ProfHacker icon

Posts by Ryan Cordell

November 3, 2011, 11:00 AM ET

'Speed Dating' Peer-Review Writing Workshops

We write about writing regularly at ProfHacker. If you're new to ProfHacker, you absolutely should review Billie's wonderful "Writer's Bootcamp" series for tips about developing good personal writing habits and helping students with their writing. My students do quite a bit of writing in all of my classes—blog posts, writing exercises, digital projects, and more traditional papers. I aim to help my students develop their writing skills, both when composing their own texts and when critically analyzing the texts of others.

Because I hope to develop these skills, we do some writing in-class and my students workshop each other's papers before turning them in for my evaluation. Like any classroom activity, however, workshops can grow stale if they always follow the same form. Throughout a given semester, then, I vary the format of our workshops to focus on certain skills or elements of...

Read More

October 17, 2011, 11:00 AM ET

Profs Are People, Too: Hacking the Classroom Bringing In the Personal

The other day I was talking to a friend who is in the process of finishing her dissertation. She was describing how she had to push through writing her final chapter. The ideas just weren't coming—but she's on a deadline and so she wrote anyway. And, after pages of jumbled and unconvincing argument, she began to understand what she was writing. The ideas came, the argument cohered. She just had to get words on paper until the ideas followed. My colleague's experience reflects many of the ideas we've discussed before on ProfHacker—particularly Billie's posts on writing, which always provide valuable tips for getting (writing) stuff done. As my colleague related this story, however, I had another thought. "You need to share this story with your students," I advised. My colleague teaches several writing intensive courses, and students in those courses (many of them first years) often... Read More

February 21, 2011, 03:00 PM ET

Avoid 'Grading Jail' through Course Writing Contracts

contract_formWe've written quite a bit about grading at ProfHacker, and specifically about grading student writing. Effectively assessing student writing and mentoring student writers is one of the great challenges of academic life. For many college instructors, helping our students write better is one of our top priorities—in a recent AAC&U survey, more employers said that colleges should play more emphasis on "the ability to effectively communicate orally and in writing" than any other skill. At the same time, assessing writing is incredibly time consuming. Professors facing stacks of 35 (or 70, or 115) papers can't help but calculate the many hours of their lives those papers represent. In a popular post last year, Nels asked "Are You Locked in Grading Jail?" That post was followed by two more: Nels' "Breaking Out of Grading Jail" and Billie's The Comforts of Grading Jail." We've also offered...

Read More

October 6, 2010, 03:00 PM ET

Grading Classroom Participation Rhetorically

elementary_classroom[Let me start with a caveat: I stole this idea. Like so many good classroom practices, I picked it up from a mentor, a colleague—maybe even from a friend on Twitter. If the person I stole this idea from is reading this article, I apologize that I couldn't give you due credit. Please claim that credit in the comments.]

Grading participation is notoriously tricky. Students often perceive participation grades as arbitrary, and teachers like Derek Bruff and Ladysquires argue that grading participation damages the social contract of the classroom. Nevertheless, in classes where regular student input is expected (or necessary), many professors see value in assessing students' contributions to class discussions and activities.

Last May Brian shared how he grades students' class participation. At the end of that article, he speculated about crowdsourcing participation grades. I haven't quite...

Read More

August 18, 2010, 03:00 PM ET

Kids, Solid Foods, and Allergies: An Analogy for New Tech in the Classroom?

Jonas_Cordell_eatingLooking back through the archives of ProfHacker articles focused on teaching, I realize how many of the ideas and approaches that I now use in my classes came from my fellow ProfHacker writers. I also realize how many great ideas I have yet to try. As I was working on my syllabi for the upcoming semsester, I found myself trying to add every interesting idea to all of my classes: I imagined my students and I blogging, editing collaboratively with Google Docs, building course Wikis, doing textual analysis with Wordle, challenging the presentation paradigm with Pecha Kucha talks, meeting during digital office hours, letting Moodle handle reading quizzes, learning to code, researching using NINES Collex, exploring audio composition, ditching our textbooks, building exhibits in Omeka, engaging through social media, and continuing course discussions on Twitter. Phew!

Of course, I would be...

Read More

August 11, 2010, 03:00 PM ET

How to Start Tweeting (and Why You Might Want To)

tweetingWe've written a lot about Twitter here at ProfHacker. George hosted a discussion of Twitter at MLA 09, Brian urged us to hack conferences using Twitter, Julie taught us how to use Twitter clients and handle Twitter spam, Ethan explained how to back up our social networks, and Jeffery even showed us how to post a Twitter feed on our office doors. A few weeks ago, however, I was visiting a friend and fellow teacher who asked a more basic question: "so how would I get started with this whole Twitter thing?" Her question was a good one, and we haven't really answered it here yet.

One of the most common dismissals of Twitter sounds something like this, "I don't need to know what a bunch of people had for breakfast." My response to this is always, "if that what you're seeing on Twitter, you're following the wrong people." Twitter can help academics make and maintain connections with people in...

Read More

August 3, 2010, 03:00 PM ET

Managing Your Passwords (and Making Them More Secure) with Lastpass

iron_lockHere at ProfHacker, we recommend a lot of web applications: Wordpress, Prezi, Diigo, Reframe It, SideWiki, Dropbox, Evernote, and Mendeley are only a few we've covered. Experimenting with so many web services, however, means that we accumulate usernames and passwords for all the services we try—not to mention all the usernames and passwords most folks collect for email, online banking, campus CMSes, &c. What's more, secure passwords are difficult to remember; they include a mixture of letters, numbers, and different cases, and they shouldn't include real words or meaningful sequences of numbers (things bad folks could easily deduce). How then can we keep so many usernames and passwords straight while staying as secure as possible on the web?

One temptation is to simply use the same username and password for everything. This practice is dangerous, however, for the same reason it's...

Read More

July 14, 2010, 03:00 PM ET

Concentrate on Tasks with Concentrate (the Application)

concentrate_logoThis post is really a followup to Brian's 6 Ways to Avoid Letting Your Computer Distract You. In the comments on that post, peril noted that he uses Rocket's Concentrate [Mac only] to help minimize distractions while working. I've given the application a try, and I'm impressed so far.

Concentrate allows you to create a range of different "activities" and pre-define what should happen when you start "concentrating" on each one. Here you can see the four primary activities I've defined in the few days I've been working with Concentrate: work on my web project, Diss Writing, Grading, and work on ProfHacker posts.


[Click on any screenshot to open a high-resolution version]

I've defined a set of actions that Concentrate automatically performs when I click "Concentrate" next to each activity (you can start "concentrating" from the application itself, by right-clicking its icon in the dock...

Read More

July 6, 2010, 03:00 PM ET

Responding to Your Institution's Technological Choices (an Open Forum)

bees_on_hiveAs many ProfHacker readers know, I've just started a new job at a new school. I've been adjusting to a new city, a new institution, and, it turns out, to new technology. For email, calendars, and the like, my old school was fully invested in the Google ecology—which I liked, because my personal email and calendars were Google, too. I frequently use Google Docs for collaborating with colleagues and students, and this was easier when I could be confident that those colleagues and students had easy access to the service. For course management, my old school used a customized version of the Sakai course management system (CMS). Folks liked to complain about it, but I got very familiar with what it could and couldn't do, and overall I liked it.

My new school, however, uses the Zimbra Collaboration Suite for email, calendars, etc., and Moodle for managing courses. When I discovered this, my...

Read More

July 1, 2010, 08:00 AM ET

Automating Research with Google Scholar Alerts

fire_alarmThis post is something of a public service announcement. Two weeks ago the Google Scholar team announced that users could now create alerts for their favorite queries.

I would explain how to set up a Google Scholar Alert, but both Google and Resource Shelf have already done so. Instead, I'll discuss how this new featuer might be useful to the ProfHacker community.

Google Alerts have been around for awhile. Users can set up a Google Alert for any query, and Google will automatically email them a digest of all new hits for that query. Users can set how many results they'd like included in the emails, how often the emails should be sent, and what email address(es) different alerts should be sent to. Google Alerts can help you stay abreast of a particular topic, such as a developing news story. Many folks also set up Google Alerts for their name, their company, or a particular project, so ...

Read More