The Listening List: 1

A while ago, I made a list of some of my favourite recent reading. Now, here are some things that I'm listening to on my digital media player. (No, it's not a i-device.)

I'm lovin' Freakonomics radio. I read the books, the blog, and the tweets, but I just can't wait until each "radio" podcast is delivered (in my sleep!). The bits about behavioural economics are the gravy on top of the ice cream, but the "hidden side of everything" segments are fascinating and surprising. Recent topics include: where management consultants came from, why mass transit may not be so good for the environment, and how to maximize your Halloween candy haul. Economics has never been so interesting.

The Nerdist podcast (podcast network is more like it now) has something for everyone--whatever your geek niche. Examples: video games, comics, sex. Episode #250 featured Alton Brown. Wha--? Chris Hardwick and Alton Brown? Squee! (Plus, AB was on an episode of the Nerdist Channel's Dork Fork. See? Something for everyone...) My favourite part of the episode was when AB dropped an F-bomb. That ain't ever gonna happen on Iron Chef.

A TED talk that has gotten considerable attention (3+ million views) is one by author Susan Cain, who talks about being an introvert and writing her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. If you're an introvert like me, you owe it to yourself to at least watch the video. Extroverts can watch it too: it may help you to understand the other 30-50% of the population.

Finally, I actually do have music on my player, too. Some people like to play "I'm listening to music that's so obscure you've never heard of it and never will." I understand that; I liked Madonna Louise Ciccone's music of the early 80s, then everyone was listening to her and I lost interest. So here's my totally obscure contribution: the new Nena album, Du Bist Gut ("you are good"). I bought this old-school on CD from Amazon.de but also put it on my player.

In German-speaking countries, this selection is not obscure at all. The first single debuted at #2 on the charts. And the singer isn't an unknown either. You may know her from the worldwide #1 1980s hit 99 Luftballons/99 Red Balloons. She didn't disappear after that; she's released an album just about every year for the past three decades--even some children's albums. To me, she's the sexiest 52-year-old grandmother (!!) on the planet. *dreamy sigh*

What are you listening to?

Why aren't you studying?

The Crunch Time

It's crunch time for me--and for you. For me, I've got 18 projects due for my "other employer" for a December 1 deadline. (No, that's not a typo: eighteen projects.) Then, I've got 2 more projects due later in the month. That's on top of marking term papers, prepping exams, and getting courses ready for next term.

As for you, you should be well underway writing your term papers--not deciding on topics, or looking for papers and books to read. If you want the best possible mark, now is go time.

Not getting the marks you want so far this term? It's not too late. I've written posts on improving exam prep, learning, and studying; just click on the Category links on the right side of this page. I've also got a page of study resources for you.

The Student Success Centre has workshops coming up soon, but you better hurry, time is running out! Need help writing your term paper, the Centre for Writers is still open, but only until the last day of class (but that's when your term papers are due anyway, right?).

Why aren't you studying?

The Snow Day

I knew it was going to be a bad day when, in driving my older daughter to school, there were two collisions on the way. Her school is less than 2 km away. Then I saw traffic backed up for at least six blocks. Yup, a bad one. I got home to pick up my younger daughter and take her to daycare, but had to shovel the driveway. And then I got stuck. That’s why I’m at home writing this blog post while watching Elmo’s World.

I’ve never missed an exam in my life. (Once, as a student, a snowstorm made me late for an exam--but it made everyone else late, too.) And I’ve never been snowed out of getting to class. Today, both of those perfect records have fallen.

There was good news and bad news about the exam. The good news was that my stalwart teaching assistant lives close to campus and was able to hike in and proctor the exam. Students, stuck in the snow, wiped out in the ditch, or abandoned by the transit system, were sending me a blizzard of emails and tweets asking what to do. My brilliant solution? Hold the exam again, during the next class. Brilliant, except that the Associate Dean (Undergraduate) of Science sternly reminded the Department of Psychology that that’s not allowed--exams have to take place according to the syllabus. No exceptions. That’s the bad news.

It would have been nice to get more advance notice about this snowfall. Environment Canada’s weather office issued a snowfall warning at 9:15 a.m. MST. Really? By this point, ETS had tweeted about weather delays, the Edmonton Police Service had told people to stay off the streets, and I was up to my knees shoveling snow. Don’t need a warning at that point. When I checked the weather last night before going to bed, only 6-10 cm of snow was forecast for today. The 9:15 warning predicted up to 25 cm, with my end of town already hammered by 18 cm.

Obviously, we can’t prevent a snowstorm, but knowing about it more in advance would have been a big help.

Why aren’t you studying?

The Udacity Partnership

Earlier today the UofA signed a MOU (memorandum of understanding) with Udacity to develop a research partnership about MOOCs (massive open online courses). In a MOOC, the entire course is done online, for free. You may or may not get some kind of credit for participating and completing it; you may have to pay for a certificate. So far, you can't use these MOOCs for credit towards an actual degree.

This morning at 10:00, a group of instructors, researchers, and administrators met with Sebastian Thrun, who cofounded Udacity. (Yes, this is one of the "secret projects" I'm currently involved in. Now it's not a secret anymore.) Thrun, who gave a talk about MOOCs on campus last month, showed us his content creation system, which runs as an iPad app. Even in pre-alpha, it was pretty slick, allowing videos, sketches, and interactive quizzes to be put together to create a course, which can also be "consumed" via an i-device.

MOOCs raise many important questions about pedagogy (the "science of education"), instruction, interactivity, and the role of universities. We're thinking about those. But the reason I'm writing this post is to get the view of students on MOOCs.

What do you think about free, online courses? Would you take one? Why? What would you want to get from it? Would it help your mom learn about psychology (or whatever your major is)? Or for your younger sister in high school, who hasn't decided what topic to study in post-secondary education (much less her future career)? Would you take it to supplement what you're learning in your in-person, for-credit class? Or would you want to get your whole degree online, instead of going to meat-space classes? (Hmm, isn't that already available?)

Why aren't you studying?

The Open Comments: 5

With midterms done/coming up or whatever your case may be (in my case, always both), it's time again to open it up for any comments you have.

Questions? Concerns? Can't hear me in the back? Don't wait until the end of term evaluations to tell me. I know I've been a bit low energy recently--this darn gastroenteritis. Ooh, that reminds me: it's time for my annual flu shot again. Are you going to get one? I don't know about you, friend, but I don't want to be laid up in bed during finals.

Why aren't you studying?

The Changes



So far, 2012 has been a year stuffed full of changes. My wife moved her practice to a different clinic. My oldest daughter switched to a different school. We have a new neighbour. Our basement is in the process of being developed. (You never realize how much stuff is in your basement until you have to move it all into the garage.) My sister-in-law got a new dog. (OK, so maybe that last one isn’t a big impact on my life.)

At work, too, there have been more changes this year than in the last decade. The Department of Psychology General Office has seen a major changeover in admin staff. (See The Cuts for more.)

I’ve had to adapt to some pretty major changes in my teaching schedule, too. Each Department makes up a “master schedule” of all classes, which includes information on who’s teaching what course, when each courses is being taught (term and time of day), and in which classrooms. Starting this year, some longer-range planning has been implemented. Now, people within each “area” of specialization in the Department of Psychology have to agree on who is going to teach which courses for the next 2 years. In principle, this is good planning. Unfortunately for me, as a teaching-focused Faculty Lecturer, my courses fall into three different areas: Cognition (PSYCO 258 and 494), Behaviour, Systems and Cognitive Neuroscience (PSYCO 267 and 365), and Comparative Cognition and Behaviour (PSYCO--whoops, that hasn’t been announced yet).

So far, not so bad. But there has also been a change in policy about when classes are offered. An analysis showed that most PSYCO courses were being offered between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., and most of them were on Tues/Thurs (“TR”), making it hard for psychology majors to register for all of the classes they needed to complete their degrees. As a result, a new policy was introduced, requiring 200-level courses to be 50-minute classes offered on Mon/Wed/Fri (“MWF”), 300-level courses on TR (meaning 80-minute classes), and 400-level courses to be on MWF (again, 50-minute classes).

This term, all of my courses were flipped. My PSYCO 104 was moved from MWF to TR; I haven’t taught it as an 80-minute class since 1997. I’ve designed, tweaked, and adjusted it to be a 50-minute class for 15 years, and now had to change it--syllabus, lectures, exams--to fit into 80 minutes. In addition, my usual 80-minute classes--PSYCO 267 and 494--changed to 50-minute ones. I’ve never once taught 267 as a 50-minute class, and the last time I taught 494 in 50 minutes was 2004. I’ve never been so busy prepping “old” classes before.

Lastly, even where classes are being held has changed for me this year. This term, one of my classes is scheduled in my least favourite room, and the others are slotted in rooms that are just slightly too big. Here’s the problem: If the room holds 413 people, and enrollment is capped at 390, there will be empty seats. Students come to class and see a certain number of empty seats every time, and go, “Huh. Not everybody is showing up to class. Why should I?” As a result, attendance drops steadily during the term. This general effect is called “social proof” (HT: Jennifer Passey). So I’ve actually asked for enrollment in most of my classes to be maxed out to room capacity. Bigger isn’t always better.

On top of all these changes, and the extra work they entail, I’ve also got to work on a new prep (academic lingo for “new course”). But that’s another post.

Why aren’t you studying?

The Commercial Message

At the start of term, I get a lot of requests from people who want to make an announcement in my class. Usually, they want to talk to my intro psych class, probably because it’s in a huge room. Some of the information is important, like raising awareness of UofA resources available to students, like the Peer Support Centre or student groups like the Undergraduate Psychology Association (I belonged to the UPA, way back when I was an undergraduate). Although this is useful information to first-year students, I’m thinking that a lot of this is redundant with the orientation given by the Centre for Student Development. Plus, not everyone in intro psych is a first-year student.

But then there are others who want to make a presentation about something not at all related to the university, per se. They want to encourage students to Travel Abroad! Get Volunteer Experience! Run Your Own Business! Is this appropriate in class?

I let someone talk the other day; they had arranged for this time weeks in advance. The thing was, the presentation went on and on and on. Eventually, when the person finished, they had burned through five minutes of class time, and left me with a class that was totally not wanting to listen to anything for quite a few minutes. Thanks a lot.

Here are my rules for people who want to present something--anything--to my classes.
  • Don’t start talking to my class without asking my permission in advance. It’s like you’ve taken over my room. Please don’t. Even if I’m not in the room yet. If I get there late and there’s not enough time for you to talk, sorry.
  • I’m not going to introduce you, unless you are a special guest. Special guests may be invited, or have something important to say. Introductions from me may seem to students like an endorsement.
  • Show up early, if you need to ask me for permission. I may say no, depending on what I have planned for that class, or what you’re selling. Best to email me in advance and ask me for permission. I’ll send you a link to this blog posting. (Whoa--recursiveness!)
  • Do not take up any of my class time. I need to log in to the computer and get my lectures set up. You can talk to my class while I’m doing that. If you have lots of information to give, you better talk fast--especially if you’re following someone else who’s giving a long presentation.
  • I’m not going to give you a microphone. You need to talk loud to get the attention of the class and to be heard over the general noise. I need to clip the mic on and get the audio system set up for myself, so you're on your own.
  • You don’t get to use PowerPoint or the projector. If you do, then I can’t log in or set up my lectures, and I’ll have to waste class time doing that after you’re finished.
  • You can email me web links, posters, or contact information, which I may (or may not) post to the class website.
  • Only one presentation per day.
  • First come, first served.
What do you, as students, think of these rules? Do you want to hear commercial messages? Are you already coping with information overload? Do you pay attention to the messages in class?

Why aren’t you studying?

The Paperless (Digital) Office

I just dropped off the paperwork for my Winter term coursepacks. Yes, already. They’ve got to go through copyright clearance before they can be copied, and that deadline is coming up October 1. I don’t want to be late...er, like I was with my Fall term coursepack.

The strange thing about this paperwork is that it actually was paper. Yeah, I did submit a copyright clearance spreadsheet via email, but I also had to lug paper copies of all the forms that SUBPrint needs, the table of contents, and hardcopies of every single reading in the coursepack. It strikes me as odd, because I’ve been working hard toward a “paperless office,” converting as much paper-based stuff to e-formats as I can.

Back in 2000, I was probably one of the first (if not the first) instructor to email my exams to SSDS (Specialized Support and Disability Services). (This is the office that handles, among other things, exam proctoring for students with disabilities.) I had a blind student in my perception class (yeah, that was a challenge to teach), and SSDS needed my exams in a format that could be read out loud by JAWS. I’ve been submitting my exams in PDF format via email ever since--saves me from walking over there to drop off every exam.

With the recent budget cutbacks, I’ve had to reduce hard copies of the syllabus in almost all of my courses. The exception is PSYCO 104: I want students to have something in their hands to read. Those classes are large, so copying is still a big expense. Funny, though, I’ve got nearly a hundred copies left--I guess a lot of students got theirs in PDF format from my website. Maybe I won’t need any hardcopy handouts soon.

My office is still filled with lots and lots of paper. One bookshelf has textbooks. But even there, things are moving digital. I can get online access to almost any textbook I need (yes, for free) from CourseSmart.com, a company set up by five of the largest textbook publishers as a platform for delivering ebooks. I do still like hardcopies, though. The tangible feeling of a book is something I’d miss.

Another shelf has print copies of the journals I subscribe to. It’s nicer to read long texts on paper, but for quick reference, I’ll go to an e-version. Plus, if I’m at home, I’m not about to go back to my office just to look something up in a hardcopy journal. And that brings me back to my coursepack situation.

Due to the UofA’s new copyright agreement, I have to submit hardcopies of my coursepack to the Copyright Office. They clear each work to make sure that it’s legally OK to make copies, and then they send everything to SUBPrint printing, and SUBPrint ships everything to the Bookstore. Even though I now have PDF copies of all coursepack materials, I’m not allowed to submit electronic copies. Why? That’s not exactly clear.

Otherwise, this new copyright scheme is great. A coursepack that used to cost $63.43 under the old agreement in Winter, 2012 costs just $25.50 in Fall, 2012 term--a savings of $37.93! Of course, under the new agreement, the UofA has to pay Access Copyright $26 for each full-time equivalent student. I doubt the UofA will just eat that; they’re going to pass that cost along to students, right? So maybe the savings aren’t so great.

Aside from going from paper to e-formats, I’m also converting everything else analog to digital. I’ve got a set of VHS tapes of a series called Discovering Psychology that I’ve finally converted to DVD because a lot of the newer classrooms no longer have VHS players. (By the way, I bought a licence to make a copies. It's all legit.) In this case, DVDs won’t be the final step. It won’t be long before the computers in classrooms no longer have built-in DVD players. By then, though, we’ll all have bionic implants, so that won’t matter. I’ll just beam the lectures from my cyborg brain-chip to yours.

Why aren’t you studying?

Don't Call Me Professor

Don’t call me professor. I mean, if you’re going to be calling me by titles that I do not hold, I’d prefer “Mr. President,” “Commander, Air Group,” or “Your Highness.”

Technically speaking, I am not a professor. “Professor” is a title that must be earned; the term generally refers to someone who is tenured or on the tenure track.  “Tenure” is often mistaken to mean “having a job for life,” but really means that an academic cannot have their job terminated without just cause (thanks Wikipedia!). The reason this is important is because academics should have free inquiry into facts, “the truth,” and so on, without fear of losing their job. So it really ties into academic freedom.

At the UofA, there are different levels of “professor”.
  • Adjunct Professor: Anyone can apply for this title that you can have for a 5-year term, but you have to provide justification why the University (and a specific Department) would give this to you. Are you a clinical psychologist who wants to teach at the UofA and collaborate with others on research? To apply for research grants, you usually have to hold a position at a university that lasts for a certain number of years. That’s where this title comes in. You get $0 for being an Adjunct Professor.
  • Assistant Professor: No, you’re not the secretary for someone else. It’s just the starting level in the tenure-track stream.

  • Associate Professor: Have you ever worked retail and been a “sales associate”? Yeah, this is nothing like that. It’s the next level up in the tenure track. Salaries are higher than for assistant professors.

  • Professor: Also known as “Full Professor.” This is it: tenure at last. Salaries are again higher. As with the other levels, there are different pay steps within this category, depending on research/teaching/etc. accomplishments. It’s not a “job for life.” Professors still teach, do research, and so on. And they can be fired (although this is really rare).
There are also some individuals who hold the prestigious title of “University Professor,” (or even “Distinguished University Professor”) which, although it sounds generic, is actually bestowed upon those in recognition of superlative accomplishments. Like Dr Thomas M. Nelson, a former chair of the Department of Psychology, who was on my Master’s and Ph.D. advisory committees.

Finally, there are also “Professors Emeritus,” which means that they have retired.

I once held the title of Adjunct Professor, but that was a few years ago. Right now, I’m a Faculty Lecturer, which means I work full-time and get benefits. That’s means I’m a “sessional” (preferred term: Contract Academic Staff: Teaching), not a professor. I do not have job security or a job for life. Some institutions, like the University of Toronto have teaching-only academic positions, called “Professors of Practice.” I like the sound of that, but we don’t have that at the UofA (yet--there’s some talk of establishing a similar kind of position).

So don’t call me “prof” or “professor” because that’s not a title I presently hold, OK? Here are some other titles that I don’t have: Judge, Sergeant, Pope, Your Majesty, Mrs., The Right Honourable, The Left Honourable, First Officer, Ayatollah, Chief, Prince, Pharaoh, Swami, Darth, Grand Moff, or Grand Poobah. So don’t call me any of those, either.

(You can use the title "Doctor" or even "Mister", I guess. But "Mr Loepelmann" is my dad. And using my first name a bit awkward--it's what my friends call me.)

Why aren’t you studying?

What I Did on my Summer Vacation (2012 edition)

Things were a little different for us this summer, mostly because there are a lot of strange people in our basement. Don’t get me wrong: I want them to be there. After all, they’re working to develop our basement (I’m not exactly handy with a hammer; I don’t know which end is which). To get ready for this, we had to move everything out of our basement into the garage. If that doesn’t sound too hard, well, see, the garage is smaller than the basement...

Anyway, all of this activity affected our vacationing, so we didn’t do all of the usual. Yeah, we still went to Sylvan Lake, but only for one day. The beach is now almost totally covered by the lake, making it a lot less fun for the kids. (Note to the mayor: If you don’t do something about that, we may skip the beach entirely next year; the kids like the fake beach a lot better anyhow.) And we had to see the new Penguin Plunge at the Calgary Zoo. And, of course, Capital Ex and Calaway Park.

But we skipped the local festivals this year--too many mosquitos. My girls don’t get little mosquito bites, they get huge toonie-sized welts. And Canada Day was rained out.

So, with apologies to Harper’s Index, this time I present some data from the past four months. (Yes, I did teach in the summer. And even if I wasn’t teaching, I was working...)
  • Department of Psychology admin staff who were laid off, reassigned, or quit: 5
  • Remaining admin staff: 4
  • New admin staff: 3 and counting...
  • Secret projects I’m involved in: 1
  • Number of times I’ve been named to the Department of Psychology’s Teaching Honour Roll with Distinction (modestly): 101
  • McDonald’s iced coffees consumed: only 3
  • Homemade iced coffees consumer: way too many to count
  • Plates of food I ate at Big T’s BBQ and Smokehouse: 3 (see, it was too spicy/too different/too much for my daughters, so I had to eat their meals, too, OK?)

  • Number of times my youngest daughter slept through the night, uninterrupted: 16
  • Number of times I did: 16
  • Win-loss-tie record of my oldest daughter’s soccer team: 16-2-1
  • Field trips I went on with my youngest daughter’s daycare: 1, to the TWoS (got my tickets to Star Wars: Identities already, woot!)
  • Kilometres travelled to the cottage of our friends (approx.): 209
  • Kilometres travelled back home from the cottage of our friends (approx.): 210 (due to emergency pee-pee break)

  • Total number of anniversaries my parents have had so far: 50
  • Uncles who visited from Germany: 1
  • Colds I had: 2
  • Litres of homemade cherry juice I made: 10
  • Litres of homemade cherry juice I had to throw out because somebody put a Pyrex dish on the stovetop, which exploded, sending shards of glass all over the kitchen, including into the cherry juice: 10 (sob)
  • Litres of homemade cherry juice I made in my second batch, far away from glass-exploding spouses: 10 (our tree grows a lot of cherries; I still had enough cherries to make tarts and a pie)

  • Updates, additions, deletions, tweaks, fixes, corrections, and changes to my courses/lecture notes/websites: 834
  • Percentage of statistics that are made up: 47.3%
Why aren't you studying?

Where are they now? Part 2

I previously wrote a post about what some former students of mine are up to. Here's another one. (If you, too, are a former student, let me know what you're up to in the comments. Thanks!)

  • Colin got his full registration; passed his “EPPP and orals on the first try. I am done my hours and awaiting CAPs snail mail. I am counselling at a private practice” (Translation: Colin is now a genuine professional psychologist!)
  • SL is in da big house--voluntarily (working, not incarcerated).
  • AK got into Lib&Info grad studies. (Hey, not everyone wants to become a psychologist. Sob.)
  • TO was accepted into OT (er, that means “occupational therapy”).
  • OB is still working on getting into a graduate program in clinical psychology. (Good luck!)
  • KL is an amateur blogger and still teaching psychology. (Oops, that's me.)
Why aren't you studying?

The 1987 Tornado

On July 31, 1987, Edmonton was struck by a tornado. It killed 27 people and injured hundreds. I am thankful that neither I--nor anyone I knew--was directly affected. Like many Edmontonians, I have vivid memories of that day (whether they are accurate is another matter).

At the time, I was a typical university student, working during the summer. It had been a hot few days, and thundershowers were in the forecast. I noticed the storm clouds brewing that afternoon. It was hard not to notice them.They were an ugly, greenish-gray. More eloquent people than me have described them as looking like the colour of a bruise. That dark, sickening colour was what attracted my attention in the first place, and then I noticed something even stranger. The clouds were...turning.

Maybe clouds rotate sometimes, but if they did, I never noticed. Not only were they turning, but they were turning pretty quickly. It was mesmerizing to watch--but in the back of my mind, I had a prickling sensation of this can't be good. Then the rain started.

Pelting, hammering waves of rain pounded the the house; the rain turned to hail, and I was sure a window would break. We had guests visiting from Germany; they weren't familiar with prairie storms, and sought shelter in the basement. Soon my parents and I joined them, but we could still hear the howling wind, rain, and hail. And then, it stopped.

Emerging blinking out into the day, we saw the yard covered with an icy layer of hail. I went outside and found one as big as a baseball. I put it into the freezer, where it eventually sublimated away to half its size. I should have taken a picture of it.

There were bits of pink insulation strewn around the neighbourhood, hanging from power lines, and there were bits of what looked like construction materials scattered around. We didn't know it then, but we were seeing the detritus of destroyed houses from miles away. There were choirs of sirens wailing in the distance. And I had to go to work at Superstore (customer service agent, first class!). I took my mom's Chevette, which didn't have a tape player, so I had to make do with the radio. That's how I first learned that there had been a tornado.

The roads were relatively devoid of the normal late-Friday-afternoon traffic, and the store wasn't busy at all. I wasn't at work long before there was an unexpected glitch: the power went out. This had never happened before, and no one had prepared us for this. The managers told us to get the customers out--they had to leave their carts and just get out. But then word spread that another funnel cloud had been spotted. (Likely this was misinformation--some news reports said there were two tornados, one on the south side, one on the north side.)

No one wanted to leave the store. The customers were milling around, looking dubiously at the sky. I was awfully nervous standing at the front of the store, where there were a lot of huge windows. And going into the store didn't seem like a good idea, either. I imagined a maelstrom of flying cans, bottles, and, for some reason, nectarines. But there was no second tornado. And the managers eventually let us all go home. So I sat glued to the radio, and then the TV as the news coverage started.

The strongest emotion I felt was shock. A tornado? Edmonton doesn't get tornadoes. No hurricanes, typhoons, tropical storms, or tornadoes. But we found out that tornadoes are actually not uncommon on the prairies after all. So when there are hot summer days, and the forecast says there are severe thunderstorms with a risk of tornadoes developing, many of us are going to be watching the skies for clouds that turn around.

Why aren't you studying?

The Awards: 7

I (humbly) note that I've been placed on the Department of Psychology's Honour Roll with Distinction (HRD) for the three courses I taught in Winter, 2012. Plus, I was also placed on the HRD based on the evaluations of the PSYCO 496/498 Individual Research/Individual Study students I supervised over the past three years. That means I've been awarded HRD a grand total of 101 times. Thanks!

Now, by popular request, here are some of the best comments on my evaluations from Winter, 2012. As always, sarcasm filters are off. Beware!

From PSYCO 365:
Dr Loepelmen (?) was a good prof overall. However, explanation of concepts boils down to stating studies that didn’t work, then those that did. I know it’s important to study all aspects of theories, but spending such an excessive amount of time on weak theories feels like a total waste of time.
(But, see, it’s not all about getting the “right” answer or the “correct” theory, but about the process of science--the weighing and evaluating evidence. This may be a shift from 200-level courses, but that’s what I’m trying to do in my higher-level courses.)

Loepelmann is a sweetheart, but his teaching is kind of strange. He randomly starts a new section, making all the lectures blend together. Personally, this makes it difficult to really learn the topics.
(I do try to make things flow, but that’s often very difficult to do.)

Dr. Loepelmann sometimes says things in a way that make it seem like he’s trying to make himself look better in light of other profs ex. “no other prof tell you when the evaluation day is” or “no other 300-level course has Advanced in the title.” He is an excellent prof and I love taking his classes but sometimes phrases like that put people off.
(The way I remember it was, I asked if any other profs put the course evaluation on their syllabus. At the undergraduate level, there are also: PSYCO 414: Advanced Methods: Monte Carlo Techniques, and PSYCO 423: Advanced Topics in Developmental Psychology. My point was that there are very few courses with "advanced" in the name.)

Although exams were tough, I felt adequately warned.
Exams were tough, but fair since it is a 300-level course.
(I did warn you. True dat.)

Professor Lopelmann made this course worth going to every day. I really appreciate the humour perfectly slotted into an enthusiastic lecture every day. I wish I could always be so excited to go to every class.
(It’s fun for me to go to class every day, too.)

Being so stressed about your written exams turns this course into absolute hell.
I feel the fact that the tests are all written is unfair to those students that get stressed by written exams.
(Sorry about that, but I do want to challenge students, and written exams are appropriate for a 300-level course.)

Fuck you for constantly making fun of my accent. I’m from rural Alberta. This is how I talk. Go to hell you prick.
(You’re from rural Alberta--hey, me too: Lacombe, Alberta!--but you have a Southern U.S. accent? Because that’s what I’m going for. You must really have a hate on for Larry the Cable Guy, whose accent is an imitation. By the way, I actually wasn’t making fun of you, personally.)

Loepelmann as a prof is annoying in general -- his anecdotes aren’t funny (although he seems to think they are).
(I get that a lot.)

I thought the quizzes were a great way to make sure I kept up with the material…It’s really easy to fall behind in post-secondary courses and this helped me stay on top of everything.
(I’m glad that helped.)

It’s very sad that you perception courses are ending as I have really enjoyed taking them.
I am very disappointed that this class is being cancelled. I believe the study of perception is very valid and should be offered in this format.
(If I’m not allowed to teach advanced perception as a special topics (PSYCO 403) course--then I’ll be really disappointed. But if I can, having a smaller class will allow me to do things like have students write papers, for example.)

I would have enjoyed having an essay assignment to pursue the current research about a specific topic in greater depth.
(That’s what I’m talking about!)

One of my favourite profs at UofA =) The course material can be dry at times but Loepelmann makes learning it enjoyable…he’s the only prof in my 3 years that I can honestly say that about.
(Thanks.)

From PSYCO 104:
He talks to us as if we were babies with a sarcastic tone in order to be funny. He has a great collection of jokes; however, it the Tone of voice he has when explaining concepts which pisses me off.
(Aww, widdle bitty sad because big bad instwuctor has a tone of voice? That’s an example of sarcastic baby talk. Seriously, what tone of voice?)

Making students read the textbook is very time consuming.
(Yeah, and making you take all of these courses for your degree is, too. Sheesh!)

Instead of making us read the whole text, could you make life easier and tell us specifically what we need to read?
(Oh all right: Every second word.)

Exams should be more on lecture content, and less on textbook. If we don’t cover the content in class, it shouldn’t be on the exam.
(Oh all right. Lectures will now go from 3 hours/week to 30 hours/week so I can cover everything in the textbook. You’re welcome.)

You know when you make jokes and maybe one person laughed? It was probably always me.
(Thanks, mom.)

Information was so simplified, that at times it was incorrect, and I felt unsure if I could trust the validity of a lot of the information.
(I do my best to strive for accuracy. If there’s something incorrect, please let me know and I’ll do my best to correct it, and let everyone know.)

I am disappointed with how the instructor chose to portray Freud. He made a valuable contribution to psychology, and his underlying thesis that ‘Dreams have meaning’ is a concept that is not disproven. The teaching clearly biased this material by inappropriately portraying Freud as the ‘butt of a joke’. Showing pictures of action-figure Freud + making fun of dream symbols was unnecessary. And I felt personally insulted when the instructor insinuated Freud was a homosexual, as if that was the cause of his ‘ridiculous’ claims.
(You are correct: Freud’s thesis has not been disproven--but that’s because it’s not falsifiable. That makes it more of a...philosophy than a scientific theory. Those dream symbols we went through in class? Those are from Freud’s writing. I didn’t make those up. And I did NOT mean to imply anything about Freud’s sexuality. Yes, Freud was fond of smoking cigars, but “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”)

• I object to the fact Arts students need to take Science courses. The style of teaching, learning and assesment is not compatible with the Liberal arts education I am trying to get.
• If the faculty, the province and the university provided proper funding, this class could be smaller then the massive size it currently is.
• M.C. testing is NOT a good method of evaluating a wide range of students, it rewards those who can ‘Bark on demand.’
(1. Wikipedia seems to think that liberal arts includes social sciences, psychology, and science. I guess the UofA does, too. 2. I agree. 3. See #2.)

I liked his jokes + when he brought his daughters to class. I’ll babysit =)
(I only brought them because school/daycare won’t take them if they’re vomiting. Er, still want to babysit?)

From PSYCO 267:
So cute and short! With his little drinking cup! Guess you’re going to get the teaching award for the 9371th time?
(My...little...drinking cup? I’ll have you know it’s a full-sized mug. You can buy it at the Bookstore. And I’ve only won the Honour Roll (with Distinction) 101 times.)

The NOTE’S NEVER Matched the textbook!
(Never? At all? Maybe you’re just focusing on the differences. Or you bought the wrong textbook.)

Excellent instructor. I did not use the textbook the entire course.
(Um, OK. Are you bragging?)

The book was basically all I needed to read.
(Um, OK. Are you bragging?)

Terrific, knowledgeable professor, but his lecture notes were lacking “substance.” His notes were often just a glimpse and taste of what would be on the exam.
Karsten went too in depth during class on topics, when on the exams the questions were rather general.
(*Sigh* So this is the kind of problem I face: my notes are insubstantial to some people, but too substantial to others.)

I found I could not leave to go to the washroom during class because I would miss a word in my notes.
(If you gotta go, you gotta go. If you do miss a fill-in word, I encourage you to come up at the end of class and I will help you out. Or you can try asking someone else in class.)

Loepelmann makes a very difficult course interesting to learn. The only reason I took this course is because I knew he was teaching it. His enthusiasm encouraged me to work harder and I did way better than I expected to. Best prof I have had a the U of A in my 3 years here.
(Thanks for the kind words.)

The Virtual Labs rarely worked, had great difficulties with them as they did not print. I could only get the labs to work in Google Chrome.
(I, too, am not impressed with them, and I’ve talked to the published about that. I am evaluating other options. Thanks for the info about Chrome.)

My one complaint is the labs. It took me failing 3-4 different labs to understand how to answer questions. Neither our prof or TA would help answer questions which was very frustrating from a students’ perspective.
(My TA this term was a very strict marker; I tried to encourage her to be more lenient on labs later in the term. I’m sorry that my feedback on questions was limited. I do that on purpose, because I frequently email along the lines of “Here’s my answer. Is it right?” I can’t answer emails like that; it’s not fair to the rest of the class if I pre-mark your answers. So that’s why I and the TA are ambiguous. But it seems like you were able to adjust and improve your marks over the duration of the term, and that’s great to see.)

The prof knows his stuff, but makes very annoying clicking sounds when he talks, and lecture in a very strange way.
(I don’t *tic* know what *tic* clicking sounds you’re *tic* talking about. I apologized a bunch of times for the stupid microphone in that classroom, which kept making annoying clicking sounds. Sorry if you missed that.)

Mic would break up a lot in class - so it was a little hard at times to hear him thoroughly.
One setback would be the microphone cutting in and out throughout the class. Hopefully that can be resolved for future classes.
(Sorry about that. See, it was the mic and not me.)

Awesome prof!
(That doesn’t help me at all! But thanks!)

I am going to write a collection of words that pop into my head. Maybe this will reveal something about my inner psyche.
peanuts  searing  Nike  snow  cayenne pepper
uncanny  trivial  Steve Jobs  sprinkles  annoying
happy  magikarp  hawaii  wishes  shut up
toaster  futile  halo  dolphin  por favor
beard  Don Cheadle
(I was eating peanuts while searing my Nike shoes with snow and cayenne pepper.
It was uncanny how trivial Steve Jobs-shaped sprinkles can be--and annoying.
My happy Magikarp comes from Hawaii (it wishes!). Shut up!
My toaster made a futile attempt to play Halo, but my dolphin did say por favor.
Who has a beard--Don Cheadle?)


Why aren't you studying?

The Cuts

As you’ve probably heard, the Faculty of Arts, like all other Faculties, has had to chop 2% from its budget. The Department of Psychology, which receives its operational funding from Arts (despite offering courses in both Arts and Science), has been directly affected by this AdPReP (Administrative Process Review Project).

It is with great sadness that I report two long-time administrative staff in the Department of Psychology general office have been laid off. Bev has been working in the office for 28 years, and Jan for 23. Their layoffs necessitated a reorganization, which prompted resignations from Kathy (an admin assistant for the past 29 years), Sharon (who has been coordinating research participation for 14 years), and my assistant, Chris, who has been bailing me out for 17 years.

These five ladies have made up the core of the Department’s administrative staff. They, and their collective knowledge, will be missed terribly. If there was anything anyone wanted to know about the Department, among the five of them, they knew. Where are the scantron sheets? When’s the deadline for submitting my indents? What was the name of that grad student who worked with Alan Kingstone in the mid-90’s?

Chris, in particular, has saved my backside more times than I can remember. See, I have this frequent habit of very carefully slamming my office door shut, thus safely locking my office keys inside. Chris has a spare that she’s loaned me so I can retrieve my keys and return them to her with a sheepish “thanks--again.” She’s always had all of my paperwork ready for me in advance, booked rooms for me, and even went to my class in 2004 to tell them I wouldn’t be coming, as I was still at the hospital after the birth of my first daughter.

I’m going to miss all of these great people. I want to thank Bev, Jan, Kathy, Sharon, and Chris for the years of hard work they’ve contributed to the Department of Psychology. And I would like to wish all of them the best in their future work and personal lives. I’m going to miss all of you.

My job (and that of others, too) is going to be a bit harder to do. If I’m a bit late to class, or arrive sweating, out of breath, and stressed out, you’ll know why. (Don’t ask me, “Did you lock your keys in your office again?” please.)

Why aren’t you studying?

The Awards: 6

Although I was nominated, I didn’t win the Kathleen W. Klawe Prize for Excellence in Teaching of Large Classes this year. Oh, well. Congrats to the winner in the Department of Chemistry.

I did, however, receive two TUTAs: one for "The Fine Print" in my syllabus, and the other was shared by everyone who taught in Spring, 2011 term (the award was: we were all named to the Teaching Honour Roll--every single instructor).  Oh, and I also made the Teaching Honour Roll with Distinction for all of my Fall, 2011 courses. Let’s see what kind of feedback I got in PSYCO 104.

(***Warning! Snarkiness filters are now disengaged! Proceed at your own risk!***)
“...the pacing of classes was too slow. As a result, I found it difficult to focus in class & often times drifted into Stage 1 sleep. If anything, I prefer Dr. L’s blog to the class - sorry.”
(Good application of knowledge about sleep stages there. However, blog material will not be on the exam.)

“Class is to slow. Move faster through material during class in order to cover all topics in text. Then students do not have to learn a majority of exam material on their own.”
(So...in university...you don’t want to learn material on your own? Really?)

“Very biased towards evolution. did not know textbook information was needed for midterm 1. Would be nice if turned speakers louder.”
(1. It is a science course, right? 2. I told you in class that most questions would come from the textbook, and that information is also on the syllabus. 3. Please let me know this before the course is over. Thanks.)

“Dr Loepelmann, here’s a haiku for you.
     Dr. Loepelmann
     You are the ray of sunshine
     Of my gloomy life.
Best prof evarrrrr!!”
(Nice! Thanks! Um, sorry about your life, though.)

“I believe that examining on questions in the textbook NOT covered in class is [not] fair to students. Important aspects of the course which is tested on exams should all be covered in class.”
“I would recommend if he could just base his exam on his notes or specifically tell us which page or information from the text his exam will be on.”
“The amount of information included in the course are not all tested so should therefore not be used.”
“I didn’t purchase a textbook and there was nothing on them that wasn’t discussed in class or was in the notes.”
“...liked how the textbook made up the majority of the test questions, yet the lecture notes expanded on the ideas of gave a different viewpoint instead of simply rehashing what we’ve already seen in the textbook.”
 “The textbook was boring and too long. The instructor’s exams were TOO HARD for a 100 level course. We have to study both the textbook and his notes for the exams. Are you kidding me? The information from the two sources doesn’t at all relate. I will never recommend this instructor to anyone, in fact I will tell them to avoid him. I hate Dr. Loepelmann.” [f-bomb deleted from comment]
(Thanks for spelling my name right.)

“LOVE THE FUTURAMA REFERENCES, HOPE TO SEE ONE ON THE FINAL.”
(“Good news, everyone! There was!” Also, STOP SHOUTING.)

“Dr. Loepelmann is a top class teacher. Entertaining, fun, friendly, open, are words I would use to describe him. I have a certain phobia of questions. I was taught as a child that ‘there is no such things as a stupid question’ but I never believed that. Dr. Loepelmann is someone I feel comfortable bringing my questions to.”
(Thank you. And you’re welcome.)

“We should go for a Beer!”
(Only if you can find beer with caffeine in it.)

“Learned much about my future desired profession.”
(Good luck to you, future psychologist.)

“Dr. Loepelmann always had jokes up his sleeve in every lecture. I would like to know if he comes up with them before the lecture, or on the spot.”
(Yes.)

“Karsten Loepelmann is the bomb. So fun and funny and intelligent.”
(You have no proof of that.)

“Dress up everyday!!! In Jedi uniforms!!!”
(No!!!)

“I really appreciate the ‘For Further Reading’ section. It shows the dedication of the teacher and allows those who are interested to pursue more info. Thank you.”
“I found myself researching what we learned outside of class -- a very good sign.”
(Keep on learning...!)

Here are some comments from my PSYCO 267: Perception class:
“To the Department: Why would you cancel this course? It was so refreshing to take a course that emphasized understanding and not just simply memorizing...Perception is a worthwhile subject!”
“I am disappointed that this class will no longer.”
“This class shouldn’t be cancelled. What were they thinking.”
“So sad it’s being cancelled.”
“Don’t get rid of PSYCO 267! It’s an interesting & valuable addition to any aspiring psychologist’s repertoire.”
“[heart] perception”
“The loss of PSYCH 267 as a course is a travesty!”
(Just to be clear: PSYCO 267 will be renamed PSYCO 367. It is PSYCO 365: Advanced Perception that will be killed. However, I plan to teach it as a special topics course. So it’s not dead, just a zombie.)

“Multiply choice was designed to trick students and not reflect their knowledge. It is also not fair that the tests were more heavily weighted on text.”
(I don’t understand. How is that not fair? I did tell you about the weighting.)

“Dr. Loepelmann spoke VERY quietly and was always very hard to hear.”
(PLEASE let me know this before the course is over. My time machine is in the shop.)

“Instructor was overall not helpful when it came to notes for missed classes. Offers no assistance - Insists students find help from other students - Not him.”
“Thanks for emailing me the notes when I needed them!”
(Er, um...right. Sorry. And you're welcome.)

“Wonderful to see lots of recent research applied into the course...”
(Thanks.)

“Excellent instructor, deserving of a raise.”
(Aw. Thanks, mom!)

“Stay funny.”
(I wish.)

“...the instructor seemed like he would fit in on The Big Bang Theory. That was awesome.”
(But they already have a short, handsome nerd with glasses.)

“The amount of animal abuse talked about in this course bothered me and affected my learning as an intelligent, compassionate human being. Other research options are available and should be used in modern research. Animals are not ours to use for research, entertainment, or personal gain. The intelligence of humans can be measured by their compassion and understanding for the suffering of others.”
(No animals were harmed in the making of this blog.)

“Nice prof; attempted to make dry material interesting. Give him A for effort =)”
(Sorry, there are no grades for effort in university. Oh, and I’m not a prof, technically.)

“I wish you posted more on your blog through the term. You have some serious nerd credibility. Although you responded to every comment but mine on one post so I was kind of pissed at you for a week. Now I feel sad. Sorry...Live long and prosper.”
(May the force be with you.)

Why aren’t you studying?

The Sigmund Freud Action Figure

In my last post, I mentioned waiting anxiously for my Sigmund Freud action figure to come in the mail. I'm pleased to report that it has arrived. Say hello to my little friend!

I am, however, now faced with a dilemma. Do I take him (it?) out of the package? Because then he won't be MIP anymore.

On the other hand, he is a toy, and toys should be played with (as "The Transporter Malfunction" taught us). But, as that Big Bang Theory episode also taught us, toys can get broken.

Out of the package (with the great big "SIGMUND FREUD" label), however, he just looks like an old white guy in a suit--doesn't even look like Viggo Mortensen. Heck, he could be mistaken for Wilhelm Wundt if you don't look too closely.

So in the box he stays. You can see him (it?) if you visit me during my office hours. But no playing with him. Anyway, that would be...weird.

(Yes, you can buy one of your very own.)

Why aren't you studying?

The Lost & Found

Ever felt like you were losing your mind? I sure did. I had a bad week: I lost my mailbox key. Argh! My wife had long ago misplaced the spare one. When that happens, you have to notify Canada Post and they’ll re-key your mailbox. That costs $29. In the meantime, you can’t access your mail. My Sigmund Freud action figure is going to arrive any day now!

Then, I misplaced my office keys. Argh! I can still get into my office--I just have to sheepishly ask my admin assistant for a spare key, and end up looking like some absentminded professor. How embarrassing!

Luckily, I found my office keys, right on the floor at home where I, er, dropped them. And my younger daughter found my mail key, right on the floor at home where I, er, dropped it. Then I noticed I lost my USB flash drives. D’oh!

This wasn’t as extreme an event as you might imagine. No, there was no “sensitive information” on them, just all of my lectures and some backups. Anything important was encrypted with TrueCrypt. I thought for sure I had left the drives in their little wallet in my intro psych classroom, but they weren’t there. Well, no big loss. I had already ordered a new 32 GB USB 3.0 flash drive anyway. More than anything else, it was just further proof that I was losing my mind.

So the next day, I went to my perception class, and a student came up to me and asked me if I had lost my wallet. Whaaaaat? No, not my wallet-wallet, my USB drive wallet. Turns out he gave a presentation in my intro psych classroom and found it where I, er, dropped it. It had some of my business cards in it, so that’s how he knew it was mine (thanks!).

So it turns out that I’m not actually losing my mind, I’m just losing a lot of stuff, and then getting it back.

I’ve found a lot of things in classrooms over the years, and have had a lot of things turned in to me by honest students. Things like wallets and phones I usually bring to the Psychology Department Office, and have the admin staff open it up and contact the owner. Other items without ID in them, like flash drives, MP3 players, and calculators, are usually left in the classroom, in the lockable drawer at the front, or sometimes are given to Campus 5-0. They have a lost & found service; their office is 11390-87 Avenue (Education Carpark). Finally, mitts, sweaters, water bottles, etc. are usually just left in the classroom, until the end of term. After that, I don’t know where they go.

There’s usually a lot of lost stuff that accumulates. Please, people, try to hang on to your stuff.

Why aren’t you studying?

The New Chairs

Check out my fancy new ergonomic office chairs. Woot!

A few weeks ago, we in the department were asked if we wanted new office chairs. It's probably surprising that, in this climate of budget shortfalls, such an extravagant expenditure would be possible. Well, there's "hard money" and "soft money." Hard money funds things that are required, like the salaries of staff and faculty, but soft money comes and goes. The recent (and ongoing) budget cuts affect hard money. (Alarmingly, because I am not a professor, I am apparently paid out of soft money. Eek! Keeping fingers crossed!) Anyway, these chairs are funded out of soft money.

I had the option to decline these new chairs and just keep my old ones. If I had done that, I would have saved the university some money. So why did I opt to get new chairs?

Getting new chairs is not a common thing. In fact, it's become a once-in-a-generation event. Literally. The old chairs I had in my office were around since before my time--they were new before I was an undergraduate. Yup, they're around 30 years old. If I had chosen to stick with my old chairs, new chairs might not come around again for another 30 years. If my contract is not renewed, wouldn't the person who inherits my office like to have chairs from this century?
In case you think I'm a spendthrift, I did turn down the offers of new filing cabinets and new desks. (And I'm still going to use my old gray-and-beige chair--I brought this one from home. It was a birthday present that I used at home, but as a spent more and more time in my office, it just made sense to move it to campus permanently.)

On the other hand, I did accept the offer of a box of paper and some "Department of Psychology"-branded pens. Oh, and then there's my iPad 2 that the university... But that's another post.

Why aren't you studying?

UPDATE #1: My fellow Faculty Lecturer, Dr Jennifer Passey, also decided to get a new desk for her office. That is, she wanted to have a desk--period. Since she was hired, she's only had a table to serve as her desk!

UPDATE #2: Almost forgot to mention--I also got a foam rubber brain with "Department of Psychology" on it. Mmm, brains.

UPDATE #3: It's like Christmas! Today in my mailbox, there was a box of pencils, a roll of tape, a staples, a box of staples, a staple remover, paper clips. sticky notes, a highlighter, a ruler, and two red pens. My desk drawer is stuffed!

The Academic Dishonesty

I spent a whole lot of time this weekend writing a letter to the Dean about a case of “academic dishonesty” (i.e., cheating) in one of my classes. This is not fun for me--I do not cackle with glee, exclaiming, “I’ve got you now!” in a Darth Vader-like voice. (I only do that when I’m marking exams--kidding!)

My TA in the course--who is very sharp--noticed that some answers on a written assignment were, um, identical to those on a website you might have heard of: Wikipedia. Now, there’s nothing wrong with going to the Internet to look for answers to a question--I’m googling and wikipedia-ing (?) all the time. What is important is making the right use of your sources.

First of all, this means deciding, is it a credible source? Is the information presented credible? Is it correct? Does it apply to what I’m even looking for?

If you decide to use that information, it is essential (required, OK?) that you make it clear and explicit that the ideas you are presenting are not your own. You cannot just cut-and-paste your answers. No, no, no. At the very least, you must (again, this is required) paraphrase from the original source. That means that you have to put it in your own words. How do you do that? The UofA Libraries have great information on what to do, and how to do it. Student handouts are available at the Guide to Plagiarism and Cyber-Plagiarism.

Here are examples of good and bad paraphrasing, from the Purdue Online Writing Lab:

The original passage:
Students frequently overuse direct quotation in taking notes, and as a result they overuse quotations in the final [research] paper. Probably only about 10% of your final manuscript should appear as directly quoted matter. Therefore, you should strive to limit the amount of exact transcribing of source materials while taking notes. Lester, James D. Writing Research Papers. 2nd ed. (1976): 46-47.

A plagiarized version:
Students often use too many direct quotations when they take notes, resulting in too many of them in the final research paper. In fact, probably only about 10% of the final copy should consist of directly quoted material. So it is important to limit the amount of source material copied while taking notes.

A legitimate paraphrase:
In research papers students often quote excessively, failing to keep quoted material down to a desirable level. Since the problem usually originates during note taking, it is essential to minimize the material recorded verbatim (Lester 46-47).
See the differences? And look how the legitimate version includes a reference to the source of the information. All those names and dates in my courses? Those are citations to who did the research--I certainly didn’t do that study or make up that theory. It would be ridiculous for me to claim that I did.

You also shouldn't, say, hand in another student's work and pass it off as your own. Students may think that's harder to catch, but you'd be surprised. (Sorry, but I'm not going to explain how that works, but it is possible.)

The bottom line for all of this is: Do your own work. There is value in doing that--you’re getting an education. If all you do is cut-‘n-paste (and get away with it), what are you going to do when you’re in a job and have to do work for real? When there’s nowhere to cut from? That’s when you’ll be in real trouble.

Plus, if no one plagiarizes, I won’t have to spend time on the weekend writing letters to the Dean.

Why aren’t you studying?

Find It