In one of my classes recently, we started getting some hands-on experience with PHP programming. I was happy enough about my first (very simple) script actually working that I tweeted about it. After class, I got to thinking about whether I could extend what we’d learned that evening and write a different (though very basic) script. When I had some time a few days later, I did a little searching for some information I needed, then gave it a try.
To my surprise and delight, it worked. That fact left me grinning the rest of the evening.
It also left me pondering how I might help my students have that same kind of “aha!” experience. I’d like my students—at least occasionally!—to have the satisfaction of learning something new and interesting, and really knowing that they’ve learned it. I’m in an enviable position at the moment: I’m in the class in question specifically because I want to learn what’s being taught in it. My students don’t always have the luxury of being in my particular class because they’ve chosen it (sometimes they have, but often they’re there because the course fulfills a general education requirement, or is required for the major, or fits their schedule, or . . . ).
Even in such a situation, though, I think it’s possible to help students have the kind of experience that I did. One way may be to give students a greater voice in determining what we learn in a course. Students are already involved in choosing the topics we study in my 100-level general education course, but I’ll be looking for ways to incorporate more student input even in courses where I have to be more directive about the syllabus.
Do you have other ideas to share? If so, please add them in the comments.
[Creative Commons licensed Flickr photo by pdinnen]
I have a confession to make: I hate responding to student essays through a computer screen.
Yes, I know I’ve advocated using text-expansion software to respond to student writing, Billie has taught us how to respond to student writing audio style, Jason has explained how tracking changes on the iPad might be useful when grading, Doug Ward has described grading with voice on the iPad, and I know that Erin (among others, probably) uses iAnnotate with her students’ essays (an iPad app that both Jason and Mark have covered).
Here’s the thing, though: I am much more comfortable (both ergonomically and psychologically) with a printed essay on the table in front of me and a pen in my hand. It’s much faster (for me), and it is much less taxing (for me). I realize that it might sound ridiculous to describe reading and responding to student essays as “taxing,” but here we are. When it comes to grading essays, I just haven’t gotten to the point where using some kind of digital interface feels as comfortable, as seamless, and as transparent to me as using a pen and paper.
In other words, sometimes it’s necessary to recognize that a potential digital solution is just not going to work out for you. At that point, it’s time to abandon the digital.
How about you? Have you had a similar experience? Have you gone back to analog ways of doing things after a fling with the digital? Please share in this week’s open thread!
[Creative Commons-licensed flickr photo by Ryan Hyde]
Last year, November was
AcBoWriMo (short for Academic Book Writing Month), a month in which, as Charlotte Frost proposed, “We are going to wear comfy clothes, drink a lot of coffee, probably nap in our offices at strange hours and see how close we can get to writing 50 thousand words in one month.” (Incidentally, it turns out that
AcBoWriMo has earned its very own Wikipedia entry!)
Well, Frost has announced that November of 2012 will be
AcWriMo (short for Academic Writing Month), which will be similar to
AcBoWriMo but with a few changes: “This year’s event will focus on ALL aspects of academic writing, and will encourage participants to set their own (wild) goals.”
Essentially, these are the rules for next month:
- Set yourself some crazy goals.
- Publicly declare your participation and goals.
- Draft a strategy.
- Discuss what you’re doing.
- Don’t slack off.
- Publicly declare your results.
For all of the details, go read Frost’s full blog post at PhD2Published.
How about you? Are you going to take part in AcWriMo? How’s it going so far? Do you have other strategies for increasing your writing productivity? Let us hear from you in the comments.
[Creative Commons-licensed flickr photo by followtheseinstructions]
Last year I wrote about my modest moves toward a standing desk at work; I was using a lectern to stand up when reading. As I wrote then,
it’s pretty obvious that sitting at a desk, hunched over a computer, is not the healthiest way to spend eight hours (or more) of every day. The human body isn’t optimized for such immobility. Standing desks alow you to stretch and move while you work—you burn more calories than sitting.
Because of these benefits, I decided when I began my new job to move to a standing desk for the bulk of my work. Full disclosure: GeekDesk generously sent me a review unit of their GeekDesk Max for this experiment. I will review this specific product at the end of the review time. The GeekDesk Max can be adjusted electronically, and preprogrammed with up to four set heights. This allows me to transition easily from standing to sitting as I need to during the day (health experts have noted that standing all day, with no break, might be as detrimental to health as sitting all day).
Over the next three to four months, I plan to work primarily on my feet and report periodically on ProfHacker about my experience. As of this article, I’m about two weeks into this experiment. Overall, standing at work has been beneficial. I find myself more alert throughout the day, including in the hours after lunch when my energy used to lag. I’ve noticed that I move far more when standing—shifting my weight, stretching, and so forth. This may be purely anecdotal, but I’ve been far hungrier around dinner time, which perhaps points to me burning more calories during the day.
I will confess that my legs aren’t yet used to standing all day (which of course might be a good thing) and are still sore at the end of most days. I’ve certainly been happy to relax them when I get home. I’m also not sure I’ve found the right balance between standing and sitting for a full eight-hour work day. I hope to address these challenges as I move forward with the experiment.
I’ll end this post with the same question with which I ended my post last year: Have you tried standing up at work? Tell us about your experience in the comments.
[Creative Commons licensed photo by Flickr user luismi_cavalle.]
Here at ProfHacker, we’ve written several posts over the years about cloud computing and collaboration. Most of our focus has been on GoogleDocs and collaborative authorship (see my “GoogleDocs and Collaboration in the Classroom,” for example).
Not to be outdone by the cloud services offered by Google and others, Microsoft has been working on offerings like Office Live (which I wrote about in 2010) and Office 365 (which the New York Times covered in 2011). These services are designed to let users access and edit cloud-based documents, spreadsheets, and presentations from any device with a connection to the Internet and to collaborate on these files simultaneously with other users. And as Microsoft attempts to stay competitive with its mobile devices, introduces a new operating system (or two), and starts selling a new tablet device, cloud-based tools are going to be more and more important.
Last week, Microsoft announced Office 365 University, a cloud-based service to be made available to students, faculty, and staff at colleges and universities. The company says that the service is scheduled to become “[a]vailable in the first quarter of 2013,” and will be free for higher ed users who have purchased Office University 2010 or Office University for Mac 2011. (However, later in that same announcement a price of $1.67 per month is specified, which is still pretty good, but not as good as free).
Since I work on a campus where the default computing tools are Microsoft-compatible, I’ll be interested in seeing how this service rolls out. While my students have made good use of GoogleDocs, there’s still some (though not much) awkwardness in moving from Microsoft Office on the desktop for most of their writing and editing needs and then converting to the GoogleDocs format for sharing and collaborating. If Office 365 can make this kind of work as seamless as possible, then I will certainly be interested in giving it a try in the courses I teach.
How about you? Have you taken advantage of Microsoft’s cloud-based services? Will you be giving Office 365 a try? Or are you committed to other, competing services? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
[Creative Commons-licensed flickr photo by Microsoft Sweden]