Tuesday, 28 April 2009
With your Zero Inbox (or was it 'Inbox Zero'?), if something crops up it is immediately visible as new, and in a nice case of a positive feedback loop you will want to deal with it quickly to get back to that pristine empty inbox.
And of course you have the satisfying blank page when there is no actual mail waiting for you...
Wednesday, 22 April 2009
Why not? Is this the typical whingeing about an unpleasant job? Partly. I can think of many things I'd rather do, and that I still have to do once the marking is finished. But that in itself is not the reason. Giving feedback should be one of the central tasks in education, but the ways we have available for it are not very satisfactory.
Ideally I would write an essay about the length of the students' submission to give them proper feedback about all the things I like and don't like about their work. Because the student will read it at some point, and might come back to me with questions about it, I have to be very specific, and have to make sure they can be read out of context (ie without having the student essay still fresh in mind). This is very difficult to do. And would consume more time than is available.
It is also the case that it is very hard to phrase feedback properly. I can easily read a text and decide whether I like it or not, but then telling somebody else why I came to that conclusion is difficult. Often these points are on an almost sub-conscious level, and hard to verbalise. It would also be a lot easier if it could be delivered in a face-to-face conversation, as interactivity would be much better than simply a list of bullet points with good and bad points about the student's work. Resource shortage however makes that impossible, apart from practical considerations.
Maybe it would be an idea to try out what other people have done: record feedback orally, and then send it to the students. It would be quicker to say something, rather than to write it down in great detail, but dealing with sound files might be more time-consuming in the end.
So it remains the only option for the moment, filling in feedback forms, printing them off, attaching them to the paper, and hoping that the students will be able to use them to improve their work. Unsatisfactory!
Sunday, 19 April 2009
Apart from that it's fantastic: you can listen to all sorts of stations from all over the world, sorted by genre or country, whatever. Recently I discovered a Canadian station (I think it was Canadian), Ancient FM, and they played some very interesting Renaissance music, which I then bought on iTunes. Great to broaden your horizon, but keep an eye on that bandwidth!
Wednesday, 15 April 2009
One important productivity tool is your inbox; the email one, not the David Allen conceptual one. Nothing is more depressing than an overflowing mailbox which takes ages to load and makes it hard to find what you need. So having a zero-inbox is really a first step towards feeling more positive and productive, at least that's the effect it has on me.
The first important step is to consolidate multiple email-addresses you might have (work, private, etc) to a single account, so that you do not have to check in multiple places all the time. This is very easy to do with gmail. Next, set up four labels for the important/unimportant and urgent/non-urgent combinations. I have chosen _A1 to _A4, as these will show up at the top of the "labels" bar on gmail. Each email that requires an action is immediately shunted off into one of those four mailboxes. Constantly archiving all the other mails you get is also very important, and occasionally, wenn stuff builds up, move everything into an _inbox, to get your Inbox Zero back. If you allowed it to build up, then it cannot have been important!
Another benefit, apart from the psychological one, is that when you're on the move, checking your mail is a lot quicker!