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Showing posts from 2020

Voting Reminder

If you are using an absentee ballot to vote in the upcoming presidential election, NOW IS THE TIME!
If your ballot shows up late, it probably won't be counted, but there's nothing wrong with sending your vote early, so get a move on!
LOTS of things will slow the mail down as the election approaches (some of them natural, some political), so don't wait. You don't have to have the ballot in hand to decide who you will vote for. Send off your absentee ballot request NOW. (Note, the deadline for absentee ballot requests is October 31, but you probably shouldn't push it. There's no reason to delay because you aren't committed to anything when you submit that request.)

And remember that Ohio absentee ballots need two stamps.

Mask Under Your Nose

This style of mask-wearing seems especially popular among young men. I have to assume one of two things when I see you doing this:You don't know that you breathe through your nose too.You think that the only point of wearing a mask is to keep authorities from yelling at you.So, for your information (because you apparently don't know):The purpose of a face mask is not to hide your teeth. We wear masks to prevent the spread of airborne virus.And if you protest that you are a mouth-breather, I present this Google definition:Mouth-breather: a stupid person

Future Zoom Meetings

When this course began, I didn't schedule any Zoom meetings, and that confused several people. Apparently, they assumed that every course would have Zooms (and maybe someone in orientation told you that). I had my reasons. For one thing, all the technology, etc., for getting the course started was already overwhelming, and for another, some of you don't have wonderful Internet service. (I have also learned—the hard way—that computer software being sold to higher education is the worst in the business. I didn't want to make part of the course depend on something that doesn't work.)Zoom seems to have proven itself, and there's a way to do a Zoom session within Blackboard. (Figuring that one out will take some research on my part.) We will certainly be 100% distance education after Thanksgiving, and there is always the possibility of an earlier shut-down if conditions get bad, so I expect we'll Zoom at some point in our future. I'll let you know.

A friendly note about reading responses

First, yes they are required. One of the key strategies for getting good grades in any class is to submit every assignment, large or small, on time.Second, the questions for our reading responses are quite specific. If you didn't bother to read the article (or the question) and just grab one or two major words from the assignment and run, you aren't likely to get a very good grade. The prompt for this Friday is:Does Niman understand and accept the journalists' confusion about and reaction to what happened to the Columbus statue? How do you know?To do this one, you will need to know:What happened to the statue?
What was the journalists' confusion and reaction?What evidence do you see that Niman "got it" (or didn't)?A generic discussion of the value of statues in public places isn't going to answer this question.

Cannot See the Video

Students keep having trouble with the little "talking head" video that begins each week. The problem seems to be with Apple users, so here is an instruction sheet from another college for fixing the problem:Safari, Firefox: Enable Third Party CookiesOne of the simplest ways to fix the problem is to download and install Google Chrome browser. Here's the link for that:Download Google Chrome

Adulting Skills

Business people talk about "hard skills" and "soft skills."
Hard skills can be taught with books of instructions—things such as driving a standard shift, using Microsoft Word, or analyzing a blood sample.

Soft skills are such things as showing up on time for work, giving the boss the proper respect, wearing appropriate clothing for the task, and keeping your work area tidy. Many college students figure that the hard skills are all they need, but the hard skills are relatively easy to teach; if you lack soft skills, you will struggle in college and have a lot of trouble finding and keeping a job.

Somewhere in the middle area between these are the adulting skills. People who lack these skills might be able to pass courses, but their time in college will be very difficult. Here are a few you will need—and now is a good time to begin working on them.

Doing laundry. Surprised that I put it first? The laundry room is a total mystery to most high school kids, but your mother…

The Student and the iPhone

Nearly every student has one of these things, and it's impossible to imagine a time without them. (Trust me—there really was a day when you couldn't instantly send Tweets to your friends, look at pictures of kittens, play games, or browse for porn 24/7.)Smart phones cause student trouble in three ways:The phone is not a computerWell OK—literally it is. The modern smart phone can do things that the full desktop computer of fifteen years ago only dreamed of, but that's not what I mean.It's a poor tool for typing a paper. The screen is smaller than your hand, so you cannot see a whole page of typing, and writing a paper with that tiny on-screen keyboard will make you crazy when you do a five-page paper. It's OK for Tweets, but those are only 280 characters.They cannot do Blackboard. Most of our course is on the Blackboard LMS, and yes, there is a way to see Blackboard on a phone, but learning how to do it and fighting the machine is a major challenge. Best advice: Don…

Quick Thoughts about This Blog

Now that the course is beginning to roll, I have a few reminders about this website.This will continue to be an informal "advice and reminders" site, and it's really part of the course. I will probably post things here every week (and at the start of the course, every day), so you should keep coming back.The website isn't part of the Ashland University internet environment, and it's completely public, so it will keep going even if there's trouble with AU's server. It's also available to anyone with an Internet connection, so go ahead and refer your friends to this site if you like. (In the last 30 days, we've had readers from Belgium, Philippines, and Japan. The reader from Portugal seems especially faithful.)There's more to the site than the seven items you see on the first page.In the black banner at the top, you'll see the words "The rest of the blog." Click that to learn how to see more.If you click the thing that looks like …

Working from Home

One of the things we lose in a distance education course is a sense of "going to work." It's really easy to fall into a pattern of doing all your schoolwork in bed, wearing a bathrobe, and balancing a cup of coffee. I've done it myself. It's a poor idea.Your emotional healthYou really need a sense of separation between your work life and your home life. When we had classes three times a week and you could do your writing in the library or a computer lab, you could go back to your own room and be sort of done for the day, but when your office is your bed, you are always in your office. More to the point, if your office is your bed, you never have a sense of going TO work. Schoolwork becomes one of those annoying tasks like cleaning the bathroom or hanging up your shirts. You lose the "I am a student" identity.Your scholastic healthDuring this whole Corona virus thing (beginning about March 10) I had to work from home—my Ashland office was off limits. Whe…

When You Can't Get Into Blackboard

Blackboard is the Ashland University Learning Management System (LMS) which we will be using to deliver a LOT of the content in this course. Here is a direct link to Blackboard. Your Username is the part of your campus email address before the @ sign. Your Password is the same password you use to get into your email. If your name is not on the official roster for our course, you cannot get into our part of Blackboard. If you are registered for our course and cannot get in, the Registrar's office and/or the Information Technology people in Patterson Hall should be able to help. Blackboard sometimes has trouble, especially in the first week because of the enormous amount of traffic. If you cannot get in, our course has an alternate web site, where you can find the syllabus (with all of the reading assignments) and assignments for all of the essays. Some adviceBe patient. If Blackboard or your Internet connection don't work too well, take a deep breath, take a sip o…

How to Student

When I teach this course in normal times¹ (not worrying about Covid-19), I usually begin each class session with a brief "How to Student" slide show. We don't have time for that now, so look for a continuing series of "How to Student" blog entries. Some of them won't apply to you, but I hope several turn out to be helpful.College is a totally different culture from what you are used to, and in my avuncular² mode, I would like to help you succeed. So look for the "How to Student" items, using the "Labels" menu in the pop-up at the top of the screen. A lot of student distress and downright failure has nothing to do with either basic brainpower or academic ability—student success has a LOT to do with assuming the role of a young adult and being able to manage the "stuff" of being in college.I like to find an Internet illustration for each of these blog posts. I wanted something showing "good college student," but it was …

What if we must shut down?

A fair question. If you read the news, several large universities (UNC and Notre Dame come to mind) opened early this fall, then immediately closed down again because they had so many virus cases.I hope that doesn't happen at Ashland, but if it does, English 100 can keep rolling along. I've designed a number of distance courses (several of them for prisons, where things are really shut down!) and I had the possibility of a quarantine in the back of my mind when I put this course together.Nearly all of the actual instruction in the course comes through Blackboard or your textbooks. That would stay the same. The Writing Lab appointments were going to be virtual, online events anyhow, so those won't change either. What we would lose (or need to work around) is the loss of in-class writing exercises and time for you to ask questions. I am old-school enough that I still like to mark papers by hand and return them in class, so that won't work either. I expect that any shut-d…

What to bring to class on the first day

Don't overdo it. I often see students laboring around campus with little suitcases on wheels. I assume they are carrying their computer, their notebooks, and every textbook they were asked to buy this semester. Maybe a few library books and their lunch. Here's what you need to bring to class that first day: A copy of your class schedule, just to remind you where to go. (Sometimes campus computers make mistakes and send you to classes that don't exist or put you in places where you don't belong. A printout of your schedule will solve a lot of problems if you have to ask questions.)A campus map would not be a bad idea either.Pen or pencil. You do need to bring your own. Only annoying fools think everyone else should supply them with writing tools. We need to disinfect everything we touch, including the pens that we share around. Bring your own. I will not loan you one.
Spiral notebook. On that first day, someone is certain to say something you will need to remember. (It w…

How to Take Our Hybrid Course

English 100 will be a bit like Harry Potter's hippogriff—neither horse nor eagle. It's neither a 100% distance education course nor 100% face-to-face, so we will need some special strategies to make it go. What you will see when you open BlackboardOn the left of the Blackboard screen, you will see folders, one for each week. When you open a folder, you will see: A link which takes you to the assignment schedule for the week (really just a section of the syllabus) A link to a "Face-to-Face" video of me introducing the weekOne or more links to a narrated PowerPoint lesson on how to write a paperLinks to web pages for the weekA drop box for the week's writingA grammar quizWhat you won't see on BlackboardSpecific reading assignments in America Now or Writer's Reference (You will have to open the assignment schedule link or look at your printed syllabus for those.) The assignment for the longer paper you are working on (I put the assignments in the f…

Personal Interaction - What we lost

I guess the whole point of all these Covid-19 regulations is to minimize (or eliminate) personal interaction so we don't infect one another. I understand that and I support it, but we humans were not built to live isolated in caves (or in bedrooms, looking at computer screens). College education, at its best, had a lot of personal interaction: professor/student and student/student. Here are some ideas for working around the restrictions:Weekly cohort meetings. Yes, they are required. The group will be you plus me plus four or five other students, and I will come in with an agenda, but this is also a time when we can chat as a small group (wearing masks and sitting six feet apart) about what you are doing.Office hours. My office is so incredibly tiny that there is no way for us to maintain social distancing, so I put "by appointment" in the syllabus. That's because I don't know yet where we can meet, but there is sure to be some place. I'll be on campus Monday…

English 100 First Day

August 31 is the first day of classes at Ashland University. You have already received an email telling you which day-group (or "cohort") is yours.
Monday cohort. Come to our classroom in Dauch at your assigned time. (Don't forget your face mask.) This is your only face-to-face class meeting this week. You will spend the rest of the week working through the Blackboard Learning Management website.
Wednesday and Friday cohorts. Begin your week on the Blackboard Learning Management website, then show up on your appointed day (wearing your face mask, of course).
SPECIAL NOTE: If you show up on the wrong day, I will simply turn you away and invite you to return on the correct day.

The Basic Set-up of Our Course

This Fall, English 100 will be a hybrid course. This means that about 1/3 of our instruction time will be on campus in a classroom and 2/3 will be online. We are doing this to minimize the risks of transmitting the Covid-19 virus, while still giving you the advantage of a college campus course. Dividing the class into groupsDuring the last week before class, you will receive an email telling you which group (cohort) you are in. Each cohort will have five or six students.The class meets in Dauch, where the classrooms have a normal capacity of 20-25 students, so you should have no trouble maintaining social distancing.Each cohort is assigned a day (Monday, Wednesday, or Friday) for your on‑campus session. Your class schedule should give you the room number and time. Attendance at these sessions is required. Important Note #1: These are assigned days! I don't want the entire crowd from one day drifting in on another day because you forgot or overslept. The idea is to keep the total …

Internet Woes

Yesterday was a bad day on the Internet. My connection went down in the middle of the day and stayed that way for about an hour. It's been doing that, off and on, for some time now. You can imagine the result: no email (thank goodness!), no Facebook (a plus for my productivity), and no searching the Internet for cool items like that logo above. The real problem, though, was that some applications (like Microsoft Word) wouldn't open because they need to verify with headquarters that they are not pirate copies. (OK—I know that I could use a copy on a phone because it can get Internet even if the local WiFi is down. But have you ever tried editing a large piece of writing on a smartphone?)
Well that just threw a wrench into my machinery.We might have similar problems when school opens because EVERYONE on campus is trying to use the same electronic resources at the same time. (And some of you who live in rural areas with your parents never did have good Internet.) So here are my re…

Handling Textbooks

In a lot of ways, the college attitude toward textbooks is totally opposite to the attitude in high school. When you were in high school, the school district owned the books, and marking them was a very serious offense; in college, you own the book, and marking it is a good strategy for learning.When you were in high school, you did the reading assignments after the class session; in college, you are expected to do the reading before you show up.In high school, relatively few people actually read things because the teacher would tell you everything that the book contained. (That might have been due to the teacher's frustration with students who refused to read anything.) In college, nobody babies you like that. You have to do the reading. Housekeeping details for textbooks Each teacher/section has a unique book list. If you are taking an English course from Allen and your roommate is taking a the same course from someone else, you will have different books. (Note: When you buy the …

Leveling the Playing Field

When you think about it, most of us have disabilities of some sort or another. I've worn glasses since I was eight years old, and this summer was the time for my cataract surgery. (My pre-surgery view of the world looked like a Monet painting.) Like you, I'm no stranger to physical problems with a classroom.

Dealing with your issuesFirst of all, nobody is going to chase you down and demand that you find help. They probably don't know that you are having trouble reading or hearing, so you must take initiative to deal with your issues. What you can doFirst, you need to figure out what kind of problem you have and how severe it is. Did you have an IEP in high school? Have you always had trouble seeing things from a distance? Here are some places to begin: Get an eye exam. There's nothing shameful or nerdy about wearing glasses. (Harry Potter wore them, and he saved the world.)Get your hearing checked. A family doctor can recommend specialists who do this.Get the computer to …

Late Preparations

During this last month Look carefully at your class schedule. Mistakes happen, and you will find it much easier to correct them in the week or two before classes start. Do a campus walk-through. We are a small campus, but we are still big enough to be confusing. Some buildings are known by more than one name (a great example is the building our class is in: commonly called Dauch, it's also called COBE, which stands for the College of Business and Economics). Your Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule is different from your Tuesday-Thursday schedule. Walk both of them and actually find the rooms.Get an eye exam. Don't laugh. At least one student in every section I teach sits in the back, squinting and struggling to see the board. If you need glasses, get them. Wear them. They don't look weird.Go shopping. I assume you'll buy new clothes and such, but don't go overboard. What you wore in high school will probably work in college. Do be aware, though, that your class sched…

Paper Textbook or E-book?

I have to admit that my mind is not settled on this question. I own a Barnes & Noble nook and love to read murder mysteries on it, but my apartment is also filled with paper books. Ultimately, the choice is up to you. Here are some things to think about as you decide which format to buy. Paper hard copy Advantages You can use it when the power goes out. You don't need a great computer or Internet connection to read the book. (My home Internet connection, through CenturyLink, has days when it simply stops working—several times for half an hour or so. I could still be reading a paper book when that happens.)
You can underline things and write in the margins.1It's yours forever (unless you have rented it).A paper book just feels more like reading to some people.Disadvantages Paper books do cost more.If you tend to lose things or leave them lying around for people to steal, books are vulnerable.E-book Advantages CheaperYou can search the text electronically.The computer can read the …

Buying Textbooks

Yes, you do have to buy textbooks for college courses. The school doesn't hand them out.
The usual college pattern (which is very different from high school) is that you read the assignment before you get to class, and the teacher assumes you have that information inside your head by the time you arrive. In high school, the teacher told you what the book would say, then you were supposed to go home and read it, and finally, the teacher would tell you (again) what the book said. In college, none of that happens—often the lecture is material in addition to what was in the textbook. In our course, the written assignments usually are some sort of response to the reading you have been assigned.

You need to buy the books.
The campus bookstore I have told the campus bookstore what to order and how many of them, so the books should be waiting for you when you arrive. You don't need to go scampering around to online stores if you don't want to.

Once you get to the campus bookstore, …

Two weeks to go

For teachers, August always feels like summer is over. Yes, the weather is still hot and the trees are still green, but most of us are finally buckling down to the work of lesson planning. A couple of weeks ago, we had a one-hour online meeting of the English Department to attempt to find the shape of the coming semester.
Nobody has ever had to run a university with the threat of Covid-19, so we will need to remain flexible and ready to try different strategies, especially if the infection rate goes up again and we must all stay home. We do have a few advantages, though: Ashland University never came back from Spring Break, so we have been doing distance education since March 16. The first few weeks were very rocky, but we're learning, and this fall should be a lot more graceful.The companies that provide our Internet services were overwhelmed when we shut down in March, but they have been working to upgrade their equipment, and we should have an easier time in September.I've be…

Summer Reading III

These are all very available, but all cost money. You can certainly get them from your local public library, though, and both Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble nook carry them.
Almost anything by Ray Bradbury is worth a read. I never quite recovered from reading Fahrenheit 451 when I was a boy—it's about a time in the future when the government has banned books and firemen have the job of finding books in people's houses and burning them. (The title refers to the temperature at which book paper begins to burn.) Bradbury has written a lot of short stories (which I like because I don't have much of an attention span). I really enjoyed The Golden Apples of the Sun, The Martian Chronicles, and The Illustrated Man.
The Bradbury novel brings to mind three other dystopian novels: Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, and Animal Farm and 1984 by George Orwell. All written in the 1930s and 1940s, and all predicting a dire future.
On a lighter note, you should consider digging into bot…

Yes you can vote

If you will be 18 years old by November 3, 2020, you can vote in the next presidential election. Here's how: First you must register. Registrations don't expire, so if you have registered recently, you don't need to do it again. Your "residence address" is not your dorm at Ashland; it's where you go home to at Christmas Break (and probably where you are living right now).

You have many options for registering (often people at public events are registering voters), but here's a link for Ohio voter registration.
If you don't know whether you are registered, or suspect that the registration is incorrect, you can check your registration with this link. Getting an absentee ballot. Covid-19 is giving all of us good reasons to vote by mail. Here is the link to request an absentee ballot. A couple of things to remember: It takes time to request a ballot, receive the ballot, and get the ballot back to your home county. You can vote early, but if you ballot is late i…

Halfway through the summer

We're about halfway through the summer (or a little more), and if you are just joining us, I hope you've had a good vacation so far. 
It wasn't quite what we expected. I hope you have been able to navigate around the quarantines, etc., and find some space to relax and have some fun.

I put this blog together to help you get ready for English 100, and to cut down on the "FUD Factor" (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt).
A few details about our courseEnglish 100 will be a hybrid course this Fall. That means you will be in class one day every week, and doing the equivalent of two days per week (plus homework time) as a distance education course. Watch your email to learn which day is your class day—oddly, there will never be a time when you actually see all the other members of our class. Your daily cohort will be about six people.

We are doing everything we can to minimize the risk from Covid-19, and one strategy is to keep people in small groups, all wearing masks. Another…

The Writing Teacher in Summer II

That picture isn't too accurate. Sunglasses, yes, but mountains, beaches and/or deserts? Nope. Like you, I had hoped this would be a summer with some freedom (art museums? long drives along scenic highways? pizza with friends? time with grandchildren at big city festivals?). Instead, we got quarantine. And instead, I needed some eye surgery. (It went very well, but it means that I couldn't really see much of anything for a week, and we're planning on another week of the same in a little while. Couldn't do much in the way of exercise either.) 
Last fall I really liked the way my 100 class went, so obviously the plan was to do much the same thing this fall. Nope. Covid-19. So now I have to figure out how to set up a class so it works well for you but with a lot less physical closeness (and a lot less sneezing and coughing on one another).
So what have I been doing? Setting up English 101 and 102 distance education courses for the CCP (College Credit Plus) program.Lots of lo…

The blog shifts emphasis

I rather like that clipart I found: a telescope at one end and a fountain pen at the other. It seems to take in what we're about here.
Most of the earlier material was about long-term preparation for the Fall semester, things like getting your computer ready and such. (If you're new to the blog, go to the upper right of your screen and click the three lines thing (☰). Then click the "Labels" item to get a collection of how-to items.
The computer material is behind us now. I put it at the beginning because organizing all that stuff might be time-consuming, and it will give you something to do which feels like you are a student.
Because of the Covid-19 problems, the University is still working out the details of our coming semester. It's not as easy as you might think. Any change they make (for example, how often we have face-to-face class meetings) has implications for school accreditation, finances, and a host of other areas. We have been promised a full discussion …

Keep all those documents

Right now you are signing a lot of documents—loan papers and such. Get one of those accordion file folders, and keep your copy of everything you sign. At tax time you will thank me. You will thank me again and again in five or ten years when you really need to know what those documents said.

By the way, you will want to keep your textbook receipts so you can return the book if you bought the wrong one or your schedule changes.

The Demon in Your Computer

Some folks are convinced that there's an evil demon hiding in their computer, making decisions on its own and fighting against them every step of the way.

Probably not true. Computers are just not that smart.

What's probably true is that the user (yes, that's you) either got sloppy or didn't learn how to use the equipment correctly in the first place. The machine is just as smart (or stupid) as a tape recorder hooked up to a bunch of light switches. It only does what it is told to do.
Full disclosure: I'm lazy too. When I first began using the software for this blog, I didn't really learn it, so several things I did took four or five steps every time instead of the one neat step the company provided. And there are a lot of times when I get angry when I mis-type instructions and don't get what I expected. Defeating the Demon You have some time this summer, and you will be using the computer a LOT in the Fall, so spend some time learning. If we were at Hogwarts…

Avuncular Advice

Isn't that a great word—"avuncular"? It means "pertaining to an uncle" and Merriam-Webster goes a bit further: "suggestive of an uncle, especially in kindliness or geniality."
So here's some avuncular advice concerning the coronavirus and Covid-19. We closed the college down in mid-March (actually, we just never came back from Spring Break), and I spent weeks hiding in my tiny apartment, teaching my courses as Distance Ed projects. I almost never went out the front door—about once every two weeks to buy an enormous load of groceries. I got pretty sick of that lifestyle. I suspect your lifestyle was similar to mine, and I suspect you got pretty tired of it too.
Somehow, on Memorial Day, we all got the feeling that the siege was over and the problem behind us.
It's not.
None of us built immunity by staying indoors; the most we gained was a set of strategies for avoiding infection. One of my Facebook friends commented that the "reopening" j…