May 6, 2013, 8:00 am
In my last posting, I imagined what it might look like to fork the academy, that is, to create a space within the world of academic writing and publishing where we could directly reuse, adapt, and expand each other’s work. I also discussed some of the most significant obstacles that stand in the way, both at the disciplinary level and the kinds of personal concerns I have seen raised from friends and colleagues I have discussed the idea with.
In an earlier posting I looked at some of the reasons why GitHub.com, which has led the way in making the practice of "forking" repositories of code and text possible, is not really an ideal environment for scholars to use for writing and collaboration. It works, but it has been developed more for building software, than for writing books, academic papers, syllabi, and other the genres of writing we engage in.
Over the next few weeks we will take …
May 3, 2013, 3:00 pm
Today is Commencement at my institution, and so I’ve gathered posts and a video that might fall under the category of “life advice” (considered broadly). Hopefully these will prove engaging for those just graduating and those long graduated who are sending them off.
May 2, 2013, 11:00 am
Text expansion generally refers to the way a few typed letters can expand into entire words, sentences, or even paragraphs. It’s a simple idea but an incredible time-saver.
We’ve talked about text expansion tools before on ProfHacker, but we’ve tended to focus on the Mac. What about text expansion for Windows? I’d like to recommend AutoHotkey, a powerful, open-source and free scripting tool that handles text expansion but also so much more. I’ve been using AutoHotkey for years, and it’s become such an integral part of my workflow that I often forget I’m even using it.
AutoHotkey runs in the Windows system tray whenever you load a *.ahk file. (Pro Tip: I placed a shortcut to my hotkeys.ahk file into my Startup folder, so my hotkeys load whenever I boot my computer). The .ahk file is simply a plain text file that contains your hotkey and macro scripts. You can edit the …
May 2, 2013, 8:00 am
Towards the end of grad school, I learned a key lesson about academia. I was discussing a draft of a dissertation chapter with my second reader. Although not my adviser, her work was critical for the arguments that I was building about psychological trauma and technology. Toward the end of the conversation, she said something to the effect of, “You know, this chapter could really use more Heidegger.” Inside, my heart sunk a bit. “Great,” I thought, “more to read. And from an author whose work I don’t really know.” But I dutifully wrote, “More Heidegger,” in the margin of a page, and after the meeting, I checked out a copy of The Question Concerning Technology.
I read Heidegger and tried to understand how his views on technology fit into his and my larger projects. It wasn’t especially easy going. And perhaps in the third day of thinking about Heidegger, I had an epiphany that was…
May 1, 2013, 8:00 am
Despite the endorsement of fellow ProfHackers Ethan (in “Challenging the Presentation Paradigm”) and Anastasia (in “Revising Prezi for Presentations”), I’ve long been a Prezi skeptic. After seeing several Prezis full of wheeling and zooming, I concluded it was merely a gimmick: no better than our national fascination with star wipes and spinning slides in the early days of Powerpoint. I haven’t entirely changed in that opinion. Prezi doesn’t benefit all presentations; it can be simply a gimmicky way to present material that would be perfectly well-served by Powerpoint or Keynote.
Recently, however, a conversation on Twitter with fellow ProfHacker Adeline Koh and ProfHacker guest writer Lisa Rhody convinced me to give Prezi another look. We discussed the kinds of material that is well-served by Prezi’s open canvas format. In particular, Lisa and Adeline argued that Prezi works very…
April 30, 2013, 11:00 am
As Mark observed last week, ProfHacker has a whole series of posts dedicated to Health and Wellness. In addition to running with/from zombies, we have featured posts on managing stress, fitting in fitness, and even recipes from time to time (granola and pizza!). Well, in most parts of the United States and in many places across Europe, spring has sprung. The Eliot scholar side of me is fairly confident that the opening phrase of The Waste Land is not a reference to hay fever, but since moving to South Carolina a few years ago, the part of me that suffers from seasonal allergies is less sure. In any event, here are a few strategies for managing the symptoms of your seasonal allergies in an attempt to make April at least a little less cruel:
April 30, 2013, 8:00 am
I recently wrapped up a series on GitHub. Throughout the series I highlighted what I thought were some of the most powerful innovations that software developers and writers can take advantage of in GitHub. In particular I looked at two of its collaborative features, the ability to "fork" repositories of text that retain a connection to the original and the issuing of "pull requests" as a way to enable outside contributions in an decentralized environment which leaves everyone with full control over the texts they work on.
The social and collaborative potentials that GitHub provides makes it easier than ever for anyone to contribute to an open source project or adopt and adapt a repository for their own needs and pursue their own directions. If something like this caught on in the academic world, if we could fork the academy, we might move beyond merely referring to the work of others …
April 29, 2013, 8:00 am
I just got home from THATCamp Games II at Case Western Reserve University, where we played and made a lot of games. In the past I’ve talked about making games for the classroom using lots of technologies (Inform 7, inklewriter, Twine, Scratch), but games don’t require any computing power to be great. Physical board and card games can be powerful systems of representation and more immediately accessible for exploring something in a classroom. This might bring back made memories for some of us of classroom jeopardy–but when the mechanics of the game fit the content, it can be much more powerful than that.
During THATCamp Games II I taught a crash course workshop in making educational board games. Here’s the full Prezi from the workshop. The same basic process can be used for designing a game for a lesson or in asking students to make a game, which itself can provoke a different way of …
April 26, 2013, 3:00 pm
We start our semester very early at Northeastern, so I’m writing this on the final day of the regular spring semester. In the spirit of the video clip at the bottom of this post, however, I’m going to keep talking (and thus keep the semester going) for a little while yet, before leaping into that other kind of busyness that defines an academic summer. There’s not really a single cohering theme behind these links; the list is a true potpourri.