Time for some PD

It has been awhile since I taught a digital marketing course at my university. It was such a fun class! My third-year students all helped one another (and me) keep abreast of new apps and innovations – literally on a weekly basis; there was no other way to be up to date.

Although I spend a good part of every day online and communicating professionally and personally via social media, I am now oh so woefully behind and would be utterly unprepared to teach that class again – without a ton of professional development. So, it is back to Hootsuite’s marvelous array of blogs and resources for me. That company’s writers are a godsend. This morning I am slowly exploring Tony Tran‘s post on “21 of the Best Social Media Apps for Marketers in 2020” – at least half of which I’ve never heard of before.

Right now I’m having fun going back and forth between Crello and Canva, easy-to-play-with graphic-design apps (I’m challenged in that universe).

Learning hungry

Earlier posts here have discussed how many university students come to class hungry. My university’s student newspaper, The Runner, notes today that almost two out of five “post-secondary students experienced some degree of food insecurity in the past year.”

I did not know until I read today’s article – University Students in Canada Still Struggle with Food Security: “Food insecurity directly affects academic standing in university students,” a study says – that the student association at Kwantlen Polytechnic University has a “food bank” program.

Piper Greekas is the KSA Student Services Manager and currently works with the KSA’s  food bank program. She says that she receives 10 to 15 requests for food per week, most of which are from students who use the service on a recurring basis.

The KSA food bank works like this: Students can send a request to the food bank and Greekas and her team start packing all of the food items into bags which are then distributed and placed inside of campus lockers for students to pick up.

The process is done anonymously so that students feel safe and comfortable when asking for food. Greekas says that two food packages can last for up to two weeks.

She explains that some students who apply for the program also have dependents, like children or spouses, who rely on the packages.

Meal Exchange is a program that focuses on helping campuses around Canada with issues regarding food insecurity among post-secondary students.

“Students get involved through our national programs supporting campus kitchens, gardens and farms, food banks, food sovereignty, and food procurement,” their website reads.

Naomi Robert is a research associate and part of the Institute for Sustainable Food Systems at KPU. She says that the reasons behind widespread food insecurity are quite complex, but more often than not, they’re tied to poverty.

I will be passing this information along to all of my students, in case they didn’t know about this important initiative already.

More on Open Learning

These short and very well-written videos given by Rajiv Jhangiani, Kwantlen Polytechnic University‘s Associate Vice Provost of Open Education, and produced by Cobb House Studio vividly describe new ways to create a class.

What are Open Educational Resources?

What are Open Textbooks?

What is the Zero Textbook Cost initiative?

What is Open Pedagogy?

And for my own university in particular: Support for Open Educational Practices at KPU.

I am relatively late in my career in postsecondary education and am grateful to have my habits and indeed some of my philosophy challenged this way.

Smart luck

Teena Seelig, a professor in management science and engineering at Stanford, has been studying “luck” for two decades, according to Diana Aguilera’s article in Stanford Magazine. The professor provides some superb, lucid recommendations. My favourite:

Show Appreciation. “When someone does something for you, they’re taking that time that they could be spending on themselves or someone else,” Seelig says. “And you need to acknowledge what they’re doing.” Being gracious, even when you’re turning down an offer of assistance, may bring more opportunities your way.

“Intimate supervision”: Surveillance on campus

This Washington Post report – holy crap:

Short-range phone sensors and campuswide WiFi networks are empowering colleges across the United States to track hundreds of thousands of students more precisely than ever before. Dozens of schools now use such technology to monitor students’ academic performance, analyze their conduct or assess their mental health. …

Instead of GPS coordinates, the schools rely on networks of Bluetooth transmitters and wireless access points to piece together students’ movements from dorm to desk. One company that uses school WiFi networks to monitor movements says it gathers 6,000 location data points per student every day.

School and company officials call location monitoring a powerful booster for student success: If they know more about where students are going, they argue, they can intervene before problems arise. But some schools go even further, using systems that calculate personalized “risk scores” based on factors such as whether the student is going to the library enough.

The dream of some administrators is a university where every student is a model student, adhering to disciplined patterns of behavior that are intimately quantified, surveilled and analyzed.

h/t Clarissa

“The Professional Culture of the Press”

NYU Journalism professor and media critic Jay Rosen* writes that “Not in personal but in public life, 2019 has been the most bleak and depressing year I have lived through of my 63. A few tiny green shoots in a toxic field that is spreading over more and more of the globe. This [Twitter] thread was the most optimistic I could be.”

Jay’s discerning analysis begins this way:

When I started studying the American press as an institution (around 35 years ago) I did not assign much significance to a factor that would later feel huge and at times even decisive: the professional culture of the press. It’s a beast. But now that beast is changing.

Rosen’s quasi-optimistic conclusion:

Engagement journalism, solutions journalism, less extractive journalism, a more agile, iterative newsroom. Nothing I have seen while watching these emerge suggests they are going away soon. The shocks to the system have been so many that the culture of the press is evolving.

I devote a lot of my feed here to problems in the press, and to criticism of some of its worse practices. But I don’t want to leave the impression that everything is collapsing and getting worse. For some things in journalism are collapsing — and it’s actually getting better.

Please read the whole thing.

*Jay was my editor at the University at Buffalo’s student newspaper, The Spectrum. He was a tough but wonderful mentor.

Open Learning

Some of my colleagues in the Applied Communications department at Kwantlen Polytechnic University have published an “open textbook” for people in our profession.

Student Engagement Activities for Business Communications is a compilation resource for instructors of workplace writing and oral presentations. The activities in this book can add value and energy to the classroom by engaging students in activities that support their learning. Handouts, links, activity variations, and debrief questions are included. …

As business communications instructors at the post-secondary level, we recognize the importance of student engagement and practical application to promote learning. This book is a compilation of activities that we have developed and use in our teaching practice.

Designed for new and experienced instructors, the book is divided by topic, and we have indicated a suggested course level (lower-level or upper-level undergraduate) for each activity. Some activities have handouts attached, or links to external websites.

The text “is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.”

In my years of teaching, I have used textbooks marketed by publishers, custom-created texts I’ve compiled from various sources, and materials I’ve created myself along with stuff my colleagues have let my students and me use – the latter because I wanted to save students money and because free handouts and slides addressed the curriculum sufficiently. I have also coauthored a textbook – one I’ve not, however, used myself in class, its intended audience being engineering students.

I must admit that I am sometimes ambivalent about one or two of the Open Learning movement‘s goals. I’ve been a professional writer, editor, and publisher most of my adult life. I revere publishers and editors and authors. Theirs are not lucrative professions, but I believe they should be paid for their work – a living wage, ideally. Moreover, in my experience the level of care given a published book by a large group of professionals – by authors, editors, marketers, proofreaders, legal staff, fact-checkers, researchers, and art directors – is hard to match using other modes.

That said, even in Canada the cost of postsecondary education is very high. Many students are suffering, having to choose between food and tuition. I know this first-hand. Giving students access to learning is our raison d’être.