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?

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