The Importance of Reading

Last week I had a chat with my nephew who is a grad student studying history and I found myself talking about what I like to call, reading stamina. Like most things reading is a skill and we all learn how to read as children, but no one ever talks about how exhausting reading can be, unless you are in the humanities like a literature, history, or philosophy major especially in grad school. The good thing about reading is that it is a buildable skill the more you read the easier it gets.

 So that conversation got me to thinking about my students and how little they actually read. Of course most of us love to spend time online because it is easier especially after a long day. It seems that the more we use the internet and stay connected on social networks and the like, the less we enjoy reading for extended periods of time. As great as the internet is it is also extremely addicting because it offers a lot of easy content 24/7. Add the instant accessibility to everything from Instagram to streaming the newly released movie on our smart phone. Many of us end up going down the rabbit hole of watching Instagram stories or Tiktok videos for a couple of hours thinking we only spent 20 minutes on it. So where do we go from here?

Whether students like to admit it or not, reading is extremely important to the development of their thinking and critical skills. How do we get students not just to read their textbooks, but also learn to love books and reading? This love of reading can be developed as an adult, but it can take a lot longer to develop that habit because of all of the distractions around us. It really should begin in elementary school. It only takes a couple of really good ELA teachers to help create the foundation for a reading habit to grow along with the help of a parent that is willing to emulate the activity and show the child that there is in fact just as much joy and excitement that s/he can get from a book as they can from a video game. I know it sounds like a stretch to suggest that both reading and gaming can bring the same the amount of pleasure and happiness, but it’s true. It is a matter of mind set. Now I am not going to talk about reading strategies because if you google them hundreds of posts are going to appear.

What I am going to talk about is how I turned my child into reader. Before I begin let me tell you that he is an active child who plays the trumpet, guitar, bikes, skateboards, is on a swim team, and also loves playing video games on his Nintendo switch, so it is not like all he does is read. Having said that, when he was young and couldn’t read well, I started by trying to figure out what kind of books a little boy would like to listen to especially once he started kindergarten. So, I took him to the local library as well as the bookstore and let him pick his own books and then we took them home and every night I read for at least 30 minutes. In the beginning he couldn’t settle down long enough to listen to me read more than a few sentences, but slowly he got use to me reading and he started listening. It came to a point that he would ask me to read and to this day, even though he is in the 5th grade of elementary school he still asks me to read to him. Of course, now a days he mostly reads on his own. Reading has become part of his day, so he continues to read every night even if it is summertime. These days his reading stamina has increased to the point that he reads books like Percy Jackson, Land of Stories, and the Chronicles of Narnia.

So, to answer how does one develop reading stamina, well it is kind of obvious, don’t you think? Read. Read anything that you think you would like and start slow but read every day. Make it a habit. Something you look forward to at the end of a long day.  



Copyright © 2021


Thoughts on Teaching, Taking Stock…

Since my last post I have been thinking a lot about my students that are finishing up the semester and  how I taught them, or should I say facilitated their learning because I really don’t think of myself as a teacher in a traditional way. You know, the kind that sits in front of a classroom and lectures. I actually abhor that kind of teaching because it makes students lazy and comatose. Most of the time they are so bored that they end up looking at more interesting things on their laptops, tablets, or phones. The way I like to teach is when I am off-center i.e. when I make the students take center stage. As a dear friend and colleague used to say when I was a new professor, the lazier the instructor the more active the students. At the time I didn’t understand what she meant, but almost 20 years later I do because with teaching and experience comes understanding.

Of course, she didn’t mean that I shouldn’t work, what she meant is that I shouldn’t lecture so much and let them do active work. When I say I don’t lecture I mean I don’t sit in front of a group of students and explain how prepositions work in a sentence (although in some instances I have been known to do that as well). Because part of teaching business communications includes quite a bit of grammar instruction since many of my students are ESL and International students that many have a hard time writing a cohesive sentence.

When I teach on campus I begin the week by laying out what the week is going to be about as well as the type of work they are required to do, but I don’t lecture in the traditional sense and that is why I like hybrid courses because they allow me and my students the flexibility to expand the number of activities and learning since there is so much information that you can squeeze into a 50 minute class period. So, a lot of my lecturing happens online via e-lectures for it allows the students to view it as many times as they like or practice with the interactive grammar exercises that I have created.

The other thing that I do during this time of the semester especially after I have posted final grades is trying to see if my students have been able to meet the goals, I set out for them. To that end, I use the backward design model by Wiggins & McTighe which believes that learning experiences should be planned with the final assessment in mind. One starts with the end i.e. the desired results or goals and then designs the curriculum from the evidence of learning called for by the standard and the teaching as well as the material needed to equip students to perform’ (Wiggins and McTighe, 2000, page 8)

So finally, as the semester winds down I take time to think about everything that happened and look at my notes and see what worked and didn’t work this time around. How do you end the semester or year?



Copyright © 2020

How are you feeling today?

Today marks a month of our quarantine in Massachusetts at least for higher ed and K-12 as there are still people that are working in the health care, supermarket, and construction industries.

I have settled into homeschooling my son and weekly zoom meetings with my students, grading, cooking, and cleaning. By the way, my house has never been so clean or organized! Slightly_Smiling_Face_Emoji_87fdae9b-b2af-4619-a37f-e484c5e2e7a4_large.png

One thing that CONVID-19 has done, has made us to slow down and check-in with people. Whether that is my students, friends, or family everybody is calling, texting, and video chatting with everyone. I am receiving messages from friends I haven’t heard from in a long time. We are also taking time for ourselves by exercising, reading a book, watching a movie with a child and/or spouse in the middle of the day just because.

When I get on zoom I find myself asking students: How are you feeling today? Some students are saying fine because I think that is an easy answer. But some are opening up and saying that they are feeling overwhelmed, tired, uncertain about the future, and worried. Never in the last twenty-five years of teaching have I intentionally done a mental or emotional check-in with my students like I do now. As I am thinking about it, I wonder why? It isn’t that I don’t care about my students because I do, but there seems that there is never enough time to really check in with everybody.

The other type of discussion I keep having with my students is about exercise. So who is exercising and what type of exercising are you doing?  One student told me jokingly that she will have a six-pack by the time she gets back to school. Personally, I am spending a half an hour on my yoga mat every day for the last twenty days and I have to say that I am seeing a difference in how I am feeling throughout the day.

The other conversation I am having with them is about self-care as well as the fact that they need to turn off their computers and phones because many of them are spending a lot of time video conferencing with their professors and classmates, which can be overwhelming and stressful for them.

Are you having these discussions with your students? Even if it is a few minutes before class starts it is really worth the time. I see my students smiling more and they are more talkative.

The lesson that I have learned so far during the quarantine is that I want to continue to make time and check in with my students and people I care as well as continue to take better care of myself.

How about you? How are you feeling today?


Should I have a live class?

Is it worth going live with your students? The short answer is yes. Whether you use Google Hangouts, Zoom, Blackboard Collaborate, or a different video communication tool it doesn’t really matter. Going live is an extremely powerful way to communicate with students.

I used Blackboard Collaborate with my students because my university uses Blackboard for our LMS platform. The other reason was that it was very easy to use Blackboard Collaborate since I did not have to do anything but let them know that we were going to meet online. The energy that came through the screen was incredible. The students were delighted to see me and were asking all sorts of questions. They felt connected and happy to chat and listen to me talk about their upcoming homework.

I noticed the same thing when my son was on google hangouts with his homeroom teacher and his classmates. On the first day they met, the children were so excited that they were all speaking simultaneously. Five days later they have all become well-mannered and wait their turn while their teacher was online with them. However because they miss each other they login about 10 minutes before their morning meeting begins just to chat and be with each other. These kids are learning a different way to interact with each other.

It is interesting to watch this going on because I don’t think they are realizing that the way they learn is changing. It is incredible to see how quickly humans are adapting to this new reality. From the perspective of an educator that enjoys teaching online, I am really curious to see how online education is going to evolve and develop in the future.

So even if you feel overwhelmed try it with your students and you will be amazed at the results a half an hour will have on you and your students.



Copyright © 2020

Ithaca Educational Solutions

I know I have not been blogging for a while, but I have been really busy working on a new project that took up a large part of my time. So, between my new project, teaching, and raising a young child blogging fell to the side along with other fun activities, but now that it is complete I am planning to go back to blogging especially since I will be working from home until the end of the semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic giving me more time to reflect and write about my teaching.

I realize that it is a strange time to be announcing the beginning of my new endeavor since we are all preoccupied with the CONVID-19 pandemic, but I have been working on it for such a long time and it is finally ready so I don’t want to wait. I think that if we all stay positive and focused on life after the pandemic things should get back to normal sooner rather than later. It is also a way to divert my attention from the fact that our lives will forever change and 2020 will be known as the year of the coronavirus pandemic. For me I want 2020 to remind me of the year Ithaca began.

I named my website Ithaca because I wanted people that visit my site to feel that they are beginning a learning journey. To quote from Cavafy’s Ithaka poem “As you set out for Ithaka, hope your road is a long one, full of adventure, full of discovery.” And that is what I want people to experience on my site. I know that it is a lofty goal but that is what I am hoping for.

My site’s full name is Ithaca Educational Solutions and it was born from my capstone project i.e. thesis that I wrote 7 years ago while I was completing my master’s degree in Instructional Design at the University of Massachusetts Boston. At the time I did not know that I would create a site that would house so much more than the material that I used in my project. The reason this project began was that I uploaded my capstone project to and many would come and follow me and ask me to create a course so they can learn the material I had designed. So, after a lot of requests, I decided to create a course but then it became apparent that it could not be taught at the university, as a result, I come up with something more than just a course and just like that the journey of creating Ithaca began.

Now that I have completed it, I am ready to share Ithaca with you and the world. Ithaca Educational Solutions is me and all of the knowledge and experience I have gained throughout the last 25 years of my teaching journey. It is dedicated to all things business writing and business English.

I hope you go visit Ithaca Educational Solutions and take a look around:

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Copyright © 2020

What I wish I would have known…

In the past, I have talked about teaching online and the path I took to get here, but I had I known what I know now I am not sure I would have decided to teach online or maybe I would have, who knows. Things I found out on the way I wish I knew before I started teaching online:

  1. Workload-It takes a lot more time to teach an online course than it does a face-to-face one. From responding to emails, participating in class discussions, making comments on blogs to reading and commenting on students’ papers is extremely time-consuming.
  1. Course Design– Everything needs to be streamlined i.e. such as folders, discussion threads, and homework assignments are clear and organized, so students don’t spend a lot of time looking for information.
  1. Course Prep– takes a lot longer because everything has to be designed, created, and uploaded before the course begins. By doing that you eliminate the adding to your workload during the semester. The other thing I discovered is that the syllabus became a big deal because now it had to explain everything that was going to happen in the course before the course began.
  1. Engagement-Learning how to build a class community is a tough one to accomplish. In order to break the ice and make the students more comfortable I have them create a podcast introducing themselves to each other. I also use Voice Thread to lecture or respond to student questions as it seems to be easier for the students to understand what they need to do because they hear my voice. I think listening to me speak helps them realize that I am real. I also have them do peer reviews so they get to read their classmates’ writing and comment on it. This activity allows them to learn and support each other.
  1. Set up guidelines for students– Have clear deadlines for everything and return homework consistently. So for example, students know to expect their homework within five days not the day after they submitted it.
  1. Faculty Development– As far as faculty support goes I can’t complain my university ran a lot of different blackboard workshops, but they didn’t do the work for me like at other institutions. That is good and bad because I had to work a lot more that I did before but this also gave me the freedom to explore and create the course that I wanted.
  1. Faculty Mentoring/Support– The other thing that would have helped me at the beginning was being able to see how other faculty designed their online courses. As there would be less trial and error. Also, online teaching can be lonely as there is no faculty community that supports each other while working from home. I would have liked to bounce ideas back and forth with someone who was in the same boat as me.
  1. Tools & Technology– Having to spend a lot of my own money on buying software, laptops, tablets, books, and taking graduate courses. Also, devoting extra time especially during the summer and winter breaks to learn new software, read books, and take classes or workshops so I could design and develop better courses.


Should Conferences Go Online?


I love going to conferences as consider it the best way to find out what other people are working on in my field. Unfortunately most big organizations like Tesol(Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), CCCC(Conference on College Compositions and Communication), OLC(Online Learning Consortium) or ATD(Association for Talent Development) do not tend to come to the Boston Area.

So many times I have ended up traveling to great cities like San Francisco, New York, and Vancouver. I am not complaining because I love to travel, meet new people and learn new things, but lately due to family restrictions I have not been able to go to any outside Massachusetts.

In the past 3-4 years, several organizations have begun streaming some of their sessions online. To my delight these virtual conferences or live streamed sessions tend to be quite affordable, especially considering the amount of money it costs to attend a conference and also pay for the plane ticket, hotel and everything else that comes with going to such an event. A large part of going to a conference is also about meeting people in the field and interacting with them so that is not something you recreate when attending online. So, there are a lot of positives and negatives to watching streamed sessions.

In the last few years, I have virtually attended a few conferences. This time around I  watched the OLC conference that was taking place at Orlando Florida. They streamed live 110 sessions which was such an upgrade from the amount they streamed a couple of years ago. The topics ranged from MOOCs to tips and tricks on how to teach online to how to flip a classroom as well as how to how to design and online course and creating an effective online learning environment.

The other thing about attending a conference online is you are able to access the recorded sessions so you get to view all of them. In the case of the OLC they give you access to the videotaped sessions for up to a year so you actually get more out of the conference than going to the conference. I say this because most conferences have at least 50-100 concurrent sessions each day and there is no way you can get to listen to all of them. I remember one time I went with friends to a conference and we all went to different sessions and then got together and shared what we learned so we could get more out of the conference. So, having access to them for a year allows you can go a look at a presentation a few times something  you can’t do when you are physically attending a conference.

I marvel at how technology has changed our lives as it has transformed the way we work, learn, and play. I can’t wait to see what will happen next!