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How I Learned to Stop Resenting Blackboard and Start Using BB Grader

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I’ve never been a fan of Blackboard, the monolithic learning management system that’s the standard at so many schools. I’ve always found it slow, poorly designed, and very awkward to use. Recently, however, my attitude changed (slightly) when a colleague introduced me to BB Grader, a free iPad app for Blackboard designed to make the grading process in Blackboard mobile-friendly.

As an English professor, most of what my students produce for me are essays. I long ago switched to a mostly paper-fr…

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Get Your Internet Connection’s Speed from Google

speed limit sign

As I type, the Google doodle says that it’s the search engine’s 18th anniversary, which is a very long time of continuing to provide relevant search results on the internet. Google’s search engine, though, has long done far more than that, which brings me to the topic of today’s post: internet speeds.

From time to time in everyone’s life, it can be useful to know just how fast your connection to the internet is. Maybe you’re trying to decide whether to prep for class by reviewing a video, or to…

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MLA Commons CORE and Open Access

The Modern Language Association recently announced an exciting open-access project, Humanities Core, funded by the NEH. The project is very ambitious and promises to be a valuable asset for researchers, particularly those without access to the expensive databases of large universities. The announcement explains the project:

The MLA and Columbia University Libraries/Information Services’ Center for Digital Research and Scholarship are pleased to announce that they have been awarded a $60,000 sta…

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Do Your Students Take Good Notes?

Whether — and how — students take notes in class is an evergreen topic in discussions of teaching and learning. Unfortunately, I often find myself frustrated and annoyed when I’m explaining something in class and look out at a room full of students who are, admittedly, paying attention to what I’m saying but writing down not a single thing in their notes. Frustration and annoyance do not make for good pedagogy, though, and my off-the-cuff comments in response to this particular student behavior…

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Back Up Your Files Now

fire

Last week, you might have seen the story of a devastating fire in a residential neighborhood in New Orleans, and how Gideon Hodge, who “describes himself as a playwright, novelist, and actor” ran into his burning home “when he realized that his only copies of two completed novels were on a laptop inside.”
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Have Your Accounts Been Compromised?

LEGO minifigs
Having accounts spread hither and yon across the internet, and the ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ approach that’s too often taken toward security and privacy, there’s a pretty decent chance that at some point, a service you use will face a data breach.

Heck, it might have already happened, and you didn’t know about it, either because you were too busy to notice, or maybe you’d even forgotten you have an account on that service!

A quick and easy way to see if your accounts have been included in a data breach is to…

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Virtual Techniques for Co-writing

Over the past year, I’ve found myself involved in more collaborative writing projects. This isn’t really something that came up in my discipline in grad school, where everything I worked on was written alone. These projects are much harder to organize than my solo work: often, they span several platforms, multiple email threads, chats, and files.

I’ve noticed that everyone I work with has a different preference for technologies and strategies. Here are a few I’ve been using, and their advantage…

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Discriminatory Design in Education and Educational Technology

Anti-homeless bench with armrests

Twice this week I have seen images of these benches. Public benches that have dividers or armrests. These are what Mike Caulfield called “hostile design” because they implicitly prevent homeless people from sleeping on these benches and therefore pass on a social message and enforce particular behavior. Ruha Benjamin in her ISTE 2016 keynote called it something I find more accurate: discriminatory design. Because we all recognize that the design is not hostile to everyone. It is only hostile to…

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Switching to a Tiling Window Manager, and Why You Might Want To

Screenshot of i3 window manager

[This is a guest post by Nabeel Siddiqui, a doctoral candidate in American Studies at The College of William & Mary, where his research focuses on personal computers and the intersection of the public/private sphere. You can find him online here.--JBJ]

If you a watch a Mac user use a Windows machine or vice versa, you know how attached people can become to their operating systems. The frustration when people try to switch, however, has little to do with the underlying structure of the systems t…

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Haiku Deck Introduces “Classroom” Option

Back in June of 2013, I wrote a brief post about Haiku Deck, which at the time was simply a free iPad app for creating and showing presentations. In the last 3 years, Haiku Deck has evolved to include web-hosted presentations (and the ability to create presentation through a web-based interface). Unfortunately, if you want to be able to create more than 3 presentations you’ll now have to pay. The most affordable option is signing up for a “Pro” account for $10 a month (though teachers and stude…