Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The iPad in the Public Speaking course

Regular readers know that I have had my iPad for about 9 months as part of our university Quality Enhancement Plan and I am rapidly wondering how I ever taught without it. A few weeks ago, I gave a presentation about using the iPad in the Public Speaking course. Since then, I have received emails and inquiries about apps, iPads, and instruction. I thought we might all benefit from sharing our favorite apps and iPad (or other tablet) use in the college classroom.

Below you will see the Prezi used in my presentation along with links to my most used apps below.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Qualitative inquiry, instruction, and educational technology

Are you looking for an innovative way to explore qualitative methods with your students (or just for your own nerd-ish pleasure, like me?). If so, consider exploring Creative Qualitative Inquiry: Innovative Graduate Level Pedagogies Shaped by Educational Technologies by Dr. Thalia Mulvihill and Dr. Raji Swaminathan in The Journal of Educational Technology. If you're looking for further opportunities to delve into qualitative inquiry then you might also consider the authors' Qualitative Research Conversations Blog (a great resources for graduate students with apprehension about their dissertation, the proposal, or the defense when it comes to qualitative methods) or follow this line of inquiry on Twitter @QRConversations.

Read also: "Data Monster" - November 2011

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Finding the intangibles

This career is one where we must embrace delayed gratification. We await decisions on research articles that can take months, we pursue service activities that are on five and ten year plans, we advise students knowing it will take years before they cross the graduation stage, and we seek grant funding for ideas that can take years to materialize.

There are some days, however, where the typically intangible and elusive rewards of faculty life can come rushing at you. I simply adore such days. Yesterday I had one of THOSE glorious days that began with a former student stopping me on campus to tell me he was graduating, that he not only remembers my class but uses the skills we explored in his "regular life" -- AND that he felt he got his job because of the skills we covered in a class activity he found particularly memborable. It made me forget all of the stress (temporarily) as I waltzed toward my next class feeling puffed up with pride for the student's success and for my tiny part in his amazing journey. This little encounter made me feel that the sometimes (okay, OFTEN) stressful, and generally (okay, MOSTLY) strenuous activities of the faculty world were somehow all worthwhile.

It wasn't long however (in fact, the exact time corresponds to my morning review of my task list for the day) before I was feeling defeated and deflated again. I missed that puffed up feeling...how could I get it back?

The lesson of the day was simple. Find, no matter how challenging, the rewards of faculty life each day. Is it in your research, a collegial conversation, a grant idea, an effective meeting where your idea was successfully voiced, etc.? It could be anywhere! You don't have to go through the day bemoaning the problems (although I certainly do my fair share of internal ranting) or trudging along waiting on the delayed gratification to finally arrive. Find the sometimes buried rewards in your tenure track journey. Explore the little successes when the larger ones are too far away to have a meaningful impact.

Read also:
 "Delayed gratification of faculty life" - May 2010
"Focusing for a fresh semester" - January 2012

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Conferencing on a budget

There is something amazing about conversations with others in your discipline. I love April, though it is often the busiest month of the entire year for me, it is the time when I can connect with others on similar lines of research at conferences. There is an energy of renewal around conferences that I love to see. Wearied professors mix with energetic professors, meet with sponsors at booths touting new products, reflect as they chat with former colleagues and siphon a bit of the graduate student energy. I always leave every conference with a huge list of things to do. This list is not draining, it is not intimidating, it is exciting, engaging, and promising. Research ideas, teaching approaches, new techniques to old problems...I use the lists all year long to push my research line and my pedagogy.

Conference attendance is a valued part of my tenure packet. I can see the tangible products from every conference I attend and note the many resulting webs of research that have spun right off of an idea sparked at a conference.

Plan time in your busy semester to embrace a conference in your discipline. This can be a struggle for many of us. Don't cut out that conference just yet. Conference on a budget!
  •  Skim over your options. Consider locations closest or cheapest to you by planning a year or two ahead of time and work to be frugal during the conference if you cannot be reimbursed by your institution. Most organizations have a list of locations for the upcoming years on their web sites. Explore these so you can be prepared to maximize the money you spend. Regional conferences offer a lot of resources and are generally much lower in cost than those national conferences.
  • Pack oatmeal, granola bars, dried fruits, soups, etc. that can be eaten in the room with just hot water or as snacks during a long day of panels. Yes, it may feel like you are back in graduate school, but you are at the conference for the panels and people not the food! Being frugal with breakfast alone can save you a hundred dollars during conference week and you can then use your dinners to connect with friends and dine out. 
  • Hit the store when you arrive. Scout out the closest grocery, market, or drug store. Avoid vending machines. Buy your favorite soda or bottled water at the store to save a ton of money. It is easy to use www.yelp.com (the app on the iPad is great) and type in grocery as soon as you hit the hotel.
  • Ask your institution's faculty development committee (or your equivalent), your Center for Excellence in Teaching (CETL), or Lyceum committee (or equivalent) if they will pay airfare or lodging. Even if they cannot cover per diem, they may be able to share some of your costs if you offer to talk to the campus about what you learned or host a faculty development session to share some ideas. It never hurts to ask and often junior faculty are unaware of such resources.
  • Go to the heavy hitter on your campus--whoever grabs the most grants and travels the most. Ask them how they started out and if they know of resources. You will likely gain points for your ambition and make a great campus contact even if you come out without any funds. 
  • Be aware of the conference extras. Registration, membership, and journals can add up quickly-so can parking costs and internet access! Plan ahead...FAR ahead. Each year we sit down and explore our options based on conference location, costs, and "need." Need is determined by the level of importance the conference has in terms of tenure, networking, and renewal of energy. To offset some costs, always try to pre-register and stick with the necessities for membership. Ask for the conference discount for parking and explore the hotel chain's "member rewards" programs to shoot for free internet access during your stay.
  • Buddy up! Other junior faculty are likely in the same situation. Consider partnering up and sharing resources. You may not want to share a room, but it can be a huge cost saving option in more expensive cities. Additionally, you can see what journals a colleague checks off for membership and check different options to swap later.
  • Re-evaluate. After you conference, tally up your expenses so you can make an informed decision about that same conference next year. Was it worth it? Does the energy you gain (or ideas, or networking, etc.) work as a sufficient reward for your efforts and costs?
The energy and information gained at a conference ARE priceless,  but in today's economy we have to build our tenure dossiers carefully. With a little planning and effort, you can grow your dossier without breaking the bank.

Happy conference season!

Previous discussions of conference season:
"That Conference Energy" - March 24, 2011
"Conference Season Begins" - April 4, 2010

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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Maximizing time

This week my institution has spring break. This is later than most universities because we enjoy a late February Mardi Gras break and we must space apart those weeks off (I know, you are now turning green with envy over life in the Big Easy--but we do not get a Fall Break, so there IS a trade-off). During any break I like to maximize my time by rotating from one task to another. I always set myself a large amount of work to do over any break regardless of my on-going promises not to overbook a break! If I didn't have a full agenda planned, I would not know what to do with myself, as described in last year's post, "Stages of Spring Break," where I described my approach to spring break since age seven--with the consistent approach of working while others rested to chase the illusion of "getting ahead" on the work load--and the pre-planned/scheduled activities designed to help me enjoy the break.

This year, I tried to avoid over-scheduling and failed miserably (and rather predictably). So I am working to rotate from one task to another to avoid burnout and stay focused. When I get too overwhelmed with the grant (due April 15), then I switch to grading and when that becomes a bit tedious, I rotate to editing the methods section of an article. In this way, I should be able to mark off about HALF of the overly ambitious, incredibly out of reach list of items to accomplish over the break--and that, my friends, is surely a victory!

My computer time is up and I'm not off to a rotation toward grading...happy spring break!

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