How to Buy a HDMI Splitter

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Most video devices today are supporting high definition multimedia interface (HDMI). This multimedia interface allows the production of high-quality video and audio output. Among devices that support this high definition multimedia interface are video players, particularly Blu-ray disk and HD DVD players and game consoles, such as PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii. For people who have all of those devices, connecting them to a television or other HDMI output devices will be quite problematic, especially if they only have one television to output the HDMI data that are produced by those devices. Problem usually occurs because when there are a lot of devices that have to be connected to one television, they have to unplug cables frequently. If you experience the same problem, you can use 1x8 HDMI Splitter so that you can connect your HDMI devices to one HDMI output device without the hassle of unplugging cables.

You can buy a HDMI splitter conveniently from the internet. When you want to buy a splitter, however, there are several things that you should keep in your mind. Firstly, make sure the splitter that you buy is compatible with your devices. Remember that HDMI technology is a developing technology. Some high-end HDMI devices may not support HDMI connector that is usually used for old HDMI devices. Secondly, make sure you choose an active splitter, which is equipped with switcher, instead of a passive one, which usually causes many problems, including audio and video corruption and dual display problem. And thirdly, make sure you read carefully information about the splitter so that you can install it properly on your devices.

With HDMI splitter, you can now enjoy all of your HDMI devices without hassle. Therefore, consider purchasing one if you have a lot of devices to be connected to a limited number of HDMI output devices.

4 Ways to Give More Effective Feedback to Students

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Among the top concerns of online postsecondary students according to studies like the Noel-Levitz National Online Learners Priorities Report (2011) are the clarity of assignment expectations and the feedback provided by faculty. The irony is that faculty work hard to provide both; yet, most feel students pay little attention to assignment directions or feedback given. The usual recommendation for faculty is that they look back over the weeks of a class because they’ll usually see some improvement in students’ work. However, this improvement isn’t nearly as much as we would like or expect to see. As Marvellen Weimer recently quipped: “[Faculty] should be getting a better return on [their] investment” (5 March, 2012).
Clearly, there are some disconnects at work here; therefore, here are four ways to give more effective feedback to students.
Rubric Power
Most faculty know about rubrics, basically a score card where the main expectations of an assignment are provided along with a score range at each level and a place for comments. Although rubrics are common, few instructors seem to apply them in ways that are truly helpful for both learning and teaching.
First, rubrics should be created with much forethought. Students can not master all of the course outcomes with one assignment; therefore, activities are typically scaffolded to create a smooth learning path to those final outcomes. Rubrics should also reflect that same scaffolding; they should be carefully composed and clearly presented so that they are user-friendly. If you aren’t sure how to create an effective rubric, this YouTube video provides a nice overview of some online rubric generators:

Second, they should be presented on the first day of class; placing them within the syllabus can be helpful as students will see from day one how the class will progress, what steps will be taken to get them to the final outcomes of the course content. It’s helpful for faculty to give a brief overview of this progression as well as the importance of the rubrics.
Finally, the rubrics need to be used when assignments are evaluated. They should be completed with an explanation of why the student met/did not meet each criterion on the rubric to clarify why the assignment received the final score it earned. Additional feedback should be provided to offer the student some tips on how to progress to the next level of demonstratable knowledge and skill. As Heidi Andrade suggests, “Students should be able to use rubrics in many of the same ways that teachers use them—to clarify the standards for a quality performance, and to guide ongoing feedback about progress toward those standards.” These completed rubrics should be attached to or pasted into the students’ assignments so that they have both the evaluation and the example of their work for future reference.
Comments should also be used elsewhere to guide a student’s work. The “comments” feature in various software programs can be helpful in pinpointing specific examples of where the student demonstrated strengths, improvements, and weaknesses. These should be balanced so that students don’t feel they were just ripped apart on an assignment and that their work had no value. On the other hand, even when a project meets or exceeds expectations, comments should be made at the text level to guide students forward in gaining more advanced knowledge and skills.
Additionally, students should not be overwhelmed with repetition or too many comments in-text. As a composition instructor, for example, it’s helpful to focus on one or two major weaknesses in grammar or mechanics by commenting on the first couple of occurrences. I often highlight one or two more without comment to draw the student’s attention to it. This allows the student to see their tendency toward a certain weakness, and guides them toward learning to spot and correct those occurrences in the future.
Within the assignment, holistic comments are also helpful. Pointing out at least one strength that was demonstrated throughout the assignment or that you are seeing demonstrated on more than one activity is helpful to students. Similarly, a general comment on any tendencies toward certain weaknesses and how the student could improve or maybe is showing signs of advancement is helpful. Asking Socratic questions like: “How could you use this strength on your next assignment?” or “How could you reduce the occurrence of this weakness?” can provide teachable moments that will benefit students as they move forward.
In general, keep in mind that comments should be evaluative and instructive rather than simple labeling. They should also be personalized rather than repetitious robo-comments. Texas A & M’s Writing Center provides some useful explanation and examples of comments as well as how they connect to the use of rubrics.
Process over Product
Too often feedback is focused after an assignment is completed; yet, faculty expect students will improve somehow. Feedback is more helpful to the student when it’s provided continually through the process of creating the assignment. Begin providing feedback at the beginning. In whatever subject I teach, for example, we take a bit of time to discuss possible ideas for the project: topic, audience, purpose, mode of presentation, etc. These discussions and the feedback provided from the very beginning do much to prevent students from starting off in a direction that may not fit the assignment’s objectives. Following through on this regularly in class also helps students stay on track while advancing their skills before the final project is due for evaluation. Faculty can also do spot checks using the rubric’s criteria, and working in peer groups on this works well as students learn from one another. Bryan Harris offers seven additional tips to help keep students engaged in learning during process oriented feedback.
Media Rich
Don’t forget the wonderful array of technology that could be used to provide feedback. Increasingly, research is showing that media rich or a multimodal approach to feedback is showing more promise than written feedback alone. Joni Boone and Susan Carlson of Kaplan University recently published a study entitled: “Paper Review Revolution: Screencasting Feedback for Developmental Writers” that documents the success of using screencasting to provide feedback (NADE Digest, 5(3) Fall, 2011, pp. 15-23). As a full-time tutor and writing center director, Boone and Carlson initiated providing feedback that included using Jing to produce an audio file to accompany written feedback. However, this progressed into using Screencasting which allowed tutors to review a paper with both video and audio feedback; students see this more like a face-to-face discussion with the evaluator and a more personal touch (p. 17-18). Although students in the study expressed that they were hoping for guidance on more granular areas like grammar and mechanics, the study showed that students more frequently expressed the intent to improve on larger global issues like improving development, unity, or coherence as they moved forward (p. 20). Boone and Carlson also found that students who received this media rich feedback achieved better grades (average 3.62 GPA) than students who received written feedback only (average GPA 3.13) or no feedback (average GPA 1.4) (p. 21).
While the four tips above may seem time intensive, in reality, they are not. Creating a solid rubric and a focus on process throughout the course rather than waiting until the assignment is submitted to sort out a less focused response to an assignment prompt will save time. Likewise, Boone and Carlson found that the screencasting method they describe was no more time intensive than providing written comments alone (p. 18). Given that these methods produce greater student satisfaction and success while making faculty feel their time, energy and efforts in providing quality feedback have paid off is well worth the effort.

Setting Boundaries with Needy Students

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Most educators have had students who push the limits in regard to needing help with assignments, skills, and/or personal issues. Teachers tend to be caring, compassionate people with “rescuer” tendencies, so they can easily be overwhelmed by these students. For example, you may have an individual in a class who constantly wants to reply to questions, dominate discussions, get your undivided attention on the progress of their assignment, etc., or you may have students who want to pull you aside to share their latest personal crisis and seek your advice. Perhaps the most awkward example is a student with some reasonable accommodations who tries to push these well beyond their intent.
So what is a caring teacher to do? This post should help.
The 90/10 Rule
Dr. Mary McKinney stated the larger context of this issue well when she labeled this the 90/10 Rule (2003). McKinney explains that often people will talk about how 80% of the stress in our lives comes from only 20% of our problems (2003). This is also known as the Pareto Principle after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto who noticed that 80/20 splits are common in human culture, and relationship expert Dr. Adam Sheck explains that this does apply to our relationships (18 January, 2011). McKinney, however, explains that when it comes to the relationship between needy students and teachers, the rule narrows to 90/10, meaning that 90% of a teacher’s stress derives from 10% of the students—specifically, these needy, disruptive students.

Most of us in education would probably agree and add the frustration that this 10% takes up the largest portion of our time and energy. Beyond the actual interaction with these students, there may be forms to complete, resources to find, meetings to attend, etc. Many of us at times also feel unprepared and untrained to deal with some of the issues needy students present. For instance, most of us do not hold credentials in mental health counseling to assist a student who we suspect may benefit from that sort of assistance.
Sheck does offer the start of a solution. He points out that in these situations, people—in this case teachers—need to pick their battles wisely (18 January, 2011). We may not be able to change a needy, disruptive student, but we can certainly choose the most stressful behavior, make recommendations to the student, and hold him or her to it, for instance.
Ideally, however, we could prevent these situations from occurring in the first place.
An Ounce of Prevention
There are some steps faculty should take prior to and at the start of each class; these should then be maintained throughout the semester.
Be Prepared: One way to reduce the incidence of disruptions from attention-seeking students is to plan a class that is well managed and engaging for students while setting up boundaries on your time. For instance, McKinney suggests not being available to students 24/7; rather set up clear policies for how you handle email and other communication (e.g., only during office hours) (2003). She also suggests establishing clear policies about late papers and missed exams (2003). I would add that you should consider expanding these policies to include other expectations including classroom behavior and interaction; however, do so only within the guidelines of your institution as some do not allow faculty to make any changes to a standard syllabus. Likewise, focus on creating assignments and activities that will keep students actively interested and engaged. Generally, making the course content relevant to students’ lives is a good place to start. McKinney mentions not over-preparing for lessons as this can become an endless pursuit of perfectionism: “Allow yourself to teach a ‘good enough’ class” the first time through; then build upon it each semester as you receive both solicited and unsolicited feedback from students (2003). I would add that being a bit flexible with how you approach a lesson based on the day’s context can sometimes result in a better learning experience.
Be Vigilant: Educators often watch for incidents of cheating, students who appear confused on an assignment, and other such issues that may interfere with their learning. Therefore, observe the behavior of students during the first few days of class. The needy students typically make themselves known early on, so address the behavior the moment it happens. For example, if a student wants to be the center of attention by responding to all of your questions, politely ask them to allow someone else to have a turn; then don’t acknowledge the interrupting student. Also, speak with him/her privately after class with a positive tone and try to redirect the behavior. As a department chair, I would say that almost all of the student issues that were referred to me could have been prevented had faculty responded from the moment a needy student issue arose.
Realistically, we know that not all student situations can be prevented. What can you do when issues occur?
A Pound of Cure
McKinney (2003) quite rightly suggests being fully aware of what campus resources exist and how to refer students to them: counseling and psychological, health, academic, and disability services; staff and administrative support; and even transportation information and security. Sometimes students will offer you information on their situation that is helpful to retain for the future. I once had a student hand me a small laminated poster on different types of seizures and how to respond; I carried that in my classroom notebook for a few years. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to these resources. Sometimes faculty feel as if it may reflect badly upon them to refer a student to an academic center or to review a situation with their department chair. The opposite is true: Academic centers want to assist and your supervisor will be glad to see you are taking action to address an issue rather than letting it intensify.
McKinney (2003) also suggests setting a limit on how much time you will spend with a needy student because it is unfair to your other students to let one dominate your time. I used to place a signup sheet on my office door for students to sign up for 15-minute blocks of time; this helped most focus on what they needed to discuss with me, and it gave me a way to end a needy student’s intrusion upon my time. Do be cautious with this, however. To avoid any issues with privacy laws, I would suggest providing students with a random number or something to protect their identity. The signup sheet could also be digital (e.g., a shared document in Google Docs) to limit viewers. The reason for the appointment should never be listed. With these pre-established time limits, you could bring closure to a conversation with a referral to other resources.
The most difficult and probably the most frequently given piece of advice is to avoid letting the student draw you into their mess. You are providing them with the quality classroom experience they signed up for; you’ve shared some relevant resources. You are not responsible for providing advice on their personal lives; you do not need to give them a ride to and from campus; and you certainly do not need to hand over the management of your class to a needy student. McKinney (2003) suggests learning to be respectful, professional, calm, and in control during even the most difficult student exchanges. This is not easy, but frequently this approach along with some redirection works to diffuse a needy student. I would also suggest debriefing yourself after a difficult student situation by venting to a colleague or consulting with your supervisor.
Overall, these common sense tips can help when faced with needy students. Keep in mind that just because you care and want your students to succeed, you do not have to turn yourself into a martyr for their cause. Remember, too, that by adhering to the above, you are being a good role model to your students and providing them with the tools that can help them become less needy in the future.

The 10 Most Impressive Virtual High Schools in the U.S.

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To us, virtual high schools sound like something from The Jetsons, but instead of existing in a world with robot maids and flying cars, they’re here today, and they are really cool. These online schools offer incredible opportunities to homeschoolers, dropouts returning to high school, students with busy schedules, and others who just enjoy the freedom, flexibility, and opportunity provided by virtual learning. We’ve discovered 10 really impressive virtual high schools, including tuition-free and even 3D virtual world schools, that we hope you’ll check out.

  1. VHS

    Virtual High School, founded in 1996, is among the very first virtual high schools ever created. Their typical student is one from a brick-and-mortar high school, taking courses that are not offered on campus. Ashley Munroe, a student from Westerly High School in Rhode Island is taking Mandarin Chinese from VHS, a course designed to further her future career in political science. Teachers involved with the VHS program laud it as “the future of teaching and learning” and “great college prep,” as it allows students to work independently, budgeting their time to meet deadlines, even as they complete other classes at a brick-and-mortar institution.
  2. WiloStar3d

    Ever wonder what it’s like to go to high school in a 3D virtual world? WiloStar3D’s students don’t have to wonder; they know. Through this interactive online homeschooling program, students study in an interactive 3D campus environment that is an ideal setting for gifted, bright students that enjoy creative opportunities. In addition to being an awesome 3D world, WiloStar3D shares innovative educational methodologies, including online role playing, video gaming, and other educational technology offerings.
  3. Stanford University Online High School

    Students can attend Stanford University before they’ve even left the seventh grade. Through Stanford’s Online High School program, gifted students can enjoy a challenging educational program administered by the highly respected university. Like VHS, Stanford’s OHS program is designed to be a college preparatory experience for students, sharing a flexible college-style class schedule that helps students build time management skills. But perhaps one of the most interesting things about Stanford’s program is that it goes beyond the online classroom, bringing students together through clubs and an intensive residential summer program at the university, giving students the opportunity to experience education on a college campus at a young age.
  4. Insight School of Minnesota

    This online public high school offers more than 120 courses benefiting from nationally-recognized curriculum, part of a program that is highly individualized and offers multiple paths that each student can choose. As a public school, it is tuition-free (really), and even provides its students with school-issued laptops. Unlike many virtual high schools, Insight makes it a point to offer extracurricular activities, including dances, graduation ceremonies, and field trips, all designed to bring their online students together socially.
  5. Primavera Online High School

    Another tuition-free public high school, Primavera offers a high quality of education to its students for absolutely nothing. This school’s program is based on active discussion, interactive workbooks, and even blogs that keep students connected to their instructors and classmates. Courses utilize a multimedia-based format that is enjoyable for modern students, and the school has courses that start every two weeks, offering lots of flexibility for students who need it. Primavera has fun events, including a prom, graduation, concerts, and college day. There are several clubs available to students at Primavera as well, including Young Parent Support Group and Student Government.

  1. K12

    K12′s virtual school is one of the biggest providers of online high school education, offering its stand-alone site, as well as branded sites licensed by a number of school districts. Both options offered by K12 deliver impressive results. Through a combination of state of the art lessons, individual learning plans, and supportive learning coaches, students enrolled in K12′s courses are able to not only do well, but perform better than their peers in brick-and-mortar schools. In the 2010-2011 school year, K12 students outperformed the Scantron Norm Group in all grades in reading, and in eight of nine grades in math. In this school, students are expected to take an active role in their education, with parents or teachers performing a supportive role, an arrangement that results in independent, thoughtful students.
  2. BYU Independent Study

    Brigham Young University offers an online independent study program with not just high school level courses, but university, middle school, and personal enrichment courses as well, with more than 500 courses available. What we’re really impressed by is BYU’s level of support offering instructor-guided courses, including live video chats, online discussion board collaborations, and even interactive labs. Non-credit courses are free, and scholarship opportunities are available for high school students. High school students between 14 and 18 years old can complete a standard or advanced high school program through BYU’s online school and receive an official transcript.
  3. Penn Foster

    Penn Foster has been in the business of distance learning for more than 75 years, and they’ve recently gone virtual, offering online education for students starting at grade nine. There is a full diploma program for students in high school, and the school is among the lowest for tuition rates associated with all-inclusive diploma programs. Penn Foster is well-suited for high school students with vocational interest, as it offers vocational courses and full career programs, giving students a great opportunity to prepare for their future career, even in high school. Penn Foster is also excellent for students who have dropped out, need to complete their diploma, or would like to participate in Advanced Placement classes that their own high school may not provide.
  4. Carpe Diem

    Like many others, the Carpe Diem Collegiate School mixes virtual education with brick-and-mortar classroom learning, creating a blended learning school with amazing academic gains. Carpe Diem’s approach to learning has really paid off, reaching a level of 95% proficiency in all subjects in Arizona, a state with about 50% proficiency. We’re impressed by this school’s performance, but we’re even more interested in Carpe Diem’s students: many of the school’s students suffer from great socioeconomic challenges and have a history of struggling academically.
  5. Allied National High School

    Designed with homeschoolers in mind, Allied National High School is one of the most flexible virtual high schools available to students today. Students can take college prep courses, take advantage of transfer options, earn college credit, and enroll at any time of the year. ANHS has flexible scheduling and start dates, so students can set their own schedule and work at a comfortable pace, making it an ideal option for students who need to earn additional credits, get a head start, or earn college credit. After high school, ANHS students can move on to Allied American University, the school’s college option.