The Business Trip

Earlier this year, Nelson Education Ltd. invited me to join their Digital Psychology Editorial Advisory Board (no, it’s not called the “DPEAB”). There are now about a half-dozen of us psychology types, from universities across the country who belong to this group. It works like this. Nelson gives us some money, and in return, we give them our considered opinion about technology, products, and education. (Yeah, like I need someone to pay me to give my opinion!)

I realize that students may have...certain opinions about publishers. The way I see it, publishers are not really trying to sell their textbooks to students. They’re trying to sell their textbooks to instructors. Some companies do a better job than others. And these days, being a textbook publisher is not just about dead trees anymore; it’s about applying the best ways to enhance student learning.

I’ve had a really good relationship with Nelson over the years. Need proof? A while ago, they gave half of the students in my perception class a free etextbook so I could run a study on student achievement comparing the use of an ebook with a printed textbook. (The result? No statistically significant difference in marks. The takeaway: Using an ebook probably won’t lead to lower grades.) Need more proof? Read my post on how Nelson dropped the price of the textbook I’m using in one course by $45. That’s right: Forty. Five. Dollars. (Full disclosure: I’ve been a consultant for Nelson for over 10 years, working on website content for 18 of their Canadian psychology textbooks. Also: I do not get any commission, money, or free pens from any publisher for choosing their textbook.)

Here’s more evidence that Nelson is really dedicated to helping students. Over Reading Week, they brought members of the psychology (and biology) Digital Advisory Boards to Toronto to pick our brains about some of their new digital products, and directions for future products. It was great to talk with other passionate instructors about technology, teaching, and learning. I’m pretty impressed with the ways people are innovating in education. And Nelson wants to tap into that passion and innovation; there are some exciting new products on the horizon. No, I won’t tell you about them. (It was also nice to finally meet some people from Nelson in person--previously, I had only been in email contact with them for years. Oh, and some Twitter stalking, too.)

Yeah, the hotel was nice, but it was all of 1 day. In Toronto. In February. So don’t get images of a week in Cancun or anything. What did you do on Reading Week?

Why aren’t you studying?

The New Prep 6: Wrap Up

It’s been a long haul for me these last 2.5 years, developing, prepping, and delivering my new PSYCO 282: Behavior  Modification course. (Officially, it’s not spelled “Behaviour” with a U--hey, don’t blame me!) Agreeing to teach a new course in 2010 was easy enough to do. But as the real deadline of Fall term hit, I started to wonder what I had gotten myself into. Nervouscited!

Starting in the summer, my workload increased exponentially. Not only did a have a new prep, I had also plunged into another time-intensive project--a research project on mobile learning and student engagement conducted as part of teaching intro psych. (Data analysis from that is ongoing, by the way.) It feels like I didn’t even have a summer--madly working away, even while on family vacations. (Sample experience: someone asked me if I had a good summer, and I replied, “Huh? What summer?”)

Now, after having taught the “b-mod” course once, I’ve got a list of hits and misses. First, I know that I have to develop more content. Cancelling three classes in a row is way too many. (No, that wasn’t by design.) Over the holiday break, I madly rejiggered the carefully planned structure of the course, changing what material is covered on what exam, and adding another lecture on token economies. I had also planned to add another one on behavioural contracts, but it looks like there won’t be time for that.

Second, I’ve rekindled my love/hate relationship with eClass/Moodle. Ultimately, online assignments are the way to go (thanks to Cheryl, my TA, for dragging me in that direction), but Moodle is Confusingstupid. And slowkillingme.

It was really eye-opening to read all the behaviours that students worked on changing as part of the self-management project. Many were expected (decreasing smoking, improving studying, increasing exercise), but there were also a lot of unique ones (stopping spitting, reducing swearing, and eating more nuts). If you were in my class and are reading this, drop a line in the comments below about how things are going.

Reading the research on behaviour modification and applied behaviour analysis was a pleasant surprise. I was concerned that I’d have to get up to speed on an elephant-ass amount of jargon. Most scientific papers are nearly impenetrable, even for someone with a Ph.D. But the papers I read were brief, understandable, and (largely) jargon-free.

Although I’ve written before about doing self-management on myself, in seeing all the hard work that students were putting into changing their behaviours, I decided to change another set of behaviours. I’m a notorious snacker (pretzels, chocolate, and sometimes pretzels+chocolate), so for two weeks I changed my environment to reduce my snacking after dinner. It seemed to work: I lost 2 pounds.

There’s one final thing. After I finished writing the last lecture for the course, I decided to, er, reinforce all of my good behaviours, so I went out and bought myself an iPad Air. Yeah, it’s a pretty substantial reinforcer, but I did some pretty substantial work. (Plus, the Arts Resource Centre wanted their loaner iPad back.)

Now, I’m going to put that iPad to use: I’ve got a lecture on token economies to write.

Coming up next: The New Prep 7: The Evaluation.

Why aren’t you studying?

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