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Posts by Jason B. Jones


January 22, 2010, 06:30 PM ET

Weekend Reading

Ah, the crazy hedonism of the weekends!  Here are five links and a video to get you through:

This video’s a year old, but it resurfaced on Twitter the other day after John Palfrey showed it...

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January 21, 2010, 06:00 PM ET

Tending Your Digital Gardens: In-Semester Maintenance

If you spend any amount of time using a wiki–or, for example, services such as Flickr or delicious, where you can tag and organize your material in a variety of different ways–then sooner or later entropy will tend to set in.  It can be hard to find things–or, in a classroom setting, your students find themselves either hemmed in by what’s come before, or they can’t find what they need to move forward. (Or, in my instance, PBWorks search is basically useless, because there are so many individual pages in the wiki.)

My basic reaction to this problem is to sit and sob a little. Ok, well, maybe not sob–but certainly it’s more soothing to hit refresh on NetNewsWire than to clean up 80+ pages of Flickr photos, or 3 years of PBworks pages.  The task just seems overwhelming.

Wiki folk have a metaphor that’s handy to think about: wiki gardening.  You cut a little here,...

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January 21, 2010, 10:23 AM ET

Ethically Disposing of Review Copies

If you’ve taught for even one semester, especially if you decide what textbook to use in your class, then you are aware of the mixed blessing that is the desk/review copy. On the one hand, free (or massively discounted) books!  On the other hand, so . . . many . . . books.  Eventually the novelty of getting books fades before the avalanche of books–many of which you may not want.  And then one day, the book buyback guy shows up at your door, offering to take some of the excess off your hands for a little bit of cash.

Last night on Twitter, Dave Richeson & G. Michael Guy asked a question that is hard to answer simply: What is it legal or ethical to do with the torrent of books?  This is an outstanding question that’s hard to answer simply.  Here are some initial observations–although I’d be glad to hear of good solutions to this problem.  [Update: More accurately...

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January 19, 2010, 10:00 AM ET

These Kids Today: How Not to Talk about Undergrads

If you’ve been around a college campus over the past 6 or 7 years, then you’ve almost certainly heard a lot of rot about “millennials,” or “Generation Y.”  I’ve written before that it’s a mistake to put too much emphasis on these ideas–not all undergrads are “digital natives” (whatever that bizarre metaphor is supposed to connote), for one thing.

Skepticism about such overeager claims is warranted, as is any marketing-friendly claim about tens of millions of people.  But this winter I’ve had at least 4 conversations with faculty members at various institutions (not mine!) that have involved claims that today’s undergraduates are fundamentally unteachable, and are more likely to snap back at professors’ criticisms than ever before.

There’s no easy way to say this, but: When you find yourself making such a claim about your students, then . . . it�...

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January 18, 2010, 02:00 PM ET

The Difference between Workload and Expectations Management

It’s a new semester, so I briefly want to revisit a perennial topic among academics: the increasing demands on our time from e-mail, social media, and the internet more generally.  I often hear this spoken about as a question of workload, but that’s not right.

Let’s take it as read that academic workloads have changed dramatically over the past two or three decades.  At many schools, advising and assessment demands have risen.  The decades-long systemic collapse of the tenure-track job “market” in the humanities has meant, in addition to the devaluation of the Ph.D. and the morally shocking reliance on contingent labor, that those people lucky enough to land a full-time position face heightened research and other requirements for tenure (since, after all, there’s an army of under- and unemployed academics who could be plugged into one’s job).

But these...

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January 18, 2010, 10:00 AM ET

The Omnibus ProfHacker Winter Break in Review

Today ProfHacker resumes its regular three-posts-per-day schedule.  Last fall was tremendously exciting for all of us, and we hope to make 2010 at least as interesting for you.  Thanks for reading!

Here’s what you may have missed over winter break:

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January 14, 2010, 06:11 PM ET

How to become a Better Academic? ProfHacking (Just ask Teach for America)

As ProfHacker.com rolls back into its regular production schedule next week, it seems like a useful time to offer a quick reminder of what the site’s aims.  While just about everyone who writes for ProfHacker is interested in, say, social media, or in the ways networked technologies are transforming higher education, we’re not a “tech blog.”

ProfHacker argues for several perspectives: that the condition of all improvement is experimentation; that a positive, let’s-give-this-a-try attitude is more productive than cynicism or excessive snark; and that too many aspects about our day-to-day work in higher education are based on hidden assumptions about what “everyone knows.”  Although disciplines are obviously different, and although schools vary widely, we have enough common tasks, challenges, and opportunities that sharing information and strategies can be...

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December 18, 2009, 02:33 PM ET

Weekend Reading

A few links to get you through the grading/holiday shopping season:

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December 14, 2009, 06:00 PM ET

Site-Specific Browsers Simplify Your Online Work

Site-specific browsers may seem counterintuitive at first sight: The whole point of modern browsers is that you can do so much without switching apps–or even windows, if you’ve got tabs enabled on your browser.  Why on earth would you want to firewall off browsers for specific sites?

But consider this not-atypical usage case: My laptop at home always has three windows open: Gmail, my .edu e-mail, and my calendar.  Over a night, I might also check PbWorks, upload a video to YouTube and write a blog post about it, upload and edit photos in Flickr, and work with Google Docs.  Click on a few links in Twitter or NetNewsWire, and the number of open windows or tabs can escalate pretty quickly.  If the browser crashes, then it takes everything down with it, which is irritating.  Plus, if you have several windows open, they all look alike–that is, they all look like Firefox or Safari...

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December 13, 2009, 05:00 PM ET

The ProfHacker Week in Review

Ah, the end of the year.  Grading hell for a couple of weeks, but then one of the best features of academic life: the ability to reboot and start fresh again.

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