The Educated Will NOT Fall For These New Marketing Schemes | @bioamyb | #highered

What do I find so annoying about SOME email marketers?

As I’ve been thinking about expanding my website into a business, I’ve gone to plenty of websites of other people, in other industries, who are obviously trying to do the same thing. One of the places I’ve found some of the most obnoxious people is in marketing.

I found a complete love of Marie Forleo. She is amazing, and her site has a ton of value, even if you don’t subscribe to her B-School. She’s funny, insightful, thoughtful, and truly a pro. So much so that I’ve considered joining her “school,” because she’s so great outside of her paid stuff. She really gives awesome, motivational stuff for free. I’d LOVE to be science version of Marie. Amazeballs. I am totally #teamforleo

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But I signed up for an email from a girl who I saw one of my friends liked on Facebook. She promised some big breakthroughs in social media. I had no clue what she does, even after watching her “first free video.” But here’s what I learned from her, from her video.

Kid’s Career Day – STEM Education

Part of my job as a biologist at the University of Akron is to do community outreach. Tomorrow I will be leading 330 1st through 5th grade girls through a series of workshops on STEM education.

I’ve taught 9th graders, up to my college students (anywhere from 18 year old freshman to 60 year old returning Adult Education students). First graders, though? SCARY!

I have a son who is in first grade. I am the Den Mother for my son’s Cub Scout den. But to teach 1st graders? I find that terrifying! What if they are bored? What if what I am doing is too hard? What if they hate me? I can’t believe I’m this insecure about teaching little kids. I’m perfectly fine teaching 300 college kids, but groups of 25 little kids is a real challenge for me!

I’m going to do a lab with them, that involves observations of Betta splendens – Siamese Fighting Fish – for aggressive behaviors. I have to create a worksheet for them to do. But how do I take my lab that I do with college students, and simplify it enough to do it with little girls?

Understanding what kids know, at certain point, versus what adults THINK kids know is crucial. Keeping them active is also important. To keep kids engaged, you have to give them something to do. So, I’ve created a worksheet that has some simple questions, along with a space for them to color and label their betta.

Here’s what the event will entail:

Kids’ Career Day is designed to introduce girls in grades 1 – 6 to diverse careers in science, math, technology and engineering.  As part of the program, presenters talk for a few minutes about their careers and how they got into the field and then work with the girls on a hands on project.  We are very excited about this year’s program and hope to showcase a diverse set of careers in the STEM fields.  Information about Kids’ Career Day may  be  accessed  from our website at and by clicking on the Summer Camps/Kids’ Career Day tab.    The program will consist of registration and entertainment by magician Tim Angeloni from 7:30 am – 8:15 am, Opening Ceremony with Daryl Woods from 8:15 am – 8:50 am in the Theater, followed by 20-30 minute Interactive Sessions from 9:00 am – 11:45 a.m. in the 3rd floor ballrooms.  You will present to 5 groups of participants (about 20 students per group). During this event, the children are divided into grades:  1-2 grades,  3-4 grades and 5-6 grades. In total I need at least 15 presenters for 15 workshops.  I prefer that you provide the activity but I can help with costs since I have received a donation from Lockheed Martin.  I also have several activities that are planned and do not want to have overlap so let me know what you think that you would like to do so that I can avoid having children run across the same activity twice in their rotation.

I must admit, I’m excited! I think this will be a great opportunity to teach kids about science, and to try something outside of my comfort zone.

Wish me luck!

10 Tips for Completing Your Dissertation, Without Coming Unglued

When I began writing my dissertation, I was overwhelmed. I think every grad student feels that way. Like there is so much to do, and you have no idea how you will ever possibly get all that done. I felt like I was just temporarily sticking sentences into a document that would never end. And I was so stressed that I would end up ABD, I was almost paralyzed with fear.


Photo by iosphere. Published on 26 May 2014

I knew I couldn’t do it on my own. My advisers were so busy with their professional lives, that I felt like I shouldn’t be bothering them. I had a group of girl friends who were also working on dissertations, who were my support group. But once I walked away from formal classes at the university, and went into that dark, lonely place that is dissertation writing, I was terrified.

Say Something, Every Day

One of the best things about having a website is that I get to control the flow of information. I present my opinion about things. I can rant, if I want. There is no one to tell me I’m wrong, stupid, or crazy (at least, not to my face).

Seth Godin says:

There’s a lot to admire about the common-sense advice, “If you don’t have anything worth saying, don’t say anything.”

On the other hand, one reason we often find ourselves with nothing much to say is that we’ve already decided that it’s safer and easier to say nothing.

If you’ve fallen into that trap, then committing to having a point of view and scheduling a time and place to say something is almost certainly going to improve your thinking, your attitude and your trajectory.

A daily blog is one way to achieve this. Not spouting an opinion or retweeting the click of the day. Instead, outlining what you believe and explaining why.

I never have the problem of not having enough to say. I have opinions on lots of stuff (no kidding!) and I share those opinions on Facebook and Twitter, and in person with my students and teachers.  My website is a place where I can further expound on those thoughts, in a place that is my own. It’s tricky when you comment on Facebook posts – if it’s on someone else’s wall, do you say how you really feel? Do you upset someone who has an opinion unlike your own?

I’d tell everyone – students, teachers, university faculty like me, and really anyone who has an opinion, to make their own website. It’s not hard, and in many cases, you can do it for free. Let the world hear your voice, not just your Facebook friends or Twitter followers. If you can think it, others probably do too! You’re never alone, unless you’re quiet, and keep everything inside you.

Let others know how you solve problems. Be supportive of others who are going through tough times. Be the expert. Be you.

Knowledge is free, Instruction has a fee

Knowledge is everywhere. Knowledge is free on the internet.

Instruction is expensive. Instructors are experts who guide you. They lead you with your newly learned knowledge, and cultivate critical thinkers. Critical thinkers use their knowledge to solve problems. Not every instructor is an expert, not every instructor is a critical thinker themselves, and not all students are led by experts.

Education is at a critical intersection. Some students receive instructors who guide them, and facilitate their problem solving practice. Other students are crammed into computer labs, and left to learn concepts on their own, clicking away at multiple choice tests. A cheap education is worthless for most of the students. An expensive education is out of reach for most.

I am concerned about the proposition in the news lately that we give every student “free community college.” Are we simply letting high schools off the hook for graduating kids who can’t think? Or are we meeting the needs of students who need a stepping stone to four-year university? Or are we branding these kids as “remedial” right off the back, admitting they can’t cut it from the very beginning of their college careers? Will the best and brightest go right to the best colleges, and everyone else will be in the community college holding trough?

Because instruction is expensive. Having experts guiding students towards being able to think critically and solve problems requires what schools are not doing now – small class sizes, individual instruction, instructors who care deeply and want to be there, and the money to make this happen.

Kids can find information everywhere today. Being guided by the best critical thinking instructors, though? It’s happening less and less. Where do we go from here?

Do the schools need to change? Or is it the students?

One of the questions that bounces around in my head, along with a million others, is “Does education really need to change?” Let me share my thought process.


Photo by Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee. Published on 02 July 2013

There are students going to college now, who never would have went to college 20 years ago (coincidentally, the year *I* started my undergrad degree at Mount Union).

Around that time (1995), you went to school if you wanted a career that couldn’t be had by just having a high school education, you could pay for college or get a loan, and you had the urge to complete a degree. Not everybody went to college. There were classmates of mine who just completed vocational programs in the high school (like cosmetology, construction, or secretarial), did a traditional high school degree, or (like me) took advanced classes or college prep courses. I wanted to be a vet, so I knew I needed to continue my schooling for many more years.

When “free college” isn’t really free

Our president at UA made probably the WORST argument for free community college for struggling students. He’s worried about losing money. He admits that. From the article:

So we asked the President of the University of Akron, Scott Scarborough, how universities can compete with free tuition at the 2 year schools?


Photo by Stuart Miles. Published on 23 August 2012

“It is a form of competition, no question about, it but even more important than the competition itself is what it does to the overall economic model of the university.  Because if you don’t have those undergraduate students, and particularly first two years of the undergraduate experience you probably don’t have the cash flow in order to pay for the commercialization and the PhD programs and the polymer science and polymer engineering.”

He’s just worried about the economic model? That’s it? He doesn’t care about the students themselves?? Students are not merely “a cash flow.” And when they get to our institution, we need them to be prepared. Obviously, they are not being well-prepared by secondary schools. They will be even less prepared exiting a community college – community colleges are not rigorous, they widen the skills gap, they do not push the student to focus, they don’t collaborate with four-year institutions on what skills the students need, and they have no accountability.

We always have the power to choose

We may not like the options that are given to us, but we always have choices. Sometimes, we make a choice to do nothing, rather than make a choice. That, in itself, is a choice.


Picture from “Defining Moments and Powerful Choices

We choose who we surround ourselves with. Do those people bring you up, and help you achieve your dreams? Are they all talk, and no follow through? Are they making their own dreams happen?

If you have people in your life who are constantly holding you back, making you miss your deadlines or not even try, you have a choice. You keep them around, sucking up all your energy, or you phase them out.

The best way to pick up a new habit, or a new group of friends, is by taking action. Join a gym. Go to the park and run. Try a new exercise or educational class. Go to a forum online, or try a MOOC.

By letting life pass you by, and sticking with what is the same, you’ll never get where you want to go. It may be time to pick new friends, and phase out the ones who are holding you back. The old saying goes “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

Choose those people wisely.

You can’t get by on content alone

Teachers have to know their stuff. They have to be masters of their discipline.


Photo by rajcreationzs. Published on 04 July 2014

But knowledge is not enough to be a great teacher. Content is just one part of being good at what you do. The other part is context. How do you relate what you are doing in your class, to the bigger picture? How do you use what you know, and how you know it, to excite students who don’t know it?

This is one of the main reasons I encourage teachers to blog. Put out a little piece of your knowledge a day, an insight, a picture of what you are doing, that helps your students see the bigger picture. Find articles that relate to what you are teaching. Look online for the best lessons, done by the best teachers. Find their videos. Find them on Twitter, and create your own #PLN (personalized learning network).

I think about school pretty much all the time. It encompasses my every waking thought. I read articles about teaching, learning, biology, education, science, and blogging every day. EVERY DAY!

I also ask questions every day. And I listen for others who are asking questions, and work to help them answer their questions. If I don’t know the answer, I’m a good enough researcher that I can FIND the answer.

You can’t show up your first day of teaching, and make the magic happen. It takes time. It takes special community building, by establishing trust in the class. You will not be a teaching sensation from day 1 in the classroom. You have to build your skill set, distinguish yourself and your “brand” as a teacher, and finely hone your craft.

Having talent as a teacher is only one part of the equation. Fostering a community takes a lot of work. Never ever take your class for granted. If you don’t care about school, why would they?

How can teachers create a community in their classrooms?

One of the most amazing parts on my job as a Biologist is getting to create a community of students in my lab. I’d say I am part of that community, because the lab is not a “traditional classroom.” In a lab, students work in groups to complete labs. In my class, there are eight groups of five students each, for a total class of 40 students. Over the course of the semester, students really get to know each other, in their groups. They help each other during the experiments, writing the lab reports, and compiling their group projects. Admittedly, some groups work together better than others.


Photo by Stuart Miles. Published on 05 December 2012

It’s almost painful to watch lab groups that dislike each other. Sometimes, a group member is absent, or not participating. Other times, one member of the group tries to run the whole show, and other students resent it.