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.

I Really Want to Present at a Conference: The Keys to a Successful Submission Process: Part One


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

You may be asking yourself, “Why is making a presentation of my research at a conference important? What is the big deal?” Here are a few good reasons:

  1. It allows you to contribute to and learn about the most recent advances in YOUR field.
  2. You become an ADVOCATE for your field of study.
  3. If it is NOT important to conduct research in YOUR field, then why should students major in it?
  4. You learn how to discuss your findings with other academic colleagues.
  5. You get the opportunity to meet and network with other researchers in the same field.
  6. This allows you to build your own Research Brand.

So what is a Research Brand? As academics, we are not only required to provide university and community service through serving on committees and boards, but we are called upon to transfer learning through teaching our students about the subjects in our specific disciplines.  How are you going to provide that learning opportunity unless you are a Subject Matter Expert in your teaching field? How do you become a Subject Matter Expert? In some cases, your past and current professional experiences might make you an expert. As an academic, your expertise also comes from the research you are constantly performing on chosen topics in your field. This allows you to then share your research findings with your students and your colleagues.

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You may ask, “How do I even get started?” One way is to read the journals that are published in your field. You may also have trade journals, other magazines, or internet sites that provide the “Hot Topics” that are being discussed in your discipline. This will give you an idea about what is being written and read about in any teaching field.

If you belong to a professional association, this is also a great place to hear new and exciting discussions on topics that are unexplored. You might even want to consider attending a conference and listening to presenters discuss the trending topics that have people talking. Certainly, networking with other academics is a great way to find out what are the major issues being faced and what research, if any, is being done on a given topic.

If you have enjoyed reading about ways to begin submitting to conferences, please keep an eye out for Part Two next month.  This will be followed by the rest of the I Really Want to Present at a Conference series.

 

 

Bookends: Looking Ahead to the IWCA Conference


By Chrissine Rios, Kaplan University Writing Center

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The 2001 CCCC Convention Program. Photo by Chrissine Rios.

This summer I wrote “Weighing the Books” while boxing up my household and home office in order to move it from North Carolina to Michigan.  Now my books are unpacked and back to being their inspirational selves on shelves.  In fact, I’m working on my presentation for the International Writing Centers Association conference, which is in Denver this month, and I’m seeing on my bookcase the program book from the last time I flew from Michigan to Denver for a big conference.

It was 2001, and I was in my last semester of English Composition and Communication at CMU, going to the Conference on College Composition and Communication (4Cs) to present my teacher research on engaging students at the beginning of the composition course by teaching creative nonfiction.  During the presentation, I shared my positive experience teaching a photo caption essay in place of the reflective essay, otherwise assigned at the beginning of the term.

My co-presenter and grad school colleague then shared how creative nonfiction can be incorporated into the research paper assignment later in the term, and our third co-presenter, who was our Comp and Rhetoric professor and my thesis chairperson, presented how creative nonfiction can be woven into the entire course.   Together we contended the personal writing traditionally assigned in composition could do more to engage and prepare students for success if it were taught less like an isolated, warm-up activity and more like an integrated and malleable path throughout the course that engages students in their personal learning processes via exploration and discovery and the making, or perhaps, crafting, of meaning.

We described creative nonfiction as being flexible—a form shaped by content and not the other way around.  And we described it as expansive—a genre that “centers in the essay but continually strains against the boundaries of the other genres, endeavoring to push them back and to expand its own space without altering its own identity” (Root & Steinberg, 1999, p. xxiii).  Now, fifteen years later, I’m hearing similar language being used to describe the way writing centers engage students, our adult online learners at Kaplan in particular, by being flexible and expansive.

At the upcoming IWCA conference in Denver, KU Academic Support Center Manager, Dr. Melody Pickle, will be speaking about our uniquely located, online writing center.  If you’ll be at IWCA, come see her speak at our presentation titled, Leveraging Technology for Online Inclusivity.  She’ll address the negotiation of identity that comes with inhabiting an internal and external shared space and how the Writing Center maintains its identity while being a dynamic learning community.

KUWC Tutor, Amy Sexton, and I will also be on that panel.  Our presentation will explore the use of technology, specifically video, to push the boundaries of who we are and what we do in our effort to encourage and equip our diverse students for learning success.  Amy and I will also be presenting Video Feedback for Effective Online Writing Instruction, and Melody will additionally be presenting Online Motion: Using Forms for Dynamic Asynchronous Services, so the KUWC will be well represented at IWCA this year.

For me, this IWCA and the 2001 4Cs are bookends on my career to date with the path between them weaving in and out the texts on my bookshelves.  At 4Cs, I was just getting started.  In fact, it was there that I interviewed for my first faculty position, the one that would launch my professional career teaching and tutoring writing and my move away from Michigan.  Now I’m back home and approaching my 10th anniversary at Kaplan with nine of those years being in the Writing Center, so at the conference, I’ll be sharing first hand experiences of where we began and how we got here.  I’m also counting on the presentations I attend to inspire new ideas about where we go from here.  You can access the full IWCA conference program online.  You can also be sure that I’ll be bringing a hard copy home as well.

Reference

Root, R. L., Jr. & Steinberg, M. (1999). The fourth genre: Contemporary writers of/on creative nonfiction. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

The Academic Support Video Series: A Resource Initiative and Collaboration


By Chrissine Rios, MA, Kaplan University Writing Center


A tutor’s work is highly collaborative.  Tutors collaborate with students by nature, but tutors also collaborate with one another, with academic center specialists, and with faculty to develop and deliver workshops and to create and curate resources: the print and multimedia tutorials available on the university website and via the classroom portal.   Academic support resources benefit students in ways that are at once personal and far-reaching, immediate and long-lasting, and that are germane to learning—how students learn and what they need to be able to learn.

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Research shows, for instance, that interactive video resources are especially beneficial for students with “deficient prerequisite knowledge, . . . non-standard learning paths, and multiple entry points into a degree” as these students will commonly need to learn how to read a data sheet, for example, before being able to use one (Nikolic, 2015, p. 1).  Study skills videos specific to online learning are particularly essential to adult, online students.

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At the Kaplan University Writing Center, online students new to academic writing have available a variety of media-rich resources designed for new and developing writers.   However, like most discipline-based tutoring centers, Writing Center resources are contextualized in writing situations.

To meet the need for resources in study skills and student engagement, the tutors of all five centers at the Kaplan Academic Support Center did what they do best: collaborate.  In collaboration with the KU School of General Education too, the ASC has produced a new category of video resources that target diverse entry-level competencies such as time management, computer system requirements, college reading strategies, APA formatting basics, and test-taking tips.  The videos are short, interactive, and meant to help students accomplish day-to-day tasks as well as long term goals.  Faculty and tutors can also rely on immediate access to these pertinent resources when assisting students.

asvs-on-writing-center-page

You can access the first wave of the new Academic Support Videos on our public-facing Writing Center page: http://library.kaplan.edu/kuwc.  Please share this page and/or any of the individual video links with your students and colleagues, and keep coming back.  As our cross-center collaborations continue, we’ve expanded the boundaries and reach of our academic support resources, so there’s more to come!

References

Nikolic, S. (2015). Understanding how students use and appreciate online resources in the teaching laboratory. International Journal of Online Engineering, 11 (4), 8-13. http://dx.doi.org/10.3991/ijoe.v11i4.4562

 

Saving Time with Tutoring


By Amy Sexton, Writing Center tutor

Managing our time successfully can be a challenge for all of us, and college students may be especially busy.  They are juggling school assignments, papers, and seminars and various other major responsibilities including families, jobs, military service, and community work. In the Academic Support Center, we understand that students’ time is limited and valuable.  This is one reason that our centers offer a combined 150 live tutoring hours per week: we know that attending tutoring can actually save students time.

Kaplan students often visit Live Tutoring for help understanding new and/or confusing course concepts or terminology, for example. Because all Kaplan University Academic Support Center tutors hold graduate degrees in their fields, tutors will most likely be very familiar with the concepts or ideas that students are learning about and will be able to explain them in ways that foster understanding. Students can spend a lot of time alone struggling with working a math problem, troubleshooting a PowerPoint issue, or figuring out how to cite an unusual source, or they can invest 20 minutes into a tutorial session and speak to an educator who can provide expert and immediate guidance, feedback, and support.

Academic Support Center tutors are also extremely knowledgeable about the resources in our centers, including archived workshops, written tutorials, podcasts, and short videos.  We can quickly and easily direct students to these so they do not spend a lot of time searching for the best resource. We can even show them how to most effectively use the resources and services that we offer.

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Tutors can also help students save time by clarifying assignment directions, helping them plan realistic schedules for completing big assignments, pointing out errors in their work, unraveling common misconceptions, brainstorming ideas with them, providing feedback, suggesting revision strategies, sharing our own tips for successful study habits, and much more.

The next time that students say that they do not have time to go to tutoring, ask them to consider the opposite perspective:  seeking tutorial assistance can, in reality, save them time.    If they are Kaplan students, direct them to the Academic Support Center for live tutoring so that they can learn first-hand how working with experienced and professional tutors can help them find answers to their questions, get their course work done more quickly, and save time in the process.