Apr 122014
 

You’ve probably heard about Heartbleed by now. This Gizmodo article does a nice job explaining what it is and why it’s problematic. How do you know which of the sites you’ve logged into are at risk? How do you know if that service has updated their software to fix the bug making it safe to change your password on that site? There are 496 sites for which I have a username and password. How am I supposed to know which ones are vulnerable. As a LastPass user, LastPass will tell me. [If you're not yet a LastPass user, this previous blog post, although a bit dated now, will give you the overview of what LastPass does.]

Run the LastPass security check

Log into the LastPass website. On the far left, click “Security check.”

On the next page, click the big red “Start the Challenge” button. You will be asked to re-enter your LastPass password. You’ll see your security score and ranking which is based on things like how many weak passwords you have and how often you reuse a password. Scroll down and you will see this.

For the websites marked “Go update!” go change your passwords. Remember to use the LastPass random password generator to create strong, unique passwords. When you assign a new password to a website, be sure to tell LastPass that you are replacing an existing LastPass website so you avoid having duplicate LastPass entries: one with the old password and one with the new password.

Dropbox example

I went into my account settings in Dropbox, clicked on the Security tab, and selected “Change password.” That generated this popup. I clicked the LastPass icon to automatically fill in my current password. Next, click lock/arrow-around-it icon to generate a new password.


LastPass will give you a new password based on the parameters you used the last time you generated a new password. You can change the length of the password, and if you click on advanced options, you can decide if you want special characters, numerals, etc. Once you’re happy with your password, you will get this popup. Click “Yes, Use for this Site.” The new password LastPass just created will replace the old password in your LastPass Dropbox entry.

Click “Change password” and Dropbox will make the change.

Done!

Now, go do it for all of the sites LastPass says you should update.

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Apr 012014
 

When asking students during class to respond to multiple choice questions, you have a number of options. You can use a dedicated clicker system like iClicker where you can have students use a remote or a web-enabled device to respond. You can use a completely web-based system like Socrative. You can go the low-tech route and have students hold up one of their A through D cards. Or you can merge high-tech and low-tech and use Plickers, although this doesn’t feel low-tech at all.

With Plickers, each student gets a unique QR code (download the PDF). The orientation of the QR code determines the student’s answer. This is card 1 showing B as an answer. Rotate to the left and C would be the student’s answer. Ask your multiple choice question, and have students respond by holding up their cards with their answer pointed up.

Working with the app.

Open the Plickers app on your smartphone or tablet* (Android/iOS). If you have assigned cards to students, you’ll see the students’ names on the left. If you haven’t, you’ll see the card numbers. Notice how they are all gray.

Click “scan.” Your device’s camera will come on. As you stand at the front of the room panning from one side to the other, the app will register the QR codes your students are holding up. (The 5.5″x5,5″ cards are readable from 20-25 feet; I had no problem picking them up in the back of my classroom. If you have a larger room, you may choose to use the bigger 8.5″x8.5″ cards.) As each code is scanned, you’ll see an orange outline appear around the QR code and the answer the student selected will appear in blue above the QR code. This is much easier to see on a tablet than on a smartphone. As each student’s response is recorded, their gray box will turn blue. If you tap the menu button (three vertical dots), you can toggle the student names off and toggle the bar graph of results on. If you want to be the only one to see this information, you can stop here.

Working with the website.

If you want the students to their names and the results, let’s switch over to the website, Plickers.com. Go into the course you created when you signed up, and click the “Teach!” button. (More on course creation below.)

This is what the webpage looks like before scanning the QR codes. (“Grid” shows you each of the cards.)

As you scan with your device, students will see their box go blue so they’ll know their response has been recorded.

While that’s all good, what you really want to see are the results. Click “Graph.”

If you want to see how each student responded, click on the “Classes” button, select your class, then select the poll you’re interested in. Unfortunately there isn’t a way (yet?) to download the responses, but it’s easy enough to copy and paste the student responses into a spreadsheet.

Creating a class and assigning cards to students.

Click on “Classes” and then “Add a new class.”


After naming your class, you can enter your students’ names. Cards will be assigned in order. (Yes, it would be cool to upload a .csv file with names and card numbers already entered, but alas, not yet.) Click on a student’s name or card number to change it. This feature is a little buggy. Sometimes the changes stick and sometimes they don’t. Navigating to another page and coming back seems to help.

Note: Students can change their answers as long as you’re still scanning. You can even switch to the graph view before you’re done scanning, and students can watch their answers come in. Let’s say, for example, you ask students how well they believe they understand a particular concept, from A (totally get it) to D (totally confused). If you have a number of students at the D end, you can leave the question running as you try a different way to help students grasp the concept. Tell students to hold up their cards as their understanding changes, and do another scan. Have the responses slid toward the A side? If so, you know you can move on.

Plickers is a new product, so keep your eyes open for new features and improvements!

*If you are going to use your tablet, test it first. On my Ellipsis, Plickers worked great. On my Galaxy Nexus, it read the QR codes incorrectly; it read them as though the student responded with the letter on the left, not the letter on top.

 

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Feb 282014
 

In academia, email continues to be our primary means of communication. Since this is where we spend most of our working hours, it makes sense that we use email to keep our lives sorted. For email messages I want to follow up on, I forward them to followup.cc. For email messages I need to do something with, I forward them to Trello, my preferred task management system. And this is why I’m excited about the newest addition to my email arsenal: Super.cc. Now I can use email to add appointments to my Google calendar.

Signing up.

Go to Super.cc, and enter your email address (you can add more email addresses later), and give Super.cc permission to add stuff to your Google calendar. Now you’re ready to go.

Adding an appointment.

Send your email message to add@super.cc. In this example I have written the day of the week (I could have said March 3rd), the time (I could have included the time zone), and the location (expressed as “@ location”; if it’s a notable landmark, Super.cc will look up the address. Or you can enter a phone number for location as @ 800-555-1234). Here I’m setting up a time to get together with myself. If I were reading an email someone had sent me, I could forward it to add@super.cc. Super.cc does a pretty good job digging the time and date out of the body of the email.

Within seconds, I got an email confirmation from Super.cc with the appointment information in it, which is nice to see, but the magic is my calendar. In Google calendar, I can see that the appointment has been added to the next available Monday, March 3rd at 8am with a default meeting length of one hour. The subject line of the email message becomes the subject line of the appointment.

This is what the appointment itself looks like. The location was automatically added to the “Where” field. The description contains what was written in my email.

Conclusion

This is one of those tools that’s going to slip right into your workflow. You’re going to wonder why it ever seemed normal to open up your calendar to add an appointment.

Super.cc is a new product, so keep an eye out for added functionality. They’ll email you with new features, but you can always check in on their FAQ page.

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Feb 042014
 

Here’s the problem I ran into. What seems like years ago, I gave up carrying my files on a flash drive from my home laptop to my work laptop to my classroom computer. Dropbox has been my go-to service for synching files across computers. Dropbox works beautifully for making sure my files are up to date on my home and work computers and for accessing those files on my mobile devices. My classroom, however, has continued to be a bit of a thorn. Yes, on my classroom computer, I can open the web browser, navigate to Dropbox.com, and download the files I want for that day’s class. But with only 7 minutes between the end of the previous class and the start of my class. With the previous occupant needing time to pack up and log off after his class I really only have about 3.5 minutes.

My college gives faculty a universal storage location accessible from anywhere on campus. If I can log into a computer on campus, including when my work laptop is connected to the campus network, I can access this space. On our campus, our IT people have named it the M drive. I don’t want to put my work laptop Dropbox folder in there; I would only have access to those Dropbox files on my work laptop while on campus. I could manually copy my course files to my space on the M drive, but then I’m pretty much back to the flash drive problem where I have to remember to copy over newly revised files. So then I thought, “There must be software that will let me automatically clone a folder, where any changes to one folder would automatically be synched to another folder.”

FolderClone (30 day free trial; $29.95 one-time fee for the standard edition; Windows7 and earlier) will do a one-way synchronization. Any changes made to the source folder will automatically be made to the target folder on whatever schedule you choose, or/and you can sync them manually.

When you install FolderClone, a short tutorial appears. Feel free to go through it, but FolderClone is pretty intuitive. FolderClone calls each act of folder cloning a “task.” When you create a new task, the new task wizard will ask for a task name and description. I’ve named my task “Psych 100 folder,” and I’ve added a description.

After clicking “Next” I’m asked for the location of the source folder. Just “browse” for it like you normally do. My source folder was my Psych 100 folder in Dropbox.

Then FolderClone asks for the location of the target folder. I decided I wanted a folder on my M drive called “Psych 100 FILES” to be the target. If there are files in the target folder, they will be erased and replaced with just the source folder content. You can note that you don’t want the target folder’s content replaced, but if I were you, I’d either remove the files from the source folder or create a new source folder. Since I’m cloning a folder, I want the content to be identical; I don’t need extra files floating around in there. See the little folder icon on the right side of the screen shot? I can add more target folders if I want, say to an external hard drive as well. For my purposes, just one copy on the M drive is good enough.

Now I get to pick which files I want to copy. Since the point is for me to have all my files at the ready, I’ve chosen “All Files in Source Folder.”

In step 6, FolderClone asks me how often I want it to compare the source and target folders. (If you’ve been paying close attention, you will have noticed that there is no step 5. I looked for it. It’s just not there. Beats me.) The default for how the sync is done is “Manual Clone.” That means files will only be copied when I tell it to. Since I want this to be automated, I chose “Run Only on Selected Days of the Week” (Monday through Friday) at noon since I’m likely to make changes to course files in the morning before my afternoon classes. In the summer, when I’m not teaching, I’ll turn FolderClone off altogether (and schedule a followup.cc reminder for the week before fall classes to tell me to turn it back on again).

In the last step, I get a summary of what I created. Clicking “Run Now” immediately copies my Psych 100 folder in my work laptop’s Dropbox folder to my space on my college’s M drive. And it did it quickly – 822 MB of data (415 files in 30 folders) were copied in under a minute.

FolderClone will run in the background. You can find its sheep icon in your system tray.

Even though I have scheduled a time for automatic synching, I can always run FolderClone manually. Right click on the sheep icon in the system tray, and then click “Run Task.” If I have more than one task, I can pick the one that I want or I can “Run All Tasks.”

If you select “Show Main Window” you can see the tasks you have created, when those tasks last ran and when they are schedule to run again, create a new task, delete a task, manually run a task, etc.

To recap, all of my Intro Psych course files are synched across my devices using Dropbox. And now, using FolderClone, they are also synched to my college’s M drive. When I log into my classroom computer, I can open the M drive and find all of my (current!) Intro Psych course files.

Problem solved!

 

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Feb 032014
 

As readers of my blog know, I’ve been a big fan of Join.me for screen sharing. While Same.io doesn’t allow others to control your screen like Join.me does (yet?), Same.io does have video conferencing. Let’s take a look at how Same.io works.

Go to Same.io, and click the big “Share my screen” button in the center of the page. Your web browser will give you a popup asking if you really want to share your screen. Say yes. [Tip: If Same.io slows down your computer, close all of your other web browser tabs. I found that with the 9 tabs I had open, Chrome slowed down so much, I couldn't do anything.]

In the center of the screen with be the URL you can share with whomever you’d like. As long as you’re in screen sharing mode, this URL will connect whoever has the URL to your computer screen. At the very bottom of the screen, you can see that Same.io is sharing your screen. When you’re done, click the blue “Stop sharing” button. If you just want to communicate via microphone, click the mic icon in the top left corner of the screen. If you want to communicate with both audio and video, click the camera icon.

Here you can see I’ve turned my webcam on. Clicking the microphone icon will mute the mic. Clicking the camera icon will ‘mute’ the camera. At the bottom of the page, you can see that I have someone who has accepted my invitation. The location is determined by IP address. Don’t be surprised if it’s not where the person actually is. It should be close, though. To the right of the location is the IP address. Now I can invite my collaborator to share their microphone (by clicking their mic icon) or both their mic and camera (by clicking their camera icon).

When the person accepts, their webcam image shows directly below mine. In all of these screenshots, I have the Same.io webpage up on my screen. I could have switched to my Word document, my email, a spreadsheet, or even just my desktop. Whatever I see on my screen is what others will see on their screen. Important note: If you have dual monitors, both monitors will be seen by those with whom you are sharing your screen.

The URL is a one-time use only URL. After I stopped sharing my screen, this URL no longer worked. The next time I share, Same.io will generate a new URL. If you upgrade ($9.99/month or $99.99/year), you will get your own custom URL and the ability to password protect it. In other words, I could send people to same.io/suefrantz, and give them a password to get in.

Your mobile experience may vary. I tried connecting to the shared screen using Chrome on my Android tablet, and all I got was the main Same.io page.

The developers are actively working on this product, so look for new features in the coming months.

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Dec 262013
 

I have put MS Office 2010 to bed and have moved on to MS Office 2013. There’s nothing like new software replacing old to knock you out of equilibrium. This post is going to deal with the “Save as” menu. When I first saw the “Save as” options, I was pretty stoked. I could save to my newly-created college SkyDrive account. I could save to my personal SkyDrive account. I could save to my computer. With “Add a Place,” I naively thought, “Cool, I can add places like Dropbox and Google Drive.” Using MS Office 2013 out-of-the-box, as it turns out, you cannot do this perfectly reasonable action.

This is what I wanted.

To get there, you have to do a quick and easy work-around. This method worked for Windows 7. I make no guarantees for Windows 8.

Close all running MS Office programs.

Go to this webpage and follow the directions. On that webpage you will download and run two scripts: One for Dropbox and one for Google Drive. Of course, if you just want, say, Dropox, then just run the Dropbox script. To finish running the scripts, you will need your computer’s pathways to your Dropbox and Google Drive folders. If you’re not sure what those pathways are, there’s an easy way to get them. Navigate to your Dropbox folder, and right-click in the address bar. You can even right-click on the word “Dropbox”. Select “Copy address as text.” Open a new tab in your web browser (or open a non-MS Office text editor, such as Notepad), and paste. That’s the path to that folder. If you want to do the same for Google Drive, repeat for your Google Drive folder.

Once you’ve finished running both scripts, open MS Word. Create a new document, and tell Word you want to save it. On the next Window, click “Add a Place.” You will now see Dropbox and Google Drive there as options. Click to add them.

Next time you want to save your new document to Dropbox, just click “Save,” click “Dropbox,” and you’ll be able to quickly navigate your Dropbox files. Doing this in one Office product, say, Word, makes it work in all other Office products, say, Excel.

I have a sneaking suspicion that this will be the first of many Office 2013 tips and tricks blog posts.

 

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Dec 202013
 

Are you looking for a tool that works as a to-do list manager and a project manager? A tool that will work for your own use as well as being good for collaborative work? A tool that is as effective and easy to use as it easy pretty? A tool that works well on both your computer and on your mobile device? Trello has it all, for free. Trello Gold, $5/month or $45/year, gives you added functionality. Everything you see here is what’s available in the free version.

Do you remember the old school video games that came with a thick user’s manual that you had to read through before you could play? Then someone in the gaming world had the genius idea of building tutorials right into the game. You didn’t need to read the manual. The game taught you what you needed to know as you moved through it. Trello has taken a page out of the gaming programmer’s playbook. When you create an account in Trello, you are provided with a “Welcome Board” that shows you the ropes.

Now, if I were you, I’d take a glance at the image below, get the gist of it, and then go create a Trello account. Play around a bit, and then come back here for the specifics.

Boards and lists

The first column introduces you to the basics. In Trello, each task is placed on a card. To view the information attached to a card, click on it. You can write a simple description, attach pictures, files, or URLs. Or build a checklist

On the intermediate list you learn about adding team members to your board, assigning team members to cards, color-coding your cards, adding lists, dragging cards, and archiving cards you’re done with.

The advanced list reminds you that you can create multiple boards. Create one for your personal to-do list and a different one for that committee you’re chairing or your research assistants. Or share a board with your classroom students so you can monitor their group projects. (For each person you get to join Trello, you get a month free of Trello Gold – up to 12 months.)

Cards and lists

Clicking on a card generates a popup window. Think of this as being the flip side of the card. In this example, I clicked on the card aptly named “Click on a card to see what’s behind it.” At the top we see both the title of the card and the list that it’s in (Basics). The card’s description is below that. The “Activity” panel shows who has done what with the card

On the right side of this popup window, click “Edit Labels” to color code the card – add as many labels as you’d like. Click on the color bar to select them. Click “Change label titles” to add labels to your color coding. If you or one of the people sharing this board with you are color blind, click “Enable Color Blind Friendly Mode” to make patterns overlay the green, orange, and purple patterns.

If you are sharing a board with one or more other persons, and you want to identify who is working on what, click “Assign Members,” and then click on the person or persons you want to assign to the task. The “Welcome Board” Trello starts you with, you share a board with Trello. Here I have clicked on me to assign myself to this particular card.

In the “Actions” section, you can add a checklist, add a due date, attach a file, move the card, subscribe to get a notification when something about the card changes, vote on the card, or, if you’re done with this particular card, archive it. Archived cards can be searched later. Later in this post you’ll see where you can find those archives and learn how to permanently delete a card.

While you can attach a file using this menu, you can also just drag and drop a file onto either the front or back of a card. I’m going to drag and drop a photo of one of my dogs onto the card. After my changes, this is what the card looks like now. My image in the corner means that I’m assigned to do something with this card. The eye icon means I’m subscribed to receive change notifications, the pencil means that there is a description on the “back” of the card. The icon with the callout bubble tells me that one comment has been made on this card. The paperclip icon tells me that one attachment has been added – that would be the photo of Lucky.

To add a new card to a list, click “Add a card” at the bottom of the list. To move it to a different place in the list or even into a different list, click on it, drag it to where you want it to go, unclick. To add a new list, click “Add a list” on the far right of the board.

One more word about lists. Mouse over the right corner for any list title. Click on the arrow that appears. You can’t see it in this screenshot, but I circled where it would be. That gives you a popup menu for the list. This menu is all about manipulating the list: Copy it, move it, subscribe to get a notification when something on the list changes, move or archive all of the cards, or just archive the entire list.

Board menu

To the right of the board, click on “Menu.” If “Menu” isn’t there, the sidebar is hidden. Click “show sidebar.”


“Filter cards” lets you identify which labeled cards you’d like to see. If you only want to see the cards you’ve added red labels to, click the red label. Or maybe you want to see all the cards assigned to a particular person. Or maybe you want to see all the cards that are overdue. Or you can mix and match – you want to see all the red and green labeled cards assigned to a particular person that are either overdue or due in the next week. When done, click “Clear filter.”

Cards and lists are not automatically deleted. They are archived. You can always go into the archive. Scroll through them. Search for them. If you truly are done with them and are ready to delete, click “Delete.”

Add stickers to your cards to liven things up a bit. This is the default sticker set. Click and drag a sticker onto a card. If you go with Trello Gold ($5/month or $45/year) you will get additional sticker options.

The “Welcome Board” has the voting option. When you create your own board, voting won’t be there. To activate it, go into “Power-ups” and enable it; “click for details” to decide who gets to vote. “Card Aging” will take the cards that have nothing done with them in a while, and will make them transparent. If you’re going to use this feature, “click for details” and in settings, select “Pirate Mode” to go with a yellowed, cracked paper look rather than transparency. Lastly, the “Calendar” power-up lets you see your cards with due dates in a calendar format. You’ll see a new “calendar” link at the very top right of the board in the board’s title bar.

Lastly “Settings.” You can rename your board here (or you can do that by clicking the pencil icon next to your board’s title). “Change organization” to change which organization this board is connected to. (If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that this is the first you’re hearing of organizations. Let me finish talking about settings, and then we’ll tackle organizations.) Use “Change Background” if you don’t like the default blue. In the free version, there are 5 other colors you can choose from. Upgrade to Trello Gold to get something spiffier like photos, patterns/textures, or create your own custom background. I can decide who gets to see this card through “Change Visibility.” By enabling “Card cover images,” you get to see my dog on the front of the card. If I uncheck this, she would only be visible by clicking on the card to see the backside – that would be the backside of the card, not the dog. If you’re sharing this board with others, you control who gets to comment on cards and who gets to invite others to the board. Use “Email settings” if you want to use email to add new cards to your board. This is a handy feature if you’re ready to stop using your email inbox as your to-do list. Forward those emails you want to do something with to your Trello board.

Back to the beginning

When you log into Trello, this is what you’ll see. If you’re in one of your boards, click the Trello logo in the top left corner to get back to this page. All of your boards are on the left. On the right, you can switch from the “Boards” screen to “Cards.” This will show all the cards on all of your boards to which you have been added. For boards that you are sharing, this is a quick and easy way to see what you should be working on.

Organizations

Farther down on that right-side menu is “New Organization.” Let’s say that you want to share one board with your department, one board with your research assistants, and another board with a committee you’re chairing. You can invite them all to join their own specific boards, and that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with doing it that way. Alternatively, you can create separate “organizations,” and then add members to each organization. Let’s take your research assistants. You’re working on two projects, and each project is complicated enough that they have their own boards. Rather than having your research assistants join each board separately, you can create a “research assistants organization,” and invite them to join that. Now create your two project boards, and just add your “research assistants organization” to the board, and they now all have access. Later, when you start project #3, you can create yet another new board and add your “research assistants organization” again. This is much easier than inviting board by board.

Mobile app

The Trello mobile app works well on both my Galaxy Nexus 10 tablet and my Galaxy Nexus phone. The interface is very similar to the web-based version of Trello.

Bonus

If you’re a Gantt chart aficionado, you can turn your Trello boards into Gantt charts.

Try it out!

Dive in! Sign up for Trello, check out the welcome board, and then create your own boards. Happy organizing!

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Dec 092013
 

While EasyBib isn’t the only citation service out there, it is the easiest to use. Enter the title of a journal article, URL, book title, book ISBN and EasyBib will kick out the reference – in MLA, APA, or Chicago style. Compile all of the references for a particular writing project in one place, and then when you’re ready ask EasyBib to produce the reference list. EasyBib is free to try, but if you want APA Style, and I do, EasyBib Pro is $19.99 a year. It’s a completely reasonable price for the time it saves me.

The similar services of CitationMachine, Mendeley, and Zotero are all worth a look. With CitationMachine, you manually enter the citation information yourself, and CitationMachine will format it for you. Mendeley is more of a PDF storage service. Drag and drop your PDF into Mendeley, and it will both store it and gather the file’s metadata into a citation for you. Strangely, Mendeley is awful with books; you need to enter the book information manually. Mendeley does fine creating citations for webpages, but it doesn’t save the page itself as a file in Mendeley. Zotero does. In fact, Zotero’s strength is in saving websites. I’ll let Zotero tell you about itself; take the video tour at the top of their quick start guide. Because Mendeley and Zotero are both saving sources, they have a steeper learning curve than EasyBib, whose primary function is citations.

EasyBib organizes your stuff by project; think of it like a folder. Here I’m working on my “Psych 100″ project.

Let’s start in EasyBib’s wheelhouse: The bibliography tab. Click on the kind of resource you’d like to cite: Website, book, newspaper, journal, database, or one of 54 other options.

Web address

After selecting “APA” style as my preferred formatting choice, I pasted the URL of a recent blog post. EasyBib enters what it can, and then tells me what’s missing or might be incorrect in bright red. In this case, the article title capitalization is probably incorrect according to APA style, I’m missing the article’s author, and the date the article was published. I’m going to fix those entries and include the “date accessed” since I do periodically make minor revisions to old blog posts. Since I accessed that article today, I’ll just click “Today” to the right of that field. Near the bottom of the page are two buttons. Click “Annotation” to add, well, an annotation to this reference. “Website evaluation” is a handy tool for students. Clicking it produces a popup of helpful tips in evaluating the credibility of a website. When I’m satisfied with the content for this particular reference, I click the “Create Citation” button at the bottom of the page.

EasyBib gives me the citation at the top of the bibliography page and also adds it in the correct alphabetical spot in the bibliography. If you have dozens of references, click “see in list” to go directly to the reference in the bibliography. If you’re not happy with the citation, you can “edit citation” here. In the bibliography, you can add “Comments,” go directly to the website via “Link,” “Tag” the reference with keywords so you can see all the references you have related to a particular keyword, get the “parenthetical” citation, “edit,” or “delete” the citation.

Books

For a book I can enter the title or, in this case, an ISBN.

When I click the green “Cite this” button, I see the book and click “Select.” That brings up the citation page.

I’m fine with the information that EasyBib has already entered, so I’ll click “Create Citation.” Here you can see that the citation has been added.

Journal

I can cite journal articles by entering the article title, the article’s DOI, or I can even search by keywords, and EasyBib will return whatever matches from their database. For this search I entered the article’s title.

EasyBib returns the citation I’m looking for, so I click “Select.” Here I see that the article title is not formatted correctly, so I need to fix that before click “Create Citation.”

Once I fixed the title capitalization, I clicked “Create Citation.”

Caution #1

You still need to know the basic citation rules for the style you’re working in. Just like you shouldn’t blindly follow your GPS, you can’t turn off your brain when using citation services. EasyBib does a pretty good job at sending up flares in the form of red text and red-lined boxes to let you know that you need to proceed cautiously, but it’s not perfect. Your brain still needs to be engaged.

Sharing

If this is a project I’m working on with others, I can share it by one of three methods. I can email the completed bibliography to others (or myself).

I can invite others into my project by selecting “Invite others.”

With the invitation, I can decide what permissions level I want my invitees to have. They can just view my bibliography, they can edit it, or they can comment on it. If you want to use this with students, you can have your students create EasyBib accounts, create a “project” for your course, and then ask your students to grant you permission to comment on their sources. You can keep an eye on what they’re doing before they get themselves in too deep with inappropriate sources.

If you want to make your bibliography publicly available, select “Share public link” from the “Sharing” button menu. You will get a URL you can use however you’d like. If you use a learning management system, you can add the link there or embed the page, for example. Create a bibliography of optional or required readings. Every time you update the list in EasyBib, it will automatically update where your students are seeing it.

Export or print

When you’re done creating your bibliography, you have a number of options for getting it to your paper. These all work as you would expect. “Print as Word Doc,” for instance, automatically downloads an RTF file to your computer – and if it doesn’t download automatically, there’s a link that you can click to initiate the download.

This is what the download file looks like for “Print as Word Doc.” How cool is that?

Analyze

Want to know where your sources are coming from? Click “Analyze.”


This data is from a larger project I’m working on. For each graph, you can mouse over each slice to see the key and percentages. If you’re students are using EasyBib, you can require that the students save this page as a pdf and submit it as part of the assignment.


Mobile

The EasyBib mobile app scans book barcodes (or searches by book title) and creates the citation. Unfortunately the app doesn’t connect to my EasyBib account. To get the book citations to me in a usable form, I need to email them to myself. My guess (and hope) is that they’re working on some sort of app/account integration. On the plus side, the mobile app book barcode scanner is ridiculously fast.

Research tab

The citations you create in EasyBib can (and will) be used by EasyBib; the terms of service spell that out. That’s where the information in the “Research” tab comes from. Enter a search term and get the related citations.

Notebook

Click on the “Notebook” tab to create an outline of your paper, including notes and their accompanying citations.

Double-click on the gray-ish workspace to create a new note. Enter a title of the note (in the screenshot above, the title is “Case Study 1″), use the source dropdown menu to select a source from your bibliography, add a direct quote or a paraphrase or a comment. Add a page number or some other more specific location for the citation.

Double-click in the outline window to add new levels to the outline. Drag and drop notes from the main workspace into the outline. Drag and drop outline elements or use the arrow keys to move the outline elements.

While EasyBib’s terms of service are clear on how they’ll use your citations, they’re not clear on how they’ll use your “Notebooks.” If you have concerns about that, I encourage you to contact EasyBib directly.

Caution #2

A web-based service is only as good as its up time. I was in the middle of working on this blog post when the service went down. In a disappointing move, in the 19 hours users couldn’t access their bibliographies, there was no communication via EasyBib’s Twitter feed or their blog about what was happening. Unlike college students I’m not going into finals week with a paper due, so accessing my references isn’t quite so pressing, but a cursory look at student comments on Twitter, the desperation was palpable. As of this writing, EasyBib has not, on Twitter or on their blog, offered an explanation as to what happened, so there’s no way to judge the likelihood of it happening again. If you have a time sensitive project, I recommend downloading your bibliography periodically as you get closer to your due date.

[Update 12/10/2013: EasyBib posted a message to their blog regarding the outage.]

EasyBib/IFTTT integration would be especially awesome. Every evening, EasyBib would automatically add my bibliographies to Dropbox. Cool, right?

Conclusion

Try it out. It’s an easy service to use. Even if it’s not for you, suggest it to your students.

 

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Nov 192013
 

In 2011 I wrote about YouCanBook.Me (see this blog post), the very cool service that lets others schedule themselves into your calendar. YouCanBook.Me has business as its target audience, so many of its features are more than what the run-of-the-mill academic needs. Calendly has arrived on the scheduling scene with a manageable set of features in a user-friendly interface. Like YouCanBook.Me, Calendly will sync with your Google Calendar. Those who have been intimidated by YouCanBook.Me will find Calendly to be as approachable as a golden retriever puppy.

What Calendly looks like from the student’s perspective

A student goes to my Calendly calendar: http://calendly.com/sfrantz.

In step 1, students click on any of the 3 (customizable) meeting options. I selected “15 Minute Meeting” for this example.


In step 2, students see today’s date blocked in green. The available options show in blue. The student can navigate to a different week. While the time zone defaults to whatever time zone the student’s computer is set at, the student can select a different one.

A student clicking on the Friday AM option generates this popup where the student has chosen 9:00 am. The selection turns green, and the choice is noted at the bottom of the popup screen. The student clicks “Continue.”

In step 3, the student enters their name, email address, phone number, and answers an open-ended question. In the settings you’ll see below, the name, email address, and phone number are questions built in to the program. The open-ended question is optional and customizable.

Here are the responses for a sample student.

I apparently moonlight at a dog obedience school.

This is the confirmation screen. I like that students are able to add this appointment directly to their own calendar.

This is what’s generated when the student selects “Google.”

Regardless of whether the student adds the event to a calendar, the student gets an email with the pertinent meeting information as well as another opportunity to add the meeting to a calendar. And, like YouCanBook.Me, there is a link for canceling the meeting. If the student cancels, there will be a text box where the student can add a comment. The event will be removed from my Google Calendar and an email will be sent to me. [Correction: The event isn't removed. "Canceled" is added to the front of the event name and the event is marked as "free" instead of "busy."  I like this even better than having the event completely disappear.]

As the owner of the calendar, I also get an email about this appointment. The email gets sent to my gmail account since that’s the email account that was used to create the account. While I’d rather have Calendly notifications sent to my college email address, at this writing there is no mechanism to change it, however one of the developers tells me that they are working on adding that feature.

And, of course, the genius of the whole system is that it’s automatically added to my Google Calendar.

And here’s what the entry looks like. Pay particular attention to the note at the bottom: “Should you need to cancel the event, Calendly recommends you use the event cancellation feature in Calendly.” Later in this post I’ll return to why you would want to cancel this way and how to do it.

Setting up Calendly

When setting up your account, because Calendly uses your Google Calendar, you will be asked to give Calendly permission to connect to your Google account. Granting permission takes a couple of steps but it’s painless.

Next, fill in your time zone and your Calendly URL. This URL is what you’ll be giving to students.

The next couple screens tell you what to do once your account has been set up. You won’t do any actual configuration at this point.

No configuration here either.

Now you’re ready to go. You can skip the “copy URL” and “Send via e-mail” buttons. Until you do some customization, you’re not going to be ready for anyone to use your Calendly scheduler. Click “Finish.”

Synching with Google Calendar

Use the dropdown menu in the top right corner of your Calendly dashboard. (You can always get back to your dashboard by going to Calendly.com and clicking on “Go to Calendly dashboard” in the top right corner of the screen. Your dashboard is actually a calendar that shows all of your Calendly appointments and only your Calendly appointments. Even though my calendar is synched with my Google calendar, none of my other Google calendar appointments appear here. While Calendly does know my free and busy times from my Google Calendar, it doesn’t look like that here.

Let’s start by synching Calendly with Google Calendar. After selecting “Calendar sync” click the “Sync” button and tell Google that you’re giving Calendly permission to access your calendar.

Once Google knows you’re fine with Calendly, you’ll get this screen. On the left you can choose which of your Google calendars you want Calendly to check for free/busy times; choose as many as your like. On the right, tell Calendly which calendar you want your appointments to appear on. When done, click “Save changes.”

Customizing event types

From the dashboard dropdown menu, select “Event types.”

“Event type” is Calendly-speak for “appointment options.” They start you off with 3 options, but you can edit, delete, and add to your heart’s content.

After doing some editing, these are the options my students how have.

The color coding only appears in the dashboard because these are the colors that will be attached to these appointments in the Calendly dashboard. The color coding does not carry over to Google Calendar. And the color coding doesn’t carry over to the Calendly student view. The blue boxes that students appear in row order by length of meeting. They cannot be moved, although this would be a very desirable feature. Don’t be surprised if this functionality appears in a later version of the service.

In dashboard view, click “edit” for the “event type” you’d like to edit. Here are your options.

Clone/delete. Clone will copy the event exactly as is, and it will add “clone” to the event name. You can then change the name of the event and any other features you’d like to be different.

Event name/duration/event description. The event name will be the blue box that appears in the student view. Name it whatever you’d like, but it’s probably a good idea to keep the length of the appointment in there so students know from the beginning what kind of time commitment they’re making. In “Duration” choose how long you’d like this particular appointment to be. Your shortest option is 15 minutes; your longest is 12 hours(!). The optional event description is a subtitle that appears in the student view blue box. I used an event description in the “Test review” event.

Event URL. The event URL will default to something based on the event name. Here’s a nifty feature. If I’m sending out an email to my advisees reminding them that it’s time to make an appointment, I can just send them the advising appointment URL. That URL will take them directly to that event; my advisees won’t have to select from the array of boxes. By giving them the URL, I have effectively selected the “advising” box for them.

Event color. Choose the color you’d like for the event. But remember, color-coded events will only appear in the Calendly dashboard calendar and no where else.

Additional questions. If you toggle this to “Yes,” you’ll be able to enter your additional question. This question appears at the point of making the appointment when the student is entering their contact information.

Weekly recurring availability. Choose the days you’re accepting appointments. This could be different for each event type. Maybe you only want to accept advising appointments on Thursday and Friday mornings. For that event type only select Thursday and Friday mornings. This means that even though your Google Calendar shows you’re available at other times, anyone who selects the advising blue box will see that the only options are Thursday and Friday mornings. The “add interval” option is handy. If you always want to have 2pm to 3pm on Wednesdays set aside for nap time, you can either schedule into your Google Calendar showing that you’re busy at that time, or you can have your available times on Wednesday be 10am to 2pm and “add interval” for 3pm to 5pm. The in-between time of 2pm to 3pm on Wednesdays would be blanked out by Calendly.

In “Advanced settings”…

Max number of this event acceptable per day. If this is your advising event type and you can only handle advising no more than 4 students per day, then enter 4 in this box. While it’s an interesting feature, I’m not sure that I have a use for it.

Scheduling notice. Calendly defaults to 24 hours. This means that the earliest appointments available to students are 24 hours from the time they look at your Calendly page. I generally prefer 12 hours, but again, this can be customized for each event type. Perhaps for test reviews, you need 24 hours advance notice but for advising, you may only need 12 hours advance notice. Choose when those appointments can be made. One term I did a “meet and greet” for extra credit. If students made an appointment and came by my office within the first two weeks of the term, it was worth a couple points extra credit (out of the 1,000 points in the course). I could create an event type where I set the from/till dates for the first two weeks of the term. After the two weeks passed, I could go into this event and switch “Public” from yes to no, making it invisible – until the next term when I can flip the switch to yes to make it publicly visible again.

Buffer. The buffer option is nice if you need time to prepare before an appointment or, say, make notes after an appointment. If I had a 10-minute buffer before an advising appointment and a 15-minute afterwards, anyone setting an advising appointment for 10am to 11am would also block off 9:50am to 10am and 11am to 11:15am on my calendar ensuring that no one else could schedule during those times.

Decide what kind of “event types” you want, and then customize each to meet your needs.

How to cancel a meeting

You’ve set up Calendly, given the URL to your students (or a particular event URL to a particular group of students), and students are making appointments. All is working according to plan. And then your Dean requests a meeting with you – completely bypassing your Calendly calendar, something about a pay raise – at a time you’re scheduled to meet with a student. Go to your Calendly dashboard. Click on the appointment in question. At the very bottom of the popup screen click “Cancel.” A textbox will open giving you the option to add a note to the student. Click “Cancel event.” The event will still appear on your Calendly calendar, but the text will have a line drawn through it. (What’s the past tense of strikethrough? Struckthrough?)

The event will be deleted from your Google Calendar. And the student will receive an email. [Correction: Again, not deleted. "Canceled" is added to the front of the event name, and the event is marked as free.]

Conclusion

If you had the time to read this blog post, you have the time to set up a Calendly appointment calendar. Once you have your calendar set up, in the comments section I’d love to hear the event types you’ve created and any special settings you have for them. If you’re a YouCanBook.Me user and have decided to try Calendly, what Calendly features were the most persuasive in influencing your decision?

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Nov 172013
 

I’ve written before about Join.Me for communicating with others while sharing your computer screen. (See the most recent post.) But let’s say that you don’t want to share your screen. You just want to have a conference call (maybe join via your computer or by phone), see who is speaking during the call, and maybe even share some files. And maybe you have some people who will be on the call who haven’t bothered with downloading Skype or figuring out Google Hangouts. Like Join.Me, Speek just needs users who can follow a link.

Speek.com is one of the newest kids on the audio communication block. Give your Speek URL to your conference call participants (in the free version up to 5 people can join a call including you), and Speek will give them three options for connecting to your call. Only the person originating the call needs to have a Speek account.

When you create your free account, the username you choose will be your Speek URL. Visiting that URL brings up the connect page. Before you connect, be sure to log in to Speek. This will give you administrative privileges on the call. More on those below. Your conference call participants will see the same screen when they visit the page. Connect to the call by using the mic/headphone on your computer, have Speek call your phone, or you can call in to the Speek number then enter a PIN. Your participants can choose any of the three methods as well.

Once connected, you’ll see everyone on the call. Here it’s me and my guest where my guest was actually me calling in on another device. At the bottom of the screen are a set of tabs. The “Conference” tab shows who is on the call, who is currently talking (outlined in green), and the percent of time each person has spoken displayed under each avatar. I don’t know that this last feature actually keeps certain problematic people from dominating the call, but for those who don’t wish to dominate, it’s useful feedback.

If you mouse over one of your conference call participants, you will see the options to mute them or remove them from the call altogether. How’s that for power?

To mute yourself, click the speaker icon in the top right corner of the screen. This is an essential tool for when the postal carrier comes and your dogs go bananas – hypothetically speaking.

Click the “Files” tab to share files with the others on the call. Drag and drop a file from a folder onto the gray box on the right side of the screen. Or you can click “file browser” to navigate to the file you want to upload. Participants who are connected to the call by something other than a phone can click on the filename to download it. The only people who can see the files are the people who are currently on the call. If someone arrives late, they won’t be able to see the already-uploaded files. I see the “link your accounts” option, but I’m not sure what benefit that serves when you can just drag and drop. Maybe it makes sense if I’m using a computer that is not mine. I could access my files directly through, say, Dropbox.com.

Click on the “Comments” tab to, well, add comments. This is a useful space to take notes or put together a to-do list for each conference call participant.

Have someone else you want to add to the call? Click the person icon in the top right corner, and enter the person’s phone number. Speek will give them a call. When they answer, they will hear, “Welcome to Speek,” and then they will be connected to your conference call. Since there isn’t much information for them to go on, you either need to speak very quickly once they’re connected or drop them an email or text message to let them know that Speek will be calling on your behalf.

After the call is over

You’ll be given the option to name your call. It’s not a requirement, but it may make it easier for you later.

Click on “Hey <your name>” in the top right corner to access your Speek dashboard. You will see a summary of your Speek usage for the last 30 days, which you can change to a different time period. Click on the “Call History” tab. On the left are the calls for the last week. The ones with paperclips have files that were uploaded during the call. If I click on a call, I see the name of the call (“Blog Post Test Run”), call begin/end (total time), who the participants were along with their participation time percentage (minutes) – if Speek has their contact information, it’s provided to the right of the name (phone number and Twitter handle, in this case), the files that were shared which can be downloaded again by clicking on them, and the comments that were made in the comment pane during the call.

If someone joins your Speek conference call when you’re not on, their call will also appear in your call history.

Uses

Aside from the obvious uses for collaborators or committees working at a distance, I could see where someone might want this when, say, advising students over the phone. Share files and make notes as you talk. If you’re hyperconscious about documentation, Speek is certainly the tool for you. If you want to be notified by text message when someone joins your Speek conference call when you’re not already on the call, go into your dashboard ( click on “Hey <your name>” in the top right corner), and select the profile tab. Under “SMS notification” select the number you want to use for texts.

Mobile app

There is an app for Android, iOS, and Windows phones. Interestingly the Android app is compatible with my Samsung Galaxy Nexus phone, but not my Samsung Nexus tablet. While I could connect to the call through my tablet’s web browser, the mic worked fine, but I couldn’t hear anything. I did just try one web browser though; I may have better luck with a different one. You’re probably better off with the app.

Pro version

For $10/month or $100/year, you can have an unlimited number of participants on your call. And you can have Speek audio record your conference call. Speek’s page (updated August, 2013) that describes the difference between the basic and pro accounts says that the pro account grants file sharing and commenting. The basic account, as of this writing anyway, includes those features.

If you would like to try a free month of Speek Pro, you just need to convince 3 people to join. On the dashboard page, on the far right you’ll see the offer. Click on one of the avatars to get to the sharing options page.

Ready?

Ready to give Speek a try?

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