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Re: [O] How do teachers use org-mode

From: Alan E. Davis
Subject: Re: [O] How do teachers use org-mode
Date: Wed, 1 Feb 2012 12:42:30 -0800

I recently retired from teaching (perhaps temporarily).  I was a high school science teacher, for the most part.   I was the odd man out in my school district, perhaps the only one who used GNU/Linux, and on the island where I was working/living the only computer course in the public schools was "comptuer literacy"---a term which meant "able to use M$ Office."   [I did present an install fest workshop, where about 15 teachers were able to install Ubuntu GNU/Linux on their laptops, and a few may still use it, four years or so later, for personal issues.   

Given this environment, I used Free Software tools to do everything, bucking the trend, and eventually org mode became a central tool, though mainly in the support of teaching.   Here are a few things I have done:  

  - used org-mode to collect notes and readings to output using latex export, for handouts.
  - kept daily notes as the days went on, on student progress or issues.  I had developed capture templates to enable the rapid capture of notes on the fly.  Tagging made it possible for those notes to be recovered by period or subject.   I could print a report for a meeting with a parent in about two minutes.  
  -  to capture outlines of the day to day work.   This function could have benefited by better organization.  I could clone a date tree to write "lesson plans" or outlines.
  - twice I used org-mode spread sheets to keep grade records and calculate grades.  It worked fine.   Graphs could be generated. 
  - Carsten's relative timer has been useful in developing notes about videos to facilitate instruction / discussion.  It was possible to sit in class as the videos were playing, and make notes indexed to the elapsed time of the video.   Then, since I had often had copies of DVDs on my computer, or showed them using a computer, I could rapidly / randomly access any sequence by referring to my outline and time marks.  I also used these to edit chopped up versions of a video for class review at a later time, for which I found the tool avidemux2 a perfect one.   (I took a course in Fellini many years ago.   The professor had a whole print, and a chopped up one.  This is an extremely useful tool, and one for which the relative timer is uniquely helpful.)
  - Write tests and output using latex export.  This wasn't as useful to me as examdesign.sty formated tests in straight LaTeX.  I was not able to put together a work flow for doing this using org-mode latex export, though I imagine it is possible.   I could, however, make up short quizzes, sometimes projected as beamer presentation, and the various org-mode tools allow one to keep notes on student progress.  Again, capture templates are the key, and tags help to search and find.  Probably the most useful here was the ability to write questions (capture again), but I had to tweak them by hand during export.
  - use latex export to make up rapid handouts with illustrations.  Org-mode makes this extremely easy and fast.   Too bad others in the school district didn't seem to have time for the learning curve.
  - Rapidly prepare decently presented readings from Project Gutenberg text of chapters of books for student reading, and, when desireable, make them available for students as a PDF.   
   - In fact, rapidly format anything textual for LaTeX output, including outline notes for lecture.
   - Rapidly produce tables of student generated data for immediate output and feedback.  For example, we counted as a class the chirp rate of a cricket that happened to be in the room and correclated the temperatures, on the board.  In three minutes I could produce output for students on a laser printer, for further discussion, and for a response assignment.
   - todo lists with capture templates to make notes on student questions or needs for addressing later.  
   - One thing that was not directly related to instruction was the ability to take notes on student conduct and progress using a capture template.  Although this was not my favorite activity, I was required to do so, and using org-mode I could print out a report for the school administration in three minutes.  This was not my favorite activity.  
    - I developed a template to generate a memo in one minute, or less, that wrapped selected text in a memo header, and generated a PDF.

  This doesn't seem much related to pedagogy, I'm afraid.   Mostly it reflects my teaching style, and is pretty much focused on efficiency,  not including the more sophisticated usages of org-mode that you will want to incorporate into your IT courses.  I came to org-mode through my need for an outliner.   This is by far the greatest outliner I have ever seen. 

Alan Davis

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