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Teaching in Higher Ed by Bonni Stachowiak - 4d ago

It is hard to believe that we are back around, again, to another year’s vote for Jane Hart’s Top Tools for Learning. I voted back in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. I also created an infographic of my Modern Professional Learner’s Toolkit. Consider voting in the 2019 survey, which closes Friday, September 13, 2019.

2019 Votes

Each year that I vote, I don’t allow myself to look at past year’s blog posts. That way, I can be sure to avoid any unintended influence on the current year’s selections. First, I narrow down my top ten. Then, I determine which of the three categories they fit within: Personal and professional learning, supporting workplace learning, or within an educational context.

In no particular order, here are my 2019 Top 10 Tools:

Twitter (Personal/professional)

My personal learning network (PLN) on Twitter is vibrant and full of generous, knowledgable people who contribute to my growth daily.

Inoreader (Personal/professional)

This RSS (real simple syndication) keeps track of all of my sources of information. They come through what is called a “feed” into one place. I can browse headlines and read more, or mark items as read. I still haven’t capitalized on all the cool stuff I can do with Inoreader, but is has been great so far.

Unread (Personal/professional)

Once Inoreader contains the feeds I want to read, Unread is my favorite way to actually consume content. I find it works great on the iPad to be able to navigate through headings, quickly mark things as read that aren’t of interest, and bookmark those articles I want to see later on (using Pinboard, which is mentioned next). Unread also has a great dark mode, which saves my eyes while reading at night before bed.

Pinboard (Personal/professional)

When I find something I want to save for future reference, Pinboard is my tool of choice. I save bookmarks to videos, blogs, articles, and more to Pinboard. Each bookmark on Pinboard includes tags, so I can easily go back to topics of interest or resources that might be helpful to my students.

PollEverywhere (Education)

This polling system is a wonderful way to engage an audience, using their smartphones or other devices. PollEverywhere has lots of question types and ways I can present those questions to students.

Glisser (Workplace learning)

My keynote talks are supported with Glisser. I can share slides without having to worry about what device will actually display them (as in if I’ll be able to use my laptop, or will need to use one being provided by the event venue). Glisser also has great tools for engagement, such as polling and social media sharing.

Quizlet (Education)

This flashcard app is highly flexible and offers all sorts of ways to do retrieval practice. Quizlet works great for individuals who want to review materials, but also in a classroom context. My favorite is their game called Quizlet Live that is the most fun I ever see my students having when reviewing for an exam.

Canvas (Education)

I have used many learning management systems (LMSs) in my day. Canvas is by far the best I have ever used. As the name suggests, it can be a blank canvas for an educator to create a dynamic environment for students to engage in. But it also has enough built-in structure to be easy to use and maintain consistency between classes. It also has an app center that lets you bring in other applications to use within Canvas (like Quizlet, mentioned above).

Acuity Scheduling (Workplace learning)

All of my office hours and podcast interview scheduling is done through Acuity Scheduing. We also take registrations for all of our faculty development workshops using this tool. Acuity Scheduling is incredibly flexible and has all kinds of options for making the work of gathering together for all kinds of purposes seamless.

Zoom (Education)

While Zoom is being listed last, it may just mean I saved the best for last! Zoom makes it incredibly easy to connect via web conference with people from all over the world. It does all the heavy lifting with working out the bandwidth issues, to give us the smoothest and clearest connection possible. Zoom also has all kinds of additional features to help participants stay engaged, like breakout rooms, chat (that carries over from session to session), and polls.

Your Turn

Now it is your turn. Consider voting in the 2019 survey, either by submitting your votes via their form, or by writing a blog post like this one.

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This article was originally posted on EdSurge and is part of the guide Toward Better Teaching: Office Hours With Bonni Stachowiak. You can pose a question for a future column here.

Dear Bonni,

Various times I get feedback from students that they find me too unsure when in front of the class. What are helpful strategies to get better at this? This is especially hard for me since I teach large classes and it is challenging to connect.

—From a professor ready for confidence

When I taught my first class at the college level, I was somewhat nervous, but not as much as I may have been if I had comprehended the magnitude of what I was about to do. The first decade of my career had been in a dissimilar context, the franchising industry, teaching computer classes, and my expectations were unrealistic as to just how different it would be to teach at the college level.

The person who had originally instructed me how to teach had ingrained in me that you should avoid telling people that this was your first time teaching a class. While never asking me to lie, he had proposed that my first-timer status should not ever be brought up by me. He said that otherwise, I ran the risk of having people lose confidence in my capacity to guide them through the day of learning a new software program.

As I began my first night of teaching in a university setting, I asked the students to take out their textbooks for the class and turn to a particular page. My secret about this being my first trip to this particular rodeo was out. It almost never happened that students would bring their books to the very first class session at our institution. My request was met with blank stares. It was time for me to begin asking some questions and learning more about this new environment. My confidence was shaken, but not broken.

Think of someone who contributed to your learning in a meaningful way at some point in your life. If we gathered all the stories of people reading this column together, we would have a tapestry of diverse people who all had unique approaches to contributing to others’ growth. But I suspect that one characteristic that would be common among all the stories is that these influential teachers had confidence in the importance of the content they were teaching, if not also some belief in their teaching abilities after having built up their capacity over some time.

Gaining confidence can be elusive to those of us in higher education, since academic culture can often subtract from our confidence, instead of building it up. Our strength may already be worn down by going through a challenging promotion and tenure process, or after years of having our research evaluated by peer reviewers who sometimes reject work without giving effective feedback; or reading negative comments from students on our course evaluations.

However, a wonderful anecdote to those encounters is to have a strong connection with our sense of meaning and purpose in our work. Regularly answering the question surrounding why we teach in the first place can build up greater protections against those factors that may detract from our assurance.

How to build your confidence -- and spark it in others | Brittany Packnett - YouTube

During Brittani Packnett’s 2019 TED Talk, How to Build Your Confidence and Spark It in Others, she describes the importance of knowing how your fearlessness will be used as leverage toward some broader vision. She asserts:

“For some of us, confidence is a revolutionary choice.”

Packnett connects her work as an activist with the inspiration she takes from Septima Clark. This civil rights leader knew her purpose well and connected it with all of the work she did to fight for voting rights and civil rights. Packnett shares how Clark helped her see that confidence lets us take our “most ambitious dreams” and turn them into reality. “Confidence is the necessary spark for everything that follows,” Packnett argues. “Confidence is the difference between being inspired and actually getting started.”

Dave Stachowiak is the host of the Coaching for Leaders podcast most recently an audio production project called Dave’s Journal. He also happens to be my husband. He admonishes us to stop seeking confidence entirely and recently argued that we should Stop Wasting Time on Confidence. He stresses on that Dave’s Journal episode that:

“The problem is that virtually none of us seem to be able to wish or will our way to confidence. Despite every grand intention I’ve had of being more confident, that alone has never moved the needle.”

Even after you have connected with the reasons why you teach, the concerns expressed in your question may still be a factor. We can have habits embedded in our teaching practices that cause us to come across as unsure, even as our sureness is growing.

For that reason, it can be more effective to focus on ridding myself of those behaviors that might indicate to others that I lack confidence, rather than trying to convince myself in the first place to change my feelings.

Here are some practices I use to attempt to project confidence:

Avoid apologizing for extraneous events that occur, especially ones I have little or no control over. This means that if my technology isn’t working, rather than apologizing for it, I typically change over to a backup plan that doesn’t rely on technology. This is especially important at the start of a class or presentation, when I want to be making an impression that everyone is in good hands.

Frame questions with confidence. I stay away from asking, “Does anyone have any questions?” Instead, I pose the question this way: “Who has the first question?” After that, I use the eight-second rule, which dictates that we allow for what can sometimes feel like a ridiculously long time to pass after making another query. This intermission turns out to be much shorter than we imagine. By allowing for eight seconds to pass, I can use the power of silence to demonstrate to people that I am actually expecting an answer and am looking forward to what they have to say. I use the eight-second rule regularly when asking knowledge-related or reflection questions. This prolonged pause provides ample room for learners to not only absorb what I have asked and formulate an answer, but also to weigh the risk of being wrong and looking foolish in front of their peers. People’s natural discomfort with silence (at least in many Western cultures) works in our favor a lot of the time. There’s often someone who would rather get the conversation going again and who also has the confidence that I won’t embarrass them if their answer winds up being wrong. I share more about the eight-second rule in episode 6 of the Teaching in Higher Ed podcast.

Use declarative statements. When I first started with computer instruction, I had the opportunity to listen to recordings of myself teaching. I would use a lot of unnecessary phrases that made what I said harder to follow and made me sound like I wasn’t sure what I was getting at. “Go ahead and go up to the file menu and then look for the open menu and click it.” After being horrified at how this sounded when being repeated what probably added up to hundreds of times in a given eight-hour class, I made a big change. My instructions became: “Click the file menu and select open.” My teaching has evolved to hardly ever give a series of step-by-step instructions the way I did early in my computer training days. However, in the cases that I ask students to hand something in, or set up an exercise for them to work on in class, my requests are made without the verbal fluff that could easily be construed as coming from someone lacking confidence.

When we are perceived as unsure, we are held back from having the kind of impact we desire in our teaching. Packnett reminds us in her TED Talk that:

“Without confidence, we get stuck, and when we get stuck, we can’t even get started.”

Our certainty can grow as we center on our sense of significance in our teaching. We can also behave our way into greater boldness by avoiding extraneous apologies, following the eight-second rule and keeping superfluous phrases out of our statements.

Photo by jesse orrico on Unsplash

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This article was originally posted on EdSurge and is part of the guide Toward Better Teaching: Office Hours With Bonni Stachowiak. You can pose a question for a future column here.

Dear Bonni, I’m a brand new faculty member. I do not have formal training in pedagogy, except one measly adult education class from undergrad. I have a question regarding how you and others approach accommodations for those who are reluctant, resistant, or defiant to going through official channels at the university.

How I figure it, there are a list of things I find reasonable for all students—letting them stand or wiggle when they are having problems with attention or sleepiness, taking extra time to answer questions for assignments and projects, moving at a pace that is comfortable for the slowest in the group when we are on-the-move for class, etc.

However, students who ask for extra time on tests/projects, high levels (30%+) of extra credit, or to make up work weeks or months later, without having responded to any communications or requests for updates/accommodation needs… and still do not go to the Office of Accessibility… am I being a hard ass? How much do you bend?

I have 22 students all on the exact same schedule. I do not imagine that our program is their only or top priority, but I also do not imagine that it is fair to let some make up months of past due work to improve a grade from a previous semester or give extra time on evaluations without medical justification. Am I being too much of a hard ass?

—A new faculty member wanting to do the right thing

Candidly, your letter has been taking a back seat to questions I felt more confident in answering in recent months on EdSurge. I wish I had easy answers for you. What I have, instead, is nuance. No hard and fast rules exist, when it comes to navigating these spaces. I hope my messy experiences provide some ways of thinking differently regarding these decisions about your pedagogy.

You asked a couple of times in your message if you were being too strict. In general, I have found when I begin posing those questions to myself, I am likely not looking at things clearly. More so, I am likely not recognizing how complex students’ needs are—including those who might need accommodation.

There’s still a great deal of stigma around disabilities—learning-related, or otherwise. I have, on more than one occasion, witnessed faculty expressing disdain for the accommodation notifications that are sent to them, instead of grateful for the heads-up that their help and support is needed. It makes sense to me why students wouldn’t want to disclose their challenges, particularly when they could not be assured that it would actually help them in their learning any better than trying to go it alone.

There’s an air of suspicion among far too many faculty that students are attempting to use their diagnosed learning disabilities as a way to get preferential treatment that is unwarranted. Mike Caulfield, director of blended and networked learning at Washington State University Vancouver, tweeted about this misnomer back in March of 2019:

“I find it amazing that so many professors think access accommodations are easy excuses taken lightly by students, when the truth is that most students would love nothing more than to be see by a professor as “normal”

Caulfield then shared about a family member who has an accommodation, but does not disclose it at the start of most of her classes. She is too concerned that as soon as the professor becomes aware of her situation that she will be defined by her disability. “Every action is going to be interpreted through that lens. Even your normal behavior gets pathologized by others,” Caulfield conveys.

The implicit biases surrounding disabilities are ever-present, even if we aren’t able to see them in ourselves. Another common bias surrounding accommodations is to think of students requesting them as lazy. Devon Price, a social psychologist, writes in an essay on Medium

“if a student is struggling, they probably aren’t choosing to. They probably want to do well. They probably are trying. More broadly, I want all people to take a curious and empathic approach to individuals whom they initially want to judge as ‘lazy’ or irresponsible.”

Price’s last point about taking more of a curious approach reminded me of how important your question is to your doing just that, by reaching out. The reflecting you did around accommodations we can all make in our teaching to help students in their learning is wonderful. Getting students moving, over-communicating your expectations, and varying your pacing to reflect differing processing needs can all contribute to creating an environment more conducive to learning.

When it comes to deadlines for assignments, my approach varies widely. I found that when teaching as an adjunct in a doctoral program, both the culture of the program, along with the types of students who pursue their education in this way, contribute to me being less strict with deadlines. I have two days per week in which assignments are due (Tuesdays and Saturdays), but I let students know that as long as they are caught up by the start of each week (on Mondays), that they will be able to take advantage of the scaffolding that is built into the course structure.

The issue of stigmas I described earlier is particularly pronounced in doctoral programs. David M. Perry, writer and historian, writes in an article in Pacific Standard that while data does not exist regarding the rates of disability within U.S. doctoral programs, that there has been some research done on mental health, specifically. “The results are terrible,” Perry argues, noting the high rates of suicide, sexual harassment, depression and anxiety reported in a study involving 500 economics students.

There is no easy prescription to remedy these challenges. However, a big part of moving toward a more sustainable path is to remove the stigmas that exist and to normalize help-seeking behaviors.

My undergraduate courses have tighter deadlines. In fact, the ability to accomplish tasks by a certain date is an important measure in these classes. As an example, I teach a personal leadership and productivity course. It focuses on topics like setting goals, task and project management, email maintenance and calendaring. A big part of the class is being people of integrity to do what we say we will do—and that includes getting things in on time.

However, even in my undergraduate courses where I am stressing deadlines more heavily, I do build in some practices that allow for the occasional missing of a deadline without it having a big impact on a grade. This approach looks different depending on how I have structured a course. Sometimes, it might be to omit a couple of the lowest scores on low-stakes assignments. In other cases, when completion is more important for building a foundation for learning, I allow for a couple of instances for assignments to be turned in late (without a requirement to explain the reason why).

Each class policy we put in place should be based on whether or not it supports the students learning in some way. We also need to be humble about the fact that we lack the knowledge to always be able to make decisions that are defensible. I used to “ban” laptops, for example, not realizing the impact of this choice on all students. As Matthew Cortland, a writer, lawyer, and self-professed public health nerd, stresses, “even with exceptions for students who really need laptops, bans introduce discrimination and unfairness to the classroom.”

While I am still aware of the challenges that digital distractions can bring in the classroom, I prefer to think of the times when I propose that students put their digital devices away for a bit as an invitation I am making to them to a unique experience for learning. I also remain aware that there should be times in class when students are welcomed—and even encouraged—to use their devices.

You asked at the conclusion of your message to me: Am I being too much of a hard-ass?

From the little information I have, you do seem to be over-simplifying the choice that it can be for students to decide to seek accommodations. My advice is to become more familiar with just how much stigma still exists to seeking that kind of support and the discriminatory ways in which far too many faculty respond to these legally-mandated steps.

You are not alone in this, by the way. I used to find myself without much of an understanding of how those with learning and other disabilities are discriminated against in higher-education spaces. I found greater capacity for empathy and a greater awareness of the issues by following these hashtags on Twitter, along with the list of people I have curated to follow on Twitter, linked to below.






Twitter List:

Disability Advocates and Educators

Extra credit goes to those who browse Dr. Amelia Gibson’s syllabus for her disability informatics course.


Someone commented on Twitter that another piece of advice I could have provided this person on my original EdSurge column is to suggest that they consider using a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) approach. I appreciated the recommendation (there was so much to say!) and have invited this person to come on a future episode of Teaching on Higher Ed. In the meantime, this episode with Mark Hofer is a good starting point, as is episode 227 with Tom Tobin.

Photo by Alex on Unsplash

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Teaching in Higher Ed by Bonni Stachowiak - 1M ago

For many of us, things have shifted a bit with the end of an academic year. My contract doesn’t end with the end of our Spring semester, but my work days have evolved a bit to allow more time for creative endeavors and fixing broken systems.

As we concluded our academic year, the Institute for Faculty Development received some recommended summer reads and we were able to give away the titles to our faculty at our end-of-year meeting. It was fun to see which books various people selected and to see their smiles of delight as they found the perfect one to match their interests.

2019 Recommended Summer Reads from Vanguard University Faculty

Over the last few months, we changed podcast hosting companies for Teaching in Higher Ed and Dave’s (my spouse’s) podcast – Coaching for Leaders. I’m glad we made the move, but it does mean that if I ever want to calculate the most listened to episodes of all time, it will be quite a manual process.

In the meantime, I took a look at episodes that aren’t recent (anything before episode 200) and saw which of these more evergreen shows were standouts in recent months.

  • Episode 132 | Teach Students How to Learn with Saundra McGuire
  • Episode 184 | The Science of Retrieval Practice with Pooja Agarwal
  • Episode 60 | Practical Instructional Design with Edward O’Neill
  • Episode 70 | Not Yet-Ness with Amy Collier
  • Episode 99 | Encouraging Accountability with Angela Jenks
  • Episode 81 | The Ethics of Plagiarism Detection with Stephanie Vie
  • Episode 95 | Teaching in the Digital Age with Mike Truong
  • Episode 98 | The Skillful Teacher with Stephen Brookfield
  • Episode 61 | All That is Out of Our Control with Lee Skallerup Bessette
  • Episode 136 | Teaching Naked Techniques with José Bowen
  • Episode 164 | Setting Students Up for Success From the Start with Joe Hoyle
  • Episode 4 | Your Teaching Philosophy: The What, Why, and How
  • Episode 197 | Interactivity and Inclusivity Can Help Close the Achievement Gap with Viji Sathy and Kelly Hogan
  • Episode 58 | Universal Design for Learning with Mark Hofer

It was fun to see some names I hadn't seen in a while on the list, along with some people who will soon be coming back on the podcast. Next week, I’m having a second conversation with Viji Sathy that I’m really looking forward to… And Saundra McGuire has agreed to another interview that we are working on scheduling.

Finally, here are some recent bookmarks I saved that may be of interest to you:

I’ve got episodes scheduled throughout the summer months on Teaching in Higher Ed. Hope you will be able to join us to continue the conversations and learning.

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I have wrapped up another semester of teaching and am full of thoughts about what transpired. I already miss the students and am glad to be able to cross paths with at least some of them in the Fall semester.

Below are some of the ways in which I experimented in this class and what some of the results were.


Each time I go look at old syllabi these days, I find myself thinking I really sound like a jerk. My practice, lately, has been to remove the offending passages. Sometimes, a kinder, more edifying way of phrasing something is possible. Most times, I find the deletion stands and there is no need to add anything back in.

My Business Ethics syllabus was changed to remove the strict language about what ‘participation’ really means and the consequences of being disruptive in a class. My goal was to remove all language that sounded patronizing and to only add things back in that are written in such a way as to be likely perceived as supportive of one’s learning.

OpenTextbook Adoption

I decided to take the plunge and go without a textbook from a for-profit company. I had used a $70 text from a traditional textbook company in the past. This time, I used a combination of readings from two different open textbooks on the topic:

Both of the texts were licensed such that I could use portions of them within our LMS. I copied short sections of the text and always was sure to include the copyright information and links over to the primary sources. Also included were brief videos related to the same topics, as well as additional commentary that was written by me.

Course Workload Estimator to Get Realistic About Reading Requirements

The Rice Center for Teaching Excellence has a Course Workload Estimator, which is extremely helpful in determining approximately how long reading and other assignments will take to complete. It has regularly caused me to dial back the amount of reading I have assigned.

Anecdotally, this seems to contribute heavily to the likelihood that students complete that portion of the class (in addition to the other practices I use to build in some accountability). I also relied heavily on video content to fill in many of the gaps.

Shared Learning Outcomes

This ‘less is more’ approach also carried over into my learning objectives. I had five goals for the class outlined before we began. Then, during the first class, we discussed what the students were hoping to get out of the class. That dialog resulted in placing a slightly different emphasis on one of the goals I had outlined, in addition to adding an entirely new outcome that hadn’t been among the ones I brought to the table, initially.

I asked one of my students if I could share his reflections on part of the course here on my blog. He welcomed me to do so:

“One of the learning objectives that really impacted me and my thoughts in regard to ethics, in general, was learning to be a more conscious consumer. As a young adult, I find myself buying things that are just basically affordable. After learning about India’s sweatshop factories for “cheap fashion,” I realize how impactful my purchases can be in the long run. Knowing I have a voice and can write and communicate my thoughts towards a company has given me more confidence to stand up for what I believe is right or ethical.

My change in perspective came for the in-class film, ‘The True Cost,’ where filmmakers take an insiders perspective on the devastation of fast fashion and the cost it is taking on the workers who are the ones being the most impacted by the cheap clothing craze going on right now. This not only gave me a better insight as a consumer of clothing but also made me question other purchases that I make daily.

I now believe that this aspect of the class has given me something that will stay with me for the rest of my life and allow me to be ethical and support or vote with my money on companies I believe in.”

The True Cost was a great resource for the class (thank you, Ruthie and Kerry, for both suggesting it in the past!). Not only is it a tremendous film, but they have plenty of resources on their site for taking action on the learning that results from watching it.

My friend Jeff recommended another video series that I wound up adopting for this class: PBS Frontline – The Facebook Dilemma. The students did enjoy the videos, though I am not sure that the ways in which their personal information has been violated, through an unattenuated quest for profits quite got through for some of them. I didn’t show this one from John Oliver this time around (including his interview with Edward Snowden) – as it emphases more of the ways in which the government surveils its citizens and not as much on the profit motives that are more aligned with the course objectives. I know I have more room to grow, in terms of raising the awareness of our students about privacy and the profit motive – in as compelling of a way that The True Cost does for fast fashion.

The final project was to create a game that taught some aspect of business ethics Attendance

For the first time in my 15 years of teaching in a higher education context, not one student missed a single class session. There were a couple of times when people were late, but since it was so rare that anyone was missing, we would often text them and check in to see where they were.

One guy had gotten caught up in playing a video game in what Csikszentmihalyi would call a state of flow. We managed to break him out of his unbroken focus to remind him that we had started class. This is something that normally would have made me angry in my early years of teaching. Today, I’m glad to have gotten over myself enough to know that I am not the center of my students’ universes – and that this is something to celebrate and not to be angry about.

The other day, I ran into someone else from the class and was talking about how surprised I was that everyone had done so well on attendance. He replied, “I think we were there all the time because we really wanted to be there. We knew if we missed a class – that we would be missing out on something really good.”

We listened to a podcast as a class – and took a walk on Back Bay. This student became my podcast buddy – as she discovered this powerful way of learning and shared recommendations on what to listen to with me.

I used to spend a lot more time thinking about policies that would use punitive methods to maintain a certain minimum level of acceptable attendance rates. Now, I invest that time in creating positive learning experiences that students won’t want to miss. It seems to be paying off!


The grades for the students in this class were also quite high. I am aware that this will be frowned upon by some of my colleagues who believe that only a certain percentage of high grades should be awarded in a given class, regardless of student achievement.

Some of my fellow professors got into a discussion with a candidate a couple of weeks ago about the potential for grade inflation. They shared their beliefs about the importance of always having grades that spread across a curve of potential levels. The perspective is that if too many students earn A grades – that there are a certain percentage of individuals who won’t work even harder as they might if greater levels of granularity were identified and more grades were pushed down to the lower levels.

The conversation reminded me of when Cathy N. Davidson was on Teaching in Higher Ed, episode 169 to speak about her book: A New Education.

She shared about the history of grades and how they first started out as a means for assessing the quality of meat. The meatpackers initially opposed the system, since it wasn’t complex enough to accommodate the various qualities and characteristics of the meat they were being asked to rate. Davidson wonders if the system wasn’t good enough for the meat packers, why so many of us continue to mindlessly practice it today?

My beliefs about grades are all over the place these days, as I continue to be challenged by conversations I have been able to have on the podcast, such as:

  • Episode 217: How to Ungrade with Jesse Stommel
  • Episode 209: Antiracist Writing Assessment Ecologies with Asao Inoue
  • Episode 29: Specifications Grading with Linda Nilson
  • Episode 228: How to Create Engaging Online Classes with Laura Gibbs (only a portion of the dialog is about grading – but well worth a listen)

Your turn

How did your teaching go this semester? Did you experiment with anything new? If so, how did it go?

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Teaching in Higher Ed by Bonni Stachowiak - 1M ago

This isn’t my first time to this rodeo (of trying to narrow down my favorite podcasts). I wrote up lists in 2018, 2017, 2014, and also published an article about podcasting in the University of Austin’s Flow Journal.

Each time I start a new, annual list, I avoid looking at the prior year’s lists. I want to avoid being influenced by prior year’s posts and start with fresh eyes. Here are the shows that came to mind for this year’s list, by category.

I still marvel at how amazing it is that we can have all these learning opportunities for free – on our smart devices – wherever we are. If you haven’t ever listened to a podcast, it is easy to do. Once you start, I suspect you won’t ever turn back…

Teaching and Higher Ed

Gettin’ Air with Terry Greene – Terry prepares for each interview with care and asks authentic questions about open education.

Teach Better – Doug and Edward bring on superb guests who help to challenge us to be better at teaching.

The Black Goat – These psychologists help others in their field to navigate higher education. Even though my discipline isn’t in psychology, I learn a lot from every episode.

Leading Lines – “…a podcast on educational technology in higher education” from the expert podcasters at Vanderbilt.

Tea for Teaching – “a series of informal discussions of innovative and effective practices in teaching and learning. Hosted by John and Rebecca, who run the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at the State University of New York at Oswego.”

EdSurge On Air – “A weekly podcast about the future of education, featuring insightful conversations with educators, tech innovators and scholars, hosted by EdSurge's Jeffrey R. Young and Sydney Johnson.”

News and Politics

Amicus, with Dalia Lithwick – smart conversation about the law.

The Gist, with Mike Pesca – Mike cracks me up on a regular basis and challenges my mind.

Skimm This – Concise, engaging overview of what’s happening in the news. Recommended by my students.

Pod Save America – “A no-bullshit conversation about politics hosted by Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Dan Pfeiffer and Tommy Vietor that breaks down the week’s news and helps people figure out what matters and how to help.”

Political Gabfest – Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson, and David Plotz discuss the week’s politics in an entertaining and informative way.

The Daily – “Twenty minutes a day, five days a week, hosted by Michael Barbaro and powered by New York Times journalism.”

Pod Save the People – “Organizer and activist DeRay Mckesson explores news, culture, social justice, and politics through deep conversations with influencers and experts, and the weekly news with fellow activists Brittany Packnett and Sam Sinyangwe, and writer Clint Smith.”

On the Media – “WNYC’s weekly investigation into how the media shapes our worldview.”

Technology and Science

Automators – “Automation makes your life easier and everyone can do it. We tell you how.” (Mac-centric, though also covers web services that enable automation).

Mac Power Users – “L earn about getting the most from your Apple technology with focused topics and workflow guests. Creating Mac Power Users, one geek at a time since 2009.”

Reply All – “A podcast about the internet’ that is actually an unfailingly original exploration of modern life and how to survive it.” – The Guardian

Radio Lab – “Radiolab, with Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, is a radio show and podcast weaving stories and science into sound and music-rich documentaries.”

Parsing Science – “The unpublished stories behind the world’s most compelling science, as told by the researchers themselves.”

Mind-expanding Shows

Hidden Brain – “Hidden Brain Shankar Vedantam uses science and storytelling to reveal the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, shape our choices and direct our relationships.” (Thanks for recommending it such a long time ago, Isabeau Iqbal.

Armchair Expert – “celebrates the messiness of being human.” Hosted by Dax Shepard. Recommended by John Warner on Teaching in Higher Ed episode 233 (he warned us, though…).

This American Life – “This American Life is a weekly public radio program and podcast. Each week we choose a theme and put together different kinds of stories on that theme.” (One of the all-time greatest!)

On Being – “A Peabody Award-winning public radio show and podcast. What does it mean to be human? How do we want to live? And who will we be to each other? Each week a new discovery about the immensity of our lives. Hosted by Krista Tippett.”

Code Switch – “Code Switch is a race and culture outlet and a weekly podcast from American public radio network NPR.” Recommended by Rob Parke on Teaching in Higher Ed episode 126.

Business, Marketing, and Economics

Planet Money – “The economy explained. Imagine you could call up a friend and say, “Meet me at the bar and tell me what's going on with the economy.” Now imagine that's actually a fun evening.”

Marketplace – “…helmed by Kai Ryssdal, examines what the day in money delivered, through stories, conversations, newsworthy numbers and more. ”

Akimbo – “A Podcast from Seth Godin. Akimbo is an ancient word, from the bend in the river or the bend in an archer's bow. … Akimbo's a podcast about our culture and about how we can change it. About seeing what's happening and choosing to do something.”

Coaching for Leaders – “Leaders Aren't Born, They're Made. It's a myth that leadership skills can't be learned. Almost nobody is a born leader. Most leaders I know learned how to lead through the school of hard knocks, good training, years of hard work, effective coaching, and great mentors.” (Hosted by this guy I know – who I happen to be married to – Dave Stachowiak.)

Work and Life

Radical Self Trust Podcast Channel from Katie Linder – “The Radical Self-Trust (RST) podcast channel is a collection of content dedicated to helping you seek self-knowledge, nurture your superpowers, playfully experiment, live your core values with intention, practice loving kindness toward yourself and others, and settle into your life's purpose.”

Women at Work – Produced by Harvard Business Review. It was on hiatus for a while – and is now back. Excellent interviews to helps us all fulfill our potential with excellence and joy!

Worklife, with Adam Grant – “Organizational psychologist Adam Grant takes you inside the minds of some of the world’s most unusual professionals to explore the science of making work not suck. From learning how to love criticism to harnessing the power of frustration, one thing’s for sure: You’ll never see your job the same way again.”

GTD – “Our GTD podcasts are here to support you at every stage of your GTD practice. … The podcasts include personal and professional stories, as well as practical tips about GTD systems for desktop and mobile, using apps and paper. Start listening now and you'll be well on your way to stress-free productivity.”

Focused – Great productivity show, hosted by David Sparks and Mike Schmitz.

The Productivity Show – The team from Asian Efficiency helps us up our game on this practical podcast.

Look and Sound of Leadership with Tom Henshel – Tom is a former actor turned executive coach – and he gives us superb advice on how to be better leaders in this concise and thoughtful podcast.

Your Turn

What are your favorite podcasts lately and what makes them so good?

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Teaching in Higher Ed by Bonni Stachowiak - 1M ago

Dave and I had a great time celebrating passing the million downloads mark for the Teaching in Higher Ed podcast. Episode #250 invited people to call in to share a “one-in-a-million” episode that had a big impact on their teaching.

Show Notes: One-in-a-million episode

Thanks to everyone who contributed to the episode. If you would still like to share, feel free to email me or share your episode on social media.

Updated EdTech Essentials Guide

The EdTech Essentials Guide had a recent update, if you would like to download the most current version.

Recent Talks

Below are links to the resources pages for recent talks I have presented/co-presented.

Other upcoming and past events may be found on my speaking schedule page. My schedule is filling up for Fall of 2019, so get in touch soon if you would like to explore having me speak at your university.

Upcoming Interviews

We have some great guests coming up in the next couple of months, including: Maha Bali, Autumm Caines, Jose Bowen, Jared Horvath, and Natasha Jankowski.

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Teaching in Higher Ed by Bonni Stachowiak - 1M ago

This column was originally posted on EdSurge. It is reposted here with permission. The following is the latest installment of the Toward Better Teaching advice column. You can pose a question for a future column here.

Dear Bonni, My question is how to prepare yourself for a doctorate in leadership in higher ed, even when you are over 50! I am a former high-tech executive with an MBA, turned severe special needs elementary educator, mother of 7 (4 in college, 3 in high school) who is looking at that next step in my career. I am entering a doctorate in Leadership in Higher Ed program in the fall and am working hard at preparing myself. I have created what I’m calling my “prep syllabus” and hope to set a solid foundation for myself. I’ve filled my podcast app with 5 plus podcasts to learn about various challenges, trends and best practices. I would love to get your feedback on what should be in my “prep syllabus” and how to make that transition. Thanks so much!

—Maureen McLaughlin, returning student

While this column typically is focused on teaching, it is great to get to have it shift to learning for this question. How wonderful that you are taking these steps to be ready for this big transition. Here is some guidance on how to approach this season of preparation.

Conduct a Tools Audit

When I teach a course to doctoral students, I begin by inviting them to perform an audit on their technical skills. This process helps them discern the most essential features within the various applications that will best help them through their coursework and completing a dissertation.

The document I created for the doctoral students specifically identifies those applications that they will use most in pursuing their doctorates with that institution. Download this sample tools audit and customize it to meet your needs. Below are some links to help strengthen your capabilities in some of the fundamental applications I mention in the tools audit:

If possible, correspond with someone at the institution where you will be attending to see if they have requirements about what word processor or references manager you need to use and be sure you maximize the time you spend learning those.

Develop Your Knowledge of Structures, Research and Writing Styles

In a doctoral program, the structures of your written work will be similar. You will develop many literature reviews and will regularly need to create similar structures for research papers. I have found the following people and organizations essential to growing my research writing skills over the years.

As you prepare to begin this journey, equip yourself with the tools you’ll need to support you in the process, re-orient yourself with the kinds of writing you will be doing and be ready for good enough to be good enough.”

Purdue Online Writing Lab: this website is one I keep open on a regular basis when writing in a formal, academic style. It features guidance on various citation styles (APA, MLA, Chicago, and more) and on how to list references properly. There are also exercises to practice the art of the academic citation. This video (by Nicholas Cifuentes-Goodbody) on developing outlines for larger writing projects is another great way to prepare for the kind of writing you will be doing.

Raul Pacheco-Vega’s website: This assistant professor in the Public Administration Division of the Center for Economic Teaching and Research in Mexico has written extensively on his website about academic writing. I suggest exploring the entire resources section here, including the advice on writing literature reviews, guidance for graduate students, and approaches for writing a research paper, book chapter or dissertation.

Oregon State University Research in Action podcast: one to consider adding to your queue, if it is not already there. Katie Linder, the host, has gathered together scholars who share about all different types of research methods, as well as how to deal with common challenges that occur (such as writer’s block, choosing a dissertation topic, setting research goals, and keeping yourself organized).

Acquire a ‘Good Enough’ Mindset

I used to travel to instruct in the doctoral program I teach in a couple of times a year. Once, I did not set boundaries well enough and found myself in a conversation with a doctoral student about her final paper, at the same time as I was supposed to be returning to the airport to fly back home that evening. I had told the class that I would not be able to stay after class, but that I would be available to answer any questions they had, once I returned home. But I did not stick to my word, and 45 minutes later, was frustrated at what had happened.

The student was unhappy with her grade and kept flipping through all the pages she had printed out with her highlights marking the discrepancies between my perceptions and her own. Flying home, without having had enough time to grab lunch on my way to the airport, I was angry with myself for not having left after the class was over.

Once I was back in our house and able to access wifi, I took a look at her situation. It turned out that the small number of points she was missing from the assignment had absolutely zero impact on her overall grade. She was still at well over the range of what was required to earn an A in the course. This was already evident to her through the grade book. The entire time we had been talking, I was assuming her goal was to earn a higher grade in the class. Instead, it was regarding a single paper and her wanting to have earned 100 percent in the class. To be clear, this fact would never have shown up on her transcripts or anywhere outside the LMS.

That example is a bit more extreme than what I typically witness. However, we can all struggle with knowing what is “good enough” on something and knowing when we should move on to other priorities. As harsh as it may sound, there are times when we need to do that with our families and friends. Being fully present for our loved ones is essential, but during this season of your life, it may be more helpful to think in terms of quality over quantity.

I came into my doctoral program thinking I was going to read every word that was assigned (I didn’t). While I did maintain my desired GPA, I had to think more transactionally than I would have liked to about finishing papers and working collaboratively with other students.

One of my doctoral professors used to tell us that he wanted us to be “famous by Friday,” in reference to writing our dissertations. His use of the word ‘famous’ was delivered dripping with sarcasm. Most people’s dissertations won’t wind up being highly cited. Once we finish them, however, we are freed up to have the time to do the work that may be more meaningful to us and potentially be more visible. The goal is not to try to change the world with our research. The aim is to be done.

As you prepare to begin this journey, equip yourself with the tools you’ll need to support you in the process, re-orient yourself with the kinds of writing you will be doing and be ready for good enough to be good enough.

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This article was originally posted on EdSurge and is reposted with permission. The following is the latest installment of the Toward Better Teaching advice column. You can pose a question for a future column here.

Dear Bonni, How do you help inspire other educators? Sometimes the problem isn't my students—it's my colleagues. If they seem bored or tired, the students pick up on that and then think that all classes are tedious.

—Working at a small community college

Our emotional well-being matters as teachers. Not only because (if we are going to do it well) facilitating the learning of others requires a lot of energy. But also because if we are experiencing feelings that are not conducive to the work of learning, we can inadvertently transfer those emotions to our students—just as they might catch a cold from us if we’re sick.

Daniel Goleman’s research illustrates the way our emotions are contagious. In his book, Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships (2006), he describes how we humans are hard-wired to connect with one another. Those connections can be a pathway for our emotions to strongly influence another’s, in positive or negative ways.

Our emotional well-being matters as teachers.”

Create Agreement That Emotions Matter

There are certainly still faculty arguing that we need to stay far away from any desire to be an edu-tainer. They argue that it’s not up to professors to worry about whether a teaching approach is working for students, that somehow the burden is on the students to adapt to whatever style of instruction is used. Thankfully, there is a renewed emphasis on how emotions can spark learning.

Sarah Cavanaugh, author of The Spark of Learning: Energizing the College Classroom with the Science of Emotion (2016), describes how we can energize our students’ learning by heightening curiosity, encouraging mindfulness and capturing learners’ attention. She stresses that “emotions certainly determine many of our motivations, decisions, and behaviors, and the circuits governing both learning and emotion overlap.”

Think back to a teacher who had a tremendous impact on you—and there was likely a way that person captivated your imagination or tapped into emotion in some way. Dave Stachowiak (my husband and host of the Coaching for Leaders podcast) shares this story of a class that has stuck with him since high school.

dave chemistry class story - YouTube

On the first day of the chemistry course, the teacher provided a routine overview of the syllabus. Then, he casually lit a candle at the front of the room and explained that the most important thing for students to learn in the class, was that things were not always what they seemed. And with that, he picked up the burning candle and popped it in his mouth, and chewed. Then he said “see you tomorrow,” and left the room.

Think back to a teacher who had a tremendous impact on you—and there was likely a way that person captivated your imagination or tapped into emotion in some way.”

As Dave mentions, his chemistry teacher was not dynamic one hundred percent of the time. “He didn’t need to be,” Dave emphasizes, “because we were always on the edge of our seat.”

When students first join the online portion of my Introduction to Business class, they are presented with an introductory video for the course that is meant to mimic the feel of watching an Indiana Jones movie.

BUSN114-movie-trailer-v1 - YouTube

Like Dave’s teacher, I try to give them the sense that this class is going to be different. My hope is that they see it as an adventure that will help them learn, but also will be a series of experiences we will have together in the process. I work hard on those first impressions to engage students’ sense of encountering the unexpected.

My advice is to try to generate some kind of agreement among your fellow faculty members that it is worth it to be purposeful about how to ignite the imagination of your students.

Raise the Collective Self-Awareness

I have been teaching in higher education for 15 years now. Not once have I ever had a professor confess that they perceive themselves as boring. Yet, I remain convinced that there are those who do not possess the capacity for drawing learners in and gaining their attention.

In Ken Bain’s longitudinal study of how superb post-secondary educators approach their teaching, he asserts the importance of attaining and maintaining students’ attention. Bain writes in What the Best College Teachers Do (2004):

“They consciously try to get students’ attention with some provocative act, question, or statement.”

One of the best ways I have ever observed of raising one’s self-awareness is by using video or audio recording as feedback. My first professional job out of college was teaching computer classes. The person I reported to handed me a cassette tape as I was headed out of work one day. It was a recording of me teaching that day. As I listened, I immediately identified phrases I was saying repetitively that were distracting. It was painful to listen to—but it provided me with incredibly powerful feedback that has stayed with me for decades to come.

A tool like Swivl can help with video and audio recording feedback. Even if you do not ultimately decide to invest in a product made specifically for that purpose, knowing more about how video can transform our teaching is helpful. This video series with Jim Knight (a senior research associate at the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning) conveys how videos can “eliminate perceptual errors and allow for teachers and coaches to refer to real evidence of practice.”

Acknowledge and Redirect

The work of teaching is one of the hardest things I have ever done. When my colleagues want to vent about the challenges they are encountering, I hope to be a good listener for them. However, if too much of the conversation seems to be about student shaming, I do try to redirect to something more positive.

It is a delicate balance to know when we just need a person who can relate to our frustrations and when we really need to focus our attention back on more productive and life-giving thoughts.

When we focus on increasing our collective capacity to serve our students well, we leverage the best of what a community of teachers has to offer.”

Christopher Emdin, author of For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood (2017), epitomizes this sentiment when he writes:

“The kind of teacher you will become is directly related to the kind of teachers you associate with. Teaching is a profession where misery does more than just love company—it recruits, seduces, and romances it. Avoid people who are unhappy and disgruntled about the possibilities for transforming education. They are the enemy of the spirit of the teacher.”

When we focus on increasing our collective capacity to serve our students well, we leverage the best of what a community of teachers has to offer.

Photo credit: Simone Acquaroli on Unsplash

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Teaching in Higher Ed by Bonni Stachowiak - 1M ago

A few weeks ago, I headed to Nebraska to visit Hastings College. I did a keynote and a workshop and had a wonderful time. They are doing some transformative work at Hastings that it was fun to catch a small glimpse of during my time with them.

Whenever I travel, I think back to the post I wrote with guidance on how to ease the process of moving throughout the world. Much of the post still holds up and is worth a look. However, the best part came in the comments.

Robert Talbert recommended getting TSA pre-check – and that advice has paid off in spades for me and for our entire family.

If you follow Robert on social media, you might have seen that he is currently recovering from heart surgery. You can learn more about it on his blog. He has also invited some of us to help him queue up some posts during his recovery. Watch for one from me toward the end of February.  

As I think back to my Nebraska trip, I have a few other travel-related resources to share, plus a request from a listener to participate in his research.


I had grown tired of fumbling around with my packing list in Evernote. Each time I traveled, I copied the text over to a new note and sometimes even had to uncheck the checkboxes, if I had messed up my system the last time I used it. Yes, Evernote has templates now, but they still don’t go anywhere as far as my new packing list find.

PackPoint is a great app, which has features I didn’t even realize I needed. As soon as I purchased it, I could easily integrate it with my TripIt account. PackPoint then knew that I was headed to Nebraska – and that it was cold there. It added a heavy jacket to my packing list without me even needing to lift a finger.

It bases packing lists around activities. There are many built-in activities, such as essentials, swimming, business casual, hiking, and so on. It was easy to set up my own built-in activities, such as the one I created for the various electronics that I bring and their associated chargers.

Tom Bihn Backpack

I received a new Tom Bihn backpack for Christmas and this was my first long-distance trip with it. I like the way it can expand to fit a large number of items, yet isn’t awkward when there isn’t much stuff in it.

The Synapse has a place for a water bottle in the middle of the bag, which I discovered I like a lot more. It centers the weight and also I don’t have to worry about the bottle falling off the side when I’m moving about.

Noise Canceling Headphones

I wrote my first travel tips post in 2017, before I discovered the joys of having noise canceling headphones. I purchased a pair of Beats, but candidly didn’t do a bunch of comparisons before diving in. They have a long battery life and are easy to connect to my iPhone or iPad during a flight via bluetooth.


The other tool I am always happy to have on the road with me is TextExpander. In full transparency, they are a regular sponsor of the Teaching in Higher Ed podcast, but I was recommending them long before they started supporting the show.

There were quite a few weather delays during my trip to Nebraska, which made me grateful that I had all the tools I needed to get some serious work done during that time. With TextExpander, I can have access to all my snippets across my computer, smartphone, and tablet – with everything syncing across all of those platforms.

I use TextExpander to save time with my email signatures, letters of recommendation for students, data I forget all the time (like my work phone number), and for longer pieces like creating the show notes for each episode.

Here’s a post I wrote in 2018 with more about TextExpander, including a demo of how I use it.

Participate in Educational Podcasts Research

Even though it has nothing to do with travel (except for the way in which podcasts help us go different places in our minds), I did want to extend an invitation to you on behalf of a listener. The last thing worth checking out is participating in Scott McNamara’s research on educational research.

He writes:

“Hello, I am Scott McNamara, Ph.D. at the University of Northern Iowa. I am conducting a study to examine the motivational factors for listening to educational podcasts. This study consists of completing a short 20-minute survey. To participate in the study, you must be in the field of education (e.g., pre-service teacher, higher education professor, education administrator, practicing teacher, related service provider) and have listened to an educational podcast.

If you are interested in participating in this study, please visit this information on the Survey to find out more. If you have any additional questions or concerns, please email Dr. Scott McNamara at the University of Northern Iowa at scott.mcnamara@Uni.edu.”

Please consider supporting Scott’s research, as we will all be able to benefit when he publishes his results.

Your Turn

What have you been packing up for your trips, lately, that have helped reduce the stress of travel and enjoy yourself a bit more?

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