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My latest at ProfHacker: Open-Thread Wednesday: Anything New?

FireworksThe new academic year has arrived (or soon will, for those who start after Labor Day). Though there may be a certain sadness to the end of summer, a new academic year can also bring the excitement of a fresh start. It’s a time for meeting new people and trying new things, for faculty no less than for students.

Some new things may be major: a new course, or perhaps a new project. In my case, the new is something small. I’ve changed the first essay assignment in my writing course. For several years, I’ve asked students to begin the semester by writing a brief essay identifying an important political issue, explaining why they think it’s important, and recommending an approach to the issue or problem.

It’s not that the assignment didn’t work; students produced reasonably good essays. Still, I thought a different assignment might help students write more focused, passionate essays. So this semester, I’m asking them to write a “This I Believe” essay, following these guidelines.1

That may seem odd for a Political Science class, but given the ways in which our deepest beliefs can influence our attitudes toward politics, I anticipate that the assignment will result in some interesting reading and discussion.

Are you trying anything new in your classes this semester? Let us know in the comments.

Creative Commons licenced photo by Flickr user Magnus Johansson

  1. I borrowed this idea from Stephanie Anne Salome, who wrote about using such an assignment with her math students in her contribution to Eifler, Karen E., and Thomas M. Landy, eds. 2014. Becoming Beholders: Cultivating Sacramental Imagination and Actions in College Classrooms. Collegeville, Minnesota: Michael Glazier.?

from ProfHacker » Amy CavenderProfHacker – Blogs – The Chronicle of Higher Education

My latest at ProfHacker: Managing Links with Nuzzel

Two parakeets nuzzling

Many’s the time I’ve been known to suggest that the people I engage with on Facebook and Twitter quit posting so many interesting links, because my reading list in Pocket is getting too long. All too often, Pocket is where links that I thought looked interesting go to die.

A few weeks back, I found a much better way to keep track of stories my social media contacts were linking to. I was listening to Fr. Roderick Vonhögen’s The Break podcast, and he mentioned Nuzzel. It’s available on the web, iOS, and Android. The premise is simple: you link Nuzzel to your Twitter and/or Facebook accounts, and it provides you with a list of stories your contacts have linked to. For each story, it displays the article’s title, author (if known), and first few lines, plus the profile photos of contacts who’ve shared the article’s link. (That’s in the “News from Your Friends” section. There are also sections called “News from Friends of Friends,” “News You May Have Missed,” and “Recently Read Stories.” I don’t find that last particularly useful, as I generally know which stories I’ve read without Nuzzel reminding me.)

In few weeks I’ve been using the app, I’ve found it’s been a great help in keeping my Pocket list manageable. Instead of sending a link from Twitter or Facebook directly to Pocket, I go to Nuzzel first. Nuzzel’s display shows me right away whether the article is really something I’m interested in. If it is, I can read it right away. Or, if it’s longer than I have time for at the moment, then I can send it to Pocket. Instead of having to sort through my Pocket list to figure out what I actually want to read, I can ensure that only articles that genuinely interest me end up there in the first place. It’s a find that makes me glad I listen to The Break pretty regularly.

Do you have a favorite tool or workflow for managing interesting links that come your way? What are your favorite sources of ideas for new tools or ways of working? Let us know in the comments.

Creative Commons licensed photo by Flickr user Kurt Bauschardt

from ProfHacker » Amy CavenderProfHacker – Blogs – The Chronicle of Higher Education

My latest at ProfHacker: Traveling Light

A packed carry-on suitcase and backpackAh, summer, when it’s not uncommon to be traveling. Last year, I had some international travel, and one of the things that helped me survive was a keyboard case for my iPad, which enabled me to leave my laptop at home even though I had a lot of writing to do.

This year, I’m traveling internationally again, though it’s a shorter trip this time (six days instead of three weeks). I really don’t want to fuss with having to check bags, so I’m packing very light, which is something of a first for me (I was the college student who’d bring home half my books over Spring Break intending to read ahead in my classes, then never actually open more than one or two of them.)

Fortunately I don’t have a lot of writing that I really have to do this trip, so I’m free to experiment a bit with lessening the electronics load. I’m leaving even the iPad behind this time, and traveling with only a Kindle Fire HDX 7″ and a Logitech Keys-To-Go bluetooth keyboard (it’s designed for iOS devices, but it pairs with the Fire just fine).

Leaving some of the electronics behind, combined with the shorter trip, has allowed me to get everything I need into the carry-on and backpack in the lead image. (I’m generally lousy at packing efficiently, so I checked out this post from Primer, and the method worked beautifully. Thanks to the folks at LifeHacker for mentioning it just one day before I had to pack!)

I’ll check back in when I return with some thoughts on how traveling this lightly worked out.

If you have any strategies for traveling lightly, please share them in the comments!


[Creative Commons licensed photo by the author.]

from ProfHacker » Amy CavenderProfHacker – Blogs – The Chronicle of Higher Education

My latest at ProfHacker: From the Archives: At the End of the Academic Year, Looking Back and Looking Forward

A desk with papers and a laptop computerIt’s graduation season; most colleges and universities have finished for the year, or will in just a few more weeks. That provides an opportunity to take stock of the year just completed, and look to the year ahead. It’s also a good opportunity to get caught up on some of the organizing tasks that often go undone in the last frantic weeks of the academic year.

Over the years, writers here at ProfHacker have provided a number of posts about things to do at this time of year:

I try to look ahead to fall courses as early in the summer as I can, while ideas about what worked well and what didn’t are still fresh in my memory. I don’t teach the same courses in the fall as I do in the spring, but I can at least make any necessary changes that aren’t content-specific.

This is also a good time to update passwords, and to tidy up any social media accounts, going through follower/following lists and pruning as needed. I find these sorts of tasks a bit time-consuming, so I prefer to do them at the end of the academic year rather than at the end of each semester, as I usually have more time available then.

What suggestions would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments.


[Creative Commons licensed image by Flickr user Jodimichelle]

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