"If there's a book that you want to read,
but it hasn't been written yet,
then you must write it."
   Toni Morrison

Authors Blog

Thoughts On Teaching and Learning

By | Norm's Author Blog

   Here are two thoughts on how teaching and learning is changing in the digital world.

   My first thought stemmed from when I was teaching at Eastern Michigan University. One day I announced the date for a Midterm in a graduate course. One of the students challenged me: “Dr. Tyler, why do you give tests? They may test our memory, but don’t evaluate our ability to solve problems.” I immediately recognized he was right; that was the last test I administered. With the universal use of Google, I realized students no longer needed to “know” information since virtually everything is immediately accessible on the smartphone in their hand. I revised my courses to be less a teacher of information and more a facilitator of problem solving.

   My second rumination resulted from reading about a professor who was surprised his current students did not use “folders” to organize information on their computers. Their computer desktop screens were often overloaded with randomly-placed icons. A comparison of one of their screens with my own illustrates the generational difference.

Typical(?) computer screen of a student
My computer screen

   The professor surveyed his class and found most students had no knowledge of the concept of folders, so he began offering a class on the use of folders. Why was this necessary, he wondered? He concluded this generation of students had grown up relying primarily on their “Search” function. Their smartphones and iPads were great at doing a sophisticated Search that could find what they needed in a variety of ways–by name, date, size, subject, format, or even using facial recognition for photos. In their minds it was not necessary to have their files organized in any systematic way.

   Fortunately, in my retirement these generational changes in how we use our personal devices has not really impacted me that much. First, I no longer teach, so I no longer need to evaluate the “learning” of my students. Second, I will continue my old-school practice of placing computer files in folders so I know where to find them. My computer is quite comfortable with its tried-and-true MS Word software used for my writing; my iPhone and iPad are primarily used for distractions. In short, I may not be keeping up with Generation X, Y, or Z, but it is good enough for now.

Tyler Original Editions

By | Norm's Author Blog

The two volumes of The Tyler Genealogy first published in 1912 include names of 7,724 of Norm’s distant relatives dating from 1619. Family genealogist Willard I. Tyler Brigham made it his life’s labor to collect this wealth of information on descendants of immigrant Job Tyler. Although original editions of Volumes I and II are now pretty rare, I was able to purchase them online in very good condition. It was like a birthday party when they were delivered to our front porch. Now, instead of the poor-quality Xerox copies I have used for research for many years I can peruse dates and details in these original volumes without needing to refocus my eyes.

Although these volumes are a keepsake, our current efforts involve loading our genealogy information online, making it far more accessible to the public. Names are being added gradually to the genealogy software site, WikiTree.com. I prefer WikiTree because it is world-wide, easily accessible, and free (with no ads). Feel free to look up my family there; we encourage you add your own family members as well.

Oliver’s Tales: introducing Ilene’s newest writing project

By | Ilene and Oliver's Tales

Hello! My name is Oliver! I like the sound of my name. It gives me an identity as a unique individual, even if it was the most popular name for cats in 2020, the year I was born. I don’t know where I was born or where I lived for the first nine weeks of my life. I think I had a littermate, but even he or she is but a distant memory. I came into this world with my eyes open when I was brought to the Humane Society of Huron Valley (HSHV). Those are my first memories. Before that is a blur of being cared for but without a feeling of permanence. My eyes were facing forward, watching, waiting, hoping to be adopted into a forever home.

After my surgery and vaccinations and arbitrary naming at the Humane Society, I did not have long to wait. My cage was placed right next to the information counter, as the first cage visitors see when entering the area of pets up for adoption. Being first, was not such an advantage, however, as it was too easy for visitors to walk right by to reach the middle of all those other cages and pet rooms and then the dog area at the back. I would need to do something about that. An older couple arrived just as the Humane Society opened, having decided to consider adopting, but wanting to stay as far away from other people as possible. I understood that we were in the midst of a pandemic, and everyone was skittish about meeting with others. They thought they would adopt an older cat, perhaps one with special needs, but had neglected to consider their own personal gut feelings about bonding with a cat destined to be theirs. I raised up my head to watch them walk by my cage, completely unaware that I was their soulmate tucked inside.

Just then a little girl and her mother showed up. The little girl asked to meet me, and one of the kindly volunteers wrapped me up in a towel, removed me from my cage, and placed me in her arms. She was sweet and careful with me, but we didn’t bond. No chemistry there, and eventually she gave me back to the volunteer who put me back in my cage. She and her mother moved on to look at other kittens.

That was my chance! I meowed just a tiny meow, as I was still pretty tiny myself. The older couple, who were at the counter filling out papers and trying to decide on adoption of a troubled long-haired ginger one-year-old with “litter issues.” I could see they were hesitant and concerned about something related to the house they lived in, but I could not understand. What I did notice, however, is that they were fixated on having a ginger tabby but were hesitant about the long hair. I looked at my paws and my chest below my chin and saw that I was lightly gingered, more tawny, and definitely short-haired.

Whoa! Those are my people! Stop the presses! Look at me, look at me! I’m here, and I choose you to adopt me!

After sitting patiently on a bench near the entrance, within eyesight of my cage, they watched the little girl return me to the volunteer who put me back in my cage. Peeking through the bars, I could just see them at the information counter where all the adoption business is carried out. My future people walked back to the counter, cancelled the other fluffy cat, and asked to meet me. Me!!! Yes!

Agonizingly slowly, the volunteer first went to find the little girl to ask her if it was okay if I could be introduced to other people, and thankfully she agreed. She said she only wanted me to have a good home with people who loved me. Smart girl and very generous.

Woohoo! I am now pacing back and forth in my cage. Will they like me? Will they accept me? Will they take me home with them? So, again, I went through the ritual of the towel and the hug – ugh! I do not like hugs, though I tolerate them when necessary! – and the decision to adopt by the right people was consummated. The rest is history, my history, shared with you, my friends and fans, in the following pages of this book.

Model Railroading

By | Norm's Author Blog

Are you curious about model trains? My interest began long ago as a young boy. My current layout, named the “Ausemy and Eastern Railway” after our grandkids Austen and Remy, includes many unique features, so last year I submitted an article to Model Railroader magazine. I thought you might enjoy reading the article and seeing photos of the overall layout, weathered cars, and hand-built structures. You can view it online at: tylertopics.com/railroad.pdf.

Murder Mysteries

By | Norm's Author Blog

Twenty years ago in New Mexico, our family used a Murder Mystery as a way to amuse ourselves during a weekend-long celebration of the new millennium. The fictional story unfolded to reveal a prominent lawyer who had been stabbed in the kitchen at the Albuquerque Country Club. I played the role of the detective who had to expose the guilty party. Uncovering various clues was a wonderful device that encouraged multiple generations of family members to interact with each other.

From time to time I have written other Murder Mysteries. The characters and circumstances changed, but typically a plot unfolded during drinks and dinner and our big old house in Ann Arbor often became one of the characters.

   This year, however, a New Year’s Eve Murder Mystery would need to be totally online. Six of us took on roles built around the shock of the murder of Wayne Bruce, “Ace Reporter” for the fictional Metro Times, whose five-day-old dead body was surprisingly found in one of the caskets at the Luke Lexher Funeral Home. (Tip: Names of the characters were derived from Superman and Batman stories.) To simulate our meeting, the six of us each put the same photo of a funeral parlor on our Zoom virtual background screen so we all appeared to be in the same space; we agreed that it was a nice touch. The mystery revolved around, How did the body get there? And who was the guilty party? Was it the reporter’s estranged wife, his old flame, the managing director of the Metro Times, one of the newspaper’s reporters, or even possibly the funeral home owner. The plot was a fantasy diversion which served to take us from a bleak 2020 year into a hopefully more positive 2021.

Murder mysteries can be interesting, but difficult, to write. If you ever thought of echoing Agatha Christie by writing a novel-length murder mystery, I suggest trying to write such an evening’s interactive version first. Use your imagination to write colorful characters, meaningful clues, and a compelling plot line. And although not as easy as it may sound, it is definitely a lot of fun.

Keep up with us at our web site, tylertopics.com

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