The New Prep 5: The Lectures

In my previous post in this series, I described the process of writing lectures for my new PSYCO 282: Behavior Modification course. It turned out that I did actually complete writing all my lectures in time. My trick of reinforcing the writing of a lecture by allowing myself to watch a James Bond movie might have helped. (I haven’t actually, er, finished watching all the Bonds yet. I’m only at the Brosnans. That’s actually because my lecture-writing has outpaced my movie-watching. I’d rather have that than the reverse!)

In doing the actual writing, some lectures that I thought would be easy to write turned out to be difficult to write. And others that I thought would be really difficult to write turned out to be really difficult to write. Do you see the theme here? It’s not an easy thing. Imagine writing a term paper that’s going to be read and marked not by one instructor, but by 300 people. That’s sort of what writing lectures is like. If I make a mistake, there are 300 pairs of eyes that will see it. In fact, there was a bit of information in a lecture on in vivo desensitization that directly disagreed with what was in the textbook (not a mistake, per se: my source differed from that of the textbook). I got about two dozen emails about that. This is not a complaint, by the way; this kind of feedback only serves to improve the lectures.

Some lectures were so fun to write, I was a bit sad when I finished writing them. Others, I approached knowing that they weren’t going to be fun and that I’d have to struggle through them. I tried making things easier on myself--and students--by sticking closely to the material in the textbook, deviating on things that I was more confident in, knew more about, or am personally interested in. My favourite of these is willpower; no, that research is not directly related to b-mod, but yeah, I can do that.

When I did encounter a lecture topic that I wasn’t particularly fond of, I tried to find something in it that was interesting. Maybe there was a particularly fascinating research study, or some neat behind-the-scenes information. For example, B. F. Skinner had done research using pigeons to guide missiles, which is a very memorable way to present the process of shaping. (Unfortunately, I remembered this research too late to include it in the course this term, but it’ll be there next time.)

Some topics, however, thwarted me. There just wasn’t a lot of interesting material, no cool YouTube videos to show, or funny anecdotes. That meant I just had to just get through them. This, naturally, led me to not just get through them. Instead, I was struck by the scourge of the self-motivated, the common cold of studentdom, motivation’s evil twin: procrastination. Of course I need to alphabetize my DVD collection right now. Of course I have to see what’s up on Facebook. Twitter needs me, and I need it. Sigh.

(Are you a procrastinator? Sure; we all are. Check out MindTools’ article Overcoming Procrastination. It includes a link to their interactive Are You a Procrastinator? quiz. Take a few minutes, go ahead. Done? Now, if the results of the quiz showed that you’re not a systematic procrastinator, congratulations. But wasn’t the act of taking the quiz a form of procrastination? Psych!)

One strategy I used to counter procrastination was to use something that keeps my motivation up: applying technology. In my case, it was using the iPad 2 loaned to me by the Arts Resource Centre. At first, I didn’t think it would be of any use in creating my lectures, but I quickly changed my mind. I loaded it up with ebook versions of the behaviour modification books I needed and took it with me wherever I went. On vacation. Killing time while one of my daughters was in dance class. While driving. (That last one was just a JOKE, people.) I didn’t even use any fancy, elaborate, or paid apps: Adobe Acrobat, the default Notes app, and textbook apps (e.g., CourseSmart, Pearson eText). That’s it. The simplicity of these apps worked in my favour: I didn’t have to learn how to use a million unnecessary features, so there were no distractions, just writing. Although I didn’t create my lecture slides on the iPad, for first-pass content creation, it was great. Although I love my desktop and laptop, they can’t touch the iPad for portability. So I was surprised how sad I felt when I was asked to return my loaner.

So I went out and bought an iPad Air the day it came out. Um, as a reward, for all my hard work. Yeah, that’s it. B-mod!

Coming up next: The New Prep 6: Wrap Up.

Why aren’t you studying?

The Radio Silence

Yup, it's that time of year again. The last day of classes; time for me to have my traditional end-of-term eggnog latte. It's been a long, hard term. Maybe even the hardest ever, what with my "secret project" and new prep. Then there was the psychology MOOC project (which has since been decommissioned even before it was, well, commissioned) and the usual stuff like serving on committees, teaching actual classes, completing my consulting work for Nelson Education, and trying to make sure my family sees me every now and then so they don't forget who that guy sitting at the computer all the time is. And all of this under the cloud of the Government of Alberta's devastating budget cuts. I've still got a couple of blog posts up my sleeve about my new course prep, but that'll have to wait.

Now it's time for radio silence--I'm going to be hunkered down in a warm sweater with a red pen, marking term papers. I hope to learn a lot, and I hope the pen still has red ink in it when I'm finished--that's always a good sign. I'll allow myself to check email, but not as frequently as usual. Only eight times a day, I swear.

Why aren't you studying?

The Awards: 9

The results are in, and once again based on student evaluations I’ve been placed on the Department of Psychology’s Honour Roll with Distinction for all eight courses I taught from Fall, 2012 to Spring, 2013. Thanks!

Here’s a great article on course evaluations, from University Affairs: Course evaluations: the good, the bad and the ugly.

Now, here are selected comments from students. As always, sarcasm filters are off. Beware!

From PSYCO 104:
- focus on textbook is unhelpful, your [sic] the teacher to teach the students we shouldn’t have to teach the majority of the class to ourselves
Heavy reliance on both textbook/notes is hard to cope with, please pick one
(So in a university-level course, you don’t want a textbook. Seriously? Is that how all your other courses are run?)

It would be a lot easier if we got our tests back or if they were posted online.
(Because some of the exam questions are copyright, I am not allowed to release them. You do know that you can have a look at your exam during the exam viewings, or during the TA’s office hours, right? You do have to make the extra effort of schlepping all the way to the BioSci Building, however.)

I LOVE THIS PROF
(Thanks. But STOP SHOUTING.)

Loepelmann, you got some mod swag brah
(Thanks...I think.)

I took this course because my friend told me Dr. Loepelmann was a great prof and I am so glad I did. I thoroughly enjoyed this class and found it way more interesting than I expected! Really enjoyed the teaching style. Great class!
He is a really nice prof and treat his students with respect. He cares for our welling (When I e-mailed his about my sickness he was very understandable and asked me how I was doing)
I believe that he is one of the most engaging and helpful professors at this University and we (students) are very lucky to have him.
(Thanks. Thanks. Thanks--but don’t call me professor).

- felt as though class was absolutely unnecessary to attend, felt like a waste of time. Class time was not efficiently used at all...exams were essentially straight from the textbook and did not include class notes...
(That is not true. The exams include a substantial number of questions from lectures.)

- I don’t appreciate your explanations and teaching method
- notes are vague
- I hate psychology, changing my program
- textbook is crazy [sic], I don’t get how much we need to know
(Sorry about the negative experience you had.)

I enjoyed the use of iClickers to help engage students in an interactive, group oriented manner.
Taking part in the research participation studies is an enjoyable part of the course.
(Glad to hear about the positive experience you had.)

- Fantastic course!
One of the best courses/instructors at the U of A
However, please curve it.
(No, I won’t curve it.)

I feel as if you [sic] questions are too wordy, like you are trying to trick students not test their knowledge. I also do not like fill in the blanks because if you miss day there is no way to fill them in.
(What do you do in your other classes if you miss a day? Can’t you ask someone else in class if you can borrow their notes? You do know that I will send you the fill-in words if no one else will help you, right?)

The Instructor was good and tried to explain concepts clearly. He made the course fun and I enjoyed his sense of humour. I thought the fill-in-the-blank notes were very good and provided an incentive to come to class.
(Hey, you should have shared your notes with the other person above.)

For a first year course that isn’t curved...too much mindrape
(OK, I’ll cut down on some of the mindrape. Thanks for the feedback.)


From PSYCO 365: Advanced Perception:
Of my 5 years of post secondary, & both 267 & 365 w/ Loepelmann, he was by far my favorite professor. With a desire & passion for what he does, he is on another level from any other UofA prof I have had.
(Gee, thanks!)

It would be nice to get better lectures [sic] slides.
(I keep telling my Mom to update them, but she wants way too much money.)

There is a lot of info in the notes so studying was a bit overwhelming but it was nice having readings & quizzes, though it made me stressed out every Thursday morning! Great instructor, makes learning very interesting, & the course was probably the most interesting one I’ve taken so far!
(Glad you liked it. Thanks for the feedback on the quizzes.)

Karsten is awesome and probably the best prof I have ever had in my 4 years at this university. However this was the hardest class I’ve ever taken and it destroyed my GPA and any chance of getting into grad school.
(Gulp--sorry about that. If you’re struggling with the material, please come and see me for help. I’m not trying to destroy anyone’s GPA, or their future.)

- If the midterm is “historically difficult,” why not make it less difficult, or even break it up into 2 midterm?
- The weekly quizzes, despite the extra workload, were a huge help.
(With 130 students, 2 midterms would kill me--and the TA. The nature of the material is challenging; oversimplifying it or the midterm would not do it justice. Thanks for the feedback on the quizzes.)

- 2nd half of course was much more interesting than 1st half.
- Dr. Loepelmann is one of the most prepared + organized instructors I had ever had. He is enthusiastic, cheerful and his sense of humor is always welcome.
(Thanks. I’ll try to work on making the first half of the course more interesting.)

Loepelmann is an absolutely fantastic professor who is enthusiastic and knowledgable [sic] about the course material which is appreciated. Thank you for making this an enjoyable class.
Dr. Loepelmann is a very enthusiastic, intelligent, passionate and creative professor. I have had him for several psychology classes now, and his teaching style is very consistent and effective.
(Thanks, but don’t call me professor.)

From PSYCO 494: Human Factors & Ergonomics:
Loved this class! :) I’m actually thinking of incorporating human factors into my future career!
Dr Loepelmann is an amazing professor. I thoroughly enjoyed this course--the subject matter was fascinating and I know that what I’ve gained in the class can be used in my future endeavours. I would refer both this class and the instructor anyday. Thank you Dr Loepelmann.
Professor Loepelmann was such a wonderful professor! He was always excited about topics and watned for us to understand fully the course content. He was very accessible and helpful outside of class. I really hope I can take another course with him. I enjoyed this class very much, would highly recommend this professor to everyone!
(Aw, gee, thanks a lot! But don’t call me professor.)
I was disappointed with this class. I wish we didn’t have to know some of the discrete information like association names & numbers. It didn’t contribute to my learning in this course. Why couldn’t the Grant Mac assignment be at a different location? I expected better from this course especially since Dr. Loepelmann’s psych 104 class is why I majored in psychology (science) and this will be my last undergraduate psychology course.
Dr. Loepelmann on the other hand, thank you! You are a prof I will remember. I will continue to visit your blog--please update it more often, why aren’t you studying? :)
Why aren’t you studying?

The New Prep 4: The Writing

In the previous post in this series, I described more behind-the-scenes of my new PSYCO 282: Behavior Modification course, and the self-management project I designed for it. This time, I’ll describe my writing process, and how I applied b-mod to it.

So, what’s the point of teaching a course in behaviour modification if I don’t use b-mod principles myself? I’m the first to admit I’m not pefrect (see? ha!); there are a lot of behaviours I’d like to change. But instead of developing perfect pitch, improving my posture, or becoming even more good looking (note: only one of these is an actual behaviour), what if I modified my creating-the-course behaviour itself? I know: Mind = blown.

Here’s what I decided to do. Whenever I finished writing one of the 21 lectures that comprised the course, I would allow myself to watch one James Bond movie. This is something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time (watch the movies, not write a whole bunch of lectures). Watching a movie would serve as a reinforcer for the behaviour of writing a lecture. If you’re thinking that a reinforcer has to be like a pellet of rat chow or something, let me introduce you to the Premack principle: “more probable behaviors will reinforce less probable behaviors.” In other words, a person will perform a less desirable activity in order to receive the chance to perform a more desirable activity.

There are some flaws with my method, I have to admit.
1) I did not explicitly define my behaviour. “Writing a lecture” includes finding content to address all learning objectives on that topic, and explaining the principles and procedures clearly. Whatever that means. Still, this is a better definition than, say, “writing 50 pages of lecture notes in a Word document” which was a guideline that I also actually used. (Hey, a world-changing lecture that only lasts for one class does not an entire course make.)

2) I did not collect baseline data. (Why not? I wasn’t looking to make a permanent behaviour change. I don’t expect to have another new prep in the foreseeable future. So, really, my baseline was: amount of prepping for my new course = 0.)

3) The reinforcement of watching a movie did not follow immediately after my behaviour. To maximize the effects of any consequences of behaviour, they should follow the behaviour almost immediately--half a second, to be precise. Sometimes I watched the movie days after completing a lecture. (Why? I would order the DVD from the library when I was close to finishing a lecture. Sometimes, the DVD would be in the next day and a few times it took over a week. Even if it came in right away, I only go to the library once a week, so I’d usually have to wait a several days. And when I finally picked up the DVD, I waited until my kids were in bed before I started watching the movie.)

4) I did not formally collect data from my behavioural treatment program--although I did self-monitor my behaviour. I kept a close eye on how many lectures I completed and how many days left until classes started. And because I progressed through the Bond movies chronologically, I had a good sense of how much work I had completed and how much more was left to do. (Lots of men walking around wearing hats? Just getting started. Feathered hair and shoulder pads? Hmm, about half way done. Grim, gritty, dark, borderline psychopathic Bond? Almost done!)

So, did my behavioural treatment work? I can’t say for sure. Feeling the looming deadline of The First Day of Classes is a big motivator all by itself. (Standing in front of 300 people with no lectures prepared is a recurring nightmare of mine. For reals.) I put my head down and worked all summer--even during family trips. (Check out the photo me a in a tent with my nose in my iPad in the What I Did on my Summer Vacation (2013 edition) post.) Actually, all that sitting at the computer/at the beach made me, er, gain a few pounds. If only there were some way to change my behaviours so that I could be more active and eat more healthy foods. Oh, right: behaviour modification. *sigh*

(Here’s an easy way to tell if my treatment program failed, and I didn’t get my lectures done: Instead of lecturing, am I showing lots of movies in class? James Bond movies?)

Coming up next: The New Prep 5: The Lectures.

Why aren’t you studying?

A Humble Request

Loyal Readers!

Vast numbers of my colleagues are thronging to bestow upon me the laurels of honour! There is to be a great feast of...of...

OK, so no one's thronging. I mean, I wouldn't know thronging if I saw it. And there are no "vast numbers." Well, there is Dr Nicoladis, and she's not vast or anything. (She is taller than me, but hey--who isn't?)

Anyway, she wants to nominate me for an award: The Katherine Klawe Prize for Excellence in Teaching. This award goes to instructors in Arts or Science in alternating years. I was nominated two years ago, but didn't win (sob!). So far chemistry has won every time a Science department has been eligible. The thing is...

The thing is that it would help if students who have been (or currently are) in my large classes wrote a letter in support of this nomination. About what? I don't know. The kinds of things I do in large classes? To make it more interesting? Or whatever?

I feel weird about asking for this in my classes, so I'm not going to. I feel weird about asking for this in this blog, but I'm going to ask anyway. So if you have had (or are having) a positive experience in one of my large classes, would you please write a letter on my behalf? I won't even get to see it. (If you're currently in one of my classes, I probably shouldn't see it.)

All you have to do is contact Dr Nicoladis, and she'll give you the details. Her email is elenan@ualberta.ca. Deadline is November 15. Thank you, my loyal minions!

Why aren't you studying?

The Open Comments: 8

It's middle-of-term time again. Some midterms are past, some are coming up. In the spirit of formative assessment I invite you to give me feedback, comments, or other miscellanea on my courses. Can't hear me in the back? Think that my jokes suck? Still wondering what that "syllabus" thing is?

This term, I'm trying some very different things--online assignments in intro psych, and an entirely new course in b-mod. I can't improve things if I don't get feedback from you, the people. (Commentz can be anonymous, don't ya know.)

Why aren't you studying?

The Edmonton Comic and Entertainment Expo (2013 edition)

My people have a big tent. We include all--it doesn’t matter if you’re a geek, nerd, otaku, brony/pegasister, LARPer, fanboy/girl, gamer, furry, Browncoat, or Trekker. It doesn’t matter what the colour of your skin is, how many eyes you have, or whether you wield magic. We come in all shapes and sizes. Our tent is so big, we’ll accept you if you’re a mundane, a muggle, or a jock (using Chris Hardwick’s definition of “nerd”).

The diversity of my people was clearly apparent at the Edmonton Expo over the weekend. It was many kinds of awesomeness: sitting in the Delorean time machine, meeting Christopher Lloyd, getting autographs from and going to a panel with two MLP:FiM voice actors (squee!). I got a sketch by Tom Grummett, once of my favourite pencilers. The last time I got a sketch from him was in 1992, when Edmonton had a very small proto-con. Back then, a sketch cost $20--now, it was only $25. What a deal!)

(I was lucky enough to get a bag of Expo merchandise, including an Edmonton Expo pin, water bottle, and shoulder-strap bag. If you would like to win this, leave a comment below describing your particular brand of nerdliness. I will pick one commenter on Monday, October 7 at noon, and after successfully answering a skill-testing question, that person will be the proud owner of some cool swag.)


Why aren’t you studying?

The New Prep 3: The Self-Management Project

In the previous post in this series, I described more behind-the-scenes of the new PSYCO 282: Behavior Modification course, and how I chose the textbook for it.

Now that I had finally decided on the textbook for PSYCO 282, there was something I had to do: contact Keyano College. Wait--some background first.

When any institution in Alberta makes a curriculum change, there are consequences that affect other post-secondary institutions. You may have heard the term “Campus Alberta” recently. It’s actually something that’s been around for a while, most notably in the form of the Alberta Council on Admissions and Transfer. At the ALIS (Alberta Learning Information Service) website you can find out if a course you took at institution A can be transferred for credit to institution B.

In killing PSYCO 281 and replacing it with PSYCO 282, the UofA made a change that would affect all other post-secondary institutions that taught PSYCO 281. All institutions work closely together to ensure that students can transfer courses smoothly (if anyone claims that it’s too hard for students to transfer credits from one institution to another in Alberta, well, he’s wrong).

And that brings me back to Keyano. Our Department received an email from Keyano College in Fort McMurray, asking for more information about the course (admittedly, course descriptions are fairly vague). This request had been passed on to me in November, 2012, and I worked hard to ignore it--mostly because I didn’t have much to show yet. No syllabus or learning objectives; I hadn’t even chosen a textbook. But by January, 2013, I had a textbook, at least.

I finally replied to Keyano and set up a meeting with the psychology instructor who was going to be teaching Keyano’s version of PSYCO 282, Jady Wong. You know, there’s nothing like a deadline to motivate you to get your act together. Especially if you’ll end up looking like a fool if you miss the deadline. By the end of February, I had a syllabus and a long (incomplete) list of learning objectives to show Ms Wong.

In our meeting, we both decided that it would be interesting to include a self-management project for students as part of our courses. Other people, from my teaching assistant to the Department Chair talked fondly about having done a self-management project in a b-mod course. OK, so it wasn’t an original idea, but it was still a good one. Not only would students gain book-learnin’ about b-mod, but they’d also apply those principles to one of their own behaviours, FTW! This could work on a number of levels:
  • students put principles and procedures into practice, instead of just passively hearing/reading about them (active learning!)
  • students have to apply what they’ve learned, which is another kind of educational skill (Bloom’s taxonomy of learning objectives!)
  • students submit written reports on their progress (enhancing writing skills!)
  • students apply b-mod to their own lives, not a hypothetical client (elaborative encoding!)
  • students can improve their lives by decreasing an undesirable behaviour or increasing a desired behaviour (improving your life!)
The possibilities are endless: stop smoking, exercise more, greater duration of sexua--stopstopstop. What? Er, maybe the possibilities shouldn’t be quite so endless. I’d like to say that I came to realize this on my own but I have to credit Dr Peter Hurd, the Associate Chair (Undergraduate), with giving me the figurative tap on the shoulder. Also, thanks to Dr Tom Johnson for looking over the ethical considerations I worked into the project and Kerrie Johnston for helping with the legal aspects. (Legal. Yikes.)

There was just one more thing. Shouldn’t I, too, apply b-mod to my own life? To demonstrate that it works on me, too? To show that it’s safe, and won’t turn you into a lunatasdfsiruth20010110101001--

Heh. But seriously. Wouldn’t it be neat if I could show my students that even I could apply b-mod to my own life? And how about: in the making of the course itself? Yeah, very meta.

Coming up next: The New Prep 4: The Writing.

Why aren’t you studying?

The New Prep 2: The Textbook

In the previous post in this series, I described the rationale behind the new PSYCO 282: Behavior Modification course, and how I came to be involved.

PSYCO 282 was introduced to replace PSYCO 281: Learning and Behaviour, but it also obviated PSYCO 385: Applications of Learning. This latter course was interesting in that it wasn’t all theoretical, but was about, well, application. Here’s the official course description: “An examination of the ways in which principles of conditioning and learning have been applied to areas of human concern. Biomedical and behavioural implications of learning principles will be examined in terms of the empirical foundations of the principles, and the successes or problems encountered in applying the principles to the understanding or treatment of human behaviour.”

Behaviour modification, although based in scientific principles of the science of learning, is all about application of those principles in procedures of behaviour change. A key word in that, for me, was “application.” I have always been interested in the application of scientific psychology--this is the basis for my PSYCO 494: Human Factors and Ergonomics course. Maybe that’s another reason why I was asked to teach the new b-mod course: my background in learning theory along with my interest in application. Plus, y’know, my inability to say no.

This “new course” is really a reintroduction of an old course. In the 1970s, the Department of Psychology offered a course in behaviour modification, titled “Behavior Change Techniques.” This course eventually evolved into PSYCO 281, which, over time, gradually placed a greater focus on the experimental analysis of behaviour, rather than its application. Now, in a weird twist, PSYCO 282 is replacing PSYCO 281.

With PSYCO 282: Behavior Modification becoming an actual new course, one of my first challenges was choosing a textbook. After a few emails to various different publishers, I had a box full of books. Yay! Er, wait. I’m going to have to go through all of those books. In detail. *sigh*

It was pretty easy to whittle the textbooks down to a shortlist of about six books. But how to narrow them down further? I took my box full of books to Prof. Chris Sturdy’s office and asked him to help me pare them down further. After all, part of the rationale for PSYCO 282 was to reduce overlap with PSYCO 381, which is Prof. Sturdy’s course. He helped immensely, giving input on which books were stronger, and which books overlapped too much. Takeaway tip: When you have a hard job to do, ask someone else to do it for you. No, wait--that can’t be right. Cooperation--yeah, that’s it.

In late 2012, I finally decided on a textbook written by two professors in Manitoba (Canadian content!), published by an American educational publisher. It was a relatively thin book at 400 pages, but the price was attractive: about $125, plus the inevitable Bookstore markup. However, a few days after selecting this textbook, I had a meeting with a rep and the Senior Regional Sales Manager of Nelson Education, a Canadian textbook publisher. I mentioned my textbook choice, and lamented the fact that their textbook was nice, but was much more expensive (about $180) compared to the other textbook.

The Sales Manager immediately said, “What if we match the price?” What the--? Match the price? A $45 price drop? How could they offer that? (I don’t know, but the fact that there will be around 600 students taking PSYCO 282 every year has something to do with it.) I did like their book--it was more substantial and included a free companion website with flashcards, glossary, and multiple choice quiz questions. After considering the offer, I decided to switch textbooks, choosing Raymond G. Miltenberger’s Behavior Modification: Principles & Procedures (5th edition). Yay! Except...

I forgot about the Bookstore markup. The “shelf price” at the UofA Bookstore is not based on the list price (like MSRP) of the textbook; it’s based on the net price (divided by 0.75). In other words, it didn’t matter that the publisher had offered to cut their list price, because the Bookstore price would be based on the net price. Argh!

Here’s the hero part. After I explained this situation to Nelson Education, they still managed to find some way to cut the cost of the textbook. (If you’re not impressed by this, let me tell you: it’s like magic + rainbows + unicorns.) Although the shelf price won’t be $125 (remember, the Bookstore would have added their cut to that number anyway), it will be pretty decent: $135.30. Plus GST.

See? I care about the high cost of textbooks--a lot. (Switching textbooks meant that I had to throw away a couple of months of work and start over.) And, I work really hard to get you the best deal possible. (You’re welcome.)

Coming up next: The New Prep 3: The Self-Management Project.

Why aren’t you studying?

The New Prep 1: The New Course

A few years ago, I developed a new lecture on synesthesia for my Advanced Perception course (formerly PSYCO 365, currently offered as a  PSYCO 403 “special topics” course). To give some insight into the lecture development process, I wrote three posts describing the behind-the-scenes making of that lecture in a three-part series of posts called Anatomy of a Lecture.

Now, I want to go behind the scenes again--not into the making of one new lecture, but twenty-one lectures. That is, an entirely new course. Or in the lingo of instructors, a “new prep.”

In June, 2010, I was asked by then-Department Chair Doug Grant to meet to discuss a new 200-level course that Faculty members in the Comparative Cognition and Behaviour (i.e., “learning”) area were considering. They thought I might be “a very effective instructor for this course.” At the time, the Department of Psychology had another Faculty Lecturer in the learning area, so this was quite a flattering offer.

Here’s the rationale for the new course. The proposed PSYCO 282: Behavior Modification course would replace PSYCO 281: Learning and Behaviour. That course included a lot of material that overlapped with PSYCO 381: Principles of Learning, usually taught by Prof. Chris Sturdy. Students would keep telling him how they already knew everything he was talking about, because they learned about it in the prerequisite class. (Yeah, I can understand how that would be frustrating--for both instructor and students.)

I met with Professor Grant, and found out more about the course: it was to be about behaviour modification, or “b-mod” for short. Although I had taken courses in learning as an undergraduate student (including some taught by Prof. Grant), this is not exactly my area of expertise.

Because I work on contract, it’s not in my best interest to say no to people who play an integral role in getting my contract renewed. Also, I enjoy a challenge (er, don’t I?). So I said yes. It’s easy to say yes to things that won’t actually take place for several years.

Immediately after my meeting, this is what happened: nothing. Hey, administrative things can move pretty slowly, and there are procedures that have to be followed. The next major milestone was at the Department of Psychology Council meeting on October 19, 2011. That was a significant meeting for me. Not only was PSYCO 267: Perception (I course I regularly teach) renumbered to 367 and eliminated as a core requirement, but PSYCO 365: Advanced Perception--my Advanced Perception course--was killed. And the new course was approved. Here’s the official course description:

PSYCO 282 – Behavior Modification
*3 (fi 6) (either term, 3-0-0).
A study of applications of learning principles and laboratory findings to behavior problems in educational, clinical, and social settings, with emphasis on empirical research demonstrating the effectiveness of behavior modification and cognitive/behavioral techniques. Prerequisites: PSYCO 104 or SCI 100.

The course would still have to be approved by higher levels of administration, but that would be basically a rubber-stamp. For me, approval by Council meant the course had gone from being a concept--something in the far-off future--to a real, actual course that would be taught to real, actual students in Fall, 2013. (Like I said, things move slowly; procedures have to be followed.)

Gulp!

Coming up next: The New Prep 2: The Textbook.

Why aren’t you studying?

What I Did on my Summer Vacation (2013 edition)

Typically, when students hand in their final exams at the end of term, they say, “Have a good summer!” Ha! If only.

Because of the Provincial Government’s disastrous budget, I had a lot of worry about my contract being renewed over the summer. The relief I felt when my contract was renewed for another year was short-lived, because it’s not looking good for next year--even more budget cuts are on the way. And some of my colleagues have already been laid off. So any joy I got from my contract renewal was diminished by seeing the toll the cuts are taking on the post-secondary education system--on people, and on the quality of education. Thanks, Government of Alberta: way to invest in the future.

Assuming that I had a job to return to in the fall, there were two major projects I had to complete over the summer. Not only did I have a secret project (OK, not so secret any more) to work on, but I also had a new prep. “New prep” is instructor-speak for “having to write lectures and develop an entirely new course from scratch.” This is the kind of thing that takes over your entire life for months and months like a face-hugging, multi-tentacled monster. Any spare time I had, I was prepping. In fact, here’s a picture of me at the beach, prepping on my (Faculty of Arts-issued) iPad:
Beach? What beach?

(This new prep has been such a massive endeavor, I’ve got an upcoming series of posts about it in the next few weeks.)

My family did expect me to spend some time with them, too (I know: selfish!). Usually, our summertime holiday routine includes going to Sylvan Lake. Unfortunately, the water level is so high and the beach has eroded to the point where, well, there really is none. (If you’ve got young children, a lake has to have three things: a beach, a playground, and ice cream--usually in that order.) Faced with the prospect of only two out of three, we explored some other central Alberta lakes.
  • Miquelon Lake. Did you know that the lake is high in sulfur? Yup, it smells like a skunk eating garlic during a natural gas leak. And farting. My younger daughter gagged whenever the breeze blew in off the lake. Also: no ice cream. Okay, cross that one off the list. Next!
  • Gull Lake. I remember going here as a kid when I lived in nearby Lacombe. The lake is shallow and has a nice big beach--and a really nice concession stand. Too bad we arrived right as some ominous black clouds rolled in. Who expects an extreme thunderstorm at 11:00 in the morning? Obviously not us.
  • Ma-Me-O Beach. On the way home from Gull Lake, we stopped here--at the “summer village,” unfortunately, not the actual beach. (We should have gone to Pigeon Lake Provincial Park.) I blame my wife, who was driving. And me, who was supposed to be navigating--but was actually nose-down in my iPad, prepping.
  • Gull Lake (again). We tried Gull Lake again on another weekend with better weather. This time, the extreme thunderstorms held off until right before bedtime. We watched helplessly out the window of our motel in Lacombe as hail came down on our vehicle in the parking lot, and winds ripped branches off trees. The next day, we checked out my old home, school, and the storefront that held my dad’s Thriftway grocery store. Enough nostalgia, let’s find us another nice beach-playground-ice cream stand!
  • Alberta Beach (Lac Ste. Anne). Consistent with our luck all summer, the beach was almost nonexistent; our sandbox at home had more sand than Alberta Beach. My older daughter stepped on some broken glass that littered the beach. Also: blue-green algae advisory. Sorry, but Alberta Beach is now crossed off our list. (The restaurant across from the beach did serve excellent pizzas, though.)
  • Rochon Sands (Buffalo Lake). Advisory: swimmer’s itch. Of course. No ice cream. Next!
  • Ol’ MacDonald’s Resort. Hmm, this is also on Buffalo Lake, but they told us there was no swimmer’s itch. It was fun to spend the day with some of my daughters’ friends and their families. Nice beach, but they never opened the concession stand or the ice cream stand.
In between beach trips and prepping, I managed to fit in some other summer activities:
  • my cousin and her family visited from Germany for a few short days, before they all jumped into a motorhome and drove to Vegas. They loved the World Waterpark. It’s my kind of beach: no sand, no swimmer’s itch, and no blue-green algae.
  • volunteered to help out on a fieldtrip to the zoo my younger daughter took with her daycare. You don’t know cute until you take a bus full of 4-year-olds to the zoo.
  • got stuck in my office for a few hours during a tornado warning 
  • spent an afternoon on the midway at K-Days (Seriously, does anyone like that name? It’s Konfusing.)
  • Heritage Festival, as usual. The German pavilion even offered leberk√§se this year, yum!
  • inspired by UAlberta's new DINO 101 MOOC (massive open online course), we went to Drumheller:
  • put up a couple of sheds and, in a mad scramble before summer finally ran out, my wife and I painted our deck--whew!
But mostly, prepping. But maybe a good summer after all. What did you do on your summer vacation?

Why aren’t you studying?

The Pause

For me, it's the end of the 2012/2013 academic year. Stats, please:
  • 11.5 months of teaching in a row (July, 2012-June, 2013)
  • 8 classes
  • 1,285 students taught
  • 21 exams
  • 56 terms papers marked
  • 1,000 meetings
(OK, so maybe the last one is an exaggeration. But not by much.)

Thanks to everyone who took my classes. Congratulations to all graduates, and best of luck!

I'm going offline for a while, mostly to recover from dental surgery. (Third root canal on the same tooth. Hope the third time's the charm!)

But I've also got a long to-do list before fall term starts: there's my not-so-secret Secret Project, my other slightly secret project (a psychology MOOC), and the big one: the new course I'm teaching starting in the fall. There will be an upcoming series of behind-the-scenes posts about that.

Of course, all of this depends on my contract being renewed for another year. Here's hoping. The provincial government's budget cuts have been brutal, and there are still more to come.

Why aren't you studying?

The Updates

Occasionally, I get new information about something I've posted about before, and usually update the original post. Unless you go back and reread those, however, you may miss out on that info. Sometimes, it's hardly worth it to do an update. So here are some updates to things I've previously written about:

  • The New Colleague: After the brutal Alberta budget was released, our potentially new Faculty Lecturer decided not to come to the UofA. This is probably not a coincidence.
  • The Budget and the Clocks: I wish the clocks were the only thing affected by the devastating provincial budget. There's talk that the University may invoke "Article 32," a clause in the Faculty Agreement that allows the University to eliminate programs--in effect, cutting tenured positions. This would be a very bad precedent, and would substantially affect morale. (Oh, also? The brackets on the wall where the clocks used to be have been removed. And I may lose the phone in my office. Do you think the Premier has a clock and a phone in her office?)
  • The End of Perception: The end is near. I'm teaching PSYCO 267: Perception for the last time this term, and taught PSYCO 365: Advanced Perception for the last time in the past winter term. On the other hand, I will teach PSYCO 403 (LEC B2): Advanced Perception in Winter, 2014. And I will try to teach PSYCO 367: Perception in Spring, 2014.
  • The Udacity Partnership: Massive Online Open Course provider Udacity, with whom the UofA signed an agreement last year, has decided to concentrate on one discipline (Computer Science). That means all of our MOOCs (including the psychology one I'm working on as well as DINO 101) will have to find a new home. Stay tuned.
  • The Secret Project: ...is still moving ahead. I've been consulting with some people who have given me some great ideas about how to improve student engagement. Plus, there's a cool new learning technology that I'm going to be using. All of this will be tested in my Fall, 2013 PSYCO 104 LEC A3 class.
Why aren't you studying?

The Open Comments: 7

It's the Spring term edition of open comments. I'd like to get some "formative feedback." That means if there's something you want me to know about my courses, tell me now while I have a chance to do something about it. (Don't wait until the teaching evaluation to tell me to speak up, for example.)

Comments can be anonymous, so you don't have to worry that I'll find out where you live. Unless you want me to.

Why aren't you studying?

The Google Calendar

I took an informal poll of one of my classes this term, asking about students' use of Google Calendar. I was shocked (shocked!) to find that only a small minority of students used it. (Although a few did promise to start trying it out.)

For every class I teach, I've been creating a separate Google Calendar containing important dates and deadlines. For example, I include the due dates for assignments. There are also reminders that will be emailed to you a day before each exam, as well.

I have a hard time keeping track of all the stuff going on in my life--and that of my family. Who has dance class today? Where is the soccer game? When is my dentist's appointment? There's no way to remember these in my head. (Some of my colleagues can really harness the power of their mind, memorizing the first 100 digits of pi, which is great. Me, I don't trust myself to be so organized.)
My wife has used a paper calendar in our kitchen, but that system is flawed. I can't book an appointment for myself if I'm not standing in the kitchen looking at the calendar. I don't know when the dance recital starts unless I'm standing in the kitchen looking at the calendar. It's very awkward. The solution: Google Calendar.

OK, it doesn't have to be Google--any online calendar that synchronizes to your devices will work. I've been using GCal since it came out in 2006, and it works well. You can get to it via the web, but it also syncs nicely with my Android phone and iOS devices.

You can "subscribe" to a whole bunch of different calendars, too. In addition to your personal calendar, you can subscribe to Canadian Holidays, UAlberta's academic schedule, or even the Department of Psychology's events calendar.

Here's a sad story. Despite my Google Calendar--and Bear Tracks, too--giving the time, date, and location of the final exam, one student last term forgot/missed the final, and ended up with a terrible mark. Don't let that happen to you!

Google has killed off other products that don't make it any money, and I can't see the revenue stream for Google Calendar. But the good news is that GCal is part of Apps@UAlberta, so it will likely survive future purges.

Why aren't you studying?

The New Colleague

I’d like to welcome the newest member of the Department of Psychology, Dr Catherine Ortner!

Dr Ortner, who is currently at Thompson Rivers University, will be a Faculty Lecturer (in Arts), starting on July 1, 2013. She will be responsible for teaching courses in personality, abnormal psychology, and clinical psychology--courses which are very popular with many students. She gave a fantastic presentation when she was here for her interview earlier this year.

Although it may seem incongruent that the UofA is hiring someone new in a time of significant budgetary shortfalls, this position is actually not new. The previous Faculty Lecturer in this area, Dr Doug Wardell, retired in 2010. We’ve been looking for a full-time replacement ever since.

I’m looking forward to working with Dr Ortner, and I hope you enjoy her courses!

Why aren’t you studying?

Update 5/24/2013: Unfortunately, Dr Ortner has decided to pursue other options and won't be coming to the UofA. (Understandable, considering the uncertain budgetary future here in Alberta.) Best wishes to her in her future endeavours!

The Undergraduate Sociology Journal

JA, a former PSYCO 494: Human Factors and Ergonomics student of mine who is currently a graduate student in pediatrics, has a great opportunity to pass along:
I wanted to mention something interesting to you. I am not sure if you have heard of the new Sociology undergraduate journal at the U of A called invoke, but I submitted my psych 494 term paper and it actually got accepted for the first issue! This is the website if you want to check it out: http://ejournals.library.ualberta.ca/index.php/invoke.

Generally, I believe this journal will accept papers from a variety of disciplines, but I thought it would be good to pass onto psych. undergraduate students that if they already have a good paper already written, they might as well submit! I was able to take the edits you provided me with, and in turn my paper did get accepted and published. Looks great on the CV. I am currently in grad school and I have included this publication on all scholarship applications - it's better than just having abstracts and presentations.
Thanks for passing that along!

Why aren't you studying?

Update 4/24/2013: Bad news from Evan Shillabeer, editor of Invoke:
While the journal has been a wonderful endeavour  we are currently placing it on a ‘hiatus.’ The reasoning is that in sociology, unlike in psychology, the undergraduate population is largely apathetic to research, and it seems sociology in general. Few students have interest in continuing in sociology (there are only 3 honours students), and more often than not, are using the degree as a transition to professional programs (i.e. law school). Over the last year, we have worked diligently to promote and inform sociology students about the journal, but when it came time to publish, we did not have any submission or peer reviewers! My editorial team and I were somewhat disillusioned by our hard work being thwarted by an ambivalent student body, and I made the decision to resign from my post, with the intention of burying the journal. However, I am now in the process of starting up an Undergraduate Sociology Association (a la UPA) to try and stir up some student engagement, before resurrecting the journal in a few years.

I love the idea of psychology students submitting to the journal and would be absolutely ecstatic if it could continue when the journal returns. It would also be really nice to see an undergraduate psychology journal start up; the interface used for these journals is surprisingly easy to use, and it would be a wonderful way to allow the department to show the high quality work that many of the undergraduate students in psychology produce.

The Narcolepsy

A student in PSYCO 104 this term (M.B.) wanted to share his experiences with narcolepsy. I've read about it, but have never met a student who has it. He was okay with me giving his name, but in the interests of ethics, I'm just using his initials. Here is his description in his own words (with minor editing for readability):

...when I had the [multiple sleep latency] test done, I went in and out of REM sleep 173 times in an 8 hour period. During the daytime portion of the test, where they had me take 5 scheduled 20 minute naps, between each of which I needed to stay awake for 2 hours, the average time it took me to fall asleep for each of the naps was 2.3 seconds, starting from when the attendant turned off the lights in the room.

My physician told me that on average, a narcoleptic will wake up in the morning after being in bed for 8-9 hours feeling as exhausted as a normal person would after being up for 36 hours straight.  Obviously, after almost three years since my diagnosis, I can no longer relate to what waking up "rested" feels like, but from what I remember that statement is the most accurate relation I used to make.

In terms of my daily routine, including medication, the general consensus is, for lack of a better word, to jack me up on stimulants in the daytime, and knock me out at night.

Every morning I take 30mg of methylphenidate (which is fast acting), along with 40mg of methylphenidate-SR (which is slow acting).  The methylphenidate takes effect within about 15 minutes, and around the time it wears off about an hour and a half later, the methylphenidate-SR takes effect, lasting for up to 4 hours.

At noon, I take an additional 10mg of methylphenidate (fast) and 20mg of methylphenidate-SR (slow) to get me through the afternoon. When I get home from school, or 4 o'clock comes around (whichever comes first), I usually feel overwhelmingly exhausted, at which time I take a nap daily which is usually 45 minutes in length. This nap allows me to make it through the evening without further medication.

My nighttime routine has fluctuated most, as I've previously tried two different types of medications which did not work for long, each with their own odd effects:

Initially, I was on Co-zopiclone, and during that period of about 6 months, it supressed my ability to dream completely, which was a welcome effect, seeing that I had gotten used to the hypnogocic hallucinations and sleep paralysis during which I dreamt of snakes in my bed or shadows coming at me with knives. Now however, I am taking Apo-trazodone, at a dosage of 200mg each night. Trazodone has helped reduce the frequency at which I wake up during the night, and helps me stay asleep longer. As expected though, when I wake up, I am quite drowsy and groggy.
Most days when untreated, I could not stay awake in the passenger seat of a car for further than a block, nor could I stay awake for more than 2 hours without napping even when I was occupied.  Even now on medication, there are times at which I cannot stay awake, and involuntarily fall asleep for brief periods.

I also experience cataplexy, although luckily not to the extent that many individuals do.  While I have had some episodes of collapse, my symptoms while untreated ranged from buckling at the knees and dropping whatever I'm holding (being the most severe), to loss of the control of my facial muscles when angry, happy, or laughing. To this day, mostly during the evenings but also when I am extremely fatigued, I will slightly slur my speech, close my eyes, and involuntarily flatten my tongue in my mouth, pressing it against my teeth.

I know that I have very likely given you more information than you can talk about in class, but I am completely comfortable with you using anything you see fit. I am not embarrassed to tell my story, and I consider it an opportunity to do anything that I can to help educate more people on the effects of Narcolepsy.
Thanks for sharing that information with us, MB. It puts into perspective what "being really tired" is, and how most of us have no real idea what it feels like.

Why aren't you studying?

The Secret Project

For over a year, I've been part of a "secret" project. (Although I've mentioned it a few times, no one has asked me about it. You, dear readers, have the utmost respect for secrets!)

This project, led by the Arts Resource Centre, was intended to address two issues. One was in-class engagement. What would the classroom experience be like if every student had a tablet computer? Not a smartphone, not a laptop, but a tablet. Like, say, an iPad. All students involved in this project (a couple of intro psychology classes, some economics, and political science) were going to be given free loaner iPads. There would be an option to buy out the lease at the end of term, meaning students would get to use an iPad for free for 4 months, with the option to buy it at a discount. (Did I mention that it would be free?)

I went to seminars put on by Apple, got a loaner iPad 2 (the day before the iPad 3 came out, argh!), and experimented with a lot of apps. Apple even offered us the use of some of their app development team in Cupertino.Cool! In a too-good-to-be-true way.

Unfortunately, the lease cost of the iPads kept going up and up until it was out of our price range. (Hey, someone has to pay for all those iPads!) At that point, the focus shifted to the much less-expensive ASUS-made Nexus 7 tablet. Our experimental team members designed the research side of things, to measure how using tablets would affect student learning and engagement. Those of us on the instructional team used our loaner iPads to work out how we would engage students in class with this technology. The team leader applied for research funding. Everything was clicking along fine--until it all went off the rails.

Two days before the devastating provincial budget was released, we were told that our application for funding had been denied. The little money we had wasn't going to be enough to supply multiple classes of students with tablet computers. The many hours we spent meeting, discussing, reading, and preparing for this project were all for naught. Although, there was still the other part of the project...

I shouldn't really talk too much about the other issue that this project was going to examine--after all, this is still an ongoing research project (even if it is radically scaled back). If I blab about it and reveal our hypotheses, it may affect the results. I think it's safe to reveal that we are interested in how you learn outside of the classroom. In fact, I've got a meeting today with a publisher's representative who is working with me on this project. And we're collecting baseline data in my intro psych class today. Beyond that, I'm afraid everything else is going to have to remain...a secret.

Why aren't you studying?

The World Backup Day

It's March 31, so happy World Backup Day 2013! Yup, it's a real thing. You can spread the message by taking the pledge to backup your data. (I did.) You wouldn't want to lose you data, would you?

Imagine losing your digital photos. Or your music collection. Maybe those great videos you took of you last vacation. What if there were all gone? What if your term paper (which is due in a couple of weeks) were to disappear--with no backup?

Did you know they almost lost Toy Story 2? Of course they made backups--but backups be corrupted. There's a great video that explains what happened. (Warning: don't watch it if you have a weak constitution and/or you haven't backed up any of your data since there was a U.S. president whose name is a synonym for "shrub." On second thought, maybe then you should watch the video.

Not only do I make backups, I go one better. As soon as I save anything to a local hard drive, my data is immediately synced with my other computers, and is simultaneously saved to a server in the cloud. (My human factors and ergonomics students will know what this is called. It's not merely a backup, it's "active redundancy".) Last summer, the boot drive on my primary laptop died. It was an inconvenience--that's all, just an inconvenience. It wasn't the end of the world.

But just because you save your data to the cloud doesn't mean it's safe. The company you rely on likely uses another service to provide their storage. Somewhere out there, your data is sitting on a spinning disk. And those can fail--even in the cloud.

So: make an extra backup today. Save your term paper on a flash drive. Save it to a cloud storage service. Burn it onto a CD. Hey, copy it to a floppy, if you have one. And save your pictures, songs, videos, and everything else you don't want to lose. There's no excuse for losing your data. No, really. Saying, "My computer crashed and I lost my term paper" is today's equivalent of "My dog ate my homework."

Why aren't you studying?

The Budget and the Clocks

Late last year, I noticed that one of the clocks in the hallway of the psychology wing in the Biological Sciences Building was wrong. Not a big deal--every year or so, a clock goes wonky, so I make a call and it gets fixed. Only, not this time.

A few days later, another clock was out. Then, a couple more. Next, several clocks froze. One by one, all the clocks in the entire building started to fail. At first, it was kinda funny, in a stopped-clock-is-right-twice-a-day way. What wasn't funny was the fact that the clocks weren't being repaired.

- - - - -

Yesterday, the provincial government released the budget. It was not good news for Alberta's post-secondary institutions. In fact, President Samarasekera was "horrified," it was that bad. To keep up with inflation (for example, rising costs of physical goods and increases in salaries), the UofA needed an increase of 4%. (The government had promised an annual increase of 2% a year for three years, which still wasn't enough.) Instead, what was delivered was about a 7% cut.

For the past few years, because of insufficient provincial funding, faculties and departments have had to make cuts, on the order of 3%. This is why I don't hand out paper copies of the syllabus in all of my classes any more, and it's part of the reason why the Department of Psychology has one fewer Faculty Lecturer in Science. There's no more room to make sweeping across-the-board cuts. The main cost in the UofA's budget is salaries: academic staff and nonacademic staff. These salaries are negotiated with UofA administration, and cannot simply be cut, similar to teachers. (Interestingly, teachers are allowed to go on strike, whereas the UofA's academic staff are not.)

- - - - -

A few weeks ago, the clocks started disappearing. All that remained were a few dangling wires. (Some of them, with one clock remaining on the other side freak me out. They remind me of the fembots from the 1970s Bionic Woman show. Brrr.)


Is this a good sign? They're taking the clocks out to be fixed? Or replaced? Maybe it's a bad sign. They've never had to remove the clocks completely. And they haven't been replacing any of the clocks. They're just...gone.

It turns out that the clocks are so old, they can't get parts anymore. Maybe they're trying to salvage what they can to scavenge parts from some of them and get a few clocks running again. Maybe the days of having the luxury of a clock in every hallway are gone.

- - - - -

The government has put the UofA in a bad spot. Costs cannot be reduced further (at least, not without some pretty serious consequences like declaring a Financial Emergency). Revenue cannot be increased (the government has prohibited tuition increases to cover a shortfall). So what's left? Apparently, the magic bullet will come in the form of "mandate letters" that the government will send out, dictating to each institution what their role will be in a "more unified" post-secondary education system.

See, the government apparently sees a lot of waste due to duplication. The UofA confers undergraduate degrees in Arts, as does MacEwan University (and the UofC, and Mount Royal, etc.). That's inefficient! It's waste! Let's consolidate and increase efficiencies! Yeah, I don't see it either. Is it going to mean that, if you want an undergraduate degree in arts in psychology, you'd go to the UofA, but if you want economics, you'd have to go to the U of Lethbridge? Or maybe, the UofA would do away with all undergraduate degrees entirely, and just focus on professional degrees (nursing, law, medicine) and graduate degrees. Hmm, good luck with that.

The government also wants post-secondary institutions to be engines of economic diversity. That means doing research to solve real-world problems, forge patents, and bring in some money to the province. But don't you think that if some researcher was sitting on a goldmine idea, they would have already tried to cash in on it? What about the fact that most research is not applied, but basic (that is, designed to tell us about ourselves and the world we live in)? And what about those not doing scientific research, but scholarship in the arts? How do you commercialize that? This whole idea is: stupid.

- - - - -

People in government must know what they're doing, right? I mean, they consolidated all the different regional health authorities into one big Alberta Health superboard, and that turned out...oh, right. It was a colossal screwup. Well, I'm sure they've learned their lesson, and they won't do anything like that again, right? Right?

Do I have any better ideas? Sure I do. Increase royalty rates on natural resources. Institute a sales tax (hey, as a lifelong Albertan, it pains me to say it, but with such volatile resource revenues, it just makes sense now). Scrap the flat tax and have progressive income tax instead. Each one of these would work--if there's any backbone of political will.

- - - - -

Some people need clocks. The admin staff in the Psychology office need to time-stamp papers that students hand in. Students and instructors have to get to class on time. I synchronize my watch to the clock in my hallway to make sure I wasn't late to class. (if I'm 1 minute late to a class of 400 people, I've just wasted 400 people-minutes of time, or over 6 hours). The Department of Psychology has dipped into its budget and gone to Grand & Toy to buy a bunch of clocks.


Unfortunately, we can't afford to pay for clocks for the whole building. So I might be a bit late for class sometimes.

Say, do you have the time?

Why aren't you studying?

Update 3/8/2013 12:55p.m.: Half of the lights are out in Biological Sciences, the projectors in my first class were dead, and I can't log in to update my website. This does not bode well...

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