The following video is an EDUCAUSE interview with Bryan Alexander, Senior Fellow for the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education. He discusses the challenges and opportunities associated with integrating mobile technology into learning environments.
Although it’s possible to get carried away, it’s still helpful sometimes to discuss what we carry with us for our work.
Your teaching tools don’t have to be digital, and they don’t have to be especially sophisticated. In fact “sophisticated” tools sometimes turn out to be “complicated” tools, and complicated tools can be the ones that are the most likely to malfunction. For me, the simplest little things can be the most powerful.
What do you keep in your bag for the classes you teach, regardless of which classes you’re teaching? I always make sure to have the following:
- a small notebook for jotting down reminders to myself and recording contact information,
- a few pens in different colors for my own use but also to loan (or give) to students as necessary,
- a couple of inexpensive flash drives also for my own use but also to loan (or give) to students,
- my beloved dry-erase markers for use on the classroom whiteboard
- a generous supply of sticky notes,
- an extra power adapter for my laptop (in other words, I have an adapter that stays in my office and I always have in my bag),
- a display adapter for my laptop so that I can plug in to the classroom projector (note to Mac users: Monoprice is a great place to buy cables, cords, and adapters for significantly less than what Apple charges).
How about you? What’s in your teaching toolbox? Let’s hear from you in the comments!
For many of us, the semester is almost half over. Now might be a good time to ask your students to provide you with a mid-semester course evaluation. (Brian has even suggested conducting your midterm evaluations publicly with GoogleDocs.)
We’ve written several posts about evaluations here at ProfHacker, and we’ve even written a few posts specifically about mid-semester course evaluations. For example, Billie has explained that “[b]y conducting mid-term teaching evaluations, you have the students’ perspective once they’ve experienced enough of the course to provide constructive feedback, but while there is still enough time in the course to make some substantive changes (if needed).” And Amy has written that “[s]uch evaluations can provide an opportunity to step back, take a deep breath, and reflect on how things are going.”
These evaluations don’t have to be extensive or complex. You could just ask your students to answer four simple questions:
- What’s going well?
- What needs improvement?
- What can the students do to improve the class?
- What can the instructor do to improve the class?
I’ve conducted mid-semester course evaluations a number of times and have always found the results to be quite helpful.
How about you? If you’ve tried mid-semester course evaluations, let us know how it went!
One of the most frustrating aspects of using information and communications technology (ICT) is the frequency with which things don’t work, where “things” equals just about any hardware or software tool that you could possibly name. Monitors start flickering, files won’t open, obscure error messages crowd your screen, hard drives make funny noises… you name it. One of the most rewarding aspects of using ICT is the access it provides to an enormous network of people who might be able to help you. Twitter can be an extremely effective way of getting your questions answered, but it also teaches us some important lessons about the right ways to ask questions.
In one of my classes this semester, students are learning to use a variety of software tools to create online resources. Like all of us, they are frequently running into problems or roadblocks. This is often how one learns: trial and error. Our class has developed a system using Twitter to ask questions about such problems: we use the hashtag
#help318 when we have a question that needs to be answered. Everyone in the class (not just me) keeps an eye on the hashtag and tries to help out whenever possible. This system has been pretty successful so far.
For those of us not in a relatively small group such as a class, however, there’s a Twitter hashtag to use:
#lazyweb. (I’ve created a short Storify with some random examples of people using
#lazyweb.) If you Tweet a question and include this hashtag, you are somewhat more likely to get an answer to your question, since there are people on Twitter who monitor Tweets with this hashtag to see what kinds of questions are being asked. Using
#lazyweb (or any hashtag, really) is a strategy for capturing the attention of Twitter users outside of your list of followers.
Of course, Twitter is not the only way to ask for help. However, if you use Twitter to ask a question, you have to keep in mind that a medium giving you only 140 characters at a time requires you to be very, very good at formulating your question.
Based on my own experience asking and answering questions through this medium, I’ve come up with 5 tips on asking for help on Twitter in a way that will increase your chances of getting an answer you can use. These tips are applicable to any medium of communication, however.
- Be as specific as possible: What, exactly, is the problem you’re experiencing? If you’re creating a web page and you have a validation problem, which document is the one giving you trouble? Share the link to the document, if possible. If it’s a software problem, what is the error message you’re getting? What operating system are you using?
- Avoid ambiguous use of “it”: Don’t Tweet something like “It keeps saying my header isn’t valid!” or “It won’t let me send the email!” We can’t help you because we don’t know what “it” is. The browser? Your text editor? The W3C Validator? Your desktop email client? A web-based email system? (See 1. above: “Be specific.”)
- Include a link: If a particular page or file is giving you trouble, share a link to that page or file so we can look at it, too. Otherwise, we’re just guessing about what your problem might be.
- Use a link shortener: You don’t want your link eating up the 140 characters in your Tweet, so use a service like Google URL shortener. (In my experience, the built-in Twitter link shortener is inconsistent, but your mileage may vary.) If you don’t like Google’s there are several other shorteners to choose from.
- Include a picture: If you are getting an error message of some kind, or if your web page looks funny, or if you’re not sure what kind of port you’re looking at, including a screen capture or a picture along with your Tweeted question will allow others to see what you’re talking about. (Here at ProfHacker we’ve covered a number of different screenshot tools.)
Obviously, these are just my suggestions, things that have worked for me. Do you have any suggestions of your own? If so, please leave them in the comments below!
Last Friday, ProfHacker ran a live TweetChat with Anvil Academic (@anvilacademic), a new press that aims to bring scholarly rigor to publishing digital projects. Anvil is led by the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE) and the Council of Library and Information Resources (CLIR). Read our former posts about Anvil here, here, and visit their spanking new website (now accepting submissions!) here. You can also find some great overviews of Anvil’s work in Jack Dougherty (@doughertyjack)’s and Lisa Spiro (@lisaspiro)’s blog posts.
Below is an edited Storify of the chat that showcases the major topics discussed on Friday with the core Anvil team on Twitter. If you are interested in the entire discussion, visit the unedited Storify here. Also, if you have a digital project that you’d like to discuss at any stage for consideration with Anvil, contact Fred Moody (@moodyfred), Anvil’s editor.