HEY YOU, PROFESSOR! There’s some technology I want you to see . . .


One of the biggest reasons that people give me for staying away from technology in their classroom is time.  We are all pressed for time, and it is difficult to push ourselves to do one more thing.  Everyone seems to think that all technology is like Facebook–that it sucks any time you may have up into a giant vacuum of cat videos and pictures of people’s lunch.

What many don’t realize is how much time they can save by integrating just a few new tools into their daily routine.  This isn’t a post about productivity tools (although I think that is a great idea for another post), this is a post about time-saving tools for teaching. These are simple tools that may give you a few moments extra in your day.


You can save a lot of time with iCollege, as you probably already know–but there are some great tools to use in conjunction with iCollege that can make paper grading and quiz-making a lot easier.

Let’s start with a basic issue:  iCollege is GPC’s title for the Brightspace Learning Management System (LMS) that was formally known as D2L.  This is important to know because if you are like me, you don’t keep 8-5 hours when creating content for your courses.  So, if you want to brush up on your D2L skills at 3 a.m. you can check out some of the free videos available on-demand from Brightspace/D2L.  Even if you don’t have the time to sit and watch videos, but some quiz won’t load, remember the resource is there, and it is as close as an internet search.

OK, now for the paper-grading tools.

Rubrics in iCollege are simple to create, and once you create them you can share them between all your classes.  They do take a few minutes to set up, but they make grading a snap, and rubric grades can be transfered directly to the gradebook.  You can even integrate course compentencies with the rubric to get the down and dirty on the skills you are teaching.

screen480x480If you have an iPad or an iPad mini, you should definitely use the Brightspace Grader app.  Once you download it onto your iPad and start using it, you will find there is nothing easier to use–and you don’t even have to be connected to the internet to use it.  You simply download your dropboxes, grade wherever you want, and upload your dropboxes when you are done.   To save time grading papers, I use this tool with rubrics and with voice comments (built in.)  That way I can talk my students through their paper–and I only spend about five minutes per essay.

Quiz Tools

If you are teaching with a lot of quizzes (Literature Instructors, take note!!), the best took I have ever used is Quizlet.com.  Quizlet is an electronic flashcard maker and study tool that a lot of the students use to prepare for classes.  If you spend a few minutes to make a quizlet “stack” of terms (or borrow them from other stacks–if you want to know how, just give me a call!), you can embed those flashcards into your iCollege easily by copy and pasting the embed code in Quizlet and pasting it into the embed code tool in iCollege.  Here is my stack for my World Lit II final:

The best part about Quizlet is the Test Creation tool.  I often create tests in Quizlet first, then enter them into iCollege by cutting and pasting them from the test I created.  It makes creating quizzes and tests easy and painless–and I can help my students study for the quizzes and tests as well.

Helping Students Read Collaboratively

integration-puzzleStudents don’t read like they should, and one way to make reading more engaging–especially when we are using eBooks, is to have them read collaboratively.  iCollege has just integrated a wonderful tool for collaborative reading called “Voicethread.”  With voicethread, you can upload a selection and have students comment in writing, voice, and even video.  It is fairly simple to learn–but if you are having trouble, GPCs Academic Technology team can get you started.  One of the best things about VoiceThread is that you can evaluate it–a nice way to keep your students on their toes!!

00000265Another tool, which is outside of iCollege, but is notable–both for its ease of use with internet resources and for its wonderfully supportive academic community, is Genius.com.  After you establish a Genius Account (free), just write to them at education@genius.com and request an educators account (also free).  Once you have your education account, you can set up classes and invite your students to annotate texts with you.  What is awesome is that, once you have an account, you can simply put “genius.com/” in front of any website address, and you can annotate that page (and if you have a class account–your students can join you!!)  It opens up the entire internet for class reading and annotation!!  I simply place a link for genious on my assignment page–and we can all meet later while we read!

What are your favorite iCollege tips and tricks for saving time?  Add them in the comments!!

GTA is Educational, and Not the Type of Education You Think It Is!

My son is nine, and he loves Grand Theft Auto (GTA).  Now, before you start condemning me as a bad parent and scolding me about how I shouldn’t let my son play a game clearly designed for older players, hear me out.  My son is the seventh of eight boys.  In other words, the game was purchased for older players, but they have since aged-out of my house and left for college and life.  So, what we have is a legacy game, a game he grew up watching his brothers play–and he plays.  But, if you still want to condemn me, I have to say there are a lot of other mothers and fathers out there that need condemning as well because, just in my experience listening on the other end of the game (and I do listen!), I have heard him play with scores of kids his age and younger.  So, now that we have that out in the open, we can be honest with one another.  I’m not going to pretend I keep my kid away from anything other than “E”-rated games, and you are not going to pretend like I’m the only parent doing this.

iba9TBRgXk3mFHGTA is such an expansive game that, like life, it offers my son a lot of choices–but unlike life, I can sit on the couch behind him, watch what he does, and hear what he says.

I don’t do this all the time (I have a life), but I do it often enough that I have started to critically analyse what my son does in-game. I know you will be skeptical, but I propose that GTA is one of the most educational games out there–and not the type of education most attribute to the game.

Before I get to the amazing skills my son has developed through GTA, I will start with the basics so you have an idea of his set-up,  his level, and the general way in which we allow gaming in our house.  We’ll start with the environment he games in: We have an aging XBox 360 in a family room. It’s a fairly public place, which is how I like to keep online games and computers in our house.  His little brother likes to sit in there, and they switch off playing games–often without civility.  None of us have a computer or a game console in our rooms, and I also discourage the use of any electronic devices in bed. (I model this behavior by turning off my addictive iPhone at 8:30 every night, and doing without until 6:30 a.m.)  Although we have one XBox 360, we have two XBox Live accounts in order to permit parallel play in Minecraft, and so that brothers keep their game identities separate as much as possible. (Nothing ruins your street-cred like your seven-year-old brother playing your avatar badly.)

My son has been playing GTA in its various generations for years now–and he enjoys the expansive map available in GTA5, even though he had to give up the opportunity to play as a cop. Although he often plays online, he also enjoys some quiet repast in a solo game every once in a while to catch his breath.  He is at level 115, which he assures me is pretty high.   Continue reading

It’s Time for Technology for Technology Sake

Gadgets Galore!


I’m so done with article after article about how we should use Technology in the Classroom when it is “called for” or “appropriate.” I think these were fine articles about five years ago, but they aren’t fine now.

Why has my attitude changed?

Because my colleagues haven’t.


Gratuitous TechMy colleagues who teach in colleges and university English departments across the country are still teaching students to write their essays on paper with pencils, skipping every-other line. They are still spending weeks of instruction on using MLA style. They are still lecturing on spelling and grammar.

Why am I upset? Because they are wasting their time teaching things that can be better handled with technological tools, and ignoring the important aspects of writing that can’t be taught with anything but a competent professional with a heck of a lot of writing experience. Why are we wasting our student’s time, and ours??

Just for Technology’s Sake: Move your paper-and-pencil work to Google Docs, Microsoft Word, and Scrivner for goodness sakes!! Teach students how to format their work with technology. Push them to add pictures and captions and fonts. Encourage them to think beyond paper to include videos, visualizations, infographics and timelines.

Just for Technology’s Sake:

Teach them to use Zotero, Mendeley or EasyBib or any of a thousand different bibliographic software programs .

Just for Technology’s Sake:

Try teaching students to use some artificial intelligence to help craft their essays, create their thesis statements, or check over their style and grammar.

As a bonus

Try creating a “Dork Short” session in your class where students present their favorite tech tool to their peers in a lightning fast (2 minutes or less) presentation, accompanied by two slides. This might help refresh their tool box, and yours!

So lets stop with all those articles that seem to take a careful middle path and start to look at an alternative message. Tell me, what is wrong with “Technology for Technology’s Sake” in the classroom? What is wrong with me saying, “Hey, students! I have decided to include technology in my classroom because it’s 2015. You need technology to get a job, and I need technology to keep my job.”

It’s time to do that. It’s time to be messy and uncomfortable and ungainly with technology every day because every day technology changes, and I will never really be great with it. Technology will never be smooth or appropriate or called for, but technology is here to stay. Yes, there is the outside chance that a electronic pulse bomb will eliminate all technology on earth–but if that happens, there is still ample opportunity to learn to write on paper. In the meantime, let’s use some Google Docs to create our rough drafts, then let’s organize them in Scrivner or mix-it-up in Twine! Let’s use some open-source textbooks, or Curriculate, and annotate them with LitGenius!

Let’s call for gratuitous technology in every classroom all the time. This is the only way that we will prepare our students for life outside our classrooms, and it is the only way we can prepare ourselves for life tomorrow within our classrooms.

Do You Love a Free and Open Internet? Then Get Rid of Your AdBlock NOW!

imgresI just removed Adblock from my phone and my computer.  Yeah, I will miss being free of the advertisements, but I also want to make sure that the internet that I love–the one with all the free tools and great advice and wonderful blogs–stays that way.

Every single one of you that still has an adblocker needs to realize that what you are doing is wrong.  You should not be enjoying the free internet if you won’t at least spend some time looking at the ads that support it.  Yes, those ads are annoying, but they are also paying for your right to access free content.  Those businesses, and spammers, and silly cat video promoters are doing you a big favor–so, you should , at least, spend some time looking over what they have to share with you.

I will even readily admit that I do, on occasion, click on the ads I see, just to make sure that my favorite internet blogger gets some traction on the ads on their site.  I want to make sure that the advertisers know that some of us do see those ads, do notice them, and do click.

Like it or not, the world runs on money, and the people who share great tools and advice and great blogs need to get paid at the end of the day.  If you start blocking the very same ads that give those people revenue, you are insuring that the next generation of internet stars are practicing their craft behind an internet paywall.

I think of using an adblocker somewhat like being a petty thief.  Yeah, you may get away with it, but you will, eventually, make everything a lot more expensive for everyone else.  It’s not fair to enjoy the benefits of an open internet if you won’t at least spend a few minutes closing pop-ups.

So, I’m hoping that you will join me.  Get rid of the adblocker on your computer and your mobile phone, and take a stand to protect free and open internet access–an internet paid for by those annoying, essential, and sometimes creepy ads.


Goodbye “Hello.” Evernote has killed you.

I have received several notifications from Evernote lately regarding one of my favorite Evernote add-ons, “Hello.” I am sorry to see that Evernote will stop supporting and updating the app as of February 7, 2015.

I’m really bummed because Hello was such a wonderful concept.  I loved handing my phone to a new person and explaining that Hello was a type of digital card and, as soon as they gave me their contact info, it would magically send them mine.  I loved watching the take a selfie for the Hello directory in my phone.

Yes, I know.  Evernote can scan business cards.  Yeah, yeah, Evernote can keep track of my location and my information.  But, dang it!  Evernote Hello was better than Evernote in the “keeping contacts in one place” scenario.

I didn’t have to go trudging through my voluminous Evernote files to find the contact I met at the ISTE conference because, in Hello, I could just pull it up, browse, and get that contact right away.

Hello was the digital equivalent of a digital Rolodex that was right at my fingertips.

Evernote is more like a filing cabinet.

Yes, I love Evernote, but it’s not Hello!  I can’t just hand over my phone and have someone add their name and contact info into Evernote with a handy little form like I did with Hello.

So, Goodbye Hello.  We had some good times.

Meanwhile, if you were an avid Hello fan, you want to make sure you sync your Hello contacts before Evernote pulls the plug on February 7.  There are specific directions for doing so here.

English 1101 Annotated Bibliography Assignment


Write a prospectus paragraph and a 10 source annotated bibliography on your research topic.

Audiences: Anyone looking for background information on your author or work.


  • To develop your skills in using research tools.
  • To expand critical thinking skills by teaching how to decide upon a topic, narrow the topic into a research question, write a prospectus, and prepare research notes.
  • To provide practice in scholarly writing.


The prospectus and annotated bibliography are commonly used to propose a project and to keep the project notes organized while writing the paper.  It is important that you master the
annotated bibliography in order to plan, propose, organize, and research projects in college and beyond.

1.  Decide upon a research question

  1. Think of some aspect of the author or work you introduced to the class that interests you.  For example, if we had read Moby Dick, you might do a blog about whaling which might include information about different types of harpoons, the ships that were involved in whaling, and some of the environmental damage of whaling.
  2. Do some preliminary research by find out how much information is available on the topic you are considering. Sources you might use for this purpose include books, web sites, journals, audio and video files, and online encyclopedias.
  3. After you have some idea of the quality and quantity of research materials available, and the significant issues within that topic area, create a research question that will guide your search for information.  Think of a question that is narrow enough to answer in a simple blog.

2.   Write a prospectus paragraph (typically about a 1/2 page):  

The prospectus is the plan for your research project that you submit before actually completing the research or working on your project. It should contain the following elements:

  1. State the research topic and your research question: “In my research I want to examine the Whaling. Why was the whaling industry so important, and how did it effect the lives of people involved in it?”
  2. Delineate the main areas of your proposed research: “In order to answer this question, I will look at historical documents, websites, and read some historical journals to pinpoint specific aspects of what it was like to be a whaler.”

3.   Write the annotated bibliography:

  1. List the source in correct MLA format for sources.  Sources should be double-spaced with a hanging indent.  Sources should be organized in alphabetical order. I highly recommend using Zotero to complete this part of the assignment!
  2. Immediately following the source information, include two short paragraphs:
    • Paragraph 1:  1-2 sentences that summarize the information available in the source material.
    • Paragraph 2:  1-2 sentence explanation about how you will use that information to answer your research question.

Specific Requirements for This Assignment

This annotated bibliography assignment requires a total of ten sources in the following categories that will support your research.

Special Considerations

  1. The annotated bibliography is the first step completing a research project.  Think of this as the information gathering stage.
  2. The purpose of the preliminary research is to get an overview of the topic. The sources you consult during this step are not necessarily the ones you will use in the research for your paper; however, if you find more sources, you might want to include them in this annotated bibliography in order to keep track of them.
  3. Your research question should be narrow enough to answer in 5-7 pages but broad enough to support ten scholarly sources.
  4. In writing your annotations, do not repeat the source title in the description of the source or use the title as the explanation for how the source will help you answer the research question.

Resources to Help You with This Assignment

Interactive exercise on the Web: “How Do I Create an Annotated Bibliography?”(http://bcs.bedfordstmartins.com/bedfordresearcher/tutorials/Chapter04/index.html).


Objectives of This Assignment

  1. Use the writing process to best advantage.
  2. Use technology for writing and research.
    • Select and use appropriate writing processes and strategies to produce academic writing that satisfies the needs of or can be adapted to writing in core curriculum courses.
    • Apply conventions of writing effectively in any given rhetorical context with particular regard for audience and purpose.
    • Display higher-level critical thinking skills (as defined in Bloom’s Taxonomy) in academic work.
    • Use assigned software and technological platforms.

Grading Rubric

Pts Rhetorical Situation Annotations Formatting Use of Language
100to90 Research question is appropriate for assignment; document satisfies audience expectations. Required information is provided and thorough for each source. All citations and all aspects of paper meet formatting specifications. Style, tone, and expression appropriate for academic writing; diction well chosen; syntax and mechanics virtually error-free.
89to80 Research question is sufficiently narrow but the document only partially responds to it. At least ¾ of the sources provide complete and thorough information. Occasional errors in citations and/or oversights in page formatting. Style and tone suitable for academic writing; syntax and mechanics have minor errors;  diction appropriate in most instances.
79to70 Research question lacks specificity or is too narrow or broad for audience and purpose. Half or fewer sources provide complete and thorough information. Frequent deviations from citation and/or page requirements. Style and tone fall short of academic standards; distracting usage, diction, and mechanical errors.
69to60 Research question does not address assignment or meet audience needs. Each source lacks part of required information. Formatting is of mixed styles or inconsistently used. Little resemblance to academic writing in most respects.
59to0 Research question missing or inadequate. Annotation missing or uninformative. Formatting is care­less or lacking. Frequent errors inhibit clarity and meaning.

Exploring the New Google Drive Add-Ons: Mail Chimp


MailChimp Update (2/11/15): Merge has been removed from the Google Drive add-ons store and is not being actively developed at this time. We’ll update this post if there are any changes to its status.

Many of you are completely unaware that Google Drive has, again, changed dramatically.

If you have been using Google Drive at all, and have been paying attention even a little bit, you probably noticed that little menu item at the top, but many have completely ignored the treasures that await beyond the tab marked, simply,  “Add-Ons.”

Add-Ons act somewhat like extensions in your browser.  They allow you to do things in Google Drive that you couldn’t do before–like accessing some awesome tools without leaving Drive.  Why would these companies want to contribute time and effort to make a Google Drive Add On? . . . for the simple reason that it brings awareness of what they have to offer to an amazingly broad audience that may have never known their product existed, let alone understand why they need it.

I see them as small gifts.  Tiny jewels hanging inside the cave of wonders known as Add-Ons . . . but that’s just me channelling my inner geek (or maybe not?).

One of those amazing gifts from Google’s new Add-Ons comes from an unlikely source: the e-mail distribution company Mail Chimp.  Mail Chimp is a young company, hungry for market-share, and dedicated to service.  They have their offices right here in Georgia, so I was already inclined to support them before I Continue reading

Confessions of an Academic Platypus

imgresWOW. I have never been to an International Society of Technology and Education (ISTE) conference before.  In fact, I have never been a member of ISTE until now.  You see, ISTE is mostly a K-12 organization, so there were very few of us University Ivory Tower members there mixing with the hoi polloi of teaching.

But, I was there.  I was TOTALLY there.

Why? For the simple reason that K12 teachers are the change makers, the developers, the directors of the educational experiences our students have before entering college, and I wanted to see what they were up to, technologically. Also, frankly, I have somewhat lower expectations for what Higher Ed faculty are up to, technologically.

Innovation, Thy Name is K12.

I have come to the disturbing realization that most of the higher education establishment is dragging its heels on technology, and instead of being out in front of education (as we should be) and leading innovation, we spend our days hunched over the yellowed pages of bygone syllabi or lost in the netherworld of Learning Management Systems.

I can’t tell you how many times I have begged fellow faculty members to just take a quick look at what Google Drive can do, or how to use Zotero in the classroom.

It is difficult to explain to “Dean Scowl” (a.k.a. almost any Dean I have ever met) how important it is that I have adequate WIFI in my classroom so my students can build a PLN in Twitter, when Dean Scowl has never used Twitter (and doesn’t want to), doesn’t know what a PLN is (and doesn’t want to know), and spends our valuable 15 minutes together lecturing me on the importance of student confidentiality and the danger of using the internet.  Sigh.

EdTech-Higher Ed Edition

It was liberating, to say the least, to know that there is such a thing as a “Technology Coach” in K12, that those Technology Coaches are making real change possible in our school systems, and that both faculty and students are demonstrating daily (not just lecturing) that learning is a life-long process of: [innovate-attempt | innovate-fail | innovate-succeed | Repeat].  I would love to know when Technology Coaches are going to become something in the PostSecondary (i.e. HigherEd) world.  (I have the distinct impression that my skill-set is about five years ahead of the jobs–unfortunately!).

The Problem of Differentiation in Higher Education

There are two problems with differentiation in Higher Education:  One is that Higher Ed frowns on anyone who is out of their “niche,” . . . and the other is that the niches are ill-defined.

Let me explain.  First, I am always out of my niche (you guessed that, right?).  I’m SUPPOSED to be an English Professor. That means, of course, I should concern myself with literature and writing . . . but there is the problem.  Literature and writing have spilled out beyond the pages of books and onto screens.  It Continue reading