Sunday, January 6, 2019

Victory for Safe Streets

I could do with a longer holiday break. If I had to go back to work next week, I could. But I don't want to. Luckily, there are still two more weeks.

The problem is that there were a litany of action items that I wanted to work on over the break. Maybe it would be helpful to write out an exhaustive list below:

clean the closets
clean the garage
create some paintings
do some sewing
tie-dye some fabric
go for walks/bike rides
go swimming
lift weights @ home
lift weights @ gym
do some sit-ups
dance @ the disco
hang out with friends
hang out with family
shop for a new laptop
plan for classes
write reflective reports
write a scientific paper
write poster for a meeting

Some of this we did. Some of this will not get done. With only two weeks left, I have to be strategic.

Yesterday, we went to a meeting of Los Angeles Neighborhood Councils where a few people had tried to pass a motion with the following text

Meeting of 12/01/18 WHEREAS, after two and a half years it is clear that traffic calming modifications to highways, roads, and streets within the City of Los Angeles, as being imposed under the city’s Vision Zero initiative, are public safety hazards, WHEREAS, such traffic calming measures include, but are not limited to, “road diets,” which involve narrowing roadways, replacing traffic lanes with bicycle lanes, and installing physical barriers, WHEREAS, these traffic calming measures pose a litany of safety, health, and environmental hazards, including but not limited to: Violations of state, county, and municipal fire codes as well as California case law, including but not limited to: Sections 503.4 & 503.4.1 of the California Fire Code; Section 21101 of the California Vehicle Code; Sections 503.4 & 503.4.1 of the Los Angeles County Health and Safety Code; Sections 57.503 of the Los Angeles Code of Ordinances; and City of Hawaiian Gardens v. City of Long Beach (2d Dist. 1998) 72 Cal.Rptr.2d 134. Increased emergency response times as a result of impeded fire apparatus access roads; Dangerously narrowed emergency evacuation routes; Increased emissions due to cars idling and stopping-and-starting; Increased pedestrian fatalities and overall accidents, according to the city’s own statistics and available California Highway Patrol data; and Violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the LANCC demands that the city enforce the laws and within 30 days of our demand to start the process to remove all traffic calming measures, including but, not limited to road diets, from: Current and former state highways; Designated emergency evacuation routes; Thoroughfares that qualify as “regionally significant streets or highways”; All thoroughfares that have seen an increase in accidents since July 2015; and All thoroughfares with two or more lanes of travel in both directions. with a presentation by Chris LeGras, Keep LA Moving

Thanks to the efforts which I suspect went on behind the scenes the language that was officially adopted is the following:

Meeting of 01/05/19 The Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition (LANCC) (XXXXXX Neighborhood Council) takes the position that there shall be no blanket prohibition of road diets or other road calming measures. Communities that will be impacted with a potential road diet or other road calming measure, including neighborhood councils, shall be consulted extensively about public safety and other important issues both before the road diet is proposed and after it is implemented. where a presentation by Aneesa Andrabi and Wajenda Chambeshi, Great Streets did not happen

I'm not saying that it was any action on my part that precipitated this shift, but I'm super happy about it. A few observations from the meeting are that there was:
lack of engagement (only 15 votes from 96 councils) 
lack of representation (few women and people of color in the room)
lack of information (people struggled to define the terms "equity" “road diet" and "traffic calming")
That's like saying the opinion of 3 people represents the opinion of 20 people. I think it's particularly pathetic that a group of old white men thought that they could remove and prevent future safety infrastructure. The majority of traffic deaths are happening in neighborhoods of color.
This is definitely something to consider.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Feeling Flaky

This semester is nearly over. We have just a few precious hours for missing, late and just completed work to be uploaded to our learning management system (LMS) Canvas. It has been a difficult week to say the least.

We were under threat for a mass shooting, and the reaction of our students was such that they called off just one day of finals week. Sometimes a word pops into my head to describe how I'm feeling and then I look up the definition of that word and it is actually perfect.

Our reaction as a campus community to racist graffiti and a subsequent handwritten note has been flaky. I know people are still feeling uncertain about their safety. It has been a challenge to reassure our students and ourselves that the campus can protect us.

I feel my patience is thin and breaking into small pieces. But on the bright side, our department pot-luck is in just 30 minutes. I made mini-quiches that have a flaky crust. I made cupcakes for dear husband's birthday but messed up the icing recipe by adding all the ingredients at once.

Luckily, I was able to salvage the messed up frosting and make a gingerbread bundt cake. But I flaked out on that and forgot to add the molasses, so I hope it tastes OK. I restarted a second batch of icing and that one came out well, but I forgot to bring it today.

I bought all the ingredients for the salad but forgot to pressure-cook the pinto beans. Luckily, I made lentils and rice yesterday so I just used that instead. I also forgot to bring the onion and cheese that I bought over here to school. I just had so much on my mind!

I used to get disappointed about these things and dwell on negatives, but I have been practicing letting go of perfection and focusing instead of making the best of things and adapting and NOT stressing over what could have been but instead celebrating and elevating what IS.

I am so grateful that I made it a point to include redundancy and multiple feedback loops into my course this semester. It made it much less stressful to adapt to shifting circumstances. I am also grateful for technology, having many assignments in the cloud was a godsend.

If there is anyone out there that can suggest a winter training course (bootcamp) for Google Classroom, I would be interested. I appreciate my colleagues that helped support me during this time. The strategies that helped me diffuse negative energy: yoga, coloring mandalas, metta meditation.

On a very bright note, my students delivered their Pecha Kucha presentations in a way that was completely unexpected and a joy to watch. Giving the students the classroom space and technology, while assisting them by putting their content into a timed format, was just the right balance.

It's hard to set goals for next year since I don't have any idea what I'll be teaching. But I know I did some things very well this semester and I am extremely proud of the progress that I made. I know I don't want to travel or be wild over break, I just want to stay home and get centered.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Beat the Blues week 2018

This week at CSUN is all about mental health awareness, anxiety and depression. Our students reported factors affecting their academic performance include:
  1. Stress 
  2. Anxiety 
  3. Sleep difficulties 
  4. Work 
  5. Depression 
The American College Health Association National College Health Assessment II (click here to read the entire ACHA-NCHA II Report) supports the delivery of health care and prevention and wellness services for the nation's 20 million college students. The data is collected every 8 years, starting in the year 2000 (Y2K).

One of the cool events we heard (the barking) was a bunch of therapy dogs on campus. I feel so grateful that I have a personal therapy dog waiting at home for me at the end of every day.

A couple of healthy strategies for me that have been working are:
  1. gratitude
  2. asking for help
I've written about the struggle for work/life balance in this blog from 2009 when I was about midway through my PhD to 2012 when I was a newly-defended PhD. I documented tales from the "teaching postdoc" at the Claremont Colleges in 2013 and my transition to CSUN in 2015.

2018 has been a great year. I have so much to be thankful for. I was just tracking what we've accomplished with our nonprofit, Bikecar101 this year. It's interesting how we incorporated in 2014 and we are still pushing the active transportation conversation in Los Angeles.

I love my Faculty Development colleagues. I have grown so much as a teacher in the past several years. This blog has allowed me to look back at my thoughts and feelings about a teaching philosophy and finding my place in academia as a part-time lecturer, and I've come a long way.

We've spent some time in the gym, working on our fitness. I used MyFitnessPal to track the foods I was eating to find some balance in the nutrition department. I certainly am not an avid runner as I once was, but through our Commit To Be Fit (CTBF) family, we are starting to run again.

I have found some time for rollerskating at Skateland and Moonlight Rollerway. What the skating does for my body is lets me release all the tension in my neck and shoulders. I love the music and the good vibes that I get from the other skaters. I'm not a great skater, but I enjoy it.

Right now, I'm writing about mental health because it's been a month of ups and downs. At the beginning of November I was so overwhelmed that I made a TO DO list with 26 action items. Then I obsessed for a while about how I could ever possibly get all those things done.

Reviewing that list gives me some sense of peace because even though I added more tasks, totaling 35 action items, I've crossed off all but 9 of them. The reason I made the list is that I was just doing one task after another and NOT doing the most urgent items first.

With all the tasks listed in no particular order, it allowed me to prioritize and start getting stuff done. So in conclusion, that's how I Beat the Blues. Being as this is my Thanksgiving blog, I am grateful for all the people (and pets) in my life that support me physically, professionally and psychologically.

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.