Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Clean it up!

Despite being somewhat over-extended this semester, I had a goal to re-examine my assignments. My idealistic intent was to streamline my grading (avoid writing the same comment 125 times), re-focus my teaching in order to yield better work from the students on several projects. The idea was simply driven from an increasingly challenging schedule. As I get busier and have more new course preps, it is essential to manage my time more effectively.

I did a quick review of my instructional materials, lessons plans, rubrics/evaluations, and made a few notes about student issues/problems on assignments throughout the previous semesters. I realized quickly that a few assignments needed help.

The descriptions sounded fine (to me) when re-reading the syllabus, but the work I was getting wasn't what I anticipated or was lacking key elements. This issue was the driving force behind a complete re-examination of my assignments and I found out I didn't really know what I wanted on one particular assignment that students have struggled with. 

If you don't know what YOU want (as an outcome) from the assignment, the assignment descriptions, rubrics, and even lesson plans could feel murky to students.

Image from
A quick fix is to explore the primary outcomes of each assignment. Identify the skills/concepts you want the students to have and work backward to craft a rubric and your "teachables" leading up to the assignment. You can still leave a lot open to interpretation, to allow for student-driven direction, creativity, and variety, but you will find your descriptions are cleaner, more focused. Your evaluations/rubrics measure what you teach, and the assignment reinforces/tests the concepts and skills you taught. It cleans everything up nicely so the students can see a direct line from what is discussed in class to the actual assignment. Slowly work your way through your assignments and their ancillary materials to center them around the core skills/goals and make sure your grading matches your teaching.

This doesn't take much time and can end up SAVING you time when it comes to grading, teaching, and office hours/student emails.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Vote now for the Adobe in Higher Education idea YOU most enjoy!


Greetings everyone!

Here are the entries for the "Great Ideas for Teaching With Adobe Products" Contest! Vote for the BEST IDEA via the Google Form listed at the end of this blog post.

Thanks for your support! :)

The contest ends on March 4, 2012! Please type any questions in the comment section below.

Drs. Edwards and Helvie-Mason

SUBMISSION A - Surreal Animation
Idea Category: Classroom Ideas (Face-to-Face or Hybrid)

Adobe Product: Photoshop

How the Adobe Product Was Used: Students create the animation in Photoshop and then export the video to be edited in either MovieMaker or Premiere Elements.

Idea Description: Students collaborate in pairs to create an animated dream-like surreal animated collage using Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft MovieMaker or Adobe Premiere Elements. Students will compare and contrast the concepts of dream-time or the subconscious in work created by Aboriginals and the 
Surrealist movement with an emphasis on Salvador Dali and Frida Khalo. 

View examples here:

SUBMISSION B - Smart Boards And Adobe Connect

Idea Category: Online Instruction/E-Training

Adobe Product: Adobe Connect

How the Adobe Product Was Used: We use adobe connect for education,  for IT remote help, and inter-departmental online meetings

Idea Description: Adobe Connect is a powerfull virtual classroom application which is very suitable for distance learning university programmes. But  in math involved lectures it should be improved that the whiteboard pod can  recognize the math writings turns them into regular math equations and formulas which is input via a smart board. Also the chatpod should be improved for written math conversation between students and the lecturer. For example when i write a latex code between a tag it should render the formula and shows the actual equation.  This should be improved because smart boards are not so smart to recognize the handwritten formulas.

SUBMISSION C - Mobile Game Design Using Flash and Photoshop

Idea Category: Classroom Ideas (Face-to-Face or Hybrid)

Adobe Product: Photoshop, Flash

How the Adobe Product Was Used: 
We use Photoshop to create the graphics that we use inside Flash.  We especially use it for creating seamlessly tiling textures for use in a blitting tile based game engine.  We create sprite graphics that we can use for our character and projectile animation needs.  We use the tools in Photoshop to understand how both additive and subtractive color theory works and pixel density affects the clarity  and sharpness of images and graphics used for projected display and print media.

We use Flash to understand animation, from keyframes to tweening, timing and secondary motion.  We come to grips with the advantages of vector graphics and the drawbacks in terms of performance.  We explore the use of Action Script 3 extensively for use in animation, interaction and game design.  We finish by publishing our files for use on the web, stand alone PC through AIR and for mobile devices through Android and iOS releases.

Idea Description: I currently teach a class in Game Design.  I use Photoshop and Flash almost exclusively to bring the concepts taught in the class to life.

We first take a crash course in Photoshop, learning how the program's tools and functionality work to understand color theory, image resolution and raster graphics.  We create projects that are directly applicable to our game development by learning how to make seemlessly tiling textures, using layers to seperate out parts of a character for use in animation and building graphical user interfaces and heads up displays from scratch.

Afterwards we delve into the world of Flash where we explore all the options and tools that it presents to understand how framerate can affect animation.  We discuss using keyframes to build animations and using tweens to move from keyframe to keyframe.  We explore the differences between vector and raster(bitmap) graphics, the advantages and disadvantages of each as it pertains to game development(especially for mobile devices).  We discover the display list and how we can use it for different effects. We import graphics from Photoshop and become aware how easily we can update our movie clips, character animations and textures while moving from one program to the other.

Once we have become familiar with the graphic and animation capabilities of Flash we then dive into Action Script 3.  We use this as a base to begin learning object oriented programming.  We begin by studying the fundamentals of variables and functions and continue on towards building custom classes and interfaces that allow us an amazing level of interaction and complexity between our existing graphics and user input, be it through keyboard, mouse or touchscreen.  Flash using Action Script enables us to consider new ways to bring ideas to life, where Adobe has opened every creative avenue and inroad is an opportunity for a budding game designer to express themselves in an ever expanding marketplace of potential.  

Our final project is to take the Flash projects we have worked on and publish them for use on both Android and iOS devices.  The ease with which we are able to do this through Flash has really motivated my students' desire to learn how to develop games using the Adobe products.  The time is ripe to take advantage of such a rich feature set to not just build our dreams into reality, but to carve out careers and a deeper appreciation for the world we live in.

Millennial Professor - Jennifer T. Edwards, Ed.D.
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Friday, February 24, 2012

ADOBE in higher education contest: UPDATE

Expect to see the voting form soon for the ADOBE in Higher Education contest! We will extend the voting period and share the submissions for everyone to explore shortly. Thank you for your interst and check back for the ballot!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Academic adolescence: Communicating on the tenure track

The teen years of tenure.

Think back to your teenage years (and try to avoid shuddering over that hair style or those clothes or that fight you had with your parents). Remember the emotional place where you felt like an adult but were still treated like a child? It could be empowering to discover who you are and what you stood for, but it could also be frustrating. 

Along the tenure track there are those middle, awkward years similar to our adolescence where we THINK we know as much or more as everyone else, but where we don't have much POWER to act independently. TenureTrackTeen is so close, but still so far away, from adulthood. The academic adolescent is someone who has been at the institution for several years, finally knows the ropes, and feels like he is a pro. TenureTrackTeen forgets, however, that he is still a teen. He isn't fully grown (full professor or tenured), he still has a LOT to learn about the institution and academia in general, and he can sometimes sabotage his chances to be taken seriously.

How do you handle the (sometimes) awkward, (often) emotional, years in between "new" professor and "tenured" professor?

Do you find yourself moaning around about how no one listens to your ideas? How no one takes you seriously? Or how it isn't fair that you have to do XYZ before anyone will listen? Or how nothing has changed (in your 3, 4, or 5 years of time at InstitutionXYZ.).

Easy there. You are still a probationary employee and your teenage temperament could lead others to question your collegiality.

Be careful. TenureTrackTeen can easily start to wear on the nerves of the most patient FullGrownProf out there. TenureTrackTeen does have just as many good ideas as FullGrownProf, but his annoying whining and demands can lead to a few eye rolls and "Because I said so's" from FullGrownProf, who notes what a "short time" TenureTrackTeen has been at the institution, expands on her "lengthy years" of service, and implores the TenureTrackTeen to "not be in such a rush" "wait a while" and "be patient." This advice isn't always welcome.

If you find yourself in a similar situation as TenureTrackTeen, keep yourself in check. If you've been around a typical teenager (or if you can focus back on your own years without too much cringing), then you know the goal is to have others listen and take you seriously.

This TenureTrackTeen has learned a few things over her journey that may prove helpful to you. You have to balance doing what is required while carving your own place in your institution (there's that teenage conflict between authority and autonomy, again). Here are a few COMMUNICATION strategies for any academic adolescents who have to tame their inner turmoil as they rush along the emotional river of the tenure track:
  1. Prioritize your ideas. In this tip,  you want to be aware of what you express and why. Is it worth complaining repeatedly about the tiny issue with mail delivery? Instead, use your time and energy to express your thoughts about a curriculum change. Craft the image of the responsible  FullGrownProf that you will soon be!
  2. Vent, if you need to. Every teen needs an emotional place to reflect and release...but vent OUTSIDE of your institution (and only to those you truly trust). Do not try to unload all of your angst on a colleague or other "teens" -- keep it professional and check those emotions before you regret what you say. 
  3. Avoid making demands. While you are an important part of the department, you ARE still on the tenure-track. You may get stuck with a teaching schedule you don't love or a service requirement that eats up your time. Unfortunately, that may just be part of your growing pains (this depends on the institution, of course). Demanding a stellar schedule (or office space, or pay raise) your third year may seem like something you deserve (of course you do!), but there may be others who outrank you, who have grants/funding that requires certain schedules/spaces, or who get priority in the class choices. Inquire. Explore. Request. But don't demand.
  4. Use your voice to advocate for what you need. Express concerns and ideas, certainly, but avoid threats, demands, and complaints that only serve as an emotional outlet. Your idea (while brilliant, of course!) may have been heard or tried in the past. Be aware that others may NOT be shutting you down, perhaps they have just "been there, seen that" -- so ask questions, learn about the history of your program, and provide data for your point of view.
  5. Have a goal in mind. Communicate with intent. What is it you want from the meeting with your mentor, Chair, Dean? If you don't know, be careful about speaking up. (Test the political climate of your department/program.)
Be aware of the emotions that may come along with your academic adolescence.  Be aware of these emotions in others. Your feelings are valid and you should feel free to express your thoughts and ideas, just do so with intent and a professional demeanor. Too often, those teenage emotions can lead to poor communication choices with a long-lasting impact.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Adobe in Higher Education mini-contest

Have you entered? The Millennial Professor blog and Communication & Higher Education blog have partnered to bring the Adobe mini-contest to you! Please explore the contest and consider entry by February 15th and you could win Adobe CS5.5! Explore more information about entering the mini-contest here!

Good luck!

Monday, February 6, 2012

PreziU: Sharing resources for Prezi use in higher education

If you are a long-time reader, you've seen the Prezi journey of this educator. From learning the ropes with my first struggling Prezis to becoming more adept at navigating and creating a polished Prezi to reinforce my teaching and presentations, I have slowly grown as a Prezi user. I have learned more and more about Prezi throughout the past few months and continue to like the flexibility it offers in providing presentational aids. Don't get me wrong, the MESSAGE is the most important part of the speech, but solid presentational aids can reinforce the message and enhance the credibility of the speaker. Whatever you use should be used with intent and consideration of your overall message and your audience. Prezi is one option I enjoy. I now teach with it on occasion, using the free iPad Prezi App.
Being a communication professor often means I must demonstrate what I teach on a daily basis. Our university iPad initiative left me with a tool to easily use each day. With simply a projector cord, my iPad can display my Prezi easily for the class. I do wish there was the option to "click" or "tap" while not at the ipad (which is currently required to be hard-wired to our projector unit), but soon I do envision walking with the iPad as it is projected--I'm just not quite sure how to get there!

As someone who is not very spatial or visual in my learning style, I am continually surprised that I like Prezi, but I do. And I wanted to share the resource Prezi U. Prezi notes on their website that "Prezi U is a community for teachers and academics who use Prezi as an educational tool." This site has articles, forums, a library, the ability to share files, and a lot of linked resources from users about using Prezi in education settings.

I am finding Prezi U very helpful as I both USE and TEACH Prezi. The site is great for educators. Explore issues such as how to grade a student's Prezi, how to incorporate Prezis into your teaching or class (or into your professional presentations), and use the awesome resources like this user-made tutorial by Billy Meinke on editing with Prezi. Additionally, you can connect with those in your discipline to see how they are using Prezi. It isn't just for the classroom, universities are using Prezis to reach students and as marketing aids. There are a lot of possibilities for Prezi.

Consider exploring Prezi U as you continue to grow your teaching and presenting. Explore the many free resources and peer-to-peer advice you can find at Prezi U. 

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Friday, February 3, 2012

Enter our mini contest: Great ideas for Adobe Products in Higher Ed

That great teaching technique or student project is just sitting there... 

Why not share your great ideas and classroom success with others AND get a chance to win Adobe Creative Suite 5.5? 

Enter the "Great Ideas for Teaching with Adobe Products" Mini-Contest here at Communication and Higher Education blog as part of an exciting collaborative partnership with the blog, "A Millennial Professor's View of Higher Education" ( to share how we use Adobe products in our higher education lives. The roles of faculty members are multifaceted and Adobe tools help us meet those roles successfully, so share how you use the products!
"Great Ideas for Integrating Adobe Products in Higher Education" Mini-Contest

Final submissions due by midnight on February 15, 2012.

Faculty, Staff, and Students are encouraged to submit an idea! We encourage ideas focused on (but not limited to) the following:
- Classroom Ideas (Face-to-Face or Hybrid)
- Student Activities/Student Affairs
- Student Organizations
- Admissions and Recruitment
- Campus-Wide Events
- Supplemental Instruction
- Learning Communities
- Online Instruction/E-Training

Voting Period
The readers will vote on the best entries from Monday, February 20th to Friday, February 24, 2012. The WINNER of the contest will receive a copy of the CS5.5 Master Collection!

Good luck everyone and HAPPY CREATING!

See the submission form below!

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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Call for Papers: International Society for Educational Biography

The International Society for Educational Biography (I.S.E.B.) invites academics, teachers, graduate students, researchers and anyone who engages aspects of biography in their writing, teaching, research, or other professional endeavors to submit proposals for our annual conference. Previous papers have come from a variety of disciplines including history, education, English, religion, and many more. We encourage submissions from graduate students.

Possible topics include but are not limited to the following: Collective biographies, Role of biography in the history of education, biography and fiction, general biography, plot structures of biographies, biographic criticism, publishing biographies, feminist approaches to life writing, oral history, experimental approaches, ethical issues, methodology, and the use of biography in classroom instruction.

Proposal Information: The refereed conference invites individual papers and panel discussions; other presentation formats are welcome. Generally, the conference schedule allows 30 minutes for individual papers (includes discussion time), and 60-75 minutes for panel discussions and other kinds of presentations.

Submission deadline is March 2, 2012

Proposals should be sent as attachments and include:
  1. A title page which includes title, name of author(s), address, telephone #, fax #, and e-mail.
  2. A 250-350 word abstract describing the importance of the topic, the approach taken & the need for any technology.
  3. Please state any time and day that you cannot present.
Send proposals by surface mail, or e-mail attachment to:
Dr. Virginia Altrogge, School of Education, Webster University, 470 E. Lockwood Avenue,
St. Louis, MO 63119; Phone: (314)246-8725; E-Mail:

Conference information: April 26-28, 2012 in St. Louis, MO at the Chase Park Plaza Hotel, 212 North Kings Highway Blvd., St. Louis, Missouri. Toll Free – 1-877-587-2427 – request reservations Local – 314-633-3000 – request reservations. The rate is $159 US single or double.

Membership: Find more information about ISEB membership and conference registration at

Find ISEB on Facebook by searching for "International Society for Educational Biography."

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