Clever Clip: Many Ways to Say It

Students in anatomy and physiology confront an array of tongue-twisting terms. To make matters worse, scientists seldom use one prissy word when there is an opportunity to use four or five.  Finally, current terminology rejects traditional eponymous terms in favor of descriptive ones, so the “Purkinje fibers” in the heart have become the “subendocardial conducting network,” and certain cells in the testis have gone from being “Sertoli cells” to “sustentacular cells” to ‘sustenocytes.”  I could…I promise…go on and on, but I will resist the urge.

How can I explain, much less justify, the importance of knowing multiple terms for the same structures and mechanisms?  Sometimes I show this sketch from Monty Python’s Flying Circus. How many ways can you say “dead parrot”? My favorite is “joined the choir invisible.”

Do you have a favorite clip that you use as an object lesson or illustration?  Do you have a video that’s part of your class culture?  Please share.


Are We There Yet?

Whether we’re working on fitnEnglish: A mile marker along the Grantham Cana...ess goals, enduring a long car ride, or just slogging through a difficult course in February, we all long for indicators that we are “getting somewhere.”  Progress may be measured by mile markers, pounds lost or lifted, or in other ways that we may not initially recognize.  After I’d taught my A&P courses a few times, I noticed students often reported very similar experiences. Gradually, I realized that these are real markers of progress in my class.  Now I share my observations with each class early on, and students have fun spotting these “mile markers”:

“Dr. D, I’m dreaming about this stuff!”  Some brain research indicates that new knowledge is consolidated during sleep.  (For more on that, click here.)Sleeping with Bo

    Since A&P challenges students to learn a bucketful of new terms and processes every day, it isn’t surprising that our material starts popping up in students’ dreams.  I’ve apparently made quite a few nocturnal visits to my students’ brains, and they often come to class laughing about our nightly adventure.

self made. en:childrens, noises. gl:nenos, ruí...“My family and friends are tired of hearing about this…they’re begging me to stop talking about what I’ve learned!”  I do love to hear this one.  It tells me that students are engaged, that they’re making real-world connections with what they learn in class, and that they are proud of their accomplishments to the point of showing off just a little.  Medical TV shows, movies, news stories and magazine articles all offer opportunities for students to apply new knowledge and strut their stuff. What more could a teacher ask for?

“My doctor (or child’s doctor) asked me if I work in healthcare,” or “I went to the doctor and understood just what she was talking about.” A child receives an ear exam as part of an ove...Ah, the old “knowledge is power” adage proves itself.  Students are surprised when, rightly or wrongly, their newly minted knowledge earns them an upgrade in their own healthcare experiences. As a physician, I know that I probably offer more complete information to patients whose parents speak my language. Many students have reported that they are suddenly treated as “someone who is smart.”

English: A student raising a hand to ask a que...“My child’s teacher wants to know where she’s learning all this stuff!”  This one is probably my favorite.  Children make great study-buddies, and they absorb new words and concepts with maddening speed and ease.  Many students have told me of their children’s impatience when the parent flubs the name of a bone or muscle for the third time.  Meanwhile, the child has mastered the vocabulary and proudly displayed it at XYZ elementary school. Students report that their kids can’t wait to take anatomy (yea!) and have decided to become doctors.  I love the image of parents and children sharing homework time as a family activity…great role modeling and a sense of shared achievement. We sometime have a little role reversal, too.  Students report that their children expect them to earn stickers on their quizzes and exams, and chide them if the parent falls short.

What does this have to do with pleasure in learning?  I think we can see some surprise, a bit of humor, and certainly meeting an achievable challenge as well as owning something of value in these indicators.  Do you have any markers of progress in your class that you can share?

Tech Tuesday: Adding Holidays in Outlook

Each Tuesday, pleasureinlearning brings you Tech Tuesday.  Come back each week for more ways to become efficient and effective in your use of technology. 


Even a techie can learn something new.  A colleague shared this one with me today.  You can have Outlook add the holidays from the country of your choice to your calendar.  This information is timely for me because I’ve Googled the date for Easter 2013 about 6 times already.

  1. Click the File tab.
  2. Click the Options button.
  3. Click the Calendar tab.
  4. Click the Add Holidays… button.
  5. Choose your country and click OK. 

It won’t help you remember your anniversary, but it should help with the annoying holidays that happen on a different date each year.

Quick tutorials to the rescue!

Thanks to the Goodwill Community Foundation in Holly Springs, NC, you can access over 750 Free Lessons and over 250 videos – all which help you learn at your own pace a variety of subjects.

Are you wondering what the hype is about Windows 8? There is a tutorial for that! What about that student who you think might need a bit of help with Reading or Math? There are programs/activities! What about Career questions? Money questions? Everyday life questions? There is something for everyone!

As a matter of fact – have you been hesitant about posting a Blog yourself? There is a tutorial for that too!

So check out the following website to see what I’m talking about:

Below are direct links to the subjects I mentioned above:

Dr. Bernard Boyd: my favorite undergrad professor

B picBrian Coatney continues his series on teachers who made a difference to him.  We hope that some of our readers will be inspired to send us their remembrances.

Taking a religion course at a state university may not be a devotional experience, but it might be inspirational and highly educational. My junior year at the UNC, Chapel Hill, I signed up for “Introduction to the Old Testament” with a legendary professor in the twilight of his long and marvelous career. His name was Dr. Bernard Boyd. Class met in one of the older buildings on the quad, and in an auditorium seating about 150. But once you were there and seated, most likely you forgot about the size of the class and honed in on Dr. Boyd.

He was neither large nor small, and being just over age 60, he was remarkably distinguished, in a suit neither dowdy nor flashy but smart and fitting the carriage of a man without an ounce of fat who would light his pipe at times as he walked back and forth on the hardwood surface down front. His manners were impeccable but not stuffy or formal. His gaze was intense but not stern, yet he could radiate incredible warmth and passion, and his lectures had many rhythms and tones.

English: The Old Well and McCorkle Place at th...

English: The Old Well and McCorkle Place at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With each text and issue that arose, he would present two to perhaps half dozen rival views on the text. He would let the drama and suspense go on, while we wondered, “Is this the one he favors?” or “Is he saving his view until last or is it number three?” Finally, he would pronounce what he thought the most accurate view was. You didn’t have to agree, but you needed to have taken thorough notes because his tests were all objective. Yes, they were all objective, not an opinion to be found.

Old testament window

Old testament window (Photo credit: Henry McLin)

I enjoyed Dr. Boyd so much that I took another Old Testament course from him and also “Introduction to the New testament.” I wrote him a note once thanking him for the courses and expressing my deep appreciation. In those days, one didn’t just go up and talk to professors. I was shocked and elated when my mother wrote and told me that Dr. Boyd had written her a note thanking her.

Three other experiences come to mind among many. Aboard ship as a new ensign in the navy, I soon learned how down one can feel out in the world away from the environment of education. I wrote him and poured out all kinds of frustrations about my job and my faith. To my amazement, he wrote back a short letter in which he didn’t take the center stage but affectionately wrote out the verse “And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6 RSV).

The next two experiences are painful ones. A couple of years after graduating, I remembered that I had lied to Dr. Boyd several times. I had signed papers on the honor system saying that I had done reading that I had not done. I wrote him and told him the lies. In a fatherly way that I didn’t deserve, he forgave me.

The last experience came when one of my dorm mates and close friends called me five years after graduating to tell me that Dr. Boyd had died of a sudden heart attack before a lecture he was to give. It still moves me now, decades later, to remember it.


I don’t know if smoking is allowed in heaven, but if so, I will be elated to see that pipe light up and the lectures resume. We’ll have more to think about and study than ever!

Cool Tool of the Week: Scissors, Paper (Rock!)

I enjoy using my shiny toys and tech gear, but I never forget that good ol’ printed paper can be a very effective tool.  While we all make study guides, outlines, charts, and other traditional aids for our classes, it’s fun to think of other ways to use paper in the classroom.

My A&P I classes have enjoyed the “Muscle Scramble” activity that we use to practice the long sequence of steps that lead to the contraction of a skeletal muscle.  After plodding through the steps via PowerPoint and viewing animations, students erroneously believe that they have the story down pat.

To help the class assess the need for a little more work, I use my UNO® cards to divide them into groups of two or three students.  Then I hand each group an envelope with sixteen separate steps within the process printed in large font on individual slips of paper.  I include a couple of blank strips for overachievers or for groups who wish to add explanatory notes.  The groups work to arrange the slips in the proper order.


Karen’s slips for the “Muscle Scramble” activity

I always hear a lot of animated conversation during the process as students help one another fill the gaps in their knowledge.  After the task is complete, I have each group check another group’s project. More learning occurs then.  Finally, I post the entire sequence on BlackBoard for students who want to replicate the activity as a study tool.

This low-cost, recyclable, and apparently effective and enjoyable tool could be adapted for any class that requires students to learn a sequence of events:  history, chemistry, math, healthcare, and probably many others.  Pleasure is evident as students meet an achievable challenge while becoming part of a group, often sharing a little humor, and ultimately coming away with something of value.

Do you use an activity in your classes  that others might adapt?  Why not share?  It’s easy to comment!

Danger, Will Robinson!

The courses on our campus are offered in eight-week terms, so those of us who teach the same courses each term begin to feel as though we are caught up in the real-life version of the 1993 movie Groundhog Day. Spoiler alert: The main conceit of the film is that Bill Murray’s character is trapped in a strange time warp that forces him to repeat the same day over and over until (surprise!) he makes enough improvements in his selfish behavior to warrant release.

Cover of "Groundhog Day (15th Anniversary...

Cover via Amazon

Just as Murray, a.k.a. Phil Connors, gradually realizes where the booby traps are on his path toward redemption, we instructors come to know where class after class of students becomes confused or makes errors.

The problem: how to effectively warn our learners.   Assuming my nagging mom voice and intoning, “Now, a lot of students mess this up; don’t be one of them” doesn’t work any better than that delivery did with my teenagers.   I need something to grab students’ attention so that I can guide them around the potholes into which they are about to tumble.  My current tactic: WARNING slides.

1. Will Robinson.  I wondered about using this one, since the series Lost in Space left the airwaves long before my students were born.  Surprisingly, most were at least aware of the show, and I do a pretty good robot imitation.  The line “Danger, Will Robinson” has become a shibboleth in my classes.


2. The Snake Sign. I snapped this picture at an I-95 rest stop in Florida in early January.  ‘Nuff said.

snake sign

3. The Incongruent Picture. A challenge in A&P is learning to use…and frequently to pronounce…common English words in totally different contexts.  Here’s an example:



4. Peeking at the Monster. This one precedes a slide that shows a dauntingly complex diagram.


5. The Confused Kitten. No slide show is complete without a LOL cats slide.  This one is a favorite.


Are these effective?  Maybe.  I often overhear students warning one another with “Danger, Will Robinson!” during peer-to-peer activities, and someone often says it while I’m writing something challenging on the board.

Do you have favorite “Hazard Signs”? Or do you use another technique to help students dodge known obstacles?  Please share!