When I teach a pedagogy class, I tell the students that I think in PowerPoint. I do this partly to spite the large community of Microsoft haters, but also to illustrate a point: planning a lesson is a step that a teacher should never skip, especially if they have not taught that lesson at least 5 times. And, while it is important to be flexible, it is also important to visualize the short period of time that we spend with our students in a structured, chronological way, so that we make the most of every minute.
Recently, Gabriella Safran, the current chair of the Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages (DLCL), asked me to generate network graphs of the DLCL faculty in advance of an all-faculty retreat at which the agenda was to center around how the DLCL is structured and how well it works for faculty. We developed a series of survey questions that cover research, teaching, collaboration, and service, which I turned into a Google Form so that faculty could fill out a simple web form to provide me with a spreadsheet of data. The questions included things like “What are your primary research topics?” and “With whom have you co-taught?” The answers gave me to raw data necessary to begin building networks. In some cases, faculty are connected because they work directly together either in teaching or research (e.g., reading each other’s drafts). In other cases, faculty are connected because they share a research interest or teach the same time period or genre. I divided the questions into groups, titled “Research”, “Collaboration”, “Structure”, “Teaching”, and “Teaching Collaboration”, as a way to see different facets of the faculty’s relationships. I then created this web page to allow exploration of these networks. The data are not complete as not everyone has completed the survey yet, but I will continue to update the networks as more results come in. For suggestions on how to use this page, read on. If you would like read about the technologies I used to build this tool, see this companion post.
Last quarter I taught EFSLANG-693B, an advanced listening comprehension and discussion course for international graduate students. I have written about my efforts with the media in that class before, and wanted to follow up with a few reflections on the most recent iteration.
In 1814, Thomas Jefferson offered his personal library — some fifty years in the making — to the newly established Library of Congress. His library of works on philosophy, history, science, and literature were meant for “everything which related to America, and indeed whatever was rare and valuable in every science.” Jefferson loved knowledge, and the donation of his private library to the Library of Congress allowed the new library to “become the depository of unquestionably the choicest collection of books in the US, and I hope it will not be without some general effect on the literature of our country.”
In the past few months I have been supporting several online classes to be taught this Spring Quarter, and a few others to be taught in the Fall and Winter.
As we approach the end of the academic year, there is often a tendency to look for ways to assess how we have done and what we should do next year. One of the easiest tools for doing this is the survey, but I would suggest that querying network and software logs might give a more accurate picture of what is going on. At the very least, there is a strong argument that we really should take advantage of the resources we control before we start asking students and faculty who might have time to report what they think they can recall about their computer use. Below are a few questions that might be answerable, followed by some guiding principles behind them. These lists are by no means complete, but hopefully they give a direction that might be productive. The basic idea is to get a more accurate picture of how the learning management system (LMS), clusters, and other university controlled resources are used in order to possibly find opportunities or lacks that could be addressed.
I recently found myself paying the hosting bill for my domains and sites and feeling unhappy about the services despite the low cost. Finally I made the connection I should have made much sooner: I could have better servers for free. Amazon Web Services provides a Free Usage Tier that is more than sufficient for your average personal site, development servers, and many other needs. I remember at first being bewildered by the documentation and AWS ecosystem, so thought others might appreciate a quick walkthrough that explains how to procure these goodies for you own projects. So far, I’ve successfully set up Drupal, Mediathread, and several other software packages on free servers and have found the performance to be better than my shared hosts.
On one level, this post is about Quizlet, a tool that I use in a couple different ways, but what I really hope to convey to readers is an approach that I am taking in my curriculum and how I implement that with both high and low tech, or online and traditional technology.
With the recent introduction of Facebook Graph Search, the fact that the data we provide Facebook situates us in a navigable, analyzable network has become clearer than ever. When I came across this tutorial that explains how to extract one’s social network data from the site (here’s another one as slides), I jumped on the chance and produced these results in Gephi: