Monday, February 25, 2013 - a web-based platform to replace Blackboard
I don't want to make it sound like I don't like Blackboard, but I can say that there are a lot of alternatives out there, and this one is free and is full of an active user-base so it is constantly improving and updating. It is "open source" so that means that anyone can design an "add-on" (aka, "app" or tool) to use with Moodle. I came across Moodle while I was doing research for a project on transformative learning. Moodle is designed to support a social constructivist approach to education.

Moodle is an acronym for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment. The creator defines it as an online learning management system, designed to create opportunities for rich interaction between teachers and learners. The creator also uses it as a verb: the process of enjoyable tinkering that often leads to  growing knowledge, insight, and creativity.

What can you do with it? I found this fantastic link that gives a quick overview (you can click through it in about a minute!) that uses Lego bricks. I can't think of a better way to explain it myself, so here's the link: (Also, note the use of the page, which I blogged about a few days ago, here.)

Here is a link to their Frequently Asked Questions:

Have fun moodle-ing! :)

P.S., many of its features are free!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Humor and fun in statistics - Because life is too short to take everything so seriously!

I recently came across this website, which is for the organization called CAUSE (Consortium for the Advancing Undergraduate Statistics Education). It has several resources that educators would find useful in teaching statistics... to undergrads.... (Yeah, I know... that was a really original description.) One of the best parts of the website is a collection entirely devoted to humor, fun, and silliness related to statistics. 

Most of the resources are cartoons, but there are also poems, word puzzles, songs, and videos. If any of you know me personally or professionally, you know that I am silly and love to include humor in any conversation. So, of course, the "fun" section of this website was particularly enticing for me. 

Upon browsing through some of the poems, I came across a poem titled "Hiawatha Designs an Experiment". Because I love Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, I had to read it. And now, I just have to share it with you readers! It's worth reading (if you appreciate poetry, irony, and statistics). :) And in case you aren't familiar with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, or his poem called The Song of Hiawatha, here's a link to the original poem:

Hiawatha Designs an Experiment
by Sir Maurice G. Kendall (1907 - 1983)
Hiawatha, mighty hunter
He could shoot ten arrows upwards
Shoot them with such strength and swiftness
That the last had left the bowstring
Ere the first to earth descended.
This was commonly regarded
As a feat of skill and cunning.

One or two sarcastic spirits
Pointed out to him, however,
That it might be much more useful
If he sometimes hit the target.
Why not shoot a little straighter
And employ a smaller sample?

Hiawatha, who at college,
Majored in applied statistics
Consequently felt entitled
To instruct his fellow men on
Any subject whatsoever,
Waxed exceedingly indignant
Talked about the law of error,
Talked about truncated normals
Talked of loss of information,
Talked about his lack of bias
Pointed out that in the long run
Independent observations
Even though they missed the target
Had an average point of impact
Very near the spot he aimed at
(With the possible exception
Of a set of measure zero.)

This, they said, was rather doubtful.
Anyway, it didn't matter
What resulted in the long run;
Either he must hit the target
Much more often than at present
Or himself would have to pay for
All the arrows that he wasted.

Hiawatha, in a temper,
Quoted parts of R. A. Fisher
Quoted Yates and quoted Finney
Quoted yards of Oscar Kempthorne
Quoted reams of Cox and Cochran
Quoted Anderson and Bancroft
Practically in extenso
Trying to impress upon them
That what actually mattered
Was to estimate the error.

One or two of them admitted
Such a thing might have its uses
Still, they said, he might do better
If he shot a little straighter.

Hiawatha, to convince them,
Organized a shooting contest
Laid out in the proper manner
Of designs experimental
Recommended in the textbooks
(mainly used for tasting tea, but
Sometimes used in other cases)
Randomized his shooting order
In factorial arrangements
Used in the theory of Galois
Fields if ideal polynomials
Got a nicely balanced layout
And successfully confounded
Second-order interactions.

All the other tribal marksmen
Ignorant, benighted creatures,
Of experimental setups
Spent their time of preparation
Putting in a lot of practice
Merely shooting at the target.

Thus it happened in the contest
That their scores were most impressive
With one solitary exception
This (I hate to have to say it)
Was the score of Hiawatha,
Who, as usual, shot his arrows
Shot them with great strength and swiftness
Managing to be unbiased
Not, however, with his salvo
Managing to hit the target.
There, they said to Hiawatha,
That is what we all expected.

Hiawatha, nothing daunted,
Called for pen and called for paper
Did analyses of variance
Finally produced the figures
Showing beyond all peradventure
Everybody else was biased
And the variance components
Did not differ from each other's
Or from Hiawatha's
(This last point, one should acknowledge
Might have been much more convincing
If he hadn't been compelled to
Estimate his own component
From experimental plots in
Which the values all were missing.
Still, they couldn't understand it
So they couldn't raise objections
This is what so often happens
With analyses of variance.)

All the same, his fellow tribesmen
Ignorant, benighted heathens,
Took away his bow and arrows,
Said that though our Hiawatha
Was a brilliant statistician
He was useless as a bowman,
As for variance components
Several of the more outspoken
Made primeval observations
Hurtful to the finer feelings
Even of a statistician.

In a corner of the forest
Dwells alone my Hiawatha
Permanently cogitating
On the normal law of error
Wondering in idle moments
Whether an increased precision
Might perhaps be rather better
Even at the risk of bias
If thereby one, now and then, could
Register upon the target.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) - not just for your students!
Many of you probably already know about Purdue's OWL website. It gives great tips for writing on a variety of topics. However the link I want to share today is specifically related to the topic of academic proposals (for conferences, articles, and books). I don't know about you, but for me, the idea of writing a proposal is both exciting and panic-inducing. It is exciting because I enjoy the opportunity to share my work, which I think is important and meaningful, but it's also panic-inducing because of all the fears that go along with academic writing: Will I be able to articulate my points convincingly? What if they think my ideas are hogwash? How long can I put off writing this proposal? "Insert your own fears here." So check out this link for some helpful guidance on how to write an effective proposal. Also, be sure to peruse the rest of the website because it has plenty of helpful tips for writers at any level!

SSWR's doc student resource center
The other day, I discovered that the Society for Social Work Research (SSWR) has a very useful website devoted entirely to resources for social work doctoral students! The topics include:

  • Writing
  • Funding
  • Teaching
  • Presentations
  • Methods
  • Employment
Each topic has multiple resources associated with it, including documents and websites that you will definitely find helpful. Head over to the website today!

Friday, February 15, 2013 - its all about the math, y'all

I'm sure many of you already know about, but if not, it is an online repository of learning modules on just about any topic you can imagine, from math, to science and economics, and more.

I want to focus your attention on a particular set of modules at the Khan Academy on probability and statistics (click here). Kal (the founder of the site, and the author of this particular series of modules) is a brilliant guy, and really good at breaking down statistics to social worker speed. It was a great supplement to the standard coursework on quantitative methods in my program.

Topics include:

  • Independent and dependent events
  • Probability and combinatorics
  • Random variables and probability distributions
  • Descriptive statistics
  • Regression
  • Inferential statistics
Need I say more? Get to clickin', y'all. ;-)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - a wiki that doesn't disappear at the end of the semester
I can thank my adviser for introducing me to today's featured website. Wikispaces is a site that is free to use, and is designed mainly for educational use. You can make a wiki page (like a wikipedia entry) for any purpose, on any topic! Most people use it for classroom projects. The thing I like most about it (besides that its free) is that the wiki page doesn't disappear at the end of the semester like it would in Blackboard. You can add documents, links, and have multiple pages per wiki. Here's a good example of how a wikispaces page can be utilized in the classroom: . Like any "wiki," users can edit information, but there is a catch. You usually have to be a "member" of a wikispace page before you can edit it. I think that feature is optional, so you'd have to look into it for yourself if that was important for your project. Anyway, I think this is a neat site that will enhance a social work course on any topic!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Jing - screen capture in no time flat!

Get Jing here:
So, I know there are tons of screen capturing software options out there, but I really enjoy using Jing for a few reasons. #1, it's free. (You know how I feel about free stuff!) #2, it's simple! You can install it quickly, and use it with ease! When you want to do a screen capture, you simply click on the little sun icon that hides at the top of your screen, then drag your cursor to select a rectangle portion of your screen, and then a dialogue box pops up asking you what you want to do with it! You can save that portion of the screen as an image, or you can use that portion of your screen to start recording a screen-cast, and lots more! Check out the link at the beginning of this post to start exploring the possibilities of what easy screen capturing can do for you.

Friday, February 8, 2013 - subtitles so you can be heard around the world!

So, you know how you tech-savvy social workers are creating videos of your presentations and lectures? (Right??) Well, if you want to have subtitles in a different language, that's easy! Just upload your video to YouTube, then make an account with It's incredibly easy, and it just got easier with the announcement of a new feature. See details in their press release, here. Now it's easier than ever to expand your social work projects to the international arena. Globalization, here we are!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Mendeley - the next best thing since sliced bread?
I am excited to share this next resource with you all. It has truly made my life as a doctoral student remarkably easier! How can one program do that, you say? Well, let me show you.

First of all, it is FREE. Yes, it's free. Please note, it is free.

It is primarily a reference organization software program. But the best thing about it (in my opinion, at least) is that it is open-source, meaning that it is designed by users for users, and is thus updated much more often than a regular paid program, and it also has a much more intuitive design!

But it doesn't just organize your references. It also embeds citations into your Word document. You can also edit citations to include multiple references in one citation (such as: Gandy, 2012; Coles, 2013; Prorock-Ernest, 2010) or alter the citation to include a page number, or leave out the author name. Then, Mendeley will create a bibliography in the style that you select based on the references cited throughout your document!

That is not all that it does. You can manually enter new references into your library and "attach" the associated document (usually a PDF). You can also easily add new references to your reference library simply by dragging and dropping a document into the Mendeley screen (from your Windows Explorer screen, for instance). Mendeley then searches for information about the reference within the document, such as title, author, journal, year, volume, issue, abstract, key words, doi, and the list goes on! If Mendeley can't find the information, or has an error in the information it found, you can always fix it manually.

What if you have your reference library currently saved in another program, such as RefWorks, or EndNote? Easy! You can import references into Mendeley from most any other reference software.

But that's not all, folks! You also have a free Mendeley account online, where you can access your reference library from anywhere that you have internet access. You can also use a feature that will pull citation information right from a website, using a bookmark tool that Mendeley can install into your browser.

That's STILL not all! One of the most distinct and special features about Mendeley is that it also serves as an information sharing platform. You can go online with your Mendeley account, and find groups of other Mendeley users who are interested in the same things you are interested in. For instance, you can sign up to be a member of the "Qualitative Research Methodology" group. You can also browse other users' libraries to find literature of interest to you!

Lastly, it is a great tool for annotating your literature. You can highlight by selecting text (on newer, "smart" PDF's) or by dragging a rectangle of text (on older PDF's that don't recognize text). You can also make notes anywhere on the document. Then Mendeley has a nice view screen where you can see all of your notes on a single document, so you can review what you've annotated.

There are SO MANY MORE features to this program that I don't have time to go into. So, go check it out for yourself!! - not just PowerPoint!

I came across the website as I was listening to a webinar for ICPSR's data services. It is a huge repository of slides on any topic imaginable! It is user-driven, so you can add to the repository if you want! There is a free account, but there are also paid account options if you want to be able to upload videos and other modes of information sharing. But it is free to upload your own slides.

Here is some information from their "About Us" page:

Some things that you can do on SlideShare
  • Upload presentations publicly or privately
  • Download presentations on any topic and reuse or remix
  • Embed on blogs, websites, company intranets
  • Share on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn
  • Zipcast: free, no download, 1 click web meetings
  • Leadshare: generate business leads with your presentations, documents, pdfs, videos
  • Slidecast: sync mp3 audio with slides to create a webinar
  • Embed YouTube videos inside SlideShare presentations
  • Use SlideShare PRO for premium features like branded channels, analytics, ad free pages etc - your source for scholarly stalking

Today while researching an author that publishes often in my substantive area of interest, I came across a cool new website called It looks like it is currently in beta-test form, and it's by Microsoft, so those are two things to consider when viewing it. So, what is it? Basically, it looks like a place to find scholars who are publishing in your area of interest. It featured a nice profile on the author I was searching for: Brian S. Mustanski, I also went to the home page, and found that you could view a graph that displays trends in publications in certain disicplines, and then find the top most published authors in that discipline. A warning, though: the disciplines are VERY broadly defined, so I am not sure how useful it is to have a 100,000 ft. view of the published authors in a disicpline. But, I'll let you decide its usefulness for yourself!