ProfHacker OpenSearch Plugin

Firefox search options in a drop down menu

Photo credit: Brian Croxall

I’ve been a regular reader of ProfHacker since its launch (i.e. before it moved to the Chronicle of Higher Education Blogs). The tips and tutorials are helpful – and usually timely. I found the site so useful that I was constantly sharing links with colleagues, but I’d accumulated so many bookmarks that sometimes finding the right article was a challenge. What I really needed was an easy way to search the site.

I took this as an opportunity to create a Firefox search plugin using OpenSearch. Then, when I needed to find something on ProfHacker, I could use the browser search bar (using Ctrl+k / Cmd+k) to choose ProfHacker from the list of available search engines.

Once ProfHacker moved over to the Chronicle of Higher Ed, the site specific search plugin broke, but the tool was great while it lasted.

University of Windsor Feminist Research Group

a mosaic of the 2009 FRG conference. There are people presenting at lecterns, sitting on the grass, chatting, singing and playing guitar

2009 FRG Conference at the University of Windsor

I’ve been a member of the University of Windsor Feminist Research Group (FRG) since 2005. The group’s founding focus was an annual conference, organized by and for graduate students. The first year I submitted my submission was…slightly unusual…so I was invited to present “Ladies’ Tea: the Board Game” even though I was still an undergraduate student.

FRG program 2005 - Inter-Actions: Exploring diverse feminist perspectives

The conference program from FRG’s 2005 conference

After attending that year, I got involved with the organizing committee, helping on the technical side with websites and program design, as well as with outreach, promotion, and organizing the social events for the conference after-hours. I also continued to present papers each year.

After 10 years of annual conferences, FRG has shifted towards other forms of feminist research. Even though I’ve finished grad school and I’m not currently teaching, I’ve stayed involved with the group for the connections and support that a group like this provides.

Maryan Amalow, ED for Part-time Students at the University of Windsor in the student centre at the University of Windsor

Maryan Amalow, ED for Part-time Students at the University of Windsor

For International Women’s Day 2012, I coordinated an FRG photobooth in the student centre to photograph students and submit them to the Feminist Photo Blog Project, challenging the “This is What A Feminist Looks Like” stereotype and in April 2012, I coordinated a face-to-face plus video book club with author Margaret Dilloway for FRG members to discuss her book, How to Be an American Housewife. To video conference with the author, we used Google’s new (at the time) video Hangouts tool.

I continue to provide technical support to the group, mostly helping to manage the listserv as needed.

Teaching and Learning

Read my teaching philosophy.
Jump to my teaching experience.

Teaching Philosophy

We begin from where we are.

Each student enters the classroom with experiences, knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, and assumptions. As a teacher, it is my role—and my challenge—to create learning opportunities that are relevant and relate-able. I begin by acknowledging where the student is currently situated and then challenging them to challenge themselves.

Take for example when I teach digital history methods. Students are surrounded by history: their own as well as that of their friends, families, communities, countries, and world. They may not have conceptualized their photo albums as History or considered that their family recipe books, old report cards, and gathered beach treasures tell stories about where they’ve been and who they are. My first task is to help them see their own histories. Secondly, I recognize that students are surrounded by tech: some immersed in it, some involved more peripherally—always conscious that some fear it—but they all know it’s out there and there are occasions when they all must access it. As their teacher, I take that with which they are already familiar and apply it to the field of History. I begin by helping them see how they are already doing history and that they are already connected in some way with the methods. By doing so, we begin from where we are.

Students are in my class for a short time, but the influence of our time together can last. By building on what they already know and creating relevant learning opportunities, students develop competencies with ideas and tools that they will use in the field after graduation. Learning to do research, how to think critically, conducting a comparative analysis, challenging an argument, writing well: these are all things that serve an individual long after graduation, whichever path they follow.

Students enter the learning environment trusting that there is something to learn and that with persistent effort they can succeed. I provide incremental challenges, each building on previous successes. I act as guide through class material, but students make their own discoveries. For example, a writing assignment that begins with a submitted proposal, then an outline, then a draft, then a formally developed essay provides opportunities for feedback at all stages, revision, and expansion of ideas, arguments, and writing. In this way, I am as interested in—and value—the process as well as the content.

My classroom is a community and I strive to create a learning environment that is democratic and welcoming. At our first meeting, we work together to outline teacher and learner responsibilities and acceptable behaviour for our time together. Students work together throughout the class to create and compile resources as a group. A class wiki is a great tool to build a shared class set of resources. This helps build the community and introduces the students to the community of scholars of which they are all a part, even if to them it is temporary.

I provide information in accessible ways. I use text, audio, video, movement, and concrete objects in my lessons. By using a multi-modal approach to teaching and learning, I hope to engage students’ learning preferences and styles. I also demonstrate a multiplicity of teaching and learning methods, which I hope inspires the students’ own presentations. For instance, a favourite lesson on World War II Prisoner of War camps also includes a social history lesson and a chance to learn a Scottish Country dance.

I make learning relevant. As much as possible I offer students choices in topic and format for their summative work. Students are able to work on something they are interested in, which increases their engagement. Work that students do should matter; it should have a purpose to them in and out of the classroom. To this end, I try to create assignments that the students and the community will value. Students create something they will be able to use in their own portfolios and that has a life expectancy longer than the end of term. This acknowledges their place as contributors to the discipline and values their contribution to the field of History. Opportunities for collaboration with the community (local and/or discipline-specific) become possible. Whether this is creating an annotated group bibliography in Zotero; a mashup in GoogleMaps, or an online museum exhibit of a period, person, or place, I want students connect their schooling with their lives, rather than view it as a series of hurdles to jump to earn a diploma.

I provide clear expectations from the outset. This helps nurture teacher-student trust. Clear expectations combined with support and early and incremental successes, has the potential to stretch students to take risks and shift into the place where learning happens. Risk-taking is important to learning and I’m learning ways to allow this to happen without penalty when things don’t work out.

Students are active participants in the classroom: they contribute to—and shape—the learning that takes place in the classroom. I encourage students to bring questions to class. Students discuss what they are reading, watching, and hearing, how it relates to other class material, and their lives outside school. I use in-class discussion techniques (think-pair-share, fishbowl, small & large group discussions) as well as an online discussion board (in Sakai LMS), and I’m excited to try incorporating microblogging into my teaching. Using Twitter, students will be able to use mobile devices to continue class discussions outside our regular meeting times, ask questions, and connect with each other and the larger community. Students are regularly asked to reflect on what they are learning as well as the learning process. I ask for feedback at regular intervals so I can improve my effectiveness as a teacher.

Learning can happen at any time—not just in the classroom—and learning continues after the students leave my classroom. I hope my students go forward better able to meet whatever challenges they face in their futures.

Teaching Experience

Sessional (Adjunct) Instructor

Winter 2011, Summer 2011
Gal Pals: Women and Friendship over Time
Totally online course
Women’s Studies, University of Windsor

Fall 2011
History of Women’s Movements in North America
University of Windsor
Cross-listed: History and Women’s Studies

Teaching Assistant

I’ve had a range of responsibilities as a TA. I’ve facilitated small and large face-to-face and online discussion groups (20-150 students). I’ve developed rubrics and evaluated essays, creative assignments, and exams. I’ve held online and face-to-face office hours, operated in-class tech, and led weekly tutorials.


  • Modern Europe
  • History of the World in the Twentieth Century, 1900-1945 (x2)
  • History of the World in the Twentieth Century, 1945-present

Women’s Studies

  • Love, Honour, and Obey: Marriage and Gender
  • Women in Canadian Society (x3)
  • Women and Globalization
  • Gal Pals: Women and Friendship Over Time

Information Technology/Computer Science

  • Cyber Ethics (x6)
  • Computer Concepts for End Users

Comments from Students

Becoming a more effective teacher is an ongoing process. One thing I do to keep improving is encourage student feedback. Below are some of the comments I’ve received from the students I’ve taught and TA’d, and from participants in workshops I’ve facilitated. The text-image is a Wordle made from the comments.

words about teaching and learning

  • You bring so many diverse talents together (dance, history, women’s studies, technology, organization, writing) that you fit naturally into the role of an effective teacher.
  • You are so strong at being an engaging, supportive, and happy instructor. You visibly want to share knowledge.
  • FYI – I got an 87% on my History paper. Thanks for your tutelage!
  • Organized and informative
  • Keep using colour. It helps us categorize, even if we don’t notice overtly.
  • Engaging and personal interactions as I felt you connected with us.
  • You got us to think about our pre-conceived ideas/images of the military and then drew a clear link to cultural preservation in the military.
  • Excellent clear use of flip charts. Both prepared and dynamic.
  • Very interesting. The presentation increased my interest and knowledge of the topic.
  • Instructor very passionate about the topic!
  • Excellent – can’t think of what could be done differently.
  • Your room set-up was awesome and very enticing. So welcoming and stimulated curiosity.
  • Twitter is new to me. My first impression about it was negative, but your presentation pointed out to me how it can be used in a positive, educational way.
  • Candace was visibly patient and approachable. Very nice!
  • Thank you so much for your help today. It is greatly appreciated! I have finished my paper, after much revision. Thanks again! You helped me gather my thoughts and finally learn how to cite my work.
  • Thank you for being so patient with me.
  • You managed to teach in very different styles, using methods that match all the different learning styles. I was energized by your lessons.
  • You have such a great presence and demeanor as you teach.
  • I appreciate your efforts and genuine-ness. I have learned a great deal from you.

Mapping Community Assets: Learning by doing

University of Windsor Social Work students have agency placements in their senior year, where they gain experience in the field and make community connections. Each student brings enthusiasm and unique skills to their organization. Take Lillian Gallant for example: her placement was been at the Ford City Neighbourhood Renewal project (housed in the Gino A. Marcus Community Centre).

Lillian started out with a plan to inventory the community, and from there, she developed a “community asset map” using GoogleMaps. Combining her interest in emerging technologies and her social work background led to this fantastic map of the neighbourhood. The process was a hands-on way for Lillian to learn about the community and the resulting visualization is a great way for her to share the results with the community.

I consulted on the technical aspects at each stage of the project.

Click on the different icons to reveal information about each asset:

View Ford City Community Asset Map in a larger map

Spicy Nodes for Active Learning

I love trying out new (to me) tools for teaching and learning. I was looking for a way to model “Active Learning” — this idea that students learn when they’re engaged in the process of learning. I found “Spicy Nodes” and voilà: a visualization of active learning was born. Click on the various “nodes” or bubbles to expand and see what’s buried beneath. Continue clicking on each node until it goes no further. You might find you’re actively learning about active learning. (Woah — that was kind of meta!) Go ahead and try out the tool yourself. There are both free and premium accounts available.