Center for Teaching and Scholarly Excellence CTSE Official CTSE Newsletter
So Much for One Size Fits All
Vol. 7, No. 1
by BRUCE TORFF
Students learn differently. Ignoring this has a high price. It sounds like education-school claptrap to say that not all students learn alike, but it happens to be the truth. Human beings differ a great deal from one another, including both individual and group variation. As for group differences, much is made of the influence of gender, for example, with Mars and Venus perched on bestseller lists and debated at Starbucks. It’s equally clear that individuals differ every bit as much as groups do, in terms of height, intelligence, athletic prowess, and a host of other variables. These individual and group differences profoundly affect students’ learning, as education-school claptrap would have it. To optimize educational outcomes, professors need to take students’ learning proclivities into account.
Teaching the same way all semester creates bias against some students, warns education professor Bruce Torff (right).
IN THIS ISSUE Twitter in the Classroom. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 We’re All in This Together. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Hofstra-Claflin Exchange Program. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Distance Learning: Closer Than You Imagine?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 To Friend or Not to Friend?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 The Salzburg Experience. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Picturing Pop Culture. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Coining New Words. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Trouble is, this means coming up with a working taxonomy of human abilities, and there are numerous ways to slice that pie. The most common is called learning styles theory, which holds that people are either made or born with a penchant for gaining information in one of three ways: visual (e.g., reading a book); auditory (e.g., listening to someone speak); or kinesthetic (e.g., manipulating something to see how it works). The visual style has more recently been bifurcated, with read/write referring to text-based tasks and visual continued on page 2
So Much for One Size Fits All
continued from page 1
uncritically held faith in “g.” But his “theory of multiple intelligences” had a 20-year run as the most influential idea in education.
limited to such non-textual operations as making sense of a map or a Monet. According to learning styles theorists, students learn best when their particular style is used in the classroom. Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner offered a different idea, one that divides human abilities into eight “intelligences” – as opposed to the single intelligence (“g”) measured on IQ tests. (Full disclosure: I was Gardner’s student, employee, and co-author, and I remain his friend, although I do not think of his theory as the last or best word on human intelligence). The eight intelligences are logical-mathematical (e.g., solving a rate/ time/distance problem), linguistic (e.g., writing a short story), spatial (e.g., decoding a bar graph), bodily-kinesthetic (e.g., playing for the Islanders), musical (e.g., writing a song), naturalist (e.g., anything Bear Grylls does on “Man Versus Wild”), interpersonal (e.g., the incessant politics of holding a university professorship), and intrapersonal (e.g., self-regulation, emotional management). Gardner did not originally target his model to inform educational practices – he meant to encourage folks to reconsider
Other psychologists have gotten into the act, including Robert J. Sternberg, formerly of Yale but recently decamped to Tufts University. (More disclosure: Sternberg was my postdoc supervisor. Enough disclosure, already!) Sternberg separates out analytic intelligence (e.g., deciding which formula solves a physics problem), creative intelligence (e.g., using duct tape to fix almost anything), and practical intelligence (e.g., schmoozing colleagues to get a proposal through Curriculum and Standards). How about one more? Psychologist J.P. Guilford presented a model with no less than 150 distinct cognitive abilities. I bet you’re glad we are not going into detail on these. Clearly, these various models of cognitive abilities have their differences, and there are more theories where these came from. But they all share a core idea: because students bring widely varying profiles to class, effective teaching needs to touch all the bases (not just the professor’s favorite). This brings us to the concept of differentiated instruction: varying the way you teach to accommodate the varying profiles of the students in the classroom. I’ll spill some ink as to how “DI” can be done, but first let’s address a pressing question. Why bother? After all, many professors have well-established classroom routines that have served them for umpteen years, so there’s little impetus to change things now.
By way of an answer, let’s reverse the question. What happens if you don’t differentiate, and instead teach the way you prefer all semester long? Answer: bias. Unwitting and well-intended, but bias nonetheless. Bias happens when someone accords a person inferior treatment for no good reason. People often think of bias in relation to issues such as gender or ethnicity (read: Archie Bunker), but here we encounter it with learning styles, intelligences, or whatever. Consider the lecture format. Some professors are big fans, because information can be transmitted efficiently to students in heaping detail in the scant time allotted. But what percentage of students are, by dint of their profile, adept at learning from lecture? No more than 20 percent, and often less. The rest learn most effectively in other ways (e.g., solving problems, preparing presentations, manipulating objects). Professors, academics that they are, almost inevitably hail from the 20-percent-or-so subset that learns readily from lecture; it’s perfectly natural that they often assume everyone learns that way. But a great many students don’t. So a class that’s mostly lecture favors students who (by luck of the draw) learn easily that way, and is biased against everyone else, for no good reason. Ergo, the most effective professors differentiate the way they teach, so that all students have a chance to shine. In future columns, I’ll get into how to do that. Bruce Torff is a professor of educational psychology, director of the Doctoral Program in Learning and Teaching, and pedagogical research consultant for the CTSE.
No more than 20 percent of students are adept at learning from lecture. 2
Twitter in the Classroom Teaching students that social media are good for more than just socializing.
At a CTSE event this spring, public relations professor Victoria Semple and journalism professor Kelly Fincham shared some ideas for raising student appreciation of Twitter’s value beyond pure socializing. They have created Twitter-based exercises that show students how the social network can be a powerful storytelling tool and that increase student engagement with class material to boot. For example, in the spring, Professor Fincham sent students to cover a panel, “President Obama and the Media at Midterm,” with Kalikow Center Senior Presidential Fellows Howard Dean III and Edward J. Rollins, and NPR’s Robert Siegel. Students were required to tweet about the event as it took place. The exercise forced students to pay close attention to what was being said. When students returned to the classroom, they used a free software tool called Storify to curate their tweets into a cohesive narrative of the event. Storify helps news organizations create a story about a breaking news event by combing Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and other social media sites for relevant information and organizing the results in a meaningful way. Professor Fincham cited an example: In an article about last winter’s “Snowmaggedon,” reporter Andrea Caumont used Storify to compare
Photo by Kristen Muterelli
Ever since Twitter was founded in 2006, users have appreciated the value of the social media site for following Ashton Kutcher or keeping friends up-to-date on their lunch preferences in 140 characters or less. But when Twitter captured Captain “Sully” landing a U.S. Airway jet in the Hudson River in 2009, millions of people suddenly glimpsed the site’s potential to document and even influence the course of world events – a potential that has been realized repeatedly since in Tahrir Square, Fukushima Daiichi and around the world.
Journalism professor Kelly Fincham, television professor Nancy Kaplan and public relations professor Victoria Semple participate in a panel on using digital media in the classroom.
New York Mayor Bloomberg’s bureaucratic tweets about the snow emergency (“We appreciate the severity of these conditions and are doing everything we possibly can.”) to tweets from the hands-on mayor of Newark, Cory Booker (“I’m patrolling with my shovel helping dig out. Let me know if any seniors or disabled need help.”) When the gubernatorial debates were held at Hofstra, Professor Fincham asked students to tweet about the event, and then create stories published on the student-run news site LongIslandReport.com, which were cited by The New York Times and landed near the top of Google searches that day. Students learned the value of social media in storytelling and saw firsthand the potential impact of their journalistic work. Professor Victoria Semple has created a class exercise that helps students appreciate the value of Twitter in reaching the media with accurate messages. Half the class plays the role of a crisis management team
for Toyota holding a press conference on the recall of its cars; the other half of the class acts as journalists attending the press conference. As the press conference proceeds, the journalists tweet their reactions to what is being said. This allows the public relations team to monitor in near real time how their message is being received, and to respond immediately at the press conference and on Twitter. When the exercise is over, students switch “sides” – the “journalists” become “PR professionals” and vice versa. This time, the public relations team is representing Graco during the stroller recall crisis. Students report afterwards that the exercise is exhilarating. They begin to understand the strategic uses of social media and the importance of – and difficulties in – getting out accurate messages. And, students say, they are stunned by how fast information travels back and forth in the social media world.
From the Director: We’re All in This Together other hand, I think recently we’ve had a couple of wonderful examples here at Hofstra of a we’re-all-in-it-together approach to our teaching and learning enterprise.
Consensus on academic integrity
Photo by John McKeith
Dear Colleagues, I read in The Chronicle of Higher Education that the faculty senate at another university was considering a strongly worded resolution to discourage faculty from assigning homework during holiday breaks. The goal of the resolution was to help alleviate student stress. A student spokesperson was not impressed by this initiative; he said it would not keep faculty from cramming the same amount of work into the periods before and after breaks or from failing to coordinate assignments among courses so that students didn’t have multiple exams, quizzes, and papers at the same time. The article was distressing because it had such an us-versus-them tone. Students thought faculty piled on work oblivious to and unconcerned about what goes on in students’ lives. Faculty thought they shouldn’t be told what work they could or could not assign. The article suggested that faculty and students had very different ideas about how to learn and that the relationship between faculty and students was fundamentally adversarial. On the
First, the student, faculty, and administrative members of our task force on integrity and responsibility have been single-minded in their agreement on the importance of encouraging academic integrity and enforcing rules that discourage cheating, so that students who work hard on their own assignments aren’t disadvantaged. All the discussions I’ve heard across campus have not indicated a schism between faculty and student opinions. We’re all in this integrity campaign together. In addition, many faculty are experimenting with new ways of making the classroom experience more engaging for students and professors alike. In the spring semester, the CTSE presented a program on new and creative teaching methods chaired by Kari Jensen of the Geography Department. It was exciting to hear about the various methods our colleagues are using to teach students in ways that help them connect to subjects they thought would not interest them at all. In Simon Doubleday’s history class, for example, students have produced remarkable work when given the freedom to engage with The Canterbury Tales not only through traditional essays but also through video, rap, and other forms of expression commonplace in their daily lives. In Ethna Lay’s composition class, students use blogs and YouTube to explain their writing decisions. Arthur Dobrin of University Studies and Lyndi Hewitt of Sociology shared other creative teaching techniques that engaged and educated faculty and students alike.
In the students’ shoes I think the we’re-all-in-it-together approach can work for all of us in our classrooms. Perhaps the Chronicle article attracted my attention because, when I was a student, I hated assignments due the day after vacation. As a result, as a professor, I never assign a paper or schedule an exam for the first class after a holiday break. There are other simple ways to create a more communal learning atmosphere. I don’t give ad hoc extensions for completion of assignments to individual students (except for unusual and serious emergencies) because, as a student, it seemed unfair to those of us without the audacity to ask. I create exams that give students choices in how they are going to respond to questions. I give students enough time to finish exams. I explain my choices about curriculum, class rules, testing, and assignments so that it is clear that I care about my students and that my decisions are not arbitrary. I also tell them about myself and my family so that they can imagine my life as not as dissimilar from theirs as they might otherwise think. If you would like to share either your most unusual and exciting classroom methods or the quotidian ones for creating a positive classroom atmosphere, please send them to me, and I will post them, either with or without attribution, on the CTSE website. Best wishes for the successful start of a new academic year.
Susan Lorde Martin is director of the CTSE and the Cypres Family Distinguished Professor of Legal Studies in Business.
“My Awareness Has Changed Radically” by JADE KEENA The Hofstra-Claflin faculty exchange program, launched in 2006, provides an opportunity for one professor from each university to teach at the other for a semester, thus “tying together two fine institutions,” Provost Herman Berliner said at a CTSE event last spring.
Dr. Claiborne’s class at Hofstra dealt with race and class issues in the context of narrative. Students read texts such as Colson Whitehead’s novel Sag Harbor and Persepolis, a graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi. “The texts bring a history with them worth exploring,” said Dr. Claiborne.
Claflin University, in Orangeburg, South Carolina, is a historically black college founded in 1869 by a group of United Methodist missionaries as an institution intended to educate freed slaves. Claflin University is still affiliated with the United Methodist Church.
She added that teaching a class of mostly white women was a new experience for her; she had to encourage “people who don’t normally think about race to think about it.”
In the fall 2010 semester, Hofstra philosophy professor Anthony Dardis taught at Claflin University, while Hofstra welcomed Corrie Claiborne, then a faculty member at Claflin and now an assistant professor of English and American literature at Morehouse College.
Photo by Jory Heckman
Dr. Claiborne noted that when her grandmother attended Claflin, she had to work in the summer as a domestic in New York to fulfill the task of uplifting her race that was put upon her by her father. Her grandmother went on to become an educator. Dr. Claiborne’s journey to Hofstra, she said, made her feel like she was truly walking in her grandmother’s footsteps.
Philosophy professor Anthony Dardis taught a course exploring the question of free will at Claflin University, a historically black college in South Carolina.
The experience made her a better teacher, she thinks. “People have to teach what they most need to learn.” Dr. Anthony Dardis, meanwhile, taught a class at Claflin based loosely on a class he had developed for Hofstra University Honors College. Dr. Dardis’ research involves metaphysics and the mind, such as the question of free will: “If what happens in the world depends on how the littlest particles obey the laws of nature, what room is there for me to make a difference?” He says his research, on the face of it, has nothing to do with race, yet he does have “a deep conviction that race is connected to everything we do.” Thus, when he first signed up to do the Claflin exchange, he considered constructing a class that explored race and free will. Ultimately, he decided, however, that since he didn’t have any academic training in race issues, “I was perhaps setting myself up to be an arrogant fool.” When he talked to the chair of the Religion and Philosophy Department at Claflin, Dr. Dardis learned that many Claflin students had successfully moved on to graduate programs in the ministry. So Dr. Dardis decided to teach a class that involved reading difficult contemporary texts that provided “a guided tour of the free will problem.” Dr. Dardis learned new ways of thinking about the free will problem from his students, many of whom were deeply committed Christians. For instance, one student expressed her belief that, if God 5
Photo by Cliff Jernigan
The Hofstra-Claflin faculty exchange program broadens the outlook of students and professors.
Now in its fourth year, the Hofstra-Claflin faculty exchange program brought Dr. Corrie Claiborne to Hofstra to teach contemporary literature.
acts freely, people must also act freely, since we are created in God’s image. God is a part of us, not a separate being. “She stopped me absolutely dead in my tracks,” Dr. Dardis said. Dr. Dardis did learn a lot about race at Claflin. For instance, he began to understand how schools may be perceived very differently by whites, who grew up with a feeling of ownership in their educational institutions, than by blacks, some of whom resent schools as agents of discrimination. Dr. Dardis was asked if his experience at Claflin had an influence on the way he teaches. “It will be some years before I can fully answer that,” he said. “My awareness has changed radically.” The Hofstra-Claflin exchange program is in the process of expanding to include students as well as faculty. As a start, two students from Claflin studied at Hofstra last year. Hofstra administrators are also exploring possible ties between Claflin and the new Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine at Hofstra University. Jade Keena is a Hofstra junior majoring in public relations and creative writing.
Classroom Lessons by ANDREA S. LIBRESCO Distance Learning May Be Closer Than You Imagine “Classroom Lessons” highlights examples of excellent teaching by our Hofstra colleagues. If you have a colleague whom you would like to volunteer for observation (or if you would like to volunteer yourself), please contact Dr. Libresco at Andrea.S.Libresco@hofstra.edu. As probably anyone in my department will tell you, but especially my colleague who teaches an online course on Technology in Education, I’ve not been so receptive to distance learning. This may be because I teach teachers how to teach, and I can’t picture doing that online, or it may be because, while a Blackboard user, I’m kind of Janie-come-lately to the 21st century (no Kindle, DVR or cell phone to date). Nevertheless, I am curious. (You’re probably thinking, “She certainly is …”) Dr. Holly Seirup generously allowed me to sit in on her course for higher education administrators: “The Student in American Higher Education.” The week I observed (from home, in my sweatpants – definitely the biggest draw of online learning!), students were doing a module in multicultural competencies. (Each topic module is available for a week, thus eliminating the obvious problem of a student who saves up all work to do in the final week of the course.) I clicked on the module available that week and waited to see what would happen.
Multimedia presentations I definitely picked the right professor to acclimate me to distance learning. Professor Seirup made a video for each week of the course, accompanied by a PowerPoint. As an audio learner, I appreciated having a professor explain terms and concepts and give illustrative examples of multicultural competencies that administrators in higher education ought to acquire, if they don’t already possess them. Like a scene selection device on a DVD, the lecture is broken into
timed sections, so a student does not have to commit to watching the whole presentation in one sitting; in addition, one can replay any part of the lecture or any page of the PowerPoint multiple times.
Online but up close Professor Seirup’s lecture was engaging, both in content and delivery. She sat at a desk, spoke into the camera, and displayed the proper mix of animation and calm. Her organization was exemplary (and, no doubt, necessary, as she needed to have the majority of her course – lectures, assignments, quizzes, projects – posted on Blackboard before the semester began; all of the individual class lectures were recorded in the fall for the spring semester). The lecture began with current and projected demographics in the United States and in higher education, making the case for multicultural competencies in administrators. The bulk of the presentation focused on the awareness, knowledge and skills needed to gain those competencies. Each PowerPoint slide served to organize the topic, but the lecture was not a mere outline of the topic; rather, like any good in-person lecture, each point was illuminated by real-life examples. When discussing how prejudice, oppression, power and privilege can have an impact on access to education, Professor Seirup pointed out how students who are the first in their families to attend college may not be familiar with the unwritten rules that are known by those whose families have been in the college milieu for generations. Thus, she made the case for higher education administrators to anticipate these needs and be the ones to whom first-generation college students can turn. When discussing the skills of being culturally sensitive, the PowerPoint mentioned confronting culturally insensitive behavior. Professor Seirup 6
illustrated this point by reminding her prospective administrators that to stand by, when students utter the all too common expression, “That’s so gay,” is to tacitly condone the behavior. Instead, they need to screw their courage to the sticking place and speak out against any such examples of insensitivity.
Discussions lively, though not live Like any in-person experience, this online class has multiple opportunities for students to process the lectures and readings. The discussion board assignment for this week was to respond to three different prompts: 1) Share an experience of bias experienced or witnessed, based on cultural assumptions, and discuss what higher education administrators can do to counteract such erroneous assumptions. 2) How do you recommend that higher education administrators receive additional knowledge about cultures different than their own? What might be the benefits of such knowledge? 3) If you were hired as the director of multicultural programs, what recommendations and/or initiatives would you implement to enhance the multicultural perspective on campus? Student responses were thoughtful, creative and grounded in the readings. They gave detailed descriptions of bias incidents and plans to counteract them. One student
always weighs in, which means that all have an opportunity to process what they are learning. What does seem to work better in person is the interplay, the back-and-forth between students. While students are required to reply to each other’s posts, the responses sometimes feel more like positive reinforcement than comments integral to a profound discussion. (I’m still trying to work on this issue in my own Blackboard assignments. Suggestions welcomed!)
My bias going into this classroom “observation” was that in-person is preferable to online discussion about a sensitive topic like multiculturalism. However, I have to admit that Professor Seirup’s students’ posts were often more in-depth and well-supported than their in-class responses might have been. I also have to admit that, from just one week of reading these thoughtful posts, I felt as though I already knew some of the students and the extent to which they were absorbing these new ideas about multiculturalism in their personal and professional lives. And, of course, unlike face-to-face discussions, participation is mandatory, so everyone
On post-course surveys, Professor Seirup’s online students indicated that, while they appreciated a course that fit into their busy schedules and job responsibilities and that allowed them to study at their own pace, what they missed was the interaction with the professor and the other students in the class. As a great believer in deliberative discussion as a necessary component of democracy, I, too, missed seeing that interaction and interplay. But, as I balance that loss against the fact that every student who wants to can fit this course into a busy professional life and that every student’s voice is heard (albeit in writing) on every
To Friend or Not to Friend?
not so much what the students would learn about her as what she might learn about students that she would rather not know.
If you use Facebook, chances are you’ve received friend requests from current or former students. How do you respond? At Ohio State University recently, researchers asked 183 pharmacy professors from four campuses if they used Facebook and, if so, whether they would “friend” a student. Of those respondents with Facebook profiles, about 80 percent said they would not accept a friend request from a current student, and 100 percent said they would never send a friend request to a student. (http://researchnews.osu.edu/ archive/facfacebook.htm) Like many faculty members, Hofstra public relations professor Victoria Semple does not respond to friend requests from current students. The reason, she said, is
important issue raised, I can’t honestly say that distance is worse or better than faceto-face learning. What I can say is that Dr. Holly Seirup does it really well. Andrea Libresco is an associate professor in the Department of Teaching, Literacy and Leadership.
Professor Semple does allow students to follow her on Twitter, and she follows them, creating an interactive network for internships, job opportunities, and simply sharing current events and discussion relevant to course work. Students should be aware that Twitter is increasingly used as a professional tool, according to Professor Kelly Fincham. She cautions students that their Twitter accounts should reflect their professional rather than their personal lives, and they should keep personal commentary in the more private world of Facebook. If faculty members do want to use Facebook to communicate with students, Professor Semple suggested setting up a separate profile or fan page for that purpose, rather than using one’s personal Facebook page.
Photo by Kristin Muterelli
commented, “For many students, college presents the first opportunity for ongoing contact with people who differ from them in race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation (Clem, 2005). Therefore, I think that we need to … incorporate first-year seminars and tons of undergraduate experiences that encourage multiculturalism … in the dorms and in programs for commuter students … to ensure that our students are learning to not only tolerate, but accept and engage in multiculturalism.”
Professor Victoria Semple explains why she networks with students on Twitter but not Facebook.
Another possibility: steer students to LinkedIn.com, a more appropriate tool for student-professor networking.
Students and faculty from five continents meet each summer at the Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change to design media studies curricula used around the world.
Hofstra Abroad: The Salzburg Experience “Hofstra Abroad” features faculty members and students engaged in exciting academic endeavors outside the United States. If you have a colleague or student whom you would like to see featured, please e-mail Carol Fletcher at firstname.lastname@example.org. In summer 2010, Dani Newman, then a Hofstra senior, spent three weeks living in the Schloss Leopoldskron, the famous palace from The Sound of Music. Newman was participating in the Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change, where she met students from Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan, Mexico, China, and other countries around the world, many of whom were doing extraordinary things. “It was so inspiring to hear firsthand from a couple running a traveling radio station in Jordan, constantly being chased by government officials for keeping the citizens of the nation informed,” Newman recalled. The Salzburg Academy is an initiative of the Salzburg Global Seminar and the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda (ICMPA), directed by media studies professor Paul Mihailidis. It unites 60 students and 12 faculty members from five continents to discuss the media’s role in culture, change and global citizenship. “Meeting people from such diverse places around the world was incredible,” said Javier Neira, a student at Pontifical Catholic University of Chile who attended the academy in summer 2009.
by JADE KEENA
Students at the Salzburg Academy work together in small groups throughout the three weeks to develop learning modules covering six topics: social media, covering conflict, agenda setting, freedom of the press, civic participation, and framing. The modules act as an online map of the issue, providing a multimedia exploration of each topic complete with resources and assignments.
never really want to go anywhere other than the planned trips,” said Dr. Mihailidis.
The modules become a Global Media Literacy curriculum, complete with lesson plans, used in more than 100 countries. All the modules are available at the Salzburg Academy’s website, salzburg.umd.edu.
“It’s hard to choose a specific moment as my favorite,” said Neira. “The meals with everyone, the piano concert, the final dinner and the party, our trips to Vienna and Munich, they were all such incredible experiences.”
Dr. Mihailidis explained that the Salzburg Academy is not a typical classroom setting. Students at the academy spend their days working on the modules in small groups. Each group has two faculty advisers who help them explore the issue and build their module.
The Salzburg Academy is a cultural experience for the faculty members as well as the students. The program has 12 faculty members from universities around the world, including Syracuse University, Pontifica Universidad Catolica in Argentina, Bournemouth University in the United Kingdom, and Quaid-i-Azam University in Pakistan.
After their work is done, students and faculty members spend time in the Bier Stube, a cellar with pool tables, music, and a bar. Students also hang out outside on the terrace, where discussion of the global media and the work the students are doing does not stop. “The dialogue usually continues on the terrace because the students’ engagement is so high,” Dr. Mihailidis said. Students have the weekends free, but the faculty plan optional trips. Many of these trips are non-academic, but are culturally enriching. The group visits castles and fortresses, goes to the Alps, and takes a trip to Dachau, a former concentration camp in Munich. “After three days, the students 8
The academy also invites guest speakers to engage in dialogue with the students. In past years, the academy has heard from actress and political activist Vanessa Redgrave, author Richard Ford, and playwright Tom Stoppard.
Faculty members get together to design the core program for the academy, but they do not develop a strict plan. “We let the students drive the curriculum,” said Dr. Mihailidis. “The group that comes in is so dynamic that we try not to stifle them with a regimented program.” Students and faculty come together from around the world to work toward the same goal – a chance for the group to help change the world. “It’s a space like no other space,” said Dr. Mihailidis. Jade Keena is a Hofstra junior majoring in public relations and creative writing.
Because we are immersed in screens (computer screens, TV screens, mobile screens), we are moving from a text- and print-based culture to an image-based culture in which text is secondary. Students read less in traditional formats and more in images, illustrations, photographs and video. As society moves from medium- and longform text to audio and visual media (along with short form text), some of us — especially those of us who teach — worry about the effects of this transition. Will society be endangered if the critical thinking skills fostered by disciplined writing and reading are lost? Nicholas Carr is one of several prominent social intellectuals to address this concern with his recent book, The Shallows: How the Internet Is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember. In raising this concern, Carr joins a long list of distinguished figures who, throughout human history, have forecasted societal doom as a result of the introduction of new communication media. Our record of this pessimism begins, ironically, when Plato put words in Socrates’ mouth about the dangers of writing in writing. In the Phaedrus, Plato “quotes” Socrates as saying about the newest communication technology, writing: “[It] destroys memory [and] weakens the mind, relieving it of … work that makes it strong. [It] is an inhuman thing.” Others, in their turn, have been afraid that printing, radio, TV, or e-mail, among other new media, would harm society. But we are a social species, and almost nothing stops the spread of new
by MARY ANN ALLISON
media. Only crushing dictatorial power — in ancient China or modern North Korea, as examples — leads to the effective suppression of new communication technology. I believe it is, therefore, incumbent on those of us who teach to experiment with new ways of teaching critical thinking. This article describes one such experiment, involving an assignment in my Media and Pop Culture class (MASS 125). The course examines the relationships of the media, mass culture, and mass society. Among the topics covered in the class are theories of media, theories of popular culture, and distinctions between “high” and “low” culture. At the beginning of this class, I give short lectures on 13 concepts that we use throughout the semester to analyze various aspects of pop culture. The concepts are: access, change, conflict, consumption, continuity, globalization, identity, ideology, influence, institutional power, media, mythology, and self. I then assign a “four concepts” presentation. Each student creates a PowerPoint file in which he or she illustrates any four of the 13 concepts, without using words, one concept per slide. The illustrations are typically a collage. Each image slide is followed by a slide naming the concept being illustrated. The end of the PowerPoint gives citations. When a student presents, he or she displays each image and remains silent while the class studies it and guesses which concept is being illustrated. This can be a rich discussion and helps the students tease out definitions and
relevant applications of each idea. After some discussion, the presenter labels the concept illustrated and provides insight into the process used during image selection. The examples shown below are taken, with student permission, from classes in fall 2008, 2009 and 2010. In addition to practice in analyzing and applying concepts, the exercise provides me with a platform to lead a discussion on the strengths and weaknesses of various media for expressing ideas and emotions. We talk about the differences between analogic and symbolic communication. The students now have a rich and practical understanding of this distinction. Students like the assignment. Their understanding of the 13 concepts for thinking critically about pop culture — as demonstrated in class discussion — improves dramatically during the week of presentations. With varying sophistication, students remain effective in applying these concepts throughout the semester in other, more traditional assignments. They develop a regular practice of applying these concepts to enrich their understanding of how pop culture affects their daily lives. I hope other teachers will be interested in trying similar experiments. I look forward to hearing about their experiences. Mary Ann Allison is an assistant professor in the Department of Journalism, Media Studies, and Public Relations.
Students from Dr. Mary Ann Allison’s Media and Pop Culture class created images illustrating key concepts used to analyze pop culture. Top row of images represents the concepts of globalism (first two) and identity. Images on bottom row represent, in turn, consumption, access and ideology.
Credits for photos on file and available on request.
Picturing Pop Culture
Having a Word What’s New?
with CAROL PORR
Our language is already well-stocked with words, but we still keep coining new ones. usually takes slightly more than a century for a word to reach such a state of maturity that it is not recognizably or instinctively felt to be a newcomer.”
Words on the fast track
Last July Sarah Palin created a bit of a linguistic firestorm when she used the word refudiate on one of her message boards. When she heard about the condemnation by those of us who have respect for the language (I’ll admit it — I was one of “those”), she indicated that “English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words, too. Got to celebrate it.” Whether Palin’s word deserves to be added to the lexicon permanently remains to be seen, but she’s absolutely right on all counts: English is indeed a living language, and we most definitely should celebrate it. And as for Shakespeare, according to Richard Hogg and David Denison, authors of A History of the English Language, Shakespeare is credited with around 1700 neologisms or first attestations. In plain English, that means “new words.” And while there is a debate over whether Shakespeare was indeed the first person to use a number of them, Allan Metcalf, author of Predicting New Words: The Secret of Their Success, notes there is no doubt that he holds the record for creating new words and certainly popularizing those that evidence suggests were used earlier. This discussion of language got me to thinking about how new words come into being. In Modern American Usage, Robert Burchfield, a leading lexicographer, is quoted as saying that adding new words to the language is a very long process: “It
Still, Bryan Garner, editor of Modern American Usage, notes that the explosion of electronic media in the second half of the 20th century could account for new words being put on the “fast track.” But even before the personal computer, the standards for “maturity” were dropping. For some reason, Garner claims, we seem perfectly comfortable today with terms such as workaholic (1971), talk radio (1972), couch potato (1973), sound bite (1980) and PC (personal computer in the 1980s, political correctness in the 1990s). And many words and terms from the ’50s and ’60s have become permanent fixtures in our language: do-it-yourself, glitch, mall, meritocracy, middle management, nitty-gritty, and prime time. So, how does one create a new word in English? I recently came upon a great book, The Glamour of Grammar: A Guide to the Magic and Mystery of Practical English. In it, author Roy Peter Clark talks about ways new words are created. One way of coining a new word is by blending two existing words. Louis Carroll coined the term portmanteau (from the French porter, “to carry,” and manteau, “mantle’) to mean a word formed by two words, blending both meanings. The poem “Jabberwocky” contains several such words: chortle (combines chuckle and snort), galumph (gallop and triumph), and snark (snake and shark) are just a few of Lewis Carroll’s words that can now be found in the dictionary. Successful blends that we use all the time are urinalysis, brunch, and modem. More recent blends would be webisode and Octomom. Instead of going on vacation, we have staycation.
And my cancer survivor friends have scanxiety whenever they go for further screenings.
Just blending in In The Origins and Development of the English Language, John Algeo talks about how easy it is to create new words by blending. Every generation has its popular blends. The sexual revolution gave us palimony and sexploitation. Watergate spawned many new ways of expressing corruption involving government or people in positions of power: Irangate, Koreagate, travelgate, etc. And the Internet has given us a virtual infinite number of blends, just in using e- (for electronic): e-mail, e-commerce, e-vite, e-business, to name just a few. Another way of creating new words is through eponyms, or commonization, whereby the name of a person — real or mythical — is attached to something. I mentioned a few of these in my last column: boycott (the ostracized activist Charles Boycott) and sideburns (Civil War general Ambrose Burnside). There are many others — lynch, from Virginia lawman William Lynch, sandwich, from the Earl of Sandwich, who apparently spent hours at a gaming table eating slices of meat between slices of bread. John Algeo notes that the term for a British policeman, Bobby, dates back to the nickname for the 19th-century politician Sir Robert Peel, who made reforms in the London police system. The trouble-laden Charlie Sheen has now entered the lexicon — as a verb. According to The New York Times article “When Your Life Becomes a Verb,” dated March 4, 2011, the terms “sheened” and “sheening” clearly connote partying, questionable decision-making and public humiliation. “I have no doubt that his name will spawn one or more meanings besides getting
drunk,” said Bryan Garner. Garner suggests that another definition could be associated with the troubled actor. “To ‘pull a Sheen’ could mean to ridiculously try to defend oneself in the public media.”
moon. To Metcalf, OK is America’s answer to Shakespeare (my vote would go to Eugene O’Neill or Arthur Miller). He considers it an entire philosophy summed up in just two letters. I’m OK with that.
The compound, or kenning, is among the oldest ways of creating new words. Compounds are created by putting together two words, or parts of words, to form a new word that has a meaning different from the original words. Blackboard, firearm, bedroom, and upscale are examples. Roy Peter Clark quotes Simon Winchester’s study of the OED when he reports that there are 50 different words in Old English that signify the sea, many of them compound words like whale-way, drowning-flood, and waters-strife.
We commonly create new words by shifting the meaning of older ones. All we have to do is have a conversation with our kids to see that! Bad, mad, and crazy can have positive connotations today among young people. The Internet has given us new meanings to words like web, tweet, and net, and politics and the media have given us spin.
Then there is front clipping or back clipping where the shortening of a longer word becomes more common. Bus, is a clipped form of omnibus; cab is a clipped form of cabriolet; bra is a clipped form of brassiere; and pop (as in pop culture) derives from popular. The gin in Eli Whitney’s cotton gin is a clipped form of engine. A subset of clipping is alphabetism, or initialism, whereby words are created by using the first letters of the words they represent. HOV (for high occupancy vehicle) and scuba (for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) are examples, and so are WASP, CD, and AWOL.
It’s all OK The most commonly used alphabetism in English is that venerable word, OK. According to Allan Metcalf, the author of OK: The Improbable Story of America’s Greatest Word, the term was first penned in 1839. He believes it is an initialism formed from the first letters of the term all correct; however that term itself was misspelled as “oll correct.” At least, that’s one of the stories. Metcalf pronounces OK the “most frequently spoken (or typed) word on the planet.” He reminds the reader that OK was the first word spoken on the
Creating new words from thin air is not all that common. John Algeo mentions three examples in his book, and, to my delight, they all come from literature. Catch 22 from Joseph Heller’s novel of the same name refers to a paradox wherein a regulation makes one a victim no matter what one does. And 1984, the novel written by George Orwell, denotes a society wherein personal freedom has been lost and all media is controlled by government. The third contribution to the language comes by way of James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, the Holy Grail of most English majors. According to Algeo, Murray GellMann, the Nobel Prize winner, coined the term quark to denote a hypothetical particle, the fundamental building block of matter. Apparently Gell-Mann later discovered the word in Joyce’s masterpiece in the phrase “Three quarks for Muster Mark!” (Allan Metcalf reports a slightly different version, but suffice it to say, Joyce’s novel appears in both accounts.) I decided to research the etymology of the word google, thinking that it had something to do with the expression “googly eyes.” So I “googled” it! My research came up with the following explanation: “Google is a play on the word googol, which was coined by Milton Sirotta, nephew of American mathematician Edward Kasner,
“To Metcalf, OK is America’s answer to Shakespeare.” 11
and was popularized in the book Mathematics and the Imagination by Kasner and James Newman. It refers to the number represented by the numeral 1 followed by 100 zeros. Google’s use of the term reflects the company’s mission to organize the immense, seemingly infinite amount of information available on the web.” Keep in mind that most words in the English language were at one time “new.” The English that we speak today is a language that developed over a thousand years as a result of invasion by Northern tribes, the French, and the Romans. Allan Metcalf reminds us that of the half million or so words that appear in the Oxford English Dictionary, only a few thousand are original English (what we call Old English) — words like hand, fish, swim, heart, and love.
Coin with caution Garner says that neologisms, or invented words, should be used carefully. They should fill a linguistic void, since the English language is already well stocked. Every year a few good ones get added to the language. Some become vogue words (think dungarees and sputnik); some are slow to achieve acceptance; and then there are those that don’t ever become widely known. Allan Metcalf explains that lexicographers monitor new entrants into the language and periodically publish compilations such as The Oxford Dictionary of New Words. So, let’s go back to Sarah Palin and her fabrication. The New Oxford American Dictionary designated refudiate the official 2010 word of the year! “From a strictly lexical interpretation of the different contexts in which Palin has used ‘refudiate,’ we have concluded that neither ‘refute’ nor ‘repudiate’ seems consistently precise, and that ‘refudiate’ more or less stands on its own, suggesting a general sense of ‘reject,’” representatives from the New Oxford American Dictionary said in a press release. Go figure. Carol Porr is adjunct assistant professor of English and assistant director of the English Composition Program. She is also the English editing consultant for the CTSE.
Current CTSE Members
CTSE Staff and Contact Information
Habib Ammari, Ph.D. (Computer Science), 2009-2012
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