Archives for category: teaching

[zotero]For those who are not familiar with it, zotero is a free and insanely useful reference management program that integrates directly into Firefox. Among the new features of Version 2.0, which is just about to exit beta, is an improved annotation tool that allows you to add notes to your bibliographic material. Thanks to it, all of my reading notes now “live” side-by-side with the related articles and books in zotero.

Since the annotation tool is built using the Open-Source WYSIWYG TinyMCE editor, it also means that you can speed up entry by using keyboard shortcuts. The only problem… figuring out what the shortcuts are… So, to help, here’s a list of the ones I’ve discovered through trial, error, and web searches:

Zotero/TinyMCE Keyboard Shortcuts

  • ctrl+z — Undo
  • ctrl+y — Redo
  • ctrl+b — Bold
  • ctrl+i — Italic
  • ctrl+u — Underline
  • ctrl+1 — h1 (headline size 1)
  • ctrl+2 — h2 (headline size 2)
  • ctrl+3 — h3 (headline size 3)
  • ctrl+4 — h4 (headline size 4)
  • ctrl+5 — h5 (headline size 5)
  • ctrl+6 — h6 (headline size 6)
  • ctrl+7 — p (paragraph)

Also in there, but not particularly useful are:

  • ctrl+8 — div (note that you can insert DIV tags into the underlying HTML of a zotero not, but it really doesn’t do anything)
  • ctrl+9 — address (an HTML tag used for tagging physical address info — as in where something is in the real world)?

I’ve been scouring the web for additional shortcuts (in particular I’d love to find indent and quote) but have yet to find anymore. If you’ve discovered any other ones, please leave and comment and I’ll update this list.

Image from rapmullet dot come

So I just made it through the FWS class I’ve been fearing the most. Lectures I can handle; ditto reading discussions. But getting students to critique their peer’s work, that’s something really new. I had tried similar exercises at RIT and it never worked out as I had hoped. Thankfully, things went really smoothly.

That smoothness was in no small part related to the quality of work that the students turned in. The first assignment for the class was to write you bio as a “digital native.” The results were really fun for me to read and contained a lot of good material to pull. While there were plenty of grammatical and construction issues in them, the great news was that they were all “complex” ones for the most part. By complex, I mean that we were working on improving clarity versus conjugating verbs or unraveling tenses (the latter problems being things that I’m not really qualified to teach).

The biggest problem that I faced, and will continue to face for the rest of the semester, is where the subject line comes in. I’m still having a lot of problems, accurately budget enough time for the material I want to cover. During the class, I broke everyone into groups and had them work on “diagnosing” and “correcting” exemplary “problem” excepts from the papers (problem is in quotes because at times there wasn’t a pure problem with a sentence, it was just less than optimal). This generated a lot of good discussion. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize how much time it would take to rejig the first four sentences. The result was that most groups spent the first 15 minutes or so, working on the first fifth of the assignment. The net result was that I extended the group time to enable everyone to get through the worksheet. That unfortunately ate in to the time I had on the backend to synthesize all of the group results in a guided discussion. So the “discussion” became a mini-lecture, and in that process, I lost the chance to ensure that all students contributed something in the group environment.

On the plus side, a few years ago this all would have really flustered me. Especially since it was happening in the midst of a class that I’m still in the process of developing. I’m not saying that this is now old hat. It isn’t. What is happening is that I’m learning to work smarter in terms of preparation and class planning. And that, as Martha says, “is a good thing.”

I’m back in Rochester, enjoying some time with Dre, Rita Mae, Lilah, and Lewis after completing my first week down in Ithaca. Class yesterday went really smoothly. I’m already working on my lessons plans for next week and tweaking my assignments. Once I’m done with that it’s back to reading for coursework. I also have some OPL thing to do. And it looks like I’ll be presenting at a O’Reilly internet session later this fall. So a lot is on my plate.

All that said, it’s great to be home.

The syllabus is done but not complete

The FWS prep class last night went really well. My discussion group was pretty impressed with the syllabus I put together. They had some excellent feedback about assignments as well. I still have to find a way to reduce the readings for the class — if for not other reason to ensure my own sanity.

I also know at least one student has the required books. I know this because I stood behind him in line today at the bookstore and I’m pretty sure I’m the only teacher at Cornell using this particular work. I resisted the temptation to talk with him. I really don’t want to be “that professor”… at least not yet.

Class begins at 10.10 tomorrow with a short writing exercise. I’m a little nervous about it only being 50 minutes long. That’s a really short amount of time — the shortest class time block I’ve ever taught in. So it will be interesting to see how it goes.

For those who are interested, you can check out version 1.0 of the syllabus here:

And I’m calling it v1.0 for a reason. One of the notes in it says it all:

Be Prepared for Changes
I reserve the right to alter the syllabus at any time. In fact I guarantee that I will before the end of the semester. When in doubt about a reading, an assignment, or a due date, ASK! And always refer back to Blackboard for the latest information about the class.

Be Prepared for Changes

I reserve the right to alter the syllabus at any time. In fact I guarantee that I will before the end of the semester. When in doubt about a reading, an assignment, or a due date, ASK! And always refer back to Blackboard for the latest information about the class.