Category Archives: Uncategorized

Across My Desk..

Across My Desk…
Dr. Terry Powell

As many of us do on a daily basis, I happened to check my newsfeed on social media this morning. We also tend to provide “oooohhhhss” and “ahhhhsss” about a cute kitten video or a cute puppy video. After all, who can resist a feel good moment, right? This morning, as I was looking for those feel good videos, I came across one that was spectacular. This time, however, it wasn’t a puppy or kitten video but a video about helping those in need – those who are often forgotten during the holidays because lives become too busy.

The cutsie little video involves a robotic seal who provides much comfort to those with dementia or those who have no one to visit them within assisted living or within nursing homes. First, I am going to share this video with you, as I believe it to be worth researching and providing these Para robots to those who cannot hug another or are left behind and forgotten within a nursing home.

If you take time to review this video – you can agree that this little guy looks like someone even I could hug on occasion! This next video demonstrates an assisted living home that invited these little critters for the residents and their interaction with this little Para robot.

These Para robots were also used to help the elderly in Japan during the Tsunami.

Here, within the United States, we tend to use special therapy dogs who have gone through vigorous training. We’ve also heard of Hospice Cats – whether it has been for the benefit of Veterans or private citizens. With this in mind, I bring you to the purpose of my blog today.

In researching information about the robotic seal, I came across an article by Dr. Vallor (as stated by Johnston, 2015). In her article, she discusses our moral and ethical issues that arise by these very people are who are being cared for – is wrong. Wrong because of the lack of human contact and fears that these robots will replace the caregivers in charge of their care.

I agree that therapy dogs, cats and Para robots should not replace their caregiver, but in truth, how can this actually happen? We haven’t (nor has Japan) created a robot who can provide the required tasks of being a caregiver such as bathing, monitoring health, helping someone get dressed or helping someone get the much needed exercise to keep them as well as possible – whatever their current condition is. Feeding, so far is also not an option or available via robot or therapy animals.

Why can’t we use the tools we have – to help those in need? The therapy dogs – a tool. Hospice cats – a tool. Para robot – a tool. Each is unique in the service they provide but the one element common in all of these tools is “comfort”. Each of these tools provides some element of comfort to a human being for a short period of time. As stated by Angela Johnson (2011) – Para is providing caregivers and therapists a means to do their job “better” and in return – the patients have forgotten their troubles for a brief moment or two.

Our technology changes every day and as that technology changes and new ideas are brought to the forefront for evaluation, we are a nation of wanting to improve the lives of others. It is through analyzing, designing, developing, and implementing our technologies, that we are able to help those who need that extra cuddle moment or need a little cheer for just a brief time within their day.


Johnston, Angela. (2015). “Robotic seals comfort dementia patients but raise ethical concerns”. KALW. Web.




Assessments ~ Agree to Disagree!

Assessments – Agree to Disagree!
By Dr. Powell

educationAcross my desk today from my usual Google alert for assessments came an interesting byline that read, “Assessing the pros and cons of assessment” (Flaherty, 2013). I see more pros than cons when it comes to providing summative and formative feedback to my students. Evidently, within the state of Iowa, teachers from three of their public universities will now have to submit in writing – a plan of assessments that will help improve student learning.

Over the years of teaching both on-ground and online, I couldn’t agree more that assessments are extremely important for student learning. What I choose to disagree with is the idea of writing up a plan for those assessments. The other element that I choose to disagree with within this article is the Board of Regents evaluating the student’s learning based on instructor’s “plans of assessments”.

One of the reasons I attend faculty development meetings, strategy meetings, seminars, or continue to take courses on assessments, online education, or creating a student-learning environment is to improve on my knowledge of perhaps new trends that other instructors or researchers have found work within this environment. The issue at hand of course – just as with technology – trends change on a daily basis. What works in one classroom “today” – may not work in that same classroom tomorrow. Much of an instructor’s assessment process is to constantly evaluate their classrooms and being able to apply what they learn through their faculty meetings or seminars and constantly assess their effectiveness. In other words, if I were to create an assessment plan for my students today and provided them to the university, how could I – as an instructor – stick specifically to those plans for a year without realizing that something within my plans of assessment may not work for a specific course or even a specific group of students each and every time?

Ideas and presenting seminars on varied types of summative and formative assessments are a great way to get instructors, universities and school systems to review their current assessments and being able to assess their current students and their actual student “needs” verses the plan that was designed out of requirement. Please understand that I am not referring to a school or university providing a basic standard for their school. This is separate and independent from this idea of creating an assessment plan that wouldn’t be implemented for several months once the instructor has drafted their plan. It would have to be reviewed and approved prior to being implemented. From that point, the instructor would be expected to adhere to their documented plan of formative and summative feedback for their students for the next school year. If their plan fails, what happens? Who is responsible for the failure of our students?

A recommendation for schools and universities might be to review the standards of effectiveness provided and created by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). Our goal as instructors of course is to see the success of our students. Over the past year, ETS has improved on its higher education services and products by conducting research, providing motivational certificates and providing new remote test-taking delivery options. This was done to help the changing needs and challenges of higher education. After their research was completed, they sent out surveys to these institutions where 225 ETS customers responded, providing positive results. According to David Payne (2013), Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at the Higher Division at ETS, their Proficiency Profile had a 73 percent approval rate in meeting the universities needs to meet the requirements for accreditation and accountability initiatives.

Instead of universities requiring instructors to come up with their yearly plan of formative and summative assessments, why not provide research within your own university to see what works and what doesn’t? The end results might just be astonishing! As new trends emerge within higher education and more students choosing the online environment – even further assessment of your formative and summative assessments need to be taken into consideration. Being able to adjust to our students’ needs and create a better learning environment will not only help them succeed, but be motivated to succeed and improve on their desire for lifelong learning.


Flaherty, Colleen. (2013). “Assessing the pros and cons of assessment”. Higher Education. Web. Accessed July 24, 2013.