Mindsets and Millennials

If Beloit College has released its mindset list for the class of 2014 yet, I didn’t see it, so we’ll settle for 2013. A few items of interest from the list of facts about the students who would have completed their first year of college this year:

Britney Spears has always been heard on classic rock stations.

There has always been a computer in the Oval Office.

Everyone has always known what the evening news was before the Evening News came on.

There has always been a Planet Hollywood.

Salsa has always outsold ketchup.

These lists are always funny and disconcerting. Sometimes they are downright shocking. It’s important to stop and think where our students are coming from, though, especially when designing course materials.

If you want a little more serious-minded information about the next generation, take a look at the Pew Internet reports on millennials.

Three-quarters have created a profile on a social networking site. One-in-five have posted a video of themselves online.

They are more ethnically and racially diverse than older adults. They’re less religious, less likely to have served in the military, and are on track to become the most educated generation in American history.

Be sure to take the quiz, “How Millennial Are You?”  This places me, amazingly enough, right where I actually fall age-wise on their scale, as a Gen Xer.

Plenty has been said and plenty has been studied about working with the Milliennial generation, but for a quick intro, consider this clip from 60 Minutes.

And so it boils down to “lifestyle matters more than anything else.” What does that mean for the classroom?

March 26 Symposium for Two-Year College Teachers

What is Composition in the Digital Age?
A Symposium for Two-Year College Teachers
1:00-5:00, Friday, March 26
102 Liberal Arts Building
University of Southern Mississippi
Hattiesburg, MS

Click here to access the registration form, and here to view the flyer.

Registration is free to TYCAM members. You are asked to pre-register only to help us judge how many to expect.

NCTE and CCCC members can look for articles in CCC by Cynthia Selfe and Doug Hesse on the topic of composition in the digital age as a preview to the day’s discussion.

Presentations will include lesson demonstrations from graduate students in the Composition and Rhetoric program at USM. Panelists will represent both two-year colleges and universities. Please join us if you can. We expect innovative ideas and stimulating discussion in addition to delicious cookies.

The symposium is from 1:00-5:00. We will also offer a morning session on personal writing if enough people are interested. You’ll be contacted with details if you check “yes” to the morning session on your registration form.

And did I mention cookies? There will be cookies. You will not regret taking the time out for this event.

Teaching Loads

Interesting conversation here:


Found via:


Due to a steady decline in state funding and steady increase in enrollment over the past few years, our teaching loads have grown to beyond believable. Of course something is sacrificed. Of course time is limited for student feedback. Of course we change the kinds of assignments we require as well as our approaches to teaching them. You have to survive somehow.

That's not to say, though, that all is lost even as we say all is not as it should be. It does mean we have to put more time into finding educational "hacks" or ways around enormous obstacles. That's one reason I'm playing around with podcasting this week. My students have responded well in the past to audio recordings–as well as to anything, in fact–and I need to find a workable broadcast model for providing more group feedback to compensate for less individual feedback.

I do believe copious individual feedback is the best approach, but you have to survive somehow.

Posted via email from Just Haphazardry

Writing as Play

In a previous post, I talked about the need for more playtime in tech training for teachers. I think that goes for students as well. I was interested then to see this article about schoolchildren improving literacy through social networking. I found the article through @newsfromtengrrl on Twitter. I then ran across Alex Reid’s blog post responding to the same study. He says, “I don’t know that we are going down a good path if we really try to tie enjoyment to writing.”

I don’t even know what to say. On the one hand, I do appreciate his point. When I wrote my own teaching philosophy last spring, I said that writing and learning to write are constant struggles. So if we see it as all play and no work, we aren’t going to get very far. If we’re too easily satisfied with our writing, or indeed if we’re satisfied at all, we probably aren’t doing it right.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun and productive at the same time. It doesn’t mean we’re off the tracks if we try to make it fun for students. It doesn’t even mean enjoyment on the part of our students shouldn’t be one of our primary concerns.

Alex Reid refers to students with an excess of self-esteem. Honestly, I don’t get too many of those at the open admissions two-year-college. I get a whole lot more who are struggling for even basic literacy and who have all but lost hope in their own capacity to learn.

I see other students who have talent and some belief in their own talent but who lack direction, focus, drive, or whatever it takes to believe their abilities matter enough to make something useful out of them and of their lives.

I see all kinds really, and with every kind of student I see that finding pleasure in writing does lead to better writing. I see that being socially engaged as writers leads to better writing.

The study that says Facebook improves literacy skills in kids doesn’t surprise me at all, and that is who it targets. It’s about kids. If we don’t make writing fun for them, we’ve lost them already. We’ve lost the chance to teach them when they’re at their most teachable.

Universities, especially graduate programs, operate under different assumptions. A grad program is preparing people to be part of a profession. A two-year college is more about preparing people to be productive members of a community, to live their lives the best way they can. A grad program weeds people out. A two-year college brings everyone in.

We have to have different philosophies. But I never got anywhere much by taking myself or what I do too seriously. Practicality humbles theory every time. It humbled Einstein. It humbles me.

I write this because I care about teachers and students. I write this because I believe I have something to say. I write this because I believe that writing for an audience makes me a better writer, and I want to always be in a process of improving. I write this because it is a way for me to have a voice in a profession from the perspective of the place and situation that is my own particular reality. I write this because I bore easily, and I feel bad about myself if I’m not reading, thinking, learning, writing. I write this because I want other people to care about issues in education as much as I do.

Most likely I don’t know or understand every motivation I have, but I do know this much. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t enjoyable to me. I have too many other things I could be doing.

I think about that when I think about student writing. Malcolm Gladwell’s claim that 10,000 hours of practice is required to become expert at any skill resonates with my own experience and observations as a writer and a teacher. I may not be a virtuoso, but what I do have is the confidence to try, which has stood me well time and again. I wasn’t born with that. I didn’t have it when I first when to college or even to graduate school. But in the last twenty years I’ve spent well more than 10,000 hours writing when I was just goofing around, just playing, just amusing myself and my friends.

That’s worth something.

Participate if you can’t orchestrate

Participate even if you could orchestrate. Participating in classroom activities means you are experiencing issues and trials along with your students. It means you’re experimenting with them and feeling the joy and pride with them when problems are overcome. Participate, participate, participate.

I don’t remember who said this because I’m not the best note-taker when I’m tired, and I didn’t know names at NWP, but someone at the National Writing Project conference did say that the way to bring more digital and more creative assignments into the classroom is for the teacher to come to the projects as a participant, as a learner and experimenter along with the students.

That’s such a Writing Project mentality, which is why it works for me.

In his book Multiliteracies for a Digital Age, Stuart Selber mentions that one of the biggest deterrents to digital literacies is teacher training. That’s true. It’s also true that one of the biggest reasons more teachers don’t do more to just work with what resources and what training they have is lack of confidence.

If you’re used to being the voice of authority in the room, it’s tough to let your ignorance show. But you’ve got to let go of that if you want to move forward. Accept that mistakes will happen, and just sit down with your students to figure out how to make technology work for you. They’ll teach you a lot, and in doing so, they’ll learn more than they would have if you’d done all the “educating.”

As I heard at the CFTTC conference last spring, we all have to “begin to begin” keeping up with the times. If there’s something you’ve seen another class do, and you wish your own students could accomplish the same, just go for it. Assign it whether you fully understand it or not. You’ve got the whole semester to figure it out with your students.

**Cross-posted to Writerly Haphazardry.