Highlights from the 2015 Innovation in Pedagogy & Technology Symposium

Long time no see…regularly. Yes, my blog languished a good bit during the past semester and while I was away on research in Australia. (More on the latter later. But here’s a pic of me photo-bombing ↓ some roos for now to tide you over.)

The author in Australia
Dopey hat required at all times to protect my extremely pale skin from the tropical clime. I also did research while down under, I promise.

I also taught a class, History of the U.S. Present, my second course, in the Spring. I’ll admit I lose focus on blogging while teaching. Potential post topics don’t seem to percolate as easily, and the idea of blogging on what I’m learning about teaching while teaching makes me a little uncomfortable. Perhaps there’s a blog post there somewhere. At any rate I’m back, working on the introduction to my dissertation with the help of #writingpact and weekly writing support meetings with my #TeamPhinisheD teammates. And to begin my return to regular blogging I offer you the below highlights from three sessions I attended at the 2015 Innovation in Pedagogy and Technology Symposium, which was held in May here in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Getting Your Digital Hands Dirty: Creating Interest and Engagement in an Online Course
by Dr. Valerie Jones, College of Journalism and Mass Communications, UNL

This first panel gave me a lot to think about when it comes to utilizing blogs in both online and traditional courses. I’ve used blogs quite successfully in past courses to promote the development and improvement of student writing via iterative, brief (250-word) posts with formal writing standards and citations. Dr. Jones’ guiding principles (below) were especially helpful, and offer additional strategies to increase student engagement with course content and objectives. I especially like her idea of student-produced short videos on an independent reading relevant to the course topics.

Panel notes:

Guiding Principles:

  • start w/ their interests
    • e.g. Jones teaching course on digital/web analytics so had students start a blog on their interests — then students had data on their blogs the class could use
  • make it matter
    • e.g. rewards for students who develop a following, highest return visits
    • some peer pressure to produce good content & get visits (public nature of blog)
  • provide purpose
    • e.g. bring in guest speakers (via free-trial version of Zoom video conferencing) to show students can apply knowledge in class to, for example, real-world jobs
      • zoom video conferencing has the added advantage of allowing you to build a digital library of recordings of these guest speakers
  • give them a promotion
    • e.g. had lots of reading on Blackboard; had students create a presentation/video of “fresh content” of something they’d read that was highly relevant to the class → something they wanted the other students to know
    • helps create a sense of responsibility and community in the class
      • peer feedback = part of this too^
      • e.g. on peer feedback: require 2 peer reviews throughout the semester of other students’ blog + MUST cite an article in support of their critique)
  • closing thoughts: find the insight, be brave, have fun

Technology Tools as Levers for Learning
by Faye Haggar, Technology Training Analyst, UNMC

This panel was the last one I attended at the symposium, but it really got my creative juices going. Ms. Haggar not only introduced a wide variety of digital tools with pedagogical potential; she also offered examples of ways each tool can be used to support established principles of good teaching practice. Many of the tools listed (in my notes below) were new to me, while some were tools or platforms I was familiar with but unaware of certain features. I will definitely be experimenting with a few of these tools in future courses.

Panel notes:

  • #1: good practice encourages contacts between students and faculty
    • students want to feel a connection → scores go up when this happens
    • try Blackboard collaborate → virtual office hours
    • Remind 101 → send updates, reminders, other important information
      • used a lot in K-12
      • does NOT require you to give out your personal information (phone number) & is one-way communication
      • goes straight to their device
    • Screencastomatic → easy to use for an introductory video @ start of semester, set & articulate your expectations
      • up to 15 minutes
      • gives mp4
      • beta version may require download
  • #2: good practice develops reciprocity
    • document collaboration & sharing: Google docs, Office 365
    • Popplet → collaborative brainstorming (concept mapping)
      • can add links, files, images, videos, audio
      • updated in real time
    • FB class groups – “cringe” + “it’s where our students are”
      • not accessing any of their personal information this way (not friend-ing one another)
  • #3: good practice uses active learning techniques
    • TodaysMeet → “back channeling”
      • works much like Twitter but is PRIVATE
      • log in with a url
      • students can ask questions and/or leave a comment
      • can return to after class (both you AND the students can)
    • audience response: Socrative
      • similar to a clicker device
      • this^ = free and open source (currently, as are most all of the tools being discussed)
      • allows for multiple choice and short answer questions
      • students given a class poll to go to and answer Q’s
      • can do it in real time (so instructor can use during lecture)
      • can also have student-run poll to take at any time
      • Excel-format spreadsheet offered → students can be anonymous or require names (e.g. anonymous if want to show results in class to illustrate where everyone is)
      • can be set up to be taken just once or multiple times
    • Google formsexit tickets
      • can use to ask students questions at the very end of lecture (or provide most important thing they learned today)
      • students will receive a URL (you’ll need to shorten this for them)
      • *good to use to have students pick out important themes for the day (check how well picking these things out)
      • delivered to the instructor in the form of a spreadsheet → students don’t see this
      • you create the fields SO you can make it anonymous if you want
  • #4: good practice gives prompt feedback
    • consider making students use the following tools before submitting a paper (w/o checking the first submission)
    • Soundcloud → record a podcast
      • idea for audio feedback
      • free
      • sound clip can be private → can e-mail link to students or attach to an assignment on Blackboard
      • not sure what the limit is on this…
    • Adobe PDF → you can leave an audio message
      • on Adobe Pro ONLY
        • although students can listen in Adobe Reader
      • 1 minute-long limit
      • can click anywhere on the paper to add a 1-minute chunk message
    • Kaizena → works with Google Docs
      • recording audio
      • requires sign-up but is free
      • right click in Google Docs & say “open with Kaizena”
      • time limit is around 5-minute chunks → again, anywhere in the text
      • you can also type comments
      • students DO need to download Kaizena; need to tell them to do this (no e-mail sent)
      • works with any file in Google Drive
  • #5: good practice emphasizes time on task
    • TedEd → interactive presentation
      • can also create interactive quizzes
      • works with videos on YouTube
        • then insert questions into
        • give students questions to ponder & discuss
        • students can provide questions and/or feedback
        • can provide additional resources for students to look at
    • eduCanon → interactive videos
      • can use any mp4
      • load video, choose places to pause video and insert question to check for understanding, can tell it to “self-score” so students instantly know how they did
      • no limit to questions
      • get spreadsheet @ end w/ student name, score, what answers they offered
      • students cannot download the video (can always screen-capture though)
      • you can leave feedback for the students if they get a wrong answer (a prompt will come up WHEN they answer)
    • Evernote → shared notes
      • can share notebooks
      • different students assigned to take notes on different days → then can grade how students are taking notes
      • can leave feedback
  • #6: good practice communicates high expectations
    • Rubrics → Blackboard
    • (can also just google “rubrics” for some free platforms that students can download and print)
    • Google docs → group work and revision history
      • e.g. when group work is done, instructor can see via the revision history who did what revisions
    • thinglink → consider using to build an interactive syllabus
      • takes some time to build
      • build an infographic (Piktochart or Google “make my own infographic”) THEN, via thinglink, you add pop-outs that open when students click on (or hover over, scroll to ?) content (e.g. hyperlinks)
  • #7: good practice respects diversity and the different ways students learn
    • Random Name Picker → uses these for calling on students at random
      • so that “everyone gets a chance to respond”
    • Post It Plus → Digital Post-it notes
      • gives you a jpeg
      • app will “clean up” the notes
      • can group things together differently (could have the students do this in groups) → costs an extra 99 cents right now
        • has text recognition now
    • paper.li → curate material
      • students collect & build their own content
      • e.g. have students search topics (she does this in groups first) & find content (she assigns content for them to search through)
      • supplement to a class topic/theme

Tinkering around at DHSI 2014

During the first week in June I attended the Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI) for the first time. The trip also marked my first visit to Canada, and the first time I traveled internationally in more than a decade. It was a bit of a whirlwind experience. I took the DHSI course, “Physical Computing and Desktop Fabrication for Humanists,” with William J. Turkel, Devon Elliott, and Jentery Sayers. In addition to meeting new DH enthusiasts and reuniting with old friends, the course provided an exciting introduction to both the culture of the maker movement and the potential applications of 3-D printing. Below is a brief photo essay reflection — or as close to one as my WordPress template permits — on my time at DHSI 2014.


We do not recite in recitation

I’m not sure who originally thought “recitation” would be a good descriptor for college-level discussion sections, but it seems high time to abandon the term. After all, we don’t want to give enrolling students the impression that they’ll be expected to attend lecture two days a week and recite lecture the third day. No, our expectations for them in these discussion sections – and for ourselves as instructors – are much higher than that. We want our students to come to discussion sections prepared to, well, actively discuss. The discussion section should be a time for students to receive more individualized attention to their learning needs. It should be a time set aside for refining and honing each student’s understanding of the major concepts, themes, and ideas presented in lecture and the connections between lecture and course readings. It’s a time for both the instructor and the students to think on their feet. Therefore active discussion – not a mere parroting of lecture – is central to any successful discussion section.

I certainly don’t pretend to know everything there is to know about the best pedagogical methods for discussion sections, and I welcome any and all comments on the subjects (especially recommended readings and helpful teaching resources). But I have learned a few things from the three semesters I’ve been fortunate enough to receive a t.a. assignment that includes the teaching of discussion sections as one of my central responsibilities. And last semester at least one of my students anonymously nominated me to receive an award from UNL’s Teaching Council and Parents’ Association for making a “significant contribution to their lives at UNL.” This was a great honor, one that solidified for me the notion that discussion sections offer unique opportunities for reaching students – on both an educational and a personal level. Discussion sections are a space in which we, as instructors, have the opportunity to make an enormous impact on students’ college experiences. Below I’ve outlined some of the major lessons I’ve gleaned from my experience teaching discussion sections, including some things I changed just from last semester to this one.

  • Come to discussion each and every week organized, prepared, and with several specific goals in mind. Set the tone for your discussion sections from day one. If you arrive disorganized and unprepared and your questions seem unfocused or disjointed your students will (understandably) take this as a sign that you aren’t serious about the work they are being asked to undertake in discussion. This negative impact on the students’ perceptions of discussion sections will sour the classroom climate and, although this can be corrected with time, you’ll lose precious teaching ground in the process. So consider using the very first day of discussion – when students are still “course shopping” – to explain what purpose the discussion sections serve for the course as a whole, what they will be expected to do each week in order to be successful (including what it means to actively participate), how participation will factor into their overall grade, and what role YOU serve in your capacity as their t.a. Dress professionally, provide an overview of your teaching philosophy, gradually let them get to know you a bit as a person, and be consistent and clear in your plans for each week.
  • Be your best self. I’m interested in becoming a professor because I’m invested in both research AND teaching. I believe I have a responsibility to pass on what I learn not just about history but about professionalism, navigating the structures of academia, understanding diverse perspectives, media and digital literacy, and an array of other skills that will be beneficial to my students beyond the discussion section or course I am teaching. Because the best teachers I know are also mentors, I strive to be both for my students. If you aren’t interested in teaching your students will notice and it will impact their expectations not only of you, but of themselves and of the course as a whole. So begin each teaching day by asking yourself what’s important to you about teaching, share your teaching philosophy with your students, and work hard to be the best version of yourself that you can – especially when you are in front of your students. Even if you only had three hours of sleep, are having a really bad day, have oodles of other work on your mind, make a concerted effort to be in the teaching moment. Of course there will be some students who, for a variety of reasons, will be beyond your reach but if you give your students your best and let them know you genuinely care how they perform (and notice when they don’t), you might be surprised at the effort they’ll put forth.
  • Seek to engage, not entertain. Many students, though certainly not all, will arrive with a desire or an expectation to sit and be passively entertained. This can be particularly true for freshmen, who are still learning what a college education means and what the college experience is all about. Naturally one of your primary tasks on day one (see above) is to divest them of this expectation for entertainment. Discussion is not lecture and education is about engagement, not entertainment. This doesn’t mean you can’t be entertaining as a means of promoting engagement, but you must walk a careful line. For example, I like to think I have a good sense of humor, and I think that sharing this sense of humor with students can be beneficial in certain situations. At its best, humor is a tool that can help establish connections between people. Revealing your sense of humor, if you have one and it’s good, can show your students that you are more than just an instructor: you are an actual human being, you have a personality, and you can relate to many of the experiences of your fellow human beings. Inserting a bit of humor every now and then, especially if the discussion for the week is a bit grueling or students are stressed about an upcoming paper or exam for example, can be a way to promote a healthy classroom atmosphere. Too much humor, however, and your students will become rambunctious and distracted. And bad humor, like any form of unprofessional behavior, will spell far worse for both you and your students (hence my use of italics above for emphasis and warning). Using humor to promote engagement means entering a balancing act that demands constant monitoring, plenty of skill in classroom and self-management, and a good deal of instinct and common sense to move effectively from one teaching situation to the next. Don’t enter into the task lightly.
  • Require the students to take a turn leading discussion in small teams of 2-3. This is one of my strongest recommendations for discussion sections, particularly those offered at the freshmen level. Requiring the students to take a turn leading discussion helps alleviate a degree of the passivity some students enter the course expecting to get away with. Thinking on your feet is hard work and a vital skill. Active discussion provides one opportunity for students to learn to voice their ideas and arguments orally, in response to changing circumstances and contradictory viewpoints, but leading discussion is when I see most students really get a grasp on what’s involved in and important about this skill. Allowing them to lead with teammates hopefully diminishes any nervousness or intimidation they feel at the prospect of leading their classmates, plus it forces them to be responsible to one another and collaborate to come up with discussion questions. This does not, however, mean the instructor is “off duty” and can simply kick back come class time. The students need to be provided with very specific instructions on how to effectively lead discussion, what their responsibilities are, whether the discussion questions they’ve come up with are true discussion questions and connect to the larger themes of the course, and they need to know that their instructor will be there to help guide them and interject when necessary. I outline my plans for discussion leadership during the first week of classes, allow my students to choose their own date for leading discussion, provide them with tips for leading discussion (which I post on Blackboard as a permanent course document available throughout the entire semester), explain and warn against plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty, and I require them to submit their proposed discussion questions and a “plan of action” to me in advance so that I can provide them with feedback. Most students do an excellent job leading discussion and supporting their fellow students by participating in active discussion regularly. I believe they also emerge from the course with a greater understanding of ways to effectively collaborate and communicate their ideas to others.

I hope you found some of this post useful and repeat my invitation for comments and recommendations for readings on pedagogy and teaching resources.

*Please note that, due to my upcoming comprehensive exams, this will likely be my last blog post until at least Friday, March 29th (after the written portion of my exams is completed). I have a few more blog posts on the brain, especially on the subject of pedagogy and mentoring, but precious little time to compose them. I completed this post in transit – on a couple of bus trips to and from campus. I may be able to do the same for another post sometime before the end of March, but unfortunately cannot make any promises… 

A historian’s experiment in creative fiction

For an interdisciplinary seminar I’m taking this semester on the bourgeoisie and the city in the nineteenth century I decided to compose a work of creative fiction as my first paper rather than a traditional research essay. It was probably the first time I’ve written fiction since elementary school. Somehow I thought it would not only be more fun than writing a research essay, but faster as well. I was wrong on the latter point and not entirely right on the former. It took much longer than I expected and actually required a good bit of research beyond the course materials and theoretical approaches we were required to utilize and engage with. For a research essay or book review, I generally write at a rate of about an hour per page. (That is after I’ve completed all of my reading and outlining.) For this work of fiction I’d say I more than doubled the amount of time spent on each page.

Some of this was due to the additional research I conducted in an effort to make the fiction more immersive and hence more believable, but I also wasted a lot of time worrying about whether or not what I was writing was any good. This happens, to a degree, with anything I write. My professors, critics, and colleagues are often in my head as I outline and while I consider how to phrase a particular idea or argument. Eventually, of course, I have to kick them out and follow my instincts. Plus some are just too darn chatty to allow me to get anything done. But I found this process a bit more difficult when writing fictional narrative. As a student of history, I was quite self-conscious about writing fiction. Was I doing it right? Was I committing all kinds of literary sins, the very names of which I would be incapable of comprehending? What, I wondered, would the english-lit folks in class think if they ever read it?

Concerns aside, I was rather surprised to experience that old familiar feeling of satisfaction at having written something that effectively communicated my thoughts–while writing fiction! Who knew? Enter the fun aspect. I remain convinced that what I’ve produced is useful to my goal of understanding the lived experience of a person in a particular historical setting. I’ll leave it up to others to determine whether or not it contains any actual literary value. Posted below for your reading pleasure (or displeasure) is what I concocted.

The Legacy of Maxwell Montclaire

Maxwell Montclaire dressed himself swiftly and quietly. He preferred not to wake the young woman sleeping amid the tangle of sheets in the bed behind him. She breathed steadily and heavily in the dim, humid air, seeming completely at peace in her slumber. Maxwell wondered for a moment at her ability to achieve a deep sleep even in the presence of a virtual stranger. He supposed that somehow, from one night to the next, this woman had accustomed herself to her situation and that it must be her ability to accept whatever circumstances she found herself in at the end of her day that enabled her to enter the tranquil state in which she now rested. He regarded it as a remarkable achievement, but not one that he fully comprehended. Maxwell was a man of little means but much ambition, and he intended to rise in the world. To him, circumstances were a reality to rise above rather than accept and make peace with.

He returned his attention to his dress. As his long, slender fingers worked the buttons of his fine white linen shirt, Maxwell considered the reflection in the mirror before him. In his thick black hair, dark eyes, and aqualine nose Maxwell saw the traces of what the Montclaires had once been and the promise of what he could make them again. His features greatly resembled those of his grandfather, Gerard Montclaire, once a savvy merchant and the proud patriarch of a great family. As he righted his collar and made minute adjustments to his French blue-grey silken cravat, Maxwell called to mind the few clear memories of his grandfather he possessed. They were all quite similar.

In his mind’s eye he saw his grandfather, seated upon a sturdy parlor chair composed of rich, dark mahogany. The chair’s seat and backing were covered in a blood-red brushed velvet. His grandfather leaned intently over a letter desk carved of the same fine mahogany and made entries in an oversized book with a worn leather binding. Now and then he paused, lips moving silently, and dipped his silver-tipped pen into an ornate inkwell wrought in the form of a lion. The carpet at his feet bore ornate Turkish patterns at its borders and seemed as thick and full as moss on a deep forest floor. The heavy smell of cigar smoke, cognac, and furniture polish hung in the air. Nearly all of Maxwell’s memories of his grandfather were set in the old family parlor, yet he could not recall a single instance of his grandfather truly at leisure in the domestic space. There were, to be true, a few sparse memories of his grandfather reading a heavy book in the parlor, his pale white hands gently fingering the luminously gilded edge of a page as he contemplated the text. Maxwell could even recall his grandfather savoring a luxuriant evening meal in the elegant dining room, glass of fragrant dark wine sparkling in his hand under the delicate glow of the crystal chandelier. But it seemed that Gerard Montclaire had always moved with the family firm somewhere in his mind. And although he was only a boy of eight at the time of his grandfather’s death, Maxwell’s memories of the man left him with the strong impression that his grandfather had been a man of the utmost seriousness, dignity, and dedication. Of course, in those days things had been quite different for the Montclaires.

The family had once been held in high regard in their native country. The Montclaires may not have been noblesse ancienne, but they were widely respected throughout France’s tightly-woven circles of commerce and exchange. The exploitation of military conflict was their specialty, and Gerard Montclaire in particular was known for his uncanny ability to predict the route the Montclaire wares would need to take in the event that hostilities erupted. He always seemed to know not only exactly what needed to be ready to move but also when the best time to move it was. He had been just a child during the Napoleonic Wars, but it was said that he cut his teeth in the arms business by selling to the révoltés in the weeks leading up to the Trois Glorieuses. In fact, this was Gerard Montclaire’s first great victory for the family and was celebrated as an assurance that his generation would not merely contribute to the family legacy but build upon it. By the time of the conquest of the Algerian territories, Gerard had ascended to brokering a large share of the nation’s weapons and matériel purchases. His dealings in the Revolutions of 1848 solidified his reputation as a man highly adept at foreign commerce and reliable as a source of essential goods in times of widespread chaos. But it was his timely shipment of guns and ammunition to the Allies on Brassey and Peto’s Grand Crimean Central Railway during the Siege of Sevastopol”s late November starving time that earned him the most fame—as well as record returns.

By then the situation of the family seemed so secure that none of them could imagine a future in which the Montclaires did not continue to rise. Their grand stone estate on the western edge of Le Marais, near Paris’ business district in the deuxième arrondissemont, regularly hosted esteemed guests from every corner of the nation. The family enjoyed sumptuous surroundings, the finest food, the latest fashions, and one of the best wine collections north of Burgundy. Although Maxwell’s father, Bernhard Montclaire, seemed to possess none of Gerard’s commercial savvy or instinctual attunement to the ebb and flow of nationalistic passions, it was assumed Bernhard would eventually find some niche of his own that would enable him to contribute to the Montclaire fortune. Yet, in spite of the many opportunities Gerard found for his son, Bernhard floundered.

Donning his doe brown tweed knee-length frock coat, Maxwell again regarded his visage. His heart quickened and he felt a flash of heat at the recognition of the dissonance between his features and those of his father. Bernhard Montclaire, genealogical aberration, omen of familial misfortune and ruin, had possessed a physicality entirely inconsistent with the Montclaire tradition. He had been a lean, almost gaunt man with thin, featherweight pale brown hair, a nervous temperament, and a delicate stomach. Maxwell’s mind conjured up the image of his father’s small, bluish hands being wrung. Those effete, overrefined hands contorting in discomfort and anxiety symbolized to Maxwell all his father had lacked. Bernhard had inherited none of the great patriarch’s élan vital; he was a disappointment in both appearance and intellect. And when, little more than three years after the triumph of Sevastopol Gerard Montclaire died in a fit of convulsions, young Maxwell beheld in his grandfather’s horrified expression what he now interpreted as the ghastly specter of the family’s future. The loss of grandfather Gerard heralded the ruin of the Montclaires; Bernhard’s desperate efforts to assume his father’s place resulted in the fast and steep decline of the family’s economic and social stock. Maxwell set out on his own as soon as he was able, though the incongruous circumstances of the intervening years significantly affected his psyche.

Maxwell turned back once more to ensure that the young woman slept on and, positioning his felt derby hat in place, moved carefully for the door. It eased open without a sound, leading him to wonder if its hinges were kept well-oiled for the express purpose of enabling silent departures such as his. He pulled his hat down lower on his forehead and made his way down the darkened hall. He averted the eyes of the few women he passed and offered only the briefest of glances to the men. Stepping out onto the street he confronted a host of odors that had yet to reach their peak in the morning air—the sticky ash of burned coal, vegetables rotting in the gutter, dried horse urine mixed with the cypress planks that lined the road, and the fried, salted catfish that constituted the breakfast of so many of the Acadians of the district. The glare of the rising sun struck his eyes sharply as looked up at the skyline of the city of Lafayette. Although it was late June the early hour and a cool breeze moving west off the Vermilion River meant that Maxwell would arrive at his destination without becoming too damp and disheveled. This was good, as appearances mattered a great deal where he was going.

He moved at a leisurely pace, allowing his hands to slip around the front of his coat and into the pockets of his green twill trousers. With slackened arms and relaxed shoulders, Maxwell studied the world around him as he made his way through it. The buildings that lined Pinhook Road consisted primarily of drab single or double-story tenement houses constructed of a combination of cypress, ash, and dogwood. There was little oak to be found in this part of the city. Flapping lines of laundry hung in patches from most of the porches, the dull color of the garments suggesting a grime that belied washing. What few windows there were appeared smoky with dirt. Most of the district’s inhabitants had either already set out for the morning to fish or were just beginning to stir; Maxwell only had to endure one or two harsh stares for his meticulous dress before he turned toward Johnston Street and left the Acadian district behind.

He knew it was perhaps unwise to move through the Cajun French areas of the city adorned as he was in the style of a gentleman, but the recreation was a release from the strictures his ambition imposed upon him. The clothing had taken much time and effort to acquire, but the sort of business he needed to conduct to rise in the world and create a legacy for himself demanded a wardrobe that was every bit as serious as he was. As Maxwell drew nearer to Johnston Street the scenery and atmosphere of the city began to shift. The air grew clearer and fresher. The ground was less marshy, the road tidier. The buildings became larger and taller and although cypress remained the dominant wood, splashes of oak and maple could be seen here and there. The homes were constructed in a consistent manner; many were lacquered with bright white paint. True architecture began to emerge in the form of ordered, decorative facades, rounded porches supported by thick columns, and rounded windows with shining panes of clear glass. Turning onto Johnston Street, even more impressive buildings of brick and stone began to appear. Maxwell’s destination could be seen just two blocks away: a stout rectangular hotel in the colonial style, rising up several stories from the ground. The sight elicited a feeling of relief in Maxwell that swelled the nearer he drew, but it was not until he entered the lobby that his relief gave way to an ease he had only known in childhood.

As he drew the smell of leather, cigar smoke, fresh-cut flowers, and perfume deep into his lungs, Maxwell’s past came up to meet him. In the midst of the hotel’s polished floors, stone columns, bright lights, elegant guests, and luxurious furnishings, he was again a Montclaire. Like his grandfather he was serious, dignified, and dedicated, his mind completely focused on achieving the task at hand. He experienced no anxiety as he glided across the marbled floor of the lobby’s standing area and onto the plush carpet that led to an arrangement of well-upholstered sofas and chairs. He opened his frock coat and seated himself in a rosewood armchair with lightly striped silk padding. Next to him was a lustrous pecan side table with scrolled edges and clawed feet. It was here that he would meet his client and complete the next link in a chain of transactions that would lead him toward redemption. Maxwell possessed the unadulterated commercial and instinctual faculties of his grandfather, and he meant to use them to restore the Montclaires to greatness.