Occasional Thoughts on Educational Technology and Life by Judy Brophy

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.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

How to Stay Warm

Isn't it funny how when you feel cold, you can't ever remember being warm and then when you're warm you can't remember being cold?

Here are some things that you can do to stay warm when it's 15 degrees outside for a week and it's 55 in the house.

- wash some dishes in hot sudsy water

- work with your laptop in your lap.

- go to the library and read a book

- do something creative that takes your mind off the cold like editing a picture (not needlework cause your hands are too cold for that)

- cook something, better yet, bake something

- go shopping

- clean a room really well

- try very hard, when you are tucking your long underwear tops into your long underwear bottoms not to touch your back with your very cold hands.

- wear thick wooly socks and thick soled shoes

- drink hot tea. Hold hot tea

- find some place to go in the car (visit a far away friend, preferably one who lives further south)

- do some yoga stretches

- eat some hot oatmeal for breakfast and hot soup for lunch

- hug your dog

Photo Credit: MarsuMic via Compfight cc

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Joys of Non-Social Media

screen shotMy husband was keeping notes and reflections on his IPad in the yellow pad notes app so when a friend recommended Day One, a new diary app, I thought I'd try it out to see if it would be an improvement.

Day One is simple; it does what it does, period.  I loathe the word "intuitive" when applied to a software interface, but suffice it to say you can't do anything too wrong here. You can write text notes in a box and do some minimal formatting. You can add a subject tag, a geo-reference and, most importantly, a picture (just one)

It's perfect for a trip diary. Even if you just add a blank entry it will track where you were and what the weather was. You can add those stray notes about a place and the odd photo you take with your IPad. 
I used it during a 10 day vacation recently and it worked well for me. I was able to add  stray notes and observations as well as a short list of activities for that day. 

After using it and exploring it for a bit I realized that what felt truly different about it was that it was not social. I wasn't sharing my observations with anyone but myself. In fact, you can tweet an entry or put it on Facebook, but there is no easy way to share the whole thing with someone else or download, export or print in any meaningful way.

And you know what? that's just fine. I like it here in my private space. I like the creativity of posting a picture for my day, sometimes just a picture. Sometimes just a phrase.

It is a definate improvement on the yellow pad notes app. Both folks that I've recommended it to find it is an easier and faster way to do what they were trying to do with other clunkier software. 
It did cost $4.99, a rather steep price for a simple app, but sometimes, even usually, less is more. It was awarded the Mac App Store 2012 Mac App of the year. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/day-one-journal/id421706526?mt=8
Available for Iphone, IPad and Mac