All posts by Jason B. Jones

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Leaving the LMS to Make Course Remixing Possible

peanut butter truffle

A recurring favorite topic for ProfHacker writers over the years has been alternatives to, or ways to dispense altogether with, learning management systems. No one likes them, no one likes the idea of “managing” learning, and the whole affair feels like a Skinner box designed to teach us the truth of Audrey Watters’s claim that ed tech is basically here to destroy education from within.

A few of us have recently taken a shine to Jekyll, a still-newish way to generate static websites. (In additi…

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Text a Lot from iOS? Why You Might Want to Try Google’s GBoard

wall of surfboards

Alternate keyboards in iOS are one of those things that sound helpful, but can quickly devolve into procrastination engines. For every Text Expander keyboard letting you use your full panoply of text expansion options on your devices, there’s a celebrity-sponsored emoji app.

Last week, though, Google managed to release a keyboard that is simultaneously useful and not creepy: Gboard.

GBoard does four things, each of which is in principle a great addition to typing on iOS:

  • Integrated Google se…
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The Importance of Reflection When Learning Technical Skills

chairs reflecting in the sun

It’s not hard to find books, websites, or videos that will help you learn just about any technical skill you’d like, from making animated GIFs to X. But even with the most hands-on approach, it can be hard to get that knowledge to stick, or to figure out why you’d want to keep with it.

Steven Ovadia, a professor and web services librarian at LaGuardia Community College (CUNY), found himself confronting this problem while drafting his forthcoming book, Learn Linux in a Month of Lunches. Faced wi…

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Looking for an Exchange Calendar for Mac? Try Fantastical 2.2

LEGO calendar
Like most of the apps Apple bundles with OS X, Calendar is very . . . eh. The best thing you can say about it is that plays pretty well with the various iDevices, and it can be used as a source of data for other calendaring apps.

Since 2010, one of the nicest calendar apps for OS X (and iOS) has been Fantastical, which has distinguished itself from the start with slick design and very nifty natural language parsing for adding events quickly and sensibly. It started as a menubar app, moved to t…

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Experimenting with Specifications Grading

Noted media scholar and friend-of-ProfHacker Jason Mittell has been experimenting with a new way of grading, called “specifications grading,” on the grounds that “figuring out a way to rethink the culture of grades would be the most effective and impactful reform” available at a school such as Middlebury.

Mittell borrows specifications grading from Linda Nilson (also see her book), and in Mittell’s description at least, it sounds very like what many of us know as contract grading (see also), ex…

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Syntax Highlighting for (English) Prose

rows of chairs in different colors

Programmers have long been used to text editors that offer syntax highlighting, a feature that does exactly what it says on the tin: it renders specific aspects of code in different colors, so that you’re better able to find relevant sections–or even just fix mistakes!

Syntax highlighting is mainly a thing for structured languages, such as ones for programming or markup. However, someone has built a little web app that will color-code short chunks of prose (via Gizmodo’s Jamie Condliffe, catchi…

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Turning Off the New, Worse Twitter

seagulls on a power line
As part of its own ongoing confusion about what it is (which is both a cause and consequence of this problem, Twitter has been on a campaign recently to worsen its service. The current version of this is to make Twitter more Facebook-ish by giving control of your timeline to its algorithms.

Until recently, the Twitter timeline was pretty easy to understand: it’s all the tweets, in reverse-chronological order (i.e., newest-on-top), that have been posted by people you follow. Then Twitter started…

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Go to Bed: Sleep Debt and Self-Deceit

sleeping cat

This weekend, at least in the US, Daylight Saving Time resumes, which means that next week everyone’s likely to be groggy and a little confused.

It turns out that this is only a slight exaggeration of our normal state.

Jill Duffy has a slightly terrifying post this week explaining that we probably under-estimate the effects of tiredness:

Subjects in a lab-based sleep study who were allowed to get only six hours of sleep a night for two weeks straight functioned as poorly as those who were for…

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Attending to Smartphone Apps

food
The app economy, we’re told, is “bigger than Hollywood.” Apple likes to boast of how many jobs its app store has created, and even the president exhorts the young folks to program their phones, not just play with them.

Yesterday, The Verge published a great story by Casey Newton on the collapse of the app store’s middle class, where all those “bigger than Hollywood” dollars go to an increasingly concentrated set of firms, mostly in gaming, messaging, and entertainment, and the vast majority of …