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.

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