Social Networking in Teaching and Research – Trevor Holmes

Lately I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the differences between Facebook and Academia.edu. While Facebook accomplishes so many different things (some great, some really horrid), Academia.edu seems to be a winner for those scholars who want to find contacts around the world in their research areas. It works based on a tree-like structure within each university that then cross-fertilizes according to one’s sub-fields across all universities in the system. Besides meeting academics with similar research interests, connections can be made via papers and citations (although I haven’t tested that aspect yet). Senior scholars and graduate students are getting involved. A brief review:

http://scienceroll.com/2008/10/11/academiaedu-social-network-in-science/

A final question: Will research-based social networking improve teaching? Directly? Indirectly? I’m asking this not only because I work at the CTE, but also because I do believe firmly that the “specialness” of university study is that one joins a community of intellectuals for a time — in short, there is and should be a link between teaching and research. More on that question later.

Effective letters for teaching-award nominations – Trevor Holmes

What a boring place the world would be if all letters looked the same! Nonetheless, there are some features that make letters for major awards more persuasive…

  • Start with how you know the nominee, since when, and in what context
  • Give your own qualifications as a context for your comments
  • Get to know the award for which the professor, instructor, or teaching assistant is being nominated — address whatever criteria you honestly can address
  • Provide specifics: not just your favourite teacher ever, but the specific ways in which he/she (for example) helped you grasp a concept, choose a major, succeed in a career, teach others something, overcome test anxiety, become aware of your own skills, and so forth.
  • Explain with examples how you are different for having had this teacher. What did you take away from the course BECAUSE of his or her teaching style and/or methods? This might involve concepts, but it might also involve values, approaches, or attitudes!

Blog: A four-letter word – Mark Morton

The word ‘blog’ was invented in 1999 as a shortened form of ‘web log.’ Since then, blogs have increased exponentially in number. Many blogs are created and abandoned after a few weeks while others have thrived for years. Most blogs are read by a small number of people but a few — such as the Huffington Post, a political blog — is read by more than a million people each month. In higher education, blogs have also come into their own: blogs by Stephen Downes and Will Richardson are read by thousands of educators around the world.

So, if there are so many blogs — good ones and bad ones — out there already, why create another one? Well, here at the Centre for Teaching Excellence, we think that a blog will help us communicate ideas and issues pertaining to teaching in a timely and (dare I hope) lively manner, ideas and issues that will be of special interest to the University of Waterloo instructors who make up our target audience. Our centre already has a newsletter that does an excellent job of presenting a round-up of news and events pertaining to teaching, but it only comes out once a term. This blog, as we see it, will be more dynamic, responsive, opinionated, and colourful — a kind of crazy uncle to our more sober newsletter. We hope to share new research and best practices pertaining to teaching, but we also hope to inspire engaged debate — because that, surely, is at the heart of all learning.

By the way, here’s a link to an interesting post on another blog entitled “The Arrogance of Blogging.”