Jun 242017
 

I need to do a lot of reading in the next few weeks.

I learn best if I make written notes as I read, even if I never look at the notes again. Something about having to encapsulate the meaning in my own words in my own way makes the ideas sticky.

I am toying with the low-tech solution below.

Also in my line-of-sight is getting an iPadPro and Apple Pencil (with keyboard cover) and doing something similar with handwritten reading notes written straight into Evernote. (For over a thousand dollars more ..) I COULD always take images of the handwritten pages below and add each sequence as a note in Evernote .. but that is just a bit too much work for me. (Although I do love the way Evernote indexes handwriting and makes fulltext-searchable…).

Has anyone tried the iPadPro/Apple Pencil combo? Something like below? OR – have something even better to suggest??

Jun 232017
 

I need to do some writing in the next month or so. And have time to do it. So very happy about this.

I think the “ultimate work environment” question from the My Setup post on Wednesday stuck a bit.

Today I detoured past Officeworks and bought some giant pink postit notes. And coloured small postits. (And some other stationery that may work for reading/note-taking … but more on that in another post).

So, to workshop the idea that I wanted to play with, I made several large sheets, and stuck ideas all over them. The sheets were labelled:

  1. Investigating a and b (teeny tiny postit in the middle)
  2. All about a.
  3. All about b.
  4. Possible barriers to investigation
  5. Possible opportunities in investigation
  6. Possible methodologies
  7. Where to look (other disciplines/topics with similar enquiry method/topics… for lit review)
  8. Thematic questions
  9. Possible journal article topics

… and then I just went to town 🙂

And spent the other half of the day working my way through this 35 000 word article.

Ford, P. (2015, June 11). What Is Code? If You Don’t Know, You Need to Read This. BussinessWeek. Retrieved from http://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2015-paul-ford-what-is-code/

 

Half as professional development to help me with my teaching, and partly because it kind of relates to something I am writing. I am finding I am consolidating knowledge, and filling some very odd, obvious gaps in what I know – which is just great. I always enjoy people writing simply about complex tech ideas. I highly recommend it.

It was recommended by one of the attendees of the [and then I went off to try to find the conference that matched the hashtag I followed in the middle of marking. BUT … I know it was a WordPress one, but could not find it again … what I DID find, however, was a post from Matt Mullewag {Wordpress lead} about the gizmoes he takes when he travels. Considering Wednesday’s post, really interesting reading ((fidget spinners!!))]

Jun 222017
 

You know those “please give feedback on the unit” surveys we ask you to fill in at the end of the unit? Please fill them in.

Please also pretend my name is Karl Greenhill, presume that I am cis-gendered.

The data is about to be misused. If there are low numbers of responses, it is about to be used very badly indeed.

The surveys were originally designed so that we could get feedback on the unit to improve what needs improving and to keep doing what we are doing well. Great, if only that was all they were actually used for.

In many universities these surveys are also used:

  1. In annual staff appraisals for academic staff who are unit coordinators.
    • I have been through several where the interviewer was not really interested in any of the qualitative information, or most of the numeric totals – just in one figure. The final “Overall, I am satisfied with this unit” figure. That was then compared with the total for other units in the faculty and in the university.
    • Just think about that for a moment. If any one of these scenarios exist, the figure is likely to be low, but there to be nothing in the survey that indicates why.. and then it will be used to determine my personal job performance:
      • The university schedules the lecture at 6pm on a Friday
      • There is an external marker whose mother dies and marks are returned late
      • The unit covers rather difficult material with rigour that is demanding but very pedagogically effective
      • The people responsible for ensuring the textbook is listed on the website do not do this
      • One student has a run-in with the tutor and then shares their displeasure on a private Facebook group for students in the unit
    • We can ALSO ask students to fill in a “teaching appraisal” survey. This is optional, but I always ask for this. I want to know how I can improve. Several times I offered to bring the results to my staff appraisal, only to be told that it was not necessary.
  1.   As a measure of “performance” of units, regardless of how many students respond to the survey
    • I sat through a meeting this morning where course coordinators were presented with sheets of summaries of student surveys for various units. Those with very high scores for a heading had a very green cell, those with lower, an amber, and very low, a red.
    • Some units, full of dark green cells, were singled out as performing well, those coloured in the red zone, as performing poorly. Generally fewer than 20% of students had responded for each unit. This often translated to 3-4 students.
    • Troublingly we were told that “the Government” is linking funding to performance, and that these measures were being taken seriously and we needed to ensure that any units with orange/red were “fixed”.

Personally, I have big problems with these uses and the impact on my employment.

Our job as academics is to teach students about valid measurement and research. I have a big problem with this demonstrably not being observed internally.

Just as worrying are studies that show that if the students *think* I am a woman (NOT if I am actually a woman) then I am likely to have lower scores than if they *think* I am a man. For example, in one study where assessments were returned at exactly the same time, students rated tutors who they *thought* were female 16% lower on “promptness” than if they thought the tutor was male. MacNeil(2015) found that:

“the male identity received significantly higher scores on professionalism, promptness, fairness, respectfulness, enthusiasm, giving praise and the student ratings index. … Students in the two groups that perceived their assistant instructor to be male rated their instructor significantly higher than did the students in the two groups that perceived their assistant instructor to be female.”

I remember reading somewhere that it could be to do with expectations of women actually being more prompt, efficient and organised, therefore behaviour that students will forgive and rate higher for a male tutor (because they expect a lower standard), they penalise and rate lower for a female instructor.

I don’t really care what the reason is. Just please fill in the surveys, and presume I am actually Karl.

For more, see:

MacNell, L., Driscoll, A., & Hunt, A. N. (2015). What’s in a Name: Exposing Gender Bias in Student Ratings of Teaching. Innovative Higher Education, 40(4), 291–303. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10755-014-9313-4

Boring, A., Ottoboni, K., & Stark, P. (2016). Student Evaluations of Teaching (Mostly) Do Not Measure Teaching Effectiveness. ScienceOpen Research. https://doi.org/10.14293/S2199-1006.1.SOR-EDU.AETBZC.v1

Jun 212017
 

In response to Paul’s suggestion that all blogjune-ers post on the same day, here are my answers.

Paul’s suggestion:

One of the blogs I follow is The Setup. This site, run by Daniel Bogan (ex Flickr Commons staff) interviews people and asks what tools they use to get their jobs done. Although it’s kind of based around tech, there have been interviews with people from all sorts of professions – anyone who uses something to do their job.

I’m suggesting that everyone who is participating in #blogjune take part and on Wednesday the 21st June, create a post answering these 4 questions.

  1. Who are you, and what do you do?
  2. What hardware do you use?
  3. And what software?
  4. What would be your dream setup?

You could talk about work, a combination of work & home or what you use in a hobby. Once you’ve posted, make sure you let Daniel know by tweeting @usesthis a link to your blog post.

>>>>>>>

  • Who are you, and what do you do?
    • I’m Kathryn Greenhill. I teach at university in Western Australia. My job is to teach librarians, archivists and records managers about technology. I am paid to write as part of my job. I work three days in a row on campus and the next two days from home. I also co-parent two teenaged boys. I’m a qualified Zumba instructor, an outdoor quad skater, cyclist and avid reader.

Setup on campus

  • What hardware do you use?
    • I have identical setups in my work office and my home office and just move the laptop between the two. I hadn’t realised how complex it was until I started documenting this. I just want it to simply work.  The laptop, one monitor and the external HDD are provided by work. The rest I bought for myself.
      • 2017 15 inch Macbook Pro.
      • ACER 32 inch monitor ( ER320HQ)
        • (plugged into this) Sennheiser HD201 Over-Ear Headphones
      • Standard corporate-issue 20 inch monitor
      • Laptop riser so laptop is right height to be a third monitor
      • Single USB-C adaptor that allows power input, output to DVI and standard USB output
        • (plugged into adaptor)
          • Macbook power cable and adaptor, so no need to take with the laptop between home & work
          • M-Beat powered USB hub with 4x USB3.0 and 3x USB2.0 outputs with independent switches. Plugged into this:
            • Logitech Wave wireless keyboard and mouse set
            • WD Elements 1TB Hard disk drive x 2 (used for Time Machine backups)
            • EVGA UV 16+ to output from Macbook to second monitor (legacy, but it works fine)
            • USB to Lightning cable for charging iPhone
            • USB to 30pin Apple plug for charging iPad
    • iPhone SE – just the right size
    • My personal machine is a 2011 11 inch Macbook Air.
    • iPad 2 (yes! 2. only JUST fast enough. Used mainly for leisure reading)
    • Sony Noise Cancelling Bluetooth Headphones (MDR-ZX770BNB) (Used when cooking and watching Netflix so not to disturb family members)
    • Three pairs of Sennheiser CX 200 Street II Black Earphones Headphones in backpacks and next to bed, in car – wherever I may need to plug in to my iPhone
    • Apple TV & Soniq Digital TV in lounge
    • Apple Time Capsule
    • Reading glasses – five pairs scattered around house. Absolutely essential hardware.

Peripherals up close. Usually tucked neatly away.

  • And what software?
    • Items in red are used several times a day
    • Writing – Scrivener, Be Focused (Pomodoro timer to keep me focussed)
    • Research – Zotero, LibX
    • Reading – Pocket, Kindle, GoodReader
    • Listening – Downcast, Spotify
    • Screen capture/movies – SnagIt, Camtasia, iMovie, YouTube
    • Social Media – Twitter
    • Website publishing – own blog and lecture notes for students – Self-hosted WordPress
    • Productivity – Dropbox, Evernote, Remember The Milk, Gmail
    • Homely things – Apple Remote app on iPhone for Apple TV
    • Co-Parenting – five Google Calendars, one for each kid, one for each household, one for everyone to know about … shared on all devices owned by co-parents and the kids. Google doc recording parenting plan and notes of who will do what when from our fortnightly meeting
    • Work – Outlook, Blackboard.

 

  • What would be your dream setup?
    • What I have now is pretty good. I would like the hardware setup to come in one unit without cables. Something like a stand for my laptop that has all the peripherals connected seamlessly underneath.
    • I need to have my own desk in my own office with a door between me and the rest of the world. It needs to be quiet. Often I will just have the headphones on to block out outside noise. Lots of indoor plants.
    • Strangely enough, when I want to read I want to be in an environment like a cafe, with people around. I *think* this is because with other people around I HAVE to look like I am focussing on what I am reading, so I don’t distract myself multitasking
    • I would want a breakout space with other people to bounce ideas off and for brainstorming. This would have walls that could be drawn on and heaps of whiteboard pens.
    • Cats. Cats on my lap or shoulder for long stretches of the day. Necessary.

 

Jun 202017
 

“This” actually means …

“do not be silly enough to try to use paraphrasing software to try to hide that you stole an essay, put it through a text matching program that made it look like you cut bits out of a thesaurus, and then expect your marker not to notice”…

As the fridge on our third floor kitchen tells us…

HINT: “Constant sure aviation route weight” is actually NOT the same as “Continuous positive airway pressure” in an essay about treating sleep aponea.

Equally, “this” could mean:

“Do not take a job as an academic. Marking season WILL make you a little “edgy”. 15 working days to get all assessments returned, regardless of size of class, sleepless nights, ceasing exercising and doing the laundry and seeing your family CAN affect your sanity.

Chances are you may end up facing the fridge on the third floor. Taking a break, yet with so much still inside to share…”

 

Jun 192017
 

When you are doing scholarly writing for university assessments, write for kind, smart Aunt Jenny.

This is not my Aunt Jenny below. It is someone on Flickr’s Aunty Jenny … and an image that I have used a few times as a persona in my presentations.Let me tell you about Aunt Jenny:

  1. She is whip-smart, intelligent and understands difficult concepts the first time they are explained, if they are explained clearly and well
  2. She has no particular knowledge about the topic you are writing about, nor the discipline you are writing in
  3. In fact, she has had a kind of sheltered life and sometimes has not heard of facts and ideas that other intelligent people have.
  4. She is ON YOUR SIDE.
  5. She is non-judgmental and pretty unprejudiced, which means that she won’t automatically be supporting your biases or presumptions.
  6. She asks “why?” if she does not understand how you got from point a to point b; or what evidence you are using to support the point you are making.

Pretend you are both doing the drying-up together after Christmas lunch. Knowing that you are studying and wanting to show an interest, she has asked you the question that you are trying to answer in your writing.

When you write for Aunt Jenny, favour simplicity. Use concrete, direct words where you can. Use the active not the passive voice. Use short sentences.

If you use disciplinary concepts or words, use them only because they make your message clearer. Aunt Jenny has a great vocabulary of non-disciplinary words, so you should check first whether you can use plain English words that Aunt Jenny already knows. Large, uncommon words are fine, IF they are more precise and the same thing cannot be said in one or two-syllable words. If not, then you may need to use disciplinary terms or concepts. Do not use these if all they do is only make your message sound more complex or fancy.

Often the simplest and clearest word/concept will be a disciplinary-specific one.  When you mention it, you can often add a lot of context around it so Aunt Jenny can work out what it means. Sometimes you have to briefly explain the term or concept the first time you use it to make sure she is on the same page.

Academics need to apologise to students for the complex, convoluted writing they produce in lecture notes, and in journal articles. We need to apologise for the mind-numbing labyrinths of tosh that we sometimes set for topic readings. These are bad examples. They give students the idea that complex, fancy-looking vague prose is scholarly. It is not.  Generally, the better someone understands something, the better they are at explaining it simply.

I try to aim for Reading Age of 9 in much of my writing for university. And fail. For example, when I put most of this post through an Online Readability Calculator, it received a grade level of 9, meaning it should be understood by 14 to 15 year olds. WORD also has an option (under Proofing > show readability statistics ). When you do the grammar and spell-check on your work, try checking the reading age too.

 

The other thing to do, if you are not sure whether Aunt Jenny will understand what you have to say, is to read it out loud. If you stumble over the words, if you have to go back to the start of a sentence to work out where the emphasis goes in your expression, if you pause because you are not sure what you just said or how what you are reading now relates to what you just said, then rewrite. Simplify. Until Aunt Jenny would get it first time.

You may prefer to write for Uncle Jonah, cousin Jamal, the barista who makes your morning coffee … I am sure that you have met someone in your life who is an “Aunt Jenny”. It actually helps if you can picture a real person. I have been known (how embarrassing to admit it!) to imagine the real, live person who I use for this kind of thing, sitting across from me and saying out loud what I meant, as though I was talking to her. The trick is to then write it down quickly enough so that Aunt Jenny does not become impatient…

Jun 182017
 

I built a house in 2000 with a partner who also worked with tech. We future proofed it.

Seemed like a good idea at the time…

(If you don’t like wires and plugs, then you may want to watch this movie of otters holding hands instead of reading on…)

Every house will always have a landline, right? Okay, we’ll make sure that there are phone points in four rooms.

And the internet. We will all need the internet. That involves a second phone line coming in. So, let’s have a couple of points where we can plug a modem into the second phone line in a couple of different rooms.

And we’ll want to use the internet all over the house, right? So, let’s cable the house with Cat6 cabling and ethernet ports in:

  • the lounge
  • built in house admin desk
  • two places in the loft where we will have offices
  • one in each kid’s bedroom and … let’s see…
  • one in the music room.
  • (Note, not the master bedroom … because who would want to use the internet in bed, right?).

And. Let’s make sure we stay flexible, so let’s have a big patch panel on the wall of the loft so we can change the outlets around if we want to.

This morning. The internet stopped working.

Regular diagnostics applied.  No dial tone for modem/phone on the house admin desk phone port. Found out that the OTHER device that uses the phone line, the security system in the loft, had a line out that was working . How? It phones my mobile when it is triggered, so I just deliberately triggered it.

The phoneline in and the patch panel are wired in serial, rather than parallel, so all data flows through the phone port used by the security system before it gets further into the house. It looks as though the cabling between the security system phone port and the rest of the house has been chewed by rats, or corroded, or gone on strike, or is otherwise broken in a way that I could find out about if I crawled up into the roof space…

So, I decided that:

  1. The security system is really so I feel comfy sleeping at night, so I can do without the phone line out that just calls my mobile and buzzes at me. Only once it was not a false alarm.
  2. I could move the modem and phone up into the loft near the security system and plug straight into the phone outlet the security system had been using.
  3. Everyone uses wifi anyhow, so there is no loss if we do not use  ethernet
  4. The landline phone is now in the loft in the roofspace, so will be impossible to answer in a hurry. It was the last of a set of three handsets, with two that broke over the last couple of years…
  5. I am not going to buy a replacement set of handsets to have one downstairs (even if they are $67 a set at Officeworks) … because …
  6. There is not really a compelling reason to have a landline at all anymore…
  7. (Last week I changed my mobile plan to unlimited calls, texts and 5GB of data a month for $180 for 360 days. Until then calls were much cheaper on my landline, and I needed it for the security system. This week, the need appears totally gone)
  8. Everyone who lives here has a mobile phone, and the kids have their calls paid for, so should be OK in an emergency.
  9. I need to sit with this decision for a bit, but probably I will end up connecting to the NBN in a few weeks anyhow, getting rid of the old VOIP/Internet package and relying more on my mobile.

(Also added to the mix is a new router. Bought last week also. So that I can install the Gargoyle router management utility. Which will allow me to specifically block or limit the internet to particular devices, ad hoc or at regular times. Like those owned by teenagers. Who should be asleep after 10pm. Or those who may be downloading unsocially, slowing the internet down for other users… THIS will be fun to play with. The kids’ dad has simultaneously installed the same hardware/firmware with the same “no-access” times at his house. )

Anyhow, I am not sure what to now do with my brilliant local network of cables to most rooms in my house…

Jun 172017
 

I really like Paul’s suggestion that everyone doing #blogjune could write on the same topic on Wednesday 21 June .

If you don’t own a calendar, or just didn’t think about it, you may not realise that we are over the half way mark! Hooray! … and given that many of us have just written 17 posts in the last 17 days, thank goodness for one less post to come up with.

Pop over to Paul’s place to see what we will all be writing about…and maybe understand what an avocado has in common with Jessamyn West.  I can guarantee I will mention Zotero, my reading glasses, cordless headphones and a cat in my lap…

So – as a community service, and because I have been so relieved to have a pre-canned topic to write about, I am going to ask a couple of  questions for other #blogjune people to answer.

I’m proposing that #blogjune-ers who would like to play along respond to these on Wednesday June 28th.

I am also inviting people who usually #blogjune but are not this year, or are #blogjune-curious, to maybe use it as a chance to play along by making a blogjune post anywhere with its own URL. So that we can see your one-off contribution, if you post the link to Twitter that day with the #blogjune hashtag, I will Storify it and post it here the next day.

It was actually hard to think of questions that did not sound like we were speed-dating or interviewing for a library job. I settled for two questions about time travel…

  1. If you could go back and tell your 20 year old self one thing that was going to happen to you between then and today, what would that be?
  2. In 20 years time (presuming the world gets better, not worse) what do you think will be the biggest technological difference between your life now and your life then ?

 

 

Jun 162017
 

So, Con’s post last night was just a pic of herself, saying she was too tired to blog.

“Me too” I thought,  “I’ll do that”.

Then … “hold on, she’s got rid of the background in her pic .. cool.. how can I do that?”..

(“Too tired to blog” obviously does not mean “too tired to go searching for natty tools in the middle of the night”).

Third hit on Google for ” remove background online image” was Background Burner .

Took me very quickly from the first version to the next version… I did not have to draw the precise outline, just use the red to roughly mark the background to remove, and the green to very roughly mark the foreground to keep.

But, tonight’s exploration also reminded me of a time when Con and I were not both so tired (how did it get to this? us both being so tired?). I was looking at my old Flickr photos yesterday after looking up some photos I took about redesigning one of my units using Carpe Diem method, and had come across this .. taken in the audience listening to Margaret Attwood at the Perth Concert Hall in … a while ago.. when we both don’t look tired…