Harnessing the Power of Mindset


By Amy Sexton, Writing Center Tutor

Flash back to April 4, 2016:  It is the championship game of the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) Men’s Basketball tournament, and North Carolina and Villanova are tied at 74.  It’s Villanova’s ball, and with only 4.7 seconds left in the game, it is almost certain the two teams will go into overtime play. Then Villanova player Kris Jenkins throws up a three-point shot from just past the center line of the court, a shot that was so far away that it seemed very likely that it would not even reach the goal.  Miraculously, the shot lands in the basket with barely a nanosecond to spare, and Villanova joyously becomes the 2016 NCAA National Champions.

After the game, a reporter interviews Jenkins and asks him if he could believe that he had made the shot (Murray, 2016).  Jenkins responds, “I believe every shot’s going in, so” (Murray, 2016).  The reporter interrupts with a credulous follow-up, “Every one?” “Every one,” continues Jenkins, “so I thought that one was going in too” (Murray, 2016,)   I watched the game-winning shot and the post-interview live, and I was impressed by Jenkins’ mindset.  In fact, his declarations reflect a mindset that all college students, not just college athletes, ought to have.

Mindset is defined as  the “ability of the brain to form points of view in order to adopt behavior, formulate lifestyles, rethink priorities, make choices, and pursue goals” (Poplan, 2016).  As a tutor, I often hear students approach their studies with a mindset that inhibits learning and undermines their efforts.  They say things like “I’m a bad writer.”, “I’ve always been horrible at math.”, or ask “How horrible is this paper?”.    While they may have experiences that make these feelings seem valid, and some subjects may come more easily to them than others, approaching any learning task with a mindset of “I can do this.” will generally lead to improved learning and success.

As a personal example, math and science are subjects that I generally find difficult to understand.  I especially struggle with comprehending topics like algebra, chemistry, and physics, and I worked very hard in high school and college to earn reasonably good grades in the math and science courses that I was required to take.  One summer when I was in college, I worked as an in-home tutor, and one of my students was in high school and needed a jump-start for her upcoming algebra class.  “How can I possibly tutor algebra when I barely understood it myself?,” I wondered.  Regardless, my job was to tutor my assigned students in all subjects, so I borrowed a high school algebra text from a friend and began working through the problems with the mindset that I could learn the material and help my student learn it, too.  Before each of our sessions, I worked out problems in the text, and then I taught her what I had learned.  Together, we learned a lot of algebra that summer.

This experience taught me that I could do things that I did not think I was capable of doing. It was my first time realizing the power of mindset, and it served me well a few years later when I  had to complete tough graduate courses like research methods and statistics in order to earn my master’s degree.

The next time you find yourself thinking, “I can’t do that.”; think instead, “Okay, I can do this. This shot will go in!”  Whether it is a difficult course, a tough assignment, or a challenging exam, a positive mindset can help you power through and realize success.  Granted, you may not win a championship basketball game or be drafted into the NBA, but a positive, can-do attitude and mindset can definitely help improve your GPA!

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References

Murray, S. (2016, April 4).  Kris Jenkins- Villanova national championship post game interview [Video file].  Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8DcKfEtQjk

Poplan, E.  (2016).  Mindset.   Salem Press Encyclopedia.  Retrieved from http://www.salempress.com/

 

 

 

 

Prepping Students for the Holidays


Dr. Tamara Fudge

Professor, Business and Information Technology, Kaplan University

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The holidays are here, and it is time to prepare your students.  Along with the turkey, holiday gifts, champagne, awkward chat with the in-laws, and (in some places) shovels full of snow, comes the fear that students will somehow forget that they are students, especially those who are in terms that are hit by Thanksgiving, the Winter Break, and/or Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

During certain holiday times, there may be no live seminars, offices may be closed, and some discussion posting requirements might even be altered. Make sure you ask your department chair for specific guidelines about your responsibilities during university breaks or holidays.

Once you have a handle on things, communicate with your students. At the beginning of the term, explain course requirements that are altered due to the official school schedule. Consider providing a calendar (Kaplan University instructors can upload calendars to Doc Sharing), telling students in seminars, and/or writing an announcement focused precisely on what students need to know about the altered schedule. In the week prior to any break, remind them via announcement, email, and/or statements during seminar.

While you may already be doing these things, you may also want to think about this:   We can do more to do to keep students engaged during scheduled breaks – and to encourage their return.  Below are a few suggestions:

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  • Share some fun videos or slide shows related to your course content during breaks. YouTube, SlideShare, The Internet Archive, and other sites have a bevy of options.
  • Include the hyperlinks to these videos in announcements. As a legal consideration, only provide the hyperlinks – do not try to embed the actual videos or slide shows unless you actually are the author.
  • Make it clear in each announcement that these are for their viewing pleasure, related to course content, and not required.
  • You can preset these announcements to show up on future dates during the break(s).
  • Try to choose videos or slide shows that either have captioning or are without audio to ensure accessibility.
  • View the entire show first, just in case there is misinformation or some other nasty surprise waiting for the viewer. Check to see if the comments on the page are appropriate, too.

Create a scavenger hunt.   Use your course’s email or other Virtual Office functions to ask some questions related to the classroom or course content. Students can reply to the email or posts with their answers.

  • Post three questions, but on separate days during the break.
  • Whoever is first with correct answers for all three questions will be given kudos in seminar, or if you really want to get fancy, make a cute certificate in PowerPoint and send it to the winner via email.
  • Tell the students well before break that you will be doing this activity and that it is not required but should be fun.

Email a greeting to the class that acknowledges holiday celebration.

  • Include an image and keep it brief.
  • Keep Winter Break messages rather generic to avoid proselytizing any particular religion or belief.
  • Blind Copy (BCC) when you email the entire class, or you risk a plethora of unwanted reply-alls. It is also prudent to protect students’ personal addresses by not sharing them widely.

While the video/slide show announcements and scavenger hunt might not work for everyone, they show the students that you are still engaged with them during the break, and knowing about it ahead of time might entice some students to regularly check the classroom. The email greeting can be done with any course and shows students that you acknowledge the break and appreciate them.

And so as we approach the busy holiday season, think of other ways to stay connected to your students as you help prepare them for the holidays!

 

Growing Leadership Muscles Through Feedback: Showing Students Where They’re Going


Dr. Shaneika A. Dilka, PhD

Psychology Professor, Kaplan University

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Feedback is one of the most vital elements in the learning process. Faculty, instructors, mentors, tutors, etc., serve critical leadership roles in academic institutions and as such, should work to grow their leadership muscles by providing quality feedback to students. Following a recent discussion on using the principles of transformational leadership to improve classroom interactions and outcomes, I was challenged to think about the topic more narrowly and to consider sharing specific details and methods related to linking transformational leadership style to the art and practice of academic instruction. This was perceived as a challenge, perhaps, because both leadership and instructional styles are highly personal and uniquely developed professional skills. Also, the idea of linking transformational leadership and instructional methods did not seem unconventional. After all, Slavich and Zimbardo (2012) suggested that most instructors already display behaviors related to transformational leadership in their classrooms every day. In fact, if we reframe the discussion and evaluate what we do in the classroom, in our instruction, we see that we grow or flex our leadership muscles every day! In the online classroom, one of the most powerful tools at our hands is feedback, and as leaders and instructors, delivering effective feedback can have major implications for our students.

Consider the purpose of feedback; at its most basic level, feedback is intended to give students information about their performance. Hattie and Timperley (2007) suggest that three questions should be asked during the feedback process by both students and instructors, “Where am I going? How am I going? and Where to next?” (p. 88). Through leadership, facilitation, and well-crafted feedback we can continually consider where our students are going and guide them to ask the question, where am I going?, as they develop their work as well. Faculty members can set high standards and provide challenging opportunities (inspirational motivation; see Bass, 1985) through goal identification. Providing students with feedback that is clear and identifies challenging goals that are focused on the primary task will guide the student to answering the question, where am I going?. Feedback structured in such a way generally results in goal-directed behaviors, discrepancy reduction, and increased commitment to the identified goals (Hattie & Timperley, 2007).

How can we show students where they are going? This is often a difficult question because the answer requires an incredibly personalized approach for each student, another dimension of transformational leadership (individualized consideration; see Bass, 1985) that is ever-present in the classroom. To show students where they are going, my intent is always to guide, never to tell. I reinforce existing goals that have been identified, or set new goals when appropriate. In feedback, answers, corrections, and errors are generally not identified individually; rather, resources are provided (i.e. relating to theory, formatting, etc.) to students and they are encouraged to engage in problem solving strategies to further enhance their work (intellectual stimulation; see Bass, 1985). This approach is challenging, self-directed, and increases learners’ autonomy. In some cases, it may be necessary to provide an example of the appropriate method or approach the student should follow; when such cases arise, an example is provided along with additional resources. My primary purpose using this feedback approach is to raise the students’ awareness in order to make them more active in the feedback process, asking, where am I going? Students learn to identify their paths, apply scholarly judgment, and develop invaluable research skills. And as faculty, we are able to flex and grow our leadership muscles, providing our students with the feedback they need  to determine where they are going.

where-am-i-going-how-am-i-going-where-to-next

References

Bass, B. M. (1985). Leadership and performance beyond expectations. New York, NY: Free Press.

Hattie, J. & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81-112, doi: 10.3102/003465430298487

Slavich, G. M., & Zimbardo, P. G. (2012). Transformational teaching: Theoretical underpinnings, basic principles, and core methods. Educational Psychology Review, 24(4), 569-608. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10648-012-9199-6

The Keys to a Successful Conference Submission Process: Part Two, Choosing a Topic


Steven V. Cates, DBA SPHR, SHRM-SCP, Kaplan University Professor, School of Business and IT

In our first discussion, we looked at the value of doing research and presenting our findings at a conference. We also began to think about how to get started. Now we are going to look at how we go about picking a topic to concentrate on.

First of all, always pick a topic you really have a lot of passion about. Otherwise, you will not have the drive and focus to commit to doing the work necessary to complete this research project. Conducting a research project takes time, energy, and effort. There are no shortcuts to completing good sound research projects. So, you must commit yourself to practicing sound time management and spending time daily in working on your research.

So, what are the “hot topics” in your field of specialization right now? Where do you find these “hot topics”? You can start with the journals, trade publications, magazines, webinars, seminars, blogs, and any other forms of forums and media in your field. What are authors saying are the “cutting edge” issues that are being discussed and problems surrounding these topics? This is a great place to pick a “hot button” that has not been researched extensively.  This will allow you to do research and then provide solutions to those problems and issues, which is your starting point.

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You also might want to join and attend associations that represent your field of study.  Some meetings and conferences are held locally, regionally, nationally or globally. At each of these you will hear presentations made on the “hot button” topics, as most presentations will be on issues that are current and presently being discussed in your field.

Another great way to get your research started is by networking with your academic and professional contacts. You may find that you have similar interests with a colleague on a given research subject. This could lead to a collaboration on a great research project.

Next month, in Part Three of this series, we will begin to construct a research paper and look at the specific parts of that paper.

 

This Month, Shoot the Moon with NaNoWriMo!


Sara Wink, Kaplan University Composition Faculty

 

I’ve written here before about the importance of educators who “walk the walk.”  For all their recommendations to students to read and write more, educators should be doing that very thing themselves. It needn’t be a controversial best-seller or some stellar new research filled with jargon. The simple act of reading and writing every day can boost one’s productivity and skills as an educator. November presents a unique opportunity to stretch those writing skills to the max.

National Novel Writing Month is a non-profit organization that encourages writing and promotes the joy of writing and literature through resources for libraries and classroom (“About”, 2016) . One does not have to contribute anything to participate in the challenge; participants just aim to write a 50,000-word story in thirty days (“About”, 2016). It’s not surprising, then, that  it’s often called “Thirty Days and Nights of Literary Abandon.”

I just love it, too. I first participated the fall after my daughter’s birth. I was teaching and tutoring for the Kaplan University Writing Center, yet still managed to cross the 50K words  finish line. It felt really good, like, “I just landed on the moon!” good.

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I’ve done NaNoWriMo three other times since then, despite teaching and raising three small children. Fifty-thousand words in thirty days is no meager feat, especially when one’s arms are literally being pulled from the keyboard. Or, when one boy has diarrhea while his twin brother vomits, and all the while their big sister complains about a cold. Or, when the supper you cooked can’t be eaten because you were missing the proper type of cheese, which means the floor gets covered with it. Or, when a red car goes missing and the screaming won’t stop until you find it. No, not that red car, the RED car. THE REEEEED CAAAAAAAR!!! (For the louder one shrieks, the better one will apparently know which hue of red out of the two dozen red cars is the “right” red car.) Despite all that, I managed to crank out 800-1000 words in an hour twice a day, teach some students, and occasionally sleep.

I’m racing with a deadline. I have to manage my time to make sure this work gets done along with everything else. I’m scrambling with a rough draft. I’m trying to put together ideas that make sense.

Sounds rather like our students, doesn’t it?

Now granted, there’s no need for APA format or polished editing; NaNoWriMo is all about writing as much of a story arc as one can. But this kind of creative challenge stretches our insides and tests our work-life balance. It’s also something we can do with our students, and on that, find a great way to connect on this academic journey. Teachers and students alike enter the classroom with their own life expertise; NaNoWriMo encourages us all to take the same road on the same starting space of experience. It encourages camaraderie and the joy of sharing one’s own stories.

Even if you don’t think you can write 50,000 words in thirty days, join in the literary abandon, and celebrate the gift of the written word. You may surprise your students…and even yourself.

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References

About. (2016).  Retrieved from http://nanowrimo.org/about

Spread the word. (2016). Retrieved from http://nanowrimo.org/spread-the-word#webgraphics

 

Brexit Voters Broke It and Now Regret It-Part I: Establishing the Importance of Teaching and Learning in Developing an Educated, Global Electorate


Teresa Marie Kelly, MAT

Composition Professor, Kaplan University

 

Brexit – short for British Exit – the historic and controversial 2016 vote by the United Kingdom (UK) to leave the European Union (EU)– prompted global market crashes, foreign business pullouts, at least one government collapse, and credit downgrades with many experts suggesting that the worst is yet to come (Urquhart, 2016). Once the initial shock passed, the reality of broken promises, apparent voter apathy or even ignorance, and abdication of leadership left the world wondering if Brexit “Broke  It” with” it” being the global economy, the union of the United Kingdom, the political process, or all of the above.  Regardless of political philosophy, as teachable moments go, close study of Brexit possesses amazing potential to illustrate the gap in society created by uneven application of the right to an education, to show what happens in the absence of strong leadership, and why consistent application of critical thinking is vital in a complex world.

Nearly seventy years ago, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights defined learning as fundamental to equality and stated that everyone has the right to an education. As Fareed Zakaria of CNN (2016) argues, contrary to this historical role as a great equalizer, education is the new political divide, which analysis of the Brexit vote supports. Exit polling shows a clear demographic split between well -educated and poorly educated voters that demonstrates the power of an educated electorate. According to McGill (2016), more than 60% of “remainers” were better educated while over 70% of “leavers” were less educated, a division that is not confined to the UK.  For example, Kerr (2016) notes that the best predictors of who or what someone will vote for includes a college degree. Educators must recognize this disparity and bridge it through active teaching and learning as well as through encouraging those with a strong education to inspire and model informed debate and voting for those with less education so that learning levels the playing field as intended, rather than creating a new schism.

In terms of leadership, Brexit is a classic case study of what not to do and why every movement for change needs sound leadership.  While the monetary aspects of Brexit were mostly as predicted, the leadership vacuum that also resulted was not (Urquhart, 2016).  Anti-exit British PM John Cameron announced his resignation the day after the vote. His primary adversary in his own Conservative Party, flamboyant former London Mayor Boris Johnson, made it clear that he didn’t want the job while opposition leader (Balz, Faiola, & Birnbaum, 2016). Nigel Farage, business maverick turned leader of the ultra-national UK’s Independence Party wasted no time extolling his victory and giving the European Parliament in Brussels – which had mocked his Brexit plan for years – a scathing dressing down right out of the Donald Trump playbook. He then resigned because, as the BBC quoted (2016), his “political ambition has been achieved,” suggesting he had no interest steering the country through the legal and economic quagmire he had created.

Horrifically, critical thinking appears to have left the planet – or at least the UK – under the bedlam of Brexit. Many of those who claimed that they understood Brexit issue and the possible ramifications did not take the vote seriously or voted as a “mistake.” Disbelief and a type of political whiplash set in as social media filled with thousands of “what did we do?” posts and videos (Dearden, 2016). Scores of people admitted that they did not vote based on what they wanted. Rather, Brexit had become a pop culture event so they voted just to say that they had or for amusement in the way pulling a fire alarm in a crowded building is amusing (Turner & Wilikinson, 2016).  By the Sunday after the vote, over three million citizens from across the political spectrum had signed a petition- ironically created by a leaver before the vote to hedge his bets – asking for the political equivalent of a mulligan (Turner &  Wilikinson, 2016).

Several weeks post-Brexit Theresa May replaced John Cameron as Prime Minister of the UK – becoming only the second woman in history to hold the office. Her history-making selection barely registered as the fallout from Brexit continued amid her promise to adhere to the referendum. Clearly, the 2016 British electorate was no more prepared or interested in making an informed decision about Brexit and its wide-ranging consequences than Neville Chamberlain was prepared to go toe to toe with Hitler in Munich in 1938 or deal with the ramifications. The World knows how that turned out – no one more so than the Brits, but cynicism and complacency has set it.   While not part of the problem, education has not yet offered a cohesive solution either and that must change.

Coming Soon: Brexit Voters Broke It and Now Regret It-Part II: How to Teach to Develop an Educated, Global Electorate

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References

Balz,D., Failoa, A., & Birnbaum, M. (2016, June 26). Britain’s two main political parties in turmoil over E.U. fallout. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/political-turmoil-in-britain-after-vote-to-leave-european-union/2016/06/26/50ed8994-3a40-11e6-af02-1df55f0c77ff_story.html

BBC News Service.  (2016, 4 July). UKIP leader Nigel Farage stands down.  Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-36702468

Dearden, L. (2016). Anger over ‘Bregret’ as leave voters say they thought UK would stay in EU. The Independent. Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-anger-bregret-leave-voters-protest-vote-thought-uk-stay-in-eu-remain-win-a7102516.html

Kerr, J. (2016, 3 April.) Trump overwhelmingly leads rivals in support from less educated Americans. PBS Newshour. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/trump-overwhelmingly-leads-rivals-in-support-from-less-educated-americans/

McGill, A. (2016). Who voted for the Brexit? The Atlantic. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/06/brexit-vote-statistics-united-kingdom-european-union/488780/

Turner, C. & Wilkinson, M. (2016). As three million people sign a petition for a second EU referendum we ask – could it actually happen?  The Telegraph. Retrieved from https://www.google.com/search?q=Fareed+Zakaria+CNN+Brexit+&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8

Urquhart, C. (2016, 1 July). The worst of the Brexit fallout is still to hit the UK. Time. Retrieved from http://time.com/4390967/brexit-uk-economic-shock/

Zakaria, F. (2016). The new divide in the Western World. CNN. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/27/opinions/western-world-after-brexit-vote-zakaria/

Cybersecurity for the Non-Technical Person, Part 3


Dr. Lynne Williams, Kaplan University Faculty, MSIT and MSCM Programs

 

Most Internet users are blissfully unaware of the infrastructure that allows them to send and receive email, watch Netflix™, update their Facebook™ feed, and a thousand other digital tasks. While it isn’t necessary that they be tech gurus to use all of their connected devices, when considering cybersecurity, it helps to know a bit about how the general infrastructure operates.

DNS

Humans speak in character-based languages, but computers and networks much prefer to use numbers. When you type www.google.com into your browser’s search box, the browser and the network it’s using aren’t paying the slightest attention to the words. Instead, they are looking for a list that maps the word to a number. That’s the core concept of the Domain Name System [DNS].

The number that the browser is trying to find is an IP address, as we discussed in the second installment. It’s a bit like looking through the phonebook at a list of names and finding a phone number. DNS is what makes the internet and World Wide Web work; otherwise, we’d all have to know the IP address of any web page we wanted to visit. DNS is, effectively, the world’s largest phonebook with the IP address of all internet-connected devices, web pages, and web apps. DNS does have some security vulnerabilities. It’s easy to “spoof” an IP address such that the user is sent to a malicious website. Systems that store a cache of DNS addresses can be “poisoned” to deliberately misdirect unwary users.

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Protection

So how do you protect yourself from being hijacked onto a malicious website? The answer is remarkably easy: use a DNS service such as OpenDNS. OpenDNS, as well as Google DNS, Comodo Secure DNS, and Norton ConnectSafe, all maintain a secured group of DNS servers that are specially designed to detect spoofed or fraudulent DNS resolutions. All you have to do is use one of these secured DNS services, rather than the DNS addresses used by your Internet Service Provider [ISP].

Many DNS services are free (look for OpenDNS Personal, Google DNS is always free) and only require a minute or two to set up as there’s nothing to install: OpenDNS Setup Instructions  If you set up a DNS service on your internet modem, the service will protect every device that connects to it. You can also set up a DNS service on individual devices; the choice is up to you. While using a DNS service isn’t a substitute for running updated anti-malware software, it’s a powerful, transparent way of adding another layer of cybersecurity to your virtual office and devices.