Friday, June 29, 2012

Qwiki Creator - easily create engaging multimedia projects

Last year I wrote about Qwiki, which is a site that takes your internet search and creates a multimedia presentation with resources about your search term. Text, images, audio are all part of it. It's a very cool way to quickly create a presentation about a topic.

I just learned from my Edtech colleague David Kapuler on his site, that Qwiki now has Qwiki Creator available. Qwiki Creator lets users work online in their browser to combine text, photos, videos, maps, tweets, and more into an interactive online experience that you can share and embed anywhere and even add your own narration. It also allows you to create narration using text to speech.

Here's a great demo showing how to make a Qwiki, and how easy it is:

This is a really cool service that I can see being used by students for projects and by teachers to create great resources for their students.

Check it out:

PDF Mergy - combine PDF files into one - Chrome web app

PDF files are everywhere. Every operating system and every device I know of can read them. They are a great way to share and publish files since they can be locked, watermarked, and viewed on pretty much any device or OS. Most office suites allow you to save files as PDF formats and there are some other great tools for creating them.

Sometimes you have multiple PDF files that you want to combine into one. I do this often since I save scanned documents as PDF files, as well as much of my own work.

Application PDF Mergy 

PDF Mergy is a Chrome web app that makes it easy to merge PDF Files. Drag and drop or select from your computer, place them in the order you want, and then, viola, one merged PDF file. It is all done on their server, not your computer, so this is a great app for use with Chromebooks and for people looking to do everything in the cloud. QuickPDF does the same thing, but needs to be installed on your computer.


PDF - interesting infographic and lots of resources for using them

PDF Converter - free online PDF conversion

Lots of PDF resources - print, markup, convert and more

PDFBinder - simple tool to merge PDF documents into one

BabyPDF - Edit PDF documents for free

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Google makes some big announcements this week!

Google's I/O conference is this week and they have made some big announcements. Here's a summary and some places you can find more information.

1. Google Docs offline now available - edit and create Google Docs offline and they will be synced with your Docs account once you have an internet connection.

2. Chrome Browser exits beta and is available for all Android 4.0 devices and is available for iOS. Use the worlds most used browser on your Android and Apple devices.

3. Project Glass demo - Project Glass is a new project uses glasses and

4. Google+ Events - events planning and social networking combined

5. Jelly Bean - Android 4.1 - newest version of Android with some cool new features, including a new notification center.

6. Nexus 7 - new Google branded 7" Android Tablet

7. Google Maps ability to save maps for use offline - great when you have no signal, like in a subway.

8. Google Now - voice control and widgets that show you information based on your location

9. 3D buildings in Google Earth - fun and educational

10. Lots of updates to existing Google and Android apps (like Docs, Google+, Hangouts on Air, Chrome, and more)

11.  Pinterest for Android - popular app officially comes to Android

12. Nexus Q - streams audio and video from the cloud to your TV and Stereo, and is controlled by your Android phone or tablet. It's also built in the USA. You can also have your friends stream their content through your Q.

13. Google Drive released for iOS - access all your files on your Apple device.

Pretty exciting stuff, much of which will benefit educators and students with the updates. New devices for use in education, updates to already great apps, and more Google apps available for Apple devices. Very cool.

I'm jealous of those attending. While the tickets were $900, you got to attend a great conference, see a great opening keynote that many said was the best they've ever seen, and you get a swag bag with the Nexus Q, Chromebox, Nexus Phone and Nexus 7 tablet. Pretty cool.

In related news, my CR-48 beta Chromebook got updated to Chrome v 20 today and it's awesome. It was surprising because the CR-48's weren't originally supposed to get the update.


Android Central - great resource for Android and Google

The Official Google Blog 

The Verge - great resources for all things technology


Google for Education Resources

Android for Education Resources

Google Chromebooks and Chrome OS revisited - great for education

Tips for Preparing for a Presentation

Giving a presentation or teaching takes preparation. There are lots of tips and help for both, including the two links below in the "related section".

Lifehacker has a great article "How to Prep for a Presentation" with some great tips like knowing your audience, knowing their needs, knowing the subject, knowing the room (size, resources and technology, etc),  rehearsing, getting rid of the jitters and nervousness and more. 

There are some great tips for conference presenters and teachers there. 


Survival Tips for Educators and Presenters

Backup plans - some tips for teachers

More Great Uses for Binder Clips

Our Favorite Office Objects: The Endlessly Versatile Binder Clip

Last month I wrote an article entitled "Binder Clips - lots of great uses for these little guys" with some ideas and resources for finding new uses for Binder clips. Here are some more. 

1. Binding student work (kind of obvious) but use different colored ones to code your classes and assignments

2. Cable organization - clip them to your desk/table and feed the cable through the handle to keep them organized. 

3. Use them to wrap and organize cables and headphones (another great idea from Lifehacker).

4. Hold open curtains, or hold them closed - clip them on the curtains

5. Hang them on a bulletin board or at top of whiteboard to hold papers - great for holding signs, like "Do Now", "Homework" etc. ]

6. clip bags closed to keep food fresh

7. Hanging file folder stopper / organizer

Hanging Folder Stopper

8. Create a notepad using scrap paper - all those scrap / extra copies of memos and papers found in schools can be cut into quarters and then clipped with a binder clip for an easy notepad. 

9. bookmarks - use the small, colored binder clips as color-coded book marks 

10. Save your spot in a filing cabinet - when pulling papers out of a hanging file folder, put a binder clip there so you can easily find your spot to return the papers. 

11. Smartphone stand - prop up your smartphone for easy viewing
binder-clips_TheSocialNewspaper (4)

Do you have any cool ways to use binder clips?

Google Docs now works offline!

Google announced today that Google Docs now works offline, so you can create an edit files without a internet connection. All your work will be saved locally and then updated with Docs when you get a connection again.

This is great news and makes Docs even more useful, allowing use without an internet connection.

Learn more about Google's many apps and resources for Education here.


Google Resources for Education

Why I use Google's apps and products as an Educator

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Microsoft Office 365 for Education now available for Free

Office 365 for education

Microsoft 365 is an online version of Microsoft's well known Office suite. Office 365 for Education is free for schools and is already being used by many public school districts and colleges.

Office 365 is cloud based and includes Microsoft Office Web Apps, Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and Lync Online.

This is Microsoft's answer to Google Apps for Education. It can be a good option for schools that are heavily invested in Microsoft apps as there would be almost no learning curve or training required. It includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Email, Calendars, web sites, and much more, including the ability to collaborate online with others and even run an online course.

You can find more information about features here. (including deployment guides and training)

You can go here to register:


Free Teacher Guides from Microsoft - great resources

Microsoft Surface - Windows 8 Tablet/PC - announced

Why I Use Google's Products as an Educator

Google for Education Resources

Google launches free online classes to help you learn better internet search skills

Google is having a lot of announcements today at the Google I/O conference with lots of updates and new products. (Go to Android Central to get updates on all the news).

But yesterday they announced something that is a great resource for educators and students alike. "Power Searching with Google" is a free, online community based course that helps participants learn how to do better searches and use some of the cool features of Google, such as using the search box as a calculator and finding data right from the search box itself.

The course contains six 50-minute classes, interactive activities to practice your new skills, community integration and connections with Google Groups, Google+, and Hangouts on Air (with search experts) and Googlers will be available to help. You can even get a printable Certificate of Completion upon passing the post course assessment.

Lessons will be released daily starting on July 10th and participants can take them on their own schedule during a 2 week window.

Registration is open from June 26, 2012 to July 16, 2012. We recommend that you register before the first class is released on July 10, 2012!
New classes will become available Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday starting on July 10, 2012 and ending on July 19, 2012.
Course-related activities will end on July 23, 2012.
Teachers can take the course and then share what they learn with their students next school year.

You can also go to the Google Inside Search page for other tips and help with better searching that can be used by students and educators.

Source: Official Google Blog


Lots more great, free resources from Google (especially for education)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Wisconsin Supports UVA

The nation is waiting on the UVA Regents to do the right thing.  There is plenty of action afoot at UW-Madison to weigh in on these key issues of money and power, and you'll see more in the coming days. In the meantime, let's make this point loud and clear whenever and wherever possible.

‎"In solidarity with our colleagues at the University of Virginia, we affirm that a public institution of higher education is not a business."

Here are initial signatories-- please comment on this post to add your voice.

Gloria Ladson-Billings, Kellner Family Chair in Urban Education, UW-Madison
David Ahrens, President, Wisconsin University Union
Charity Schmidt and Matt Reiter, Co-Presidents of the TAA
Seth Hoffmeister, President, United Council of Students
Beth Huang, Incoming Vice-President, United Council of Students
Sara Goldrick-Rab, Chair, UW-Madison Committee on Undergraduate Recruitment, Admissions & Financial Aid

Remind101 - safe way for teachers to text message students and stay in touch with parents. Free

Remind101 is a free service that allows teachers to safely send text messages to students and parents.
Teachers never see the students' or parents' phone numbers and the students and parents never see the teachers' phone number, helping to maintain privacy. Students and parents sign up by sending a text message or email instead of visiting a website. Teachers can have up to 10 classes and send messages to a class of students, or parents, or both. You can even schedule messages to occur in the future.

This is another tool that teachers can use to communicate with their students and parents and help remind them of upcoming due dates and events.

You can learn more about it here:




ClassPager - send students quizzes and reminders

Excellent Online Professional Development Resources for Teachers

Professional Development for educators is something that I believe still needs to be improved. Many educators have turned online for some of their professional development. Social media provides a great resource for educators, especially Twitter, to connect, share and learn with other educators. There are new forms of in-person professional development, like Edcamps, that are also a great way for educators to learn new things.

Check out some more great information and resources on educator professional development.

Professional Development for Educators needs to change

11 steps to planning quality Professional Development

The Endangered Languages Project: Supporting language preservation through technology and collaboration

Google has a new project it is a part of: The Endangered Languages Project: Supporting language preservation through technology and collaboration that is pretty cool. The Endangered Languages Project, is a website for people to find and share the most up-to-date and comprehensive information about endangered languages. It is a way to try to preserve over 3000 languages that are on the verge of becoming extinct. Preserving these languages, and the cultures that go with them, is an important project.

The project is working to make recordings of people speaking the languages, as well as documenting as much as possible about the languages. Through the site, people can upload and access research, advice, information, resources, manuscripts, videos, audio and more.

This is a great resource for our world, and also for teachers and students to use to learn about these languages and cultures, as well as contribute to the project.

Here's more about it:

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Reflections on Foundations, ALEC and Higher Ed Reform in Wisconsin

Last week, a fellow Madison blogger drew our attention to some potentially troubling relationships between a major higher education foundation, a DC-based consulting group, a conservative political organization, and a new initiative in the UW System.  Scott Wittkopf at Badger Democracy is playing a critical role in attending to the relationships among funders of higher education reform efforts, and political constituencies.  He has since mapped in greater depth the work of one foundation, Lumina, and another blog post is forthcoming.

Since I have established relationships with both Lumina and HCM Strategists, the consulting group in question, and have blogged (and hosted guest blogs) before on the large role that foundations are playing in pushing the higher ed reform agenda, I want to fully disclose as much as possible my role and assessment of this situation.

First, readers of this blog know my work as an expert on college student success, and as an outspoken champion for expanding college access to underserved populations. I am proud of the major role I played in the fight against the New Badger Partnership and other local efforts to prioritize institutional prestige over the needs of Wisconsin residents. I am constantly engaged in the struggle to ensure that public institutions of all types survive and thrive. At this point I have been active in Wisconsin research, policy, and activism circles for more than eight years. 

In my work I spending a lot of time interacting with the higher education reform movements nationally.  It is for this reason, over the last decade I have engaged with both Lumina and HCM many times. I am also very well-acquainted with the Gates education initiatives, having been both a grantee (to the tune of $1.2 million for the Wisconsin Scholars Longitudinal Study) and a consultant. Moreover, I participant frequently in the bipartisan higher education working group hosted by the American Enterprise Institute and funded by Gates.  

Why do I do these things, despite recent evidence that these places have ties to ALEC and others?

Good question, and one I'm thinking a lot about.  I think it is because at the heart of it, the main thrust of reform efforts to improve higher education are bipartisan. We on the Left and the Right share a desire to get colleges and universities (and state legislatures) focused on college completion rather than enrollment, and to make opportunities for all people more affordable.  

We diverge most often on the methodology-- what approach we think will work best.  Some people I work with really think innovation is encouraged by competition, while others (including myself) advocate for greater cooperation, and a strong faculty role.  But I have found over time that it is far better to be in active conversation with those I disagree with rather than limit myself only to relationships I am in alignment with because: 
  • It makes me much more cognizant of what other points of view mean and how people argue their case 
  • It helps me sharpen my own lenses and causes me to ask more relevant questions in my work
  • Being around others with differing points of view doesn't change my fundamental principles or make me their pawn but rather helps me establish credibility on both sides of the aisle.  It is because of my continuous willingness to show up and engage-- to banter, to debate, and to speak freely--that both Democrats and Republicans now talk with me about higher education
So, yes, here's the truth: I have received substantial funding from both HCM Strategists and Gates. I talk with HCM partners Kristin Conklin and Terrell Halaska regularly, including about Wisconsin. Kristin is an old friend of my husband's, from when he worked at National Governors Association, before coming to work as Governor Doyle's education policy advisor.  And, I helped Wisconsin become a College Productivity Strategy Lab state.  I did this because Strategy Labs bring money that help us to get people informed on key issues, bring in speakers, and open doors to conversations with other leaders nationwide. The fact is that obviously Wisconsin has had a fair amount of academic and political transition and has not engaged much in the Strategy Labs since Lumina invited it to be part of it in 2010. There is no fee to join, just a commitment to try to improve system and state policies for students. 

Furthermore, despite my known feelings about the current Governor, I have engaged in conversations with his office about the UW online initiative.  To me this is the true fulfillment of the Wisconsin Idea: a government official asked me for input, and rather than put my partisan political feelings in the way, I provided honest, candid feedback and advice.  Given their reputation among education leaders in other states, I didn't want Western Governors University to come to Wisconsin, and I felt it very likely that Walker was already talking to them.  In these conversation I expressed concern about WGU and I suggested that another approach--- making it an in-house public UW initiative-- would be more effective.  The effort to advance an online program was not encouraged by HCM or supported by its technical assistance. The concepts in the program are advocated by organizations like CAEL and in place or under consideration in many states. As UW moves to implement its ideas, the lessons learned from states like Maryland's University College or through SUNY's Empire State college could be accessed through the Strategy Labs.

Yes, online competency-based instruction is now here.  I'm not taking credit or blame for it.  As I wrote recently, we shouldn't be quick to judge a pedagogical technique that has the potential to bring education to people who otherwise wouldn't get any college instruction at all.  Of course we don't want it to fully replace face-to-face instruction, nor should it be operated for profit or cause students to require large loans to afford it.  Of course it shouldn't displace faculty, or be privatized.  But online instruction is likely to be about as uneven in quality as face-to-face instruction, which let's admit it, is quite uneven.

Supporting a position that is also supported by a conservative group does not mean that's the driver of the position.  Not once has HCM or Lumina or Gates ever dictated to me what I should or must say about anything. I have always been my own voice.  I speak truth to power with solid data and a clear stance in favor of students, staff, and faculty.  I know it's hard to believe, but given my disposition and the fact that my core salary comes from UW-Madison, nothing, nothing could ever change that. Sure, I could easily forgo taking their money, but honestly it would make me less effective as a researcher, and less able to have a voice in ongoing policy debates.  I couldn't conduct my large-scale expensive research, couldn't train students to think critically about these issues by actively engaging in them, and couldn't participate in these foundation and policy meetings. In the end, my absence would perpetuate their groupthink.

The fact is that since 2008 Lumina has made many, many grants under the broad umbrella of "productivity." This includes grants to the National Research Council, Public Agenda, and the National Governors Association.  I wrote a paper with Doug Harris on productivity that was funded by HCM.  Through the writing, Doug can attest that I continually worried about that term and all it means, and I tried to make the paper reflect that (the latest version, now under review, finally does). Not once did a funder object, and in fact they brought me many places to speak my mind on the topic without censorship.

As for HCM, those consultants lead a state policy network and advocate changes consistent with Lumina's Four Steps.  To build understanding among state leaders, they bring peers together and give states access to experts. I have helped by writing op eds about financial aid in several states, where policymakers want to strengthen "student incentives," and I push for them to do it in the ways that most help the truly disadvantaged.  The fact that those op-eds are bipartisan (written with Mark Schneider, a Republican), seems to be part of why Wisconsin Republicans are willing to even speak with me.

Locals might also want to know that leaders of HCM Strategists were helpful in the fight against the New Badger Partnership, prodding thoughtful higher education leaders around the nation to weigh in with their opinions. These experts did not support Biddy Martin's plans, noting the very real consequences for access to the general public.  There's no way this was in service of Walker -- or ALEC's -- agenda.

Scott isn't alone in his concerns. Other researchers have examined the issues surrounding Lumina and reached similar conclusions. In a paper presented at AERA this spring, Cassie Hall and Scott Thomas (one of my mentors) noted that Lumina's approach was uncommonly activist, and focused on student success and productivity. I completely agree with that-- but would note that being pro-student success and pro-productivity is not inherently liberal or conservative.  The approach itself could go either way, but the fundamental stance is pro-student, rather than pro-institution-- a stance I firmly agree with and have written much about. As Hall and Thomas write, this stance is driven by "an increasing level of distrust that higher education institutions can successfully enact reforms that will result in meaningful changes to our postsecondary system.”  I think that's well-placed mistrust, given the tendency of most top-level higher education administrators to advance "institutional" interests over those of faculty, staff, or students.  To be clear, I firmly believe that educators, rather than legislators or foundations, should be charged with this work. But the problem is that boards of visitors and high-level administrators tend to alienate faculty and staff, disempower them, and even portray them as the source of inertia rather than the rightful agents of change.

Yes, I would much prefer to see Lumina and Gates, among others, embrace the talents of faculty in rethinking how we can best serve students.  I said this over and over again at a Gates Foundation convening last week.  Recent discussions about the governance crisis at UVA reveal that many professors there have, and are plenty happy to, teach online-- and had they been included in the conversation they would have found good solutions to the problems identified by Helen Dragas and the Board of Visitors.  The same thing could be said about last year's discussion about the NBP -- Biddy Martin and her team did not engage the faculty, staff, or students in the problem-solving needed to address UW-Madison's financial woes.  They went straight to Scott Walker, and embraced an agenda that has demonstrably been shaped by ALEC's desires. This reflects an unfortunate move over the last 20-30 years to portray faculty, staff, and students as naive, ill-equipped obstacles to change, and this I think is not a coincidence-- it is a move to disempower the most expensive part of colleges and universities: the full-time tenured labor. If Lumina, HCM, or anyone else were to support that approach, I'd be utterly opposed to it.

I also fully support and echo Hall and Thomas's concerns about the role these major foundations have played in limiting what is studied and how it is studied, given their small emphasis on peer review and high priority on strategic goals that often do not seem to align with research evidence. In other words, even having been funded by them, I am far from satisfied with their approach and as you can see I still feel confident that engaging in this type of critique will not result in my being deemed ineligible for their support. Recall that I helped bring Robin Rogers' wonderful critique of Gates to the public eye by first running it here before it was in the Washington Post.  For Gates to retaliate would be incredibly unwise, and they know it.  They don't ask me to give them a pass for their errors-- in fact at a recent Gates convening I tweeted openly of my discontent with some of their practices, and their program officers were open to that conversation. 

Perhaps the best way to wrap up this little tell-all is with a quote from Jamie Merisotis from Lumina: All we can do is be transparent about what we’re trying to achieve and let people decide how we’ve done." While I might prefer to remove the word "all," I think this is basically right. We should hold foundations and public officials, including educational institutions, to full disclosure. In turn we have to consider all potential interpretations of the evidence we have.  And we must weigh their approaches against the alternatives.  In this case, I think the agenda is focused improvements in student success accomplished by increasing the incentives for colleges and universities to focus mainly on high-quality education, rather than competing for rankings driven by dollars spent and enrollment of elites.  That sounds good to me.  Yes, let's keep our eyes on ALEC.  Yes, let's always question and critique.  We must avoid privatization of public education-- and we want to educate people while growing and expanding the labor market so there are jobs waiting on the other end.  But the goal of expanding access to a high-quality education while driving down costs is a laudable one-- as long as the role of public democratic governance of that education is preserved.  Let's focus on that, and together find the best way forward.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Faulty Inside Higher Ed Survey Demonizes Faculty

This morning's Twitter feed was rife with news of a story from Inside Higher Ed directly relevant to the UVA fiasco. President Teresa Sullivan was reportedly canned for failing to push an agenda for online education at UVA, standing in the way of so-called "progress."  Is this because she catered too much to faculty, who are increasingly described as the main obstacle to reform?

It seems some people want you to believe yes-- the real problem isn't the rampant excitement over a fairly untested pedagogical approach to education, but the resistance of the educators.  So today IHE shares a new survey: Conflicted-Faculty and Online Education, 2012.  The story's lede reads: "Faculty members are far less excited by, and more fearful of, the recent growth of online education than are academic technology administrators."  Professors are described as lacking optimism, having a "bleak" view of the quality of online education.  The survey report wonders "why"-- rather than praising profs for their skepticism, something faculty are widely known and respected for.

So-- big finding, right?  WRONG.  This story doesn't belong in a respected publication like IHE.  Here's why:

The survey, conducted by a team known for its studies of distance learning, and including advertisements by online educators, obtained a 7.7% response rate among faculty, and a less than 10% response rate among administrators. 
Yes, you read that right. About 60,000 professors were surveyed and just 4,564 provided enough of an answer to be included in the study.  For real? This isn't nationally representative of anything. It's a horribly biased little subsample, and yet the RR isn't even mentioned in the reporting!

Moreover, look at the questions-- where'd they get the "fear vs. excitement" answers? Because they only provided those two options.  Gee, am I fearful or excited about a new untested pedagogy being pushed on me?  Well...neither. But I'm not stupid enough to jump on a bandwagon, so I will choose "fearful." By which I mean skeptical.

I have such respect for folks like Doug Lederman and his crew at IHE, that I am honestly shocked this is running in that publication at all. It shouldn't.

Take it down.

Update: I have already heard from Doug Lederman, and he will be adding the response rate to the text of the article and to the PDF of the study. He feels a low response rate is a non-issue here, doesn't imply selection bias, and it is an achievement to get 4,500 faculty to do any survey at all. Moreover, he does not agree that the study demonizes faculty.  We can agree to disagree on that. 

More on the Efforts to Marketize UW-Madison

A few months ago I wrote about the HR Design process at UW-Madison.  Some readers questioned the accuracy of my assertions.  We have new confirmatory information obtained via open records requests.  It seems the Huron Engagement has been expensive, indeed.   In the following memo, the Wisconsin University Union summarizes what we now know. It's a bit long, so I have underlined and bolded key points.

To: Interested campus employees
From: WUU
Date: June 20, 2012
RE: Memos from Huron Consulting Group

As you may know, Wisconsin University Union (WUU) has filed a series of open meeting and open requests to UW administration to gain access to information on the HR Design Project (the Project).  We initiated these requests because we believed that the effects of the Project will likely be far-reaching and long-term and that despite the administration’s attempt to project a gloss of participation and transparency to the process, it was fundamentally top-down and opaque.

When the administration finally complied with our request, we were disappointed, though not surprised, that most of the documents added little if anything to our knowledge base. For example, minutes of meetings described the topics under discussion but gave no account of the discussions themselves. The exception to this lack of transparency were memos from Huron Consulting Group (HCG) to the Project managers. These memos very briefly summarized the week’s events and posed concerns and questions on the future work of the Project.

For this reason, a month ago, we filed a new request for records specifying HCG memos to administration along with a request for their billings to the UW. After a month wait, we received the records this week.

The memos did not disclose a “smoking gun.” Instead, they confirmed much of what we know about the potential effects of the recommendations.  The following are excerpts of the HCG memos:

(5/3/2012) The work teams are proposing a “contemporary” but not radical approach to HR management at a research university. The model puts greater emphasis on performance and employee development and shifts the focus from internal equity to external competiveness.

The implied shifts for HR management implied (sic):
Greater emphasis on data and analysis (over set rules)
Greater reliance on the skills of managers/supervisors
Ongoing development of central HR as a center of excellence

I (from the HCG staff member) don’t have a good sense of the project team’s appetite for this type/level of change. If this does turn out to be the direction you choose to go, substantial pieces of it will be phased in over time. Still, it represents a significant amount of change that will to be championed by OHR and supported through the application of potentially significant resources.

(5/10/12) Compensation, Performance Management and Workplace Flexibility all have suggestions related to boards or committees being involved in appeals of decisions that impact employees. Ongoing governance (small “g”) of HR functions and processes will be a topic that we need to address over the summer. This is an area where I expect that the campus community will want more specificity in the fall.

Understanding our resource requirements for the summer will evolve as our project plan evolves. At the same time, I would suggest that adding resources is an opportunity to start to build the long-term capabilities of OHR in areas such as compensation.


These excerpts confirm a few of the central objections we have made in prior analyses:
Salary equity will be abandoned in favor of labor market “competitiveness.”

Compensation based on labor market analysis will require a substantial on-going investment to build capacity. It is difficult to estimate the cost for new HR staff members or more likely, consultants, to conduct wage and benefit analyses for hundreds of job titles.

Supervisors and managers will have substantial new powers due to the major shift in compensation responsibility along with new discretionary authority in promotion, hiring, etc. This will require a major investment in training and, one would hope, oversight and supervision of the supervisors. What will be the safeguards against favoritism, discrimination and other adverse effects?

HCG advises that, that because these new offices will be “substantial”, HR should build its new “empire” slowly and incrementally so as not to call attention to its long-term costs.

Committees acknowledged that some form of dispute resolution methods will be necessary but have either not specified how this might occur or recommend that the dispute process be overseen by HR. The HCG seems to recognize that employees will likely want better answers.

Consultant Costs:
Billings to UW from HCG:
Nov. 2011: $32,751
Dec. 2011: $154,738
Jan. 2012: $61,714
Feb. 2012: $93,798
Mar. 2012: $89,976
Total:     $432,977

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Travesty at UVA-- Commentary from Judith Burstyn

Today I welcome guest blogger Judith Burstyn, professor of chemistry and former chair of the University Committee at UW-Madison.  She has a short commentary in today's Chronicle of Higher Education, and with her permission, I am printing the entirety of that piece here. Judith was a faculty leader in the battle over the New Badger Partnership, and remains a key player in the efforts to preserve shared governance on our campus. 

Apparently, at today’s University of Virginia, business values trump all. There is a troubling recent trend toward viewing all public institutions in market terms, where value is measured by dollars produced. In recent years, UW-Madison has felt this too, as some of our leaders focus on efficiency via new “flexibilities.” But universities are not businesses. The proper role of universities is the creation of knowledge for the public good, and education of the new generations of citizens and leaders for civil society. Business management approaches are ill suited to nurture the intellectual expansiveness that underlies great scholarship and deep learning. Reliance on narrow, industry-driven curricula simply won’t do. Great universities encompass a wide variety of disciplines, methods and perspectives, irrespective of the marketability of the knowledge they create. Nourishment of the young minds of our future leaders is invaluable to our country, and the University of Virginia and UW-Madison are shining examples of excellence in this regard. I worry that this excellence is at risk.

Without the human capital embodied in their faculty, universities have nothing to offer the students who enter their doors. Great scholars are in high demand, and competition to hire and retain them is fierce. As President Sullivan said yesterday, “At any great university, the equilibrium - the pull between the desire to stay and the inducements to leave - is delicate.” If faculty members feel unsupported in their scholarly pursuits at one institution, they will move to another where there is greater support. The best scholars are the ones with the greatest number of opportunities; therefore, maintaining an outstanding cadre of faculty is an ongoing challenge. Money, as salary or support for scholarship, is only one of many parameters that influence an individual’s decision to stay at an institution or leave it.  And perhaps some of those who threaten UVA know this—aiming to drive out many of the full-time faculty, creating the opportunity to replace them with bottom-line focused adjuncts.

It is far easier to lose stature as a great university than it is to gain it; wise university leaders understand this, and they bring change to their institutions through steady and deliberate engagement of faculty, staff and students. This was precisely the type of leadership that President Sullivan appeared to be providing. Meaningful participation by these stakeholders in institutional governance is a hallmark of universities that are the most productive in terms of scholarship, and where faculty are most likely to happily reside throughout their careers. The courageous opposition to President Sullivan’s dismissal by the University of Virginia faculty senate and its executive committee, and the student council and their leadership, speak of an institution where shared governance is valued and appreciated—if not respected by its Board of Visitors.

The unilateral decision to remove a sitting university president, in the midst of a summer weekend no less, is unprecedented. Despite objections to the firing of President Sullivan by faculty and student leadership, including a vote of no confidence in the board itself by the faculty senate, the board continued its takeover. Acting like a cabal of thieves, they met late into the night, emerging with an egregious decision to replace Sullivan, a sociologist of work, with an interim president: Carl Zeithaml, F.S. Cornell Professor in Free Enterprise and Dean of the McIntire School of Commerce. This action is inimical to their responsibility as the governing board of a university.  In the words of Hunter R. Rawlings III, president of the prestigious Association of American Universities and former president of Cornell, “This is the most egregious case I have ever seen of mismanagement by a governing board.”

Last year UW-Madison engaged in many discussions about the creation of its own governing board. The actions at UVA leave great cause for concern. As University of Michigan professor Michael Bastedo has written, governing boards are increasingly embedded in money and politics, engaging in self-interested decision-making.  They tell us “it’s for your own good” in an attempt at moral seduction, and a desire to appear ethical.  Intelligent communities like those at UVA and UW-Madison do not buy this. And they shouldn’t, if they are to remain the excellent and public institutions we can all respect.

Learnist - create online learning resource pages

Learnist is a new site that is still in beta but looks promising. The site allows you to create "Learn Boards" on any topic you want to and then add "learnings" by linking to websites, online videos, blogs, images, documents, etc. It is similar to Pinterest in some ways. You can also collaborate with others on the same board.

You can search for existing Learn Boards by topic and search term. Here are some from "Education":

And here is an example learn board:

It's easy to use and there is a whole section on how to use it with videos, tips, and more.

This is a great way for teachers to create online learning resources for their students and even for students to use for projects.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

UW System's Online Endeavor

Today Governor Scott Walker (whom my son happily continues to call "RecallWalker") and the UW System announced a joint effort to provide competency-based online degree programs. The program will be initiated and led by UW Extension faculty and staff under Chancellor Ray Cross.

My feelings about Walker are well-known.  I have a hard time believing he has the best interests of UW System at heart.  That said, I don't think this was Walker's idea, and I don't think his interest in it means it's necessarily a bad idea. Here are a few reasons why:

1) Competency-based online instruction has been implemented all over the world. It aims to break the link between seat-time and credit in order to get students accessible, affordable degrees. Those are good objectives. Credit for sitting in a seat for a certain amount of time has never felt smart.

(2) The typical conservative approach to implementation is a clear effort to undermine full-time faculty --bring in an outside group reliant on adjuncts. In other states that is Western Governors University.  (Ok, slight modification-- WGU uses full-time contracted faculty. Not tenured. And not really faculty-- they don't instruct or grade, they "mentor" and coach.)  While he may have considered it, that's not what Walker's done here. Smart- because if he had, the faculty and academic staff would have been rightly up in arms -- me included. (Indeed, that's what's happening in California.)  Instead, this program is led by UW Extension faculty and staff.  That's good- Cross is smart, and I am betting he brought this idea with him, perhaps even discussing it in his job interview.

(3) The focus here isn't UW-Madison (despite some poor press tweets)-- it is aimed at folks on the margin of no credential or an online credential. That's the right demographic.

Now, here are the key questions and big things to keep an eye on:

  • What will be the balance between industry and educators in crafting these programs?  If they are too specific, the programs will have little value over the long haul.
  • Who will actually teach?  Will UW Extension put the resources in to ensure that full-time faculty add online teaching to their load, or segregate it to adjuncts?
  • Good technology isn't free. Will Walker invest in helping UW Extension with the resources needed to ensure the platform for delivery is of high quality?
  • Will some potential students perceive this as their ONLY option for higher ed in the state? Will this mean other opportunities will be constricted or narrowed? Will these programs serve as entry points to other blended or in-person forms of instruction?
One way to ensure quality is pushed higher is to encourage the kinds of students who now take in-person courses to try out these online classes, perhaps in summer, and have them react/respond with their demands.  They will help raise the bar and keep standards high. In other words, diverse online classes of learners, rather than segregated ones, will ensure the quality of instruction.

So no, this isn't a blanket endorsement of a Walker policy. I would like to know more about the evolution of this plan, and the role faculty played in it.  But from what I know, it has evolved with the input of UW Extension and UW System, and is explicitly run by them.  That, at least, is a step in the right direction. 

Edited 6/20 for the parenthetical on WGU's staffing model.

Great Resources for Educators/Admin from Upstate Tech Conference

Last week was the Upstate Technology Conference in South Carolina, which included an Administrator's Day of Discovery. Porter Palmer from Discovery Education just posted the link to all of the great resources from the sessions that day:

There are some great resources there for administrators and educators, so take a look and see what's there.

Porter also did a presentation that day on anytime learning. The slides are available here:

Microsoft Surface - Windows 8 Tablet/PC - announced

Microsoft has just announced the Microsoft Surface, which is a Windows 8 tablet, measuring 10.6 in and 1.5 pounds. So, is it just another tablet? Not quite. It has a few very cool features, like running full Windows software, having a touchscreen that includes pen/stylus input (very cool for drawings, annotations, math and science) and a cover that has a built in, super thin, keyboard and touchpad.

Microsoft Surface

It's pretty cool when you think about it, especially if you work somewhere that uses Windows OS and software and if you want pen-based input for drawings, science, math, etc. The keyboard built into the cover is also a nice touch and makes typing much easier on the tablet.

The unknowns: launch date and pricing. Initial reviews from tech sites are pretty positive.

Is this something you'd look at for yourself or your school?

Here's a video about it:

Save any type of Streaming Media with Media Sniffer

Media Sniffer Icon

Media Sniffer is free software that lets you download and save streaming media from the internet. It is available for Windows (you also need WinPcap installed ). Both are free.

It is not super simple and you need a little bit of tech knowledge, but it can be useful for saving streaming media to a computer for later/offline viewing. Just remember to follow any pertinent copyright laws and rights of the media owner.

You can read more about it here:

Virtual Summer Camp for Teachers - on demand learning for educators

The 4th Annual Virtual Summer Camp for Teachers is now available. It is being hosted through

The Virtual Summer Camp for Teachers provides on-demand, anytime learning for educators. The summer camp is organized by topic areas, which include: Common Core Resources, Essential Apps for Educators, Webinar and Online PD opportunities, Virtual Crafts, and even a mess hall with food and recipe ideas.

On July 24th there will be a live component ASCD Webinar. You can register for this free webinar here:

Materials from the previous three Virtual Summer Camps are available also:

Virtual Summer Camp Year 1
Virtual Summer Camp Year 2
Virtual Summer Camp Year 3

So, go camping this summer and learn some new things for next year:



EdCamp CT is Aug 10th. I'm going. Are you? You should be! (and if you can't be there in person, follow along on Twitter)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Embedit - no longer accepting new embeds, send you to Box instead.

Embedit, a service that allowed you to embed files on your site or blog that I wrote about May 30th, is no longer accepting new embed files. They were purchased by Box and their site now recommends you go to Box for your file sharing needs. Existing embeds you have done through the service will work through September 1, 2012. For more information, please see their FAQ.

Box, known for giving away lots of free storage through the purchase of different devices, doesn't have an embed feature that I could find, but does let you share files through links.

You can easily use Google Docs to share and embed documents in blogs and websites also.


Embedit - embed any file in your website or blog - free - organize all of your documents in one place. is a new service that organizes all of your documents from your hard drive and cloud services (including email) into on system. You can search your documents via keyword, date, optical character recognition, tags, and document type. It will keep all of your device and documents in sync also.

It is available for OS X, with Windows 8, iOS, Android apps and Google Docs integration all coming soon.

The free version will sync and collect 2,000 documents. You can upgrade to paid accounts for more space.

This promises to be a great tool for collecting and organizing all of your documents, no matter where you have them. Teachers, students, schools, and business could all find this useful.


Lots of great, free, cloud file sync/backup/storage/share services

Joukuu - manage your cloud based files

#EdStuff - a new twitter hash tag for Education

Twitter is a great resource for education. Educators can learn, share, collaborate, find help and have some great discussions. It is my go-to source when looking for help, advice, tips, tools, and resources for education.

A hash tag is a way of sorting and searching Tweets based on topic. There are tons of great educational hash tags, including #edchat, #edtech, #scichat, and more. Many of these hash tags relate to a scheduled conversation, such as #edchat being every Tuesday at 12 noon and 7pm ET, and are also used as a way to find educational resources.

William Chamberlain, author of "At the Teacher's Desk" blog, has posted that he has created a new educational hash tag, #EdStuff: "I have created the #EdStuff tag for people that want to post ed stuff, but don't want to tag it with the the chat based tags such as #edchat or #fifthchat. Feel free to use it as you will, for it is good for all ed stuff!"

This is another great way to use Twitter to find, share, collaborate, and learn.


Twitter for Education - great resource and some hashtags
Twitter, Facebook, RSS feeds, Email, Google+ - why/when I use each one 

Social Media in Education - connect, share, learn, communicate and more

List of some Free Online Scientific/Graphing Calculators

Calculators are a necessary tool in science and math classes. But, they don't have to cost the students anything.

First, there are a ton of free calculator apps available for every smartphone (iOS, webOS, Android, BB, Windows) so any student with a smartphone or PDA can get one on there. The paid apps are usually only $0.99 - $1.99 too.

Second, there are some free downloadable calculators, such as Microsoft Math and most computers have a built in calculator.

But, free, online calculators are also a great resource for educators and students. There are calculator extensions for Chrome and Firefox that students can use on their computer or through their Google account.

Here are some free online calculators that I like:

Richard Byrne over at Free Technology for Teachers also recommends EnCalc as a great, free, online scientific calculator. 


A Better Calculator is a new, free, online graphing calculator from Demos (who also offers a service to create online interactive media). There is nothing to download as it runs online. It is easy to use, full color, full functioned. You can share your work online or even share it with others (like your students) or students can share it with their teacher.

Google is now a graphing calculator. Enter the equation in the search bar and you get your graph. You can even do multiple functions, just separate them by a comma. You can also zoom and pan in the graphs. You can also do other calculator functions using the search bar. 


To use Google’s built-in calculator function, simply enter the calculation you’d like done into the search box.

Here's a screen shot of a quick one I did: y = 4x + 5

According to Google, "This feature covers an extensive range of single variable functions including trigonometric, exponential, logarithmic and their compositions, and is available in modern browsers."

Web 2.0 - free online scientific calculator. Available on mobile browser. Can be embedded in your own website or blog too.'s online calculators - basic, scientific, square root, and more.

eCalc online calculator and math help - has an online calculator along with math help. There are also downloadable calculators, an iPhone app, iGoogle gadget, and embeddable widget for your site. There is also an unit conversion calculator.

Scientific Calculator - online scientific calculator that takes up whole web page. Makes it easier to read and use.

Save money and use free calculators instead of buying them!


Desmos - create media rich educational content online

Get Your PhD in Googling - interactive tool for learning better search tips

Google is a very powerful tool. You can find pretty much anything online these days. The trick is knowing how to find exactly what you are looking for.

Here is an interactive infographic with some great tips for better internet searching (specifically with Google).


Google - free posters with search tips for teachers