Monday, January 31, 2011

Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited: Rapidly Approaching Category 5

The National Academies Press recently released a jaw-dropping report on the state of math, engineering and science education in the United States.  The word cloud below provides a high level summary.  Below are also some of the factoids included in the report.

It's obvious that there is MUCH work to do!

Here's a few factoids from the report:
  • Sixty-nine percent of United States public school students in fifth through eighth grade are taught mathematics by a teacher without a degree or certificate in mathematics.
  • In 2000 the number of foreign students studying the physical sciences and engineering in United States graduate schools for the first time surpassed the number of United States students.
  • The United States now ranks 22nd among the world’s nations in the density of broadband Internet penetration and 72nd in the density of mobile telephony subscriptions.
  • In 2009, 51 percent of United States patents were awarded to non- United States companies
  • Thirty years ago, ten percent of California’s general fund went to higher education and three percent to prisons. Today, nearly eleven percent goes to prisons and eight percent to higher education.
  • The United States graduates more visual arts and performing arts majors than engineers.
  • The total annual federal investment in research in mathematics, the physical sciences and engineering is now equal to the increase in United States healthcare costs every nine weeks.
  • The average American K-12 student spends four hours a day in front of a TV.
  • When MIT put its course materials on the worldwide web, over half of the users were outside the United States.
  • Japan has 1524 miles of high speed rail; France has 1163; and China just passed 742 miles. The United States has 225. China has 5612 miles now under construction and one plant produces 200 trains each year capable of operating at 217 mph. The United States has none under construction.
  • Youths between the ages of 8 and 18 average seven-and-a-half hours a day in front of video games, television and computers—often multi-tasking.
References (for the above) can be found in the full report.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Journals and Blackboard 9

This tutorial will guide students through the steps to post an entry in your student journal in Blackboard. Be sure to follow the instruction from your professor. This is merely a guide on how to use the Blackboard system.

For more information on journals, view the Blackboard User Guide.

Starting Your Submission

[your Journal may be located in the ASSIGNMENTS secion of your course. This tutotial assumes you have located the correct link]
Remember you will have to submit multiple entries. Each time you access the Journal, you will create a new entry. You may have to make multiple entries a week.
You can SAVE entries as DRAFT which can be completed at a later time. You can access your drafts in the top right part of your screen.

Creating Your First Entry

Use this screen to write your entry. See the Blackboard user manual for more information on using the text editor.

Post Entry

You can upload a file before submitting
To POST entry, click POST ENTRY.

View Your Entries

All of your submitted entries will be shown. You can edit the entries IF your instructor has made that option available.
You can view COMMENTS.
Also, the far-right has an INDEX which will show all of your entries (either weekly or monthly). The (2) means there are 2 entries for that time period.
If you have other questions, please contact the Blackboard Helpdesk at (877) 736-2585 or visit their homepage.

View Drafts

Your drafts will be listed. Your instructor DOES NOT see drafts, only the entries that were submitted.

If you need further help, please call the 24 hour Blackboard helpline at 202-274-5665 or toll free: 877-736-2585. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Supplementing Your Course with Blackboard

You may have seen the announcement of our series via the Firebird on the Fly.  Here's a quick blurb from day 1:

DAY 1: Getting Started -- So you read our New Year's Day post and are ready to use Blackboard in a more expansive manner this semester. Now, you are about to populate your Blackboard course.  

First, read this post on 100 Reasons to Use Blackboard before you start. There's likely a few Blackboard features which have slipped by under the radar. Identify those which may be of help and then go down the checklist below. We've listed a few concepts and skills which will be of help as you build your Blackboard site.
Think of your Blackboard site as three areas: content, communication, and assessment. The three areas should align with each other and one should dovetail into the next.  Blackboard's OnDemand Learning Center has some great tutorials which can be helpful as you begin designing your course.

Click on this link to access the series (day 6 will be on top, day 1 on the bottom).

Alternatively, use the list of posts along the right side of the blog to access each day.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Discussion Boards in Blackboard

This tutorial will demonstrate how to create and administer Discussion Boards in Blackboard 9.1. To learn more about Blackboard, view the Discussion Baord section from the Blackboard User Guide.

Creating a Discussion Board

From any Content Page, you can click on the Discussion Board link.

Alternatively . . .

Click on the Tools menu and access the Discussion Board.

Create Forum

You can create a new Forum (or discussion board) or select an existing one. Notice,  you are given statistics on the number of participants in each discussion board.

Enter Forum Information

Be sure to write a meaningful name and description of the discussion board, especially if you have created more than one.

Forum Availability

Set availablity settings.

Forum Settings

Allow anonymous posts
Allow students to remove own posts
Allow students to modify own published posts
Allow post tagging (only instructors can tag post, but students can view them)
Allow students to reply with quote (like email)
Allow file attachments
Allow students to create new threads
Subscribe - Allow students to follow each other (like Facebook or Twitter)
Allow members to rate posts
Force moderation of posts (instructor controls posts... until they are OK'd by instructor, they are not seen by class)
Grade - Grade threads or forums . . . or don't grade at all.

Create Thread

You can create multiple threads within a forum. A thread will usually constitute one topic/assignment.

Thread Actions

Click on the chevron (circled) to access thread options.

Creating a Message

Each thread must start with a message (call to action). This lets the students know what to do in the thread. The thread will typically start with a question/scenario or comment, then invite others to respond.

Grading Discussion Board

If you selected the GRADE option, you will also see the Grade Forum (or Grade Thread) button on the screen.

Enter Grades

You can click on the posts to view all of the entries for each student. Click grade to enter the grade.

Submit Grades

When you grade, Blackboard will generate statistics in addition to allowing you to see student entries. Click edit grade to enter final grade.

Edit Grade

If you've attached a rubric, you will be able to view it while grading. Otherwise, enter numeric grade and provide written feedback for the student. Grading notes are used to enter periodic comments (perhaps weekly) to remind yourself of entries the student made in the discussion board. This is helpful if the discussion board project will last for multiple weeks.

View Discussion Boards Demo

This short clip (turn the volume up) covers discussion boards. The URL to share the link with students is:

If you need further help, please call the 24 hour Blackboard helpline at 202-274-5665 or toll free: 877-736-2585. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Onboarding Students to Blackboard

Onboarding is a term companies use to discuss the process of orienting new employees.  This post uses the term to compare that process to orienting students to your Blackboard site.  This post will also accompany today's Blackboard workshop at the Community College of the District of Columbia.  The top ten:

1. Prepare a Week 0 -- Week 0 is like a prequel to the real thing. Have students submit a faux assignment, take a mock quiz, use the journals or participate in a discussion board.  Personally, I like to give a grade (pass/fail) for the assignment, typically with the quiz score being the way I 'grade' the assignment.  The quiz will usually just have a couple of multiple choice questions.  The goal is for students to feel good about Blackboard before the grades REALLY count.
2. Scaffold Usage of Tools: Scaffolding is an educational term that refers to the purposeful sequencing  of content and instruction.  Therefore, before using wiki's in the classroom, you might want to first discuss how to write for the Internet (individual writing). Then perhaps move to discussion boards to practice how to comment and critique the ideas and words of others.  Finally, introduce the wiki, which employs the aforementioned skills and adds another level of collaboration.
3. Use Screencasts to model Blackboard functionality: Screencasts are short videos which record you computer screen, mouse movements and voice.  Screencasts are an effective way to model Blackboard functionality to students.  You may also use them to review q quiz or explain an assignment.
4. Discuss the Pedagogy Too: If the students don't know WHY they are doing something on Blackboard, it's likely they won't do it well/correctly.
5. Write concise instructions and descriptions and use consist terminology: Never post an item without a description.  Cite due dates, cite connections to the course, share what they should try to extract from the reading/movie/PPT.  Oftentimes, students JUMP right into Blackboard, the couple of sentences they spend reading your description before they open a file may be the only academic orientation they experience.  Make it a good one!
6. Employ Tools in the Class:  Use Blackboard tools in the class.  Use podcasts or blogs to share information with the class.  The more you use it and experience, the greater your personal comfort level.  This will surely translate to the classroom as students will begin to use the tools and feel more confident when they have to create content.
7. Share you experiences with technology: Converse about Blackboard before complaining starts.  Be open and honest with the students.  The shared experience will build community.  Also consider creating a discussion board that acts as a townhall or digital cafe.  Allow students to post their comments, concerns, ideas and be sure to participate as well.  The students will appreciate your presence.
8. Discuss Academic Integrity:  It's so easy for students to plagiarize.  Have an honest discussion about your expectations with the class.  Also introduce SafeAssignment, the submission tool that checks for plagiarism.
9. Set groundrules for academic versus non-academic writing:  Students should not treat Blackboard like it is Facebook.  Be sure to set groundrules for what type of writing is acceptable for your class.  It may also be a good time to talk about 'process oriented' writing ... the concept is often unfamiliar to students.
10. Mention all sources of Blackboard help: 
Did you know that all University of the District of Columbia students have access to FREE Online Tutoring through SMARTHINKING?

There are Math, Business, Nursing, and Writing subjects and over 1500 tutors to help you!

To access FREE tutoring:
1. Log into your Blackboard account
2. Select a course
3. Select "tools" on the left
4. Scroll down to click “Smarthinking login

If you have difficulties accessing your account, please call 202-274-5665 or email
Once you are logged in, check out their Student Handbook here  and feel free to contact SMARTHINKING’s Customer Support Team at 888.430.7429 ext 1 or 


If you have issues, a service desk is available 24 hours a day. You may also be able to have a LIVE CHAT. You can access this site directly at


Visit the Center for Academic Technology webpage [] for other Blackboard related help.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

So You Created an Assignment in Blackboard, NOW WHAT?

This tutorial will describe how to access an assignment (learn about assignments) in Blackboard. Managing assignment submissions via Blackboard provides students with an opportunity to either upload a file or directly insert (copy and paste) text into the submission box. Either way, this tutorial will show you how to access their work.

Access the Grade Center

Two options:
1. Select the chevron (also known as the 'double down arrow' -- shown on the left) to expand the GRADE CENTER menu option then go to the next step.
2. Select the horizontal chevron on the right, which will bring you to the FULL GRADE CENTER. Then skip the next step.



Search for the Assignment

The GREEN EXCLAMATION POINT denotes an assignment that needs to be graded. Click the chevron to view grading options.

View Grade Details


View Attempt


View Submission -- As Text

You can direct students to either submit a file or to paste their text directly into the submission box. This step shows what it will look like if they put text directly into the submission box.

View Submission -- As Uploaded File

Since most students use a word processor to write papers, they may be more comfortable uploading the file to Blackboard. Click on the link to download the file. You will then be able to open the document with MS Word, read and comment. View this Blackboard tutorial on "Electronic Paper Grading"

Providing Feedback

When grading downloaded files, you must decide how to provide feedback. You can use the COMMENTS option in MS Word to embed comments into their paper. Once complete, you must then upload the graded paper back to Blackboard so the student may view your remarks. Alternatively, you may enter comments into the FEEDBACK TO USER box.

Using Instructor Notes

This option allows you to record personal notes on a student's submission. These notes are NOT seen by the student but can be used as a personal reminder if there is a need for follow-up.


If you need further help, please call the 24 hour Blackboard helpline at 202-274-5665 or toll free: 877-736-2585. For more information on Grading Assignments, view this site.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Tips for Math and Science Faculty Using Blackboard

The Center for Academic Technology recently facilitated a workshop on Using Blackboard for STEM Courses.  This posting is meant to be a complement to that offering.
  1. Try Scenario/Problem Based Learning: Problem based learning allows students to learn while doing.  We have all heard the adage, "Talking isn't teaching and listening isn't learning", well PBL is its antithesis.  Once students become active about their learning, many of the communication tools in Blackboard (journals, discussion boards, voice board) become feasible options for the STEM instructor. 
  3. Create Learning Resources: Use podcasts and screencasts to discuss they "why' of math/science: According to the most recent release of the National Survey of Student Engagement, most STEM instructors use 'low tech' means to commiunicate with students.  The use of voice tools (Wimba ClassroomEcho 360,  and podcasting) can allow students to hear and find their 'math voice'.  The voice which provides the reasoning, the 'why', for problem solving.  
  4. Learn to Use Notations in MathType, WebEQ Editor or Equation Editor in MS Word: Many instructors cite the lack of math symbols in Blackboard tools as a reason for not using them.  In fact, Blackboard includes math notations in its text editors and there are also features available within MS Word via a downloadable called Equation Editor.  Microsoft also has an informative website for students to learn about the editor.   One trick I like to use is taking a screen capture of a math equation and then importing the image into Blackboard.  It's a nice way to 'recycle' math problems too.                
  5. Familiarize yourself with Internet resources: Math and science textbook publishers often include free resources for faculty.  Depending on their level of sophistication, these resources can be directly loaded into your LMS or shared with your students electronically.  Many publishers offer paid services which include homework and assignment tracking, as well as online tutoring assistance. Blogs and online presentations which deal with teaching math and science can also be useful. has a great repository of math and science related simulations.
  6. Invest in a pen tablet or tablet computer: Several faculty members at UDC employ tablet computers in the classroom and for online instruction.  A tablet allows you to write directly onto the computer screen, thus eliminating the need for math symbols to be entered via the keyboard.  You can also use a pen tablet which offers the same functionality, but does not provide the screen to act as a point of reference.  
  7. Discuss Learning in the Classroom: As a former math teacher (I didn't retire, just not doing it right now:), I value the conversational aspect of math over 'drill and practice'.  Students spend so little time 'talking' about math, it really is our responsibility to nurture that practice.  This blog post speaks to an emerging practice where profs give students lecture work online and leave classtime for discussion.  The only issue here is that most profs are used to lecturing in class and porting that effort online is not a trivial undertaking.  [see point 2 above]
  8. Enhance their "Math toolbelt": Ira David Socol of Michigan State coined the term which suggests:   "that we must teach our students how to analyze tasks, the task-completion environment, their own skills and capabilities, an appropriate range of available tools… and let them begin to make their own decisions." [excerpted from his blog].  This is especially important when students are taking stand-alone courses.  Learning skills which will help them beyond the classroom (read: 21st century skills) can help set a path for lifelong learning.  I think we all agree that learning which only lasts one semester isn't our goal.  Dr Socol's theory has been tied to universal design theory... worth the read.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Supplementing your Course With Blackboard -- Day 6

Last day, you can rest OR set some stretch goals for next semester.  Identify 3 or 4 things that you would LIKE to do and possibly try to implement a couple in a trial basis (extra credit perhaps) during the semester.  

Take those lessons learned into your Blackboard site for the next semester.  Yes, it sounds early, but I actually keep a folder for next semester as soon as I start the current semester. Personally, I believe it takes from 6 months to a year to fully adopt a new technology. So the earlier you start, the sooner you can add it to your technology toolkit (we are all lifelong learners... RIGHT?).

Did you know that all University of the District of Columbia students have access to FREE Online Tutoring through SMARTHINKING?

There are Math, Business, Nursing, and Writing subjects and over 1500 tutors to help your students!

To access* FREE tutoring:
1. Log into your Blackboard account
2. Select a course
3. Select "Communication and Tools" on the left
4. Scroll down to click “Smarthinking login"
* Faculty cannot login to Smarthinking.  Only students.
Lastly, be sure you make the course available to the students and make a commitment to stay 1 to 2 weeks ahead of the course if you need to make changes. Avoid the situation where you need to make changes on Sunday for class on Monday. Students will pick up on this and it eventually leads to complaints: "It wasn't there when I checked!" is my favorite:)

That completes our series. Outside of visiting this blog often, I also recommend keeping an eye on the Faculty Focus website and their online teacher postings.  

Please use the comments field to share your thoughts or if you want to keep your thoughts private, drop us a line using our online form.
Related Blog Posts:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Student Productivity and Information Literacy

[Special weekly post from Rachel Jorgensen, Digital & Information Literacy Librarian, University of the District of Columbia]

Back in November, the Chronicle of Higher Education published an essay written by a man who works as a
professional ghost writer
for students.

“Ghost writer” is the polite name for what he does – writing research papers, masters theses and dissertations for students. The article garnered a large number of responses (at last count, 641) – the responses are as interesting as the original essay. I thought this one was particularly astute:

America has placed a high premium on quantitative results but has completely undervalued the process necessary to achieve those results. As a nation, we have become acutely aware of certain concrete "goals" (increase test scores, improve high-school graduation rates, ensure that students enter college and exit with diploma in hand). However, we have become so absorbed by meeting these goals that we've lost track of our reasons for having them in the first place. As a result, we have students who emerge from high school …

hardly capable of articulating their thoughts, out loud or on paper. They see college graduation as the key to future professional success (and in many cases they're correct), but they see their classes as merely a means to an end. The true purpose and value of education have been obliterated by our orientation as a society toward having the correct
The full comment, as well as many others, can be seen here.

The article and the conversation it sparked speak directly to the failure of educational systems to provide students with basic skills, such as writing, reading and critical thinking. Paradoxically, it also speaks directly to the value of information literacy as a fundamental skill.

Unfortunately, our students at UDC do not come to us prepared for what we ask of them: in my perfect world the union of “remediation” and “college curriculum” would be undone. At the college level, our task as professors should be the refinement of intellect and skill, not the teaching of basic competencies.

That being said once students are here it is our responsibility to provide them with opportunities to learn. This entails taking away opportunities to cheat.

The Information Literacy program can provide curricular support and direct assistance to students to make these opportunities possible. Here are just a few examples of how this can be done:

  • Have a research guide created to help guide students to appropriate materials.
  • Have the students meet with one of the librarians so that they can have a discussion about appropriate resources.
  • Integrate a library instruction class into your curriculum.
  • Model the research process and break it down into components.
  • Use alternatives to the standard research paper that would require students to find, assess and critique relevant information.
  • Utilize the worksheets created by the Information Literacy program.
  • Collaborate with librarians to create effective assignments that address identifying, finding, assessing, critiquing and creating -- the
    core information literacy concepts.

It is too easy to become overwhelmed when reading such articles in the professional literature – the failure to provide learning in core intellectual
competencies is a grave situation that will have (and has had) consequences. Leave any suggestions for effective coping mechanisms in the comments!

You can use this form to make a request for curricular support -- students can also use it to request an individual session with a librarian!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Supplementing your Course With Blackboard -- Day 5

[We've had a decade of cool dates, but there's only 1 more time, Nov. 11th, is the next 11 years that we'll be able to see a cool date like this again. So here's to 1.11.11!]

On Day 5, you strive for perfection. It's like putting all of the decorations on the Christmas tree, taking a few steps back and saying: "What else can I add without this thing toppling over?"  

First, think information literacy. Like education in general, the library has also transformed with the advent of the Internet and other educational technologies. Consider embedding an information literacy component to a project and critical response paper.  
Expect some hiccups ... though realize the experience of utilizing a 21st century digital library may be new to some of our students. Gaining the experience will be an asset for your students. (see the Partnership for 21st Century Skills for a framework on 21st century learning)

From part 1 of our Information Literacy Series, with guest blogger Prof. Rachel Jorgenson:
…information flows in all directions and does as it pleases, for better or for worse, serving no masters and obeying no party line. -- Walter Kim “Little Brother Is Watching.” New York Times Magazine, October 17, 2010, p. 18.
In essence, information literacy describes a set of skills that allow you
  • a) to collect information, b) critique that information, c) use the information for a specific purpose.
Many institutions and organizations have created their own definition of information literacy, but these definitions, when compared, are very similar to each other. (link to the full post)

The Learning Resources Division at UDC offer services to faculty which include:
  • Information Literacy Instruction 
  • Orientation services for the First Year Experience program.
  • Curricular Support
  • Individual tutoring sessions for students.
  • Professional development opportunities to faculty
  • Information Literacy Program website
Use this form to make a request for their services. 
Information Literacy Services

One of the best additions to Blackboard are the mashups. While the term mash-up doesn't really fit, as implemented in Blackboard, it gives you an opportunity to add content from Slideshare (it's a .net, not a .com), Youtube, or Flickr. Check out this interesting webpage on "The Use of Digital Media in Blackboard"
Never heard of these?

  • Flickr: a site for viewing and sharing photographic images.
  • Slideshare: a site for viewing and sharing PowerPoint presentations, Word documents, or Adobe PDF Portfolios.
  • YouTube: a site for viewing and sharing online videos.

Augment your lectures with existing content from these services. I especially like Slideshare [see blog post
] as there are many quality presentations which can provide background to students.  Don't forget to share your presentations too!

Also check out Blackboard Scholar, which is a social bookmarking tool (Educause's 7 Things You Should Know About Social Bookmarking). It allows you to effectively share links with the class and the outside world.  According to their site wiki:
[Scholar] provides an exciting new way for students and instructors to find educationally valuable resources on the Web. Using the knowledge and power of [a] network of educational users, Scholar will make it easier for instructors and students to find relevant resources on the Internet for courses and research. Furthermore, by storing and sharing associated information with each resource such as tags, disciplines, other users who have tagged and more, Scholar will allow users to evaluate the resources and find the most relevant and reliable.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Supplementing your Course With Blackboard -- Day 4

Most of the heavy lifting is done.  At this point, you should focus on how the site appears to the student.  Often dubbed as a 'learner-centric' approach [view Google Book on Learner Centered Teaching], you want students to be able to readily locate materials, assessments and announcements.  Yes, you did ADD them to the site, but are they easily found?

The Edit button, when turned off, will show how
Blackboard will look to your students.
When turned on, you may make changes again.
Blackboard 9 has an edit mode (see tutorial) which allows the instructor to view the course as it appears to the student.  The button (which toggles on and off), is located in the top right corner of your page.

According to Blackboard:
The Edit Mode toggle allows a user to change the way they are viewing the content on screen. Switching the Edit Mode to ON allows users with certain Roles in the system to add, delete, and edit content and tools in the Course. Switching the Edit Mode to OFF displays the Course as students would see it. The Edit Mode toggle will only appear to those users who have permission to use it.
Bloom's Revised Taxonomy

Lastly, spend a few minutes reviewing Bloom's Revised Taxonomy. This new version introduces a digital element to the 1950s model.

Lastly, look for alignment between course objectives, couse content and course assessment.  If you can’t readily identify how they correlate, neither will the students. The folks at Quality Matters do a great job of embedding alignment into their rubric. Most of their material is copywritten, can't share much:(

Here' a blurb on alignment:
Alignment is an important component of the Quality Matters rubric.  Learning Objectives, Assessments, Resources and Materials, Learner Engagement, and Course Technology work together to ensure that students achieve the desired learning objectives.  When aligned, each of these course aspects is directly tied to and supports the learning objectives which is important for student success.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Supplementing your Course With Blackboard -- Day 3

So you have completed the checklist and created a skeleton for your course and now you are ready to add content. Start with the static items - the ones that won't (or shouldn't) change during the semester.  

Before you start, check out the I-CARE model for displaying information online. The presentation [special thanks to the folks at San Diego State University College of Education] is a bit dated (1997), but I think that adds to its appeal. Good online design didn't START in 2009, the principles are essentially the same, the tools have just become more advanced (remember doing HTML code manually? Probably not:)
At a minimum, add the following items. You should be able to release the course to students upon completion.
  • Welcome statement -- I borrowed this from the folks at Quality Matters. It is nice to have a blurb introducing students to the course. Share a little about yourself and perhaps include a brief activity to get the students immediately involved with contribution to the site. The idea of "Personalized Learning" [see our Nov 29 blog post] resonates here...though suited for blended/hybrid/online courses, some of the tips are universal.
  • Syllabus -- A syllabus is a contract between the instructor and student. [UDC's 2008 ABET review has some guidance for creating a syllabus] Posting this to Blackboard, in addition to handing it out in class, ensures students have access to what is required for class. You can attach as a file, or use Blackboard's syllabus builder [see tutorial for both]
  • Add Contact information/communication statement -- let students know your expectations [see videos from University of Texas faculty on setting expectations online] for checking the site... weekly, everyday? I like to give a finite amount of time... 1-2 hours a week. [Tips for Efficient and Effective Communications Using Blackboard]. I also find it helpful to let students know the response time for emails (typically one business day in my courses)
  • Add folders from your outline/skeleton (i.e. a place for: documents, Powerpoints, discussion boards, assessments -- see video below)

The best piece of advice I can offer when adding content is to FINISH WHAT YOU STARTED. When working online, you will find things get easier as you go. Doing a finite set of tasks in one sitting is much better than starting and stopping and starting and stopping.  

Spend an extra few minutes completing your tasks versus coming back to finish later. I can guarantee, it will take longer to remember where you left off, than it would have taken to finish in one sitting. Perhaps try the Pomodoro Technique (where you work in 25 minute increments), as discussed in the Wall St Journal as one way to get tasks done without interruption.