Celebrating National Author’s Day
At Cengage Group, our Cengage Academic businesses provide education content and technology to support over 12 million digital learners, from middle school to graduate school. We partner with over 20,000 institutions globally and are chosen year-after-year by instructors looking for trusted content, reliable platforms and award-winning customer support.
In a world of increased demand for student choice, it’s not just our technology that sets us apart. “Authorship is also a real differentiator,” says Neil M., Vice President of Author Relations at Cengage Group. “Cengage has an extensive portfolio of award-winning authors with whom we work. Our authors have experience teaching at universities and community colleges and are passionate about their subject matter. Most importantly, they know how to convey content in a way that is accessible to today’s learners and that provides diverse and inclusive points of view.”
To recognize National Authors’ Day in the United States, we spoke with three of our distinguished authors about how they started writing educational content, how digital tools bring their work to life and their hopes for learners in the future.
Brad Bushman is a professor in the School of Communication at The Ohio State University, where he holds the Margaret Hall and Robert Randal Rinehart Chair of Mass Communication. Much of his research focuses on mass communication, such as the effects of violent video games on aggressive behavior. He was on President Obama’s gun violence committee as a violent media expert and has testified before Congress on youth violence and violent media effects. Even though he’s written over 200 peer-reviewed journal articles, his co-written Social Psychology and Human Nature (Baumeister & Bushman) was his first textbook.
Richard Aufmann is the lead author of two best-selling Developmental Math series and a best-selling College Algebra and Trigonometry series, as well as several derivative math texts. He taught Math, Computer Science and Physics at Palomar College, where he was on the faculty for 28 years. His textbooks are highly recognized and respected among college mathematics professors. His professional interests include quantitative literacy, the developmental math curriculum and the impact of technology on curriculum development.
Cheryl Glenn is the Distinguished Professor of English and Women's Studies, Director of the Program in Writing and Rhetoric and co-founder of Penn State's Center for Democratic Deliberation. She has earned numerous research, scholarship, teaching and mentoring awards and has delivered lectures and workshops across North America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Her scholarly work focuses on histories of women's rhetorics and writing practices, feminist theories and practices, inclusionary rhetorical practices and theories, and contexts and processes for the teaching of writing. She is also one of Cengage Group’s leading textbook authors.
Tell us about your background. How did you become interested in your chosen subject and in becoming an author?
I always thought I would do something with electronics. In high school, I took two electronics courses and loved them. In college, I just happened to enroll in an honors course called “Human Aggression.” We read stacks of journal articles describing aggression studies. I was fascinated by the studies, and decided I wanted to conduct them too. After learning that it was mainly social psychology professors who conducted those studies, I decided to shift my focus and work toward that goal.
I thought if I was going to be a professor, I should also learn how to teach and analyze data. So, I got a master’s degree in education to help me be a better teacher, and a master’s degree in statistics to help me be a better data analyst. I then earned my PhD in social psychology at the University of Missouri working with Dr. Russell Geen, who was one of the top aggression researchers in the world and had written many of the articles I read in my Human Aggression honors course.
I became interested in writing a social psychology textbook with Roy Baumeister after he finished writing The Cultural Animal in 2005, which provided an integrative framework to tie together all the chapters of our textbook — humans are cultural animals. Culture refers to what a large group of people have in common like language, shared beliefs, accumulated knowledge, division of labor or network of exchange. Lots of creatures on this planet are social animals, such as ants, bees, wolves and elephants. But humans took being “social animals” to another, higher level. Most social psychology textbooks focus on how humans are similar to other animals, whereas our textbook focuses on how humans differ from other animals. I always wanted to be the author of a textbook, but only if our textbook stood out from the crowd, which it does.
My interest in math began early. My dad, especially, encouraged me to study mathematics, saying that if I learned math, I could apply that skill to whatever career I wanted to pursue. I was fortunate to have teachers in grade school and high school who had a passion for math that was infectious.
After graduating from high school, I decided to major in math and enrolled at Palomar College. From Palomar, I went to the University of California, Irvine to complete my degree in mathematics. Then onto California State University, Long Beach for my master’s degree. While at Long Beach, I worked as a high school math teacher. It was there that I first started to prepare materials for my students. I was teaching an AP calculus class using a textbook that I found lacking. I would read the text and think to myself that if I didn’t already know the concept, I would not know it after reading the author’s explanation. So, I wrote my own materials to give to my students. I enjoyed the authoring experience, so when the opportunity came along to try my hand at it, I was all-in.
I taught high school English for several years after college before moving to the corporate world teaching English as a second language to international hires and their families. I returned to school to get my master's degree while still teaching ESL. During this time, I was also teaching writing at Ohio State University. I was interested in ways to teach writing and speaking - the pedagogy of English studies. I loved literary study, but I was, and still am, also interested in linguistics, grammar, argument and rhetoric. When I began my PhD, I landed in a history of rhetoric course. I so loved rhetorical studies that I wanted to be part of that masculinist, elitist discipline and I wanted my students to feel as though they could be part of that discipline as well.
For these reasons, I've spent a good deal of my career writing women and "others" into the rhetorical tradition, as rhetors, theorists, practitioners and teachers. Thus, I’ve always been a scholar. But since rhetoric has always been a teaching tradition, I’ve always been a teacher, too, and writing textbooks is one way I can reach and teach more people. When I get to visit a new campus or new program and talk with the instructors and their students about the teaching of writing, I’m blown away at how much rhetorical expertise they already have, even if they don't realize it.
As learning has become increasingly digital, especially over the last three years, how do digital tools bring your content to life and enhance the teaching and learning experience for instructors and students?
I love how textbooks have become more interactive, quizzing students over the material as they go. Active learning is much more effective than passive learning.
A powerful benefit of new technologies is the coordinated links between a digital text and other resources that allow students to watch content-specific tutorials, explore a topic in more depth, connect with their instructor, practice concepts and collaborate with other students.
Technology can also be used to personalize the learning experience. New interactive programs can guide students through a learning path and adapt to a student’s learning style. Students who are visual learners can be directed to videos while auditory learners can be directed to things like podcasts. Students who are struggling with a concept can access tutorials, while students who need a challenge can be directed to advanced resources.
And technology can be a haven for students. Technology does not recognize gender, race, ethnicity or age. Where students have struggled in other environments, technology offers those students a place to learn and explore mathematics. It gives them a place to fail and to succeed, a place to be persistent.
I am still getting used to not sharing the same physical space as my students all the time. Still, during covid, when I taught via zoom, I found so many good ways to connect with my students. We can share screens, show one another our work, keep a chat going on the side and break into small groups. And I found that technology has allowed me to have even more "office" visits than I usually do. Students are happy to be able to log on and talk with me without having to leave their homes.
A second way that digital learning has enhanced my teaching (and their learning) is the ease with which we can all leverage digital tools for composing. We’re often translating word-only documents into documents that include visuals, videos, music, animations, charts, graphs, and movement or transition. Finally, digital learning and course management systems have made grading and responding to student papers much easier: I can simply view a student's paper online, respond in little chat boxes and then reload the paper. Then the student downloads it with all my comments. Easy and quick!
What do you hope to see in the future for learners?
My goal for students in my class is for them to be lifelong learners and critical thinkers. I want them to base their beliefs on facts and research evidence rather than hunches, gut feelings and instincts.
There are many good things about the integration of technology into the math curriculum. However, there is still a barrier for some schools and students when it comes to access. Internet access that is more inclusive is an absolute necessity. If we are going to have equity for learners, we must give all students access. Right now, this seems like a vision rather than an actual commitment. Many national math organizations urge our national leaders to address the internet divide, but progress is slow. To ensure equity and robust learning environments, we need to provide all students with access to technology.
My hope is that all learners will believe that they can – and should – claim their educations. Students are not here merely to receive an education but must think of themselves as active participants in the ethical and intellectual contract they strike with each of their teachers.
On this National Author’s Day, who is your favorite author and why? And would you care to share what you’re reading right now?
My favorite author is my good friend and colleague Roy Baumeister. Right now, I am reading journal articles and other materials for the 6th edition of our textbook. I love working on our textbook!
My recreational reading tends to fluctuate among mysteries, spy novels and informal (nonprofessional) books on the frontiers of science. I just finished Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express and have picked up The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo. Two of my favorite books on science for a general audience are Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time and The Theory of Everything: The Origin and Fate of the Universe.
I've always been a bookworm and I enjoy most genres. I love mysteries and police procedurals, no doubt because it's so comforting to witness drama, frustration and puzzlement come to resolution – something that's often hard to achieve in real life. I enjoy books set in other countries, especially where I’ve taught and lectured. I'm now reading my way through all the novels of Mick Herron, who writes about MI5 and the British secret service. And maybe because my mother has recently died, I’m reading a good deal about death, dying, dignity and grace, all in preparation for delivering her eulogy.
When I was young, one of my teachers told me never to be without a book to read. Since then, I’ve always carried a book with me – something to read while I await the dentist, a train, a plane, a check-in or a game to start. And when students ask me what they should be reading, I always say, "if you read for pleasure, read what you want to read – no matter what it is – you'll know what you should read." Reading is, in and of itself, much more important than what you're reading. In other words, it's not so important what you read as that you read. Carry a book, novel, comic book, whatever interests you, and read it when you have an extra minute or two. For me, reading is such a necessary pleasure; the more I write, the more I need to read to replenish my own reservoir of words.
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