Category Archives: Education

How to not lose face on Facebook

image Be careful what you say.  You MUST assume EVERYONE is listening.

Every semester, I try to remember to convey this idea to my students in each of my classes.  Those that use online social networking tools like Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc., must assume that when they put themselves out there, no matter where it is, anyone can see it.  I understand that most of them require you allowing people to view your page and follow your status updates, but there is very little guarantee that your information is going to be kept confidential.

I tell them to think of it this way: Imagine that you are applying for a position or even a promotion down the road.  Your boss sits down to a computer and “googles” your name.  What will they find about you and how will that affect their decision to hire or promote you?

As for a professor who also uses these tools, I have to be very careful.  I’ve set a policy for my blog that I will NOT discuss details about students in my current classes.  And later on, if I do decide to discuss specific students, I will NOT mention any incriminating information (without their full permission).

I was forwarded an interesting article regarding this very issue this morning (HT: Jay S.).  It is from the current issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education and it is entitled, “How to Not Lose Face On Facebook, for Professors” by Jeffrey R. Young.

He makes some of the same points in this article but goes on say:

But Facebook, like e-mail, yields more pros than cons, so the trick is to learn to master it rather than ignore it. That’s according to Nicole B. Ellison, an assistant professor at Michigan State University, who spent the past three years researching student behavior on Facebook, and who uses it herself. "There’s tremendous potential with these social networks for developing relationships and being exposed to different perspectives," she says. They are particularly well suited to academic work, where researchers need to keep up with a number of far-flung colleagues.

I totally agree with this and have been absolutely blown away by my ability to keep up with our past graduates plus finding alums from years gone by.  It is an amazing tool for connecting with people.  And no, I haven’t begun soliciting donations from them just yet but you never know.

On a related note, I still a little creeped out by the idea of a professor, like me, requesting connection (“Adding as a friend”) from my current students.  If they request it from me, no problem, but the other way around just seems inappropriate.  Plus, the Provost of our University is on Facebook and I have yet to request his friendship on there just because I don’t necessarily want him to know that I’m updating my status 4 or 5 times a day during work hours.

What boundaries have you set or would you set on a professor using social networks like Facebook?

Online Mathematics Degrees

image Last week, I received an email from a reader regarding the online mathematics program at the University of Illinois in Springfield.  I wasn’t familiar with the program and have started taking a closer look.  One of the questions that was asked by that reader was what sort of things should he be looking for in an online mathematics degree.  To my knowledge the are very few fully online bachelor’s degrees IN MATHEMATICS available at this point.  However, with technology advancing at its current rate, the barriers to such a program will be virtually gone in the next few years.

So what exactly are the barriers to an online mathematics degree? I have a few ideas but I’m interested in what other folks are thinking, so I am scoping out the blogosphere and reading as many articles as I can get my hands on.  If you have any recommendations, I’d love to hear them. 

Even as an online mathematics instructor, I still believe that the majority (vast majority, in fact) are better off in a face-to-face setting than online.  Now, the only course I teach is a College Algebra course that is required for all bachelor’s degrees at Wayland. None of my online students are math majors or will become math majors.  I’m not discouraging them, but they are all attending our external campuses where we don’t offer the full program in mathematics, for lack of demand, primarily.  So these students range from a few students straight out of high school to the majority of which are adult learners returning to school.  About half of the students I have are truly motivated enough to do the self-teaching necessary to learn the material through the online medium, but the communication barrier still looms as the largest hurdle to success for almost all of the students.

image To answer the reader’s question, “What should I be looking for in [an online mathematics program]?”, I replied the following:

While many Universities have moved to put several undergraduate courses online such as College Algebra, Pre-Calculus and Calculus.  There is much less available in terms of the upper level courses that involve abstract mathematics and proof techniques.

Most of all, abstract mathematics needs a high level of communication and interaction during the learning process.  Conveying ideas in those courses are very challenging using the online medium.  I think the courses need to have both asynchronous elements and synchronous elements, meaning that there will be times you work on your own time schedule and others that you interact with your class or your professor with immediate feedback.  That’s probably the biggest thing.  You also need the benefit of interacting with fellow students in the program.  A cohort of learners is extremely important during the process or mastering abstract-level mathematics.

What else would be important for mathematics degree to be completely online or is it even possible?

But Tell Me, What of Your Teachers

(Presented by Dr. Wallace Davis at the Centennial Heritage Chapel at Wayland Baptist University, with possibly original elements and some from anonymous sources)

While some Universities may boast of their age, of their ivied walls,
Of their great endowments, their marble halls,
Of their vast curricular scope and reach,
And of all the wonderful things they teach

Tell me, tell me of their teachers

For no printed word nor spoken plea
Can teach a heart what men should be,
Not all the books on all the shelves.
Oh no, it’s what the teachers are themselves.

Free Access to


Would you like to have full, free access to the online version of the Encyclopedia Britannica?  If you are a "Web Publisher", you are invited to sign up for a free account.  Why free?  In their own words,

“It’s good business for us and a benefit to people who publish on the Net,” said Britannica president Jorge Cauz. “The level of professionalism among Web publishers has really improved, and we want to recognize that by giving access to the people who are shaping the conversations about the issues of the day. Britannica belongs in the middle of those conversations.”

I just received notice today that my account has been approved. If you are a blogger, webmaster, online journalist and anyone else who publishes regularly on the Internet then you can now get a free subscription to Britannica Online.

Visit to get more of the details.  I requested my access a couple of weeks ago and did not hear anything.  So a couple of days ago, I re-requested and received confirmation today.  They sent me a coupon code and I signed up as any other subscriber but by entering the code, I receive one free year of access. Very cool!

First random factI learned as a Britannica subscriber: The United Arab Emirates ranks number one in the world in percent of population male at 67.63%, while Latvia ranks first in percent of population female at 53.97%.