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I was reminded today of one of the things I love about Cascadia. As I was walking down the hall, there was a group of students sitting in the vista discussing climate and how weather works. The group work in which students participate is fantastic, whether each student recognizes it or not. When I hear students remark that they hate group work I have to wonder what they are learning outside of the classroom. Is the push for independent success so strong that they can’t fathom working with a group? The majority of us don’t work in a vacuum and the ability to work well with others is key. A colleague passed on an article about a study that indicates employers only think 39% of college graduates are “very well prepared” for teamwork. 17% are not well prepared.* I think I’ll add that to my syllabi in the future.

* Peter D. Hart Research Associates, Inc. 2008. How Should Colleges Assess and Improve Student Learning. Washington, DC: Peter D. Hart Research Associates, Inc., on behalf of The Association of American Colleges and Universities

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One of these years I’ll remember to check the latest anthropology news before I actually walk into the classroom. Having just finished discussing primate and hominin evolution, it would have been nice to be able to talk about some of the newest research such as the North American tarsier ancestor and the recent Hobbit debate. I’ve been teaching for a decade now and I wonder when this type of behavior will become second nature. Perhaps if I wasn’t so busy with committee work I’d actually have time to work on my teaching.

I’m engrossed at the moment in creating an online version of my cultural anthropology class. The challenge is to create a class that models the values of a learning college in a virtual environment. It’s difficult to translate the various active learning modalities from the traditional classroom to work in an online classroom. The key is to get the online students to buy into the value…how to get them to see the benefits of increased interaction online. Most students have no problem with the level of interaction I’m looking for if it’s on MySpace or Facebook, but trying to get them to get the same enthusiasm for the virtual classroom is challenging.

I’d like to move away from traditional textbooks. They’re so constraining. I had my class read an ethnography written by a biological anthropologist and they loved it. The best discussion we had all quarter happened today on the last day of class before finals week. I wonder if it’s even possible to get that type of engagement with a textbook. I have yet to see it.