February 7, 2013, 8:00 am
Most eBooks are still pretty boring as objects: text, pictures, maybe a video or interactive visualization in a more experimental work. But that landscape may be changing, thanks in part to the number of cool free tools for building interactive books. One of these platforms, inklewriter, has some great potential for use with students in the classroom or for creating interactive stories or texts.
Last week, Inkle Studios released “Future Voices,” a curated collection of stories produced with its interactive story development tool. This slick iPad app features the tech behind Frankenstein, an interactive adaptation of Mary Shelley’s novel by Dave Morris. Play through any of these stories for a while and you’ll see everything from straightforward choices of action to complex moral dilemmas and experiments. You can also check out many experiments on the web, including Emily Short’s…
January 31, 2013, 8:00 am
Earlier this week I hit the long-elusive inbox zero. The feeling lasted for about five glorious minutes before another project showed up, but it gave me the confidence that at least I haven’t been neglecting any digital fires.
How did I get out from under my previous email backlog? I tried out EmptyInbox, an app that’s designed for quickly reviewing Gmail on iOS devices. Currently, it doesn’t work with other platforms, and the free version includes at times distracting ads. But the app itself isn’t as important as the behavior it inspires. It’s not an email client, as it’s designed only for a simple set of tasks:
- Read a quick excerpt of an email (with no option to click and read more)
- Choose to leave in inbox, archive, star, label and/or trash (for automatic labeling and archiving, check out Amy’s tips for using Gmail filters)
- Repeat until only urgent emails are left in …
January 28, 2013, 11:00 am
Remember playing text-based computer games? Depending on your generation (and your fondness for nostalgia-inducing computer games), the words “You are likely to be eaten by a grue” may or may not resonate, but for players of Zork and other classic games they are hauntingly familiar.
Text-based games haven’t gone away, and they can be an accessible starting point for bringing games into your classroom in an unexpected way.
Text-based games, or interactive fiction, have continued to evolve since the days of Zork. Many works can be powerful for play in the classroom: Emily Short’s “interactive epistolary” First Draft of the Revolution, Andrew Plotkin’s physics-grounded Dual Transform, Peter Nepstad’s historically grounded 1893: A World’s Fair Mystery, and Aaron’s Reed’s interactive novel Blue Lacuna are only a few examples among a vast archive of varied works.
One of the great…
January 23, 2013, 11:00 am
My classes start back today, bringing to an end the one-month period of midyear triage that some might call vacation time. While work inevitably continues during the holidays, that time is for many of us marked by a very different schedule and pace of life than the semester’s more rigid order of teaching and meetings.
By the first day back, all syllabi are (hopefully) ready and the major work of planning is done, yet I still find that starting off a new semester requires first surviving re-entry syndrome. Such feelings can accompany any adjustment with a major change of pace: Erin offered some strategies for handling the re-entry syndrome that comes with returning from a distant conference. Going from research or other work back to teaching is similarly disconcerting.
Many fellow ProfHackers have shared their tips for starting off on the right foot: Natalie gathered several time-…
December 19, 2012, 11:00 am
I’ve never been a big fan of New Year’s Resolution making–perhaps in part because the change of calendar occurs mid-academic year, rather than at the start of summer when a new beginning feels truly possible. For many of us, there are only a few weeks between the end of fall semester and the beginning of spring or winter term, and it’s a time more for hectic planning than total makeover.
Most New Year’s Resolutions are too big for our short breather before the next round of classes, so I’m staying away from major teaching overhauls and looking for changes I can stick with. As Amy pointed out, the middle of the year is a perfect time to learn from our mistakes, and perhaps improve next semester’s outcomes. I’ve been considering this more than usual because for the first time I’m teaching one of my courses in both fall and spring semesters, so I’ll be able to make changes right away…
December 13, 2012, 8:00 am
December 7, 2012, 11:00 am
During the last days of the semester, my inbox tends to collapse under the weight of submitted final projects, and every now and then I have the dreaded “limit exceeded” warning show up just as a deadline hits. I get emails with projects delivered in just about every form imaginable, and there are always several that don’t work at all–particularly since my university has a policy about destroying any zip file that makes its way into an email attachment. Thus I was excited to see the recent improvement to Dropbox extending the ability to link and share files.
Dropbox already had a strong file-sharing model for public content through a public folder, which Brian suggested using for keeping a constantly up-to-date CV. The newest version of Dropbox links allows for easily creating direct, easy to share links for any file or folder in your Dropbox without having to zip a folder and upload…
November 26, 2012, 11:00 am
This month Google’s Niantic Labs quietly released a location-based game called Ingress that plays with data on multiple levels. The game, currently in invite-only beta, invites players to join either the Enlightenment or the Resistance and move through the physical world hunting “Exotic Matter”, and coincidentally generating data and pictures for Google on the way. These XM hotspots often center on places of actual historical or cultural significance, encouraging players to venture out into these locations.
Ingress opens with the warning: “Saving the world is dangerous. If you do not want to assume this risk, now is the chance to close this app and go back to your normal life.”
The next generation of augmented reality might look like something out of a science fiction movie, complete with head-mounted displays or constant data overlays transforming what we know at any given time. But…
November 21, 2012, 11:00 am
I’m always surprised by the arrival of Thanksgiving break, and with it the reminder that the days of fall are truly numbered. Whether you’re buried under snow, visiting relatives, or grading this coming weekend, the turn of seasons often brings with it unexpected work from all directions.
To keep from being completely overwhelmed, I have a few strategies I’m trying to stick to for this Thanksgiving break:
- Pre-Holiday Grading Marathon: There are few things harder to face than cutting out of festivities for a pile of grading, however exciting the student work might be. I aim to enter any celebration periods with all the grading behind me, even if it means a weekend lost in advance.
- Internet-free Days: Whether it’s Thanksgiving, football, or a nice day for a good meal, there may be some days of celebration on your calendar. I like to mark off those days as completely…
October 26, 2012, 3:00 pm
With Halloween waiting on the other side of the weekend, you might be looking forward to a weekend of pumpkin carving, haunted houses, autumn leaves, costumes–or grading. Personally, I like to enjoy this last weekend before the inevitable barrage of winter holiday decorations and music takes over every mall and shopping center until the new year.
Whether you’re procrastinating on work or enjoying a scary movie, here’s a few articles for the weekend:
- If you thought the conversations about #twittergate in academia were loaded, check out Steve Buttry’s thoughts on the question: “Should a Journalist Livetweet a Funeral?” Some of the considerations might sounds familiar: The brevity of tweets often leads to an informal, breezy writing style that can seem disrespectful in the funeral context. When you livetweet, some tweets are seen by themselves, out of context. Reading some…