May 16, 2013, 8:00 am
Last year, I reported on the website Quartzy, which can be used for inventory management. The site is nominally marketed towards use in the life sciences, but we have found it to be very useful in our physics department. Since last September, there have been a number of updates to the website, which might be useful to ProfHacker readers.
First, a major wish-list item of mine has been added to the site: you can now directly link protocols to inventory items. The key here is to think of protocols more broadly than just experiment protocols. In our department, we are using protocols to post introductory lab directions, and now we can associate a given protocol with the inventory records of the equipment used in the lab. This is a key functionality as we have students assist us with set up of labs; the students will be able to easily access information on types and quantities of equipment…
March 6, 2013, 8:00 am
LaTeX is a powerful text markup language that allows for document preparation. For some academic fields and subfields, it is the accepted means by which to prepare documents for publication. Like most computing languages, it takes a little time to learn — Bryn Lutes wrote about getting started with LaTeX for us in 2010 — but the effort pays off in beautifully constructed documents.
In the past the learning curve for LaTeX has involved not only the LaTeX language itself but also the platforms that compile and prepare documents. There are a few good software options available, such as TeXWorks, but these can sometimes be unwieldy to install, or even impossible to use if you need to use LaTeX with a computer on which you cannot install programs. Recently, however, two different websites have become available for allowing users to create and update documents on the web, drastically…
February 15, 2013, 11:00 am
There are a lot of options available for online task management. Here at ProfHacker, we have reviewed several, including Remember the Milk, Things, and GQueues. All have their pros and cons, and are worth taking a look at.
Todoist is another option. If it doesn’t sound completely new, it is because it is not. Todoist was originally started in January 2007, but in the summer of 2012 it underwent a relaunch after being rebuilt in HTML5. The result is a very well-built task system that doesn’t suffer from the lag of some others. I have been trying out the website and several associated mobile apps for about three months now.
Todoist has all your usual online task management options, such as the ability to apply some kind of categorization label (tags, in this case) to tasks. But there are some additional features that I think make the system worth the time of ProfHacker readers to…
January 18, 2013, 11:00 am
This post is a little different than our usual tips and reflections about the professoriate. But at the heart of ProfHacker is an emphasis on the power of technologies such as social media to spread information about the good work being done in academia. We think that a project being conducted by the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER) matches that heart, and so we share the following with you.
The WCER is currently conducting a study that asks one simple question: What level of math proficiency do STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) faculty consider a good indication that a student is likely to succeed in a STEM major? The study, entitled called “Talking about Leaving, Revisited: Exploring Current Patterns of Undergraduate Persistence in the Sciences,” is a follow-up to Elaine Seymour and Nancy Hewitt’s original study and book 15 years ago. For…
December 17, 2012, 11:00 am
Here at ProfHacker we love us some online scheduling of office hours, with posts going back to 2009 on the topic. Over the years we have covered tools like Tungle, Acuity, Jiffle, Doodle, and perhaps the most-widely used, Google Calendar Appointments. But Friday, a little seemingly innocuous “winter cleaning” post came out from Google, with information on tools they are phasing out. When the post came through my RSS reader I dutifully checked in to see if any of my favorites were on the list, although usually they aren’t. But there was the big one:
On January 4, 2013, we’ll be shutting down several less popular Google Calendar features. You’ll be unable to create new reservable times on your Calendar through Appointment slots, but existing Appointment slots will continue working for one year.
I will admit, an audible gasp escaped my lips. I, and several other faculty I know, on…
November 19, 2012, 8:00 am
It has been over a year since I posted about my experience in using Basecamp for organizing student research. Since then, a couple of things have happened: I ran another summer’s worth of research for two students, and Basecamp has made some changes itself. In this post, I will followup up about how Basecamp’s applicability to my need has changed.
First of all, Basecamp no longer offers a free version. (Pricing is available here.) In March of this year, the company announced a migration to a new version (while keeping the previous version running, at least for current users of it, and calling it “Basecamp Classic.” Find out more information about the transition and associated costs here and here.) The least expensive plan is currently $20/month for managing no more than ten projects. I fully understand the need for sites like this to have funding, but for my application -…
October 30, 2012, 8:00 am
As a part of our physics program, I teach a course in computer modeling. We introduce the students to Matlab and they learn both basic programming and principles of translating physics scenarios into computer models. Last year, based on our departmental assessment procedures, I determined that I wanted a more subjective way to give feedback to my students. To me, programming is more than just right or wrong code; I want students to develop good habits and styles of programming that use the tool to communicate the process of problem solving, not just the final answers. And I felt that that would be better achieved by giving students consistent verbal feedback, in addition to simple rubric scoring of their work.
This semester, I was a little overwhelmed by our course enrollment – 25, up from last year’s 15. With no TA assistance, I had to figure out a way to reach my goal of more…
September 17, 2012, 8:00 am
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…
August 23, 2012, 3:00 pm
Reference manager Mendeley is no stranger to ProfHacker; we’ve covered it previously here, here, here, and here. (And full disclosure: it’s my tool of choice for managing references.) The company has recently announced a significant update to the program that we think ProfHacker readers will want to know about.
Mendeley has released a new institutional edition that will allow participating colleges and universities to aggregate their users under one digital roof, not unlike institutional subscriptions to other services like RefWorks. But the significance of this update is Mendeley’s new ability to aggregate data on an institution’s users to get a more real-time assessment of research impact. And the list of early adopters is not too shabby: they include The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, University of Nevada – Reno, University of Pittsburgh, University of Western…
May 8, 2012, 11:00 am
For many faculty, summer brings at least some semblance of increased flexibility. But it is also a time in which we hope for increased productivity. And sometimes these are at odds with each other.
Personally, I have observed that less structure to my days means that I am more likely to schedule appointments, personal and professional, at random points, which makes my days add up to very scattered weeks. So I’m trying out a new-to-me idea of summer appointment hours, similar to office hours. The goal is to block out a three-hour period each week in which I let myself schedule or accept appointments with others, to wrangle some order and allow myself to focus on just work on the other days of the week.
At the end of the summer I’ll review how it worked. But in the meantime, I’m interested in hearing from ProfHacker readers: how do you corral appointments from cutting up your…