Dress to Impress: Practical Tips for Building a Professional Wardrobe

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Preparing for the semester doesn’t just involve creating captivating lectures and activities. It also involves preparing yourself – to look professional. A mentor use to tell me, don’t dress for the job you have, dress for the job you want. Her advice was to always look professional.

Many readers may be adjuncts who hope to one day become a full time faculty member. Therefore, you should be concerned with making a good first impression as well as a continued professional impression.

Audience Awareness:
Be aware of your audience. Your attire should be stylish but modest. Shirt should not be low cut, and skirts should not be too short. Clothing should be form fitting but not too tight. Make sure pants are hemmed to an appropriate length, and that they are ironed or pressed. Avoid clothing with holes. Even if the school allows more casual attire, jeans should be free from holes. Darker fabric is preferred as this looks more professional. It is best to avoid wearing stone washed or lighter colored jean fabric in slacks. Save your more casual attire for the weekends when you are preparing your lectures – not for the week days when you are presenting them.

Before You Go Shopping:
With that being said, many of you may be considering your own personal wardrobe. You may be ecstatic about an excuse to go shopping or you may be dreading it. Some of you may be thinking, this sounds expensive! You may not have the money to spend on a new wardrobe. While you may need to do some back to school shopping, clothing – stylish clothing – does not have to break the bank.

Practical Tip: Before you hit the stores, I encourage you to go through your closet and determine what items you own that can be worn in a professional environment. As you go through your closet, make a list of what you have. This will help you focus as you shop and will ensure you buy items that will complement what you already have. In addition, you can also look for some items that are versatile and practical to add to your current clothing collection. Below is a list of some things that I recommend that you have in your wardrobe.

Closet Staples:IMG_3545IMG_0786 4

  • 2 – 3 dress pants
  • 1 Blazer
  • 2 skirts or dresses
  • 2 pairs of dress shoes

Versatile Style:
I recommend buying dress pants or skirts in neutral colors. (My favorite dress pants are Express Editor Pants – I wear the classic cut and ankle length. I also love wearing Simply Vera Vera Wang pants from Kohls.) Black, grey, dark blue, and tan or light brown work well, because they can be worn with a variety of tops. Select a variety tops, short sleeves, long sleeves, fitted, flowing, solid colors, prints. You can tailor your selection to your personal style. I recommend purchasing a blazer or suit jacket that can be worn to class or to meetings, interviews, speaking events, or professional conferences. This can be paired with a pair of dress pants or a nice skirt or dress. Select a blazer in a color that can be worn with a variety of items in your wardrobe.

Shoes!
Finally, let’s talk about comfortable shoes. Remember, you may be walking a rather far distance to the classroom where you will be teaching. While heels may look cute, they may not be the best option. I recommend a few pairs of flat shoes or low wedges in neutral colors. I also like a few pairs of dressy boots for colder days – which are few and far between in Phoenix, AZ. Depending upon where you live, you may get more use of these than I do.

Practical Advice: I like to wear heels. However, I also have to walk across campus to my classroom or for meetings. So, I carry ballet flats in my work bag. I can slip these on if I need to walk across campus. Then I just change into my heels when I get to my meeting or classroom.

Places to Shop:
Two of my go-to stores are Kohls and Target. I can find just about any type of clothing that I am looking for at Kohls. From seasonal options to shoes, from professional clothing to casual clothing, Kohls carries everything. They also have great sales and coupons! Target is not necessarily a store that I go to in search of clothing, I usually go in for other items and end up in the clothing section, eventually during my visit. I always start my search on the sale racks! I have purchased practical flats and boots, cardigans and light jackets, and shirts for work.

Consignment shops can also be great for updating your wardrobe. However, they tend to be more of a hit or miss in terms of what you find. You may find killer deals or you may walk out empty handed. However, if you have time to scour the racks, then this can be a great option. I have been known to find cute shirts, pants, or even a nice blazer in my searches.

I also like to shop at stores like TJ Max or Ross, but again, these are hit or miss. However, if you need to update your wardrobe with some shirts for the season, you can do so pretty easily and cheaply in these stores.

While I am willing to wear a shirt from just about anywhere as long as it is cute and comfortable, pants are a different story. I buy the majority of my dress pants from the Express. I have been wearing Editor Dress pants from Express for fifteen years. I actually have two pairs that are at least 10 years old. They are great quality, and they fit very well. I can generally find a sale or coupon to use. Sometimes, Express runs a buy one get one half off sale. I also shop at the Express outlet or online for deals. Once you know the style and size that you like, you can easily shop online too which makes finding sales and deals even easier. I definitely prefer shopping online!

Accessorize:IMG_2737
Accessorizing can change the entire look of an outfit. I love scarfs! I buy them at the end of seasons when they are on sale. I tend to buy most of my scarfs from Charming Charlie’s for about $5 each; rarely do I pay more. Earrings also can dress up an outfit. One of my girlfriend’s sells Premier Designs Jewelry. This company is a direct sales company so you will need to find a jeweler if you wish to purchase the products. The quality of the jewelry as well as the return policy if something breaks has guaranteed my business for the last ten years. I try to host a party once a year. By hosting a party, I get my girlfriends together for a fun afternoon or evening out, and I earn FREE jewelry. Not bad if you are on a budget!

Sale Tips:
I LOVE a good sale! I try my very best to only shop sales. One great way to do this is to buy at the end of a season. I have found some great deals doing this. You may also have the opportunity to combine sale prices with coupons or other deals. Finally, I highly recommend asking if the stores where you shop offer discounts to teachers. There are numerous retailers who offer teacher discounts.

Dress to impress! You make an impression every time you step foot on campus. You never know who may pop into your classroom or see you walking from across campus. Make sure that every day, you are making the right impression – a good impression!

THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATED LINKS. THE LINKS PROVIDED ALLOW READERS TO ACCESS RESOURCES WE UTILIZE IN OUR CLASSES OR FOR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT. PLEASE DO YOUR OWN DUE DILIGENCE AND RESEARCH BEFORE PURCHASING PRODUCTS RECOMMENDED. WE ALSO HAVE FINANCIAL RELATIONSHIPS WITH MERCHANTS MENTIONED IN VARIOUS CONTENT POSTS AND MAY BE COMPENSATED IF CONSUMERS UTILIZE THE LINKS IN POSTS. YOU ARE NOT OBLIGATED TO USE THE LINKS PROVIDED, AND THERE IS NO OBLIGATION TO BUY ANY PRODUCTS THAT WE RECOMMEND.

Practical Tips for New Instructors: Preparing for the Semester

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As a new adjunct working at a local community college twelve years ago, I remember thinking “where in the world do I begin?”. I was luckier than most. My faculty mentor handed me a textbook and a copy of her syllabus to help me get started. However, I still had to prepare. I had to review her syllabus and determine what the information I was provided meant and how I was going to implement it into my class for the semester. Whether you are writing a course from scratch or you are provided custom content, the information below will help you as you prepare for the semester.

Syllabus

The course syllabus is the “road map” for the course. This important document communicates expectations to students. The more detailed your syllabus is, the less room there is for confusion. The syllabus should include:

  • Instructor Contact Information/Office Hours
  • Textbook Information/Additional Readings
  • Topics
  • Objectives
  • Assignments
  • Course/Classroom Policies

Objectives

Course objectives should be measurable or observable statements that can answer the question “Are the students learning?”. You may be given the course objectives…..you may not. Either way, an understanding of the importance of objectives is essential as an educator. This first step to planning your semester is determining what they students need to know, when they leave your class.

This requires considering several things….

What class did students take previously? What are you building upon? What information have they already gained?

What class will they be taking after your class? What do you need to prepare them for?
What are the most important concepts/topics in your class you are teaching? How will you measure if students are learning these concepts?

Once you determine what students need to learn, you can begin writing objectives. Bloom’s Taxonomy uses action words to describe cognitive processes that student will encounter as the interact with the course material.  The action words provided by Bloom’s Taxonomy can be used to write measurable objectives. By writing measurable objectives at an appropriate level for the students you are teaching, you can now determine the type of assessments you will use. These become your assignments/assessments.

This does not have to be complicated but it does need to be carefully considered, because your objectives should drive the course. They will lead you to create lectures, select a textbook, write assignment descriptions, and create assessments.

If you are not sure if objectives are included, ask another faculty member at the school. Ask a department chair, the dean, or someone in your department who can help to guide you. If you are aware of other instructors are teaching the same class you are teaching, you may wish to collaborate on writing the course objectives – or see if they have some objectives that you can review and incorporate or work from – modify or add to.

Just remember, each objective must be assessed in a tangible way.

Assignments

How will you measure student learning?
Quizzes/Exams
Papers
Projects
Presentations
Discussions Questions

Each assignment or assessment must align to a course objective. Assignments and assessments should not be randomly selected. By aligning assignments and assessments to course objectives, students can identify the reason or purpose for each assignment or assessment.

Book Selection

jessica-ruscello-196422.jpgSelect a book that complements the course objectives that you identified. The book should provide information on topics that you will cover. However, the textbook should not drive the content of the course. Rather than selecting a textbook and then building your class around the textbook, develop your course and select a book that complements the topics and objectives you have identified. Keep in mind that a textbook can be supplemented with journal articles and other readings or materials.

Contact various academic publishers and request desk copies of books that are relevant to your course content. Some publishers I have reviewed and used include Cengage Learning,  McGraw Hill, Pearson, and W. W. Norton & Company. Publishers will have websites that you can explore. Locate textbooks that may be useful and contact the publisher to request copies. Explain to the publisher that you are searching for a textbook for the course you are teaching. Most publishers will offer desk copies (free instructor copies) for you to review.

It may also be helpful to talk to other instructors who teach similar content to find out what books they use in their classes.

 

IMG_1318Feeling overwhelmed? As you prepare for your classes, feel free to reach out to us with questions. You can post them below or shoot us an email at practicalprofessors@gmail.com. We are happy to help you!

You may also find these blogs helpful: 5 Tips for Preparing for Next Semester and Tips for Preparing to Teach a New Class

Tips for Preparing to Teach a New Class

How do you keep you head above water when you are teaching a class for the first time?

Planning to teach a new class can be extremely time consuming, a bit overwhelming, stressful…..need we go on? But does it have to be? Are there ways to create lessons that are effective, in a timely manner, with reduced stress?

YES! Let us share some ideas that may reduce stress and make preparing to teach a new class a bit easier.

The syllabus is your roadmap!

rawpixel-com-211022As instructors, we harp on students to read the syllabus. This is their guide to the elements and expectations of the course. If a syllabus is provided as part of a centralized curriculum, then just as we instruct students to do, start your preparation by reading the syllabus! Before you begin planning a lecture and putting together powerpoints, it is important to review the syllabus. Many colleges and universities are moving toward a centralized curriculum for accreditation purposes, which means you will not be expected to write your own syllabus. The syllabus will detail course objectives, the required readings, and assignment guidelines. Reviewing the syllabus will help you to prepare your lectures and powerpoints. So, this should be your starting point.

Course Objectives, Readings and Assignments

Course objectives are statements that clearly detail what students will learn by the end of the course. Review the course objectives and focus on creating lectures that include and expand on the course objectives. As you create your lectures, it is also important to cover required readings as this will help you to prepare for class and answer questions that student might ask. Review assignment requirements. Determine if there is information that you will need to present in class to ensure students are prepared to complete assignments.tom-hermans-264015

Active Learning

Consider if the topics can be covered by participating in activities.  When students can apply the information they are learning, rather than passively listening to it being presented in a lecture format, this will increase the chances they they learn and remember the information. For example, have students come up with examples to illustrate definitions rather than simply just writing definitions to terms. They can share their examples in class. This activity breaks up lecturing, gets students involved, and helps them to apply the terms/definitions they are learning. This is also a great way to complement powerpoint slides, if terms are included and they are a bit dry (like they may be the first time you teach a class).

Students Prepare and Teach Lessons

You may also consider how students can contribute to the planning of the class. You are the instructor. You are paid to be the content expert, but that doesn’t mean that students can’t prepare and present information on topics. Are there topics that students would benefit from researching and presenting to their peers? This should not replace you planning, but rather should complement it. You will be responsible to add or clarify information as students share their presentations.

Students are creative and can come up with some very interesting presentations, activities, etc. when they are challenged with this task. As long as they are learning the material, and you are guiding the process, you have done your job. Have them help with the planning!

For example, I teach a capstone class for senior students. While I could stand and talk to them about preparation for job interviews, I find it more effective to break students into pairs and have them research small topics that are related to interviewing (ex. interview questions and answers, phone interviewing tips, how to dress professionally, business casual versus business attire, how to write an post-interview thank you note or email). Each pair is asked to put together a 3-5 minute presentation on the topic. They also have to include one deliverable – a sheet with some tips, a power point presentation, a resource that their peers can refer back to.

This activity is one that students enjoy – they like to hear from their peers. And….they are gaining the necessary information on their topic as well. This also generates some really good discussions. Finally, they are practicing their public speaking and presenting skills. Being an effective communicator is important regardless of your major.

5 Tips for Accepting and Planning to Teach A Class for the First TimeIMG_1389

  1. Do not accept contracts for classes that you are not qualified to teach. You are the content expert paid to present the material. If your educational training and experience have not prepared you to teach the content, then do not accept the contract.
  2. Review the textbook and assigned readings before you begin planning. Being familiar with what the students are reading will assist you preparing class lecture and experiences for students. It will also help to prepare you to answer questions that students ask.
  3. Use the publisher resources. Most publishers will provide resources through a website. You may have to request access to the publisher resources. You can send an email request to the publisher and ask for access to be granted. Publisher resources often include powerpoints, test banks, and activities.
    Please note: you may need to adjust and adapt these resources. For example, you may need to revise powerpoints to make them a bit more interesting or interactive. 
  4. Locate and incorporate videos, such as TED talks.
  5. Implement activities! Activities help to reinforce information that they have reviewed in their weekly reading or that you have presented in class during lecture. When they are engaged and actively participating, they are learning!

Things I can’t teach without…

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As an instructor, there are several things that I use daily that help make my job much easier. I am going to share them with you. Perhaps, you will find that they will make your life a bit easier in the classroom too.

1. Post-It Notes

Screen Shot 2017-06-05 at 8.23.02 PMPersonally and professionally, these have become a staple in my life. I write myself reminders constantly. I am so busy that if I try to rely on my memory, I will forget and will wake up in the middle of the night in a panic remembering what I forgot to do. Stress! So, I write down reminders as soon as things pop into my head, and I post them in an appropriate location. My computer monitor at work, my bathroom mirror at home, and even in my car, on the dashboard. I keep post-it notes with me – in my desk drawer, my work bag, my car, my purse (and even in my night stand next to my bed – in case I do have a thought in the middle of the night – jotting it down allows me to go back to sleep more easily). They serve as my “personal assistant”.

2. My Planner (and cool pens)

IMG_0160I use a planner. Every December, this is definitely something I look forward to – getting a new planner.  This year, I was gifted a really fun one from one of my wonderful Instructional Assistants (more about them in a post to come) that is color coded and includes stickers. It has a weekly view with journaling room to write down notes. It also includes a monthly view so that I can scan my week and month in a glance. I spend time planning. This helps me to get all of the important things happening throughout the week and month scheduled. It allows me to keep track of my schedule, my husband’s schedule, and my kids’ activities. By writing down commitments, then I can determine weeks when grading or other tasks will be difficult to complete, so that I can plan ahead or make adjustments to help avoid unnecessary stress. Again, by writing things down, I am less likely to forget, which also reduces stress!

3. My Vera Bradley Bag(s)

Screen Shot 2017-06-05 at 8.22.03 PMThis accessory is not only practical, but stylish! Vera Bradley makes the cutest totes, backpacks, and lunch bags. There are a variety patterns to choose from. These bags are cute and practical and allow me to carry material to my classes. There are plenty of pockets and compartments to store everything that I need for class to run smoothly and successfully. I also like that  different size cosmetic bags can be used to hold pencil pens, whiteboard markers, personal items (like chapstick, cough drops, hand cream, etc.). New patterns come out a few times a year. But, I like to shop sale patterns/items online. Who doesn’t love a good sale!?!?

4. Name Tags

I start every semester by having my Instructional Assistants create name tags for students in my classes. This not only helps me to get to know their names, but it also helps to create a classroom community, because students can use the name tags to learn their classmates’ names too. It helps the class to feel more cohesive. Name tags are passed out at the beginning of each class, and collected at the end of every class (because if I don’t collect them, they never return to class). My classes are about 90+ students, and I teach a minimum of four every semester. By using name tags, I can learn the majority of my students’ names. Learning students’ names has many benefits including making the class more meaningful and enjoyable (for the students and for you), tracking attendance, making connections with students, and checking-in with students who are struggling.

Tip: Print the name tags on cardstock so they can be folded and will easily stand up. You could also pass out cardstock and have students make their own name tag on the first day of class. You may also wish to bring markers to class if you choose to allow student to make their own.

5. My Clicker

Screen Shot 2017-06-05 at 8.37.00 PMA clicker allows me the freedom to move around the classroom as I lecture. I can lecture from anywhere in the classroom, and I can click through powerpoint slides projected with ease. I am not tied to the podium in the front of the room, which definitely helps with classroom management. My clicker also has a laser pointer so I can point out important information on the slides being displayed.

6. Finally, COFFEE!

I enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning, mid-morning, before a late afternoon class. Coffee is also great when collaborating….. in my office with a colleague or a meeting with an adjunct instructor in the coffee shop. Or with a student in the library discussing an assignment or career options. There is never a bad time for a cup of coffee!

What do you find it hard to teach without? Add your comments below.

THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATED LINKS. THE LINKS PROVIDED ALLOW READERS TO ACCESS RESOURCES WE UTILIZE IN OUR CLASSES OR FOR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT. PLEASE DO YOUR OWN DUE DILIGENCE AND RESEARCH BEFORE PURCHASING PRODUCTS RECOMMENDED. WE ALSO HAVE FINANCIAL RELATIONSHIPS WITH MERCHANTS MENTIONED IN VARIOUS CONTENT POSTS AND MAY BE COMPENSATED IF CONSUMERS UTILIZE THE LINKS IN POSTS. YOU ARE NOT OBLIGATED TO USE THE LINKS PROVIDED, AND THERE IS NO OBLIGATION TO BUY ANY PRODUCTS THAT WE RECOMMEND.

Benefits of Peer Observation

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Have you ever thought to yourself: Am I doing this right? or Am I any good at this? Is there a better more effective way to teach/present this information? What are my colleagues or others who teach this course doing? While we do not encourage comparison of yourself to others, we do encourage collaboration. We also encourage observation of your colleagues.

My undergraduate degree was in education, special education to be specific. I trained to be a teacher. I took classes on pedagogy, and I observed other teachers before practicing the art of teaching under the supervision of professionals in the field. Before being sent into the professional world, I spent several months in practicum and internship settings practicing. When I entered the field as a new professional, I still had a lot to learn, but I had a foundation.

Fast forward, I am now mentoring new instructors in higher education. Some who have a similar background as my own. Others who have never stepped foot in a classroom as the instructor. I easily stepped into a mentoring role. I have been mentoring friends and colleagues most of my professional career. I began mentoring by sharing tips and showing them some of the techniques that I used. I would offer advice and provide materials. But telling someone how to do something and showing them or teaching them are two completely different things. So my classroom became a place where instructors were welcome. I encouraged my mentees as well as others who were new to the profession to come to my class to observe.

Adjuncts are welcome to observe my classes any time they wish. They can observe my teaching style, how I handle classroom management, how I work with Instructional Assistants (IAs), how course content is presented, active learning activities that are implemented, and how I interact with my students, They can also observe how I handle unexpected setbacks such as technology failure. I also observe adjuncts’ classes after they have had the opportunity to come and observe mine. During our meeting following the observations, we can discuss both experiences. During the meeting, I try to point out strategies that were used that I am going to work to incorporate into my classes – perhaps a teaching strategy or activity that I observed. I also reference things that they observed when they came to visit my class as we discuss possible areas of improvement. For example, if I suggest more class discussion, I may suggest the use of a strategy, like a Think, Pair, Share. More than likely, they observed this strategy when they visited my class, so they know what I am talking about and how I implemented the strategy. This makes the meeting run a bit more smoothly and more effectively.

6 Benefits of Observation:
1. New ideas, techniques, and strategies
2. Classroom management
3. Use of technology
4. Explanation of material – presenting the material differently
5. Activities and active learning ideas
6. Engaging students

Call to Action: If you are a full time faculty member at your university become comfortable with people visiting your classroom to observe. Invite new faculty who you mentor to visit your classroom. If you are a new faculty member, find someone to observe. Ask a colleague if it would be possible to stop by and observe one of their classes. Explain that you are trying to learn from those who are seasoned professionals in the field.  Observation benefits the observed, the observer, and ultimately the students.

Words of Caution:
1. Gain permission to observe before stopping by. Some people may be uncomfortable having a colleague in their classroom, regardless of the reason for the visit.
2. Respect the environment. You are an observer – blend in. Do not use your cell phone or act in other distracting manners. Just simply sit and observe.

5 Lessons I Learned From Indiana Jones 

FullSizeRender 3As many of you may remember, if you grew up watching Indiana Jones movies like I did, Dr. Henry Wilson Jones Jr. or more famously known as Indiana (Indy) Jones was a professor of archaeology. The wise and well versed college professor lectured on ancient civilizations before opportunity arose in each movie for him to transform into a snake fearing, relic chasing, danger-dodging superhero better known as Indy. But when I was younger and watched these movies, I never thought I would apply what I learned in my current profession. Here is what Indiana Jones taught me about being a college professor.

1. Be An Expert

Countless times throughout the Indiana Jones series Indy has to use his vast knowledge to save his life and the lives of the people with him. He is an expert in his field. As a professor, you need to know your subject, and you should be able to apply that knowledge across a variety of contexts to solve problems.

2. Stay Curious and Passionate

Indiana Jones is passionate and excited about his field. In fact, any time there is a chance to explore an ancient culture or find a new relic, Dr. Jones quickly leaves on an adventure. Now, I am not suggesting that you take off on adventures anytime you feel the urge….you may find yourself unemployed! But do stay curious about the latest developments in your field, search for new developments and research your subject passionately to uncover new relics. fullsizerender-2.jpg

3. Imperfect Superhero

Spielberg describes Indiana Jones as the imperfect superhero, and I agree! Indiana Jones can be the butt of the joke, he gets hurt, express pain and is open about his dislike of snakes. Indiana represents the average professor who can transform into a superhero. Furthermore, he teaches us the humility we all need to have in the classroom. No matter how epic you are, being human makes us more relatable and likable to students.

4. Research Is Exciting

Dr. Jones is a Ph.D. teaching archaeology at a university, but his research and dedication to exploration make him dangerous and ostentatious. I realize that not all of our research takes us around the world exploring ancient indigenous cultures, but discovery is exciting!  Looking at new trends and adding to the field of research is exciting, because you’re helping to find the answers to tomorrow’s questions!

5. Adventure Is Always Worth It FullSizeRender

Explore. Uncover. Discover. Get out out of your comfort zone. Try something new! Indy always finds the relic he is in search of because he is determined and never gives up. This motivates him to seek the next adventure.  While adventure means something different for each of us, I encourage you to determine what it means for you. The lessons learned on adventures you take can be applied to your professional and personal life; in the classroom or just to help establish self-care by taking time to do things you enjoy.

I am anxiously awaiting the new Indiana Jones film set to be released in 2020. If you haven’t seen these films, the summer is a perfect time to check them out. I grew up watching the Indian Jones series with my parents! I never dreamed I would grow up and work in higher education; however, I would like to think I am a little bit cooler in my role as a professor, because of the lessons I learned from Indian Jones!

 

THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATED LINKS. THE LINKS PROVIDED ALLOW READERS TO ACCESS RESOURCES WE UTILIZE IN OUR CLASSES OR FOR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT. PLEASE DO YOUR OWN DUE DILIGENCE AND RESEARCH BEFORE PURCHASING PRODUCTS RECOMMENDED. WE ALSO HAVE FINANCIAL RELATIONSHIPS WITH MERCHANTS MENTIONED IN VARIOUS CONTENT POSTS AND MAY BE COMPENSATED IF CONSUMERS UTILIZE THE LINKS IN POSTS. YOU ARE NOT OBLIGATED TO USE THE LINKS PROVIDED, AND THERE IS NO OBLIGATION TO BUY ANY PRODUCTS THAT WE RECOMMEND.

Would students benefit from a technology ban in class?

Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 2.40.04 PMShould I implement a technology ban in my classroom? Would students benefit from this? Would it impede their learning? Can this be done? These are questions we have been considering for several months. We have discussed the idea of a “tech free” with colleagues and have received mixed opinions. We even share our thoughts about this on a recent Facebook Live session. Check it out: https://www.facebook.com/practicalprofessors/videos/745834255594430/.

 What’s in the research?

While technology definitely has a place in the classroom, it may not be appropriate for taking notes during lecture. The research on this topic is undeniable; students who take notes by hand rather than typing notes retain more information that is presented in class. They learn to listen to what is being presented and summarize the information into their own words, because they do not have time to write everything word for word. They are digesting what is said rather than simply mindless typing what the instructor is saying. They do not take as many notes, because they are not copying word for word, but the notes they take are more meaningful because of the attention given to what was being written down.

Students Weigh In

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In addition to the research on the use of technology for note taking, students honestly report that they use technology for academic and non-academic purposes in the classroom. They report laptops are used for note taking, conducing research, accessing academic resources that are related to the course, for participating in activities and completing assignments. However, they also note that they access email, social media, and i-chat using their computers. They also can access Internet sites and review information that is not related to courts content. They also report that technological devices, mainly their cell phones, are used in class for non-academic purposes. They candidly share that cell phones are accessed for personal use, so perhaps, just banning cell phones in the classroom would help to reduce distractions.

More Questions…

The more research we did, the more questions that surfaced. Should we prohibit the use of technology during instruction? Will students stop attending class if technology is limited? How will students react?

Banning Technology

I have banned cell phone use in my classroom every semester since I started teaching. I do not use my cell phone in class, and therefore, I do not permit my students to use their cell phones. However, this has not curbed the problem of inappropriate use of technology or helped to reduce the distraction that some devices are leading to in the classroom. Even when I have classroom assistants monitor the use, students are sneaky and learn to flip from screen to screen so that it appears that they are paying attention. They effort that they expend hiding their inappropriate use of technology is a distraction to the student and also to students around them who have reported in recent semesters that their peers in appropriate use of technology is a distraction to them. For this reason, it was time that I addressed it more forcefully in my classes. But how?

We have some colleagues that have implemented a technology free classroom. They force students to put cell phones, computers, and tablets away at the beginning of class. Students are forced to use pencil and paper to take notes. We also have some colleagues who do not have polices regarding the use of technology and students are free to use devices as they please in class. There are different reasons given for both, such as students are more engage in discussions when they are not distracted by technology to they are adults who pay for the class and therefore technology use is not limited or prohibited in the classroom.

How does technology impact the classroom environment?

But, this begs the question, how does the use of technology impact the classroom environment? Does it have a negative impact on discussion, participation, and retention of information? Is it distracting to other learners? Is there experience in the classroom being impacted by those who are using their devices excessively and for reasons that are not related to the educational experience in the classroom?

Cyberslacking

Cyberslacking is defined as “employees’ use of their employers’ web access during work hours for non-work-related purposes.” However, this can also be applied to the field of education. Students who are using university resources, such as WiFi access, for non-school related purposes during classroom instruction, could be deemed cyberslacking. And while the students is not an employee of the university when attending class, their actions may interfere with others in the classroom.

In order to raise awareness, instructors who decide to implement technology free classes or restrictions on technology in the classroom should explain cyberslacking, the myths about multitasking, and how the use of technology also infringes upon the rights of other students in the class. Due to this being a distraction to others, it is unfair. Instructors are to create and maintain an environment conducive to learning. Everyone must work together to create a productive learning environment.

Classroom Polices

crew-22248As an instructor, there have been numerous times that I have asked a question in class only to be met with blank stares. The student who is eventually called upon, at random, asks for the question to be repeated, due to not being aware of what was asked. While this is not always caused by technology distraction, it is happening more often as the use of different types of technology enter the classroom. Computers, tablets, phones, and wearables provide students with constant connection to the world wide web and the world taking place outside of the four classroom walls. So, this semester, we will be putting more restrictions on the use of technology in class. For example, technology will be limited during instruction but permitted during in class activities and group work. We hope that this will help to increase participation and reduce redundant questions. We also hope that students will recognize the benefits, because they will become better note takers and retain more information/content that is presented in class, thus they will spend more time studying and will earn higher grades.

Should I share personal information with my students?

This week, a former student came to visit me. During our conversation, I asked how her classes were going and which classes she was really enjoying? As she began to talk about classes she took the previous semester, she mentioned a particular class that I assumed would have been one of her favorites. When I made that comment, she stated, “I learned more about my professor’s life than actual content from the course.”

What?!?! Epic fail with a capital F!

Personal Examples

Personal examples can be powerful tools in the classroom. They can help you to form connections with your students – build relationships. They make you relatable to your students – you really are an actual person outside of the classroom.

Personal examples can help to illustrate topics that you are presenting. I often use stories about my children or former teaching experiences in the K-12 setting, when they are relevant to topics that I am teaching. But, it is important to know when enough is enough. It is also important to keep in mind the appropriateness of what is being shared.

You are an authority figure. Students must respect you, your position, and the relationship you have with them. Failure to keep these boundaries can lead to consequences later. Form a connection, but remember there is still the need for boundaries.

I present personal information when it directly supports a topic being discussed. I may include a picture of my children on a powerpoint when it relates to a topic I am teaching.  I may share an example from my K-12 teaching days or a personal anecdote about something that happened to me as a child, in high school, or as an undergraduate student. But, the example is always used to support the topic I am teaching.

Keeping Your Opinion to Yourself

On a similar note, there are also times when I refrain from sharing my personal stories, opinions, or experiences on a topic. I may want students to form their own opinions. Therefore, I refrain from sharing how a feel or think about a topic. I play devils advocate during this type of discussion and demonstrate respect for both sides. By sharing opposing views, students are exposed to information on the topic, and they are provided the opportunity to form or adapt their current position.

Personal Contact Information

You should also determine what type of personal contact information you will share with students. Will you provide your cell phone number? Will you include a personal email address? Will you use a system like Remind?

Jessi and I differ in the type of information we share with students. Read our individual polices below:

Laura’s Policies
Screen Shot 2017-05-01 at 8.53.53 PMThe classes that I teach are generally 90+ students. The majority of the students are underclassmen. In addition, I have Instructional Assistants to help me in the larger classes. Therefore, I do not share my personal cell phone with students. I also do not provide them with my personal email. My students have access to my work email and forums that are established within my class to communicate individually as well as to ask questions that the entire class can see. They are also provided the phone number to my office. I hold office hours weekly and will schedule appointments with student if they are in need of assistance. I like to keep my personal life and my professional life a bit separate when it comes to communication with my students. With that being said, I also do not “friend” my students on Social Media sites, like Facebook. I am cautious when “friending” colleagues who are connected with current students on social media sites. I keep my account set to private.

I am a bit more lenient with these boundaries after students graduate. However, this depends upon the student and the relationship I have formed with them. If they are trustworthy and responsible, then I am more likely to connect with them on social media or even provide some personal contact information. For example, I have some alumni who currently work with me as Instructional Assistants, who I am connected with on social media and they also have my personal cell phone number.

Jessi’s Policies


Screen Shot 2017-05-01 at 8.54.48 PMI agree with Laura – class size can dictate the types of stories and examples that get shared. I also would add that the size of the major and involvement with student clubs and other activities can also impact what you share. Overall, I am much more liberal with my information than Laura. I take time at the beginning of my classes to share personal information and events from my life with my classes. I also invite students to do the same. The stories shared help to build community and personalize the classroom. I have invited students, who are involved in a club I sponsor, to my home for a Christmas party, game nights, and scary movie nights. However, I never host these events alone; there is always another faculty member (usually from my department) present, who stays for the entire event. I do not give my address to all of my students. Furthermore, I also give select students my cell phone number. For example, students who are helping me with research projects, students I want to connect with to get coffee, or students in clubs that I sponsor have access to my personal cell phone number.

Regardless of how you plan to interact with your students, whether only during school hours on campus or by participating in off-campus activities, I still warn each of you to use caution!  It is important that you are aware of the policies and procedures of the university. If communication through personal cell phones or off-campus interactions and actives are prohibited, then you must abide by the rules set forth by the institution. It is also important to remember to keep a professional relationship regardless of where and how you are interacting with students. It has been made very clear to me that if anything were ever to happen in my home or if an allegation were to be made, I would lose my job. So take time to consider the pros and cons of your interactions and ask yourself….is it worth the risk?

Moral of this story is….if your students know more about you, than the course content at the end of the semester, you have failed them! Share personal stories but do so in a conscientious and cautious manner. Remember, it is important to maintain authority while also form relationships and teach the content. Boundaries and balance are the key!