Thursday, August 25, 2011

Engaging the Millennial Learner

This has been a week of meetings, workshops, and orientations. Also a week of earthquakes, thunderstorms, and (soon) hurricanes, but I am less inclined than most to make much of meteorological phenomena. UMBC begins on the 31st of this month, but faculty and staff are already dashing about. Administrative work waits for no one. Today's workshop, Engaging the Millennial Learner, was exceptional, both in the clarity of the presented data, the charm of the presentation, and the energy among the very engaged participants.

As you can guess from the title, engagement was a central point of today's work. We, as faculty, desire to see our students more engaged with the material, and, even more importantly, with the work of learning as a whole. The enterprise of education and the life of the mind are what we find ourselves concerned with as we draft syllabi and establish assignments.

The structure of today's workshop was twofold. First, the presenter defined the millennial, and I was surprised to find myself among them. Anyone born between 1982 (the year of my birth) and 2002 can be termed millennial. This is to differentiate the individual from Gen Xers, Baby Boomers, and earlier generations. Much of what we discussed began from the premise, backed up by research in both neuroscience and psychology, that individuals born in this period have had their minds shaped more by recent technological innovations than previous generations. What then to do to approach such tech-savvy students? Lots.

In an effort to get my posting up, and to have a reason to post daily, I will explore this workshop in great detail over the next few days. I hope you will join me.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Stretching the Mind

The worst part about pregnancy is the mental funk. Sure, women will complain about stretch marks and sleeplessness and a hundred other things far too TMI for this blog, but get beyond the superficial body complaints, and you'll find many women (and sympathetic husbands) lamenting the mind-fog inevitable with producing more human beings.

The sluggish pregnancy-brain killed my ability to work as an editor--at least temporarily. The good thing about this being our second child is that I know the fog goes away. A light--a beaming sun--atop the mountain, and I'm almost there! Right? Right.

Three weeks after my cesarean section, I've learned that the best way to get rid of the post-birth anxiety and mental foggery is to do something creative. Usually for me, "creativity" is synonymous with "words," but I've branched out of late. Witness the calligraphy: a two-dimensional medium I've dabbled in since middle school. And an apt phrase, don't you think? A veritable crusader's standard against pessimism and paranoia. Right in front of books about... um... sex and gender. Not exactly something the status quo will fix. Sigh. I guess I need another framed bit of calligraphy. "Real men get vasectomies"?

Another branch is into the realm of crafts. Despite a fairly good amateur eye at two-dimensional media, my crafts skills are competent, at best. All the more reason to practice! Since we're having Christmas at our home for the first time this year, and we want to be able to enjoy my tree for more than a day, we decided to make the tree as toddler-safe as possible: no breakable objects, no tinsel, and minimal wires. To that end, I've begun folding the first of about fifty origami animals for decoration. Seen here (with the adorable backdrop of Kit's footprints) are my first attempts: a goldfish and a seahorse. Thorn very much liked the seahorse. He pranced about while I was folding it, making up his own seahorse song. I may have to tape the seahorse and his pals to the tree so that I've some ornaments left, come Christmas!

The other Christmas project was envisioned, but never started, in 2006: knitted stockings. Back then, I had just started knitting and had no idea how long a project actually took. I designed stockings for every single family member on my side and Sparrow's. Ha! I'll be lucky if I get the basic four done by December. I've never knitted in the round, but my pattern says it's for beginners, so I may just make my deadline. Thorn and I will have green-and-gold stockings, and Sparrow and Kit will have gold-and-red ones. Thorn's stocking will be embroidered with a hawthorn tree; Kit's with a shield. I promise I'll post my efforts--once they begin to look like stockings, anyway.

My final series of mental exercises involves ancient Greek. I'm the beginning...with the alphabet. Many Greek letters I already know, since the average English speaker references a few of them in everyday conversation (alpha and omega, for instance). Others are identifiable because they look the same as our modern alphabet, at least in capital form. My banes, right now, are Phi, Eta, and Xi: Φφ, Ηη, and Ξξ. Once I've got them down, it's on to the first vocabulary and grammar! So exciting. And not just because I'm married to the professor.