time faculty. While some courses are perfectly suited for conversion to an online format, others simply cannot make the transition without seriously affecting how much a student comprehends the material. If achieving "a greater level of productivity" means simply reducing the amount of money spent while boosting the grade point averages of its graduates, then the TBR is on the right track. However, if the TBR wants to produce graduates who are knowledgeable in their chosen fields of study, then this is the wrong way to go about it.

I would imagine that this type of discussion is taking place not only in Tennessee, but in many states in our country. I just thought that those of you who have children who may attend a state university sometime in the future may want to be aware of what the bean counters have in mind for higher education.

You can see the entire memo here.