March 28, 2013, 11:00 am
We’ve written several times about the benefits of writing in plain text, and about using Markdown as a human-readable, futureproof way to format it. Lincoln started us off with “Markdown: The Syntax You (Probably) Already Know”, and last month Konrad showed us how to use this simple approach to create Prezi-style slideshows!
When I say “human readable and future proof,” consider, for example, what it takes for Microsoft Word to render 5 simple words:
Click for full size.
Markdown is both a syntax (“use a single asterisk for emphasis, double asterisks for bold”) and a tool–either a standalone script or, increasingly, a function within text editors–for turning that syntax into formatted text. So, for example, this: “I want spring to come *today*!” becomes “I want spring to come today!” It supports basic for…
March 25, 2013, 8:00 am
One of the more charming critiques of higher education is that it isn’t productive enough. The critique comes in smarter flavors, such as the concern that higher education is vulnerable to Baumol’s cost disease, and dumber ones, such as, well, anything published by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni.* Somewhere in between are the concerns of cash-strapped universities about enrollment, or promotion and tenure committees about a candidate’s file.
The recent fascination with MOOCs has led some higher education futurists to proclaim that the cost disease problem is, or is about to be, solved. We’ll just let everyone sign up for MOOCs with the best professor in each subject area, and add a few lower-cost support staff–maybe even TAs!–and there’ll be instant, massive productivity gains. I guess we’ll see. After all, no matter what Forbes and the other cheerleaders for…
March 22, 2013, 4:44 pm
You know what? It’s finally spring break on my campus, so I will dispense with the ordinary top-of-the-post pleasantries and disappear into the
mad frenzy of catching up on All. The. Things. blissful idylls of the break. (Though, apropos of that little joke, I like to be mindful of Natalie Houston’s post, “How was your winter break?”)
- Gardner Campbell reflects on how we might trust students to craft internet identities that are “personal, not private”: if we truly desire to protect our learners from themselves, we are failing. They are publishing to the Internet no matter what we say. Human beings typically want to connect with other human beings. Those energies will find an outlet. And my argument here is that we should not be protecting our learners from themselves. We should be trusting them, and aiding them in discovering and using (and teaching us, too) the arts of freedom.
March 12, 2013, 8:00 am
Although Yahoo! has tried its level best to destroy it, and despite the arrival of other photo sharing sites, Flickr is still the easiest way to share and find quality images, whether for web sites or for slide decks. I’ve written before about how we use Flickr’s Creative Commons search abilities to find pictures for ProfHacker.
Recent ProfHacker-themed talks with George and Brian helped me pick up some new tips for working with Flickr, particularly to produce slides. (The slides from Brian’s and my talk are available online.)
- Expedite your searches: Brian has written before about speeding up your searches in Firefox. The secret sauce to his searching, an add-on called http://mycroftproject.com/”> the Mycroft Project that helps you add new default engines to your web browsers, will often also work in Chrome or even Internet Explorer. The Mycroft Project includes several…
March 8, 2013, 4:18 pm
While it’s often the case that I’ll read an article in Victorian Studies or Nineteenth-Century Literature and think, *man*, I wish I wrote that, I don’t often have disciplinary envy. Until, that is, I learned about Philippe Charlier, et al.’s recent British Medical Journal article on “Toilet Hygiene in the Classical Era.” As glossed by Steve Mirsky, the article surveys wiping methods from antiquity, from snow to seashells to rocks, which yields a most excellent saying: “Three stones are enough to wipe.” Practical knowledge!
(I’ll grant that it’s a weird article, but it’s been a weird week.)
On to this week’s links!
- I almost always agree with Audrey Watters about most things, and her recent takedown of education-themed TED talks is no exception: And let’s be clear here: this is a calculated view and one perfectly crafted for the intellectually impeccable TED stage, on…
February 15, 2013, 4:08 pm
January 22, 2013, 7:59 am
Perhaps this will sound familiar from your campus: Some appalling, or just bizarre/confusing, initiative will come down the pike, and faced with faculty protests, the administration will say, “But there were faculty on the committee–this was vetted by the faculty.” In such events, it invariably turns out, a few faculty members had in fact been appointed to the committee, typically chosen by an administrator, usually (if ironically) in the name of faculty governance.
Why ironically? Because the mere presence of some faculty members doesn’t constitute representation. The administrative selection of congenial faculty for certain committees is just a form of governance-washing (cf.): You pick faculty members who you can be reasonably confident will go along with something, regardless of whether they have any particular constituency on campus or any particular expertise. (A…
January 21, 2013, 8:29 am
No matter how regular your writing practice, it’s possible to get stuck. When you’re stuck, sometimes what’s helpful is not motivation, but just a change in perspective. And what could offer a bigger change in perspective from the complexity of most academic writing than a text editor that restricts you to the thousand most common words in English?
As with most great things, the idea originated with an xkcd strip by Randall Munroe, “Up Goer Five” (Click for full size):
The idea, then, is to describe complex ideas or projects only using the “ten hundred” most common words in English.
Theo Sanderson realized that this might be a fun way to think about one’s own writing, so he created The Up-Goer Five Text Editor, which checks your prose against a list of the thousand most commonly-used words. As Sanderson explains, the list is Wiktionary’s index of word frequency in…
January 17, 2013, 8:00 am
Given the popularity of phrases like “grading jail” to describe the stress of the competing demands to offer meaningful feedback in the shortest amount of time possible, it seems unlikely that there’s any fun to be had in grading papers as part of a game, but that is the wager of The Grading Game, by modes of expression.
The Grading Game (iOS) makes you the TA of Dr. Snerpus, the meanest faculty member on campus, who demands that you flunk students for saying mean things about him on social media. You are then presented with a variety of papers with typographical and grammatical errors, and your job is to find them in a given amount of time. If you succeed, you will be able to pay off your (virtual) student loans. Game mechanics couldn’t be simpler: your finger is the red pen, and you tap errors to fix them….