Self Image


Self image is the way we see ourselves. Some folks struggle with self image and it taints their perspective on life. My self image is fine. I see myself as young, handsome, and pleasant. My grandkids like to draw pictures of me. I go along with this because I attempt to encourage their creativity. There is also the possibility one of them will produce something interesting or cute and I can use it to decorate my office or use it as a social media avatar.

This was the Thanksgiving offering from Olive.

I agree that there is some resemblance. I do wear glasses. I do keep my hair cropped short. I am still participating in movember. However, I also do have a neck and my frown is seldom this pronounced. Do I really look this scary to little kids?

My wife thinks this image captures me quite well and thinks I should use it for my Twitter profile. I don’t know. The image might take the edge off my cogent comments.

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Origins of flipping the classroom

Education is trendy. Cool ideas come and they go. This pattern can be good or bad. Some see this pattern as a form of fadism. The notion that education flip flops (to use a political term) seems contrary to the notion others advance contending that nothing in education ever changes and that the field in comparison to other fields does not advance. I think education is an easy target that everyone thinks they understand and can criticize. How about we focus on health care for a while. We all are participants in that field as well.

Old folks and curmudgeons in particular have a reputation for responding to new ideas by claiming “we already tried that and it did not work”. My position tends to be far more sophisticated. Often, it seems to me that a more accurate description would be we tried that and while it kind of worked we now understand why. As a cognitive psychologist focused on education, this is how I would react to my education colleagues who would cite Dewey (an historical figure in the field of education). By the way, this is the reaction I have to patents (to draw a distant comparison). Make vague pronouncements and you are likely to be given credit for similarities.

This is a long introduction to get to an example. Many educators have discovered “flipping to classroom”. It is often implemented by making a video of what an instructor might present in class and asking students to view this video before coming to class. This requirement allows more class time for discussion and addressing the needs of individual confused students. I might point out that we used to make reading assignments and then use class time to help students understand what they had read. If this sounds like the interpretation of an old person – I have already explained my position on this matter. Anyway, what we learned is that unless we started a class with a quiz we could not assume students had studied the ideas to be discussed.

I was thinking about flipping the classroom when the memory of a movie popped into my head. I have always liked the notion that the mind uses pattern matching to generate thinking and creativity. The idea is that an idea (flipping the classroom) offers a template and experiences that at least partially fit this template are more likely to be recalled. We then consider these experiences, try to understand them and in the process we form more sophisticated ways of understanding. You may have heard the expression “chance favors the prepared mind (Pasteur) – it works something like that. BTW – this is also why you cannot always Google it – you need a prepared mind.

So, as I was thinking about flipping the classroom, the recall of a movie (and a follow up television series) I viewed in the early 1970s surfaced. I do not watch many movies, but some stick with me. The movie was called the Paper Chase and described the experiences of first year students in Harvard Law School. You can get the movie from Amazon (or Netflix) for a few bucks ( and it is well worth the time. Key figures in the movie include Professor Kingsfield and first year law student Hart (a working class, but highly intelligent student among the rich kids). The first year seems to take a weed out the rich experience. None of this is relevant to my interests, but it does make for a good story.

What I recall about Prof Kingsfield classroom approach was what matched the flipping pattern. The prof assumed that students would come to class prepared and did not intend to use class time to present basic concepts. He taught by requiring students to stand and respond to his questions. Students who were poorly prepared were treated harshly. After getting beyond the basic “facts of the case” (the expected memorized details), the prof would begin to probe for understanding and insight. Hart, when he had time to prepare, was capable of going beyond the facts and this was often not the case with many of his classmates who seemed only capable of memorization.

Comments made by Prof Kingsfield during the first class stuck with me. After basically threatening the class with that old “look to your right, look to your left – one of you will not make it to the end of this class” thing, Kingsfield says “you will teach yourselves the law, I will teach you to think”.

There you have it – flipping the classroom, memorization, higher order critical thinking, all in a 40 year old movie about college life.

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Wood and Other Long Term Commitments

I made my living thinking, but now I like cutting wood. I like taking my saw and my Ranger, going into the forest, and coming home with the better part of a tree. I like my splitter and the satisfaction of turning large round chunks of wood into a neat stack of pieces the right size for my small stove. I like sitting here in my “lab” while I write looking out through the windows at the falling snow in the comfort of the fire built from the wood I cut. I like generating long, run on sentences when I write just because I can.


Like many things in life you have to be patient and build toward the good times. It takes a while to understand this important piece of the big picture. The tree you cut up today will not be ready to burn for a couple of years. You get to enjoy the fire from the wood you cut because of the work you did before. Be patient grasshopper – enjoy the journey. ;)



I am thinking for writing a series I will call deep thoughts from the deep woods. Too much work I think. Time to cut some more wood.

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Most interesting man I know

There are some people who drift in and out of your life over the course of time. Such is the case with Stanley Trollip. You probably are aware of the “most interesting man” ads from Dos Equis. Stan would be my nominee for this title.

We caught up with Stan after about a dozen years at a book reading at Subtext Books in Minneapolis. It was a Day of the Dead event featuring crime fiction writers and Stan (one half of the writing team of Michael Stanley) was reading from one of the Detective Kubu mysteries and promoting an upcoming books. The Kubu books are set in southern Africa (Botswana if I remember correctly). Stan is originally from South Africa. Kindle has some “shorts” for $1 and I suggest “Detective Kubu Investigates” if you are interesting in checking out their work. These works are very well written and you learn a little about the culture within which the books are situated.


I would describe Stan as possibly the most gifted person I know. I met Stan at the University of North Dakota when he worked for what is known as the John Odegaard School of Aerospace Sciences. This was the time during which computer based instruction made some sense for “training” when training had to be conducted at multiple locations and this was Stan’s area of expertise. His international experience also was valued by the university and he seemed to spent a lot of his time recruiting trainees from all over the world. Stan and I drafted the proposal for what would eventually become the Instructional Design and Technology graduate program at UND.

Our personality characteristics are what make us unique. If I had Stan’s gifts, I would probably have been an accomplished scholar at some prestigious institution. Stan was not suited for the routine of the academic life. I would describe him as easily bored. He came to the University of North Dakota from the University of Minnesota. He preferred the life style in Minneapolis and kept an apartment there even while working in North Dakota. Flying back and forth was a priority – when Northwest partnered within UND he could take their flights, but he also flew his own plane. Eventually working in North Dakota became too much and he left. I thought his job was pretty cool and I would have stayed, but this is what I mean by personality differences.

Stan wrote multiple landmark books in the field of instructional technology with a colleague from the University of Iowa – Steve Alessi (Computer-based learning / Multimedia instruction). He wrote a book on human factors as applied to pilots. Now he writes crime novels. Developing the scope of experiences to pull this off would certainly be beyond my capability.

Stan keeps telling us to visit him when he is in South Africa. Maybe I will, but I have enough difficulty locating him when he is in Minneapolis.

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PEW Determines Conservatives Watch Fox

Pew just released the results of a one year study of political attitudes and media habits. Their conclusions reveal the obvious:

Are tightly clustered around a single news source, far more than any other group in the survey, with 47% citing Fox News as their main source for news about government and politics.

Are, when on Facebook, more likely than those in other ideological groups to hear political opinions that are in line with their own views.

Actually, the issue of media bias were not found limited to the most conservatives of conservatives, but this group seemed the most extreme.

The conclusions are similar to the position taken by Eli Pariser in “The Filter Bubble”. The reality is that the more we think we are becoming informed, the more extreme our positions become. We begin to assume our position is actually commonly held.

I have tried to determine what can be done about this problem and see no solution for those who do not accept the possibility of a reality other than their own. For those seeking a simple solution, I recommend News 360 as a way to locate multiple sources for a given story or Random - an app that learns the topics you like and presents stories related to these topics. Or – you could probably just watch Fox News on M,W & F and MSNBC on T,R & S. I think everyone should watch football on Sunday.

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Fall Falls

I must stop posting leaf pictures, but I thought of a cool label for this one.


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International Communication

A few days ago Cindy and I were riding through the woods and came across an interesting sight which she captured with her phone and uploaded the picture to Facebook.


Andrew, a friend we made while in Russia, misunderstood Cindy’s comment and posted a reply indicating he was impressed with my wood pile.

So, just to put the record straight, I do cut wood, but my efforts are not of this magnitude. In fact, I cut wood for the fireplace just yesterday. Here, Andrew, is a more accurate picture.



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Your junk folder

North Dakota College Students

It has come to my attention that an ad agency has requested a file containing the email address you were required to establish through your university. You may have consented to the release of your personal information, but I bet few did this in order to receive political ads. I am not blaming either political party because all might be interested in an easy way to contact nearly 50,000 individuals with ads. I apologize for the tone of my linked source – if you doubt my interpretation, you can search for other accounts of this situation using Google.

In my opinion, political ads are a poor way to make a decision as to how you should vote. The information provided is too sketchy and crafted to present a slanted view. Your own critical thinking capabilities should make this clear to you. It is difficult to acquire useful information for making a logical decision, but long form sources are likely more useful. Try reading a newspaper.

Regarding unsolicited political ads. The U spam filter will be unlikely to protect you. The willingness to provide your email address knowing the intended use would seem inconsistent with the willingness to then block the spam that follows. A simple action you can take on your own appears in the image appearing below.


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Before you come for my piano

We are selling our home and leaving North Dakota. You may or may not have gone through this process, but it is not fun. We have lived in this house for 35 years and accumulated a lot of stuff. Getting out requires a lot of work – sorting, packing, donating, throwing and cleaning. To sell, you move out much of what you actually own and make certain what remains looks attractive. The house probably ends up looking more interesting than it has looked in years, but it is no longer yours to enjoy.

Houses in Grand Forks are moving quickly so we have decided to get out of the way and allow the real estate people to do their thing. Today our home goes on the market so last night was the final push to finish things up. It is likely we will spend little more time here.

I finished up a few things at my desk before I went to bed so what I am working on would be available online from the cabin. When I finished, I decided to take a picture of the location in which I have spent so much of my time. It certainly looks different without all of the books and papers piled on the desk.

When I saw the image on my phone it sparked a connection to a song by Jackson Brown – The Load Out.

Now roll them cases out and lift them amps

Haul them trusses down and get’em up them ramps

‘Cause when it comes to moving me

You guys are the champs

But when that last guitar’s been packed away

You know that I still want to play

So just make sure you got it all set to go

Before you come for my piano


Read more: Jackson Browne – Stay Load Out Lyrics | MetroLyrics

I told my wife about the connection and played the song for her. She said it was so sad. Not so. There is nothing wrong with appreciating where you have been and the friends you have worked with. These were great times and great people. It is important to appreciate the opportunities you have had. It does not mean you are not moving on to the next adventure.

But we’ll be scheduled to appear

A thousand miles away from here

More to come from a new location

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Generational differences

A recent post to the Thesis Whisperer proposed that there should be a mandatory retirement age for “older academics”. The focus of the Whisperer blog is to offer advice to younger academics and I sometimes wonder whether posts such as this are the result of a lack of perspective, honest beliefs, or an attempt to stir up some interest in the site.

I do qualify as an “older academic” and for the record I did make the decision to retire. The benefits of age as an employed academic include perspective and institutional memory. I do remember my thoughts related to senior faculty members when I was young. I cannot say that they should “just leave”, but I did feel that the decision making apparatus of my department vested too much power in their hands. At the time, there was a top down promotion control process in that those at a higher rank voted on the promotion of those at a lower rank. This did seem to me a barrier to some kinds of change and I did work to change the process. I did not object to different individuals having different opinions, but I did object to different individuals having different levels of influence in decision making.

There are certainly examples of individuals who stay too long and do not contribute. However, an example here or there is often the basis for flawed anecdotal reasoning. This is one of the basic lessons researchers learn. It would be equivalent to suggesting that young scholars with young children cannot respond in the same way to job demands as more senior and less encumbered faculty members. Clearly, there are specific cases that fit this concern. As an academic culture we both acknowledge certain differences and take a broader view. It may take some time to take a less personal view.

Did I think when I approached retirement that I had limitations relative to many younger colleagues? Yes, I did. I felt that my field have moved to more sophisticated statistical procedures that were not part of my training, but were important in the kind of research I was doing. On the other hand, the pressures of tenure tend to engage younger scholars in piece-meal research. The pressure is often based on publication count than on significance or working toward a larger goal. I assume that it is the tenured junior faculty members that the Thesis Whisperer assumes are being limited.

Regarding the lack of innovation and openness to new ideas the blog post addresses, again this is likely an individual difference. None of my junior colleagues were bloggers and none generated professional content for the general good. They work on publications or grants and that is pretty much the focus of their writing. I am not certain whether this is good or bad, but it is certainly not the impression provided in the post I am evaluating. Individuals at all ages respond to the priorities imposed on them.

I do recognize that I held a senior position that tied up salary money. On the other hand, it took many years and sacrifices to get to this point. The present system evens things out over time. I reached the point at which I felt comfortable – others may not get to the same point at the same time. If I could change one thing about the way the seniority system works, I would allow for greater flexibility. Rather than retire from higher ed because I was tired of scholarship, I retired to focus on my personal scholarly interests. No one must feel obligated to pay me for what I now produce. I can pay myself or rely on my ability to compete in the market. My interest in technology and technology applied to education did not fit well with my teaching assignments in psychology. Educational institutions tend to be divided into small clusters of individuals allowing considerable pressure to be exerted within these clusters and without allowing for a broader perspective.

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