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Posts by Prof. Hacker

September 17, 2012, 08:00 AM ET

Quartzy for Life Sciences Inventory Management (and more)

Recently, my department decided to update our inventory for keeping track of instructional lab items. Previously we had been using an Access database, but its unwieldiness had discouraged us from updating it regularly. So we went on a search for a solution to create Inventory 2.0. We wanted something that could be accessed from a web browser anywhere, easily updated by student TAs and busy professors, with entries that had attachable information such as manuals and pictures of the items. For months, the search went on. We collaborated with instructional technologists on campus, searched on our own, even considered building our own database from scratch. In late July, we were feeling very discouraged, but then I serendipitously happened upon Quartzy. We are now using it to catalog our physics lab equipment and it's working really well. And I'm sharing this on ProfHacker because its use... Read More

August 27, 2012, 11:00 AM ET

Pushing Through The Perils of Teaching Online

Mountaineer in an ice cave [This is a guest post by Doug Ward, an associate professor of journalism and the Budig Professor of Writing at the University of Kansas. You can find him online at and, and follow him on Twitter @kuediting. Doug has written several guest posts before, most recently on grading with voice on an iPad.--@jbj] I knew the student evaluations from my spring online class would be harsh, but that harshness exceeded anything I had imagined. The class was disorganized, students said again and again. The professor was distant and uninvolved, others growled. Several students dismissed my attempt to promote peer learning, complained about a lack of feedback, moaned about the added cost of an online class, snarled about my ability as a teacher. One even suggested that I was unfit to teach. This was unfamiliar territory. In my march toward tenure, I had ... Read More

February 27, 2012, 08:00 AM ET

ProfHacking Abroad: Hardware Choices for Living In Europe

Blue Suitcase[This is a guest post by Jason Mittell, Associate Professor of American Studies and Film & Media Culture at Middlebury College. In the 2011-12 academic year, he is a research fellow at the Lichtenberg-Kolleg at the University of Göttingen, Germany. He writes the blog Just TV.--@jbj] I am in the highly enviable situation to be on sabbatical this academic year, made doubly so by being on a fellowship in Germany for the year. The last time I was abroad for an extended time was in 1991, when I spent a semester in London as an undergraduate. Thinking back to that stay, it’s striking how much my technological life has changed: I brought no computer to London, writing papers on the typewriter provided by our program, with my major technological burden being a Discman player, powered external speaker set, and dozens of CDs I brought to avoid months of silence. Twenty years later, I brought 2... Read More

September 16, 2011, 08:00 AM ET

Elephants, Riders, and Paths: Motivating Students

Switch cover [This is a guest post by Meagan Rodgers, an assistant professor of English at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, where she teaches various writing classes and directs the writing center. You can find her online at] You’re in a field. You’re looking down a path. You’re riding an elephant. This unlikely circumstance is the central metaphor that animates Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard (2010) by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, authors of the popular 2007 book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. In Switch, the Heaths draw on a breadth of social science research to construct a reader-friendly approach to individual, organizational, and societal change. “Ultimately,” they argue, “all change efforts boil down to the same mission: Can you get people to start behaving in a new way?” You can, the Heaths argue,... Read More

May 24, 2011, 08:00 AM ET

My Online Summer: Getting Ready

Online teaching [This is the first in a series of posts about teaching a fully-online course for the first time. -- @jbj] This summer, I'm teaching a world lit survey class entirely online. I've taught the course several times as a face-to-face course, both in the summer and during the regular semester, and so I'm pretty comfortable with the material. This, however, will be the first time I've taught a class entirely online. Moreover, for complicated reasons, I've agreed to teach the class entirely--or to the greatest extent possible--using the baked-in tools in Blackboard Vista, rather than kludging together something with a wiki or WordPress, as would normally be my wont. Combining those two sources of (personal) novelty seemed like a natural for ProfHacker, and so for the next seven weeks (the five weeks of the course, plus this preview post and a post-mortem), I'll sort out how the course is... Read More

April 6, 2011, 03:00 PM ET

Mapping Novels with Google Earth

Globe [This is a guest post by Erin Sells, a Visiting Assistant Professor of English at Lander University in Greenwood, SC. She writes about modernist literature, the one-day novel, and Anne Enright, and is interested in academic community partnerships and higher education policy. You can follow her on Twitter @erinsells --@jbj]. The use of models and other abstract forms in literary study has recently seen a revival in a digital age that puts data and sophisticated data management systems in the hands of the literary scholar, teacher, and student. Pedagogical applications of these abstract models are rich with possibility for the literary classroom, and offer exciting opportunities for engaging non-English majors and non-traditional learners in the advanced study of literature, as well as challenging students to verbally articulate visual and spatial knowledge. In an upper-division... Read More

October 11, 2010, 08:00 AM ET

Practicing What We Preach

looking forwardWe at ProfHacker write a lot about possible ways of incorporating a range of technologies into diverse classrooms. We always try to base our blog posts firmly in our experiences, but we often mention what we actually do here and there somewhat randomly. Now that all of our fall semesters are firmly under way, the ProfHacker team presents this entry with descriptions and links to what we are actually doing this semester. Feel free to take a look at our blogs, wikis, syllabi, and other materials to see how we practice what we preach. In the comments, let us know what you have up your sleeves this semester. Has ProfHacker inspired you to try anything new? Or is there something you're up to that we haven't covered yet? Here's to a great Fall 2010 for us all!


Quite some time ago, I moved away from using Blackboard for my courses. Though I really tried hard to like it, it just never... Read More

October 4, 2010, 08:00 AM ET

Teaching Carnival 4.2

[October's Teaching Carnival is from Traci Gardner, a blogger and social media educator. She blogs on Teaching in the 21st Century for Bedford/St. Martin's Bits and publishes educational resources on ReadWriteThink. You can email her at or follow her updates on literacy and education in the news at @newsfromtengrrl.]

Did you notice the smell of deep-fried Twinkies in the air? That's right. It's time for another Teaching Carnival, the monthly round-up of blog posts on teaching and issues in higher ed.

Last month, Billie Hara hosted the carnival and showed us dozens of great links. As she explained then, ProfHacker has become the permanent home of the Teaching Carnival, so each month you can return for a snapshot of the most recent thoughts on teaching in college and university classrooms. You can find previous carnivals on Teaching Carnival's home site.

Now without...

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September 23, 2010, 11:00 AM ET

Using Mailplane to Manage Multiple Gmail Accounts

Mailplane[This is a guest post by Meagan Timney, a postdoctoral fellow at the Electronic Textual Cultures Laboratory at the University of Victoria. Previously at ProfHacker, Meagan wrote about Nurturing the Mind-Body Connection. You can email her at or follow her @mbtimney.]

[Editor's note: Mailplane is a commercial application only available for Mac users. We now to return you to your regularly scheduled productivity post.]

I have a daily identity crisis. From the time I wake up until the time I go to bed, I have to manage, simultaneously, at least three (and probably more like five or six) separate people in my brain. The three most dominant, for me, are the athlete, the scholar, and the teacher. Among these identities alone, I have five Gmail accounts (one to filter emails from my local Crossfit Gym, my coach, training partners, race organizers, etc., one for all of my...

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September 21, 2010, 11:00 AM ET

Checklists: Giving Assignments a Facelift

checklists[This is a guest post by Eric Hansen, a part-time faculty member at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign in the College of Media and the iSchool at Syracuse University. He started the websites as a showcase of next-generation LMS technique, and (@tenprofs) to rally gen-y/x professors in building an Information-Age successor to the death-by-PowerPoint model of higher education. Eric can be emailed, tweeted, poked, Googled and linkedIn.]

If you're looking for a quick, road-tested tip, here it is: integrate checklists into your communication of assignment requirements and for improving the submission process. I recommend the Google Docs "New Form" tool,, or What follows is a quick case study and how-to.

In honor of the 2011 GRE giving the axe to its infamous analogy questions, how about one more for the road?:

Surgeon : ...

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