January 22, 2015

Thanks G Stanley

That is a picture of G. Stanley Hall (1844-1924). He was an American psychologist who I think we have to thank inserting the "storm and stress" version of adolescence into the American discourse on human development. I'm kinda irritated with him, which is probably unfair. I think the idea of adolescence as a time of risky behavior, conflict with your parents, and moodiness is a well-loved script now, even if it professionally fell out of favor because it doesn't affect everyone (or even most people) within society or across cultures. Erik Erikson, another psychologist, and/or a misinterpretation of his work also contribute to the broadcast US society's role for adolescents. You've heard the phrase "identity crisis?" That's his. I wished he used a different word. Crisis seems so loaded. Thank you psychoanalytic theory. For some reason, now it sounds like someone is going to burst in two or feel like crap and completely fall apart, though I don't think that was what Erikson was going for.

Identity Crisis: When you speak another language?

I'm about to start my PSY 324 Lifespan II class. I start by asking students what they already know about adolescence, adulthood, and older adulthood. Their answers are really freaking predictable. We've all absorbed media-supported, G. Stanley Hall and Erikson inspired folk beliefs (which can conveniently be used to get you to purchase things). What kills me every time is how much people seem to love those ideas. But hey, a period of time where you are sort of aimless, enjoying partying, don't have to really figure out what you need/want to do... maybe that sounds good. Yet the price of that idea is that you aren't responsible or mature, and you are not to be taken seriously. So, why did you take out those students loans? If people needed 4 years of experience in the world, surely there are cheaper ways of getting that then paying for college and goofing off. Perhaps this seems harsh and unfair, but non-trad and trads know these scripts. Sometimes they happily identify with them or sheepishly. Other times they resent the implications.

Thank you Hollywood. (That was sarcasm.)

Don't confuse having lots of options and opportunities with not knowing who you are. Don't confuse disagreeing with other people as aimless "conflict with authority figures." Definitely don't dismiss your feelings as moodiness. Go ahead and wrestle with ideas and possibilities and your feelings. That is probably part of the life the whole way through. [Of course, if you're not leaving your room and shutting down that's a problem.]

Another crappy side-effect of the synergy of poorly applied developmental psych and consumerism is that adulthood is becoming something to be avoided or disdained. That is a useful script for some people... Now that the problem has been created you can be sold the solution.

Here you go men! Apparently you too should plastic well into your... 30s and 40s...

Did I jump too far away from developmental psych as a field? Am I in sociology-land? Or just social criticism-land... veering off down personal opinion side roads? Just checking. The other reason why these fairly predictable conversations bug me is how damaging certain popular beliefs are, especially within their invisible and ever-present social and commercial context. We are going to age, if we're lucky, and hopefully mature too. I'd rather go the other direction and anticipate and revel in it than dread and fight it. This is not dispassionate observation.

Is this just adulthood? Or adulthood in a certain society at a certain time in history?
As for older adulthood, what representations and ideas do you have about people in their 70s, 80s, and beyond?
Meet Barbara Beskind. She says "Embrace change and design for it."
NPR's story on Barbara Beskind: At 90, She's Designing Tech For Aging Boomers

January 10, 2015

How to Study for Quizzes & Tests

Okay, this is really my suggestions for the type of quizzes and tests that I give in my classes. Most of my test questions require you to show me you are familiar with course concepts and can synthesize or apply the concepts. Memorizing concepts is an important step because you need information in order to do something with it, but in my opinion, college social science classes should be expecting a lot more from you than just simple recall or good multiple-choice test taking strategy. I choose short answer test items because I want you to have to explain yourself and be clear, not put down some relevant information on the page and expect me to fill in the rest when I read your test. Being able to evaluate your own answers and arguments for clarity is a important transferable real-world skill (unlike answering multiple choice questions.)

How to Study for Tests in my Classes

1) Keep up with assigned reading. While reading either highlight main points and other interesting/important points or keep notes on this as you read. Try to make sure you have time set aside for reading so that you aren't interrupted or distracted. Why? The highlighting and/or notes give you something to review without rereading everything. Also, the process of highlighting and/or writing notes helps you process, organize, and retain the information.

2) Be an active participant in class. Come to class on time, put away your phone, focus your attention, ask questions, join class discussions, and take notes. Notes should be hand-written for a variety of reasons, including discouraging you from trying to transliterate everything the teacher says (which is not helpful).  Why? Again, learning and studying doesn’t start right before the test, it starts as soon as the material is introduced. All the work you do early on in the term helps you be more efficient when it comes to brushing up before the test. You are doing it wrong if when studying for a test you are trying to relearn the material. One source about why you should take notes by hand: A Learning Secret: Don't Take Notes with a Laptop. Resources on note taking: Dartmouth's Academic Skill Center's page on Notetaking, Listening, and Participation

3) Periodically review your notes. Why? Because this helps you retain the information and make new connections within the material we are covering, and better yet, between material we are covering and information from current events, other classes and elsewhere. Committing to reviewing material briefly and frequently is going to be much more effective than trying to cram as the test gets closer.

4) For memorizing terminology or concepts, make flashcards after the terms/concepts are introduced. Once you make the flashcards, review them regularly. Terms and concepts that you master can be taken out of the pile, which will help you focus on the terms and concepts that you are still a challenge for you. Why? For the same reason as #3. It helps you retain the information. Committing to reviewing material briefly and frequently is going to be more effective than trying to cram as the test gets closer.

5) If the teacher gives you a study guide or possible test questions to prepare for the test, start by reading through that day you receive them. Then read through a second while writing down what you know about the concepts or answering the questions without looking up any information. Once you do that you will know which areas you need to focus on your studying and areas where you can just review briefly. Why? You do this because study guides and possible test questions aren’t helpful at all if you don’t use them! I am amazed at how many students leave questions BLANK on my tests when I handed out a list of possible short answer test questions in advance. It kills me. Also, another way that students don't maximize the use of getting possible test questions in advance is they don’t evaluate their initial responses. Half-answered, repetitious and incomplete, or tangential answers are almost as bad as one’s left black. It is really important to write down you answers (do a mock test) and then review your own answers being realistic about whether or not you answered the question fully and clearly.

No. You're not doing it right.

By the way, multitasking, as much as we like to do it and think we're good at it, makes us less efficient at all the tasks we're doing at the same time. Make your study time count. You can reserve small chunks of time, but focus on studying when you study and goof off when you are done. NPR has sometime to say to you: The Myth of Multitasking. Or if you prefer, American Psychological Association has something for you: Multitasking: Switching Costs.

I'm not going to launch into a time management recommendations here, but if the picture above is your style... you have to find some way to jedi mind trick yourself into break up task, starting them earlier, and making progress. Or this may be a time to go find Christy Alley and ask her for help. 

Happy soon-to-be Spring Term! Don't wait until half way through the term to improve your study skills...

January 8, 2015

How To Find Google Classroom

This post is a practical one for students in my Spring 2015 courses. I'm experimenting with Google Classroom for my online place to post course related materials. Given the difficulty folks had checking previous term's Google Sites, I'm making this post as a reference. Do me a favor: Use you maine.edu email address, because that is the way to get to all the google apps (calendar, sites, classroom, doc/drive, etc.)

The picture below is what it looks like when I log into my maine.edu email. If you look at the top right hand corner you see my picture (a tiny blue/green blob), three icons, and +Meghan (from right to left). The picture below is a close up of the corner.

In the close up picture below, you can see the second icon in (after my picture) looks like an number pad or three rows of three boxes? That is what you want to click.

This is what you'll see when you click on the rows of boxes icon. Or you'll see something similar. To get to Google Classroom you need to click on "more" at the bottom of that box.

When you click "more" the box will have additional apps in it. Google Classroom is the green and yellow on at the bottom. Again, you may have a different number of apps than I do, but look for the green and yellow "Classroom."

Once you get into the Google Classroom area, it should look like the picture below IF you are in both of my classes. Click on one of the courses to enter the classroom for that specific class.

I will be inviting students who are registered in my class to the Google Classroom for our class. You can't access it until you receive the email invitation. After you've been invited, then following these steps will be the easiest way to get to the Google Classroom for our class.

Remember that this is all new to me too. Our experience this term will help me figure out whether this is any improvement over Gdrive, Gsites, or Blackboard. I definitely want feedback from you.