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Educate Through Innovative Technology

130 Posts authored by: The Wiley Network
    Douglas Petrick
Douglas Petrick
Physics Teacher, Pittsburgh, PA

PhotoMIX Ltd.jpeg

It’s 3:00pm on a Thursday afternoon. Seated at a professional development day for educators, you’re trying to come to terms with how the next 60 minutes will be spent. This late in the day, it’s fairly challenging to stay focused. Information has been in abundance throughout this mandatory in-service day.


As the final session begins, your head spins and you begin to scan the room. The educator to your left is checking social

media. Someone is grading tests to your right. You happen to hear a peer behind you mumble “this presenter has never taught.” Glancing at your watch, you recall that the typical day for you would be ending in five minutes. How in the world will you maintain focus?

By applying strategies to stay engaged, educators can get the most out of training—even as the day grows long and distractions rear their ugly heads. The rub is to approach each session with purpose. Employ the following four points of action, and get the most of out of your next professional development session.


1.   Keep an Open Mind

Can a science teacher learn from a guidance counselor? Can a University Philosophy Professor teach something to a Middle School English teacher? If you are in the business of helping students, then the answer is undoubtedly yes.  Don’t allow your personal biases to get in the way of learning. 


Keep an open mind and be receptive to new ideas. Simply put, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Operate on the assumption that whoever is presenting has something positive to offer educators. The first step in utilizing wisdom is receiving it.


2.   Tuck It in Your Pocket

At a typical professional development session, you will receive handouts, folders, or binders (oh my). Focus on the main idea behind the takeaway if you’re not sure exactly how it fits into what you do right now. Never fear, as good ideas need time to develop.


Assessments? Projects? Instructional strategies? It can be unsettling to hear about a best practice for educators if you are unsure of howit would fit into your class. Focus on the big picture, and perhaps just tuck it in your pocket for a future date. Keeping it simple as a basic topic makes it easier to reference sometime down the road.


3.   Put Your Mark on It

Part of the fun of being an educator is putting your spin on an idea, a lesson, or a delivery method.  Inspiration is everywhere, and searching for it during a session is a smart way to stay in the moment. This provides you with a reason to stay engaged.  Be on the lookout for refreshing takes on content, dynamic instructional strategies, or unique presentation styles.


During the session, brainstorm which pieces you would like to repurpose for you or your students. Jot down items of interest in real time during the presentation. Then put your mark on it. Make notes and process how you can incorporate these bits into your specific class. However, remember to cite your inspiration when borrowing with integrity.


4.   Ask Questions

Ask questions to clarify information during the session. The presenter may not say it, but they want a dynamic exchange. After all, you are here to consume, process, and learn from the experience. Questioning is an art. Steer clear of inquiries that produce basic yes or no responses.


Question using how and what…How would you incorporate this best practice into higher education? What are some examples of using this project in a middle school classroom? How can you organize a lecture to foster engagement? Chances are if you are curious, others in the room are too.


Educator professional development sessions are as varied as the presenters that facilitate them. What do you look for in an ideal session? How do you get the most out of professional development? Post a comment in the space below, and I will be sure to connect with you.


Doug Petrick holds an Architectural Engineering degree from Pennsylvania State University and a Masters of Arts in Teaching from California University of Pennsylvania. He is currently a high school Physics educator at Upper St. Clair High School in Pittsburgh. Doug regularly contributes to a series for educators on the Wiley Network offering practical advice and instructional strategies.


Image credit: pexels.com/PhotoMIX Ltd


    Daniel Iknaian
Daniel Iknaian
University of Massachusetts Lowell, Accounting and Information Systems


How many of us have said at some point “I wish I knew then, what I know now?” There are any number of reasons, including, as I found out, not listening to someone older and wiser and not taking away the right lesson from a mistake. I’ve done some reflecting on my past through the lens of being a non-traditional student, and there are a few things I learned that I think might be helpful for new and returning students to know.


1. Find a mentor and ask for help

boy pixabay.com.jpeg


As a high schooler, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I always had at least one job during the school year and two during the summer. The feeling of being rewarded for my work and enjoying career success is something I fell in love with quickly. Yet, I needed some guidance to help direct my energies in school. I wish I had done more to find a mentor.


Making the connection between the classroom and my workplace was always a struggle for me. That is why I recommend that younger students find a teacher, supervisor, or any professional person whom you really connect with to go to regularly for guidance and support..

Mentorship creates a long-lasting relationship with someone whohas a wealth of experience in the academic and professional worlds. Mentors provide feedback based on an outside view of your work, thoughts, and actions. I am always working to improve myself in every aspect of life, but until I identify my weaknesses, how can I improve them? Mentors provide an honest view of our weak points and help us improve them.


2. Be Organized, Be Prepared


Part of being an adult is making the best use of time. My desk, briefcase, and laptop desktop are set up in such a way that I can accomplish all my tasks efficiently. I’ve found that keeping my work area clean, organized and well stocked helps me focus on tasks as they arrive. Keep a schedule with due dates of your school work, class times, work times, and appointments. Be realistic with the amount of time you give each project. Don’t try to cram too many tasks in one day or you’ll find yourself cutting corners to get them done. Organizing yourself and remaining focused on a few tasks helps you work more efficiently and, in the end, allows for a better work/life balance.


At the start of each semester every professor provides a syllabus with due dates and expectations. The first thing I do after class is input each due date in my calendar with reminders. This way, nothing is overlooked. My best practice is to try to finish my work early, so I can read ahead and prepare for the upcoming lecture. Reading ahead helps me comprehend a lecture on new material. I go into a lecture with questions in mind rather than trying to absorb everything the instructor is discussing.


3. Beware of the “Comparison Trap”


In high school, I used to envy the students who sat in the front of class, raising their hands for every question, and getting good grades on their work. The voice in my head asked, why am I not as good as them? This is called the comparison trap. I only saw their best moments, the fruits of their labor, without considering the sacrifices they made to achieve it.


What’s a student to do? This is where organization, prioritizing, and asking for help all comes together. I always set aside enough time to study, write down any questions I had while studying, and wait until the lecture to see if my instructor covers them. If any of my questions weren’t answered or remained unclear I knew I could ask my professor for clarification.


Instead of envying the star student and comparing myself to him/her, I found a way to compare my past behaviors to the student I am today. . Over the past two and a half years, I have refined this method and found that it has been the driving force in my success. It required me to do two things:


  1. Recognize my opportunity cost, that is: sacrifice some of my free time now in pursuit of a more successful future, and
  2. Find others around me (like professors, tutors, students, and colleagues) that I could approach and ask for help or clarification.


I understand how difficult some of my recommendations might be. Asking for help isn’t easy, especially if you feel like your question is dumb. If that is the case, write it down and ask someone in a one-on-one setting.


Getting help, being prepared, and evaluating your personal progress as a student can be a clear path to success.. I hope these tips will help guide you in pursuit of your academic goals. Feel free to share your own tips for success in the comments below.

Image credit:pexels/pixabay.com

    Diane Rubino
Diane Rubino
Adjunct Instructor, New York University

“They bring me information from [gulp] Wikipedia,” the panelist said, disbelief audible in her voice. This memorable comment came from an employers’ panel during which would-be hiring managers expressed concerns about recent graduates.


I tell this story in nearly every class. I want to convey the importance of information veracity for coursework and future bosses. Everyone nods. Digital natives know the Internet is a mixed bag of truth and lies. Yet many of those same students submit homework based on sketchy resources.



When I started teaching, I was surprised at the odd collection of commercial sites, unverifiable blogs, and, yes, Wikipedia that passed for an academic citation. There are cases when any of these sources could be appropriate, with careful consideration. However, the careful consideration part was underwhelming.


I learned that students were unlikely to vet their sources carefully. The Information Superhighway reinforced their natural confirmation bias. If they could easily verify their beliefs and the site looked okay at first glance, their ideas must be accurate—or so they thought.


I realized the students were not necessarily being careless. Instead, they had lackluster information literacy skills.


Information literacy, or the ability to know when research is needed, then finding, evaluating, and using that knowledge correctly, is a complex concept. I’m unable to tackle a lengthy treatise on the subject either in school or this short essay. But I can share my classroom experiences as well as resources that helped my students.


Rather than leaving their research process to chance, I built some speed bumps on the Information Superhighway to encourage reflection.


1. Don’t Assume—Clarify

Don’t assume students will work from reliable resources or are fully information literate. If you want a certain type/quality of information, say so. I add language like this to rubrics and syllabi: Resources cited must be suitable for a professional/academic environment. No Wikis, –Pedias, Huffington Post, or blogs you’ve stumbled across. Be prepared to explain why the source you selected is reliable. This text alone, however, was insufficient to achieve my goals.


By the time you, dear reader, got to university, you’d been schooled in research basics. You were taught how to use the library, the Readers Guide to Periodical Literature, the Library of Congress classification system, and so much more. But a librarian from an elite institution told me that some students don’t even know how to use a call number to locate a resource. Perhaps because they were unschooled on the basics, my students seemed to avoid the library, eliminating an essential evaluation tool.


2. Reinforce. Repeat. Remind.

Because Google is so tantalizingly easy, the idea of looking beyond the search engine results needs to be reinforced repeatedly.


I’ve tried a few approaches to augment my call for reliable, well-documented sources, one of which was a short video on the topic. I worried it might be too simplistic, but the experience turned out to be an “a ha moment” for some. This fine example from Seminole State College also mentions research attribution, another common point of confusion. I used to get lists of URLs instead of correctly written citations. This made my vetting process more difficult. Now I instruct classes to use an online citation generator like CitationMachine.


Early in the semester, I hold a librarian-led session in the library. I learn something new every time. But my students reported feeling overwhelmed by the amount of specialized search strategies. So I began asking for a narrow focus on just one or two relevant tools, like LexisNexis® and one specialized EBSCO® database.


I recently invited my school’s Information Literacy Librarian to teach a session. This was a revelation for me. He focused on fundamentals by providing evaluation problems like this multiple choice question: “If you want to locate good journal articles on a specific topic, which of these is the best way to start?” I realized the semester’s session needed to be re-calibrated again with more attention on information literacy and less on specialized tools.


3. Peerless Google

Last semester I explained that the first thing I would do to evaluate mid-project progress was to review bibliography. Yet even with a warning, guidelines, and extra coaching, I found myself having countless conversations like this:


Me:                 Why did you use this as a resource?

Student:        It had information about my topic.

Me:                 Arggghhh.


The message I communicated was steamrollered by Google’s ease. It was only during these one-on-one sessions that I was able to coax students into developing a better bibliography.


I also learned that part of my work was to leverage, rather than replace, the existing environment. If Wikipedia is the first place students look, they needed to be reminded to, at minimum, consider the whole article and to review the references to identify more substantial resources. A colleague also has some success with in-class, group evaluations. Students share their reference lists and they collectively discuss and evaluate the appropriateness of each title. **


Fortunately, I work with colleagues who traffic in information veracity, so the work I do is in step with program values. Yet I’ve met instructors who believe my extra safeguards are ridiculous—and tell me so. Other professors have different ideas about what’s appropriate for their class. And of course students have their own insights about veracity. These differing perspectives contribute to the confusion about what resource is acceptable.


But after teaching for a while, I understand more about what my students need and have collated the strategies above to ferret out the most egregious information-literacy errors. If students walk out of my class with a small dose of additional knowledge about, and tools for, vetting sources, I count that as a win.


*I’m grateful to American University of Bulgaria’s supportive Information Literacy Librarian Krasimir Spasov who developed an information literacy section for my students.

** This exercise is the idea of my former colleague, American University of Bulgaria Professor in Writing and Literature Sean Homer.


Photo credit: Diane Rubino

Summer Life Hacks for Educators

Posted Aug 15, 2018
    Douglas Petrick
Douglas Petrick
Physics Teacher, Pittsburgh, PA

Say it out loud, S-U-M-M-E-R, summer. Now close your eyes, and what do you see? What do you hear? I see a sandy beach. I listen to waves gently crashing on the shore. I’ll tell you what I don’t see—a classroom. I don’t hear bells ringing. And I don’t feel the restraints of a rigid schedule. Yes, summer is a very different time of the year for educators.



During the summer months, I use four techniques to keep me “chill.” These summer hacks guide my decision-making, maximize my vacation, and ease my return to reality in August. Each principle I list below can be employed for educator survival from August through June. All four items will lower your stress level and keep your students engaged.


      1.  I Carve Out Time to Recharge

What should an educator do right after the school year ends? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. That’s right; I try to avoid anything related to teaching or school to take time out from the routine to recharge your batteries, as the end of the year can be unusually intense. Even just a few days can be rejuvenating. Case in point, if you teach year-round, schedule one or two days off and make a long weekend. This can be especially helpful for educators working into the summer session, needing a chance to reboot.


Similarly, during the middle of the semester, educators are frazzled. There are endless tests to grade, stacks of projects to evaluate, homework feedback to provide, office hours to keep, lab groups to debrief, while you’re expected at the same to craft engaging classroom activities. You get how overwhelming it all is because you live it.


When just thinking about the educator to-do list becomes too daunting for me, I schedule a night or two off and do nothing. You might want to watch a movie, listen to music, go out with friends. My suggestion is to do anything other than tending to your educator-related duties. You will feel fresher when you return to your responsibilities. Plus your students, your co-workers, and your loved ones will notice a little pep in your step after you take a  breather.


      2. I Plan for Transitions.

We all struggle with the back to school blues. The transitional period—the first week of fall classes—can deplete the life right out of educators and students. I approach this timeframe methodically when shifting gears from summer to school.


I’ve found I can stay calm throughout the year by having a plan whenever the routine changes for my students. I’ve come to expect chaos to ensue in the classroom pre- and post-exam, pre- and post-holiday, as well as before and after long breaks. So, during the summer, I consider ways to minimize disruptive transitions.


I consider implementing more student-centered instruction. Group work is excellent, as students typically prefer working with their classmates during these times. I include activities to get students physically moving inside or outside of the classroom. If you teach in a large space such as a lecture hall, force your students to go from digital to analog. Do a mid-lecture “check for understanding” using note cards, having students write with the traditional paper and pencil. I encourage you to think outside the box while working within your constraints. For instance, I direct students to switch seats with the person next to them because movement—big or small—helps break up the routine and burns off excess student energy.


      3. I Consider Energy Expenditure

Most students are mentally drained the day after an exam. It’s challenging for an educator to determine the plan for that dreaded day after. Starting new material is ideal, but would this be a good time to deliver a lecture rich in content and brimming with new concepts? Probably not.


Don’t underestimate the energy expenditure by your students after intense academic efforts like exams. Spend a little time during the summer months to plan post-high focus activities. Consider items that are low-stakes, but multi-tiered in structure, such as providing opportunities for web-based independent learning, or beginning the planning phases of a project are two examples of ways to deliver new content without overloading students. In return, you get the opportunity to focus on interacting with students during these activities, instead of lecturing to the masses


4. I Utilize Others

Throughout the year, we all want to deliver interactive lessons, create stimulating discussions, and facilitate activities that keep our students engaged. There’s a lot out there to help you do the things listed above, but how can you sift through all the options? Utilizing time during the summer months to sort through the possibilities enables me to select the best ideas and plan ahead.


I reach out to other educators, knowing there are innovative ideas just waiting to be incorporated into my class. I’ve asked other educators how they assign projects. When feeling uneasy about setting up a classroom discussion, I’ll meet with a co-worker known for being incredibly collaborative. Often, I’ll reach out to a colleague who teaches in a different subject area and put my own spin on what I learn to create a new best practice.


As we shift back to the school year, reflect on these four ways to spend your summer vacation to make things easier for you in the classroom. Happy educators can make for happy students, as well as create healthy environments in which students can thrive.


How was your summer vacation? What tips do you have for channeling that relaxed summer vibe during the school year? Post a comment in the space below, and I will be sure to connect with you.


Doug Petrick holds an Architectural Engineering degree from Pennsylvania State University and a Masters of Arts in Teaching from California University of Pennsylvania. He is currently a high school Physics educator at Upper St. Clair High School in Pittsburgh. Doug regularly contributes to a series for educators on The Wiley Network offering practical advice and instructional strategies.


Image credit: pexels.com/Skitterphoto


Image credit: pexels.com/Skitterphoto

    Diane Rubino
Diane Rubino
Adjunct Instructor, New York University

active.jpg“Never Give Up and You Will Shine” read the t-shirt of the small boy ahead of me. I trailed the boy and his nanny, as he zigzagged over the sidewalk on his training wheels, pairing the slogan to the idea of children who get a trophy for showing up to the race, whether or not they win.


By the time little cyclists like this reach my class the “Showing Up Trophy” has been promulgated countless times. Recognizing participation is undoubtedly well-intentioned. Truthfully, fear held me back from valuable childhood experiences. So, maybe I could’ve used some trophies in my early years. Nonetheless, the reality is that this idea makes for confusion and esteem busting in classrooms down the pike.


When Working Hard Isn’t Working


The Trophy is foreign to me. So, I’ve struggled to manage related, cross-generational conversations. For example, on occasion, a perplexed or annoyed student will comment on a grade that’s lower than desired by noting, “I’ve worked hard on this assignment.” Or “I’ve spent more time on this task than any other.” A colleague recently got an email bearing a familiar refrain from someone in her class: “I’m trying as hard as I can.”


The subtext of these comments appears to be that the assessment system is malfunctioning. The evaluation fails to recognize that the student not only showed up but also made an effort. Others seem deflated in the face of the newly realized reality. If effort alone won’t make successful, what will?


I stumbled the first time the I’m-trying-hard-and-therefore-should get a better grade idea came my way. It seems patently obvious TO ME that everyone struggles toward goals that don’t materialize. I said as much when I heard it again. I pointed out that persistence is only one ingredient in success. But the argument failed to persuade. 


I needed to underscore that working hard does not always equate with success.  I also wanted a more convincing response to affirm the validity of my rubric while acknowledging my student’s effort.


Because a defeated student is tough to motivate I also needed to communicate that those who fail are not failures. Ironically, that’s the time where never giving up would come in handy. But it’s also the exact moment when the aphorisms fade.


So, I reached out to other instructors for advice. Their collective response addressed my concerns aggregated in these guidelines.


1.     Remember the negative consequences of giving an A for effort

A seasoned teacher used to consider effort when calculating the grades of those who started with poor skills. Until he realized this was “unfair—prejudicial, in fact” to others. “…I abandoned elevating grades on the basis of effort. I think students should be graded on what they produce, not on the effort they expend on producing it. I tell that to my students at the beginning of a course,” he said.


2.     Provide well-defined expectations at the outset


NYU instructor John Deats offered: “Unless I made an egregious error (and I've made several over the years), my answer [to grade challenges] is:  All grading is evaluated against performance and expectations...Then I review the paper and point out its shortcomings.”

“I tell them that a “B” (the usual threshold for a complaint) is reflective of the paper--a good grade (and point the student to the school’s grade scale, which clearly defines what each grade means), and actually what they learned is more important than any letter grade.”

“I also refer students to the syllabus, which is clear in saying that the quality of the outcome is what matters, not just that one worked hard to complete the project.”

“You can't be the 'good cop,'” he concludes, “only a consistent one.”


3.     Be honest about the effort required to complete the task--—even for professionals


My colleagues and I are professional communicators. So, NYU School of Professional Studies teacher, Don Bates mines his professional experience. “For me, no matter how hard you work, it’s the final product that counts. I can write things in an hour or two, but usually, I spend far more time. And I’m a professional. Ditto for most writers I know. Good writing of any sort takes a lot of concentrated time.”

“Rather than working hard, students should work smart, i.e., instead of winging their assignments, as most students do, they should study samples, review rules, outline, etc., before they plunge into the actual writing. They should try a draft or two, maybe share with other students and a couple of adults to see what they think of the draft as readers, asking: Does it make sense? Is it as clear as can be? As succinct? Helpful? Insightful? Actionable?”

Don found a creative way to demonstrate how writers struggle with words, using poetry to make his point, like Yeats’ Adam’s Curse and A.J. Liebling’s pithy ”I can write faster than anyone who can write better, and I can write better than anyone who can write faster.”

4.     Encourage self-reflection


NYU instructor Craig Mills refined my general notion that each of us struggles toward goals that don’t materialize. He suggested a way to help students connect with the reality of their own life experience by asking. “Did you get into every college or secure every job or internship you applied to, even after painstaking effort?”

5.     Find humane ways to keep students motivated


Only students who feel hopeful about their capacity to improve are likely to endure the struggle of hard work and expend even more effort. Another peer began to give students extra credit projects. “It gives them a way to feel more accomplished.”

Of course, there’s no right answer, though talking with peers yielded smart ideas. Nor is it mine alone to change the course of a river flowing for decades. Instead, my task is to respond thoughtfully. Upon reflection, I reconsidered the Showing Up Trophy’s value. I began to see merit, rather than reflexively dismissing the concept. At least now I can be confident that my imperfect response is carefully considered. In future, similar conversations I’ll undoubtedly stumble and yet continue to move forward, modeling the acceptance I’m preaching.  


How do you respond when students object to their grades? Let us know in comments below.


Photo credit: pexels/suelynn parker


    Diane Rubino
Diane Rubino
Adjunct Instructor, New York University

In preparing to teach in Eastern Europe I bought a balaclava. I stockpiled the head covering with the long underwear and sock liners I purchased to fend off my anxiety about the region’s blizzards. Just_Visiting (002)-smaller.jpgBut the Ice Age I imagined never arrived. Instead, I enjoyed a mild Bulgarian winter while reading on Facebook about the snowy cold near my Northeastern US home.


Before leaving I created fears that didn’t materialize. I channeled my energy into projects like fretting endlessly over my syllabus.


I learned that my skills are transferable and what I didn’t know could be learned or improvised. The experience was also a powerful reminder of the essential role of a knowledgeable and patient professional network in helping me succeed.*




“Why Bulgaria?” people had asked. Simply, I was joining my Fulbright Scholar partner at the American University in Bulgaria (AUBG). Fortunately, the school needed my subject expertise. The university’s “American-style” academic model eased the transition with recognizable touchstones, from the learning management system to the cafeteria’s vegan entrees. Though American, I was not entirely “foreign” to my students either. Unbeknownst to me, many spend summers working in resorts like Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. And, although Bulgaria is off the radar to many people here in the States, the culture is in many ways familiar. Even still, I would be far from the people and things that mattered.

What I Know Now


I had fantasized about working overseas many times. But when the dream became a reality I needed a plan to accommodate the altered work and social contexts. If you've ever thought about teaching abroad, the short answer is that it’s rewarding. But it helps to keep a few key sanity-saving strategies in mind. Here are some ideas I wished I’d understood before I left.


1. Keep Moving.

While I was abroad I rarely thought about home. Instead, I worked. It was only after I returned home that I realized the long days were a support mechanism. Focusing on others, an essential component of teaching anyway, anchored me.


Being away from daily routines and long-time relationships meant more free time. That, combined with having my own private office—unusual for adjuncts I know in the USA —provided the opportunity and space to connect with students. Individual conversations let me focus on the most enjoyable part of teaching: learning about new people. It’s also the best way to get a read on the class as well as provide individualized instruction.


2. Seek Comrades. I like to talk shop. I enjoyed many “Big Ideas” conversations with colleagues, philosophizing about The Academy. The instructors I met there, like peers at home, worried about their own classroom performance and their students. We bonded over concerns about how the demanding students and those who prefer partying to school will fare in the “real world.” We shared techniques to sharpen the next generation’s writing and critical thinking skills. We found commonality in discussing the influence of social media and communication devices in the classroom. These shared interests gave me a starting point that crossed cultural barriers. It may have also signaled my commitment to the students and to the school.


As a visiting instructor, I was not only interested in learning faculty perspectives; I was also reliant on their experience in navigating new terrain. Suddenly, all the rules of getting by in the world were different. Learning how to work legally, finding housing, and reviewing the appropriateness of my text, had to be carefully considered with the help of my new colleagues. Having the support of a savvy organization accustomed to managing international staff was incredibly important, which never occurred to me until I was overseas.


3. Assume the Best.

It’s difficult to have a grasp of your students’ true capacity until you’re in front of the group. Distance and international boundaries exacerbate that fact.


It’s easier to start with high expectations for the classroom and adjust if needed, giving the brightest and hardest working a goal to reach for and strugglers a path to follow. There’s much back and forth everywhere about whether native and non-native speakers should be evaluated with the same standards. At an American university, wherever it’s located, I expect students to do what’s assigned regardless of their mother tongue.


Lightening the load by removing tasks allows students time to catch up when needed. I also added ungraded project check-ins, like requiring students to submit a bibliography for review before I read their papers. These changes required fluidity. But the alternative of adding more work if I’d underestimated capabilities is a losing proposition.


4. Challenge Convention. “The students here are resigned,” a German exchange student replied when I asked about his experience at the school. It’s unfair to paint the campus with one brush, especially because of its international student body. Yet I too noticed stoicism in my majority-Bulgarian classrooms. In fact the nation’s young people often emigrate in search of opportunities abroad, making it “the fastest-shrinking population in the world.”


My class appeared skeptical about their country’s capacity for social change. Bulgaria, for example, placed last on Transparency International’s regional Corruption Perceptions Index. The students were certain this phenomenon was immutable and scoffed at efforts to end corruption. After a classroom discussion about the nation’s media monopoly a Russian—no stranger to media monopolies-- expressed surprise that his Bulgarian classmates reported the situation matter-of-factly. He marveled over their lack of outrage about the situation.


As an outsider with a short-term appointment, I felt freer than I do at home to make waves. Supported by likeminded school leaders, I challenged the sense of resignation. I realized the students’ pessimism blinded them to local organizations who were addressing social ills. I made a side project of inviting change-makers to meet with students, hoping that a spotlight on these independent individuals would kindle hope and spark action.


The Unknown Unknowns


What made my experience abroad the most uncomfortable and the most rewarding were the unknowns. With the support of my AUBG peers, I did things I hadn’t considered before.


On the surface, the differences were vast. The reality was closer than I imagined. The experience was at times uncomfortable. But I came back stronger, and even more likely to encourage other teachers to do the same.


*Warm waves of gratitude to my American University in Bulgaria colleagues: You made my life better.


Photo credit: Diane Rubino


For the Love of Teaching

Posted Jul 18, 2018
    Laura Goldsberry
Laura Goldsberry
Marketing Manager, Wiley

We researched why teachers find their careers so fulfilling, what brought them into the field, and how they stay motivated. Tell us why you became an educator, and what keeps you going day to day. If you're looking for more inspiration, as well as practical advice, check out our Education titles here.






    Nicole Bogdan
Nicole Bogdan
Student, Stockton University


“Writing is a skill, not a talent, and this difference is important because a skill can be improved by practice”- Robert Stacy McCain


Many students steer clear of writing courses, believing the amount of work required will have little return on investment (ROI). While my peers ran the other way, I chose to jump into the deep end of the pool, knowing the reward of learning to write well would more than justify the effort. In a highly competitive job market, being able to crunch numbers isn’t enough; strong soft skills—particularly in written communication—enable a job candidate to stand out in a crowded field of applicants.


Turning our attention to the different business functions: sales, marketing, management, finance, human resources, etc.; all of these require writing, and when it comes to writing for business, one size doesn’t fit all. A blog post like this is far less formal than a sales letter. An executive summary needs to be concise and hit the critical points. Copywriting for marketing campaigns often involves the creative skills of a master storyteller.


While there are business-specific writing courses, I took some that weren’t geared just toward business students, and I’m glad I did. Here are the classes I joined along with takeaways from each.


A course in argumentation and persuasion revealed to me how a salesperson can use writing to turn a prospect into a customer by creating a well-crafted proposal, or how a job candidate can catch the eye of a potential employer with a compelling cover letter.


Another class was not a writing course per se, but writing intensive. The course focused on advertising, fads, and consumer buying behavior. Here, I gained insight into why some ads succeed while others don’t, how fads begin, and what motivates people to open their wallets and spend money.


Finally, I took a course far off the beaten track for business majors—creative writing. What makes a good marketing campaign? Think about the ones you remember most. I’ll bet there was a strong story at the center. What’s the secret sauce to storytelling? It’s an appeal to the emotions—getting at those things we connect with the most.


As a finance major, in my future job role, apart from working heavily with numbers, I’ll be conducting research, diving deep into the authoritative literature related to my function, documenting findings on paper, and drafting reports. I’m now confident in my abilities to tackle the written-communication aspect of finance work because of the solid foundation I gained.


While it seems unlikely that I’ll be creating marketing campaigns or drafting a sales proposal working in finance; my business future may change course. What I've learned from my leap into writing is a valuable understanding of how critical writing is across business functions, making me a well-rounded job candidate-one who stands out in a crowded field—and for where I am right now, that is the ultimate ROI.


Do you emphasize the importance of writing with your students? Feel free to share this perspective on the importance of good writing skills with your students.


Photo credit: pexels.com/startup stockphotos

    Laura Goldsberry
Laura Goldsberry
Marketing Manager, Wiley


While the validity of Student Evaluations of Teaching (SETs) is still up for debate, feedback is intended to help improve instruction. See what fellow instructors have to say about this long-standing practice.


Want to dive deeper into the topic of student evaluations? Read how one instructor struggled with and then came to grips with SETs: 5 Strategies To Manage the Hurt of Student Evaluations.


    Christopher Ruel
Christopher Ruel
Community and Social Marketing, Wiley





What’s the best advice you’ve received from a colleague? What have you learned in the trenches that you would share with a new educator? We’ve compiled a list of 11 pointers for new and veteran teachers alike to keep you motivated and grounded.


Feel free to add your best teaching tips in the comments below.
    James Bowen
James Bowen
CEO, Experiential Simulations

In this latest podcast, Professor Janine Martins-Shannon, of Kean University in New Jersey, practices a student centric learning approach with the objective of students acquiring higher level cognitive reasoning skills. She has practiced this approach in both China and the US. Here she offers us  insights on different learning approaches, evaluation considerations and takeaways for both organizations looking for systems level thinkers and higher education institutions developing systems thinking in students.



James Bowen, your host, is an author, professor and CEO of Experiential Simulations, a producer of simulations for teaching entrepreneurship and ethics.


Image credit: pexels.com/skitterphoto


    Douglas Petrick
Douglas Petrick
Physics Teacher, Pittsburgh, PA

Recently, my high school hosted a Women In Science,Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (S.T.E.A.M.) event. The day served as a jumping-off point for twenty-four of our female students to engage with six different female professionals in S.T.E.A.M.-related careers.


Throughout the day, five points, or, what I’ll call actions, were identified as commonalities between all six presenters.  If I re-purpose the S.T.E.A.M. acronym, each of the five actions fit nicely.rocket-launch-67643_640.jpg

  1. Search
  2. Try
  3. Engage
  4. Anticipate
  5. Meet


Let’s look how these actions can be brought into the classroom.


1. Search


Each speaker at our Women in S.T.E.A.M event described her career journey, painting a picture for those in attendance that success—however one defines it—is often not a linear process. Teachers can provide opportunities for students to seek out their passion in the classroom. Course content will most often be the medium through which students discover something that taps
into their own interests.  During high school, students are trying to find who they are, and where they belong; you are a guide, helping them along their path to self-discovery.  Students will identify a lifelong passion when the teacher implements a variety of activities and instructional strategies.  And, it’s quite alright if the content isn’t the main focus here.


2. Try.


Over and over, presenters stressed showing up and persistence as a key to empowerment, emphasizing growth as a result of working through a challenge. How can educators structure their
course curriculum to create opportunities for risk-taking and constructive failure?  A safe environment protects students from destructive criticism during discussions and sharing sessions.  Safe spaces permit students the freedom to act creatively and to take chances—they may flop in doing so—and to try again.  As educators, it’s equally important to model academic risk-taking for your students. Try a new activity, a new instructional strategy, or new topic in your class. Your students will follow your lead and become more daring in the classroom.


3. Engage.


I watched as the students became immersed in conversation with the presenters during the small group Q&A. The dialogue flowed from the sense of community developed within each grouping. As educators, our ability to incorporate small-group work is bound by the number of students in our classrooms.  Whether you teach in a lecture hall, online, or in a laboratory, I encourage you to create a community dynamic. Focus on the creation of purposeful small group opportunities throughout the year, and you’ll see student involvement multiply through a shared sense of
ownership. See my blog post, “E Pluribus Unum: What Social Studies Taught Me About Teaching,” for more tips on creating a sense of community in the classroom.


4. Anticipate.


Each presenter spoke of adjusting to constant career changes.  Goals, supervisors, job titles—all these things and more will be fluid and should be welcomed as part of the process. If you equip your students to anticipate challenging terrain on the road ahead, then states of flux develop into positive learning experiences.  Teachers who model a positive tone when the unexpected materializes help students develop a growth mindset.  For example: how do you react when the A/V equipment isn’t working properly, the class is interrupted by office announcements, or a student asks a question for which you don’t have an immediate answer? Do you model flexibility and positivity?



5. Meet.


During our S.T.E.A.M. event, as conversations between students and presenters rolled into the lunch portion of the programming, participants engaged in valuable face time with the various
professionals, and suddenly, for many, the future didn’t seem that far away.


You can foster a similar dialogue by inviting a guest speaker to your class to discuss a relevant topic. Try a Google Hangout or Skype with an expert if your location or transportation presents a
challenge.  Also, you can share a link to a brief video to prompt your students to think about their next five, ten, or fifteen years.  Inspiration occurs when students connect the dots from the classroom to career.


So, what experiences have you had in helping students realize their strengths and think about their future?  Post a comment in the space below, and I will be sure to connect with you.


Doug Petrick holds an Architectural Engineering degree from Pennsylvania State University and a Masters of Arts in Teaching from California University of Pennsylvania. He is currently a high school Physics teacher at Upper St. Clair High School in Pittsburgh. Doug regularly contributes to a series for educators on the Wiley Network offering practical advice and instructional strategies.


Image credit: Pixabay/WikiImages

    James Bowen
James Bowen
CEO, Experiential Simulations

Terence Houlihan of City University of New York discusses the brain differences associated with various age groups, and offers implications for learning approaches in higher education institutions and professional settings. He discusses how the structuring of motivation, feedback and decision making for younger people can draw upon the brain's ability to focus on real time stimuli. Tune in to the podcast below.



James Bowen, your host, is an author, professor and CEO of Experiential Simulations, a producer of simulations for teaching entrepreneurship and ethics.



brain cells.jpg

    H. Kyle Anderson
H. Kyle Anderson
Lecturer, Clemson University

I started using Excel in my computer lab classroom in 1997 and soon banned students from using calculators and cell phones to calculate answers. I understand some schools and majors do not require students purchase a laptop, but most of those schools provide access to computers. No more excuses, it is time to add Excel to your assignments. The bottom line, calculators, are the worst enemy of our students. Here’s why:


Calculators allow students to:

  1. Calculate an answer without developing a coherent system of analyzing a problem.computer-device-electronics-884453v2.jpg
  2. Provide no meaningful support to review their work.
  3. Require duplication of work to:
    1. produce a report.
    2. answer a similar problem.
  4. Use outdated technology—My 1983 Texas Instrument BA 55™ basically has the same functions as their 2017 models. As educators, why are we still using technology similar to the Motorola Bag Phone?


Here are five ways to make the transition to Excel in your classroom a success.

  1. Completely copy the exercise into an Excel template.
  2. Keep it simple using simple commands.
  3. Spend brief periods of class time on how to use Excel.
  4. Let Excel take the math out of the exercise,
  5. Do not share your Excel solution with your class.


First, select an exercise or problem and completely copy it into an Excel worksheet. This avoids lost time with students inputting data, facilitates focusing on creating a solution, and provides a template for students to learn how to develop an effective approach to solve problems. I use Box cloud storage to save and share files with my students. Be sure to synchronize your Box folders to your computer, so any changes you make to the files are automatically updated in the link you provide your students. Google Docs work, but their version of Excel is cumbersome to use. Also, make sure that you only allow students to download your files to avoid issues with your files being changed or deleted.


Second, Excel is easy to use, but your students might be afraid of giving up their calculators, so spend extra time in class with quick tips and techniques for using Excel. Keep it simple, in my introduction classes my students only have to be able to add, subtract, divide, multiply, copy, paste, save, and use absolute references.  My class structure is flipped, so I form groups for students to solve in-class assignments. This allows students to help each other and frees me to walk around and work with groups and individual students. I increase motivation by assigning approximately one point for every in-class assignment. Students transfer their answers to the online homework for automatic grading and posting to my Canvas grade book. This accounts for a total of approximately 50 points in my 1,000 point class or about a half a letter grade.


Third, spend brief periods of class time on time on how to use Excel in the In-class assignments. There are short videos in the Excel help menu for anything you want to do, but I also created a KyleTV video on Essential Excel Skills to help students learn the basics of what they need for my class.

Click on the links below to download my video and the Excel file template to use in your class.

Essential Excel Skills Video

Excel File for video


Fourth, take the math out of the exercise. I set up my in-class exercises with the key data already input so students can focus on using Excel to work out the solution and we spend the majority of class time discussing what the solution means. Most often, a student is not required to enter any numbers in the in-class assignment, just manipulate data.

I start every semester with a simple math test requiring 30 calculations, and after 5 minutes, I stop the test. At most, 20% of the students have an answer, and the rest are still keying numbers into their phones and calculators. My students then download my Excel template and solve the problem in about 20 seconds using two formulas and copy and paste.



What is the total of the following?

Data Set


Divided by

Times by












































The ease of calculating many data points with a simple equation allows us to easily incorporate tools such as vertical and horizontal analysis and prior chapter tools in our discussion of what the solution means and the impact on our decision process.


Fifth, do not share your Excel solutions with your class nor require them to e-mail their solutions for grading. Students will take your solutions and pass on to the next class, so you have to come up with new in-class assignments every semester.


If you have them turn-in the Excel file, they will “save time - cheat” by copying other students’ files and “change the appearance.” I want my students to collaborate, so they all get the same in-class assignment but the end of chapter – EOC’s are algorithmic. This promotes students working homework together and understanding of the results since each student has different numbers.

In conclusion, it is time to toss out that Bag Phone, retire our old ways, and embrace business practices of today. It is a lot of fun, and your students will appreciate it when they get first internship or job!


Remember, you are not teaching students how to use Excel but how to think with Excel.


If you’d like to learn more, or request the templates I use for Intermediate and Managerial Accounting in-class assignments, put a note in the comments box below and I’ll be sure to get back to you.

    Christopher Ruel
Christopher Ruel
Community and Social Marketing, Wiley

I recently connected with Carmen Nuesi Peralta, a 19-year-old college student, originally from the Dominican Republic. Carmen has lived in the US since 2015 and is an accounting student at York College in New York City.  I asked Carmen questions that explored her background, her life goals, and most importantly, how she overcame some significant obstacles such as bullying and language issues to break out of her comfort zone and become an inspiration for others.


Q. What was one of the toughest things you experienced growing up in the Dominican Republic and what did you learn from it?


Carmen_Nuesi_Peralta.pngA. One of the hardest things I had to face was the fact that my father was not able to attend any of the big moments I had as achild. This part of my story may sound familiar to a lot of Hispanic families when one parent goes to the U.S to pursue the famous “American Dream.” I always wanted him to be present and feel proud of my accomplishments, but he was doing what was necessary for us as a family to ensure a bright future in a new country. I didn't understand this at the time, but now I see the sacrifice he made on our behalf.


My mother taught me that I had to make things happen. Just like my dad, I needed to do things even if they weren't comfortable. While still living in the Dominican Republic, my mom pushed me to graduate high school; then she encouraged me to go further. "Do you want just a high school diploma?" She would ask. I wanted to be like my mother: an inspiration to others, but I didn’t quite know how. My comfort zone was staying home. Going to school was hard because of bullying.


Q. What’s one example of you breaking out of your comfort zone?


A. My mother was very good at public speaking. One of my life-goals is the continual development of this skill. My first public speaking experience was in middle school. I had to present the life of Cristobal Colon in front of over 500 people from all over the Dominican Republic. In the beginning, I didn't want to do it.  But, my mother had me practice, practice, practice and by doing so I built up confidence. I continued to practice and work on my presentations, and by the time I was in high school, I was able to participate in the Model United Nations Program and speak in front of the UN Ambassador from the Dominican Republic! Confidence through practice is everything.


Q. How did you feel about coming to the United States?


A. When I came to the United States, I was both happy and afraid. The happy part was being able to see my father while the bad part was my fear of being bullied. For most of my life, I was bullied because of my weight. While I looked forward to starting a new life, beginning again, and discovering myself, I was afraid the nastiness of others was going to follow me. On top of this, I was entering an entirely different world, a place where I couldn't speak the language. I had to leave my family—my mother and my brothers. How would I find a job? What if the bullying continued? I had to believe in myself. The fears I had about bullying didn't come true, but the result of the pain I experienced is still something I am working to overcome, and part of the healing process involves helping others.


Q. Can you tell us about some of the ways you are helping others?


A. When I met my first accounting professor, he encouraged me to take on extracurricular activities, something I was reluctant to do because I was afraid of entering a situation where bullying could occur.


After trying a few different organizations, I found a home in the Accounting Club and the National Association of Black Accountants Chapter (NABA). My fear went away as my peers encouraged me—something I wasn't used to—and their kindness was amazing. Because of that, I had a desire to give back to the organization. In December 2017, I decided to run for the position of Vice-President of the York College NABA Chapter, and I got it! Now I play a big role supporting an organization that gave me so much.


I also became a Student Partner for WileyPLUS after being nominated by one of my professors. As a Student Partner, I help students use the WileyPLUS platform. I learned to speak English just two years ago, and yet at the beginning of each semester, I use my public speaking skills to present in front of a class. It’s such a beautiful feeling when fellow accounting students come to me asking for advice, and I can help them succeed. My time as a student partner has been a double blessing since I have also gotten to know many students who were bullied. I encourage them through my words and experiences, giving them hope and inspiration to not let fear hold them back.


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