Justified: Why I write dates the way I do

For years I have been writing my dates in the year, month, day format with a four digit year and two digit month and day. I started this on my own because it made sense to me. Also, this is the most logical format for dates, in my opinion, particularly in terms of technology because by dating folders or files in this way they can be properly sorted in chronological order based on the year the month and then the day.
I’ve gotten a lot of flack from friends and co-workers for writing my dates in this way because people do not understand the logic and because they have been taught to write the date in the month, day, year format. I understand that format because that’s how I was raised to write the date but it is illogical.
I had never considered researching this topic at all but I am a big fan of the xkcd comic. The following comic came out a couple of weeks ago and with it I was justified in my formatting of the date.
You can read more about the International Organization for Standards (ISO) standard 8601 for representation of dates and times at this Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO_8601.
So, haha, I am justified!  😀  Just wanted to share. How do you write the date? Do you understand the logic of the ISO standard? Hit me up in the comments.

Appreciative Advising at FYE13

Yesterday I attended the pre-conference session on Appreciative Advising at the 2013 First-Year Experience Conference. I learned quite a few things and there are several things that I will take back with me. I’ll summarize those here…

**First day expectations activity**
On the first day of a class have the students complete a sheet where they will write what their expectations are for themselves, each other, and the instructor. Type up those expectations and on the second day of class let the students pick one or two that stick out to them for each, then discuss what should be done if those expectations aren’t met…by peer students, the instructor, yourself. *This is great for making the students accountable for their actions and encouraging the positive behavior and participation of their peers.*

**Encouraging students to check email**
Email students in the week or so before class starts and offer 5 points extra credit for anyone who responds. On the first day of class mention outloud to the students who did reply about the extra credit and this will encourage the others to check it… *This motivates all of the students.*

I’ll summarize more when I have a little more free time. This is a start to my FYE13 summary and synthesis.

ebook filetypes & my quest for noting and annotating PDF’s

This post will explain the basic difference between the most popular eBook filetypes/formats. This may not seem important, but it is if you want to be able to use these formats across multiple devices or even on a computer.

Let’s start with epubs. According to Wikipedia

EPUB (short for electronic publication; alternatively capitalized as ePub, ePUBEPub, or epub, with “EPUB” preferred by the vendor) is a free and open e-book standard by theInternational Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF). Files have the extension .epub. EPUB is designed for reflowable content, meaning that an EPUB reader can optimize text for a particular display device. EPUB also supports fixed-layout content.

The format is intended as a single format that publishers and conversion houses can use in-house, as well as for distribution and sale. It supersedes the Open eBook standard.

Next, let’s look at the mobi and AZW formats. A file with the MOBI file extension is a Mobipocket eBook file. According to the mobi Wikipedia page, Mobipocket.com was bought by Amazon.com in 2005. The first Kindle devices (Amazon’s series of ebook readers) used the AZW e-book format, which is identical to the Mobipocket (MOBI) format for files that are not DRM-restricted. Kindle devices do not support the epub file format used by many other e-book readers. Instead, they are designed to use Amazon’s own e-book format AZW. Like EPUB, these formats are intended for reflowable, richly formatted e-book content and support DRM restrictions, but unlike EPUB, they are proprietary formats. Right about now you’re probably wondering why any of this matters. Well, as a mobile device junkie (I regularly use an Android phone, iPad, and Kindle Fire HD) and a graduate student, these formats matter. The epub format is great for the iPad as it opens right up in Apple’s iBooks app. The mobi and azw formats will work on Kindle devices and will open in the Kindle app on iOSz devices. Let’s take a glance at one last format type, the pdf.

Portable Document Format (PDF) is a file format used to represent documents in a manner independent of application softwarehardware, and operating systems. Each PDF file encapsulates a complete description of a fixed-layout flat document, including the text, fonts, graphics, and other information needed to display it. In 1991, Adobe Systems co-founder John Warnock outlined a system called “Camelot” that evolved into PDF.

Ok- so now that we’ve gotten all of that technical stuff out of the way and we kinda know what standard eBook formats are out there let’s talk about why any of this matters. PDF’s can be opened up on iOS as well as Android (including Kindle) devices. As a student and teacher, I download lots of PDF files that I need to read. I started sending all of these to my Kindle account using the Send to Kindle application or Google Chrome extension. I chose this method over sending them to Dropbox and opening them on my iPad for a couple of reasons:

  1. I was able to skip a step by sending these items directly to my Kindle account.
  2. Sending these things to my Kindle account meant that regardless of where I logged in to my Kindle account (whether via Kindle Cloud Reader, smartphone, computer, tablet, web-browser, or any of Amazon’s free reading apps), I can access those files and read them, picking up right where I left off reading the last time.

Awesome, right?! Well, kinda… So the more I did this and the more I read on the Kindle the more I realized that when reading the PDF’s on the Kindle I couldn’t makes notes or highlight, and I really missed that ability. And then I found pd4kindle.com. pdf4kindle.com This web app allows you to upload a PDF and download a converted version of that pdf in mobi or azw format, FOR FREE! The same folks have also created the epub2mobi.com site, allowing you to upload an epub file (maybe one you’ve downloaded from the awesome dotEPUB service) and download a Kindle supported file that you can send to your Kindle account using one of the Kindle apps.

What’s the point, you say?

Well, now I can makes notes and highlight in those used-to-be-PDF’s that I’m using for research or studying. If you ask me, it’s worth it!

Also, according to the developers the process of converting will be made easier soon by a Chrome extension. Whoo-hoo! I’m looking forward to it!

Flipped Classroom :: Class #5

Wednesday’s class went remarkably well. While I worked really hard to get the online portion of this classroom up and ready, I was still a little concerned about the outcome since I had little to no actual lecture with the students. With that in mind I decided to do a little activity with the students.

I gave the students the following instructions:

I need to see that you understand the concepts we’ve discussed in class thus far. As a group, use Excel and whatever resources available to you to show me:

  • Absolute References vs. Relative References
  • Basic Formatting
  • =sum()
  • =average()
  • =min()
  • =max()

After giving these instructions I had several students look at me and say “What are we supposed to do?” To which I replied, “I don’t know, I guess you guys better figure it out.

Immediately the students started talking amongst themselves and had even pulled all of the rolling chairs up to the front of the room. After some discussion one of the students jumped up from the circle and went to the board.

In no time flat these students were showing me everything they had learned so far in this course. I couldn’t have been more excited. With very little instruction and some group conversation these students were able to work together to demonstrate the concepts that they had learned in this flipped classroom environment. Now admittedly, as cool as I thought the concept of the flipped classroom was, I was nervous about how well this method was working. All I can say is that without a doubt the flipped classroom method is working. The students loved the activity and seem to really love the concept of the flipped classroom.

I’d be interested in hearing if anyone else has any experienced they’d like to share on the flipped classroom and how it has worked for them. I suspect that this wouldn’t work real well for some classes but would work wonders for the more hands-on courses.

You can see a short video of the students interactions here.

Flipped Classroom, Wk.4

So the students seem really content with the way class is going. I even had a student tell me today that if he wasn’t doing the “blue sections in the book” he wouldn’t have a clue about the homework. This is exactly what I had hoped would happen! I’ve found after having taught this class for several years that the students do not complete the chapter projects, which is really where they get the learning, practice, skill, and knowledge necessary to complete the homework assignments. Since the classroom is now flipped, the students use the classtime to complete these sections, where I’m available to answer questions and assist them.

I’ve graded all of the homework assignments thus far and everyone seems to be doing quite well! The proof will likely come after this next chapter homework and tests are complete. Chapter 2 is much more difficult than the first.

The only problems thus far is with students who don’t have access to a computer at home and have to watch the videos here on campus. This shouldn’t be a problem since computers are available in the library, but there is evidently some issues possibly going on there.

I feel like I’m not really doing a whole lot during classtime, but then I did do a lot of work before the semester started.

So far, so good….

My Experience with the Flipped Classroom :: Class#3

Today is the 3rd class meeting of my flipped spreadsheets course.

The class time is broken into a few parts, taken up primarily by self-work time where the students can complete the chapter projects (not homework) during class time. Before the students can begin working though, I have them spend several minutes asking questions about the chapter and what they read, the videos they watched, etc. I then have the students break into small groups where they discuss the videos, chapter, etc.

This morning I threw in an extra segment during the class time where I asked the students opinions and perceptions as to the class layout and how things were going so far. The students all seemed particularly happy with the way it was layed out and how we were spending our class time. One student announced that they like classes more “hands-on” and as I asked for clarification they noted that this particular class format was more “hands-on” in her opinion because she was able to spend the class time working on stuff and asking questions. “I really enjoy working this way,” she said.

I have one student who does not have technology at home so she uses the campus library to complete her assignments and watch the embedded videos. She did report a little problem with being able to view the videos in the library. I plan to email the librarians and see if we can get a resolution on this before too long.

So I use up approximately 20 minutes of the one hour and forty-five minutes that we have with question/answer time. I then pull up soma.fm and play some Groove Salad think music for them as they work. They also seem to really enjoy this.

So far so good for the flipped classroom. I’ll be grading homework this weekend so we’ll see what the results are following that.

My Experience with the Flipped Classroom :: The Plan & Reasoning Behind It

So this semester, I decided to flip my classroom. The idea of the flipped classroom has always been a great interest of mine. If you need some clarification on what exactly the flipped classroom is, check out this video.

I teach Spreadsheets I, which is the basics of spreadsheets and is often followed by a level 2 course. I thought this the perfect course for flipping. I often struggled to get the students to actually complete the practice assignments in the course, so making that the task for class time seemed a perfect opportunity for me to sorta force their hand at completing the practice assignments. 

To start, I completed redesigned my Blackboard course shell. I filled each two week blcok with videos on topics that covered what should be known for that chapter (8 chapters, 16 weeks). Each two week section included a quiz, practice projects through the semester to be completed during class time, up to four homework assignemtns, and every two chapters, a test.

Where it gets interesting is what we do during class time. While I feel like it looks like I’m not going anything… a lot of my work was done preparing the class. Now my job is as a facilitator rather than the traditional instructor. I walk around and help students individually when they struggle with particular concepts. I do however, stress that I do not assist with homework. While I am not strict about them not completing homework during class time, I assure them that I will not help with it, and encourage them to complete it outside of class.

The class is entirely built. We meet once a week. Stay tuned for an account of my experiences with the flipped classroom…