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Posts by Amy Cavender


March 15, 2012, 11:00 AM ET

A First Look at FacultyFiles.com

OrganizedChaosA few weeks ago, a new service for faculty launched: FacultyFiles.com. The service is designed to make work easier for faculty by making it very easy to store and reuse frequently used items, such as feedback for purposes of grading, common responses to discussion board questions, course materials, and the like. The service is directed primarily at those who teach (at least partly) online, though all faculty can benefit from this sort of service. FacultyFiles is well aware of faculty who may be part-time; it's possible to set up courses for more than one school. In fact, a perusal of the job boards (at least the job boards available with the ten-day trial subscription) indicates that part-time faculty are the intended user base; all of the links are to adjunct job sites. Once you're signed up, getting set up is fairly easy. Just add a school, then add a course, and FacultyFiles.com... Read More

October 20, 2011, 11:00 AM ET

Getting More Life Out of 'Older' Hardware

Most of us have experienced it at one time or another: we purchase a piece of electronic equipment after investing a good deal of time in picking just the right one, and inside of six month’s it’s “obsolete.” A new model has come out, that’s faster/has more storage space/has more features/whatever. Oftentimes—much to our consternation—it’s even less expensive than the device we just bought. Sometimes, too, we find that, as we become more and more familiar with a device, we push it ever harder, and we end up stretching its limits. How many of us, for instance, find ourselves periodically deleting things from our smartphones, in order to free up space? It can get really frustrating, especially if we find ourselves having to choose between apps that we actually use. Once in a while, there are ways around the difficulty, and not all of them involve selling or trading the... Read More

January 10, 2011, 11:00 AM ET

Ditching a Textbook: An Update

Back in July, I wrote about an experiment I was planning in my two Political Issues sections. I’d opted to try this for a number of reasons: (1) I was dissatisfied with the standard readers available, as they tend to present issues in binary fashion, and real-world issues are seldom that simple. (2) I wanted to be able to take up much more recent issues than I could if I relied on textbooks (it takes too long for things to get into print). (3) I wanted students to help determine the topics for the course, and to develop their skills in locating good sources to help them develop their thinking on issues of interest to them. (4) I wanted to reduce costs for students. So, last semester, I used only one primary textbook: Glenn Tinder’s Political Thinking: The Perennial Questions (the writing-intensive section also made use of Muriel G. Harris’ Prentice Hall Reference... Read More

October 8, 2010, 11:00 AM ET

UberStudent: An Academic-Oriented Linux Distribution

UberStudent main screenA few weeks ago, the good folks at LifeHacker ran a post on a new Linux distro called UberStudent. Readers can learn more about UberStudent and the philosophy behind it at their site (the tour is worth a look).

Given that UberStudent is specifically designed for academic work (calling itself "Linux for Learners") and is, in their words, "Built from Freedom and Strength to Promote Computer Fluency," I couldn't resist taking it for a spin. It does sound very ProfHackerish, after all.

So I downloaded the live CD and went to work installing it on my MacBook. (I installed it in a dual-boot system using these instructions from LifeHacker and ignoring the Windows bits, but all of the screenshots in this post were taken of an installation running in VirtualBox.)

The installation process

Installing UberStudent was simple and straightforward. It involved: (1) Downloading and burning the .iso ima...

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October 1, 2010, 11:00 AM ET

Revisiting Using Google Documents in the Writing Classroom

software little over a year ago, I wrote a post titled "Using Google Documents When Others Need Paper." Since then, Google Documents has undergone some significant changes. Perhaps the most notable is the new document editor (which is now the default for new accounts, unless I'm mistaken). That's a welcome change; the new editor more closely resembles a desktop word processing application than the previous editor did, which makes it feel more familiar to new users.

A second change was not so welcome. One of the best features of the original Google Documents was the ability to compare different versions of a document (click on any of the images that follow for larger versions):

Compare checked 1

That feature made it very easy to see what changes had been made to a document, and by whom:

Compare checked 2

With the advent of the new document editor, the ability to compare different versions of a document suddenly...

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September 17, 2010, 11:00 AM ET

Learning to Program for Your Phone: Google App Inventor

Pet Teh KittayWhen Google's App Inventor beta was announced several weeks ago, I knew this was something we'd want to write about here at ProfHacker. Since Google describes App Inventor as a tool that can be used by non-developers, I asked to be the one to take this post. "Non-developer" describes me quite well. I can write a little HTML, and I can follow basic directions to add a line to a PHP file, but that's the extent of my coding skills. I figured that made me a good guinea pig — is App Inventor really as easy to use as the video on their About page suggests?

Since the rest of the team was agreeable, I immediately signed up for an account, and waited a few weeks to for Google to get back to me. Once I had an active account, I started poking around a bit.

Fortunately, Google maintains a page with links to tutorials and documentation, so it wasn't hard to figure out where to go. Being a newbie, I...

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September 10, 2010, 11:00 AM ET

A Review of NOOKStudy

nookAbout a month ago, I got hold of a Nook. I was interested in an e-reader primarily for reading journal articles as PDFs. In the interest of saving trees (and wear and tear on my back) I much prefer electronic copies of journal articles to dead tree versions. The problem is, at the end of a day of onscreen reading at a computer, eye strain is really bad (sometimes to the point of seeing squiggly little lines of light). An ereader, I thought, would be much better for my eyes. I was right; I now find myself dealing with significantly less eyestrain after a day of reading.

About the same time that I was considering the Nook, Barnes and Noble started advertising an piece of software that became available August 2nd: NOOKStudy. It looked interesting. Unlike the standard B&N eReader application (for Mac, at least), NOOKStudy supports highlighting and notetaking, and will sync those highlights a...

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September 3, 2010, 11:00 AM ET

Transitioning to a New Computer

new computerMany readers of this blog have experienced the pleasure of getting a new computer. Along with that pleasure, though, there's sometimes a bit of dread that surfaces as we realize we need to get all of our information from the old machine to the new one. For some, there's the additional challenge of keeping a home machine and a work machine in sync with each other.

While the thought of getting all that data transferred can be a bit daunting, I've found that acquiring a new computer can provide a good occasion for doing some digital housekeeping, making your files easier to find and your worklife a little more organized. And the process needn't be overwhelming; it just takes a little planning. What follows comes from my own experience of a month or so ago, when I was fortunate enough to receive a new computer at work.

Preparing the old computer for its departure

Here, I'm assuming that...

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August 20, 2010, 11:00 AM ET

Simple Presentations with 280slides

280slidesThere've certainly been some good arguments made that PowerPoint presentations don't make for the best pedagogy. At the very least, we want to be sure that any slide presentations we might use don't involve Death by Powerpoint.

Sometimes, though, there are reasons why we need to use a slide presentation, so it's worth taking a look at the tools that might be avaialable. One tool that I rrecently tested is out in beta: 280slides.com.

Useful features

The service has some good things going for it:

  • It's accessible from any computer with an internet connection, and you can run your presentation from within the browser—no desktop application needed. (Unfortunately, it isn't possible to run a presentation in full-screen mode without using a full-screen browser called Plainview.)
  • It has a built-in ability to search the web for images and video (that's CC-licensed, of course!)
  • If you need...
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August 13, 2010, 11:00 AM ET

Simple, Powerful Uses for Google Books

Google Books imageIt's hardly a secret that many of us here at Team ProfHacker are lovers of All Things Google. We've written numerous posts about several Google services. One that I've come to appreciate a great deal is Google Books.

Why?

First, it's very handy for searching for a quote in a particular book when you know it's there but can't find it (though, annoyingly, you can remember that it was on the left-hand page, and about two-thirds of the way down, that memory's of little use when you're dealing with a 400-page book).

What else can you do with Google Books?

Well, at minimum, you should be able to pull publication information into your Zotero library. That will be the case even if there's no preview at all available for the book. But if there is a preview, you may be in luck.

We've all had it happen. There's a book we need, and our library doesn't have it. Nor do any neighboring libraries....

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