Tech Tuesday: Spell Check Wizardry

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


Many of us at pleasureinlearning teach in fields that have their own vocabulary.  It can get a little scary when trying to create content in presentations and documents.  If you have written a word that your spell check doesn’t recognize, right-click on it and choose “Add to Dictionary”.  Viola!

Adding words to dictionary


Felt Overwhelmed Lately?

B picNothing brings out resistance from students in English class like initiation into the tedious and often frustrating details of learning to cite sources in papers. The transition is from one mindset to another that goes like this:

Instructor: “I notice that your works cited page had four sources, but your paper doesn’t have citations to show where you quoted or paraphrased from those sources.”

Student: “I read the articles and just wrote the paper from what I remembered about them.”

Instructor: “That’s plagiarism. Citing sources means indicating in your paper whenever you are using a source.”

Student: “I didn’t realize that’s what we’re supposed to do.”

What is non fiction writing?

What is non fiction writing? (Photo credit: Ken Whytock)

Using sources is the opposite on the spectrum from freestyle, narrative writing of a confessional or autobiographical nature—or even expressing opinions on issues. One student exclaimed, “I feel overwhelmed.” The look on her face, however, wasn’t depressed or angry, and it wasn’t a look of, “Somebody should rescue me from having to do this.” It was the healthy version of feeling overwhelmed—the normal one that hasn’t thought to itself, “I shouldn’t ever feel overwhelmed,” or “If I feel that way, someone should remove anything that contributes to that feeling.”

Outtake - Nooo! [Overwhelmed]

Outtake – Nooo! [Overwhelmed] (Photo credit: andres.thor)

If instructors did that for students, it would stunt student growth. The truth is, everybody feels overwhelmed at times—unless one is dead. It’s a good message to share with students that the other side of the teacher station undergoes the same feelings, and probably often. One well known surgeon in Louisville once told a story about how he would feel physically ill from his emotions upon arising in the morning on surgery days. Then he would settle down and do another fantastic job like always.

Students are educating themselves in order to get better jobs, and those jobs mean more stress, not less. This is not a glorification of stress but acknowledgment that stress is a regular feature of life and not unique to any certain temperament or personality. There’s no reason to pity people when they feel overwhelmed. It’s a time to celebrate their growth into new inner capacities to manage the stress.

Big T at the Lonestar

Big T at the Lonestar (Photo credit: the Comic Shop)

An old cliché goes, “I’ve got a lot on my plate.” True, crisis situations come up, many which are heartbreaking and in need of tenderness and compassion. In the regular stresses of everyday life though, the answer might be to stretch and find a bigger plate.

Ending on an Up Note: YOU are an Artist!

A watercolor painter working in Dolceacqua (Li...

A watercolor painter working in Dolceacqua (Liguria, Italy)

Danielle Laporte’s The Fire Starter Sessions never fails to inspire me.  If I’m having one of those meh, humdrum, why-am-I-doing-this kind of days (not often), I can open this book to a random page, certain to find something to engage and uplift. Here’s a passage on creativity that every teacher should read aloud once a week:

“Being artful is pouring your soul into it.
When we’re giving our best, we’re artistic.
When we’re intentionally making something more beautiful, more understandable, more accessible, we’re artistic.
When we reach below the surface and bring something thoughtful forward, we’re being artistic. It’s happening all of the time.
When you’re bringing your whole self to the party, you’re practicing your art form. Be it in conversation, on the canvas, or on the court, when you’re creating something from your soul, you’re making poetry happen.”

—Danielle Laporte, The Fire Starter Sessions, Crown Archetype, New York, 2012

Sounds like teaching at its finest, doesn’t it? Have a great weekend.

Why Doesn’t Learning Taste This Good?

Mossbook2We’ve been had!

Driving to work yesterday, I listened to The Bob Edwards Show on NPR. Mr. Edwards’ guest was Michael Moss, New York Times reporter and author of Sugar, Salt, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us. (The podcast is not yet available as of this writing, but you can probably access it from the NPR site next week.  For now, you can read a review of the book and an interview with Michael Moss at by clicking here.)

Why we love that stuff:

While the entire interview was fascinating and entertaining, I was struck by Moss’s explanation of the lengths to which food processors go to ensure that we will continue to buy their products. He noted that sugar, salt, and fat—in precisely crafted proportions and when combined with other flavors—can activate the same pleasure centers in the brain as opiates. No wonder we are taunted by “Betcha can’t eat just one.”

It’s no accident.

sugar, salt and fat and bag o calories

sugar, salt and fat and bag o calories (Photo credit: russelldavies)

Moss described the resources that the companies use to create and perfect their inviting but nutritionally suspect products. He noted that Nestle currently employs the greatest number of scientists, while General Foods once had a thousand professionals devoted to figuring out how to give us what we like…and how to make us like it even more. Formulas are tweaked, cultural and geographic preferences are noted (people in the southern part of China like lots of Tang® in their Tang® to make it sweeter), and the trinity of sugar, salt, and fat is deployed to make the product irresistibly yummy, offering sensual pleasure in spades.

You have to push it…

After the scientists finish designing their ever-so-desirable (not to mention cheap-to-produce, almost-eternally-shelf-stable) products, another talented team of advertising specialists stand ready to lure us to buy them. Lunchables® were originally designed as a grab-n-go fix for adults too busy to leave their desks, but their children craved them, too. The kids were lured by the fact that they could construct their own little personalized lunches of cold flat bread, cold pizza sauce, and cold cheese. Not surprisingly, the advertisers chose to gloss over the fact that a Lunchable® has up to 75 ingredients, while emphasizing the autonomous experience the kids liked.  The slogan: “All day you gotta do what they say, but lunch time is all yours.”

and know how to sell it.

Junk Food!

Junk Food! (Photo credit: Samuel (this is my old account))

When Kellogg’s Frosted Mini-Wheats® weren’t flying off the shelves, the ad wizards came up with an adorable talking square of shredded wheat who assured anxious parents that this breakfast food  “Keeps ’em full; keeps ’em focused.” Any parent who wants her child to bring home better math papers would be motivated to support Kellogg’s. The child meets an achievable challenge, while the parent owns something of value: a smart kid who could help her belong to a group, the band of mothers who are doing it right.

So why don’t we “push” learning?

As I reflected on Mr. Moss’s description of the industry’s methods and their consequences for our national health, I wondered why college educators have been slow to recognize the powerful effect of pleasure as a tool for manipulating behavior. Where are the legions of scientists researching how to make learning addictive? Why have we become experts at pushing Lunchables® and Frosted Mini-Wheats® (and, hey, I bought both for my own kids), while our students find our classes to be boring, threatening, soul-sucking experiences. Worse, we sometimes seem proud of the unpleasantness associated with our courses, wearing the reputation of being a tough teacher like a badge of honor.


Lunchables (Photo credit: roboppy)

Maybe it’s time to take a new lesson from business.  If we’re selling learning, we should learn how to make it taste so good that everyone wants another helping. We need to work on our marketing, too. If careers in math and science aren’t flying off the shelves, maybe we need a new strategy for “selling” them. What we offer has the potential to build a happier, more productive nation. Let’s figure out a way to hook our customers.

This won’t be as easy as we’d like it to be. Like clumsy food scientists, we have sometimes fallen victim to a simple more-is-better-if-you-build-it-they-will-come philosophy.  The food giants know that simply dumping in more sugar or salt doesn’t lead directly to a tastier, more desirable product…it’s about the right combination.  In the same way, dumping more “technology” or a few more jokes into the mix will not result in irresistible classroom sessions. It’s about finding the most desirable and effective mix.

One secret ingredient in our pantry is hard fun, and I’ll write about that next week.

Biggie Size It, Please!

English: Animation of U.S. Obesity Trends by S...

English: Animation of U.S. Obesity Trends by State 1985–2008. (%of people with BMI >30) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In discussing the factors which are associated with obesity in the U.S. population in 2013, several explanations have been suggested. Science Daily published an article last week written  by Gary Taubes, co-founder of the Nutrition Science Initiative,  addressing the various causes of the obesity issue entitled “What really makes us fat? Article questions our understanding of the cause of obesity.”

The fundamental question: Do  people overeat or get fat because they are eating more, or do they eat more because  the macronutrient nutritional value or composition of their foods promotes fat accumulation?

What kind of “educational nutrition” are we offering?

Interesting! Having read this, I found myself wondering (as I so often do) about our classrooms. Do we give our students a plate of food (textbook information or lecture material)  filled with macronutrients? We simply present the material, expecting students to consume without interest, surprise, excitement, novelty or intrigue. What if, by chance, we were to present the same information to our students in a way that would draw them into the learning experience,making them want to consume as much of the material as possible? Ask any of the judges on the Food Network TV show Chopped—presentation is one of the main criteria for making food pleasurable and desired. Wait! I think I may be challenging my students to become “informavores”!

“Overeating” can be a good thing…in learning.

Tasty Food Abundance in Healthy Europe

Tasty Food Abundance in Healthy Europe (Photo credit:

English: Students working with a teacher at Al...

We, as educators, should move toward creating a learning environment which causes the students to “overeat”. We need to foster the creation of an insatiable appetite for the information and concepts critical to the subjects we teach. We should not settle for a substandard approach to the classroom presentation.

We spend a significant amount of money each year (an estimated $150 billion dollars) on purchasing nutritional food. College students, attending public institutions, spend roughly $9,000. – $10,000 /year on classes. Considering that roughly 60% of the population will attend an institution of higher learning at some point in their lives. Now, you do the math. If we are spending this amount of money to obtain an education, shouldn’t it be filled with nutritious bites of information rather than “nutrient-poor” filler?

How Do We Make It Tasty?

Obesity Campaign Poster

Obesity Campaign Poster (Photo credit: Pressbound)

In designing our classes and preparing lecture materials, maybe we should ask ourselves: What is the nutritional value of our product? Yes, it may take a few more minutes and a little more energy on our part, but isn’t the end result worth the time spent?

Obesity? Yes, I want each and every student who sits in my class to be obese. I want them to gulp and devour as much of the information as they can. How great would it be if, a few years down the road,  we’re faced with an obesity problem in learning.

Tech Tuesday: Polls

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


Oh gosh.  There are so many wonderful things I want to tell you about!  What to do!?  Why don’t you tell me what interests you using the poll below?  Feel free to select as many as you want.  You can also make other suggestions using the Other field.  Tune in next week for some tech tips inspired by your answers!

So that you don’t feel cheated this week, I’ll give you a little something.  Creating polls/surveys can be an effective part of instructional methodology.  Here are some websites that can help you create your own surveys.  You can use,, and even Google Forms.

Can’t see the poll?  Click here.

A Shakespeare Cast Is Like a Community College Class

B picWatching the Laurence Olivier Henry V caused a flood of new Shakespeare thoughts.The play is one of Shakespeare’s ten historical plays—highly fictionalized for entertainment, but timeless in insight. A battle in 1415 AD becomes inspiration for a circa 1600 play by Shakespeare, that becomes inspiration for a 1944 adaptation during World War II, that becomes inspiration for seeing Shakespeare gift for entwining entertainment and instruction.

 At first, the film appears to be a war movie,

but the war theme is accompanied by numerous other themes seen daily in education. About the time one might dismiss Henry V from being neither a history, nor a war film, it doesn’t matter because it becomes both of those in a mix with comedy, commentary on church and government, and a stream of colorful vignettes.List of titles of works based on Shakespearean...

It’s a cross section of life during wartime and shows that no matter what life brings, Shakespeare will give it back to the public as entertaining poetry about all social classes.  The bard was a forerunner of the community college because he left out no type of person.

Let’s start at the top.

In the opening scene, the top religious leaders talk about the sudden transformation of Henry into a scholar and leader upon the death of his father—this being after a wild and carousing youth. This is like some we see today suddenly deciding to go to college, tired of wasting themselves.

The clergy are also engrossed in Henry’s transformation because of their immersion in politics and money. In a comic scene of esoteric tangles, the clergy inform Henry of the complicated legalities entitling him to French held lands on the continent. A war, celebrated for defeating a loathed rival, could also get those bratty French in line and replenish coffers in England.

English: John Farmanesh-Bocca as Prince Hal in...

Additionally, Henry, after he does achieve a glorious victory, pledges to rejuvenate the French culture—one that had withered under a large and lavish French army at the expense of its citizenry’s development. The elite and arrogant corps of French knights, under self-aggrandizing nobles, had had left ordinary people uneducated and unable to prosper.

While these larger themes unfold, lots of entertaining ones constantly arise.

Bawdy tavern characters, shady dealers, fearful soldiers, and grumblers about the battle tactics, are mixed in with the more serious minded army professionals in this war effort—one that meant launching a fleet of ships to land an invasion force that would have to live off the land while planning battle on foreign soil. Discussions also take place about whether Henry’s war is even worth dying for.

He drank the last goblet of mead!

He drank the last goblet of mead! (Photo credit: One lucky guy)

The panorama of character types reminds one of the student mix in a community college. All kinds of life styles converge upon a community college, and students decide in comic or serious ways whether the war on ignorance is worth their sacrifice.

 Henry V is not without technology,either.

How else would an inferior English force, hit by disease, kill 10,000 French and lose only 25 of its own? The innovation of the long bow made the difference because the bowmen drove tall, pointed stakes and shot from behind those. The onrushing mounted French knights, in their flashy and heavy armor—the style of an era now fading—could not get close without impaling their horses, plus arrow technology had become armor piercing.

Corps of Armored Knights greet visitors to the...

But technology alone did not win. Henry repeatedly gives credit to God for the victory, making himself an example of humility and obedience to a higher king. He also expresses these qualities in his ability to mingle with his troops as well as gather them for rousing, inspirational speeches as Shakespeare keeps Henry away from hubris in the quest for military glory.

 Romance too has its place, both sad and happy.

Princess in a Tower

Princess in a Tower (Photo credit: eschipul)

One of the newly married soldiers learns of his wife’s death back home. The big splash, however, is Henry’s courtship of the beautiful French princess after the victory. She doesn’t speak English, and his French is sparse and rusty. My does she make him work to win her, setting up Henry’s entreaties as the occasion for marvelously entertaining and romantic tension—filled with noble and elevated appeals by a conquering king who would immediately woo and win the vanquished nation’s leading maiden.

The moral of all of this is that to depart from one’s carousing or “going nowhere” path could lead to Camelot, or at least a place in Camelot with the right leader, and the right system, and the right education, and the right cause. So do your homework everyone!