Guest Host: Sue Gilbert

Education Is Competition

I once received a 2-page course evaluation comment from a student (she was a teacher taking my Chinese class). In the treatise, she highlighted several elements she found good, but mostly what I remember is her opposition to the several competition-like activities I included. I would ask students to perform Chinese character writing on the board in front of their peers as a kind of race. I felt I was encouraging students to produce their characters fast and accurate. Most students, it seemed to me, enjoyed it. Or at least they were into it, excited about writing, and enjoying the moment. They would share ideas for how they remembered the characters. Seemed like sound pedagogy.

This student didn’t see these competitions in the same light. She saw only embarrassment – a form of public shaming in the guise of motivation. It’s a perspective that has stuck with me.

When I look for it, competition appears to be a pervasive element of the educational experience. We have formal sports competitions, and academic competitions, award lists, and a ranking grade system that seems to communication who won and who lost. We compete for scholarships and even for seats in a classroom.

Yet, there is a wholesome side to our competitive spirit. The coach who inspires the best in us, the teammates who share pride in our accomplishments and support in our disappointment, and the drive in ourselves to improve. This is the side we talk about with Sue Gilbert, a Kirkwood student in the Graphics Communication program. She shares her story and journey through an honors project on the Brotherhood of Competition.


Guest Host: Shawn Cornally

Education is BIG

My mind is still spinning after speaking with Shawn Cornally of the Big Ideas Group. In some ways our discussion leaves me feeling sad that I didn’t have much educational choice. But it’s not about me and my learning any more. I can choose to learn in any way I want now. I find many of the big ideas discussed in this podcast exciting: inquiry and problem based learning (actual problems, not odd numbered activities), moving away from grades and toward feedback as a model to encourage learning, choices in educational venue, partnering with local entrepreneurs, competency-based assessment, public input on achievement, the hiphop model of education where we experience all the best parts over and over and over. So, yes Education is BIG. In its enormity, there is room for choice and exploration and much discussion.

Putting Yourself Out There

Guest Host: Todd Saville

Education is Putting Yourself Out There

myFathersHouseTodd Saville wrote a novel. He had a story to share, and thought that might be end of that endeavor. But it was just the beginning. Now, it’s expanded into a research project on self-publishing and social media marketing. The inspiration for this journey? His students. They were responsible for showing Todd the importance of these current marketing trends. And he knew that having first-hand experiences to share with his classes would be invaluable to their learning. And so the cycle continues. We think of ourselves as teachers, but we are experience seekers ourselves. We put our best theories and pedagogies forward so that they might be torn apart, exposed in all their messiness. And in this process, we meet others, we share, we talk, we question, we hold fast, we change minds, we grow, we teach, we learn.

After listening to this interview again, I am about ready to dust of that first NaNoWriMo novel I shared with only family members. Maybe others would enjoy that story too. I am curious what the experience of putting that into the world will be like and where that might lead my own instruction.


Guest Host: Alissa King

Education is Boundless

Alissa King in India

Alissa King in India, where the ocean and two seas meet

As teachers/educators/mind developers, we encourage students to hang out on the boundaries of their skills and knowledge. We want them to consider new perspectives and experience the novel. We support them as best we can with activities that carefully build upon structures they already know. Perhaps it makes perfect sense that we, as educators, would want to challenge ourselves beyond our usual comfort zones, take some risks and continue our learning. Taking a trip to India as professional development certainly qualifies in my mind. That’s what Prof. Alissa King did last Winter (2012/13).

What are the support criteria necessary for faculty and learners to venture outside their comfort zones? How can we facilitate and manage such growth and support? Study abroad (or domestically distant) experiences are incredibly enriching. What are some other approaches? Feel free to share your stories in the comments.

Solving Problems

Guest Host: Jane Grabowksi

Education is Solving Problems

Every Fall, the faculty and staff of our college get together on the two days before Thanksgiving break for what we call Collaborative Learning Days. This year, Alan and I had a raucously good time facilitating sessions. We were lucky enough to do one on Play, in conjunction with our  colleague Kate Hess, a librarian and play researcher.  (Stay tuned for a podcast on play!) Alan did a session on solutions to puzzles within Angel, our campuswide LMS, and Nicole attended a session on common problems in teaching. The more we thought about these days, the more we realized that an awful lot of being an educator is solving problems. Students texting in class – is it a problem, why, how do you “solve” it? Students not attending class and their learning suffering? What do you do? Got tech trouble in the LMS…ack! Fire drill during a face-to-face class, or Internet outage during a distance one…OK, we’ll handle it…

Education is about solving problems, or at least approaching puzzles with a solution-oriented mindset. Recently Alan and I sat down with Jane Grabowski, an instructor in Communications, to chat about inquiry-based teaching methods, and how for her, it has helped resolve some of the traditional complaints about attendance, attention, motivation, and learner investment. We think inquiry-based models are pretty intriguing, and hope to explore them more in future podcasts.

In the meantime, have a listen to the podcast, and let us know how you’ve solved a particularly tricksy problem in your classroom, your teaching, or your learning. Comment or email us today!

About Passion

Guest Host: Laura Yost

Education is about passion

I recently called up Alan and informed him that he’s my “idea friend.” He politely said that he was honored to be so, but he knows it comes with the joy/burden of being subject to wacky ideas about education, student motivation, faculty professional development, teaching and learning shenanigans, impassioned rants about library stuff, and all sorts of other flotsam. In fact, Alan and I share a passion for ideas, fun projects, and learning. So we got curious about all the other folks we know who have passion for education, and a particularly passionate lecturer at our school sprang to mind as good for a conversation on passion in education.

Dr. Laura Yost is passionate about many things – military history, central America, microfinance, teaching, and understanding cultures. Learn more about her here: We invited her into our studio to discuss passion in education – and learned quite a bit about history and sociology along the way.

How does your passion for education find outlet? What are you passionate about when it comes to teaching and learning? We want to hear your stories – comment below or shoot us an email.

A Career

Guest Hosts: Jack Terndrup & Mona Parekh

Education Is A Career

What does it mean to be a worker in an education setting, particularly an instructor? Coming off our last podcast in May with Mona, where we explored being a new online instructor, Alan and I have sort of been in a “What does it mean to be an educator” mode. We settled on exploring the theme of “Education is a Career,” and dug in with reading and conversation.

First we sat down with Jack Terndrup, a bit of a local celebrity here in our college. He’s a seasoned professor with a long history as an educator, but also a quick wit, great stories, and the sort of warmth that makes you want to learn from him, regardless if you’re a student or not. Jack teaches Education, and he also does a really enjoyable lecture on his 10 greatest teaching mistakes (and while that didn’t make it into the podcast this time, let’s just say puppets were involved). We also included some of Mona’s path to teaching, from her childhood kitchen table, where her friends begrudgingly learned math, to a highschool in the Bronx, and finally to Eastern Iowa and the Internet. In this podcast, you’ll hear Jack, Mona, and Alan discuss their paths to becoming formal “educators,” and what lead them to this career.

What got you into education? What keeps you there? We want to hear your stories, and your path!


What’s it like being/becoming a New Online Instructor?
Guest Host: Mona Parekh

New Instructor

Links to references mentioned in this episode.


Episode on Motivation (and Engagement)! Hooray!
Guest Host: Dr. Jennifer Meehan Brennom


Sites and sources mentioned in this episode:

Instructor Presence

Episode on Instructor Presence is here!
Guest Host: Natalia Cherjovsky

Instructor Presence

Sites mentioned in this episode:

Alan Natalia and Nicole