Sunday, August 7, 2011

As promised, a cookie post

So I stupidly baked a GIANT AMOUNT of cookies, and it took all day. I thought I'd tell you guys what recipes I used. Except that sugar cookie recipe, because I would have to go get it and type it in. It's named "Kentucky Sugar Cookies" or something like that - it's a no-freeze recipe.

Please note, when you're doing this many cookies, it doesn't matter if something requires freezing.

Peanut Butter Munchies were a must-make. I made them last year, and Sarah loved them, and the July party is always right at her (and her husband's and my husband's) birthday(s - they're all on separate days in the same week), so I had to. Please note that the only way I can get my portions even is to split things. For the chocolate ones, I tend to split it into 64ths (split in half, split that in half for fourths, split that in fourths for sixteenths, split that in fourths for 64ths), and split my peanut butter into 32nds (just like the chocolate part, but instead of splitting sixteenths into fourths, just split them in half). This is because I flatten two chocolate 64ths and stick a peanut butter 32nd in-between - it's easier than trying to reshape a chocolate 32nd around it.

S'mores Cookies were made because my MIL bought s'mores supplies for the 4th, and then spent the week complaining about her weight (she gained 2 pounds! of water weight really, from sodium and watermelon). Similar to the Peanut Butter Munchies conundrum: I don't have a cookie scoop, and it was sort of easier in my mind to scoop this out in 1-tablespoon increments for easier forming. Instead of mini marshmallows, I cut jumbo marshmallows in half (you need 18 for one batch then) and froze them by throwing them in a freezer ziploc in the freezer. I also had regular graham crackers, and Hershey bars (I think five chopped up were enough for one batch; I did two, so I mixed Hershey bars and chocolate chips), so it was a little different. Also - if you do the 1-tablespoon scoop, it might be slightly difficult to seal your cookie around the marshmallow because of the graham crackers. Don't worry about it. Your cookies will not die. Though they may "volcano" if you reheat them in the microwave later. Not badly, though, or so I'm told.

Finally, we come to the genius part of this section: Almost Thin Mints that don't melt. I pretty much added 3/4 tsp of mint extract when I added the vanilla in this Top Secret Chocolate Cookies recipe (dear Food Network: how is it secret when it gets to your site?). I didn't bother to top it with sugar at the end. This made a thin cookie for me (my MIL has a weird oven, and remember that we're pretty close to sea level), but it might not for you. If it's not thin mint enough (i.e. Where's the chocolate coating?!), then I would add the Dark Chocolate Coating from this Thin Mint recipe online. Looking back, that Thin Mint recipe isn't terribly different from what I did, but whatever. I FELT GENIUS, I TELL YOU.

(psst, this was cross-posted in a Ravelry group as well)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

In case the foodies are still watching

So! If you're following, you may remember that this blog started as part of a class about Technology in the Classroom. We did a few group projects; my group called itself "The Foodies" because, well, I was the only one that doesn't do food blogging.

Well, not today.

Dear foodies:
I am in the middle of mixing four batches of cookies. I will be back with recipes. I promise.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

For my knittas

So while I am updating, something for my stitches:

I'm nearly done with the Koolhaas.

Which means it's time for me to get antsy, ignore weaving in ends on the shawl that I super need to be done weaving ends in and blocking before next Friday (not this one), and start staring at sweaters not on THE LIST.

So I'm exercising restraint and starting over an old UFO/swatch. (Ravelry Link to Project Page)

Blackboard 9, you so fine

Okay, so after messing with Blackboard 9 for my course, I think I would really enjoy actually creating a course in it.

Instead of splitting your Build, Teach, and Student View between three pages, it's all in one. Build and Teach tools are on side bars, and you switch between building and student view by clicking on the "edit mode" to toggle the editing on or off.

What I like besides the streamlining is the fact that you can totally manipulate the course menu (a sidebar with links to content and tools, which is available for you and the students). My favorite thing is the Content Areas - you can have a Content Area for each section of your course (each book, or each chapter of your textbook, or each concept) or you can have a Content Area for each type of content instead (Course Information, Web Links, Lesson Plans, Discussion Boards, etc.).

Another neat thing is the improvement to Group formation. You can still manually add people to groups, but there is also the option to create self-enrollment groups. Signups for topics could be really easy that way - you could do it all online, and let them sign-up. You have the option to allow them to see who is already in the group (or not), and to limit the sign-up numbers.

The Grade Center is also interesting, as it has a few ways to look at assessments. One is the Full Grade Center, with everything worth a grade, whether or not you've graded it. Needs grading is for ungraded submissions, and can be sorted to narrow the list. Or you can look at just Assignments or just Tests.

I will say that it has a "healthy-sized" learning curve. Some of the things I learned, I learned because I messed around with it for a long time. Some of the things I learned, I learned by watching video tutorials (which I couldn't pause). I'm sure I didn't figure out everything - after all, sometimes it's best when you have a real course to create, and you have students, or even a demo student, to try out the student side of things. I was able to figure out some things on Blackboard Vista by using the demo student (like, "how do I grade their discussion submission?").

I also realize that, like other learning systems, Blackboard Learn won't always work perfectly. But I am really excited about it anyway.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A further thought on this Blackboard grading thing

I am seriously thinking I need a dual-monitor set up. I have found that I can have the grading system open in multiple tabs or windows. This means that, with enough monitor space, I could have the grading open in one spot while having the discussion submissions open in another. Side-by-side. This would also make grading the comments easier, as I have to create grading columns for them in Blackboard (for the blogs, it's set up while you're setting up the blogs, and the gradebook column will thus pull up submissions in the blog forum).

Sigh.

I've been thinking about this since last semester, when I used my netbook to type papers on, and my office desktop for the internet (browsing, using google book search to find page numbers, etc.). I think it's about time.

Okay so...

Maybe it's time for a knitting post.

Is it?

Well, it is now.

After lots and lots of planning for this year's knitting, I suddenly cast on for a hat this week. My second Koolhaas hat (Interweave link and Ravelry link).

Granted, this hat is on the list of things to do this year (my New Year's resolutions were all craft projects, because, well, it was just planning rather than HEY I WILL GO WORKOUT ALL THE TIME, or CLEAN ALL THE THINGS, because let's face it, I won't do those all the time). But, like resolutions, I'm not sticking to them (or to the letter of them).

My list for this year (in the order I meant to work on them) with Ravelry links when available):
Certain UFOs.
Truffle Cardigan.
Some sort of denim a-line/pencil skirt with pockets.
Hoodie with pleated arm warmers as sleeves.
Themis.
Koolhaas.
Asymmetrical Cardi.
Brilliant Retro.

And some sock patterns to be determined.

Considering how much I want a Themis, it will probably end up on the needles next, but I am not sure, because, well, I've already finished an abalone cardigan that was nowhere on that list.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Pardon the interruption, we will have a moment of silence

And then a very large freak-out.

So, apparently our email system has UPGRADED. I'm sure it's got lots of nice, new, lovely things, but for the moment, I am going to do this:


Ahem.

For those of you who don't know me, I am what we might politely call, "detail-oriented." This translates to "pain in the neck when people change things." Microsoft updates Office, and sets Word's default font to Courier New: I get mad. The paragraph settings are 10 pt after. I get irate. Someone moves my mail-cubby in the office. Sparks fly.

After having this sort of reaction far too many times, I have come to realize plainly and simply that it is me. I don't like things changing once I am used to them.

So, email system, you are on notice. I hate your new font, and my inability to change it.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Blackboard and grading

Okay, last semester I assigned weekly reading journals to my students. They emailed them to me, or brought them to class. It worked pretty well, except that in addition to the time it took to read them, I also wrote way too much on them. My comments probably were mostly unread (as was painfully obvious when one student turned in a rough draft for the "research" paper that was just two journals pasted together, with no research and no revisions). Also, it's fine to spend that time when you only have a few students, but when you're teaching two courses, it snowballs.

So this semester I made use of the "blog" discussion threads on Blackboard. I started one thread for each week of blog writing (or one for two weeks' worth, if it was the same novel; this may be amended).

Interesting things to note:
1. In a blog discussion thread, all the blogs are displayed. All of them. There's no picking and choosing which blogs to read before all of the text shows up. Granted, Blackboard automatically will show ten at a time unless you change your settings, but if you were looking for a post by a specific student (and if you haven't selected the grading option for the thread), you have to sift through all the posts.

2. Having selected the grading option, I grade through the grade book. Clicking on the assignment for the post, I then can have it display posts for each student involved. It not only shows the blog(s) they wrote in the specific discussion thread, it also shows the comments they have written on the blogs. I have yet to start grading their comments, but this makes it easier.

3. Looking at comments through the grade book does not prevent you from reading the corresponding blog easily. Above the comments, it will say "Comments on ______". If you click on the blog title, then it comes up in a pop-up window.

4. Rather than just assign grades - or having to remember what I wanted each level of grading to be for blogs and comments - I also set up grading forms (I needed one for a week's blog, and one for two weeks of blog; though, I am pretty convinced that I will split those two weeks threads up). This has been an immense help, as the students should be able to see what is wrong with their blog without me having to type explanations for everyone. I am still trying to write some comments, but am keeping it pared down to style issues.

I am fairly certain that I will continue to do weekly blogs online rather than have them emailed, but I am still figuring out what I think specifically about the blog versus regular style discussion thread. Blackboard also has a "journal" style thread that can be kept private, but as I feel the blogs help us all interact and learn more about the readings, I like keeping it open. I may have to play around with journal threads the next time I am planning a Blackboard course, though.

Friday, January 28, 2011

So far...

I have had five responses to an anonymous1 Blackboard post about the possibility of using twitter.

One response said that it was a good idea.

However, all of them responded on various shades of, "Helllllll noooo." Actual stated reasons so far vary from, "I think Blackboard works just fine," to "I don't want to check something else," to "It's blocked from my phone."

I'll keep you updated if more responses come in.

1: Anonymous, as in the thread group is marked, "Questions from your teacher," but the setting is set to keep the poster's identity anonymous. Even from me. So while I am curious to know about our "Helllllll noooo" poster, I am left in the dark.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

*stares superhard at blackboard*

I'm teaching two sections of the same course, and had my sections cross-listed on our university's version of Blackboard. That way the students could work together and collaborate on projects, comment on each other's weekly reading journals, etc.

The first reading journals were posted tonight, and so I have gone in to grade them. All my students are listed in the grade book... but when I try and grade the journals (blog-type discussions), it only seems to let me grade one section of the course. *sigh*

Tomorrow I'll be looking into this more. I can't tell if I am missing a setting in Blackboard or not, but this is a little frustrating. But still much cooler than collecting 120 pages worth of journals and hand-writing comments.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Even smaller update

Wimba Pronto is the coolest thing ever.

Chats, private messages, virtual office hours, shared whiteboards, video chat, "AppShare" (showing others your computer and the applications you are running)...Totally awesome.

I especially like this because it can help you show a student around a website, around Blackboard, around Microsoft Word, etc. Especially as a literature teacher with students who may not know how to change settings for document writers (margins, weird paragraph spacing, etc - THANK YOU SO MUCH, MICROSOFT, FOR YOUR WEIRD DEFAULTS IN WORD 2007 AND LATER), this is the best thing ever.

Short update: thoughts on Twitter and the classroom

After reading the other blogs from my technology course, I find myself thinking about twitter.com and our classrooms. Some made the argument that further conversation about the course could take place on facebook.com or twitter, while another made a case that we should be respecting our students' personal time.

More than the problem of personal time, I also worry about privacy issues, especially with facebook. Facebook means creating profiles with personal information, and students may feel uncomfortable using their personal profiles for the course, even with protected groups only available to invited persons. Without the strictest privacy settings - which facebook constantly changes, making it hard to keep your profile completely private from non-friends - our information becomes available to other facebook users, and gives them access to us through private messaging.

Twitter, however, is often used without giving up so much personal information. Usernames are often "handles," rather than real names, and users often leave their profile information sparse, using a first name and last initial, or false name. Open twitter profiles - such as a teacher may use for a course - can be looked at without constantly following, meaning that cautious students could find the course tweets without potentially linking their twitter profile to the course profile. Quick polls could be taken if the students interact often enough with the course profile.

For instance - our first few days of the university were cancelled due to snow. Saturday make-up days were created. I originally was not going to use the make-up day for the class I am teaching, but we're slightly behind in reading our first book. If I were running a twitter account for the students to follow - and if I knew they were checking often - then I could run a poll on twitter.

We do have Blackboard, but students - myself included for my courses - often will sign in only when they have assignments due. Even when we provide updates semi-daily (such as pages to read for the next class date), it's possible that they are not checking every day. Twitter could potentially open up a way to communicate with our students about last minute items, like room changes, or take polls about make-up dates or movie nights. It's not perfect, but it does seem like a potentially helpful medium.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

techno time: starting to use technology in a literature course

Last semester became a round of firsts for me. First time to move out-of-state, first semester as a doctoral student, first course to teach. Working on classics like The Aeneid and The Decameron, I thought that technology would sometimes be useful, but wasn't certain about how useful. I used Blackboard as a backup, asking my students to email me papers as well as uploading them, and gave one or two quizzes online.

This semester, however, my course schedule (for classes I was taking) seemed to be scattered. I would find a course I wanted to take, and it would conflict with another. A course I was enrolled in was dropped. Graduate seminars beckoned me, and interfered with my plans to take a fun history course. Still, I thought I could make the Spring work for me. And then I started looking for courses to fit with a teaching certificate offered by the University.

I found a promising course: Teaching with Technology in the College Classroom. I thought it was perfect. I was going from teaching one not-so-popular course to teaching two sections of a course that covered a university requirement. I was looking for easier ways to assemble my students' works, such as weekly journals on books we were reading. Not only was this course going to fulfill a requirement for the certificate, but it would also provide a good background in Blackboard and other technology resources that would make my teaching semester easier. So I signed up.

This semester will be interesting. I have had mixed feelings about courses in which I was required to use online forums for discussion, or to find resources to add to my learning in a course. But as we continue to find ourselves in a world of technology, it seems that using technology in the classroom is an important step towards the future. It gives me more chances to communicate with my students, and helps them develop practical skills they will continue to use in their future. So, although the literature may be older than the technology we use, I look forward to exploring options I can use in my courses.