Category Archives: Pedagogy

Self reflection

OK Andrew, what worked and what didn’t work this year?


  • Classroom discipline MUCH better. There was still some complaints about distracting whispering, but nothing like the last few years and none of the shameful s*** that’s happened before. None of it got me worked up, unlike previous years.  I think the difference this year was that I talked more at the start of semester about it, pitched it to the students as a deal (the deal works like this, you do x and not y and I will do a and not b). I also took a very light touch approach in class when it happened, politely asking people not to. That seemed to go better than trying to shame them into silence (and way better than getting pissed). I think walking up and down the aisles really helps too.
  • Plagiarism. Just one case this year. Broadly speaking, the countermeasures worked. Unlike the College Academic Integrity Committee, which continues to under perform in this important and delicate arena.
  • I did a lot more work with the students on soft skills. That felt good. I hope it set at least some of them up for a better College experience. No way to know of course, so like a good physician, I’ll roll with confirmation bias and assume I did good.
  • Again, no problems with the laptop ban, and progress on the phone issue.
  • Explaining to students more about why we are doing things was good.
  • Attendance algorithm worked much the same as last year. I think stick with that.

Room for improvement:

  • More active learning. Things like this (interestingly, that video is pitched as being about clickers, but in fact they are pretty irrelevant to that sort of teaching practice).
  • More debates. For example, is it worth testing homeopathic vaccines?
  • More challenge questions to stoke curiosity. Mini research projects?
  • Build a capstone class around John Oliver’s great show?
  • The students continue to find their blog grades disappointing, by and larger, but at the same time by and large don’t produce excellent work. Need to think more about why that is. Show more examples of best practice? Or am I fighting the Facebook/Twitter drivel. Perhaps students don’t read much good writing these days?
  • Talk more about cognitive failings of humans. Use the analogy with optical illusions more. Our eyes/brains can deceive us. Similarly we have cognitive defects too. Monty Hall good for this. Bring this out even more e.g. with the Linda problem. That scientists can use science to both study and (somewhat) over come these problems, even though everyone has them.
  • Talk more about note-taking earlier on. Do some examples — it worked really well this year when I reviewed (all across the blackboard) what Mike Mann and Doug Cavener had said, partly because I (hopefully) reinforced and clarified their messages and partly because the students could see what I mean about reviewing after class what had gone on.
  • The blog software. Groan.
  • Is there some way to motivate students to solve the procrastination problem? Do a class on procrastination science? That might be interesting to think about, especially since what I read does not make too much sense. It’s like a huge human blinder.

The big unknowns remain big unknowns. (1) Am I pushing the students hard enough or too hard? (2) What impact are any of my efforts having? I can imagine ways to investigate #2, though not easily. I still can’t even imagine how to investigate #1. That’s just not my problem. It’s a College universal. If I didn’t find my science so interesting, I might turn my scholarship activities to ruminating on that. I’ve made no progress on it since I first started pondering it in 2011. I haven’t seen or heard on anyone else even wondering about it, even though it goes to the heart of this huge, expensive industry we call Higher Education. Most industries reflect vigorously on what they are doing (or they are forced to by outsiders); why don’t we?

Software de-grades

My biggest headaches this semester came from the software platform we used for the class blog. ‘Up’-grades happened this year which, incredibly, degraded functionality. As currently configured, sites@psu is not fit for large-class teachingThe software now creates unnecessary work for instructors and frustrations for students — all while simultaneously creating novel ways for students to cheat – and no way to catch them.not-fit-for-purpose-stamp

  1. Most irritating was the degraded ability to find students’ work. We used to have an alphabetically-arranged Contributions page visible to the world. It enabled students (and us) to easily see with hot links what work they had done within a fixed time window and to find their class mates’ work. That made it easy for them and, most important, it made it very easy for us to grade. The 2016 ‘improvements’ hid all that. Now, no one on the outside can find anything and the themselves students have to log in to the system and run a report on themselves. And the graders? We ran endless reports. Click click click. Tick. Tick. Tick.
  2. During the grading of the third blog period, someone changed the method for running reports on students. You are in the middle of grading hundreds of blogs and someone replaces one lousy search algorithm for another lousy search algorithm — all for no obvious gain?
  3. The search widget does not search by author. Wtf?
  4. We had to rely on students (!) to go into their profiles and make their names correct. As administrators, we couldn’t do that. Students appeared by default with their user I.D. (afr3). They could then call themselves Drew, Andy, Andrew or leave the afr3. We had to ask them to call themselves what our class lists call them. Otherwise we have to be like detectives to figure it out. My favorite: Alexander called herself Xander. When you are searching a drop-down list of 300 students arranged alphabetically by first name…
  5. Yup, that’s right. For much of semester, you could not run reports on a students’ surname or user id.  There was just a drop down menu in alphabetical order of first (!) name. At one point we had a list of students arranged by first name followed by the remaining students arranged by ID number. I did so much scrolling up and down that list.
  6. The default time zone for the blog? Central Russia (no kidding). We figured that out after the first deadline cut off a lot of students’s last minute work.
  7. Some moron set up a clone site. This might have been in response to my complaints about losing the contributions page. I like that they tried. I did not like that they failed. But worse, they made it so the students could post to the clone site. You can see it here (check out the URL!). Once we figured out that there was a live mirror site, I disabled student access to it. But too late. You can still see on the clone site the students who posted to it. That’s the work we did not grade until student complaints unearthed it.
  8. The ability of the grading team to get into the site and find students completely stopped for many hours during a grading period (10/22/16). We have a team of five graders trying to get it all done in less than a week and we lost the better part of a day — without explanation or apology.
  9. My instructor blog vanished completely for six hours (10/17/16). Again no explanation or apology.
  10.  Despite my endless exhortations, many students post at the last minute. Some of this last-minute work took more than 12 hours to become findable because the blog under pressure does not post straight away. We know this because some work appeared after the graders had graded a student… Oh, the complaints (from students and graders).
  11. There is no way to tell if the site is about to exceed its storage limit. Right now, my dashboard tells me that with something in the order of 2,000 posts this year, similar numbers for the classes of 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015, as well as this Reflections blog, I have 0.00% of 2.93GB used.
  12. There is no log. That’s the thing that would tell you who had done what on the site when. That’s what you need to check whether students are cheating or misleading you. And that matters because:
  13. Unbelievably, the site lets the student determine the publication date of a post. They can do work after a deadline and make it look like they did it before the deadline. I discovered that early in semester and I could not believe it. If you make it possible for students to cheat, some will. Maybe it is good there is no log. I can not tell how often we were taken for a ride.

Juggling 300+ students is hard work, especially on top of a busy research and administrative life. Time is everything. Brain space is everything. I struggle to put into words my feelings about the hours and energy I wasted dealing with software-induced student complaints and concerns. I dare say the College is also unimpressed with the cost of the extra hours the graders had to spend tracking down students’ work. Writing this post has taken even more time I will never get back. I hope it leads to constructive action on someone’s part. Whose, I have no idea. These days, you never get a person to deal with.

In 2010, tech guru Chris and others persuaded me that we could make blogging work for a large class. And indeed, Chris made it work, year after year. For the first five years, the blog software never got in the way of teaching and was never a pointless time-suck. Those were the good old days. In those good old days, Chris had control and was able to build the site himself to aid my pedagogy and grading efficiency. No more: sites@psu got outsourced to folk who don’t believe in local control. Last year, the change of platform was all mildly irritating. This year, I’d have given anything for the old functionality.

bad-softwareIndeed, if this year’s performance had happened in year 1, I would have given up blogging and returned to conventional term papers. And I will unless we get back the functionality we once had.  I continue to think blogging is an exceptionally good teaching tool. But this year, the hassle didn’t justify the pedagogical gains. Not even close.

The only good thing I can say about this year was the speed with which the folks at Texas-based Campus Press (to whom things have been outsourced) got back to me. I learned that if you put URGENT or EMERGENCY in the email, you got a rapid response. As to the responses themselves? Well, here’s one: “The reports did change and unfortunately at this point I don’t have any way to change them back to the previous version.”

Of course a real software ‘up’grade would involve a gain of function. Two new things I would like: (1) A text editor for comments. If you are an administrator editing an existing comment, a text editor appears. But not if you are a student. They have to use html, if you can believe it. That has caused so many utterly pointless headaches for students and TAs over the years. Fixing that would not be an innovation. It would just be making existing tools accessible to actual users. (2) Automatic plagiarism software. This would be an innovation. It would be great to have something that we can turn on after deadlines, and which compares the material on the blog with the rest of the internet (and not least SC200 blogs from previous years). The process doesn’t need to be instant (it could chug away for a week). If that’s too computationally intense, something simpler could still be very useful. For example, just taking well-formed sentences from every blog post (or even a random sample) and doing a google search for that text string would be good. If that’s too much to ask, then how about something that checks the current semesters posts against SC200 blogs from previous years? Plagiarism is a big issue for teaching via a blog. Be great to have a blog that worked with the instructor to make things better.

Mind you, I’d just settle for one that didn’t just make things harder.

Phones con't.

There is evidence that phones are toxic for learning (e.g. 1, 2, 3). My students agree (2015, 2016). So what to do? I tried several things this semester, all for extra credit (1% each time).

(1) Collecting phones. That worked, but it’s a scene and a half. It could be improved on by collecting the phones when the students are in their seats. That would cut down on the time it takes to collect them. Returning 300+ phones would still be, well, a scene.

cell-phones(2) Honesty. This was Julia’s idea: get the students to swop phones and sign a paper form to certify that they had their neighbor’s phone for the entire class. This worked very well the first time I tried it. The second time, when the students knew how the system worked, we had at least two cases that were most easily interpreted as outright cheating. But for that, I would have tried it a third time. Several students were mighty pissed that a couple of cheaters meant the whole class missed an opportunity for extra credit. Me too.

(3) Flipd. This is an app that students download. The download is free, but there is a one-off charge of $3 to actually use it for classroom credit. The instructor sets up the class times, the app notifies the students when to flip their phone off, and system lets the instructor see who has not used their phone during class. I like it because the phone still works, so people who need to be contactable (those with offspring in childcare for instance) don’t get excluded. But I trialed this app with the TAs; the four of us did not find it reliable enough to roll out to 350 students. It’s simple enough to use, but if you push the wrong button at the wrong time, the wheels fall off. I could just imagine endless emails of the  ‘but I was there’ sort. Many professors are making Flipd work and I am sure as the software comes on, it will be great. The $3 is a bit of a downer. Maybe extra credit for the price of a cup of coffee is something students would go for. Instructors can negotiate a class rate – I got it down to $2/student – but then the instructor has to pay ($2*350 students=$$$).

I discussed the various issues with Cristian Villamarin, the guy based in Canada who wrote the app and runs the company. He sent me a flier and a presentation on the system (I enjoyed that one of his slides came direct from the PSU discussions I blogged about). He’s been pretty interactive since we talked, putting me in touch with another PSU professor who has been using it successfully. Flipd is probably going to be the solution when the reliability kinks are sorted (Cristian says they are). I also like Cristian’s slogan summing up the aim of all this: Life is Like a Camera: focus on what’s important and you’ll capture it perfectly.

(4) Pocket Points.  This app is 100% free and students gain points they can use for discounts on food around town, so they are motivated to use it. But the problem is that it gives a list of ALL the PSU students using it on campus at any time (which can be many hundreds): you can’t get a list of just your own students. Moreover, it shows the list in real time, not who was there for the full class period. So while it is a great way for students to impose discipline on themselves, it is not going to be a way to use extra credit to incentivize self-discipline without a major overhaul.

I did not try a solution Bill Goffe pointed me to. Yondr is a hardware solution which even got a mention in the NY Times. Yondr told Bill they have a subscription model — $1.50/pouch/month and 4 undocking stations. Doug Paris at Yondr is the contact. This could be an interesting way to go, but the hardware aspect means one more thing for students to forget/moan about.

yes-no-maybeIn all of this, there is a dilemma for me: phones can be good for active learning. I use PollEverywhere to poll students and to run a comment wall so they can text questions if they are too nervous to put their hand up. I think that is good option in large classes (not everyone likes to speak in front of 300+) and I hate clickers (and so do students). So how to balance those upsides of the ubiquitous phones with their toxic downsides?

Here’s a possible answer. After each of our three phone hand-ins/swops, I noticed fewer phones out during subsequent classes. Could it be that encouraging students to disengage from their phones just a few times in semester is enough to show them how much better off they are when they focus on the classroom……? Could just a few sessions be enough to show them that it is possible to leave texting and social media for a whole hour without the world ending? If so, Julia’s honesty system on a few well-chosen occasions might be enough. Is that too much to hope for?

I feel like there ought to be education specialists or teaching learning and technology specialists trying to sort all this this out. Surely none of this is rocket science.

Study Smarter Not Harder

worksmart2I’ve learned that most students have learned little about how to learn. This leads to the annual tragedy of students asking for a higher grade because they worked hard. That argument doesn’t cut it in the real world. It doesn’t even work in my world (please give me a grant or publish my paper — I worked ever so hard).

No one cares how hard you work. They care about what you did. Outputs count — inputs don’t.

As far as learning goes, the best bet is to learn how to to learn efficiently.  Early in semester, I talked about this in class a fair bit, and posted various things to the Angel site to encourage students to learn better. Angel is about to vanish, so for prosperity, here they are.

  1. Study Smarter Not Harder handout from John and Jackie’s class. Their 2 hour class is voluntary. You’d think their small classroom would be packed. It’s not. I guess students are too busy studying inefficiently.*
  2. John Water’s MOST excellent guide on how to study for exams. Acting on the information in this handout could transform the lives (or at least the transcripts) of so many students.
  3. Study Tips
  4. Top 5 Ways to Accelerate Learning
  5. Make It Stick. An awesome book. Should be compulsory reading and the focus of all Freshmen Seminars.
  6. Good generic wisdom from SC200 2015.

The Class of 2016 offered up remarkably similar advice:

  • Take more and better notes
  • Ask the professor and TAs more questions
  • Pay more attention in class
    • Stay off the phone
    • Sit closer to the front
    • Sit away from friends
  • Don’t skip class
  • Go to exam review sessions
  • Review notes regularly after class

work_smart*My son did an earlier incarnation of John and Jackie’s class. He said it was the most useful two hours he’d spent at PSU.

2016: the bottom line

I calculated the final grades almost a week ago and then let them sit on Angel until now. This is to give the students a chance to complain. That generates a bit of e-traffic but very effectively crowd sources the search for errors in my grade book. With 300+ eagle eyes on it, I am now confident there weren’t any. So the grades are officially posted today. They look like this:


The class average is 87.6% (B+), or 89.6% (B+) for those who passed. We started with 358 students; we ended with 317. Among the finishers, 50% got some type of A, 66% got a B+ or better and 80% got a B or better. With extra credit, 11 students got >100%. Altogether rather similar to last year.

I say it every year, so I guess I’ll say it again: what to make of this grade distribution? Is it about right or too high or too low? We had a Biology faculty meeting a while back, that I sadly missed (not often I say that), where the proportion of A’s was being discussed. In biology classes for 2013 with more than 20 students, the numbers looked like this:

% A and A- 100-200 level Bio Courses 400-level Biol Courses
Mean 24% 42%
Median 27% 36%
Range 13-39% 13-99%

Everybody except the person awarding 100% A’s thought 100% was too generous. The minutes from the meeting helpfully say: “Faculty Senate policy allows faculty to grade according to their best judgement. Although programs can provide guidelines, ultimately grades are at the discretion of the individual faculty member. Several faculty shared their experience of figuring out their grading criteria with little to no guidance. It was widely agreed that some departmental guidelines for grading would be helpful.” No such guidance has been forthcoming because I don’t think any such guidance is possible. It’s a fundamentally challenging problem. The problem is even more difficult for Gen Ed courses where there are no professional discipline-specific views on relevant standards (and how can there be?).

Is 24% about right? My grade distribution with its 50% of A’s is clearly out of line with the 100-200 level Bio courses. Does that matter? People get excessively steamed up about grade inflation, but if we worry about that from data on the proportion of A’s, it implies that the only thing that matters is relative success. And if that’s important, our job is to not what I think it is, but instead it is to identify and anoint the top x% of students.  Which is CRAZY.

Actually, thinking about this too hard might drive me crazy. Previous ruminations are here and here. I am making no mental progress on this problem at all. Worse, I don’t see anyone else even engaged with it. In the shower this morning, I had a thought: isn’t the search for an ideal grade distribution fundamentally silly? What I should care about is the impact I am making to the way students think about the world. The grades might say something about that. But probably not much. So, Andrew, think about what’s important, not what is easily measured. Ruminate on that.

The circumcision decision

130913_medex_circumcisionbaby-jpg-crop-promo-mediumlargeIn my final class, I drew the students’ attention to this really excellent example of how to rationally think about evidence and reach a conclusion. I hope all SC200 graduates are now capable of assembling relevant data and thinking about it the way this author does.

I like his discussion because it leads him to a conclusion opposite to that reached by the Federal Government (CDC) and by the American Academy of Pediatrics, a professional body that should know a thing or two. I have no strong opinion on the author’s conclusion, but I sure do like his reasoning process.

I raised this particular topic because the majority of students will face this uniquely delicate decision in their not-too-distant future. As with so many decisions, they can take the easy route and accept the first bit of advice they hear from an authority figure like their mom, minister, medic or some moronic website — or they can think about it critically themselves. I really hope I empowered them to do that.

Overall blog grades

This terrific cartoon appeared as a response to a questionnaire I gave the students on the lessons they learned from SC200 on how best they could improve their learning and their grade

This terrific cartoon appeared last week on a class questionnaire….

There are three blog periods during the semester; at the end of each, students get a grade and personalized feedback on their work. I take the best grade from the three periods. This algorithm encourages improvement, mostly lifts games and sometimes delivers brutal lessons in time management.

The final blog grades were: A, 9; A-, 29; B+, 27; B, 42; B-, 41; C+, 66; C, 45; and D, 35. Incredibly, 20 students failed to do enough work to pass. A further five students did nothing at all. Ever.

So about 10% of the class achieved some kind of A. That seems about right to me. I wonder why that feels about right. I said the same thing when 33% of the class got some type of A on the class test final grade. We professors are left to set the bar where we want (unless its a subject with a long history like math, where there seems to be agreement [how?] or where some professional body stipulates authoritative standards [derived from….?]). This means the height of the bar becomes a great source of tension, and one which is completely ignored by university authorities because it’s a really tough problem. I set the bar where I feel good about it. I think we want to stretch the students without discouraging them. I have untenured colleagues who low-ball it so students are attracted to their classes so they can keep their job. I wish I could wrap my head around an incentive structure that results in faculty job security as the primary determinant of student performance. Sadly for my disgruntled students, I have tenure and so am free to determine my expectations of students. Mine come from a very different source and a firm belief that because this stuff matters, it’s better if things are challenging. At least one student agrees:


Class Test Score Overall

Bummed out by the Class Test 4 scores, I decided to have a quick look at the overall score for the class tests (I take the best 2 of 4). This usually cheers me up. And indeed it did. The distribution is: A, 21; A-, 81; B+, 36; B, 68; B-, 35; C+, 24; C, 29, D, 12; Fails, 9.

So about a third of the class are on some type of A. That seems about right to me.enhanced-5890-1412873873-5










I wonder why that feels about right. There are no guidelines on this whatsoever. We professors set the bar as high as we want. How high to set the bar is the hardest problem in Higher Education and everyone avoids it like the plague. I suppose the reason it cheers me up to have a third of my students on an A is that no individual test turned up that many A’s. My take-the-top-two-test-grades-of-four algorithm allows improvement and fluctuating performance. So I get to challenge the students and many get well rewarded. No trade-off.

Another observation: four students got a overall class test score of 100%. None of those got 100% in all four tests. I think that is good. Even those attaining the very highest scores still have something to reach for. I feel better about that too.

Sex bias?

This is the actual hat I use....

This is the actual hat…

According to a comment in this very interesting video about how to get large classes engaged in active learning, males are more likely to put their hand up and to be called on in class. Best practice is therefore to do random cold calls. Students hate that, and so I compromise: for extra credit, they can have their names in a hat from which I randomly select people.

The class is 44% male. 40% of those who opted to have their names in a hat were male. So no bias there. The real bias is probably in the personality types selected. That sort of bias might be much more insidious.

Class with Mike Mann: Climate Change and the Hockey Stick Wars

I teach Lysenko as an example of what happens when science isn’t allowed to work properly because outside political influences intervene. That’s a very extreme case (skeptical Soviet scientists got imprisoned and killed) but for several years I’ve been using Prof Mike Mann in our very own meteorology department as an example of how politics in this country can also try to make science work differently (for the most part, so far without success). For producing the iconic Hockey Stick graph, Mike has been on the receiving end of death threats, email subpoenas and fraud investigations (detailed here). As he put it, the rules of engagement you learn as a scientist [robust debate] are not the rules of engagement used against you as a scientist [personal attack]. This year, finally, his schedule and the SC200 time slot lined up to make it possible for him to come to talk in class.

Mike Mann in action Oct 25

Mike Mann in action Oct 25

It was an interesting experience for me (and I hope the students). The comment wall was more active than I have ever seen it. Questions ranged across the political spectrum and varied widely, some focusing on the science of climate changes (what’s the evidence?) and others on the politics (e.g. “The Democratic Liberal agenda of this presentation makes me sick.”). I had trouble trying to sift through all the comments to find a balanced range of them to put to Mike. For the first time, I wondered if the class is actually too big – so many views and interests, most of which might not have been dealt with sufficiently in so brief a time.

After, I asked Mike to comment on some of the questions we didn’t get to. Below, the questions (bold) and his answers where he offered them.

Is the carbon footprint of building devices such as solar panels and putting expensive filters on car exhausts worth it because of the building process?

What’s our preferred method of alternative “clean” energy?

 What are your thoughts on the youtube video ? [Hide the Decline] 

Where is the decline? 

Alas, it is largely in the quality of the public discourse over matters of policy-relevant science.

Did you sue everyone for the videos they made about you?

Does that mean a democrat would deny climate change if from Oklahoma?! 

In my view, it shouldn’t mean that *any* politician deny climate change. But unfortunately, most climate change deniers these days are on the republican side of the isle, and it’s not a coincidence. Folks like the Koch Brothers have spent millions of dollars funding primary challengers against republicans who express an enlightened view on climate change (like former republican congressman Bob Inglis of South Carolina), i.e. they have sought to “purify” the republican party with respect to climate change denialism. And that’s a big part of how we’ve arrived at the extreme partisan polarization we now have on climate change. It is ironic, since many past Republican presidents (Nixon, Reagan, George H W Bush) displayed leadership in acting on climate environmental problems like acid rain and ozone depletion. It is only relatively recently that the environment has become a partisan political issue. And it is most unfortunate. I talk about this in my new book “The Madhouse Effect”.

In 2014 there was record sea ice in Antarctica.

If we do eventually manage to stop our growing carbon footprint, is there any way to bring it back down to safer levels?

Is it too late to do something about climate change?

If you could have us take away one point from today, what would it be?

Has all these government issues made you even more passionate about climate change?

What can be done to separate science and politics? 

What’s the effect of rising sea levels on the subways in NYC? Isn’t there something about brine levels? 

Why is climate change so heavily denied by a majority of republicans? 

Addressed in a separate response above.

What is a non-believers thought process towards climate change?

How does one combat this issue of climate change when the United States and many other countries are so dependent on fossil fuels? Is there an alternative?

What company does Frank Luntz work for? Why did he want to confuse the public? 

Luntz is a pollster, and has largely worked for republican clients. It is unclear what his own views are. He is merely doing what is asked by his clients, and I doubt he actually
wants to confuse anyone. But in the end, his polling and focus group research has indeed provided fodder for those looking to confuse the public.

Why do you think people are so avid on denying climate change? 

Have you ever been successful convincing someone that climate change exists?

I like to think so. I’ve given many public lectures and media interviews over the past decade and a half, and I’d like to think that my fact-based approach to talking about climate change has won over many honest skeptics. And indeed, I’ve been told a number of times by people that had been skeptical beforehand that they were convinced after listening to what I had to say. That having been said, there is a fringe sector of the population that sees issues like climate change entirely through a partisan political lens, who see it as a part of their tribal political identity. For those people, facts and figures and information and logic alone are often insufficient to change their mind. Their mind is already made up. And our efforts, arguably, are better spent on the “confused middle”—a large group of people in the political center who *think* that there is a scientific debate about whether climate change is real. They are typically receptive to learning more about what the science has to say.

What do you see the future looking like ? How much hope do you have for our generation (us students)?

I am optimistic for several reasons. In “The Madhouse Effect”, we spend the last chapter of the book outlining the reasons for cautions optimism in the battle to combat climate change.
I’m optimistic because of the tremendous progress that has been made, domestically and internationally, over the past few years in tackling climate change—the huge growth in renewable energy, the monumental agreement last December in Paris to lower carbon emissions that was reached by nearly 200 nations around the world (read e.g. this Huffington Post commentary I wrote about the Paris agreement), the fact that global carbon emissions dropped for the first time in decades last year even though the global economy continued to grow). I am also optimistic because millennials (read—you folks!) have really gotten it in a way that older generations have—there is considerable energy and passion surrounding the issue of climate change specifically, and environmental sustainability more generally, among college students today. I see that here at Penn State, and at other colleges and universities around the country where I lecture. I think that energy and passion will help power the critical transition that is underway toward a green energy future.


But most amazing to me was that Mike really got the classes attention when he was asked about whether its good or bad to have celebrities weighing in on the debate. All was normal until he said Leo. Leo, more than glaciers melting, NY flooding, extreme weather events, …… Leo got a reaction. LEO? I did not know whether to laugh or cry. At least its not my generation who will be mopping up the mess.

Anyway, Mike was worried after that the class did not believe he advised Leo. So here folks, is Leo and Mike (with more here, including Bill Clinton):


And here’s the Penn State premier of the film Mike helped Leo make:


Mike is very keen any interested students come to that event. And that students who liked — or did not like — what he said follow him on Twitter @MichaelEMann.

And, a final irony, Mike himself is now apparently something of a celebrity. Here’s the selfie shot after class.


The work of climate scientists like Mike and his many colleagues here at Penn State repeatedly survives peer review. That means the science as sound as it can be at this point in time. My overwhelming impression is that all of the scientist involved are very scared about what they are concluding. Many of them are knocking themselves out trying to warn the public. I wish the SC200 class of 2016 — and their children –the very best as a they struggle to deal with the fall out of the current US political inertia.