Occasional Thoughts on Educational Technology and Life by Judy Brophy

Monday, August 1, 2016

The University of Texas Sniper and My Journalism Career

AP Photo
Fifty years ago today a man climbed to the top of a tower on the campus of the University of Texas and ended, not only the lives of 14 people, but also my journalism career.

I was working as a copy girl at the Albany Times Union during the summer of my sophomore year in college. My job in the afternoons before the deadline for the evening paper was to carry the copy from the bank of very loud teletype machines to the copy editor. I tore stories off as they were typed and made sure the editor had the latest news stories from the wire services with which to work.

As the story broke the wire services were updating the death count every few minutes. As the deadline for press drew near, the editor told me to just stand in the teletype room and shout the latest number out: ten…. eleven…..   twelve.

I don’t know if we went to press with the final number or not. I do know that my enthusiasm for pursuing a career in journalism died that afternoon as well. This was one of the first mass shootings, surely my first.  It was necessary to put all feelings aside and just report, yell, the numbers.  That evening I decided journalism as a career demanded more than I was willing to give.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Machine Scored Discussion Boards

This started out as a joke but the more I think about it the more I like it.

What every learning management system needs is an auto-scored discussion board, a discussion where the computer scores student entries.

This would be useful to instructors who:
- want students to post a response to a question
- and then post a reply to another student,
- who want the posts to have a point value,
- but who don’t want to spend time scoring responses.

 (and trust me, there is a lot of navigating work to get posts into a format that you can see what you need to see to grade them.)

So why not have the Learning Management System automatically score x points for posting and x points for replying.

This would make it possible to have a low stakes assignment that does not take up excessive time grading.  The instructor could still read the posts and comment as they feel is appropriate. They can spend time reading students’ thoughts and engaging them in conversation, not grading. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Where Was I?

I’m glad the 50th anniversary celebration of the March on Washington is winding down. Frankly, it was making me ashamed. 

Ashamed of myself. 

I should have a personal memory of that time. Of that event. And I don’t. 

In August 1963 I was about to enter my senior year in high school. I was old enough to be civically engaged. I  would weather the death of President Kennedy 3 months later. I have vivid memories of that.  Why don’t I remember the March? It just didn’t make it on to my radar. 

Four years later in 1967, as an exchange student to traditionally black Clark College in Atlanta, Georgia, I witnessed a spontaneous re-enactment of the “I Have a Dream Speech” by Clark College students on the steps of the dining hall. But in 1963, I, like so many others I’d guess, didn’t notice it.

Friday, April 26, 2013

82nd and Fifth

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is publishing a video series throughout this year in which their curators talk for two minutes about one of their favorite objects from the collection.  It is a stunning work in progress.  

All images of the objects are still photographs They are revealing in a way that a video would not be. Seeing them glide by while the curator talks is a contemplative experience. There is often a series of views approaching the object. You see the object in its museum setting. And you hear the curator explain why this object is special, special to her or him.

Curators' describe their personal experience that led to their selection. Curator George Goldner says of El Greco's View of Toledo "The first time I saw it I was 10 years old, I think...  
I always thought of paintings as being.... they reproduce reality, and that's what they were all about.  Seeing this painting... it was the first picture which attracted me to art. “

Most objects are not so famous as the El Greco and they are not paintings. Tapestry, sculpture, clothing, crossbows, guitars, a spoon, a Mesopotamian cylinder seal and the official signature of a sultan are all focused on with loving care and, of course, considerable knowledge.

In addition to the video each object can be viewed in a program that allows you to zoom in on it and turn it around. One of the most effective is Rembrandt’s drawing of Leonardo DiVinci’s Last supper. You can move a slider to view Leonardo’s fresco behind Rembrandt’s drawing. You can even display the black and white engraving  of the fresco that Rembrandt may have worked from. He never saw DaVinci's original.

A couple videos are published a week and you can subscribe to the series.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Learning Adventure

I bumped into a listing of 7 new tools for creating music online recently. I am no musician and don’t teach or create music, but the tools tempted me. What fun it would be to try out some of those tools and see what I could create.  

Why don’t we do more exploring into areas that we don’t know?
As a technology facilitator to faculty I have noticed that most people, teachers and student, (and I include myself here) want to go only where they have gone before, perfect something rather than try something entirely new.  When was the last time you tried something entirely new?

I can hear the arguments in my own head
    -  Well, it wouldn’t be any good.
    -  It wouldn’t be professional looking    
    -  It would be too difficult
    -  All I would learn is that I can’t do it... AND I'd feel stupid!

But I would be missing something. I would be missing the adventure and the joy of figuring out a puzzle with only our wits, and the combined wisdom of the group to help us. I might not learn to create a passable piece of music using the new tools, but I might learn:
    -   How to attack a problem I haven’t seen before
    -   How others do it (and could I do that?)
    -  Where the edge of my comfort zone is for not knowing what I’m  doing

When confronted with something new, what is your preferred way to learn? Ask a friend, find a book, google it?

When was the last time you and your class had a learning adventure? An activity which you didn’t know how it would turn out? That had not been carefully planned and constructed and all the possible hard spots and bumps removed? When did you learn something together?

I think I’ll try some of those tools.

Photo Credit: Ran Yaniv Hartstein via Compfight cc

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


In Florida I admired the variety and beauty of the bark.
(All from Florida except the birch which was in Quebec.)
See the Edcanvas project here.

Monday, February 11, 2013

36 Hours

I dislike the 36 Hours in.... series in the New York Times travel section for many reasons.
1. They are not often a place I want to go. They are usually cities and not the countryside

2. If I really wanted to go to a place, I would plan to spend more than 36 hours there.

3. The emphasis is on running from one thing to another as fast as you can. Savoring, bumbling around or "doinking" isn't an option.

Charles Isherwood addresses that issue in the opening lines of a recent post:

Trying to sample the pleasures of some cities over a weekend can be a bit like entering a pie-eating contest. Sounds like a madcap lark, but after a while you’re likely to feel overstuffed, foolish and maybe a little sick. Sure, you could do Paris without the Louvre, but why? Even negotiating the fabled museum itself in that time frame would be a challenge. San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico, poses no such problems. 

So I guess the trick is to choose a "less worthy" site to "do" in 36 hours.. or stay home.