Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Seven tips to overcome techno-stress

Feeling a bit stressed?  Computer not cooperating today.  Lost an hour of work when there was a power cut?

You can pull out a gun (or use your chair) and vent your rage on the computer. Or you can take a few minutes to unwind, and put together this jigsaw puzzle.

Have you ever felt like the man in the jigsaw puzzle or the lady with the gun? Apparently it is quite natural to experience various levels of techno-stress and frustration with technology.

In this article, there are seven tips to overcome techno-stress.  Which tips do you already use successfully?  Is there one particularly good tip that you would recommend to a friend?  Is there a tip that you think you would like to add to your arsenal of techniques to manage techno-stress?

Leave a comment, and if you have any other tips, please share the wealth of your experience.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I love robots: my latest auto-summarizing bot slave

You may have seen the recent film "I Robot" with Will Smith.  Great special effects, but I highly recommend reading the original science fiction novel by Isaac Asimov -- one of the classics in the genre.

In fact, I don't really know what I would do without robots.  They are at my constant bidding, never complain or ask silly questions, and unfailingly do a better job at the most mundane tasks than I could ever do.

  • My favourite robots at home are the dishwasher, washing machine, espresso machine, food processor and microwave.  
  • My favourite 'academic' robots are my word processor (which checks all my spelling for me), my iPhone (which reminds me about all my meetings, classes, exam dates, etc.), my GOOGLE reader (which aggregates all the blogs I follow) and TWEETDECK (which helps me manage, to some extent, the flow of TWEETS I follow), Mark Davies' corpus interface to COCA and REFWORKS (which takes care of all the APA citation conventions and even builds my in-text references and reference list for me).

I encourage my students to use robots like I do -- to remind me when I make mistakes, to eliminate redundant or boring tasks, to help me organize my thoughts, to help me manage my time, and to free my mind to concentrate on more creative productive tasks.  Some teachers think that this is somehow cheating, and students should use pen and paper to write, use index cards to do research, use a printed dictionary and make mind maps on a piece of paper.  However, asking students to use such methods is a bit like asking my colleagues to wash their clothes by hand...it can be done, but why if a machine can do it instead? And often do it better, quicker, and more efficiently?

One of the things I need to do is quickly read and summarize texts, since I don't have too much time to keep up with the ever increasing volume of reading I need to do.  I discovered a robot that will help me identify the key passages in a text, which is a great help. It lives at http://smmry.com. My robot doesn't always identify all the key ideas, but I can train it to help me reflect on what I think is a good summary.  I can't help but think that this robot would be useful for my students, as they can practice their summarizing skills and then compare their efforts to their auto-summary bot slave, and reflect on the differences and similarities.  I produced a short video to explain the process.  Let me know what you think about my bot -- and if you have found any other similar 'robots' that help with summarizing.


Monday, October 8, 2012

The Innovative Educator: 14 interesting facts about text messaging

Further to the post and discussion about sexting,this post in The Innovative Educator: 14 interesting facts about text messaging: includes a great infographic that illustrates how mobile devices are changing the way we interact and communicate.

In particular, the statistics about when people feel that sending an SMS is acceptable are quite thought-provoking.  Who sends SMS messages in the bathroom??  Or in bed?? ;)