How to Make New Year’s Resolutions like a College Professor

New Year ResolutionsToday many of us are penciling in our New Year’s resolutions. We’re using pencils because putting them in ink would demand too much commitment. We’ll promise to spend less money and get our finances in order. We’ll promise to eat healthier and exercise more. Of course the new gym membership and the organic produce will bust the newly penciled budget, but we might as well dream big.

Most of us feel compelled to go for the big New Year’s resolution because the beginning of the year is the best marker for sweeping changes, and unfortunately it only comes around once every 365 days. College professors, however, have the luxury of penciling in more modest resolutions because we get our fresh starts more frequently. We get to pace ourselves a bit on the resolutions. Continue reading

Please Come Back, Patrick K. Thornton

IMG_0541Dear Pat,

This time last year Alison let me come over and we sat in your den, under your beautiful Christmas tree in Sugar Land, and we talked for three hours. Our boys played outside with Nerf guns.  It was gray outside, but not too cold.  I will always be grateful to her for this–you had that hat covering your head after the radiation had been applied to your brain, you were a little tired, but wanted to talk.  It was almost Christmas.  I did not believe that it would be the last time I would see you.  I did not believe that you would only have one more Christmas. I did not believe your funeral would happen in January.  I just could not believe that you would leave us.

I was wrong. Continue reading

Gamification and the Classroom

I’m just old enough to remember video gaming in its infancy, and just young enough not to be mired in nostalgia for the good old days. I still play the new stuff (and some of it is quite good). There is a special kind of fun discovering a hidden level, beating the final boss, and watching a digital protagonist “level up.” It’s so fun, there is now a cottage industry focused on using the unique rewards and punishments employed in the game world to solve real world problems. Reworking an activity as a game is now called “gamification.”

As a professional educator, I am always looking for a new edge for my classes. Next semester, I’m gamifying my Logic class.

Continue reading