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Posts by Alex M. Jarvis


April 6, 2010, 10:00 AM ET

Pursuing Techno-Bliss

Some of us dream of the day that our synthetic eyes capture all that our minds deem appropriate, where DragonThink turns our thoughts directly into papers and quantum fluctuation allows us to be both in class and deep in slumber. Unfortunately, this won’t be happening anytime soon, at least outside of William Gibson novels. How can you find your own academe-friendly techno-bliss?

Last week, I talked about creating a walkable environment for myself by living near campus. It got me thinking about my reliance on unified scenes in my personal and academic lives.  I, like some others I have spoken to, feel a buzz in the back of our necks when everything “fits,” and all of our various deals in life work together harmoniously. For the apartment, it was all about making myself less reliant on transportation and coordination, to make it easier to plan my day. For tech, ...

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March 30, 2010, 02:12 PM ET

I, Hamster: On Living Near Campus

Most students think of my campus as a commuter school.  And while most students live off-campus, that  hides the fact that lots of us live in apartments or shared houses in the immediate vicinity of campus. 

I’m currently moving into a three-bedroom apartment right beside campus, for all the usual reasons.  (I.e., We can play Magic: The Gathering at all hours without waking up Dad!)  In test runs from the new apartment, it turns out that I am a mere 45-second walk to my on-campus job, not to mention classes, and a just slightly longer walk to food, liquor, and more!  Day by day, my car look a little more useless, and I’m beginning to wonder: Have I made myself a human hamster habitrail?

While it’d be  nice to think that the environment played any sort of role in this decision, the reality is that my motivations were different.  I have a very rudimentary...

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March 9, 2010, 02:00 PM ET

Creating Workshops for Students and Faculty

In January, I accepted a co-op position at Central Connecticut State University in our campus’ Instructional Technology Design and Resource Center. The plan was simple; figure out a way to inject new technologies into the classroom in a non-obvious way. As Profhacker readers are sure to recognize, lots of really interesting and effective tools are available online, most of them cheap or even free. However, when I asked Professors why they did or didn’t use a particular tool or service, and they all came back with similar answers: they weren’t familiar with the tools, they didn’t know what was out there, they didn’t see the point, and they didn’t trust the price.

The last two were particularly hard for me to grok. The first point I can almost understand: five years ago, Youtube was but a twinkle in the eye of it’s owner, Myspace ruled the Social Networks, and...

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February 4, 2010, 08:00 AM ET

All Things Google: The 'Droid you're looking for

I’ll admit that I bought into the Android idea early: I was an avid user of Google, liked the idea of an open-source handset, and really wanted something powerful other then the iPhone (mostly just to spite my faculty advisor). Since my January 2009 purchase, the Google Android mobile phone platform has matured significantly. It has gone through three (humorously pastry themed) major updates, and has spread from the original hardware on T-Mobile to encompass a wide range of devices on almost every major cellphone network in the United States (the holdout is AT&T, but I’m sure they aren’t too worried about their smartphone selection). I had started out with a G1 – not the most rugged or powerful phone, but a decent device – and have recently upgraded to the Nexus One.  In my two semesters using it, It has become clear that Android is ready for the classroom arena.

Android ...

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November 12, 2009, 02:00 PM ET

Defending RateMyProfessors.com

RateMyProfessors.com is a website – now owned by MTV – that fills a strange space in the mindset of the academic community. At its best, it is a forum for students to honestly and anonymously evaluate their Professors. At its worst, it is a place for gossip, ridicule, and a tool to choose the path of least resistance on your way to a degree.

At my university, RateMyProfessor is often seen alt-tabbed in another window next to the University’s class selector software, students fervently cross-referencing available classes with their assigned professors . It’s not uncommon for students – faced with a large set of potential electives – to use RMP to choose their class solely on the ratings of the teachers found there. This is not neccessarily a bad thing at all – all other things equal, I can understand the willingness to choose a teacher that your peers have...

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October 13, 2009, 02:00 PM ET

An Introduction to All Things Google

CC, Flickr user jurvetson

Here at ProfHacker, one of the things we like to do is share ideas about what’s working for us. A good number of us on the team find that we regularly use all things Google.

This post, the first in a series titled “All Things Google”, provides a quick overview of which Google tools two of us use, and a brief explanation of why we use them.

Future posts in the series will explore some of these tools in more detail.

A student’s perspective: Alex

What I use:

  • GMail: Hub of organization such as labeling, filtering, etc.
  • Google Calendar: Great for syllabus management, reminders for upcoming assignments, organizing and recording work hours
  • Google Documents: Where I have written almost all of my papers for my entire college career!
  • An Android-based mobile phone: More a sort of “away from computer hub” than a audio communication device.
  • Google Wave: Still feeling this one out, but...
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August 28, 2009, 11:21 AM ET

Modeling Technology in the Classroom: A Student's Guide

By flickr user spakattacks. CC-licensed

Whether or not we are approaching any grand Singularity, technology continues to change in new and interesting ways. Users continue to stress the limits of any given system, and creators expand the system to accommodate new growth. Nevertheless, many professors – even, or perhaps especially, younger professors – still seem to be at odds with the idea that technology can be integrated into the classroom with any manner of success. It seems that for every tech-savvy edupunk soldier, there is a techno-phobic professor unwilling to consider that the shiny, beeping, distracting things that have invaded their classroom and have been shoved down their throats might actually be useful.

However, there are simple, easy ways to entice even the most techno-skeptical professor, and to make our gadgets a welcome friend in the classroom.

  • Always, always ask, and respect the answer given. I am...
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August 20, 2009, 02:02 PM ET

Notes toward an iPhone app: Reading Texts with Enkidu

image by flickr user oskay / cc licensed

image by flickr user oskay / cc licensed

This past summer, I TA’d a pilot program in Jason Jones’ class where every student was loaned an iPod touch for the duration of the session. It was an admittedly bumpy process, though fun – several assignments were invented days – possibly hours – before they were assigned. [Ed. note: A full post on this--including the reason for the improv--is coming next week!] At the end of the class, I asked if I could present one of my own, a sort of soft review of the iPod as a platform. I asked the students what they wish they had on the device; what magical app could they dream up that would solve all of their problems with the class?

One group decided they were going to re-invent the Kindle. An e-book reader with specific texts for the class on the iPods. They assumed that, if the campus was full of iPods,  then professors would be...

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