July 19, 2009

Visible Tweets

Posted in Resources at 10:39 am by melissaautumn

For those of you who teach, Visible Tweets is a fun site to post on your instructor screen while you are waiting for a class to start. The site allows you to enter a word (try something relevant to your instruction, like library or research) and it displays random tweets featuring your word. You can choose from three animation styles and the screen changes colors as the tweets change, giving you an instant, professional-looking visual display.

Warning: There is no filter on the content of the tweets, so you may see language inappropriate for younger audiences – this is not a site I recommend for use in school libraries.

July 13, 2009

Did You Know? Forum Posts via Email

Posted in School Success at 8:46 pm by melissaautumn

Both Angel (used at SJSU SLIS) and Moodle (used at UIUC LEEP) have a feature where you can subscribe to forums so that all posts are automatically emailed to you. Both systems allow you to customize your subscriptions – you can subscribe to all forums (in which case you may want to set-up your email to automatically move posts to a specific course folder for the sake of manageability) or only selected forums (such as an “Announcements” forum, making this a great way to ensure you see important announcements in a timely way).

July 3, 2009

Managing Your Reading Load

Posted in School Success at 1:37 pm by melissaautumn

This summer I have a lot of new students in my reference course, which has me thinking about tips for being successful in an online course. Rather than write a huge post of advice, I’ll work on multiple posts devoted to specific aspects of distance education. Today I happen to be thinking about managing the reading load, so I’ll start there.

  • Buy the books. You’re already investing a lot in tuition dollars; it is vital you spend a little more money and get the required texts (if you really need to save money, try to borrow them from the library or via ILL). Remember that in graduate school, the professor may assume you’ve read the material, but won’t cover it explicitly in class. If you haven’t read the text, you’ve missed important content.
  • Print the articles ahead of time. If you print the articles in batches, you’ll always have reading available when you need it. In addition, if there are any problems with accessing articles, you’ll have enough time to contact the instructor or the library.
  • Get organized. Keeping your readings binder-clipped by class and week can also be helpful – rather than looking through a stack of printouts for needed articles, you can easily grab “this week’s” stack on your way to an appointment or the library. When you are done reading, moving articles to file folders or a three-ring binder arranged by week keeps them organized for later reference.
  • Know what to expect. Skim the readings, check the page counts, etc. Some readings can be very easy, while some can be very dense. Don’t get caught by surprise and run out of time to finish all the readings before class.
  • Print the syllabus or schedule of readings and check off readings as you complete them. This keeps you organized and gives you a tangible marker of accomplishment, both of which can be important, since distance education requires a great deal of self discipline.
  • Look for places in your life where you can squeeze in 30-60 minutes of reading. My best place to read is my daughter’s Saturday morning ballet class. Her class lasts an hour, which is long time for me to dive into my reading, yet simultaneously short enough that I stay focused on what I want to accomplish.
  • Carry articles with you so you can read when you have time. I keep a stack of professional reading in my car, along with post-its and pens. If I arrive somewhere fifteen minutes early, I’ve got something to read while I wait.
  • Balance reading for detail and reading for the main idea. Students who are very detail oriented can get overly caught up in the fine points of an article and miss the main idea, while other students have the opposite tendency. I find it helpful to think about the following as I read: What is the author’s thesis or main idea? What evidence does the author offer to support his or her thesis? Does this evidence support the thesis convincingly? And, finally, how does this article relate to other assigned readings or course materials?
  • Read with a pen in hand. Making notes in the margin as you read will help you process what you are reading, improving both your understanding and your retention. These notes will also be helpful later when you refer back to the article. I also find it useful to write a one paragraph summary of each article at the top of the first page. This forces me to synthesize the main idea, again improving my understanding and retention of the author’s argument, and if I pick the article up again a few years later, I have a handy summary of the content.