Monthly Archives: August 2015

Reflections on a New Semester


Classes began two weeks ago. Unfortunately, my honors Comp I class did not have enough students enrolled, so it was canceled. I had to take a class from a part-timer for the first time in my whole career as a full-time faculty member. In a series of events, however, that part-timer took another class, so all turned out well.

My classes are lively. The students and I are developing a good rapport. I know almost all of their names now—those in the campus classes since I see them in person. The new semester always brings a sense of renewal.

I am trying several new ideas and reinstating some I tried only once. Last fall, I wanted to give students more autonomy, so I gave them self-designed points. Students could choose from a cafeteria list of items and earn up to seventy points by choosing their own assignments within the bounds provided. The idea is excellent, but keeping the grade book turned out to be a nightmare. What I have salvaged from that experience is student-led discussions using the discussion board on Blackboard.

Also, I’ve adapted genius time–allowing students twenty minutes each Monday for research on a topic over which they will lead their peers in a discussion and will use the research in writing their papers including a documented essay this semester. Students may choose their topics—within limits. Certain topics are off limits: capital punishment, abortion, gun control, and teen pregnancy, to name a few.

Another returning assignment is the elevator speech. Once students have chosen their topics, they will write and deliver to the class an elevator speech of no more than sixty seconds. In the elevator speech, they will be seeking their peers’ approval on their topics. Of course, I expect the approval will be granted, but having to develop the speech will help the students explain their choice of topic.

These assignments will give students choice and a little autonomy and not create a grade book nightmare. I look forward to seeing the students develop their topics and lead the discussions. We are off to an exciting start!


Mixed Monday: A New Poirot?



Sophie Hannah, the only author sanctioned by the Agatha Christie estate to write a novel featuring Hercule Poirot, is a good choice for summer reading. The Christie estate has resisted efforts to revive Poirot written by another author, but recently allowed Sophie Hannah to write such a mystery.

Readers will not be disappointed in Hannah’s The Monogram Murders. Hannah is true to Christie and Poirot in developing a story worthy of the “little grey cells.” The story centers on events that happened sixteen years earlier in a small English village where secrecy abounds and grudges are long lasting.

When three almost identical murders occur in an upscale hotel in London and the victims are have or had all lived in Culver Valley, the fictional village where Hannah’s own detective series featuring Charlie Zailer and Simon Waterhouse takes place. To complicate matters, a distressed woman rushes into a small café that Poirot frequents. The woman, known only as Jennie, is obviously in a panic and mentions murder. Is she connected to the soon-to-be discovered murders?

Read The Monogram Murders to find out! You will enjoy the story and Hannah’s faithful rendition of Hercule Poirot.

Tech Tuesday: Strong Passwords


Someone hacked my Facebook account. My friends suddenly started emailing and texting me that they were receiving friend requests when we are already friends. Not only that some received private messages about “juicy news,” the United Nations, and offers of loans. Whew! I posted a note on Facebook about the hacking and many people had figured it out quickly too.

I have changed my Facebook password to one that is really strong. Since my gmail account is the one I use for Facebook, I changed the password there too, just to be on the safe side!

So today’s blog is a reminder to use strong passwords!

Mixed Monday: Useful Information


Have you signed up for emails and then found you are not interested in the material, receive too many from the source, or just want out? Often, getting off a list is not as easy as it should be. is the site you need! It provides instructions for getting off many, many sites, especially those that make it difficult for users to remove themselves. Explore to help you get out of emails you no longer wish to receive.

Another interesting site is which helps users plan trips by car. it is easy to use. Put in your route and users not only get the full directions, but also things to see along the way. Users can also put the app on their phones for easy portability. Roadtrippers gives suggestions on eating places along the route as well as any sightseeing opportunities.

These two sites are worth checking out.