Guest TV Appearance on Immigration Reform


Knoxville’s WBIR/NBC affiliate invited me to share a social science perspective on newly proposed immigration reforms.

The live interview also incorporates comments from a student in my Spring 2013 Immigration/Perspectives on the Social Sciences class, which has been quite timely to teach.

Visiting the Highlander Center with my social movements class

What better way to bring social movements to life than with a visit to the Highlander Research and Education Center in New Market, TN with my Collective Behavior & Social Movements class. Rich in movement history and social activism, the Highlander Center has seen the likes of Paulo Freire, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and countless others working for justice since its 1932 founding by Myles Horton.

Central to the training and empowerment of Highlander over the years has been music rooted in Appalachia, including most famously the civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome.” Sociologist William Roy captures the political power of music at Highlander and elsewhere in his recent book Reds, Whites, and Blues: Social Movements, Folk Music, and Race in the United States.

Though we didn’t get to sing along with legacy songsters Guy and Candie Carawan this time (as my previous classes have done), our workshop participation, tour, and picnic in the beautiful hills of East Tennessee provided ample space for reflection upon popular education, organizing, movement building, and the history of social change.


Syllabus and Assignment from My Sociology of Religion Class Published by the ARDA

The Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA) has just published my Sociology of Religion class syllabus and Ethnography Panel assignment in their Learning Center.  Both can be found here.


The ARDA is an exceptional resource for learning more about sociological elements of religion.  Find out how many people in the U.S. believe in God or what percentage affiliate with various religious traditions.  Access dozens of additional survey questions to add to your question bank, read articles on religious trends, or search the sociology of religion bibliographic database in the Religion Research Hub.  Possibilities abound.  All of this great social scientific research on religion is available for free via the ARDA thanks to funding and leadership from the Lilly Endowment, the John Templeton Foundation, and the Pennsylvania State University.

“Green” Grading

Final grades for my undergraduates were due today, concluding the first semester for which I ventured into “green” grading practices.  Despite a few hiccups, it is a practice I plan to continue.  Previous semesters brought reams of paper into my office; this approach utilizes digital submission via the school’s Blackboard/Angel online learning management system.  Beyond paper submission, I can offer feedback and evaluation using Turnitin’s “Grademark.”

Among the advantages, as I see them:

  • Immense savings and conservation in paper and printing.
  • I have a track record of which students have submitted their assignment (and which students haven’t), marked by the exact day and time.
  • The system I use does an automatic check for plagiarism, a problem which is (unfortunately) becoming more and more common.
  • No more searching for students to hand back papers after semester’s end.  They can access my comments online, in a secure location.
  • I can grade in the exact order in which papers are received (an incentive for early submission, perhaps?).
  • No more having to decipher my handwriting.
  • I save time by creating a list of common comments to paste, rather than rewriting the same suggestion a dozen times.
  • I can grade anywhere I have my laptop; no more lugging around heavy bags filled with student assignments.
  • No class time needed to hand back stacks of papers (when you may mistake “Johnni” for “Ricky”).
  • Reading reactions can be shared and read by the entire class to generate discussion.
  • Submission through Blackboard/Angel is far easier to manage than papers accepted via email.

A few disadvantages:

  • The Blackboard/Angel grading system does not work on my iPad.
  • In my transition this semester, I still allowed some paper submissions. Simultanously tracking multiple submission types caused confusion.
  • This means even more “screen time” for me.
  • No grading when internet service goes down.
  • Students often received “error” messages even when their assignments uploaded successfully.

Next goal: Green Teaching = going paperless in the classroom.