What Students Say

A note to myself

I believe that I can be a better educator through reflection and active engagement. I believe that I can better serve my students and colleagues by being honest with them. I believe that reflection, engagement, and honesty can help other educators improve their praxis, should they feel so inclined.

It has always been about the students

A note to students

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Adding a keyboard shortcut for Save to PDF… in OSX

When I’m commenting on electronic documents, I find it useful to be able to quickly generate a PDF of the marked-up version of the document to return to authors for review. I annotate the document using track changes and adding comments (using the INSERT > COMMENT feature… not by adding text to the body of the document!!!), then

Save as PDF…

to keep a copy for myself and to email (or post to a course management system) for the author to review.

Unfortunately, OSX doesn’t have a built-in keyboard shortcut for Save to PDF…, but it’s easy to add one.

[Note: you can’t Save to PDF… from an Adobe Acrobat print dialog box… it would bruise their ego]

Digital Voice Recorders

Digital voice recorders can be a handy tool for dictation or recording research interviews. Here are some of the things I consider when looking for a recorder.

Connectivity Make sure the recorder you choose has a USB port or (even better) a built-in plug. Some recorders do not allow you to transfer your recordings to your computer.
File format The default recording file format should be something that is easily playable on your computer’s already installed software, such as Quicktime, iTunes, or Windows Media Player. WAV and MP3 work well, but many recorders use WMA, a windows format that requires additional software on the Mac to playback.
Microphones You generally want dual (or quad) built-in MICs for stereo recording— invaluable in interview sessions. You can play your recordings with headphones and perceive directionality. Not all recorders record in stereo. Also, an external MIC jack, in case you ever want to use an external microphone (a lapel clipped mic or shotgun mic, e.g.)
Placement A tripod mount screw is handy for setting up your recorder for standalone operation.

Two models I’m fond of:

Zoom H2 http://www.amazon.com/Zoom-H2-Portable-Stereo-Recorder/dp/B000VBH2IG
Olympus WS-600s http://www.amazon.com/Olympus-WS-600S-Digital-Recorder-142610/dp/B000NM8DI6

Know Your Libraries and Librarians

One of the first lessons any successful graduate student (and that should read “undergraduate student”) learns is to introduce themselves to the reference librarian who is responsible for their favorite subject areas. They can serve as guides to the existing collection, alert you to new acquisitions, and help you to acquire books that you may be interested in reading.

Know the LOC system, know which sections interest you, and know who is responsible for maintaining those sections at your institutions. You’ll make a librarian’s day when you introduce yourself as being “particularly interested in the QAs” or any other category.

For me, I always visit these sections, at least:

  • K7555 – Copyright
  • LB – Theory and practice of education
  • Q – Cybernetics/Information Theory
  • QA – Computers/Programming Languages
  • TK – Electronics/Computer Engineering

History of the LOC system: http://www.loc.gov/catdir/cpso/lcc.html

The categories: http://www.loc.gov/catdir/cpso/lcco/

Endnote: Create a key binding for linking to a PDF (OS X)

I spend a fair amount of time linking PDF documents to records in Endnote. Unfortunately, Endnote requires you to (a) drag and drop, or (b) navigate into submenus to link to a PDF.

In OS X, you can bind a keystroke to any menu item in a specific application using the System Preferences > Keyboard & Mouse settings. Use this to your advantage! Endnote lacks a keystroke for “Link to PDF…”, so I created one: Command-Option-L

Now, when I highlight a record in my library and press the key combination, an “Attach…” file dialog box opens up and I select the PDF of the article, web site, etc.

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Commenting on Student Writing

We often find ourselves commenting on students’ writing and acting as editors rather than critical readers: we indicate line-level edits, such as missing commas and poor word choices– as if fixing the mechanical errors would make the paper acceptable. In reality, most student papers we see are first drafts, often written the night before the assignment is due and unedited by anyone, including the author. (See my post concerning the design of assignments, coming soon.)

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Read Like a Graduate Student, not a Mystery Fan

First year graduate students often struggle with the volume of reading required. It’s not uncommon to have assigned to you hundreds of pages a week on a range of topics. The typical course may cover the contents of a half-dozen books and 75-100 academic papers. All of this you’re meant to consume, understand, and synthesize with everything you know. The task is, to say the least, daunting.

It doesn’t have to be so difficult to read academic works; people make simple reading mistakes that are easily corrected.

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Endnote: Save PDFs of web pages and online articles

Endnote is primarily intended to help you store citation information and create bibliographies for your academic papers, but it also allows you to collect PDFs of the documents. This is helpful for journal articles, and fantastic for dynamic content.

When reading online articles or web pages that you might need to cite, print to PDF and attach the PDF file to your Endnote record. On Mac OS X, this capability is built-in to the Print dialog. In Windows, you’ll need to install software that allows you to print to PDF.

The purpose of a citation is to allow your readers (and you) to relocate the material you use as evidence in your writing. By keeping a PDF of web pages as you saw them, you have the exact material on which you’re basing your quotations and interpretations. In other words, you (and your critics) have access to the version you’re relying on, even if it’s later changed significantly.

This is particularly important when the material you’re citing changes frequently, such as newspaper articles and political websites.

Endnote: Store quotations

One of the most time consuming tasks of writing is finding that perfect quotation, finding that page number where an important idea was introduced, etc. By recording what you believe to be valuable (citation-worthy) quotations in your Endnotes records, you can quickly search them and cite the page. I store quotes in the “Custom 7” field in this format:

Quotations in Endnote

This way, I have the quotation and the page number and can quickly insert critical information into my papers.

My rule: If it would be worth highlighting, it’s worth entering into Endnote. Continue reading