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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]

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

My latest at ProfHacker: Open Thread Wednesday: What are Your Summer Plans?

Young woman on a ropes courseWith finals  and commencement just around the corner — or already finished — our thoughts turn toward summer. Some of us will be teaching summer classes; others may be planning travel. Most of us are likely to be working on projects of various sorts, and preparing classes for the fall term.

I’ll be doing some travel, including spending a good part of June in Minnesota for the Collegium Colloquy on Faith and Intellectual Life.

I also have one major project: learning WordPress more thoroughly. I’ve found myself in the happy position of running a large multisite installation of WordPress, and I’ve come to the conclusion that having a solid grasp, not only of how to use WordPress effectively, but also of how it works “under the hood,” will serve me well. Running a small multisite installation on my own domain is one thing; maintaining a large installation for a significant user base is something else again, and I’ll feel more confident about it with a better understanding of WordPress’s inner workings.

What are your plans for the summer? Travel? Conferences? Writing? Research? Learning something new? Let us know in the comments.


[Creative Commons licensed image by Matt Christenson for Oregon’s Bureau of Land Management]

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

My latest at ProfHacker: Open-Thread Wednesday: The End of the Semester Approaches!


Spring has finally arrived in the midwest, and it’s a little more than two weeks after Easter (or only just over a week, if your tradition follows the Julian calendar). For those whose academic calendar follows the semester system, that means the end of the term will soon be upon us, with commencement following.

Between now and then, we’ll be racing to get through the last of our material for our courses, grading assignments and exams, planning for commencement festivities, and saying goodbye to students we’ve journeyed with as they move on to the next stage of their lives.

How do you approach all that the next weeks hold? What keeps you motivated? What helps you manage the stress that the end of the academic year brings? What has you looking to the future? Let us know in the comments!

[Creative Commons licensed photo by the author.]

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

My latest at ProfHacker: Managing Expectations

Dog on roof, asking how we manage expectationsFinding appropriate work-life balance seems to be a never-ending quest in many lines of work, and academia is no exception. It’s all too easy to work far too late into the evening, grading, preparing classes, or (everyone’s favorite!) answering email.

This year, I’ve been reminded of just how important it is to manage both my own and other’s expectations about communications and working hours if I’m to have a hope of attaining something at least resembling balance. There are a few practices I’ve implemented that have proven helpful.

First, I set limits to the degree that email checks me. I don’t check work email on Sundays, and only sporadically to on Saturdays — and I communicate this policy as needed, so no one thinks I’m ignoring a message if I don’t respond immediately. I also make an effort to avoid checking email after suppertime, if it can be avoided. Using quiet hours on my phone helps in sticking to this policy; I simply don’t receive audible alerts after a particular time each evening.

Since I don’t like to deal with work email after hours or on weekends, I also try to avoid sending mail to my colleagues at those times. On occasion I find myself composing an email in the evening or on a weekend so I don’t forget something important by putting it off, but I don’t send it; I schedule it to be sent during regular working hours. (I’ve looked at Boomerang in the past, but I’m currently using RightInbox.) I don’t expect a response over the weekend, after all, so there’s no real reason for me to send my message before Monday morning.

Finally, I’ve stopped expecting myself to work too late into the evening. I’ve gotten into the habit of stopping work ninety minutes to an hour before I plan to go to bed, so I can do some leisure reading. The practice both given me the time to discover some great books that are new to me (as well as to re-read some old favorites). It’s also helped me to fall asleep more easily; when I work too close to bedtime, I’m more restless.

These simple practices have helped me be a bit more relaxed than I might otherwise have been this academic year. What strategies work well for you?

Creative Commons licensed photo by Flickr user Ron Mader

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