Thursday, February 18, 2010

Zotero and RefWorks

Have any of my academia-dwelling friends used either RefWorks or Zotero before? We had a workshop on both (sponsored by our awesome Center for Teaching and Learning) and they blew my mind. I am really drawn to Zotero--it's free, and you have to use Firefox, but that's no problem for me. It also seems much simpler and more integrated into your browser than RefWorks, although RefWorks apparently has some features Zotero doesn't have.

If you are working on a long project, check these programs out. They might revolutionize the way your conduct your research.

"Rhymes with The City of Salinas"

I took this post's title from Andrew Sullivan's post...couldn't think of a better one.

Now you MUST click here...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Back to school...

It's been a weekend of digging out and cleaning up and getting back to life as usual. I was thrilled to make it back up to my office on campus both Saturday and Sunday (today). If you know me, you know I do really well with normal routines, etc. and getting lots of work done at school is a major part of my routine. (Yes, even on the weekends...sad, I know).

Campus looks great--the grounds keepers are amazing. Of course, there are a lot fewer parking spots (again, where do you put 40+ inches of snow?), but on the whole, we should be back in business tomorrow--even with another snow blast hitting us tomorrow afternoon/evening. (This one should be relatively tame--maybe 6 inches at most. Funny how your definition of "tame" changes...)

Some follow-up on the discussion board experiment: I think it actually worked really well. I am especially pleased with the English 204 boards. All I had to do was ask some questions (admittedly leading questions) and then sit back and watch them go. They covered all the important points I would have made if we had class. This morning, I spent about 90 minutes reading over both classes' responses and then summing up/concluding each thread. One frustrating item to note: lots of students didn't post anything, or only did half of what they were supposed to do. If they don't show up with their reading responses tomorrow (the alternate response), I am not sure what to do. Maybe some zeroes for quiz grades? (This also means giving people who did their work some 100s for quiz grades.)

The upper division classes' boards are (predictably) looking very good. I haven't finished reading/responding to them yet, but I am looking forward to doing so.

Thanks, by the way, to those of you who suggested strategies for keeping on schedule using online teaching.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

At the risk of making this an all-weather-related blog... comes another weather-related post. We've got gotten an email from the VPAA announcing that "on campus" instruction has been canceled for the rest of this week. That's how bad things are around here--several major roads are still a mess (not to mention backroads) and even with snow-removal crews working non-stop, there just hasn't been enough progress made. At some point, after all, where do you put the snow? Calls are still in the 10-20 inch range for the latest round, which has just gotten started.

Fear not for me...I actually got out a bit today (thanks to a friend with a four-wheel drive) and picked up some more groceries. I even finally cleared out the huge blockade of snow that was at the end of my driveway--the mini-mountain that the plows refused to touch even though it was clearly (at least 2 feet) on the road, not my driveway. At this point, I feel like I can shovel away the next twenty inches that falls. After the 30 inches this weekend, I can handle it. (Although my aching back and arms might argue a bit...)

What I am wondering about, though, is if I should follow the VPAA's suggestion to hold classes online in some capacity. The concern is that a whole week of classes missed can get us into some trouble, especially with lots of winter still out there. We have a program called Sakai (a lot like Blackboard, if you are familiar with that) which can let me do things like discussion boards and even chat rooms. I think that discussion boards could work for my two upper division classes, filled with mostly English majors and minors.

I am not so sure about my two sections of English 204. I might post some study questions for each text on a separate thread (one big question per thread) and invite the 204 students to respond. Then, after they've had lots of chances to do so, I'll sum up the important points of each question. Now, should I require them to participate? I hesistate to do so since I am not sure if everyone has reliable internet access at home. But without some real incentive to participate, I can't see a lot these general education students doing so.

I also don't want to require a bunch of reading responses because, well, I don't want to grade them. I've got 70+ students in these two sections...what I need is discussion.

To my teacher friends especially, but any one else, too: any additional thoughts you might have for shifting a regular class to a temporarily online class would be much appreciated!

Monday, February 8, 2010

10 to 20 more inches... what they are calling for tomorrow into Wednesday. That's literally on top of the 30 we got this past weekend.

Words fail.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Forget two feet...

The snow is up to my waist--and still falling. I'll see you all in April.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

If we get another 2 feet of snow...

...I might cry.

Seriously--2 feet in December, several messy little storms since then, 6 "surprise" inches last Saturday, 4 inches on Wednesday night, and now this?

Being snowed in just isn't fun for me anymore. I keep talking to friends about how to recapture that feeling from when I was young. Back then, being snowed in was a blast. Now, it's just depressing. I think it's because I am snowed in alone. (Well, not counting Bing and Wes--without them, it would be beyond depressing.) Simply put, being snowed in would be a lot more fun if I was snowed in with somebody else. (Get your minds out of the gutter, folks: you know what I mean.)

If you read this and are anticipating the latest SNOWPOCALYPSE, what do you plan on doing to make the most of it? (Here's what's on my list: some cleaning, reading, grading, napping, and lots of TV.)