Last week I was beginning the process of preparing for next semester.  I had some level of dissatisfaction with the new online homework system we are using for statistics and I had an issue with the slides I’ve been using for years, and wanted to clean it all up before I start work on the online Psych 101 sections I need to develop.  (Mostly I wanted to deal with the slide issues before I forgot them; again.)  So I was going through, chapter by chapter, and changing the slides, and then printing them out for my circa teaching notebook.

I got through about half of the class (which ends up being a couple hundred double-sided pages) when it occurred to me that this was ridiculous.  I mean, this is 2011.  I own an Ipad (1st gen).  Why was I printing this stuff out so that I could carry it to class every week so that I would have the slides and notes in front of me when I could just carry the ipad instead? (The room has a computer and projector, but I use the notes section of my slides to hold things like practice problems, solutions, and notes to myself on things I want to make sure I explicitly mention, so I want that information with me and right there during class.

This led to thought two:  what do I need to do to not have to carry huge packages of paper back and forth.  The class involves 2 papers* (turnitin, here we come), 5 test, 1 in-class problem per lecture and 10 labs.  The tests I want on paper; I give students partial credit for the tests if they make a math error but otherwise follow through correctly.  (5 times 0 is ZERO people, not 5).  The in-class problems I want them to do on paper, but those should only be a single sheet per student, so that isn’t overwhelming.  Pedagogically the point of those is to also give them feedback on problems done the same way as the tests, done immediately after learning the material.

That leaves the labs and  I need to brainstorm on that one.  The point of these labs is to teach students to use SPSS to solve statistical problems.  Personally I think this is a waste of their time and mine.  Maybe 5 out of 20 will ever use it again, and most of those will be in the research methods class.  Then they will all forget it until the 1 out of that 5 actually gets to graduate school.  The labs were written by another faculty member and are the most dumb down way to earn a credit hour I have ever seen.  They don’t actually TEACH the tool itself OR anything about statistics.  I’m thinking I may move the answer sheets online and call it good.  I will still have to grade the short answer sections, but can do it much quicker online.

Regardless, I will be documenting this process and the new tools I adopt as I work through moving to a less paper-intensive process for both me and the students.  I will need to integrate this with my entire process, so it will also mean moving the lovely paper to do list onto the ipad and integrating it into my life better.  (Right now I mostly play games and read books on it, which makes it a seriously overpriced ereader or toy.)  My focus for now will be strictly on my teaching work; the day job and the rest of my life is going to be excluded until I get teaching sorted out.  (David Allen is screaming in frustration somewhere…)

* Yes, I assign not one but TWO papers to my stats students.  They have to find an article in the mainstream media that talks about a study, then find the study, then write a paper comparing the two and showing me they understood both the study and how it differs from the media coverage.  Surprising as it sounds, it’s one of their favorite assignments.