My favorite tools

I often have friends and colleagues ask me about my take on various tools and programs that I use.  Each of these are for Mac as I work completely on that platform.  I frequently consider adding or changing tools and this list is kept up-to-date (at the top of the page) with my current favorites.

Use Mailbutler to supercharge your Apple Mail

I hate email. I really, really do. Rarely does good news come through my inbox. Instead, I receive everything from administrative requests to complaints to spam. Over the course of the last couple of years, I’ve tried to do everything possible to scale back how much I have to use email. We’ve started using Slack which dramatically cuts down the email my staff sends and I’ve implemented other strategies to reduce the overall amount of email that I receive on a daily basis. Unfortunately, I can’t get away from using email entirely as much as I would love to do so. Resigned to this fact, I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to help me manage and minimize the stress from my email inbox. Over the past six months, I have started using the plugin Mailbutler and I highly recommend you use Mailbutler to supercharge Apple Mail.

Use Mailbutler to supercharge your Apple Mail

As longtime readers know, I’m a big fan of Apple products including many of the built-in programs that come on Mac laptops and computers.

Apple Mail, the email client that comes with Macs, has been my primary email software for probably a decade if not longer. The look, feel, and usability have led me to continue with Apple Mail even if the program lacks the bells and whistles available with other email clients.

Fortunately, I came across a new plugin for Apple Mail that I’ve been using for about six months now. I love it and it really takes Apple Mail to the next level.

How to write an academic CV

One of the questions I often get asked by graduate students or higher education professionals looking to move in academic circles is how to write a curriculum vitae or CV for short.  Curriculum vitae is Latin for “the course of my life” and your CV should should provide a description of the basic blocks of your academic life.  Of course, every field and discipline has slightly different expectations and norms for how CVs should look.  However, in today’s post, I will share the basics of how to write an academic CV that should largely work regardless of your specific field.

Photo credit: Russell McNeil

There is no single convention or style that you should use on a CV.  You should, however, remember a couple of rules of thumb.

Why You Need a Pair of Noise Canceling Earbuds

Think back to your last flight.  Did you notice the frequent flyer with a nice pair of the Bose noise canceling headphones?  Over the years, I kept seeing these headphones on flights, but never understood why people seemed to love them so much.  For my birthday last month, I got a pair of Bose noise canceling earbuds (specifically, I got the QuietComfort 20i).  If you’re serious about focusing and getting your work done, you need a pair of these!

I have found three primary benefits to using noise canceling headphones.  

Create a Great Conference Presentation

Few things are more painful in academic life than sitting through a bad research conference presentation. Typically, you are in a fun place with the opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues that you haven’t seen in several months. Yet, you find yourself in a windowless section of a hotel ballroom listening to a stupefyingly boring presentation. It isn’t hard to present your work in a clear and engaging way. As we enter conference season, I want to provide a few quick tips to create a great research conference presentation.

Photo credit: Flickr Cheryl Colan

There is obviously a great deal of variation in how different disciplines present research at academic conferences. Since my field is education, these tips will be most relevant to others in education as well as probably most social scientists. If you’re in another discipline, my hope is you can take the concepts here and adapt to your specific disciplinary norms.

When preparing your presentation, you want to avoid two things. Having too many slides and too much text on any single slide can ruin your presentation. Focusing on your key points will help you convey your research and keep your audience engaged.

When presenting empirical research, you can use a simple formula to share your work.

1. Introduction (or Context) 1 slide
2. Literature Review and Framework 1 slide
3. Research Questions 1 slide
4. Methodology 1 slide
5. Findings 4-5 slides
6. Implications 1-2 slides

At the most, you shouldn’t have more than one slide per minute you have available to present. Yes, I know many presenters have far more slides than this. But when was the last time you saw a good presentation that stayed within the time limits? The status quo isn’t your friend in this area.

You should also spend the bulk of your presentation time on your findings and implications. Many presenters, especially graduate students, feel the need to spend much of their precious presentation time on reviewing the relevant literature.

Although you want to demonstrate the relevance of your work to others in the field, your audience will be most interested in the findings and implications of your current study. As a result, you should spent approximately 2/3 of your presentation time on these areas.

Another fatal mistake that presenters make is putting too many findings on one slide. This is particularly true for statistical studies that put large tables on a slide that the audience has no hope of reading.

Instead of having to apologize for the font size of your table, fix it before your talk. There are plenty of options to highlight the important points or even pass out copies of your table. It doesn’t help anyone to put a table on the screen that is unreadable.

The same is true for qualitative researchers that put full paragraphs on a slide. If I have to spend 2 minutes reading the slide, I’m not listening to what you’re saying. All you need to provide are short excerpts or key phrases to give the audience a sense of your results.

Academic conferences can be invigorating opportunities to learn about the cutting edge work occurring in your field. Before your next presentation, give your findings the best platform possible. Follow a few of these tips to create a great research conference presentation.