Saturday, October 20, 2018

Mid semester Report

Changes are afoot here. The season feels like fall with a Santa Ana wind. The low relative humidity has the air very crisp, and the winds have revealed the mountains that are usually hiding in plain sight behind a curtain of smog. And I've overhauled CHEM 101.

Lecture is 75 minutes twice per week, Discussion is 50 minutes once per week
I've been trying out a new paradigm in my CHEM 101 class. During "lecture" we are doing POGIL-type activities and we are doing them in groups. Students take photos of their Contribution Form and upload it to Canvas. I've used the Objectives feature of Canvas to create rubrics and track alignment of assignments to topics covered on the exams. Grading by Objective and turning on a feature called the Learning Mastery gradebook gives students a way to guide their studying on things they need to work on while leaving those topics they've already mastered alone.

I've flipped the classroom to lecture only briefly (20 minutes every other period) during "Lecture" and even more briefly (20 minutes every period) during "Discussion." I thought students may feel more comfortable asking questions in "Discussion" because it's a smaller class size and a more intimate classroom setting (as square footage goes).

The rooms are so full, there's no way to collect/pass back papers so students turn in everything electronically, with the exception of the exams. I can give feedback electronically. For group work, the comment (typed once) is sent to all members of the group (3-4 students). For individual assignments, I can identify misconceptions and send corrections and suggestions to students one-by-one.

The groups have been assembled to mix over- and under-prepared students, I used an alphabetical system based on plants/names/colors. I got the idea staring at a box of crayola crayons. I made this random group picker wheel to call on groups, but I haven't used it yet.

I've been using to capture anonymous feedback. The types of questions I ask this way are regarding Did you read? What are your fears? Suggestions for the course. Anything I think students wouldn't want to admit to. They can also ask questions of me and I can answer it online.

In the open-ended portion of this survey, one student wrote
"Didn’t know there were KEYS for discussion"
On a recent survey regarding Exam 3, 63% of respondents said that if they had more time, they'd come to office hours. In addition, 50% of respondents said that if they had more time, they'd meet with their group to study AND make chapter outlines for the chapters covered by the exam.

I've been using PollEv to capture non-anonymous content knowledge. The activity is NOT worth points but it gives me an idea of what they are already understanding and what I need to plan to teach them that week and the next week.

I chose to use an OER, called OpenStax. It's something a colleague suggested to me a few years ago but I didn't feel secure enough in my job to do something like that unilaterally. Now, I feel more empowered to do what is best for students regardless of how my colleagues may react. So far, I like the change. The quality of the book is equivalent. There's no free online homework, but as part of the "flipped" model, I'm having students do problems DURING class instead of at home. The book (online or offline in .pdf) is FREE for the students.

Creative Exercises started out as an in-class exercise but have become a take-home assignment. Students are practicing showing their work, making their thoughts easy to see, writing down everything they know about a writing prompt. This goes together with one of my goals for the students which is teaching them about "Writing to Learn." In the process of writing down your thoughts, you can teach yourself things, which is why I strive to maintain this blog. Maybe in the future, I will have them upload their Chapter Outlines.

There's a YouTube playlist where students can go and watch the lectures that I would have done during class. I learned how to put hyperlinks in the video description so that students don't have to watch the entire video, they can skip ahead to topics that they want to know more about. I'm not sure how this is going, most of the feedback says that the videos aren't helpful.

The exam involves re-working. The in-class exam time is for students to show what they know in that moment without any help and with only a small set of reference information. Then they have a few weeks to revise their work and resubmit. This revision is submitted online. I'm giving 6 exams instead of 3 exams and 3 quizzes. The last two exams are comprehensive, with the idea that the first one will prepare them to do better on the second one.

Everything is available online to print and turn in. The due dates aren't rigid. The groupwork allows for flexibility if a person misses one class here and there. I've had a much easier time accommodating students who miss class for a religious holiday or doctor's appointment. Students perceive me as being more understanding, but in truth I just have a more flexible approach to assignments.

I also don't feel pressured to grade all 75 at once. I can sit down and grade for 10 minutes, then walk away. This takes the pressure off of me to do "marathon grading." Clicking the rubric is pretty effortless and then I can type comments faster than I would have been able to write them. I feel like having a rubric removes some of the bias. Also, since students upload their work, they aren't writing their name on it. I could do anonymous grading in Canvas to further remove bias.

Clearly there were other topics I thought about writing about: transportation, chemistry, climate change, community, Metrolink, politics, weight loss and vitamins. There just isn't time now. But seriously, GO VOTE.

It's taken me a long time and a lot of soul searching to get to the place where I could overhaul my CHEM 101 course so dramatically. I've been attending a Faculty Learning Community about taking an equity-minded approach to course design. What I can see is that these changes have had an equalizing effect on my class. I no longer penalize students for what they can't do. Instead I enable them to do more.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

September to Remember

I am running a bit tired today and I thought... what could cheer me up? So I came to write a quick blog post about September and thought of this song~~~~

I really need to go rollerskating. I miss my rollerdiscoboogielife.

Since school has started, I've been reading "Becoming Nicole" and I was really looking forward to attending the "New Student Convocation" because Nicole Maines was the keynote speaker.

The event was slightly ruined by a group protesting EO1100. There are reasons why the CSU is having difficulty graduating 100% of incoming students. Some people believe that our students are taking unnecessary courses. Some of those courses include remedial math and remedial writing classes. Some of those courses include Africana studies, American Indian studies, Asian-American studies, Central American studies and gender and women’s studies. The instructors who teach those courses would see their enrollment drop (and job cuts) if students are no longer required to take those courses.

I'm sad that people don't graduate. I'm sad that Nicole's keynote was overshadowed by a group of angry people. I'm sad that students are coming to a university that is not able to eliminate opportunity and achievement gaps. I'm sad that people are going to be losing their part-time teaching jobs. It's a complicated issue.

EO1110 retires the placement tests in math and English, instead focusing on offering non-remedial courses only. Our department is filling our classes to the fire code limit to balance the budget because our department gets a certain amount of money per enrolled student, but... How does a packed and uncomfortable classroom support student retention and success? Sometimes I feel like the CSU-level initiatives and what our department does are in direct conflict.

Someone mentioned that their son is studying GIS. I got jealous. I have to get ready for class now. I'm trying lots of new ways to use technology in the classroom. I can't say if any of it is working yet.

Monday, August 20, 2018

#BCCE2018 Part 1

I can't believe I've been back for two weeks and I'm only one-third done summarizing what I learned!

I traveled to Nebraska first to see family and attend the Pawnee County fair.

A post shared by Kayla Kaiser (@hamerk02) on

I also wanted to connect with alumni from the class of '98. Education was a big part of my life and I value the formative years I spent at a Math and Science magnet school. That was even before we called it "STEM."

One of the things I learned on the tour of the school is that Rich Molettiere is still working there as the Technology Coordinator. He issued me my first e-mail address, which was on the intranet. Kids these days take e-mail for granted. I feel like our school was ahead of the game in that we had a way to message our teachers through intranet. He is the one who assigned me the moniker "hamerk02" which I still use today as a unique identifier online. I've never thought about who hamerk01 might be until this minute.

I also learned that Cecilia Nolan is still working there. She was the coach of our dance team.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Why Blog? Part II

Why start a blog?
somewhere between 40 and 50 percent of students will quit their doctoral programs
1/3 of that attrition will happen at the dissertation-writing stage
if you write regularly, it will be less overwhelming when you get to that point

Riley Elliott TEDxAuckland

1.8 million scientific articles are published every year
50% of them are read only by the author and the editor
90% of them are never cited and shared
Nowadays people gather information from social media, television, and the internet
people in academia these days are promoting their journal articles on social media and blogs to increase traffic and citations

Science and Technology: Public Attitudes and Understanding
The Internet is the main source of information for learning about specific scientific issues such as global climate change and biotechnology. Americans are now about equally likely to rely on the Internet as on television as their primary source of general science and technology (S&T) information.
Many Americans continue to give multiple incorrect answers to questions about basic factual knowledge of science or the scientific inquiry process. In the United States, levels of factual knowledge of science have been stable for more than a decade.

Identify your audience

The average reading level of Americans is between eighth and ninth grade. NPR’s story was written at an 8.2 grade level.
it is important if you are writing a blog on a scientific topic to keep the blog readable and relatable

Some of my writing

Going Green Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 4.69
The Inagural Blog Post Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 5.92
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 8.92
Fountain of Youth Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 9.27
A scientific abstract Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 14.79

BLOGGING is all about creativity.

Your original ideas can take center stage, uncensored. Here are some best practices:
  • Use Categories (tags)
  • Create an engaging Meta-description (first 160 characters) = your thesis statement
  • Focus on having an Eye-catching title 
  • Include In-text links (hyperlinks) which will increase traffic to your blog
  • Embed Social sharing buttons such as "tweet this"
  • Use Hootsuite to promote repeatedly, also use Editorial calendar to Schedule Posts
  • Learn how to use Headings (H1) in html code to improve readability
  • Include Images (convey emotion, illustrate a metaphor, evoke curiosity, complement your title)
  • Include factual content (with sources) and write professionally (edit and proofread)
  • Create a careful bio that established credibility and a way for readers to contact you
Review web analytics for the kinds of questions people type into search engines like Google or Bing that deliver visitors (this was also part of the ACS Reactions talk in San Francisco and the CalBikeSummit)

How long should each post be?

Your word count per post may vary between 100-1000 and that’s OK. Link to longer content.

Link your social media (or don’t).

Consider connecting your blog to your facebook or twitter feed.
Content first = write what you know
Adopt a publishing schedule = one post per month or one post per week, for example
Let your content be driven by a theme = goes together with identifying your audience
Keep it professional = blogs are public and your identity may or not be anonymous

Does my blog matter?

Hundreds of millions of blogs are online today. Thousands more are started every day. Anyone can start a blog in 5 minutes, but very few will start blogs that matter.
If the purpose of your blog is for yourself only, then you don't have to worry about number of visitors. I prefer to keep my blog ad-free, which compromises the amount of traffic that google will direct to my site. However, I feel it makes my page more readable so that the audience is organic and focused on my content. Also, I use it to uncover themes in my life and to track events and items that I have recycled so that I can manage my tendency to hoard physical objects that I have attached sentimental value to but that are really arcane pieces of junk.

How to engage effectively

Blogger has a feature where you can follow other blogs like yours. Alternative is RSS feeds. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary
Another idea is to create a “Follow this blog via email” listserv.
Use the 411 formula to manage your engagement
4 retweets, 1 response back, 1 original posting = 30 minutes per day
People following you for one reason don’t want to hear about stuff in your hobby area
Blogging is such a great way to get expertise out.
When you read/follow a blog, make sure to comment to get your name out.
It is good to engage people. Start lively dialogue. Could be a link to a potential employer to connect you with a job. People within companies support blogging.
It brings people closer to customers, companies can build loyal following.
I learned this at the Virtual Networking for Grad Students event at University of California, Riverside
hosted by Jan McCorkle, UCR Career Services

Blogging by the numbers

43% of bloggers use Wordpress
35% of bloggers use Blogger
16% of bloggers use Tumblr + TypePad + Posterous
6% use other platforms
31 million bloggers in the US
81% never make $100 from blogging
Wordpress has 42 million blogs
329 million people view a blog
25 billion pages are viewed each month
500,000 new posts a day
400,000 daily comments
35% actively blog at least one time per month
65% haven’t updated their blog in one year or more
60% of businesses have a business or company blog

Between 2007 (launch) and the end of 2011, Tumblr hosted over 39 million blogs
Based on the 19-digit ID for Blogger, there are at least 38 million Blogspots (June 2009)

Above all, don't be afraid

There are so many blogs out there, it's unlikely that you will garner a huge audience, so go ahead and write your heart out. You may just find a kindred spirit or two out there who really get a kick out of what's going on in your mind.

Why Blog?

I recommend watching this video with the subtitles (CC) turned on since the resolution is terrible! My how technology evolves!

So yeah, the video above was recorded with a Sony Handycam DCR-H38. The operating manual is copyright 2007. We bought that camera for our wedding instead of hiring a videographer. Then, on the day of the wedding, nobody could find the tripod so the footage of our ceremony has mumbled voices of my sister-in-law saying that her arm is about to fall off. Luckily, it was a 20 minute deal.

Anyhoo-- the Sony Handycam DCR-H38 had 340K "actual" Pixels for video, which if you're savvy at the metric system is 0.34 Megapixels. It was one of the last cameras to use cassettes. The DVM60 cassette was so-called because it holds 60 minutes of footage. The battery only works for 95 minutes of continuous recording, so that was enough to record the "Chemistry TA Workshop" mini-lessons when I taught the course in FA14.

It was pretty tedious using my super-old Gateway laptop (which I got in 2002 as a graduation gift after my bachelor's degree) with IEEE firewire to transfer the students' minilessons from the camera to the computer to post them to YouTube. I had to remove everything else from that computer to make room for the 3 or 4 video files and then transfer those to another computer on a flash drive so that they could be put online for students to view and critique.

By the time we arrived at FA15, I was the proud owner of a GoPro Hero4 Silver. The videos are considered HD and the max resolution is 3840 x 2160 = 8294400 or 8.3 Megapixels. Thanks to a tech-savvy student, I record my lectures using the 1080s / 60 / Wide setting when I teach in a classroom with a larger whiteboard than the one shown below. So that's 1920 x 1080 = 2073600 or 2.1 Megapixels.

I started recording every single lecture in CHEM 100, 101 and 102 (intro and gen chem) and posting them to YouTube. This was tedious and I never found any evidence that it was useful for students. Also, creating captions for the videos was nearly impossible, with the exception of one semester where I had a hearing-impaired student who requested a transcriptionist and that generous lady cc'd me a copy of the transcript. These playlists are unlisted but I can always share one video at a time for students who miss class and say "What did I miss?" It was also useful for me to reflect on my teaching style and the extent to which I was delivering "another boring lecture" most days.

The GoPro Hero4 saves to a microSD card, which I have 32GB. The memory and the battery are good for about 2 hours, which is plenty long enough to record a 75 minute class session. Initially, I left the camera inside a plastic case which made it easier to mount stably on a tripod, but I found that that dulled the audio quality. One side-benefit of recording your lectures is that students tended to make fewer interruptions such as taking text messages or arriving late or leaving early. Perhaps a side drawback was that students were more shy with asking questions. I don't know this for sure, I didn't ask them, but I suspect it was the case. Our biology colleagues have several "smart" classrooms that enable lecture-capture, so many of our students are used to this luxury. I don't know any other chemistry professors in our department that have tried this.

With the GoPro Hero4 I had to spend quite a lot of time downloading the video, processing the video from AVI to MP4 so that the file could be uploaded to YouTube. The whole process took a minimum of 8 hours for 4 x 12-minute minilessons.

I wrote this post about smartphones and tablets in my classroom exactly one year before I got my first smartphone, yes I was a late-adopter. I had a blackberry-like device from 2011 until 04/23/16.

The Samsung Galaxy S7 which I used to record the video above in FA16 has the capability to record UHD (3840 x 2160 = 8294400 or 8.3 Megapixels), but the default setting is FHD (1920 x 1080 = 2073600 or 2.1 Megapixels). The memory available is only 32GB so there's no sense in increasing the filesize. The nice thing about capturing video on a smartphone is that it automatically goes to the cloud, eliminating the need for cables and such.

I had a great time using Pearson LearningCatalytics in Spring and Summer 2017, but I didn't teach the Chemistry TA Workshop (CHEM 500) in FA17 since I was busy at that time teaching Physical Chemistry lab, which runs concurrently. I'm preparing to teach CHEM 500 again this FA18 and I'm considering my options for recording the students. In FA16, I recorded about half their lessons with the GoPro and half their lessons with the Samsung Galaxy S7. I meant to ask them which they preferred since I split them randomly. Some of them had their first lesson with the GoPro and some of them had their first lesson with the Samsung Galaxy, then I switched it, but I forgot to ask them at the end if they had a preference. To be honest, I used my phone when the GoPro was dead and vice versa.

When the video was recorded on my phone, I backed it up to my Google Photos and then shared the link directly from there. So I think that's my answer. Unless my Google Photos gets completely full of MiniLessons. Another thing I do is use my smartphone to digitize students' lab notebooks. Then I grade them on the photos, which I can zoom in. Some students' handwriting is soooo tiny. Also if the printouts of the data are low quality, I can enhance the contrast digitally. But those photos are also taking up room in my cloud. When does one have time to clean all that out? Oh yeah, summer!

I want to tell my students about blogging. That blogging is "WRITING TO LEARN" and sometimes you discover things about yourself like I just did. I just convinced myself that the resolution of the GoPro and the Samsung are equal but the workload after acquiring the video is more streamlined on a smartphone. Although-- I just learned on the Amtrak from a train friend that you can pair your GoPro with your smartphone and automatically videos can go from the GoPro to the smartphone to the cloud, which I have yet to figure out. Maybe it's not worth it. But I do need to get some kind of tripod that holds my phone. That would be handy.

I want to tell my students that sometimes when you sit down and you think you're going to write about blogging and then you end up writing about what camera you plan to use next semester, that's a good thing. It takes the stuff you're worrying about and puts it out there. It gets the ideas out of your head and into the cloud. I firmly believe that the internet is now an extension of my brain. I mean, my brain is amazing, but it's also nice to dump some thoughts into the blogosphere and clear my head.

Here is a nice step-by-step tutorial for those interested in starting a blog.
And this takes us full circle to the first video embedded in this post, Why Blog?

Topics for a future post: Camtasia, Snagit and HP5. See follow up lesson plan here.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Second Nebraska Trip Packing List

It's the day before my second visit to Nebraska and I'm packing. Or at least I'm thinking about packing. I was doing some last minute digging in the garage and I found my old sound generator, which can provide soothing ocean waves even without wifi.

Looking at the weather forecast, it's going to be cooler there than it will be here. However there is a chance of rain. So I guess I'll be packing an umbrella.

Burchard, NE
Of the events on the list: hang out with uncle, grandma, grandma, sister, sister, aunt, mom and dad. I definitely have to practice my talk. So I'll need a cable to connect my computer to the hotel TV. I'll also need some clothes to wear to the Pawnee County Fair.

South Bend, IN
The weather in South Bend, IN where the conference is also has a chance of showers. I'm doing a "fun run" on Monday morning and then presenting on Tuesday morning. So I'll need running shoes/workout clothes and business clothes.

Besides my sound generator, I want to bring all my other toys (rollerskates, folding bike, etc.) but there's only so much room in the suitcase that I'm bringing (as soon as I decide which one that is). I'm leaning towards a rolling bag this time since it was a bit of a drag carrying my duffel bag last trip.

I don't need to bring the folding bike because: I've rented a car, Omaha has B-Cycle (docked bikehsare, based near where I'm staying) and South Bend has LimeBike (dockless bikeshare). I don't need to bring rollerskates because: that is not the purpose of the trip, they're heavy, and there won't be time to go skating.

We are going to try to squeeze in a dance party, so maybe I can bring something dance-worthy. My brain is driving me crazy because I thought that through organizing the house, I would find some handwritten notes from my days in grad school, unfortunately they haven't turned up yet.

I'm attending my 20-year high school class reunion, so I should bring something to wear for the tour of the school and the social event that evening. Nothing too fancy. Then I'm off to the conference. It would be nice to have some traveling clothes (read PJs) that are comfy.

BCCE Meeting Schedule
ACS Meetings App is a way to schedule your conference time. It allows selecting concurrent events, so that if there is a cancellation in one session you can jump into another. I found the most fabulous dress at Goodwill, during my shopping extravaganza which will work for both the class reunion and my talk at BCCE.

I'm coming back on the Amtrak. Items that made that part of the trip better included: noise-canceling headphones, a black bandanna that I could use as an eye-mask, a cooler bag to bring my own food (but I might not do that on this trip) and a neck pillow (good for planes and trains).

Amtrak Coach Seat
I had a really great time on Amtrak Empire Builder so I'm really looking forward to the Southwest Chief. We're leaving Chicago in the afternoon, going through a tiny corner of Iowa, reaching Kansas City by evening (Fresh Air Stop #1).

Amtrak Observation Car
My brother-in-law was asking me last night, in all earnestness, why take a train? I tried to explain how you have the freedom to walk throughout the train while it's moving and you can enjoy the scenery from your seat or the observation car.

Amtrak Dining Car
If you want a formal dining experience, you can eat in the dining car. See this blog for some other really helpful tips. Also for humor watch the film Silver Streak. We cross the state of Kansas overnight, waking up on the second day in La Junta, Colorado (Fresh Air Stop #2).

Amtrak Cafe Car
If you don't mind bodega (7-11 a.k.a. truck stop) food then you can visit the cafe car. It's downstairs of the observation car. There's also seating down there, which can be another place to sit. It should be a really beautiful day going through Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.

Albuquerque and Flagstaff are Fresh Air Stops #3 and #4, respectively. A fresh air stop is where you can get off the train and walk along the platform. I do some calisthenics and plyometrics to get my circulation going and to keep my metabolism running. 

Since I've never booked a sleeper compartment, I can't say whether they're better or worse than coach. I did borrow these pictures from Google Images since I'm always too shy to take photos of people when I'm on the train. You never know who won't want to be photographed.

The second overnight goes through the desert part of California (Needles, Barstow, Victorville, San Bernardino, Riverside) and hopefully I'll be waking up around Fullerton, CA. We arrive in Los Angeles in the morning around 8am.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Nebraska Trip Packing List

Here's what I brought on my plane/train summer trip from Northridge -train to- Burbank -plane to- Portland -train to- Fargo -car to- Omaha -plane to- Burbank -car to- Northridge over a two week period. The items with a star are things I wore or used prior to arriving in Fargo.

Three dresses, sleeveless
*Two yoga pants, knee and ankle length
Two polo shirts
Two jeans, ankle and shoe length, belt
*Flip flops and athletic shoes
*Bra and sports bra
*PJ pants
*USA t-shirt, CicLAvia t-shirt
*Sleeveless graphic t-shirt
5 pairs socks
10 pairs underwear

*Watch and IDY bracelet
*Headband and hair clips
Burt's bees, Lipstick: red and pink

*Headphones and Phone charger
*Purse and camera case, cross-body
*Stand to prop up phone
*Journals to write in and pens
*ACS chapter reports

*Toothpaste, toothbrush
*Sunscreen, SPF 30 and 50, face and body
Contact lenses and solution
*Glasses and sunglasses
*Shampoo/conditioner (2 in 1)
*Face moisturizer
*Face wash
*Hair comb
Qtips, Kleenex

Gifts: 28 Visit Santa Clarita bags
stainless steel drinking straws and brushes

I ended up doing two loads of laundry in Fargo and wore everything more than once. I definitely could have traveled with fewer pairs of underwear, but that's the one thing I never want to run out of. It's an experience doing a sponge bath in a moving train bathroom, but I even washed my hair in the sink and it was worth it.

We had fun in Fargo finding silverware to go into the 'Visit Santa Clarita' bags, which were originally made for glasses. I was pumped when I got together with my cousin from Denver (who is currently working in London) and my aunt from New York and they were both really excited about stainless steel straws and reducing single-use plastic utensils.

I brought 29 bags and I came home with only 12 so that means that my family members actually grabbed them (as intended). Since we checked our luggage on the flight home, there was no problem with bringing the sharp metal objects home in my carry-on bag.

According to RESET Carbon Ltd. flying in a short-haul aircraft produces 50% more carbon dioxide emissions per passenger kilometer than taking Amtrak. Driving produces about 25% more carbon dioxide emissions per passenger kilometer than taking Amtrak. Altogether, I traveled 7000 km and produced 1.676 metric tons of carbon dioxide. I feel bad about this, any suggestions for offset?