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The nonprofit TED, famous for their 18-minute lectures on a vast variety of topics, which some credit with sparking an intellectual movement, has a new YouTube channel for teachers and professors.

It's called TED-Ed. The full launch is expected in April, but a smattering of videos is available now, in five categories:

  • Awesome Nature
  • How Things Work
  • Playing With Language
  • Questions No One (Yet) Knows the Answers To
  • Inventions that Shaped History

Each video teams an educator with an animator, and given TED's track record, they are virtually guaranteed to be of the highest quality both in terms of presentation style and the ideas presented.

These videos are shorter than TED's 18-minute standard. Obviously one can't expect a great depth in a short video, but these might serve as good conversation starters, either in the classroom or online.

Here's an example, in which Jason Munshi-South shows how animals develop genetic differences in evolution, even within an urban city.

You can check out all the TED-Ed videos on their new YouTube channel.

Download Conversation #14

Karen DeMoss

A conversation with Karen DeMoss of The New School on teaching, learning, and under-prepared students.

They pursue individualized learning; they find individualized questions and like-minded groups where they have passions, all the time, every day. They actually know how to do that. We just haven't ever had an experience that's persistent and consistent enough across academia where they're using that kind of interest-driven inquiry inside things they're producing for us. And that last phrase, "for us," may be part of it.

Links for this episode:

If you use any Google services, you've undoubtedly noted their new privacy policy, since they've been springing pop-up alerts to users over the past month or so.

How does it all boil down?

Sharon Vaknin offers a concise summary of the changes and why you might have cause for concern:
Five ways Google's unified privacy policy affects you

Download Conversation #13

Alexios Moore

A conversation with Alexios Moore of Xavier University of Louisiana on teaching, learning, and the future of this podcast.

In academia sometimes we tend to hunker down and settle within our institutions, and I think it's really important to initiate conversations with folks that are in other institutions that are dealing with some of the same issues that we all share, both within and without the classroom.

Links for this episode:

...continue reading "Conversation #13: Transition"

I recall as an undergrad I was advised, repeatedly, of a surefire formula for success in life: find what you liked to do, and then find a way to get paid for doing it. Did you get the same advice? Do you give this advice to your students? If so, you may want to consider this brief but worthy meditation by Oliver Segovia.

Like myself, today's twentysomethings were raised to find our dreams and follow them. But it's a different world. And as the jobless generation grows up, we realize the grand betrayal of the false idols of passion. This philosophy no longer works for us, or at most, feels incomplete. So what do we do? I propose a different frame of reference: Forget about finding your passion. Instead, focus on finding big problems.

Read the rest at the Harvard Business Review.

A funny thing happened on the web yesterday. Many of the most popular sites went dark, either blocking access to their content entirely or making symbolic gestures of protest. Visitors to Wikipedia were directed to contact their Congressional representatives about certain pending legislation, but Wikipedia's actual articles were unavailable. It was in fact the largest online protest in history. And it wasn't just online; people were marching in the streets in New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Seattle.

These stunts were designed to broaden awareness of SOPA and PIPA. Apparently, it worked. I was contacted by a couple of professors here at Xavier who wanted to know what it's all about. They were surprised when they couldn't access Wikipedia.

So, I thought I'd offer this brief primer. SOPA — That's the Student Oral Proficiency Assessment right?

Wrong. SOPA is actually the Stop Online Piracy Act. PIPA is the Protect Intellectual Property Act. SOPA is a bill in the House; PIPA's in the Senate. These measures have support from the entertainment industry but are generally opposed by the internet industry. Think of it as Hollywood versus Silicon Valley. However, this is not just a "Clash of the Titans." The consensus amongst advocates of free speech and the open internet is that SOPA/PIPA are highly problematic.

As writer Brian Barrett explains,

SOPA is an anti-piracy bill working its way through Congress that would grant content creators extraordinary power over the internet which would go almost comedically unchecked to the point of potentially creating an "Internet Blacklist" while exacting a huge cost from nearly every site you use daily and potentially disappearing your entire digital life while still managing to be both unnecessary and ineffective but stands a shockingly good chance of passing unless we do something about it.

That's the case against SOPA in a nutshell. Here's a short video that makes the same case:

For more facts, consider CNET's list of frequently asked questions.

See also: A typically strident statement from The Pirate Bay.

How do things stand after the protests of January 18? According to Forbes, SOPA is "unlikely to recover, at least in its present form." President Obama has all but indicated he'll use his veto power to stop the legislation. An alternative bill, OPEN, has been introduced in the House. Meanwhile, protests continue. With as much as has been invested in this legislation so far, you can bet the fight isn't over. Anyone who uses the internet should be concerned and stay informed.

The beginning of the semester is a good time to get started using Blackboard. Blackboard courses are automatically created using the course information in Banner approximately two weeks before the start of the semester. You can post your syllabus, course documents, and announcements to your Blackboard courses. You can also customize your course menu and/or add a course banner.

If you teach a course that is cross listed you will have a Blackboard course for each cross listing. You can combine the cross listed courses into one Blackboard course so that you can post course materials and grades to one combined Blackboard course. Combining courses may also work for you if you are teaching different sections of the same course and would like to have the different sections combined into one Blackboard course so that you can post course documents and grades in the one combined course. The beginning of the semester is the best time to combine your Blackboard courses before you add course material or grades to the courses.

Follow these steps to do it.
Here are links with instructions for

  • Merging courses [HTML]
  • Hiding old courses from view [HTML]
  • Getting started with the course environment [PDF]
  • Changing the display name for your course [HTML]
  • Adding a course banner [HTML]
  • Adding items to the course menu [PDF]
  • Posting announcements [HTML]
  • Copying content into another course [HTML]

Want more information?
Stop by one of the drop-in sessions for one-on-one help.
Explore Blackboard's On Demand Learning Center [HTML].
Visit the Blackboard FAQs for additional blackboard information
or email or call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418

Student access to courses is removed two weeks after the end of a semester. During this process all grade book records are deleted. You should download your gradebook to your local computer after you submit your final grades.

Follow these steps to do it.
In order to download (export) the gradebook for a course, you should:

  1. Goto the [Control Panel] for that course and click on the [Grade Center] link to expand it. Click on [Full Grade Center].
  2. Move your mouse over the [Work Offline] button on the menu bar and then click on the [Download] link.
  3. Under [Data] section, select the [Full Grade Center] option, under the [Options] section, select [Tab] as the delimiter type and [Yes] to include hidden information.
  4. In the [Save Location] section, choose [My Computer] and then click on the [Submit] button at the bottom of the page.
  5. On the next page click on the [Download] button. You should get a dialog box with a request to save the file. Save the file to a location where you can find it later. The file you saved can be opened with Microsoft Excel.

Want more information?
Step-by-step instructions are available [PDF].
Explore Blackboard's On Demand Learning Center [HTML].
Visit the Blackboard FAQs for additional blackboard information
or email or call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418

Smart Views let instructors create custom views of the Grade Center that only display the students and columns you choose. Smart Views let you create criteria that reflect student activity and achievement in your course. You can create Smart Views based on a variety of criteria, including categories, groups, performance, or a custom set of criteria that you choose.

Follow these steps to do it.
1. To create a Smart View click on [Grade Center] in the control panel to expand it, then click on [Full Grade Center].
2. Roll your mouse over the [Manage] menu and click on [Smart Views].
3. Click on the [Create Smart View] button.
4. Enter a name for your Smart View and setup the criteria for your Smart View.
5. Click [Submit] when you are done. Your new Smart View will be displayed on the Smart Views page.

You can add a Smart View to the control panel by clicking its corresponding star icon in the “Add as Favorite” column. You can view Smart Views from the Smart Views page or from the Grade Center by clicking on the [Filter] button and selecting the Smart View.

Want more information?
Creating Smart Views [Video].
Explore Blackboard's On Demand Learning Center [HTML].
Visit the Blackboard FAQs for additional blackboard information
or email or call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418