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Weekend Reading: The End Is Near Edition

Whiteboard madness

As the son of a long-time academic beardholder, I’m shamed that it’s taken this long to discover Academic Beards, a blog documenting the persistence of one of academe’s most sanctified fashion statements. The blog appears to update once a month or so, but the Twitter and Facebook feeds are a bit livelier.

Like beards, and without the gender implications, “wearing black and smoking clove cigarettes will never go out of style.”

On to this week’s links!

  • Managing to be both inspiring and practical, Jason* Heppler has written a reflection on learning to code, why it matters to him as a historian, and how to get started coding yourself: There are two things I love about programming: one is the challenge, the pursuit of problem-solving; the other is the ability for programming to make my life easier.
  • Ryan’s written before on ProfHacker about why you might want to try Twitter, and Amanda Ann Klein’s excellent blog post illustrates just this point, in part by reproducing actual Twitter conversations: Twitter provides me with an opportunity to brainstorm syllabus ideas, to get research suggestions for upcoming projects, and even to receive feedback on works in progress (via this blog) with an unlimited, virtual community of colleagues. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it.
  • Once again, with feeling: Anonymity (as distinct from pseudonymity) causes bad online behavior: Trolling, defined as the act of posting inflammatory, derogatory or provocative messages in public forums, is a problem as old as the Internet itself, although its roots go much farther back. Even in the fourth century B.C., Plato touched upon the subject of anonymity and morality in his parable of the ring of Gyges.
  • My favorite new example of the ProfHacker-ish principle that small changes can have large effects is the recent report that suggested a brief writing exercise can improve, or even eliminate, the gender gap in physics courses: Miyake’s achievement is doubly impressive because the physics course had already tried to introduce ways of reducing the gender gap, including extra tutorials. But all of these methods involved more of the same – more teaching, or more problems to solve. Miyake’s exercise, by contrast, had nothing whatsoever to do with physics; it worked because it improved the environment in which women learn physics.
  • Finally, from Geer Lovink and Ned Rossiter, “The Digital Given: 10 Web 2.0 Theses”: There is nothing ‘false’ about the virtuality of social networking sites. They are about as real it gets these days. Stability accumulates for those hooked to networks. Things just keep expanding. More requests. More friends. More time for social-time. . . . But you will be required to do never-ending maintenance work to manage all your data feeds and updates. That’ll subtract a bit of time from your daily routine.

This week’s video is a student-conceived and produced video about the joys of Moodle . . . or, I should say, “M.O. to another O. to the D.L.E.” It might “not represent the views of Taylor University,” but it is awesome:

And, for a bonus, baby panda cub video, from Atlanta.

Have a great weekend! Don’t forget to put away your toy robot!

Image by Flickr user Steve Jurvetson / Creative Commons licensed

*ProfHacker has an explicit pro-Jason bias, which is ok, because demographically speaking all males will be named Jason sooner or later.

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