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Slack as a Learning Platform? Yes, Please.

Ryan Straight

I've been using Slack in my classes for a year, now, and the response from students has been overwhelmingly positive. So much so that when my students then take classes with other faculty who don't use Slack, they're confused as to why not.

In this EdSurge article, Amy Ahearn, senior innovation associate at Acumen, discusses how to use Slack for workshop and training purposes. By using channels as breakout rooms with returns to a main channel every 15-or-so minutes, it seemed to work wonderfully:

The result? People from a range of backgrounds joined the real-time conversation, including a high school student in Seattle, a UX designer from Sydney, a front-end developer from Indonesia, an activist from Virginia and a professor working on MOOCs at Cornell. We had four active Slack rooms and 22 people dynamically contributing—an admittedly small sample size in the world of online learning, but instructive for a prototype.

The conversations were able to get deep and complex quickly and the platform enabled the +Acumen team to dip in and out of conversations in a way we can’t do in our traditional MOOCs. “Very fast moving. Amazing to see such wisdom and deep discussions shared,” one participant observed. “In a very small amount of time, we touched on a lot of key and very insightful points,” another added.

It's encouraging to see innovative uses of technologies like Slack that are ostensibly aimed at team communication.

Read the rest here:

Gender bias in student evaluations: Professors of online courses who present as male get better marks.

Ryan Straight

So, this happened.

The results were astonishing. Students gave professors they thought were male much higher evaluations across the board than they did professors they thought were female, regardless of what gender the professors actually were. When they told students they were men, both the male and female professors got a bump in ratings. When they told the students they were women, they took a hit in ratings. Because everything else was the same about them, this difference has to be the result of gender bias.

Could be that teaching primary school is seen as a woman's profession, while university teaching is a man's pursuit.

“The difference in the promptness rating is a good example for discussion,” MacNell explains in the press release for the study. "Classwork was graded and returned to students at the same time by both instructors. But the instructor students thought was male was given a 4.35 rating out of 5. The instructor students thought was female got a 3.55 rating.” Considering that professors were rated on a five-point scale, losing an entire point on the "promptness" question just because students think you're female is a major hit.

That's pretty damning evidence, really.

This particular study is small, so we shouldn't get carried away about its results. But it certainly suggests an important avenue for future research. Students penalized the perceived female professor in all 12 categories, including in qualities that women are usually assumed to excel at, such as being caring and respectful. This comports with other studies that show that while female professors are judged somewhat less harshly if they conform more to female stereotypes, men still get bonus points for showing up male.

via Gender bias in student evaluations: Professors of online courses who present as male get better marks..

I genuinely hope that the marks I'm given by my students aren't simply--at least, in part--because of my gender. I like to think it's because I deserve them.

Broadband is a Human Right

Ryan Straight


Wrote this up back in December and never hit 'publish.' Oops! A lot has happened since, like the treatment of broadband not as a utility but as a common carrier. There's a big difference, duly pointed out and well described by Mike Masnick over at TechDirt. I think that broadband being accessible to everyone like a utility is still a position worth posting, though. So, here it is. Tim Berners-Lee said that internet access is a human right. I'll go one further: I think broadband is a human right and should be considered a basic utility like water, electricity, or gas. That is, the infrastructure should be put in place, like telephone lines were, to bring broadband access to everyone no matter how remote they may be. And then, yes, like he says, protected from meddling.

Internet founder Tim Berners-Lee believes the Internet should be recognized as a basic human right and should be protected from interference by politics and commercial bodies.

Berners-Lee also spoke about Europe's "right to be forgotten," suggesting that it may not actually be such a good idea, at the LeWeb conference in Paris,

"This right to be forgotten -- at the moment, it seems to be dangerous," said Berners-Lee at the event on Wednesday. "The right to access history is important."

via Web Innovator Tim Berners-Lee: Internet Is a Human Right : PERSONAL TECH : Tech Times.

This goes hand-in-hand with the idea of protecting net neutrality--the notion that all traffic should be treated equally by internet service providers--and that is a perfect reason to post a video of John Oliver. (As if anyone ever needs a reason to post John Oliver.)

 photo credit: Steve Rhodes via photopin cc

Google's list of new top-level domains is nuts

Ryan Straight


And it's fantastic. I'm tempted to buy, myself. In case you missed it, you'll soon start seeing URLs very different from what you're used to. For example, the top-level domains (TLDs) you're probably used to are things like .com, .net, .org, and .edu ( etc., if you're outside the US). However, Google Domains has so, so much more, and the new top-level domains are pretty amazing.

How about a site that ends in .ninja? Or .land? Or even .education? Knock yourself out. Visit to see what's available. See the full list after the jump.

  .academy     $30
  .actor     $40
  .bike     $30
  .biz     $12
  .builders     $30
  .cab     $30
  .camera     $30
  .camp     $30
  .careers     $50
  .cc     $20
  .center     $20
  .clothing     $30
  .co     $30
  .com     $12
  .coffee     $30
  .company     $20
  .computer     $30
  .construction     $30
  .consulting     $30
  .contractors     $30
  .dance     $20
  .democrat     $30
  .diamonds     $50
  .directory     $20
  .domains     $30
  .education     $20
  .email     $20
  .enterprises     $30
  .equipment     $20
  .estate     $30
  .florist     $30
  .futbol     $13
  .gallery     $20
  .glass     $30
  .guru     $28
  .haus     $110
  .holdings     $50
  .immobilien     $30
  .industries     $30
  .info     $12
  .institute     $20
  .international     $20
  .kaufen     $30
  .kitchen     $30
  .land     $30
  .limo     $50
  .maison     $50
  .management     $20
  .me     $20
  .moda     $30
  .net     $12
  .ninja     $19
  .org     $12
  .partners     $50
  .parts     $30
  .photography     $20
  .photos     $20
  .plumbing     $30
  .productions     $30
  .properties     $30
  .pub     $30
  .recipes     $50
  .rentals     $30
  .repair     $30
  .reviews     $20
  .shoes     $30
  .singles     $30
  .social     $30
  .solar     $30
  .solutions     $20
  .supplies     $20
  .supply     $20
  .support     $20
  .systems     $20
  .technology     $20
  .tips     $20
  .today     $20
  .tools     $30
  .training     $30
  .us     $12
  .vacations     $30
  .ventures     $50



Featured image via MemeGenerator.

Emerging Tech Trends in Education, Infographic Style

Ryan Straight


When considering emerging tech trends in education, this comes to us from Ohio University's online Electrical Engineering program and was highlighted by Edudemic. As they say,Electrical engineering emerging technology in education thumbnail - emerging tech trends in education

The infographic discusses many applications for these technologies, which can do everything from helping people with disabilities more fluidly navigate the world to making our homes intelligent. There are, however, just as many applications within the educational realm. Smart schools, video conference homework help, immersive reality learning apps that will fully gamify the learning experience without allowing for distraction. The opportunities are limited only by instructor and student imaginations (and school budgets…).

They also look at how these technologies can be used with your students. In my opinion, the wearables, ambient backscatter, and virtual reality/immersive technology are really the killer apps. I do think they're missing one, though: augmented reality. They touch on it but its possibilities are nearly endless, from the floating dragons promised by Magic Leap to Minority Report-style HCI, à la this TED Talk:

You can click on the thumbnail to the right for the full-size image. It's big and beautiful, so enjoy.