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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

To Everything There Is a Season: Knowing Your Purpose and Finding Your Joy

Scripture conveys a strong message of purpose for believers. This message not only relates to your life’s purpose as a whole, but also to individual time frames within your life. The Bible informs us that, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). “Everything” includes the job you do. Rarely does an individual choose to remain in a position for more than a few years. One online article gives this statistic from a recent study: “The median tenure for workers age 25 to 34 is 3.2 years” (Doyle, 2016). Some switch workplaces more frequently than that. More than likely, you did not choose the position you are in with intentions of it being your lifetime career. However, no matter how frequently (or infrequently) one changes jobs, God has a purpose and a season set apart for each one.

Each person that works at Liberty University is here because God placed him or her here with a specific plan in mind. This is your “season” to help train champions for Christ at the largest Christian university in the world. Right now, this is a part of your purpose. Job 42:2 states, “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” Knowing this, each person should be joyful in his or her position. Regardless of position, God gave each one of you the job He did because He knows what you are capable of handling, and He knows your strengths, which He is using for His glory every day. Philippians 2:13 relates this message of purpose clearly: “For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Be joyous in knowing that He has placed you here— that you are glorifying Him through what you do, and you are fulfilling His good purpose.

Understanding that this job is part of your purpose, then being joyous for it, will change your perspective each day when you come into work. It will change the way you look at your co-workers, supervisors, or students. It will change the way you handle every scenario. God wants you to be jubilant in all that you do. Pastor and author Max Lucado describes it this way: “Just like a father wants his baby to laugh with glee, God longs for us to experience a deep-seated, deeply rooted joy” (Lucado, 2016). That joy you have in doing your job will not only shine through you, but it will also be contagious to those around you. One online news article by Charles Stanley explains that this joy that comes from Christ is a “genuine gladness in your heart that goes beyond natural happiness” (Stanley, 2011). When you are happy and others see that, they want to have that happiness too; and when they search to find that same happiness that you convey each day, they just might find Jesus.

 

References

Doyle, A. (2016, June 20). How Long Should An Employee Stay at a Job? Retrieved June 24, 2016, from http://jobsearch.about.com/od/job-offers/a/when-turn-down-job-offer.htm

Lucado, M. (2016, February 16). Contagious Joy. Retrieved June 24, 2016, from https://maxlucado.com/contagious-joy/

Stanley, C. (2011, December 13). Contagious Joy. Retrieved June 24, 2016, from http://www.christianpost.com/news/contagious-joy-64724/

Postedby James Bussiere at 10:22 AM | Permalink

Friday, December 2, 2016

Digital Badging – What is it and What is the Benefit in Online Higher Education?

By: Paige Zappitella

A badge is a digital image awarded to display skills, competencies, accomplishments, and/or otherwise newly acquired knowledge. A digital badge is designed to paint a more detailed picture of the strengths, experiences, and capabilities of the individual to which it is bestowed. For example, if you graduated with a degree in project management badges can provide the finer details of where you have experienced growth in areas that standardized testing cannot measure – such as critical thinking or even communication skills.

The purpose of a badge is multi-faceted. While providing the learner an extrinsic reward, a visual to represent his/her skill, there are far more complex processes occurring underneath the surface. Badging seeks to satisfy both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to get the learner hooked! It ingeniously plays off one's desire for personal achievement, sense of accomplishment, and the pleasure that accomplishment brings in such a way to be both an incentive and itself a reward. The intrinsic value of a badge is often also the motivating fuel used to achieve it and the badge itself is the extrinsic motivator or outward “tangible reward”.

In higher education, utilizing badging cultivates skills that our tests and rubrics may not. Digital badges offer recognition for practical application skills such as communication, innovation, critical analysis, leadership, and teamwork.

Additionally, use of these badges may provide the learner more autonomy, giving him/her more freedom to develop the skill sets he/she values most. One way to incorporate badges is through offering the student options on course assignments that measure similar objectives but provide him/her the choice as to which skills he/she wishes to cultivate.

Badges may eventually allow students to skip skill sets they can prove mastery of if repeated in different courses, thus shortening his/her overall time in school.

In conclusion, although badging creates outside accreditation in the interest of cultivating skills that are not standardized, many institutions find that badges enhance the overall value of their educational offerings.

For more information about badges please see the following:

https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=320

https://wcetfrontiers.org/2013/10/10/badgescreditsaccreditation/

Postedby James Bussiere at 2:56 PM | Permalink

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Metacognition – What is it and How does it Impact Me?

by Dr. Alex Barnett

Metacognition – What is it and How does it Impact Me?

Metacognition is awareness of your own thought processes and learning. It allows you to identify areas of weakness and strength in your thinking, leading to more effective and productive scholarship.

How can you improve your metacognitive awareness? See the strategies below and try them out today!

When encountering new material to study, ask yourself: “What do I want to/need to learn?” When learning how to bake, for example, your objective would be to bake a cake that is tasty and looks appealing.

Next, determine the steps you need to take to accomplish the task. In the case of a cake recipe, the steps are laid out for you in order. When it comes to studying, take the time to think about the steps you need to take to comprehend the material and how to sequence those steps. Before you get started, ask yourself what you will do if you have difficulty understanding the material, so you have a plan in place that allows you to keep learning, even if you are becoming frustrated.

After identifying your learning objective and the order in which to complete your learning, be intentional about monitoring your progress. Ask yourself if you are truly learning or if you need to rethink your study plan. Determine if you need to reach out to another person or source to increase your understanding of what you are studying. Think about how you feel when you don’t understand something and develop a plan for overcoming any negative emotions.

A final, but important step toward increasing metacognitive awareness relates to evaluation. In order to grow cognitively, ask yourself how well the learning session went, what you would do differently next time to increase your learning, and whether there are any foundational knowledge gaps you need to fill.

Lastly, enjoy the process of discovering how you approach learning and experience continuous improvement your metacognitive awareness and educational outcomes!

Adapted from https://teal.ed.gov/tealguide/metacognitive

Postedby James Bussiere at 9:57 AM | Permalink

Friday, July 22, 2016

Everything I Need to Know I Learned at Tea Time


By Ginny Gordon

In many cultures around the world, tea time is an honored tradition, and for good reason. Not only is tea known for various physical healing benefits, but drinking tea is also often credited with improving emotions and attitudes, providing a calming effect during crises, and generally putting people in a better mood. Depending on the atmosphere and the people involved, tea time can be somber and ceremonious, friendly and relaxing, or anything in between. Regardless of how tea time is celebrated, there are several life lessons we can learn from this tradition and the beverage on which it is based.

  1. Learn about yourself, but don’t be afraid to try new things and have adventures. Different flavors of tea appeal to different people, and we all have slightly different taste preferences. Likewise, we each have a different personality and live life in our own way. It’s important to figure out who you are and what you like; knowing yourself can greatly improve your confidence and the way you pursue your goals. However, it’s also important to give yourself permission to “try a new flavor” every now and then. Do something that’s out of your normal range of experience. Talk to a stranger. Patronize a new restaurant. Try out a different sense of fashion for a day. Learn about a new topic. These miniature adventures can open your eyes to new possibilities and can even help you to understand others’ perspectives. Even at work, this concept can help you to gain a greater understanding of coworkers and why they operate the way they do. This can open lines of communication and strengthen relationships. Remember that you always have an option. You can either do something comfortable, or you can do something out of the ordinary, and there is an appropriate time for each choice. Keep in mind the endearing words of the title character in J.M. Barrie’s classic children’s novel, The Adventures of Peter Pan: “’Would you like an adventure now,’ he said casually to John, ‘or would you like to have your tea first?’”
  2. Be aware of the people around you and the effect you are having on each other. One of the characteristics of tea leaves is that they can take on the scent or flavor of things around them, which will affect the tea’s taste and smell after it is steeped. This is the reason tea must be stored in an airtight container, to preserve the purity of its flavor. Just as tea must be protected from the elements around it, we need to be aware of the people around us and how their attitudes can influence our own. In addition, we must recognize that we can have an impact on our coworkers and other people with whom we come in contact; our positivity and our negativity both have the ability to overflow to others. This is especially important to keep in mind at the office; a single person’s attitude can color the atmosphere of the entire department. What flavor are you imbuing in your workplace and in your daily life? Are you preserving the original optimism, or are you contaminating your world with cynicism? How are you allowing others to affect you?
  3. Agony and growth are often intertwined. When hot water is poured over dried tea leaves in order to produce the beverage we love, the leaves uncurl, releasing their flavor. This uncurling is called “the agony of the leaves.” Without the agony, we would not have tea to enjoy. In the same way, we must sometimes go through trials to discover a better version of ourselves. Without the struggle, we would not know the greatness we are capable of producing. Loose leaf teas generally undergo this “agony” in a tea strainer or infuser basket. These instruments allow the tea leaves room to expand, thereby producing a better quality tea. When we give people—including ourselves—plenty of room to grow, we may find that they possess amazing qualities we never anticipated. This is especially important in the workplace. If you are in a leadership position, look for ways to give people a chance to do something new and challenging. If you are not in a formal leadership position, take a risk by accepting or volunteering for new responsibilities and new opportunities, then working through the struggle; chances are, at the end of it all, you will shine, surprising yourself with your newfound skills and abilities.
  4. In a related vein, enjoy people for who they are, not who you expect them to be. Strive to appreciate people for who and what they already are, for the things they’ve already accomplished. While people sometimes need to be challenged, there is also something to be said for recognizing what they are already doing successfully, even if those things seem small or mundane at the time. Work doesn’t always have to be about meeting goals. Avoid the tendency to focus only on someone’s potential or only on what you want or expect them to accomplish. People are not defined by their future accomplishments. Instead, value the good qualities they already have; find the positive characteristics that are already present. Some of your most effective work can be done by maintaining your intrinsic habits, traits, and work ethic. Sometimes, you can bless others most simply by being yourself. In the Introduction to her book Bird by Bird, author Anne Lamott gives this metaphor: “It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act…turns out to be its own reward.”
  5. Remember what we all have in common. While there are four major types of teas—black, oolong, green, and white—there is only one type of tea plant, Camellia sinensis. The different varieties are created based on differences in how the leaves are processed and oxidized. People are similar: the way we are “processed” makes a big difference. When a deadline is approaching, why is one person rushed and frazzled while another remains calm and diligent? What causes one person to react in anger and another to react in love in identical situations? Often, this is dependent on our circumstances and the atmosphere in which we are dwelling. If a person has a boss who is prone to overreacting to problems or blaming things on others, the employee is more likely to feel harried and to overreact, as well. However, if the boss tends to be understanding and forgiving of mistakes, the employee is more likely to remain peaceful and pleasant even in a situation that has the potential to become tense. The way we deal with others is directly reflected in the way they respond to us and to the rest of their surroundings. If we handle things with compassion and patience, our coworkers, friends, and family members are apt to follow our lead and act in a similar manner. Just like tea, we all start out the same; how we’re treated is what really makes the difference.

So, in your relationships—whether at work, at home, or in your community—keep these ideas in mind.  Focus on commonalities and on being accepting of people; this can go a long way in improving those relationships.  View struggle as a way to grow into something even greater. Recognize how you are influencing other people and how they are influencing you; there is an impact, even if you don’t realize it. Learn about yourself and what makes you comfortable, but then give yourself permission to have an adventure.  And don’t forget to take a little time to have a cup of tea.

Postedby James Bussiere at 1:11 PM | Permalink

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Why Work?

A Biblical Perspective of Labor

By Callie Cagwin

If you’ve ever sat at your desk and counted down the minutes (seconds?) to “freedom” on a Friday afternoon, you’re not alone. Over 50% of Americans are dissatisfied with their work. Even if you’ve landed your dream job, chances are there are times when you’d prefer to be anywhere else. But, while work can be filled with stress and frustrations, sometimes a new perspective can make it more bearable, or even (dare I suggest it?) enjoyable! And, what better place to gain some perspective than from the Word of God?

The Bible is not silent on the subject of work. In fact, it tells us why we work in the first place. So, let’s take a look!

We were made to work

Some people think that work was a result of the fall of man, but that’s actually not entirely true. Sure, the curse made work difficult (Genesis 3:19), but Adam and Eve were actually tasked with working from the moment of their creation. Genesis 2:15 tells us that God put Adam in the Garden of Eden to take care of it, to “cultivate the ground” (Genesis 2:5). And Genesis 1:28 provides instructions to all human beings to, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Adam and Eve disobeyed part of God’s instructions (Genesis 2:16-17, Genesis 3:6-7), and work became toilsome. But, just because work is difficult, that doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t enjoy it. Ecclesiastes shines some light on the subject:

Ecclesiastes 3:13 – “Also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil – this is God’s gift to man.”

Ecclesiastes 3:22 – “So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him?”

Work is part of what we were made to do during our time on this earth, so we should try to enjoy it. It’s tempting to believe that work is a waste of time that would be better spent on tasks that “matter.” But, work matters! Even if there aren’t visible benefits while performing the daily tasks of a job, there is so much that is made possible because of earning wages. Thus, the next point.

Our work can help others

Think of all the things that money is required to do – live in a house, drive a car, eat meals every day, surf the web, call family and friends who live far away, and so much more. Other uses could be giving to charity or providing for a friend in need.

In his book, Love Does, Bob Goff admits he would sometimes rather not do the tasks his job as a lawyer requires. But, he provides great perspective when he says he views his job as a fundraiser for the things that matter greatly. Because of his work, he has been able to help provide an education for students in Uganda, battle social injustices in India, and much more. Earning an income allows us to contribute toward many other worthwhile things.

The Bible tells gives us further insight on this topic:

Ephesians 4:28 – “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.”

Proverbs 14:23 – “In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.”

The diligence with which we work can also have an effect on how beneficial our work is. One place the Bible addresses this is in 2 Corinthians 9:6: “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” But, that’s not the only reason we should work hard.

We work for the Lord

In most jobs, employees work to meet certain standards set by the higher-ups and/or their immediate supervisors. How realistic or attainable the standards are and how understanding or appreciative the boss is tend to affect the level of motivation employees have to achieve these goals. As Christians, we are called to work not for our supervisors (or any other human beings), but for the Lord. This means doing our best in any position we’re placed in at work. Colossians 3:22-24 and Ephesians 6:5-8 speak about this using very similar language. And, they remind us that the Lord will reward us for our faithful service.

Here are a few other references in Scripture to doing your best:

Ecclesiastes 9:10 – “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.”

1 Corinthians 10:31 – “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Colossians 3:17 – “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Proverbs 16:3 – “Commit your work to the Lord and your plans will be established.”

So, it is important to do our best at work, but this doesn’t mean working 24/7 or neglecting other commands that we have been given.

We were made to rest

Burnout is a real thing. While we shouldn’t venture to be lazy (Proverbs 24:30-34, Proverbs 18:9), it is still vital to make cessation of work a priority. God gives us a great example to follow in the account of the creation of the universe (Genesis 1:1-2:3). He worked for 6 days and on the 7th day, God rested. Similarly, each of us could set one day a week apart as a day of rest. Or, if an entire day is not possible, carving out a few hours here and there to just exist instead of striving to do can be helpful for the soul. Both spiritual rest and physical rest are discussed in Scripture.

Matthew 11:28 – “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Psalm 46:10 – “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

It’s also important to remember that, while we work for the glory of God, our work is not capable of earning us favor with Him. Only faith in Jesus can do that through the free gift of salvation (Ephesians 2:8).

Conclusion

Realizing the purpose of work and how it fits into God’s design for our lives can be a good step toward enjoying our labor. For more tips about making work more pleasant, check out the articles below.

How to Love Your Job Even if You Don’t Like It

Turn the Job You Hate into the Job You Love

How to Love the Job You’re With

Postedby James Bussiere at 10:27 AM | Permalink

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Service Learning: Some Tips You Can Employ in Your Online Curriculum

Service Learning: Some Tips You Can Employ in Your Online Curriculum

 

Working in instructional design for online courses, I find that one of the largest and loudest cries for help I hear from instructors is “How can I get my students more engaged in this content?” Similarly, one of the chief complaints among students is, “How am I going to use this information after I graduate?” Those teaching courses in general studies or teaching introductory courses may experience more difficulty than those teaching upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses when it comes to keeping student morale. After all, it is no secret that once a student is studying in his or her chosen field, engagement and investment rise. However, graduate-level curriculum itself is the solution to answering this common question.

 

So, what is the solution?  Different options exist for different content, but I would like to suggest that if you have not before, take a look at the possibilities service-learning can offer your curriculum and students.

 

Orientation: What Is Service Learning?

 

Service Learning is a form of experiential education that strives to:

 

  • foster civic responsibility
  • apply classroom learning
  • meaningfully immerse ongoing learning
  • be a natural part of the curriculum that extends to the community
  • provide relevant and rigorous curriculum

 

To achieve these goals, apply the 4 simple tenants of Experiential Education:

 

  • Experience – The student has a direct experience with the content area in the form of a project.
  • Reflection – The student reflects on his or her experience.
  • Conceptualize – The student can modify an existing concept.
  • Test – The student returns to the original project and applies new and/or refined knowledge.

 

What Kinds of Projects Can I Offer That Involve Service Learning?

 

Truly, your imagination is the limit when it comes to creating service learning projects. You do not have to limit your students to writing papers. A good place to start is to ask yourself, “When my students are in this field, what will they likely be expected to produce?” Perhaps having your students create one of the following will work well in your discipline:

 

  • documentary
  • SWOT analysis
  • formal business proposal
  • tutorial
  • grant proposal
  • translation
  • budget/cost analysis

 

For those teaching a more generalized curriculum, allow your students the opportunity to express their creativity in one of the following:

 

  • brochure
  • blog
  • Pinterest board
  • infographic
  • cartoon

 

You may think of even more ideas than those suggested here. For any project type you choose, it is critical that you provide clear expectations in the instructions and rubrics.

 

What Information Should I Provide to My Students?

 

Rationale

Humans are rational thinkers and meaning makers. You have put so much thought into the project you require your students to complete; why not share some of that background with your students? As you try to determine the rationale you will share with your students; you may ask yourself:

 

  • What do I want the students to gain from this experience?
  • What are the goals of this project?
  • In what way will the product of this project indicate the student’s awareness of the curriculum and its implications?

 

Criteria and Logistics

Just like other instructions you have created before, the instructions for the project should be clear, and the grading rubrics should be consistent with the instructions. Consider the following:

 

  • What project type do I want my students to complete?
  • What steps must students accomplish to achieve the desired product?
  • Is content worth more than the presentation? Alternatively, are they of about equal importance?
  • Will I grade my students on creativity? If so, how will I express how creativity will be evaluated?

 

Growth and Reflection

One of the most important aspects of any service-learning project is reflection. Students must have the opportunity to recognize their successes and failures as they begin to speculate on where improvement lies and what methods can be employed for its achievement. Have your students identify weekly/regular goals for the project, and have them identify the outcomes they intend to achieve by the end of the project.

 

Allow room for failure. Keep in mind that failure does not imply making the assignment so difficult that students cannot complete the project or receive full credit. Rather, design the project taking into consideration that not all students will be successful in achieving their intended goals.

 

Whether or not you include a formal reflective assessment in the final product of your service learning project, have your students complete a regular reflection journal each week for the duration of the project that addresses the following:

 

  • Did you achieve the outcome you desired/anticipated for this week (or for this project)? In what way?
  • What were the things in your control that you did well? In what ways could you improve?
  • What elements were outside of your control? Are there ways you could seek to influence them? If so, what are they and what would be your approach?
  • What current processes do you see working well?
  • What suggestions for process improvement do you have?
  • How can you apply this project to your greater understanding of the content in this course?

 

Application for Online Curriculum

 

Get creative! Typically, we envision students completing their service learning in a brick-and-mortar organization. However, students may not live near any organizations that would be an appropriate community partner for a specific project. Because students are already expected to deliver the product of their service learning projects online, why not have them complete every aspect online? Two basic options exist:

 

  1. Instructor-Approved/Student Choice

Following the guidelines/instructions of the project, students reach out to potential community partners. Once the instructor approves, the student can officially begin working on his or her project.

 

  1. Instructor-Approved/Predetermined Organizations

In this scenario, the instructor partners with a particular organization. Be sure you discuss with the community partner what kind of work they need completed. Perhaps a community partner must create a new logo, in which case students could compete for the community partner’s first choice for the logo. Perhaps the community partner requires a multistep analysis that would allow for different work to be completed by each student.

 

Timing

Allow enough time at the beginning of the course so that students can contact potential community partners. A preliminary assignment in this project could be for students to submit a list of three to five organizations they will contact. Give a deadline for when the student needs to have a committed community partner.

 

Have a Back-Up Plan

Remember, you have students located all over the globe who may not be able to receive confirmation from a hopeful community partner in time to begin the project. Have a list of organizations you know are willing to partner with students and direct struggling students to these particular organizations.

 

Offer Assistance

Online service learning is a growing field, and its success comes from diligent instructors, engaged community partners, and committed technology and design teams. Offer weekly webinars where students can meet with the instructor in an open forum to ask questions, brainstorm, and share experiences. Be sure to record all webinars and post them later for review and for students who were unable to attend the live sessions.

 

Be sure to discuss all desired technologies with your design and technology teams to make sure proper research, vetting, and testing can be completed. My recommended approach would be to employ the least amount of new technology required to complete the project. Students need to focus their energies on the project itself rather than the technology around it.

 

Resources

 

If you are considering incorporating a service-learning project into your course, I would highly recommend consulting all of the following resources:

 

 

Conclusion

 

A service learning project is not for the faint of heart. However, it is an excellent application if you desire to equip your students with the experience they can apply immediately after graduation. By following the tips above, you can successfully implement service learning projects in your online courses. When you do, don’t be surprised if you start hearing “How am I going to use this?” less and less.

Postedby James Bussiere at 1:42 PM | Permalink

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Stress in the Workplace


If you have been in the workplace long enough, you might have experienced stress. In fact, studies show that stress in the workplace is becoming more common. Stress can be explained as the perception of having little control but lots of demands. According to a survey about attitudes in the American workplace (The American Institute of Stress, n.d.), 80% of workers feel stress on the job, nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage stress, and 42% say their coworkers need such help. We all may experience stress in our jobs from time to time; however, excessive stress can not only reduce productivity but can also impact physical and emotional health. With this in mind, there are seven steps you can take to help alleviate stress. Please note the follow is adapted from an article authored by the American Psychological Association (2016).

The first step is to track your stressors. Different things are more stressful to some people than others. Try keeping a journal for 1-2 weeks to identify what situations create the most stress for you as well as how you respond to them.

Once you identify your responses to stress, evaluate them to see if you are responding in a healthy or unhealthy way. If you are responding in an unhealthy way, the second step involves developing healthy responses. Try participating in physical activity or one of your hobbies instead of stress-eating or possibly lashing out at others.

This leads to Step Three, which is establishing boundaries. In today's digital world, it is easy to bring work with you wherever you go. However, it is important to separate your personal and work life to give yourself time to recharge, which is Step Four. In coping with stress at work, the American Psychological Association (2016) stated, “To avoid the negative effects of chronic stress and burnout, we need time to replenish and return to our pre-stress level of functioning. This recovery process requires “switching off” from work by having periods of time when you are neither engaging in work-related activities nor thinking about work.”  You cannot switch off from work if you are bringing it home with you all the time.

The fifth step involves learning how to relax. There are different techniques you can use to do this. Some people find meditation, deep breathing exercises, or mindfulness helpful. Learning how to relax will enable you to learn how to focus on one thing without distraction. As you develop this skill, you can apply purposeful focus to all area of life, including your work life.

Step Six is to talk to your supervisor. Most likely your employer is not purposefully trying to contribute to your feelings of excessive stress, which is why it is important to be open with your supervisor if you are experiencing high levels of stress. This is not a time for you to complain to your supervisor, however. This is a time where you can talk to your supervisor about stressors and work toward a solution to make it better.

The seventh and last step is to get support. After talking with your supervisor, maybe he/she were able to offer you stress management resources like referrals to mental health professionals, online programs, and articles. Look into these as they can be a great help in learning how to manage and reduce stress. Also, talk to your family and friends about the stress you are experiencing.

Although you may not be able to stop yourself from experiencing stress, if you learn how to manage it effectively, you will live a much happier and healthy life while in the workplace.

 

References

American Psychological Association. (2016). Coping with stress at work. Retrieved from ww.apa.org/helpcenter/work-stress.aspx.

Workplace Stress. The American Institute of Stress. Retrieved from www.stress.org/workplace-stress/.

Postedby James Bussiere at 3:03 PM | Permalink

Friday, April 29, 2016

Gamification: Misconceptions & Application

What is Gamification?

Gamification is one of the newest trends to make a big impact in higher education. The interactive nature of games and gamification brings a new perspective to building course materials and can redefine how online courses operate.

A common definition of gamification is the use of game elements in non-game contexts to engage users and solve problems. Common game elements include progression, story, choice, chance, teams, points, badges, and boss fights. For a full list of game elements, check out the pyramid below.

 

C:\Users\tmoberlin\OD 1\Personal\Portfolio\Completed\Gamification\DMC Pyramid - Updated.png

Caption – The DMC Pyramid as outlined by Werbach and Hunter in their book “For the Win”

 

Businesses use gamification to encourage customer loyalty. Government departments have used gamification to crowdsource innovations to better serve their constituents. In education, gamification is used to engage students in the learning process and motivate them toward greater achievement in their classwork.

Major Misconceptions

For a number of educators, the idea of using game elements in their courses is immediately off-putting. Like many new practices, there are a number of misconceptions regarding gamification that we need to clear up before discussing the application of gamification.

1.I don’t have the technical skill to gamify my course.

Most of the examples we have of effective gamification come from the business world. Companies often have the staff and resources to make flashy products with all the latest bells and whistles to attract customers. What businesses won’t tell you is that there’s an 80 percent chance of their gamified product failing because they focus on the graphics and not the design. Game elements can be integrated with just a little creativity, solid instructional design practices, and some Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, or Excel documents. No technical skills needed!

2.I’m not a gamer, so I can’t gamify.

Do you enjoy Monopoly, Scrabble, or Chess? Do you have Angry Birds or Candy Crush on your cell phone? Do you like watching or playing sports? Are you an avid fan of Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, Survivor, or other game and reality television shows? If you can answer yes to any of these, then you’re a gamer in some way, shape, or form. Even if you don’t play video games (which is likely the heart of this objection) you have experience with card games, board games, sports, and other avenues from which you can look to for inspiration.

3.Gamification requires me to water down my content.

In a great stroke of irony, research shows the exact opposite is true; students can retain more content at a faster pace and with greater accuracy when the material is effectively gamified. This is because games naturally reduce anxiety, allowing students to focus on the content and the learning process with their full attention. Additionally, gamification motivates learners to perform at their best. Motivated students are effective students.

4.My content is too serious of a topic to be gamified.

The misconception here is that gamified content must look “gamey,” with bright colors, silly characters, and funny noises. Some of the most effective gamified products feature none of these traits. For example, there’s a game that teaches students about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the complex modern history of the region. If a topic as serious, deep, and weighty as this can be gamified, your course can be as well.

Applying Gamification

So now that we’ve cleared up those misconceptions, it’s time to get rid of the final misconception; that gamification is hard. Gamifying your content doesn’t require a college degree – simply a new perspective on education and your course content.

1.Look at your course through your student’s perspective.

This is the aspect that’s most often overlooked when beginning the process of gamifying content. Put yourself in your student’s shoes and take an honest look at your course. Is your content dry and boring? Do your assignments engage students, or simply occupy them?

A good analogy is to think of your students as your customers, your content as a product you’re selling, and your course as a store. How many reasons do you give your customers to come back to your store? How much time have you put into the user experience of your product? What about your store and product invites customers to return? Ask yourself these questions and answer honestly to see where your course could be improved with some game elements.

2.Draw from your passion for the subject area.

It’s a pretty safe to say that you didn’t decide to get your degree(s) in a field that you weren’t interested in. Additionally, people don’t accidentally get their doctorate. Somewhere in your education, there was something or someone that inspired you to research and teach a particular content area. Take some time to reflect on what made your subject special and interesting to you. Write down your thoughts and find ways to recreate that meaningful experience in your course. Let your excitement and passion for your subject area flow into your course content.

3.Integrate game elements (and some fun).

Using the pyramid above, begin with a few game elements you want to implement. Start at the top of the pyramid and work your way down. Choice, progression, and story are great game dynamics to start with. Use these to write out an overarching plan for your course. For example, you could give students choice in the topic for their research project, and give them additional choice in how they want to present it (formal paper, audio podcast series, a video presentation, etc.).

Next, use mechanics and components to implement this overarching goal. Continuing with the example game dynamic of choice, you could implement the game mechanic of challenges in the assignment instructions to challenge students to learn new skills. You could then use the game component of social graphs to show students the format in which their classmates are going to submit their final projects.

4.Give your students the ability to explore, fail, learn, and retry.

The recent rise in the popularity of games has had a profound impact on the way students see the world. In particular, the ability to retry or replay a game has impacted the way in which students view failure. Failing is a learning experience and the player can try again using the new skills they’ve picked up.

This new cycle of try, fail, learn, and retry enables educators to challenge students without fear of students losing interest - if the student is supported by the course content and game elements are integrated properly. As you gamify your course, give students the ability to explore the content and learn from their mistakes prior to final submissions. Practice quizzes and low-stakes exercises are great ways to do this. When failure is not final, students flourish.

5.Test your new content thoroughly.

Once you’ve created your new documents, learning materials, and other supporting course content, it’s time to put your student perspective to work again as you need to test the gamified content. Complete the content and assignments yourself, taking them as a student would. What problems and opportunities do you see?

Once you’ve done this, have some colleagues, friends, and maybe even a few students take a look at the assignment. Take their concerns and feedback and work to improve your ideas. Once you’ve finalized your content, it’s time to put it into your course to help your students learn.

Conclusion

And there you have it – you’ve gamified your content! Don’t expect it to be perfect the first time around! Just like with your students, you should use any failures as an opportunity to improve your course and refine your skills in gamifying content.

If you need a more thorough primer on gamification there are a number of excellent books, videos, and articles from Kevin Werbach, Jane McGonigal, Karl Kapp, Kurt Squire, and Gabe Zichermann available. CCD also offers a Gamification Training Course for Subject Matter Experts if you are interested in exploring the topic of games in higher education in greater depth.

Postedby James Bussiere at 9:54 AM | Permalink

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Managing Time and Meeting Deadlines

Remember, Remember the 5th of November—Has Already Passed: 8 Biblical Principles for Managing Time Effectively and Meeting Deadlines

clock on the wall


Happy Guy Fawkes Day—4 days late! Whether celebrating a failed plot to blow up the House of Lords or simply completing a project for work, it is important to meet deadlines. Meeting deadlines not only keeps your job secure and your bonfire burning on the right night, but it can also be a way to glorify God. By working hard to get a given task done on time, you show the other stakeholders involved—your supervisor, your fellow revelers—that you respect them and care about them. That respect and that care are expressions of God’s love.

However, like all things worth doing, meeting deadlines can be difficult. We often put things off until the last minute, encounter unexpected obstacles, or simply do not work quickly enough. As a result, we end up giving our stakeholders second-rate work or, worse, submitting the dreaded deadline extension request. Often, the consequences of missing a deadline are quite palpable—a demotion, unbaked parkin—but sometimes, they are more abstract. Missing a deadline creates anxiety within ourselves and damages our self-worth. Even worse, it strains our relationships with others.

This strain transgresses Jesus’ commandment to “love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). However, where we fail as humans, God offers hope. If we turn to God’s Word, we find many insights for managing time wisely and thus repairing our relationships to one another. Through the following 8 principles, among others, God gives us direction for how to effectively manage time and meet deadlines in order to glorify Him:

1. Recognize that time is limited. Deadlines exist for a reason.

2. Redeem your time. Unless you actively seek to redeem your time, you will waste it. A human’s time is like himself/herself: sinful in nature unless wholly devoted to God.

3. Plan. Just as creating an outline for a project can help guide it to completion, so creating a plan for your time can help you meet a deadline. A plan with clearly defined goals can provide you the focus necessary to keep moving forward. When creating your plan, be sure to allow sufficient time to accomplish each goal and deal with unforeseen obstacles.

4. That said, it is also important to recognize the vanity of human plans. Ultimately, God’s plan is the only one that matters.

5. Be willing to go beyond the parameters you have set for yourself. Try working at a quicker pace than you have before. Work outside your regular working hours. Lose yourself in devotion to completing the task at hand and upholding your commitment to the stakeholders. Remember that God works beyond human limitations.

6. Sometimes asking for an extension is simply a matter of laying aside your pride. Are you worried your reputation might suffer if you ask for more time? Don’t be. Do what is necessary to complete the task entrusted to you and uphold the agreement you have made with the stakeholders. You should not, of course, make a habit of requesting extensions, but know that it is okay to admit you need more time. After you have completed the task, then you can reflect on how you may be able to manage your time more effectively next go around.

7. Similarly, do not be afraid to ask for help. Often, sharing the load with others can make a task more manageable and help you meet a deadline.

8. As in all things, prayer is essential when facing a looming deadline. As your deadline approaches, call upon the one true lifeline—God—and know that all things are worked out in God’s time.

By following these principles, you will be able to more effectively manage your time and meet your deadlines. As you become a more effective time manager, you will see the quality of both your work and your relationships increase (see 2 Corinthians 9:6–15). However, even as a more effective time manager, you will sometimes fall short of your goals and let down your stakeholders. In such instances, seek God’s forgiveness and trust that He will manifest His forgiveness in others. When others let you down or fail to meet deadlines you have set for them, embrace the opportunity to exercise that same forgiveness. As Guy Fawkes, et al. demonstrated 410 years and 4 days ago, it is always better to “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” than to wage a vendetta (Ephesians 4:32).

By Patrick Ragland

Postedby James Bussiere at 3:06 PM | Permalink

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Multitasking Myth

67% of people will check email or the Internet via smartphone on a date, 45% do at the movie theater, and 33% will check their smartphone in church. (source: Onlinecollege.org) 


Texting while walking, sending emails during a meeting, talking on the phone while cooking dinner – everyone does it. These days accomplishing just one thing at a time can seem extravagant, even wasteful.


“Thirty years ago, travel agents made our airline and rail reservations, salespeople helped us find what we were looking for in shops, and professional typists or secretaries helped busy people with their correspondence. Now we do most of those things ourselves. We are doing the jobs of 10 different people while still trying to keep up with our lives, our children and parents, our friends, our careers, our hobbies, and our favourite TV shows,” said Daniel Levitin. 


Multitasking, a term which originated in the computer engineering industry, refers to the ability of a computer to process several tasks concurrently. But are humans capable of the same? According to some studies, only 2% of the population is skilled at multitasking. 


The American Psychological Association found that multitasking may seem efficient on the surface but may actually take more time in the end and involve more error. Even brief mental blocks created by shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40 percent of someone's productive time.


It has been estimated that $650 billion a year is wasted in U.S. businesses due to multitasking. Not only does it cost us dearly, multitasking also lowers IQ levels. A study at the University of London reports that participants who multitasked during cognitive tasks experienced IQ score declines that were similar to if they had smoked marijuana or stayed awake all night. Multitasking participants had IQ drops of 15 points which lowered their score to the average range of an 8-year-old child. 


Researchers at Stanford University found that people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information cannot pay attention, recall information, or switch from one job to another as well as those who complete one task at a time.


Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman reports that multitasking exhausts the mind, zaps cognitive resources and, if left unchecked, condemns us to early mental decline and decreased sharpness. Chronic multitaskers also have increased levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, which can damage the memory region of the brain.


Multitasking as we know it is a myth. "Humans don't really multitask," said Eyal Ophir, the primary researcher with the Stanford Multitasking study. "We just switch very quickly between tasks, and it feels like we're multitasking."


The brain needs time -- up to 15 minutes -- to refocus on a task after a distraction. Employees who refrain from multitasking aren’t just more productive – they also feel better about their jobs, according to a survey from the HR consulting firm The Energy Project. But multitasking can be a difficult habit to break. 

Here are a few tips to help you shift your focus to single tasking:

  • Declutter your mind
    • All of that unfinished business and collection of mental notes can sap your brain’s energy. Put your thoughts on paper or capture it digitally. Think of it as off-site storage.
  • Reduce distractions 
    • Minimize your email. Silence your cell phone. Close extra tabs. Set your availability to “busy” on instant messaging.
  • Make a to-do list
    • Identify your top 2 priorities for the day and make sure they are accomplished above all else. Giving the most important tasks your brain’s prime time will make you more productive.
  • Get difficult tasks done early
    • Use your morning to tackle projects that require your full concentration. People are usually under the least amount of stress in the morning.

 

Remember, Multitasking...

  • is less efficient, due to the need to switch gears for each new task, and then switch back again

  • is more complicated and more prone to stress and errors

  • fuels any existing difficulties you have with concentration and attention to detail

 

by Kara Nichols

Postedby James Bussiere at 4:52 PM | Permalink


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