Hello, all:

I hope this finds you well, particularly those of you who are wrapping up your Spring Term courses. Because this year has already been officially recognized as the longest year in the history of the world (and we’re not even to June yet), I’m going to hit a couple serious topics right away, then move on to a number of lighter items.


  1. The Last Day of CARPE Office Hours
  2. Three Resources Related to Online Instruction
  3. Three Questions to Ask When Designing Active Learning
  4. A Call For Student Digital Projects
  5. David Byrne’s Reasons to Be Cheerful
  6. McSweeney’s Strikes Again: Lesser Known Privileges of Academic Rank
  7. A Zoom Performance Review, with Dogs

1) The Last Day of CARPE Office Hours

Today, Thursday, 21 May, will mark the last official CARPE Office Hours for this academic year. Please know, however, that because all of my wonderful summer vacation plans have been wiped out, I will be around all summer, and I’m happy to Zoom with anyone, pretty much anytime. So if there’s something on your mind, something you want help with, something for which you need a sounding board, or if you just want to touch base, let me know. One of the things I miss most about not being on campus is bumping into folks and having random conversation. E-mail me at phanstedt@mail.edu and we’ll set up a meeting. It’ll be nice to see your face and chat a little.

2) Three Resources Related to Online Instruction

While I know the last thing any of us want to think about is the possibility that we might be working virtually come fall semester, it’s never a bad idea to be prepared, particularly as even if we’re face-to-face, it’s likely that some of our students will need to remain virtual. That in mind, three quick resources for you to browse, should you have the need:

First, from Emily Cook, an essay from the Chronicle about innovative ways to find and use sources when virtual instruction makes it difficult to send students to a brick and mortar library. This piece has lots of insider advice–don’t, for instance, give up on fire-walled materials!–and is well worth a read, particularly, again, as we think about course construction and text selection for the fall.

Second, some resources for folks who are finding themselves frustrated by the challenges of leading discussion in a virtual setting. While I do want to point out that this website is designed for K-12 education, I also feel comfortable saying that each of the seven suggestions the author presents works just as well in a university environment. In addition, several colleagues here at W&L have road-tested some of these approaches, with some success.

Third, from Chris Jenney in Cognitive and Behavior Science, a pedagogical repository for teaching online, organized by the University of Central Florida. If you click on Pedagogical Practices, you’ll find resources organized by three categories: Course Content; Interaction; and Assessment. Each area is full of interesting and varied practical approaches–many of which might also be used in face-to-face instruction.

3) Three Questions to Ask When Designing Active Learning

Robert Talbert is a respected author and thinker on flipped learning, particularly in the STEM fields (his own background is in mathematics). In this blog post, Talbert lays out three questions we should ask if we hope to approach “active learning” in a productive way. There’s a lot to like about Talbert’s words: the need to be deliberate if we’re to be effective; the ways in which active learning can be productive even in content-driven courses; how all of this translates to virtual instruction. If you’re wary of “assessment-speak,” be warned that there’s some of that to wade through; in the end, though, it might just be worth it.

4) A Call For Student Digital Projects

From Emily Cook, a request of faculty assigning digital work to help W&L record this moment in time:

The student projects created during this unique Spring Term are an important part of our institutional history. To ensure these pieces of history are documented, encourage students to submit applicable projects/scholarship to the Washington and Lee University Digital Archive. The Digital Archive serves to preserve, share, and enhance the use of materials owned or created by WLU and members of its community by making these materials available in a digital format. Students can submit their work through the Student Submissions button on the front page of the Digital Archive.

If you have questions, comments, or problems with the accessibility of this archive’s content, please contact Digital Scholarship Librarian Paula S. Kiser or Digital Services Manager Cindy Morton at digitalarchive@wlu.edu.

5) David Byrne’s Reasons to Be Cheerful

One of my failings as a child of the ’80s–indeed, as a human being–is that I’ve never really been a fan of The Talking Heads. I wanted to like them, really I did. All the cool people liked them. They seemed like a smart group of musicians, the kind of folks a wanna-be-professor should be into. But in the end? That song, “Burning Down the House” was just too hard to dance to . . .

Anyhow: as if his career hasn’t been brilliant enough, David Byrne has had the wisdom to dedicate time in recent years to curating an on-going, evolving collection of “Reasons to be Cheerful.” You should probably bookmark this site. We all probably should.

6) McSweeney’s Strikes Again: Lesser Known Privileges of Academic Rank

This article was making the rounds on social media for a couple days before colleagues started sending it to me, suggesting I share it. Be warned: in true McSweeney’s style, the author takes no prisoners. If you’re feeling defensive about academia in general, or your field in particular, do NOT read this piece! (Of course, now that I’ve said that, you know you’re gonna read it, right?)

7) A Zoom Performance Review, with Dogs

Every crisis has its heroes, and Andrew Cotter, sports announcer for the BBC, is certainly a nominee for the Humor category in the age of COVID. Chances are you’ve seen some of his work on social media, wherein he commentates, Monday Night Football-style, on the antics of Mabel and Olive, his dogs.

Yes, I know it’s a dopey premise. But it works. And even if you’re not particularly interested in the first three scenarios, please be sure to scroll down and click on Episode 4: “The Company Meeting.” Then try and convince yourself that it doesn’t sound familiar . . .

Be well, all.