November 30, 2012: Inside the HEAD: Week Thirteen (day sixty-two)
Once this daily diary is done (see yesterday's blog), I could see a weekly column called Friday Follies Follow-Up, where I highlight items from the week in higher education that confirm or highlight earlier postings. I have a good start with the Friday Follies Follow-Up. Or, maybe I do it at the end of each month, like now, and give it an appropriate title, in this case November Nonsense.
Item #1: The Reply-to-all Dilemma. No sooner do I chastise businesses who want to do away with the "reply all" option when we get something straight from "The Cronk": A New York University "Reply to All" involving 40,000 students. The general story involves how a glitch in the email system allowed a student to "reply to all" in response to a mass email from the Bursar's Office. Imagining the chaos is fun enough, but even better is when you see examples of the chaos: Buzzfeed's article complete with screenshots.
Honestly, one can't write fiction as good as this. Not sure I get the Nicholas Cage reference. Anybody who can help clue me in, greatly appreciated? I do love the simply brilliant responses: "Anyone have a pencil I could borrow?" as well as the philosophically profound, "by responding that you want this to stop you are not helping it to stop" (my paraphrase). Just makes you wonder if any of the students knew the population was 40,000 and started quoting Blue Oyster Cult: "40,000 men and women everyday/redefine happiness/Another 40, 000 coming every day/We can be like they are."
Item #2: On a less humorous front, the on-going pressure on colleges to funnel students through majors that prepare for careers hit my alma mater: WVU has changed its Communications degree to prepare students for careers. Does this mean that anyone who had a degree in Communications prior to next year had a degree that didn't prepare them for a career? Wonderful. It's all semantics, right? Well, look at the career paths: interpersonal communication, health communcation, social media communication, strategic and organizational communication, and integrated communications. Uh, what? Where in the want ads do I find jobs for interpersonal communicators?
Honestly, the last thing I want to do is make fun of these majors, especially since WVU is offering them, but if you look at the descriptions in the article of some of these degree tracks, you're still scratching your head.
I'm sure there is more I can add to Friday Follies Follow Through. And if nothing jumps out next week, be ready for December Dalliances.
November 29, 2012: Inside the HEAD: Week Thirteen (day sixty-one)
Yesterday's blog entry had a higher number of typos than I would ever be comfortable acknowledging. All (that I know of) have been fixed, but who knows? Seeing that most readers see the blog in the first 12 hours after I post it, any corrections I made this morning are almost irrelevant. And if there are still some I haven't seen 24 hours later, they may be there forever--whatever forever means in cyberspace; I guess "forever" means as long as I keep paying "American Author" who provides me this platform.
This tendency toward typos is still something I can't quite reconcile with this daily blog. Most days I try to squeeze in a blog between cleaning the dishes and ironing my clothes, all which come before just relaxing with my family. If I have a topic, I can crank the blog out pretty quickly, even let it sit hidden until I have time to go back and review it a couple of hours later, but when I feel the pressure to get it done, out there, and thus be able to get on with my life, it inevitably feels like sloppy writing.
I'm back to a question I have asked before in this daily blog: how are other bloggers doing it? There are so many days I sit for a couple of hours before I finally figure out my topic. Everything else in my few hours of free time before work and sleep suffers. There is no consistent quality in the quantity of daily blogging, I don't care who you are. You write a number of pieces, some rise to a level of interesting, provocative writing, but many are rather mundane, perhaps even typo-ridden disconnected thoughts.
There are less than two weeks left for this fall semester. As of now, this diary probably ends on that same day, although maybe I will carry it on a little longer through the quiet days of the week before Christmas closing. For the most part, I don't think I will miss this. Yet, it has given me a goal and an outlet day to day. If this were my private diary, I wouldn't give a rat's ass about any of this. If some days produce gold, and other days produce mold, so what in a private diary? But blogs are public, and yet seemingly private. For the most part the writing disappears into cyberspace. So, why does it still bug me?
This is only day sixty-one. Semesters seem SOOOOOO long, especially to students and teachers. But, sixty-one days is barely anything. How are other bloggers doing it?
Thus, I end another rambling piece.
November 28, 2012: Inside the HEAD: Week Thirteen (day sixty)
Over-reacting: It may be the single most disruptive factor in our socety today. And since "positive disruption" is often praised (see one such article on disruptive innovation), we run the risk of being judged by how much we do and don't try to buck the system, whatever system that may be.
The problem is that I feel surrounded by knee-jerk reactions to potential problems. Take an article this week from Bloomberg Businessweek about how some companies are looking to do away with the "reply all" email option. We all can guess the reasons: don't make me see that link to that stupid cat video on YouTube; don't let the hot-headed employee say something inappropriate to hundreds of readers; and don't make me privy to the dozens and dozens of "thanks" sent in response to any directive or email of praise.
"Reply to all" is a very important tool to managing complex conversations when pulling together a group when a meeting is just not feasible. I can send an email to 8 people asking for feedback, pleading that everyone hit "reply to all" so that we build off of everyone's ideas, and inevitably one of the first responses will be just to me. I would publicly humiliate them by adding everyone back to the "to" line and then responding with "way to follow instructions, jerk-off" but then my reaction to said jerk is the same knee-jerk reaction I deplore above.
In order to try and help out some correspondents who fear the "reply all" syndrome, I have turned to blind copying mass groups who need a message (usually faculty), and then invariably I get questions such as, "did you mean to send this to me or to blank?" And certainly accountability associated with any task is lost when receivers are blind copied. For all they know, no one else may have received the same directive; just as dangerously, he or she fears no public shame by having their name out there in plain sight among the recipients.
My goodness, people, how hard is it to manage to behavior? If your company doesn't want cute kitten links sent via mass emails, clearly state that and punish as appropriate anyone who does fall prey to "reply all." If you don't want your employees saying "thanks" to hundreds of people when only one deserves it, punish as appropriate anyone who does that. And if employees really, really have difficulties managing an email box when it is full of a chain of emails as described early, then you should probably be writing policy around that.
Stop hitting me in the gut with those knees.
November 27, 2012: Inside the HEAD: Week Thirteen (day fifty-nine)
Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday. Good Lord, do we have to give some cutesy name to every day between Thanksgiving and Christmas? If so, I can't wait for Wine Wednesday, which is actually December 26, when the whole bloody season is over. I know, who would have predicted I would turn into Ebenezer Scrooge?
Still, I like designation day philosophy for higher education, especially this time of year as we roll toward the semester's finish line.
November 26, 2012: Moaning Monday, as everyone groans about coming back to work after the holiday break.
November 27, 2012: Tribulation Tuesday, as the server and the network crash causing all work to come to a screeching halt.
November 28, 2012: Winnow Wednesday, as the wheat starts to get separated from the chaff among the students left in classes.
November 29, 2012: Trepidation Thursday, as students realize term papers are due beginning of next week.
November 30, 2012: Filibuster Friday, as the procrastinators come out with their best arguments for extensions.
December 3, 2012: Mendacious Monday: Who knows what chicanery is used when term papers are turned in?
December 4, 2012: Tampering Tuesday, as helicopter parents begin calling deans to complain about their children's teachers.
December 5, 2012: Weary Wednesday, as teachers look at piled high stacks of term papers and wonder how they will get them all graded.
December 6, 2012: Tipsy Thursday, as faculty and staff enjoy a little too much spirit at the departmental holiday party.
December 7, 2012: Faith Friday, as students start praying they pass their final exams starting the next week.
If you would like, feel free to substitute "Thoughtless Tuesday" for my blog this day. Hey, it was Giving Tuesday, I had nothing left for this blog.
November 26, 2012: Inside the HEAD: Week Thirteen (day fifty-eight)
My deans and I often joke about us taking our college's placement exams for math, reading and writing. So much stock is put in those exams in determining a student's placement into a remedial class or a college level class. Daily we hear questions about the tests' validity, the student seriousness when taking these exams, or the appropriate placement as tied to certain scores. We all fear most of all what our math placement test results might say about us; as a result of our common streaks of yellow, only one of us has ever taken the exams. And it wasn't me.
Over the long weekend, I might have gotten a taste of that exam scenario, from all places, a hospital room bed. I participated in a sleep test. Dealing with a variety of nagging physical ailments, low thyoid to name one, my doctor and I determined that maybe my sleep patterns (or lack therof) might be a cause for some of my health issues and not the effect. So, like a student sitting down with an admissions' rep, trying to assess my current data (high school GPA, ACT scores), my doctor and I determined that a "placement" test might be appropriate.
Arriving at the hospital on the Saturday night after Thanksgiving, I'm sure my feelings were similar to students told to come back on an early Saturday morning, perhaps, to take a math placement test. Not only do I kind of dread the test, I am not really happy about the interruption of my life to take it.
Watching the video and listening to the technician describe the test, I'm thinking, "what's the big deal? You're just going to watch me sleep." I can only imagine my testing center personnel talking the student through the logistics of the test, knowing from the student's glazed look that all he or she wants to do is just take the stupid test and get out of there.
The prep for the sleep test is almost as long as the test (so maybe I revel in hyberbole here). The tech takes her time hooking me up to at least twenty different wires that feed some central junction box and then push data about my physical responses to a central lab in the hospital. Small tubes go up my nose, a tiny microphone is under my chin to catch my snoring, an EKG line is hooked to my chest, and another wire connects with something that fits over my finger. "You have to be kidding me," I'm thinking, "there's no way I can sleep with all this on me."
And all of a sudden I feel conspicuous and out of my element for sleeping naturally (or to go back to my central analogy, for responding to math questions naturally). I begin to psych myself out. "Isn't it better that they see me not sleep, so that they can see how I spend most nights, tossing and turning, eventually getting up at 2:00 a.m. to read or watch t.v.?" Or, if I do fall asleep, will they be misled to think that I actually sleep reasonably well? In other words, am I going to be placed in College Algebra because I somehow pull answers out of my backside or guess reasonably well. I know the testing center people discourage guessing, but this test is a measure of me. Do I really want to fail it that badly?
So I tossed and turned the bulk of the night. And I have to wait weeks for the results in a consultation with my doctor? Am I going to be placed in the sleep apnea group? With the restless leg syndromers? With general narcoleptics?
More importantly, is this really the model I want for placing incoming students?