Jeff Grabill at TEDxLansingED: Texting Is Good For Us

“I do know that if I put something like ‘Texting is good for us’ in the title of a talk, I am guaranteed an audience.”

The quote above is Jeff Grabill’s explanation for the title of his recent Ted Talk – and spoiler alert – he doesn’t actually say if texting is good for us. He does, however, offer an insightful look at the power of networks and writing education.

Speaking engagingly and intelligently for almost 12 minutes is a uniquely difficult (and anxiety ridden) task. “[T]he situation was challenging. [...] I had to try to be interesting, engaging, and absolutely on time in a speech situation that was basically live TV … and without my typical memory aids.” explains Grabill.

As a rhetorician, however, Grabill was uniquely prepared:

“To prepare, then, I relied on my rhetorical training (Ta da!). Specifically, I created a memory palace, a very old technique for recalling a speech. It isn’t memorizing the speech, but in a classic memory palace, you imagine rooms of a house/palace and what you will say in each room. During the talk, one simply “walks through the palace.” Another take on the memory palace can be found in this season’s Sherlock.

Jeff’s recommended TED Talks:


Codecademy is an excellent resource for learning new programming languages and coding techniques. They provide lessons and exercises for everything from basic HTML and CSS to JavaScript, PHP, jQuery, Ruby, Python and so much more. They even have projects for you to accomplish by utilizing programming languages to create and style various web features.

They break projects down into numbered tasks to tackle, each one with hints and steps to complete in order to move on. Some of their sample projects include animating your name, creating your own animated galaxy, or building your own website. Aside from creating web applications and mobile apps, Codecademy is a great place to gain confidence in learning and using new programming skills and techniques.

15 Online Resources for Free Education

While entangled in the depths of college, some of us can’t imagine, or don’t want to imagine, taking more classes on the side. However, there are many people who haven’t had the chance to receive a college education or even a high school education. Heck, there are plenty of us who can’t afford the education we’re receiving right now. Luckily, nowadays knowledge in some capacity is easily accessible with a simple Internet connection. LifeHacker has compiled an impressive list of websites, institutions, and collections of colleges and universities that offer free classes or courses online to further your education or satisfy your simple curiosity.

Do you want the most elite of the free online courses? Chance a glance at LifeHacker University or edX which both offer numerous, free online courses from prestigious institutions across the country such as Yale, MIT, Stanford, Harvard, and Berkeley.

Maybe your belief lies in the masses – you should try the University of Reddit, a subthread of Reddit, whose wealth of knowledge is built through crowdsourcing and is run by Reddit users with expertise on certain subjects whom post modules regularly in the subthread.

University of Reddit

University of Reddit


How Digital Technology Changes Meaning Making

In this piece on Edutopia, Betty Ray introduces us to Douglas Rushkoff’s book Present Shock through an interview with him on the state of technology and education. As Ray writes, Rushkoff “turns his lens to the human experience in a world that’s always on, always connected, always in the now, now, now.”

Ray asks Rushkoff, “How did digital technology “break” this narrative?” Rushkoff answers, “Well, initially, it was the remote control… We can pause, go back and forward. The storyteller no longer calls all the shots.” This is an interesting perspective, one that challenges traditional notions of narrative by acknowledging the agency of the audience in the construction and reception of the message.

Neither Ray nor Rushkoff understand this breaking of narrative as a bad thing, more as a new understanding for considering how students construct meaning. Rushkoff says, “They are no longer required to submit to the official story in order to get the information they want.” In other words, digital technology’s capacity to break the narrative creates new paths to knowledge for students.

For more from Rushkoff, check out his appearance on The Colbert Report.

Comics in the Classroom

Recently, we discussed the idea of using new technology to its full potential in the classroom. The way we learn, or even the way we teach, has been evolving, especially in these last couple of years. Now, we learned of a new study at the University of Oklahoma (OU) about how well students learn when reading from comics-format material for non-fiction and textbooks.

In the study, 140 graduate students were separated into two groups: the first received their information via traditional textbook, and the second through a graphic novel that covered the same material. Research showed that both groups understood the concepts of the text equally, but the comics group had much better verbatim recall. The creator of this study who is the strategic management chair of OU’s Price College of Business, Jeremy Short, said, “My experiences suggests that graphic story telling can serve as a powerful tool in higher education compared to the traditional textbook.”

This seems like an especially relevant topic for higher education. For years, students have been taught by pictures in books, overhead images, computer screen projectors, and chalkboards. Now, we are developing technology that allows ebooks to have videos and interactive images. Teaching by graphic novel seems like the next natural step along this line of visual learning.

From SmartBlogs: “6 entrepreneurial skills that can make us better educators”

You might not think knowing entrepreneurial skills could help educators become better, but some might beg to differ. SmartBlogs recently released “6 Entrepreneurial Skills That Can Make Us Better Educators” to help educators apply these skills to become better at what they do best: educate.

One skill that is important and useful for everyone: “Develop relationships with mentors with different kinds of expertise.” Essentially, network with everyone and anyone.

“Entrepreneurs find mentors at different stages of their careers and in different fields.” It doesn’t matter what stage  you’re in, you can always benefit from meeting and keeping in touch with new people that can help give you advice and new perspectives.

Teaching with Technology

We talk a lot about technology in the classroom, but what about the classroom in technology? Professor Elliot Soloway at the University of Michigan and Professor Chris Dede at Harvard discuss how to transition a lesson plan into the digital age.

Young students using iPads.

Image via Flickr

“I’ve never seen technology moving faster than mobile learning,” said Dede, who teaches at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Between developing applications and having answers at the touch of a finger through the internet, kids are learning in a faster-paced environment than ever before. Teaching pedagogies need to adapt with this shift as well; for example, they discuss how using flash cards, staples of older lesson plans, for an iPad is a waste.

“We are not exploiting the affordances of the new technology to give kids new kinds of learn-by-doing activities,” says Soloway. Using tools like tablets in the classroom are viewed as something kids can do when they’re done with their actual class work. Shelly Pasnik, director of the Center for Children and Technology counteracts this idea.

“When it’s really integrated into a sequence of activities, kids are moving between screens given what’s developmentally appropriate, they’re playing games. Some experiences use screens, then manipulatives or other materials, they’re engaged in conversations with peers and adults in the room. That’s where it works,” says Pasnik.

Resources like iPads, tablets, and laptops have the ability to make learning a multimedia, engaging, and interactive experience, but only if they are integrated into a new teaching style.

From Open Culture: Advice in Free Creative Writing “Master Class”

Writing, like many things, can be very difficult at times. Everyone has those moments where we seek for inspiration, guidance, something to help us move forward with our words. The Academy of Achievement (a non-profit based out of Washington, D.C.) has stepped up and created an insanely cool resource, “Creative Writing: A Master Class.”

Image of Norman Mailer

Image via

Here, you can find a series of talks from poets and writers alike, archived through iTunes. Discussions by Toni Morrison, Nora Ephron, and Norman Mailer are just a few of the speakers featured through this free program. Talks vary from Pulitzer Prize winners, to poet laureates, to perhaps your favorite author. Read more about this new type of class here.