Student Engagement In and Out of the Classroom

On November 7, 2014, I attended the ETOM Conference at St. Clair Community College in Port Huron, MI. One of the underlying themes of this year conference was student engagement in and out of the classroom. As an instructor who hasn’t taken classes in quite some time, sometimes I forget how difficult it is to be a student in the 21st century. Between the rising cost of college, the changing nature of technology, and the demands at home, it is often a struggle to engage students in the classroom. This conference helped give me a different perspective of how I can look at my classes in a new way. The opening session focused on Open Educational Resources and how the cost of textbooks has an impact on which classes students take and how engaged the students are with the college. The statistics are clear that higher textbook costs lead students to take fewer classes and sometimes not to take any classes...
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My Experience with Spotify Premium

I was skeptical at first.  My previous experience with Pandora wasn’t the best.  I couldn’t listen to any song that I wanted to, but I could create an artist radio, where without fail, 5 songs in I would be turning off the music because Pandora would be suggesting something absolutely awful.  And why not just skip over the song?  Well, with Pandora you only get so many skips per day.  Then Google Music came along for a while.  I could listen to any song I wanted to, but only once.  That was a weird phase that Google had.  I’m glad it’s gone (or at least I can’t easily find it anymore by simply using Google to search for a song). When I first heard about Spotify, I couldn’t believe that there was a music service available where I could listen to any song at any time.  But it’s absolutely true.  Spotify carries most songs.  Spotify’s search engine...
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The Search for a New Learning Management System

We use ANGEL at my college and I’m not happy about it.  I bet you’re not happy with your Learning Management System (LMS), either.   I don’t need to give you my list of grievances, but I’m going to anyway: ·         When I log-in to ANGEL, there’s a ‘What’s New’ panel that shows you what is new (e.g., any new posts by students) since the last time you logged in.  This is nice, except they won’t appear in the list the next time you log-in.  What ANGEL really needs is a ‘What’s unread’ panel that lists everything that is still unread, regardless of if it is new since the last time you logged in.  Or even better, it simply needs to list all of the activity (old or not) in a panel when you log in. ·         ANGEL is not very friendly with math.  My IT department even admitted it.  They told me that the best way to do...
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The Side Effects of Technology Overload

I am co-presenting a presentation on “The Side Effects of Technology Overload” with another participant at Screencast Camp 2012.  Below is a list of some articles on the topic that are meant to spark discussion within the group.  I will share some notes on the discussion once the session is over. WebMD: When Technology Overtakes Your Life Consumer Reports: Therapists Sees Signs of ‘Technology Overload’ The Culture Connection: Technology Overload? Five Steps to break Free Harvard Business Review: Death by Information Overload Side Effects of the E-Society Kevin Shaw: Why I Don’t Want To Ever Buy a Smartphone Reuters: Technology Overload Can Ruin Relationships Seattle Times: Beware of Digital Overload and Technology Failure Delta Dental: Technology Overload May Benefit Your Health ...
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Jing and Geogebra

During the Summer 2012 semester, I decided to have my Math for Education students use Jing to send me a diagram of something that they were supposed to do using Geogebra.  If you aren’t familiar with Jing, it is a free screen-capturing and screen-casting tool from the people at Techsmith, located in Okemos, MI.  And if you aren’t familiar with Geogebra, simply put, it is a free alternative to Geometer’s Sketchpad, but it can do lots more. First off all, I have to say that I had always wanted to use Jing and screen-capturing with my students, but I wasn’t sure from what angle I wanted to approach it.  Many instructors have students create their own screencasts (a fairly well-known example is Mathtrain.tv).  Of course, I already use screen-casting on the instructor end by creating screencasts for my students on topics they are struggling with or by providing video feedback on student assignments.  I just hadn’t ever...
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Learning from Ignite

If you don’t know what Ignite is, simply put, it is a format in which speakers are limited to using 20 slides and each of those slides automatically advances every 15 seconds.  Thus, a speaker must get their point across within a maximum of 5 minutes. I learned about the Ignite format from past conferences that I have attended.  And I have attended several Ignite Events in the Detroit, MI area (they have them all around the country). This semester, I decided to have my Math for Education students give an Ignite-style talk on the last day of class.  They had two major content goals – they were supposed to summarize what they learned during the semester and they were required to have at least 5 slides on a topic that I pre-assigned to them (e.g., hexagons, pentagons, etc.).  The other catch is that they only had 30 minutes to prepare their slides and presentation. I learned quite a...
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My Search for a New Laptop

This week I bought a new laptop.  My search came down to the final three.  I ended up buying the Toshiba, but I thought it might be helpful to others to post the thoughts that went through my mind while picking between the three, as well as the specs on each of the machines from Best Buy.   Pros Cons HP ·         Low price point; cannot beat the quality for the price. ·         Can do the basic stuff such as use the Internet and create documents for my classes. ·         Had bad experiences the HP in the past, but that was well over 10 – 12 years ago. ·         Sony looked slightly better. Sony ·         Previous Sony Viao held strong for 3 – 4 years; the only reason that I was even looking to replace my laptop is because the battery life was only 15 minutes and the Z-key was broken. ·         Security in knowing exactly what...
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Computer Tips and Tricks

This past week I have had to do a few things on the computer that appear not to be common knowledge.  Here is a brief run-down of computer tips and tricks that I think might be useful to everyone: Microsoft Excel The University of Wisconsin-EauClaire has a wonderful summary of functions needed to use Excel as a Gradebook.  My favorite one is the ‘SMALL’ function, which makes it very easy to drop the lowest score, the second lowest score, etc. This week I also came across a situation where I had to add double quotes around a name and slanted brackets around an e-mail address.  This is very tedious to do for a list of hundreds of names.  But there is hope since there is a very simple formula that can be used to do this. Turning off CAPS LOCK This week a friend of mine asked me how to turn off caps lock.  It really is not that hard to...
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