June 19, 2013, 8:00 am
I’ve never been one to make use of slide-based presentations when I teach or when I present at conferences or other events. Why? For one thing, Microsoft PowerPoint — perhaps the most commonly-used software for such tasks — just seems too complicated. Of course, I realize that another word for “complicated” is “sophisticated” or “powerful,” and PowerPoint allows a presenter to do all kinds of advanced things.
However, if I want to create a simple slide deck for a presentation, I find the interface for PowerPoint — as with many Microsoft Office products — to be too distracting, too time-consuming. I know, I know… If I were to use PowerPoint regularly, the interface would probably start to feel “natural” or “intuitive” to me, but the truth is that I only need to use it about once or twice a year. (And, to be fair, my experience of Apple’s Keynote is pretty much the same.)
June 18, 2013, 2:45 pm
Recently, one of our readers wrote me that she was “trying to figure out if there is a way to have new posts sent directly to my email… When I click on the [ProfHacker] RSS feed link I just get computer language that makes no sense.” If you’re unfamiliar with the acronym RSS and would like to learn more about it, read on for some helpful links. If, instead, you’d like to learn my answer to this question, I’ve managed to figure out a workaround that emails each new ProfHacker post to an email address. First, however, I’m going to provide a few links to posts we’ve published about using RSS feeds:
How to use RSS and RSS readers
We’ve featured several posts that demonstrate what you can do with RSS:
June 18, 2013, 8:00 am
The Flex wristband by Fitbit, released in May, is the latest personal fitness tracker to bring some aspects of the quantified self movement to the general public. I had pre-ordered the Fitbit Flex earlier this year and waited eagerly for it to arrive. I’ve now been using it for about a month and I’m very pleased with it.
Why I Chose the Fitbit Flex
I’ve been interested in personal fitness trackers for some time and had looked at the available options. I nearly bought a Nike FuelBand two years ago, but its activity tracking was tied to the Nike Plus site which I’m not interested in, and it doesn’t track sleep. The Jawbone UP tracks sleep and activity, but was only compatible with iOS devices when I evaluated it. (An Android app was released in March of this year, though it’s still not an option for me, as the app is not compatible with my Android phone or tablet.)
I know a lot …
June 17, 2013, 11:00 am
We’re now well into summer, when many of us have ambitions of getting a fair amount of writing done. As seems to be not uncommon, a good number of the members of Team ProfHacker find regular writing both a pleasure and a challenge, so we’ve spilled a lot of digital ink on the subject. Here’s a rundown of past posts that may be of interest:
Getting into the writing habit
Trying to kick-start a summer writing habit? Check out Billie’s Writers’ Boot Camp: Summer Writing Edition 2012. Better yet, check out the whole Writers’ Boot Camp series.
Readers looking to do some collaborative writing (and who are looking for something other than Google Drive) might want to peruse Konrad’s Wish List for a Powerful Collaborative Writing Platform, and check out his review of Draft.
Whether writing solo or in collaboration with others, it’s important…
June 14, 2013, 3:00 pm
The latest thing that has everyone buzzing in higher education are MOOCs—Massively Open Online Courses. MOOC companies like Coursera, Udacity and Harvard edX courses offer free content to anyone, anywhere, and at any time. MOOCs have been criticized on many counts: for being an ineffective mode of instruction; for their high attrition rates; and their problematic handling assessment. Yet its supporters claim that MOOCs are an important intervention into the skyrocketing rates of college tuition, and champion the ability of MOOCs to offer much-needed instruction to impoverished people around the world. MOOCs have also thus far been limited to elite institutions. Bringing things to a head is San Jose State University’s controversial move to offer college credit for MOOC classes, which has fanned fears of a growing turn by state institutions to use MOOCs instead of regular classes. Its…
June 14, 2013, 11:00 am
Digital Distractions is an irregular series in which various ProfHacker writers introduce a little game or other pastime to divert your attention for a couple of minutes. Maybe you’re waiting for a bus, or for an appointment, or are on hold, and you would just like a little something to do.
From that point of view, it is perhaps a bit off-topic to include Kingdom Rush Frontiers as a a “digital distraction.” The original Kingdom Rush didn’t so much divert your attention briefly to help you pass the time as plunge you into a k-hole of intensely focused tapping as you build towers and deploy reinforcements in to prevent monsters and demons from overrunning the kingdom.
Fundamentally, Kingdom Rush is a tower defense game. What’s fun about Kingdom Rush is that choices and timing matter. You can build four different types of towers: mage guilds, barracks, artillery, and archer towers,…
June 13, 2013, 11:00 am
Talking about planning for tenure seems very much like the ultimate Old Academe Stanley trait, since the vast majority of college and university faculty today are contingent. And to make matters worse, having recently given it up, I have probably ceded a certain amount of turf in talking about tenure. Still, I’ve been bugged by something for a few weeks.
Last month, on episode 43 of the CMD+Space podcast, Myke Hurley and Merlin Mann (who we love) briefly mentioned what they characterized as the flaws or irrelevance of tenure in a modern world. It’s outdated, it distracts from teaching, and so on. It was mostly rooted in a pretty tenuous anecdote from Merlin’s undergrad days, about a teacher who in effect seemed to be threatening to hold her department hostage by refusing to teach intro classes. I’m not going to beat up on the anecdote too much, because he admits he didn’t really have…
June 13, 2013, 8:00 am
GMail has received more than a few mentions in this space since ProfHacker first launched in 2009. Google has made a number of changes to the service since then, including the introduction of a new inbox that began rolling out to users at the end of May.
The primary feature of the new inbox is the automatic filtering of messages into tabs: primary, social (for notifications from your social networks), promotions (ads), and updates (for mailing lists). The updated apps for iOS and Android function similarly.
I’ve been using the new features for several days now, and I’ve been reasonably impressed so far. The categorization has been accurate, and the labels and filters I’d set up previously have continued to work well.
Though I still prefer to use Postbox when working at my own computer, I’ve appreciated using the web interface when using someone else’s, and I’ve definitely found the…
June 12, 2013, 10:48 am
We may not have reached the solstice, but by the academic calendar summer has well and truly begun. And summer means music! In this week’s Open Thread Wednesday, we invite recommendations of new-ish (or just new to you) bands/songs/albums that you’re enjoying so far this summer.
A few ground rules to start us off:
iTunes asserts that my most-played recently-acquired stuff is from two records: The SoSoGlos’s Blowout (see “Son of an American” on Letterman), The Joy Formidable’s Wolf’s Law (try “Cholla”). Plus, it almost goes without saying, the Game of Thrones song by The Hold Steady. I also…
June 12, 2013, 8:00 am
For a long time, the photo hosting & sharing site Flickr has been instrumental to my work, both online and off. Four years ago I wrote about how we use Flickr and Creative Commons to find pictures for the blog, and just this spring I shared some tips from Brian and George about how to use Flickr to make better slides. But Yahoo! does tend to hate it’s most dedicated users, and the recent ad-driven redesign has a lot of people casting about for alternatives to Flickr.
I learned about TroveBox (formerly OpenPhoto) when Audrey Watters tweeted a link to David Wiley’s post about a post-Flickr world. TroveBox is an open-source photo-hosting site (more on this in a minute) that ensures you maintain control over your photos by letting you choose where they live: you can use TroveBox’s servers, or you can keep them on a…