Ending on an Up Note: Play Time!

The folks who bring you pleasureinlearning are ready for a break.  The regular posters have all sorts of plans for the next couple of months, so we’re suspending regular posts until August 1. While we’re away, we’ll be working on some new features for fall and exploring new ways to use pleasure to leverage learning. We’re still determined to make learning an irresistibly exciting and engaging experience…like the one this little guy is having:

Enjoy your weekend. Enjoy your summer. See you in August.


Where There’s a Will

karenThe end of the term is populated by a predictable cast of characters.  Some leave us shaking our heads—the thoroughbred who charged from the gate like a surefire winner but faded in the stretch, the confused soul who can’t understand why missing “only” a quarter of the classes has adversely affected a final grade, the phantom who evaporated midway through the course, the desperado pleading for extensions and extra credit. Sigh.

Happily, we also met a different group of students this term.  These people may have stumbled out of the gate, but they charged hard down the backstretch, closing on the class leaders as they headed for the finish line.determination Their preparation for the class may have looked iffy at best, but they figured out how the class worked, buckled down, and prevailed.  These are the folks who started or joined a study group. They lingered after class to ask questions. They corrected their mistakes on quizzes and tests. They came early to spend extra time with models and microscopes. They did whatever it took to get the job done.

A clip from this week’s news featured a young man who would feel at home in the “It’s-Up-To-Me” crew. He wanted to get better at passing and catching a football, so he found a way to do it all by himself, gaining speed and skill in the process.  Watch him in action:


As Ben Franklin said:

Energy and persistence conquer all things.

Here’s to the people who get the job done.


Putting the “Act” in Active Learning

anneHow often do we check to see if our students are still breathing or if they have gone on to another place? One of my colleagues once said she believed she could “burst into flames” in the classroom without the students showing any reaction! Goodness!!! Unfortunately, I have to admit, I have had those same thoughts about some of my students and classes.

Several months ago, pleasureinlearning, published a piece asking what you remember about some of your teachers. Do you remember their boring lectures, their clothes, something they said to you (good or bad), or their enthusiasm about their subject? Think about it for a moment…then think about what you are doing in the classroom. How are your students going to remember you? That might be a scary thought.

I have previously written about storytelling, a good medium for entertainment and for transmission of knowledge. I also commented on a very negative response I received from one of my junior high school teachers. I never will forget it! It was seventh grade science class ….well, I don’t need to revisit that again.
Recently, Annie Murphy Paul, posting in “The Brilliant Report,” wrote an article discussing how to make stories come alive. Acting out stories is the key. Moving objects or moving your body bridges the gap between real-life people, objects and actions and the printed words that represent them.acting1

Research done by Arthur Glenberg, Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University, demonstrated that when individuals are provided the opportunity to act out a written text, their reading comprehension will double! His research also indicated that when students develop this acting-out technique, they develop the ability to “enact” these scenarios in their heads. Their brains are drawing from experiences, sensations, and movements representing what they have read. Now they have a mental picture of what has been written on the page, thus leading to a better understanding of the subject.


cathatesreadingSo, back to reminicsing—When I was in college, I was required to read a lot of written material. Every word I read was a dreadful experience for me! I know what you’re thinking: how could anybody not enjoy reading? Well, I DO NOT LIKE TO READ! There I said it. Thank you. I feel much better getting that off my chest.


What does this have to do with being alive or dead? Simply this, in my second year of college, it was time for me to move on from ENG 101 to English 235 which was ENGLISH LITERATURE! Holy crap! Reading! I thought, ” I will never make it through this.” As luck would have it, a college friend suggested Mrs. Carolyn Carhu for English Lit. That was one of the best pieces of advice I ever got in school.

I immediately registered for her class and thought to myself,”You are either going to die trying or somehow live through it.” Well, as you can see from this writing, I did live through it. It was one of the best and most interesting classes I took on my undergraduate pilgrimage.

What made it so interesting? Why did I want to read everything with such a passion? What kind of spell did she put on me? Was it voodoo? No, she acted out the pieces of literature that she had assigned. Acted/them/ out. Her best performance was the day we studied the Trojan Wars in The Iliad and the The Odyssey. I can still close my eyes and see the stick figures of soldiers on the board. Ms. Carhu ran back and forth across the front of the room erasing those who were killed and drawing the emergence of new characters. How great was that? trojanwar

How many times have we educators done something like this in our classroom? Maybe it’s time for a change. Get out of your comfort zone and show off your acting skills. Who knows? Maybe Broadway is waiting for your debut.

Make your class come alive.



Tech Tuesday: Formatting Fairy Series, Part 10

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


This article is the last part of a multi-part visit from the Formatting Fairy.  Read on to see how to exorcise those Formatting Demons.  Comment and tell us about your Formatting Demons.

Microsoft Office includes a concept called Themes.  This is basically a set of colors, fonts and styles that look nice together.  You can see evidence of the themes in the Style gallery, in the Font Color selector and in other locations.  This allows you to apply formatting that looks good and is consistent across your document.

Theme Colors for Fonts

If you want to change the theme or theme colors, you can do that from the Design Tab.



Strings or Strangs

BrianI’ve never lived with someone who plays an instrument—until now. I shouldn’t really say that. My mother was an accomplished pianist, and my sister grew up on a piano, plus our children played instruments a year or two in their youth.


What I mean is I’ve never studied someone studying an instrument. Tandy has talked for several years about taking up the violin. Now she’s done it. She researched and bought a violin, found a teacher, and is showing herself the same tenacious, no-detail-left-unthought-of person she’s known for being.Tandy's practice spot


Her lesson is 30 minutes once a week, but that is the least of all her learning. What fascinates me is the chemistry of how she goes about absorbing the violin experience. It’s a new lesson on how a learner becomes one with a pursuit.


The computer is a marvel of our age; she will hunt up the best YouTubes she can find on a particular song in progress or issue with mechanics. For example, she began to get curious about what the violin can do and what the bow can do. The violin can only do so much, and then there has to be the action of the bow.


Tandy's violinThe magic of the bow is in angle, pressure, and smoothness of stroke. How can it elicit from the instrument the instrument’s acoustical potential? Then too, the fingering on the neck takes getting used to on an instrument with no frets.


Behind all this is the brain—music central—and then soul, the intangible fabric of the human. There it is: brain, soul, bow, and violin. Watching another human being undertake so much discovery is stimulating. What makes it fun too is seeing her perseverance—literally willing her way to find out what she needs to know.with other learners


I haven’t told you anything about the quality of sound she is getting. She’s hit her first plateau, somewhat frustrating while waiting for the next jump in sweetness of notes and consistency in playing a song.


watching a pro at Merlefest in NCI enjoy the whole thing, wherever it leads. One good thing is she doesn’t need to buy a fiddle. There’s an old cliché that a violin has strings, and a fiddle has strangs. Isn’t that convenient?


Ending on an Up Note: Go For It

I often hear my office mate Brian urging students to “be more aggressive” about completing work in the writing classes that he teaches. I have become more deliberate in coaching my A&P students to “grab the materials that you need. If your classmate is hogging the model that you need to see, go after it.” Community college students need to hear from us that getting an education is an active process, one that requires them to assume responsibility for what they need to learn.  Feminist and poet Adrienne Rich offered these thoughts in a speech to the graduates of Douglas College in 1977:

“You cannot afford to think of being here to receive an education; you will do much better to think of yourselves as being here to claim one.”

A vivid visual always clarifies an idea for me, so I offer this clip from the news as evidence that seizing what you want can be a joyful experience:

Enjoy your weekend. Grab some fun.

R2: Simon Says “Read This”

ReadingthuRsday-R2April 13-19, 2014 was National Library Week. Each year the American Library Association sets aside a week to celebrate the important role libraries play in our society. To commemorate this week, Cynthia Atkins sent the following question to faculty and staff “What Were the First Books You Felt You ‘Should’ Read”? As you can imagine, she got varied responses to this question. One person reported Roots by Alex Haley and The Fountainhead were two books which touched her. Another person stated he read the entire encyclopedia by the age of 9.

As I was thinking about my response to this question, I came up with two very different books that affected my life. My first was the Dick and Jane series of books that I learned to read from in the first grade. I remember being read to as a child, but I don’t believe I was able to read on my own when I went to first grade.Dick and Jane As a child of the sixties, we didn’t have pre-school and kindergarten so my first exposure to learning was the first grade. I remember Mrs. Ray standing in the front of the room teaching us to read by using these little books. The adventures of Dick, Jane and their dog, Spot, made us want to know more about them and in turn we were learning to read. It opened my eyes to the world through reading.

The second book that I ‘should’ read came much later when I was in graduate school working on my Library Science degree. It was ‘lovingly’ called ‘the green book’ and it was required reading for my information and retrieval course. This was one of the most difficult courses we were required to take.crossroads-library-stacks-books It was a good class for those who would be cataloging and since I was NOT going to ever be a cataloger I really didn’t think I would get much benefit from it. Well, never say never–I came to Hopkinsville as the cataloger and I continue to be the cataloger! The ‘green book’ sets on the shelf in my office and I still refer to it every so often.

These books both had a great impact on my life even though they affected my life 30+ years apart. The first taught me to love reading—something I still love to do even though I don’t get to read nearly as often as I wish I could. The second book taught me about my profession which I also love. Without either of these books, I might not be where I am today.LOVE book

If you haven’t thought about the question Cynthia posed, give it a little thought and decide what book(s) really did impact your life. If it’s time to revisit one of those books, stop by the library we probably have a copy or we can certainly get it for you. Happy reading!