Sunday, January 29, 2012

Big Think and Psychology Resources

For some time now, I have been receiving regular emails from a web site called "Big Think."  While the site contains content ranging from economics, technology, style, culture, history, and more, it also contains neuroscience, psychology, and identity.

Like TED, the site contains videos from experts, but they are more individual and up-close.  These videos typically occur within longer blogs related to a variety of topics, the best of which relate to psychology and neuroscience.  I will link to some favorites below.  Because the videos are short, they can be wonderful additions to what we do in the class, to have another person (read: expert) explain an idea that we'd like to get across to our students.  Additionally, the content creates a wonderful little professional development opportunity for we teachers.

Science and Technology Link Page
Brain Bugs: Hallucinations, Forgotten Faces, and Other Cognitive Quirks (with V.S. Ramachandran)
How ADHD Affects the Brain
This is Your Brain During Orgasm
Your Storytelling Brain (with Michael Gazzaniga)

There are so many other stories and content that are fascinating, I recommend taking some time to explore.  It is well worth it.

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Another disturbing educational trend

This morning I read Kristin's post on Michael Mendillo's trashing of high school courses - of course, only after I spent time using the Hubble Space Telescope -- and just sighed when I followed her link to read the original column and the comments there. It seems so fashionable to bash teaching of all kinds these days, to look for ways to get rid of all these "bad" teachers and replace them with all the "good" ones that are apparently just standing in lines all over the country, ready to swoop in. Or inevitably someone will offer another solution, invoking an entity like Khan Academy and say heck, we just need to have one guy making videos about everything and that will solve the whole problem (something that former Harvard president Larry Summers suggested in this morning's New York Times).

So it was with that jaundiced perspective that I read a press release from the Rapid Learning Center, an organization I was unaware of until my AP Psychology Google News alert popped up in my inbox. The release highlighted RLC's "expansion into the behavioral sciences with the introduction of a new course for AP Psychology." What is this new course, you ask? Why it's the latest in their series of courses that promise that you can "teach yourself the entire course in 24 hours."

Yes, people, AP Psych in 24 hours. Here's what they offer for $199:
  1. 24 Rich-Media Tutorials (Chapter Movies)
    Core concept tutorials with on-screen visualization and expert narration via our signature Rapid Learning System.
  2. 24 Problem-Solving Quizzes (Interactive Drills)
    Feedback-based problems with a scoring system to track performance and complete solution to reivew concepts.
  3. 24 Super-Review Cheat Sheets (PDF Printables)
    One cheat sheet per chapter and all key concepts in an at-a-glance single sheet, both printable and laminable, ideal for exam prep and quick review.
  4. 24 Printable eBooks
    One eBook per chapter, a print version of the tutorial video for easy-to-read
  5. 24 MP3 AudioBooks
    One AudioBook per chapter for learning-on-the-go on any MP3 player or smart phone.
What you can see online for free is their AP Course Guidebook (PDF) and the AP Psychology tutorial, which appears to be a narrated PowerPoint for the whole course. I'm hardly an objective party, but that tutorial is sad. There may be a future enterprise that makes me realize that my days in a classroom are numbered because some product does it better than I do, but this isn't it. I found the Guidebook to be startlingly similar to parts of the Myers Psychology textbook, but I didn't see any sort of link to any other publishing company in the About page on the RLC site.

The tutorial just seems very boring - a monotonous voice reading mediocre text alongside minimal graphics. I didn't view all of the slides, but the ones I did see were painful. Here are some of the things I learned from them:
  • To make a mnemonic, write down a list of words, take the first letter and create a sentence. So "to remember the various subfields in psychology - Biological Developmental Cognitive Personality Social - [use the mnemonic] But Do Cats Play Soccer."
  • "If you cram too much information and make yourself nervous the night before the exam, you might get into a 'mental indigestion.'"
  • When taking the test, "apply techniques to eliminate incorrect answers."
At best it's the online version of a mediocre AP review book, but at up to $199 it's far more expensive. I'd be interested to know if anyone else has ever heard of this company (I hadn't until today) and what your thoughts are if you check out the guidebook and tutorial. As for me, I'm heading back to the telescope to address dark-energy issues if you'd like to join me. I'm hoping not to develop mental indigestion.

--posted by Steve

Friday, January 20, 2012

Stop Letting High-School Courses Count for College Credit

A friend sent this link to a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education entitled, "Stop Letting High School Courses Count for College Credit." For you A.P. Psychology teachers, I thought you might find Michael Mendillo's perspective interesting. I found it alarming. His basic premise is that high school courses cannot provide the richness of experience or expertise that is found at the college level. Here is a passage from the article:

"Lost to these nonscience students is an exposure to cutting-edge science and the methods of science taught by professors active on a daily basis in their exploration of nature. In how many AP classes in high school does the physics instructor say, "At the last American Physical Society meeting, one of my students presented a paper on this very topic"? Or, in an astronomy class, "My upcoming observations using the Hubble Space Telescope will address this dark-energy issue"? Identical scenarios exist, of course, for science and engineering students who miss out on university-level introductions to the humanities and social sciences taught by active scholars in those areas."

The problem I have is that he is assuming that all college faculty are "active scholars." I don't mean any disrespect to college faculty, but not everyone is teaching general education courses at a research institution or has the opportunity to look "through the Hubble telescope" as it were. It also seems that many general education classes are taught by adjunct professors or lecturers that may not be engaged in the type of scholarship that he is describing.

If you have time, you'll find the link to this article below. I'd be interested in your thoughts of Michael Mendillo's position of the value of Advanced Placement courses in high school.

Kristin H. Whitlock

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Using motivation with students - and a great motivator for teachers

Two big fans of high school psychology: Dr. Lee Gurel and Dr. Nancy Budwig (Clark University)
My favorite part* of writing this blog is when I get feedback from readers who enjoy reading the site regularly, so I was thrilled last year when I learned that Dr. Lee Gurel looks forward to reading THSP in his inbox each day that we publish. If you don't know who Dr. Gurel is - and you should - he's an amazingly generous man who is a big fan of high school psychology and who has contributed his time and resources to fund a number of amazing programs from the APA/Clark University workshop each summer to revisions of the TOPSS lesson plans to funding for travel so that teachers can attend conferences and workshops. He is a great motivator for high school psychology teachers! For more on Lee Gurel, check out this nice interview with him (Giving Back to Education) in the June 2010 issue of the APA Monitor.

So I was thrilled to open my inbox last week and find an e-mail from Dr. Gurel with a tip for me - a link to a guest post in the New York Times Learning Network from teacher Larry Ferlazzo on student motivation. I have read Mr. Ferlazzo many times on technology issues, but I didn't know he was a social studies teacher and I'm now wondering if he teaches psychology! His column is about ways to build intrinsic motivation, and he includes references to the work of:
  • Edward Deci and Dan Pink on motivation
  • Carol Dweck on mindset
  • Walter Mischel and Jonah Lehrer on the marshmallow experiment
  • Roy Baumeister on self-control
Check out Ferlazzo's column and share your thoughts in the comments below. And thanks again, Lee, for the great tip!
--posted by Steve

*P.S. Okay, it's my second favorite - my favorite is getting fabulous ideas from my fellow psychology teachers!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Resources for mastering APA style

In response to a member's query, a few members of the PsychTeacher listserv* shared some excellent resources about APA Style and I wanted to pass them on. Honestly, I was surprised that we haven't posted something like this before, but I couldn't find anything similar in the archives.

Here are the resources:
  • APA Style at the Purdue OWL (Online Writing Lab) - a terrific resource for anything to do with writing, and this APA Style Overview and Formatting Guide look great. (posted by Tammy Steiner
  • The Basics of APA Style - an excellent Adobe Presenter tutorial with an audio narration from the APA. Note: be prepared that the audio will begin when the page loads, but you can skip to the next slide before the narration is complete. (posted by Joanne Zinger of UC Irvine)
  • Writing in APA Style - this great PowerPoint that Dr. Zinger uses in her method course takes a step-by-step approach to APA formatting and citations. Dr. Zinger encourages you to use the PowerPoint and edit/revise as necessary.
After I found these resources I stumbled on some other sites at the APA to share, such as the APA Style Blog, APA Style Frequently Asked Questions, APA Style on Twitter, and of course a link to purchasing the APA Style Manual itself. If you have another favorite resource, please share it in the comments!

--posted by Steve

*P.S. Want to know how to join the PsychTeacher listserv? Check it out here!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Get the scoop on Twitter and Psychat

I am delighted to share this guest post with you. I met Heather last year on Twitter and was thrilled to meet her face-to-face at the National Social Studies Conference in DC last month. Take it away, Heather!
Heather (@irishteach) on the right, with the extraordinary Charlie Blair-Broeker (@ctbb) on the left, at the 2011 NCSS Conference)

Hi, I'm Heather and I teach high school psychology and sociology in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago. At the NCSS conference, I told Steve and Rob, I would love to do a guest blog post about #psychat.

A few years ago, I was introduced to the social media site Twitter, but I didn’t do much with it. That all changed once I learned about the hashtag (back in the 20th century it was called the pound sign #). The hashtag unites groups of people on Twitter who want to talk about anything from sports to elections to teaching! Through reading some teacher blogs and a few Google searches, I discovered that teachers are collaborating on Twitter all day long! Teachers are using the hashtags #sschat, #edtech and #edchat among many others to exchange valuable information and build a personal learning network (PLN).

The #sschat, social studies chat, is really what motivated me to use Twitter as a teacher. Every Monday night at 7pm EST social studies teachers from across the country use the #sschat hashtag to have content and pedagogy discussions. If you teach other social studies courses besides psychology, you should check out #sschat The group also has a NING in which they archive chats and are planning an Ed Camp in Philly on March 24th of this year. The #sschat hashtag is what really led to #psychat, you could say we are somewhat of spinoff.

So, what is #Psychat? It is a hashtag that psychology teacher’s and anyone else passionate about psych can use on Twitter to collaborate, share links, ideas, resources and ask questions!

On Thursday nights at 8pm EST is when #psychat has their live chats on Twitter. We start with a brief intro to who we are and then we tweet about the topic for the night. Last week we discussed teaching psychology with technology, which was Jen Schlicht's idea. As a group of psych teachers we discussed students creating blogs, podcasts, Prezis and videos. The teachers using #psychat would love to have more people join us as we work together in a live format.

If you cannot make it on Thursday nights to chat with the #psychat crowd, you can use the hashtag anytime you want to share Psychology content. Many people follow it and tweet throughout the week using #psychat. They tweet articles, videos, and questions from teachers and students about psychology.

You should come check out Twitter and join the excellent group of teachers who use #psychat to improve their teaching. All you have to do is sign up for Twitter, write a short 160 character bio about yourself and start tweeting. Just make sure to type in #psychat so that other psychology teachers will see your tweet.

And for our visual learners, courtesy of social studies teacher, Shawn McCusker:

Thanks for reading!
-Heather Kilgallon
(Oh and you can follow me on Twitter by clicking my name above)

--posted by Steve

I never thought how they were made - Mr Daisey and the Apple Factory

I highly recommend listening to This American Life in general, but the most recent episode is just a terrific piece that I'd love for you all to listen to as well as your students. "Mr Daisey and the Apple Factory" is a piece in which - well, here's the overview from the TAL website:

Mike Daisey performs an excerpt that was adapted for radio from his one-man show "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs." A lifelong Apple superfan, Daisey sees some photos online from the inside of a factory that makes iPhones, starts to wonder about the people working there, and flies to China to meet them.
It's a great example of cognitive dissonance, as Daisey comes to terms with how his actions impact people on the other side of the world, people he never thought about and at one point he even admits that he thought cool tech toys were made by robots. But don't let the fact that it's completely appropriate to be used as an assignment keep you from listening to it just for your own increased mindfulness. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

--posted by Steve

Student Tweets about AP Psychology

At the 2011 NCSS convention in Wasington , D.C., Kristin Whitlock, Steve Jones and I got to talk with teachers about the use of this blog. Steve did the heavy lifting on the presentation (thanks again Steve!), and Kristin and I chimed in about our experiences. One of the topics was how we use Twitter.

I was very skeptical about Twitter at first, but it's turned into my most important way to hear from my "personal learning network." I started by finding a colleague who I admire and trust, and I "followed" several folks he was following, and then it steamrolled from there. It doesn't take me very long to scan my "feed" every day, and I always walk away with a few great articles/ideas.

In case you didn't know, Steve maintains a twitter feed for items related to this blog at @highschoolpsych

Charlie Blair-Broeker attended this session and shared a great "data collection" he's done related to Twitter. Charlie used the search features in twitter to gather student comments about AP Psychology, and they are interesting, funny, sometimes perplexing, but always revealing. You should be able to access the links below to .ppt slides Charlie put together (thanks Charlie! Please add a comment if I forgot anything?)

posted by Rob McEntarffer (with generous help from Charlie Blair-Broeker)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Psych demos from Joe Swope - multi-modal learning

Quite a while ago, Joe Swope sent me this list of classroom demonstrations about multi-modal learning. They languished in my inbox, but I'm finally getting around to posting them (thanks Brad, and sorry it took me so dang long!)

(explanation from Joe below)

Even though we know we shouldn’t, many psychology teachers often fall back on old faithful – lecturing from bell to bell. Not that lecturing is always bad of course, but psychology teachers should use what we teach. Students should encode multi-modally and we should present information to tickle all of the types of intelligences that our students bring to the class room. Here is a short list of 10 easy to pull off class room demonstrations that will get students out of their seats and into the lesson.

Joe's full description of the demos is available at this link - below are the titles of each demo:

1) Depth perception – echo location

2) Where rods and cones are and aren’t

3) Classical Conditioning

4) Conformity

5) Serial Position Curve

6) Remembering by Schema

7) Priming and “reading students’ minds”

8) Operant conditioning using token economy

9) Speed of neural impulse

10) Taste transduction and spatial coding

posted by Rob McEntarffer (impersonating Joe Swope!)

Monday, January 9, 2012

How to get the most out of studying - Dr. Stephen Chew

Dr. Stephen Chew from Samford University is a good friend to High School Psychology: Former AP Psychology reader, and he is very generous about sharing resources and news on several list serves.

A while back he posted a series of very clear and effective (to me) youtube videos that explain important connections between cognitive psychology and student learning. There are piles and piles of advice (good and bad) about "how to be a better student," but Dr. Chew's videos very quickly get to practical advice that is supported by cognitive psych research. These may not be the most exciting videos students ever receive, but they might be some of the most useful!

I recommend starting with the first video and then picking and choosing where to go next. The first video covers 4 mistaken beliefs and will help set the stage for students before watching the rest of the videos. The 4 mistaken beliefs:
1: Learning is fast
2: Knowledge = learning isolated facts
3: Multitasking is possible
4: Being good at a subject depends on inborn talents

posted by Rob McEntarffer

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Make your own gory brain cap

I'm not the artsy-craftsy type, but I suspect some of you (or your students) might be, so I'm sharing this as found on BoingBoing. The details on how to make your own cap can be found at Make Projects. Maybe this is the hat to wearing when your class is doing the zombie brain activity?

--posted by Steve

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Apply for the Social Psychology Network Action Teaching Award

First, this official release information from Scott Plous:
Dear Colleagues,

I'm writing to invite you to apply for this year's Social Psychology Network award honoring excellence in "action teaching" -- that is, teaching which not only leads to a better understanding of human behavior but to a more compassionate, sustainable, and peaceful world.

The award is open to all instructors regardless of student level (K-12, high school, college, graduate level, or adult learners). Entries may include a student assignment, classroom activity, field experience, or web-based demonstration. For further details, please visit:

The application process is simple, and the prize is $1,000. If you teach in a creative, socially engaged way, please consider applying for this award!

Best wishes for 2012,
Scott Plous
Professor of Psychology, SPN Executive Director
Second, please note the deadline is deadline: January 15, 2012 - only two weeks from today!

Third, I was able to hear Scott Plous (professor of social psychology, Wesleyan University) talk this past summer at the APA/Clark University workshop about action teaching, and he did a convincing presentation on teaching as not only a way to share information and build skills, but also to have students engage in using what they know in the real world. If you visit the Action Teaching site, you'll see some great examples of how past award winners and runners up have used action teaching in their classrooms. 

--posted by Steve