Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cool tool -- Prezi

Check out Prezi, a cool alternative to Powerpoint!

Prezi is an online presentation tool, that breaks away from Powerpoint's linear page-based format. Instead, Prezi presentations are built by using mapping, layers, and zooming which creates a much more dynamic final presentation. The tool is intuitive and the site includes several quick and informative video tutorials. There is a free version available and an enhanced free version for anyone with an edu email address.

I just tried Prezi yesterday and was able to learn the basics as I built my presentation.

Thanks Anne for the suggestion.

Cheering you all on in your work!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Time Management - blending school and job

A few students have asked me for advice relating to various aspects of balancing school and job. One asked what to do when an employer makes it difficult to attend school while working. Another asked for advice regarding how to negotiate with employers to get time off for school work.

School and work conflicts can be very difficult. First, in most cases, employers have no responsibility to help you fit school into your life. Some employers may even resent that you are putting time, energy, intellect, and creativity into something other than your job. Moreover, some employers fear that once you get the next degree, you will then be looking for the next job. Nonetheless, here are a few ideas:

1. Blending school and work. Look for opportunities to combine school and work. This won't be possible for some students. However, many students in graduate school are studying something that is directly work-related. Attempt to combine school assignments with projects that need to be done for work -- maybe the research can overlap, maybe you can write a school paper about an initiative or challenge at work.

2. Scale back at work. Clearly, you need to get the job done. But most of us are so in the habit of taking on extra work, volunteering for extra committees, projects, etc.... that we don't even realize we're doing it. While you are in grad school, be conscious about your choices and try to pass on everything that is optional.

3. Reclaim your lunch hour. Similarly, many folks get in the habit of working through lunch and don't give it a second thought. Reclaim your lunch hour and find somewhere quiet to read, write -- do some homework!

4. Share the benefit. If your supervisor and colleagues are open to it, share anything relevant that you are learning. This might motivate your supervisor to be more flexible.

5. Ask. Ask for for the time you deserve and/or for more flexibility. If you work a number of extra evenings or weekends, ask for the comp time. Or, ask for a more flexible schedule -- maybe longer days MWF and shorter days T/Th. Look for the work of Linda Babcock and Barbara Laschever to help you learn to negotiate.

Other ideas? Anyone else? Other suggestions about how to carve out time at work to make time for school?

Cheering you on!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Confidence -- who believes in you?

Who believes in you? Who is in your life at this moment, or was in your life previously, who really believed, or believes, in you? A partner or spouse? A parent? Grandparent? Aunt or uncle? Sibling? Cousin? Close friend?

How did this person convey that she or he believed in you? "I knew you could do it!" "You can do anything you set your mind to." "You have what it takes."

Confidence tip for today... think of one of these people who has believed in you. Focus on one or two things she or he said or says to you to convey that belief. Really focus on this, hear this person's voice in your head. Stay with that. Remember how you feel or felt when this person was in your life, or now, when she or he expresses faith in you. Really take in that feeling. And see if you can draw on it again next time you doubt yourself.

Cheering you on!

Photo by HLS

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Join in the conversation! Social media and higher education

My friend and colleague Melanie Booth is hosting a conversation on social media and boundaries in higher education, over on her blog Prattlenog.

She's looking to hear from students and teachers in higher education. How do you think about interpersonal boundaries and social media with your students or teachers? Do you worry about boundary crossing? Privacy? Has the use of tools such as Facebook and Twitter helped you connect more effectively? Several people have already joined in -- this is a terrific conversation! Now it's your turn: Prattlenog.

Cheering you on in your work,

photo by HLS

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Grad school pressures -- when family doesn't understand

A student recently asked me to suggest strategies to deal with family members who do not understand the demands and challenges that graduate students face.

Strategies to try to help family members increase their understanding:

1. Talk with your partner, kids, parents, etc. about the content of your work. That's right, talk them through content that you find interesting or challenging. If you can explain it clearly enough for them to understand it, you may deepen your own understanding and they may start to see the complexity of what you are studying.

2. Engage your family. If anything you are working on in school is transferable to your family members' lives, ask for their opinions. Again, this will help you think about the work and may also help them gain some appreciation for the depth of your work.

3. Numbers. Don't be shy about mentioning how many pages you have to read, how many articles or chapters you have to read, or the approximate length of your next paper. This may help them realize the heft of your workload.

4. Parallel play. Have "study hall" at home. You work while your kids work, or even while your partner works on a task or project.

5. Post your calendar. Post your school schedule including due dates for readings, papers, projects and exams, on the fridge or somewhere everyone in your family can see it.

6. Celebrate your successes. Ask your family members to help you celebrate completed papers and projects, successful exams, etc. This is another way to involve them in the process. In addition, when they see how happy you are, they may begin to see how important school is to you.

Strategies for when your family simply doesn't understand:

1. Find support elsewhere. Seek out family members who do understand or friends or classmates who are encouraging and supportive. Maintain contact with these helpful folks, even if the contact is brief or just via email.

2. Maintain your focus. Don't let your family members' lack of support shake your confidence. You have your reasons for pursuing school, hold on to that vision.

3. Be your own number one fan. Find ways to encourage yourself and celebrate your successes.

4. Seek out supportive faculty. Professors have been there (through the academic journey that is). We know how hard you are working and the level of commitment it takes to succeed as an adult student. Professors can provide important and ongoing support.

How about it readers -- what other strategies have you used when family members were not supportive of your academic commitments?

Cheering you on in your work!

Photo by HLS

Friday, October 15, 2010

Saturday morning video - Grover spoofs Old Spice

Here's your weekend video a day early!

In case you didn't see this one:

Remember, "you are not a monster"!

Cheering you on in your work!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cool tool -- Diigo

My friend Cecilia recommends Diigo!

"Annotate webpages as you search, place sticky notes or highlight webpages that you can bookmark and return to!"

I haven't used this tool yet... but if you give it a try, let me know how well it works for you!

All the best,

Monday, October 11, 2010

Clear your mind -- additional tip

This additional tip from my friend and colleague Melanie Booth who writes a fantastic blog Prattlenog

If you can get to campus 10 minutes early, find a quiet place to sit and write down in a notebook 3 things from work to leave at the door, and 3 burning questions or observations that you hope to address for yourself in your class that night.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Clear your mind -- transitioning from work to evening classes

A student recently asked for suggestions about how to clear your mind between a full day of work and evening classes. Here are a few suggestions:

1. If you are riding the bus or carpooling (not driving)... review some of your class notes, or notes from the week's readings, on your way to school.

2. If you are driving, select your music intentionally. Do you need music that will help you relax a little bit, or music that will rev you up? I have also found that listening to the same album or playlist every week on the way to class starts to become a ritual of sorts and so my brain begins to associate that music with going to school.

3. If music isn't your thing and you are driving or otherwise can't be reading, then use the car time to reflect on your readings for the week, or key ideas from the course...anything that gets your brain moving with course content. You might even imagine that a good friend has asked you what you're doing in the class, what is most interesting to you in the class, or what you want to know more about... answer those questions as you drive.

4. If you have time, meet a classmate for a quick dinner before class and talk about school.

5. If you work on the campus where you take classes, schedule time for a quick walk before class or go eat somewhere quiet so you can review material before class. You may be tempted to go right from the office to your evening class, but that gives you no time to shift your attention.

Other ideas?

Cheering you on,

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Saturday morning video -- Benny and Joon

Hi All,

Here's your Saturday morning bit of fun, a clip from the movie Benny and Joon:

Cheering you on in your work!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Time management -- disciplined breaks, how to avoid getting lost online, etc.

I have often advocated taking breaks while you are working. I know that the tough thing for many students is having the discipline to return to work after taking what was intended to be a quick break. In addition, I've had a few students tell me that they have trouble being disciplined about email, facebook, etc. while working. Back in the day, your stereo was across the room, as was your tv... and maybe your phone... you could turn off the tv and stereo and reduce your distractions. But now, as you work on your computer, endless distractions are at your fingertips.

One friend suggests Cool Timer - a free app you can download onto any computer. She sets it so that she works for 25 minutes, and then gets five minutes to surf the web etc., and then an alarm reminds her to get back to work.

Breaks are so valuable. If you have difficulty getting back to work, take the break and use Cool Timer to keep you on track. Let me know how it goes!

Cheering you on in your work,

Monday, October 4, 2010

Grad school and exercise - is there time for both?

Last week I had the good fortune to talk with students in an education and technology class at Carlow about this blog and some of my other work in which I use technology in my teaching and research. The students in the class asked thoughtful questions and I enjoyed the dialog. At the end of our session, I asked them to jot down potential topics for this blog and I left with a stack of ideas! So in coming weeks, I'll be responding to their questions and suggestions.

One student asked for suggestions regarding how to fit exercise into your schedule, when you are a student, and working, and already incredibly busy.

The best strategy I have found is to determine how your exercise might directly enhance your ability to keep up with your school work, this may sound vague, but here are a few ideas:

1. Use exercise time as brainstorming time. If you have to do a lot of writing in your program, try looking at your notes, and then go for a run or go to the gym or whatever, and just think about your paper... take a piece of note paper and a pen and jot down ideas as they come to you. I have found that I more effectively form ideas for papers when I am exercising, than when I am sitting in front of the computer.

2. Listen while you work(out). If your class includes listening to podcasts, listen to them while exercising.

3. Break up long work sessions with exercise. If you have any days of the week when you have several hours to do school work (I know many folks don't have this, but if you do), work for a few hours and take an exercise break before returning to your school work. I have found that this makes me more effective in my second work session.

4. Walk or run with your school buddy. A few posts ago I suggested that you find a good school friend, someone you can really lean on when things get tough, someone to help you process obstacles and frustrations, someone to cheer you on, and someone for whom you can do the same. Perhaps your school buddy can also be an exercise buddy, thus you can exercise and get support and encouragement at the same time.

5. Practice presentations while exercising. I practiced my dissertation defense while swimming laps.

6. Exercise during lunch hours. Some of us get in the habit of working (job work) right through lunch, we eat at our desk and just keep working. Instead, use lunch hour for yourself and at least a few days a week, use this time to work out.

7. Find time-efficient workouts. Fitness books/magazines or a trainer can suggest half-hour workouts that will give you the most effective workout for your limited time... if you don't already know a few of these routines, do some research, identify a few and then pencil them in 3-4 days a week.

8. Try it for a month. If you commit to one of the above strategies and consistently fit in regular exercise, you will see the results -- you will realize that you can work more effectively as a student when you are also getting some exercise. This will reinforce the decision to keep making time for exercise.

Other ideas? Friends... how have you made time for exercise, even with the demands of school, work, family, and other responsibilities?

Cheering you on in your work.

Friday, October 1, 2010

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