Author: Sue Frantz

Gmail: Canned Responses

I use Phrase Express for all of my canned response needs (see this post, for example), but for those of you who just want canned responses in Gmail, check out this Google Labs option.

Enabling Canned Responses

In Gmail, go to settings by clicking on the cog icon on the far right, and select “Settings”.

Click on the “Labs” tab.

Scroll down to “Canned Responses” and check “Enable”.

Creating a Canned Response

Compose a new email. Type up whatever you’d like to save as a response.

Click on “Canned responses”.

Add a “New canned response…”. Selecting it generates a popup that asks you to name it. I’ll call it “rude email”

Click “OK”.

Using Canned Responses

Now when you compose a new message and want to use that canned response, click on “Canned responses” to see the menu. The headings (Insert, Save, and Delete) are light, too light, in my opinion; I thought they were disabled options. Under the “insert” heading, click “Rude email” and watch the magic as your canned response appears.

Want to change your canned response? Edit it, then click “Canned responses”, and under the “Save” heading, click “Rude email”.

Repeat the process to add more canned responses.

PowerPoint: Animating Charts

I was recently putting together a PowerPoint 2010 presentation that had a lot of charts in it. I wanted to reveal the data gradually, so I looked for a way to animate. It’s easy to do, if not entirely intuitive.

After creating the chart, switch to the “Animations” tab. Click on the chart to select it, then click the “Add Animation” button. Choose the animation style you like; I chose “fade”.

Now, with the chart still selected, click “Effect Options.”

Here I can choose how I want the data to appear. When you mouse over each option, your chart will preview what it will look like as you step through your presentation. (Hats off to the PowerPoint 2010 team. I love this feature!)

In my sample chart, “By Series” will show the blue bars first, then the red, then the green. “By Category” will show all of the 5-minute bars first and then all of the 1-week bars. “By Element in Series” will show the 5-minute blue bar, then the 1-week blue bar, then the red bars in sequence, and finally the red bars in sequence. Lastly, “By Element in Category” will show the 5-minute blue bar, then the 5-minute red bar, then the 5-minute green bar, and this will repeat for the 1-week bars.

Click on “Animation Pane” to see the animations that were created. Click the down arrow next to the top animation in the animation pane to see all of the animations for the chart. The very first animation makes the chart itself appear. For my purposes, I wanted the chart already to be there when I advanced to this slide, so I clicked on the very top animation (“Chart 3: Background”) and hit delete on my keyboard. Done.

Side note

The data depicted on this slide comes from a nifty Roediger and Karpicke (2006) study. Participants in the study either had 4 opportunities to study a science passage (SSSS), 3 opportunities to study and 1 opportunity to do a free recall practice test of everything they remembered from the passage (SSST), or 1 opportunity to read the passage and 3 opportunities to do free recall practice tests (STTT). When they took the real test 5 minutes afterwards, the repeated study group remembered the most, but 1 week later, the practice test participants remembered quite a bit more. In psychology we call this the “testing effect” – the act of recalling information helps us remember it.

Roediger, H.L., III, & Karpicke, J.D. (2006). The power of testing memory: Basic research and implications for educational practice. Psychological Science, 1, 181-210.

Google Calendar: Adding Attachments

I’m attending a workshop at a nearby college in a couple weeks, and the organizer has already emailed me a parking pass to print and bring with me. As I was thinking about where to save the parking pass so I won’t forget it, I thought, “I wish I could just save it in my calendar.” After a little investigation, you can do that in Google Calendar.

Go to settings by clicking on the cog icon, and select “Labs”.

Scroll down to “Event attachments” and click “Enable.”

Now when you create a new event or edit an existing one, you have an “Add attachment” option.

Clicking “Add attachment” generates a pop-up window. The initial view is your “My Drive”, formerly Google Docs. If the file you want to add isn’t in Google Docs, click on “Upload”.

If your file is on your desktop or in a folder, just click and drag it into this space. Click the “Upload” button, and the file will be automatically copied to Google Drive and attached to your calendar event.

Here’s what the event looks like with the attachment.

Other attendees

If there are “guests” associated with the calendar event and if you grant them access to the file by “sharing” it in Google Drive, then they’ll be able to download the file as well.

Closing note

I’ve also created a reminder for the day of the event that tells me to print out the parking pass that’s in my calendar. [Read more about in this earlier blog post.]

Create Your Own Website: Weebly

I’m often asked about the easiest way to set up a website. While the course management systems are fine for, well, managing courses, if you want students to access information before or after the course a personal website is a logical way to go. Last week I was at the National Institute on the Teaching of Psychology (NITOP), the best psychology-focused teaching conference. During a participant idea exchange on favorite tech tools, one person suggested (I’m sorry, I don’t remember your name! If you read this, please email me. I want to give you proper credit.)

Go to, and set up an account. You can log in with the Facebook credentials or create a unique username and password for the site.

Next you’re asked for a title and choose the type of site you’re setting up.

If you select education, you’re give this choice of categories to select from.

Next, choose your domain. That’s going to be your URL. Since I already have a website, I chose to just go with a Weebly subdomain: If I didn’t already own the domain, under “register a new domain,” I would enter suefrantz in the box. If you want something other than .com, use the dropdown menu to pick a different extension. Since I own, if I wanted to move from my current host, I could enter in the box under “use a domain you already own.” Weebly would walk me through everything I needed so that visitors to would be directed to Weebly instead. Whatever decision you make here is not irreversible. More on that later.

With those decisions made, you’re now taken into the editor.

Paragraph with Title

It’s a drag-and-drop interface. Want to add a paragraph with a title, click on “paragraph with title” in the toolbar, drag it to where you want to put it, and unclick.

After dropping it in (below the default image), Weebly tells you what to do. Click on the big print to edit the title; click on the small print to edit the paragraph text.

After selecting “click here to edit” (either one), you get a familiar toolbar. The buttons are, from left to right:
Bold, italics, underline, font color, increase font size, decrease font size, remove formatting, add a link, align left, align center, align right, justified, undo, and redo.

When editing a paragraph instead of a title, you get two additional buttons on the toolbar: Bulleted list and numbered list.

Quick tip: Use TAB to move between elements. For example, when you’re done with the title, use TAB to move to the body of the paragraph. Use CTRL-A to select all of the text in that element. Typing will erase what was selected. If you added a second titled paragraph under it, hitting TAB again will move your cursor to the next title.

If you change your mind about an element, you can always delete it. Mouse over it and in the top right corner of the element you’ll see a little red circle with a white x in it. Click the red circle to delete.

Paragraph with Picture

After dragging this element onto the page, I can edit the title, the paragraph text, and add an image.

Clicking on the sample image, this box pops up. If the image is on your computer, open the image’s location, and drag and drop it to add it. Or, if you prefer, click on “upload a photo from your computer” to navigate to it the old-fashioned way. Click the search button to find photos, both professional ($5 each) and free. Mouse over the photos you want to mark as “favorites” or click “select” to choose it. Click the “favorites” button to see the photos you marked as such. For most images on the internet, you can right-click on it to “copy image URL”. If you go that route, be sure that you either own the copyright or that the copyright owner is fine with you using the image.

Custom HTML

When you drag this element on to the page, you can add any HTML content you’d like. Here’s where this comes in handy.

For most YouTube videos, you can get an embed code. Under the video, click “Share” and then “Embed”. Copy the code, and paste it your “Custom HTML” box. The video will play on the page.

You can do the same with TEDTalks. Click the “Embed” tab under any TEDTalk video. From the popup window, copy the code, and paste in your “Custom HTML” box.

Changing the default banner image

While we’re talking about images, let’s change the default image on the page.

Mousing over the image makes an “edit image” button appear. Click the down arrow to “edit image.”

Clicking the “add image” button gives you the image options discussed above. Or you can replace the image with text. Click the “add text” button multiple times to add multiple text boxes. If you decide you don’t like any of your changes even after saving them, click on “revert to original” in the top right corner to the left of the “Cancel” button.

Design Tab

Now that you have the idea of how the page elements work, let’s move on to design.

Flip through the filmstrip at the top to choose the layout you like. Click the arrow on the far right to see even more. Keep going. There are plenty to choose from!

Going social

At the very top of the page, are the social media icons. Mouse over them to add your contact information. Click the “x” to the right to delete it. To change the order, click the far left handle (the little box with the dots in it) and drag it. Click the “add more” button to add more.

Add a page

Since you may not want all of your content on one page, add a page. Click the “Pages” tab, then click the “Add page” button.

After adding a page title, click “Save” at the bottom. You’ll be redirected to the same page editor interface you started with.

Want to go back to editing your main page? Click on the “Pages” tab again, and select “Home,” and then click the “Edit Page” button at the top of the page.

Settings tab

Want to change the site address you set when you started this whole process? You can do that here.


When you’re ready to go live, click the orange “publish” button in the top right corner.

Pro version

For a reasonable sum of money, you can add a number of nifty features, such as the ability to password protect individual pages.


This is the drop-dead easiest way to create your own website.

Rude Emails: PhraseExpress Can Help You Cope

I’ve written before about the utility of PhraseExpress. PhraseExpress (Windows; Mac users try TextExpander) allows you to create text shortcuts. For example, when I type #IV it automatically expands to independent variable; #slo will expand to student learning outcome; #entry generates a paragraph of text explaining why I won’t give an entry code to a student who doesn’t meet the prerequisite for my course. These programs work anywhere you can type, such as your email, your word processing program, your browser.

LifeHacker has a nice use for it. Create a shortcut, say #rude, that generates a canned response to rude or hostile email messages. The author of the article suggests this:

“I’m open to hearing what you have to say and having a discussion about it, but I have a policy of ignoring people who take a malicious approach to conversation. I felt something that you said fell under this heading, and if you’d like to try again with a kinder approach, I’d be happy to have a conversation with you.”

When you get that nasty email, hit reply, type #rude, and watch this paragraph appear. Hit send. And file the originating email safely out of your sight.

Dropbox: Two-Step Verification

Dropbox recently enabled two-step verification. With two-step verification, when you log on using a new device, you need both your password and a code from your phone. (Use it for your Google account, too.) If someone does get hold of your password, they won’t be able to get into your account without this second code.

How it works.

When I log into my Dropbox account from a new computer or mobile device, I first enter my Dropbox password, and then I am asked for a verification code. I run the Google Authenticator app (Android/iOS/Blackberry) on my phone. (Download the app from wherever you get your apps.) Every 30 seconds a new code will appear. I enter the current code to log into Dropbox. That’s it.

Enabling two-step verification.

First, download the Google Authenicator app for your smartphone and a QR code scanner. I use one for Android called Scan. If you have a phone that’s just a phone, you can have codes sent to you via text message; see instructions below.

Go to and log in to your account. Click on your name in the top right corner of the screen. Select “Settings”.

Select the “Security” tab.

Scroll down to “Two-step verification” and click “change”.

Decide how you’d like to get the codes. If you have a smartphone, Google Authenicator is the easiest route, but there’s nothing wrong with text message. Click next.

Open your QR code reader (Scan, for me; “bar code scanner” does not seem to work with Google Authenticator.) Scan the code.

After scanning, your phone will ask you if you’d like to save it. Say yes. On your phone, you will see Dropbox: your@email.address with a number below it. Every 30 seconds that number will change. On your computer, Dropbox will ask you to enter the code.

After entering the code, this message will give you an “emergency backup code.” Put it someplace safe. If you use LastPass, create a “secure note” and save it there.

Creating a secure note in LastPass.

Log in to LastPass, and from the menu on the left, select “Add Secure Note”.

Name your note something useful; in this case, “Dropbox authenticator code.” Paste the code in the big box. Click the save button.


The number one threat to your online life is password security. With two-step verification, even if your password is compromised, your account cannot be accessed unless the person has your phone, too.

Searching Google Land with Shortmarks

Late last year I wrote about Shortmarks (see blog post), a web-based service that provides a faster way to visit the web. For example, when I type the letter h in my browser’s address box, I’m whisked to my college’s website; the h is short for Highline Community College. The letters bn take me to Barnes and Noble. If in my browser’s address bar, I type bn Bird Sense, the Barnes and Noble site is automatically searched for books titled Bird Sense. (Side note: I just finished this book by Tim Birkhead. I highly recommend it for anyone with even a passing interest in birds.)

How Shortmarks works.

I tell my browser to make Shortmarks my default search engine. Any search I do in my browser gets filtered through my Shortmarks account first. If Shortmarks doesn’t have a match, Shortmarks will redirect to the search engine of my choosing.

When I edit my Shortmarks bookmarks, this is what I see. The keyword is what I type in my browser’s address bar. See bn? The name is the name of the website. The direct link is the URL for the website. If I just type bn, I am sent to this page. The next column, search link, is what is triggered when I type something after the keyword. In the example above, bn Bird Sense, launched the search link URL where Bird Sense was the search term.

Those search link URLs are incredibly useful, but they can be a bit of a hassle to find. Dwight Stegall in the Google forums kindly provided a bunch specifically for Google. Here are some search links for your reference.

Google calendar:

Google images:

Google video:

Google maps:

Google news:


Google books:

Google scholar:


Google docs:

Google reader:

Google I’m Feeling Lucky:

Google web search:



Smartboard Alternative: Using a Tablet

Have a tablet (Android or iPad)? If not, are you looking for a reason to get one? What if I told you that a tablet can be a mobile smartboard?

I’m using Splashtop’s Whiteboard. In my classroom, I hook up my laptop to the projector like I usually do, and then I open Whiteboard on my Motorola Xoom tablet. What is on my computer screen I see on my tablet. This is the remote desktop mode. I can now control my computer with my tablet or with my computer keyboard and mouse. Whatever I do on one, happens on the other. In annotation mode, I can draw on the screen.


On my computer I installed Splashtop Streamer (free). When Streamer launches for the first time, you’re asked to create a security code. You’ll need that in order to connect your tablet to that particular computer. Streamer runs in the background. You can find its icon in the system tray (lower right corner of your computer screen). On my Motorola Xoom tablet I have installed Splashtop Whiteboard ($9.99). When I run the Whiteboard app, it automatically detects my computer. To connect I enter my computer’s security code.

There are two ways you can connect your tablet to your computer. One is if both computers are on the same wifi network. This will be the fastest connection. If that doesn’t work, the app will look for the computer on the internet. In that case, Splashtop uses your gmail username and password to connect. (In my classroom, my computer is on the LAN and my Xoom is on wifi; the network is configured in such a way that Splashtop is able to connect them without any trouble.)

Using Splashtop Whiteboard

Once connected, Splashtop presents you with a handy set of instructions on your tablet. If I remember correctly, the very first time you connect, Splashtop runs you quickly through a tutorial on how to use some of these gestures. Every subsequent connection produces this reminder screen. Once you’ve internalized these gestures, uncheck “Show hints every time” at the bottom of the screen.

In the images below, I show what is both on my computer screen and my tablet screen. To show how this works in class, in my screenshots I’m running PowerPoint.

Look in the lower right corner of the tablet (right image below). The bottom icon is a keyboard that allows me to enter text, like in a web browser or in a Word document. Wherever I can type with my computer, that keyboard icon allows me to type with my tablet. The thin, vertical icon in the bottom right is a pen. Clicking that icon allows me to write on the screen – annotation mode.

These images show me in remote desktop mode.




Clicking the pen icon, moving me to annotation mode, produces the toolbar at the top of the screen. The toolbar shows on the computer screen as well as the tablet, but the toolbar can only be controlled by the tablet. As you can see, I’ve used the pen tool to add ink to the screen.



Let’s take a closer look at the toolbar.

Starting with the icon highlighted in yellow:

Pen (change color or thickness). While you can draw on the screen with your finger, a stylus gives you a little more control. Probably any stylus designed for “capacitive touch” will work, although some work better than others (I like this stylus a lot). With the highlighter, circle, and square, you can also change color and thickness. With the line tool, add a solid line, a line with an arrow, a line with an arrow on both ends, or a dotted line. Again, you can change color and thickness. Add a stamp (arrow, star, heart, smiley, checkmark, or X). The text tool (“A“) permits typing on the screen with the tablet’s keyboard. The eraser erases whatever it touches; erase all erases everything (lines, stamps, circles, etc.) that has been added to the screen.

The first icon is a little flipchart. Click it to get a blank screen. If you don’t want just a white screen, you can choose backgrounds like an xy graph or graph paper. Whichever you choose, scribble all over it to your heart’s content, and then, just like a paper flipchart, flip the page – in this case by use the toolbar’s right arrow. You will get a fresh screen. Want to go back to the screen with your scribbles? Tap the left arrow. Ready to go back to your slide presentation? Tap on the flipchart icon and select the first option in the row, the one with the X on it.

The camera icon takes a screenshot to save your brilliant explanation. The image gallery lets you call up those screenshots later to share your brilliant explanation with future classes. Or to return to it in a later class session.

If you are running PowerPoint (and this is also probably true for any presentation slide software), the arrows to the right and left of the toolbar allow you to move forward/backward through your slides. Or if you want to feel more powerful, put two fingers on the screen and slide left to advance, slide right to go back.

Don’t want the toolbar cluttering up the screen? Put two fingers on the screen, and slide up. To get the toolbar back, put two fingers on the screen, and slide down.

To exit annotation mode altogether, tap the pen icon in the bottom right corner.

And of course there’s nothing special about PowerPoint. Anything that shows on your computer screen can be annotated. Here I’ve opened a webpage, and marked it up with the pen, highlighter, and added a couple stamps (star, arrow).

Other nifty features

Pinch to zoom. Your computer screen is going to look smaller on your tablet. Pinch to zoom in (two fingers on the screen then move them together); unpinch to zoom out (two fingers on the screen then move them apart).

Menu items. While in remote desktop mode (pen icon is white), tap the tablet screen with three fingers to get this menu at the bottom of the screen. The question mark gives you the gesture hint screen. If you are using dual monitors the next icon allows you to switch monitors. (If you use dual monitors and are using PowerPoint’s presentation view, switching monitors allows you to see your notes and jump around in your slides. Just like in class, no one will be able to see what you’re doing. Just remember to switch back when you’re ready to write on the screen again.) The scroll icon adds a scroll tool (circled in blue); if you’re on a webpage, for example, it’s really easy to use this to scroll up and down. Just put your finger on it and slide up/down. If you use it in PowerPoint, it will cycle through your slides very quickly. It has essentially the same functionality as a scroll wheel on a mouse. The last icon toggles between sharp mode and smooth rendering video mode. If you wanted to watch a computer video from your tablet, the smooth rendering mode may make the video run more smoothly.


Since I record my lectures, I like having all of my writing on the screen instead of on the whiteboard.

I like the mobility – of not being stuck behind a computer monitor – or needing to frequently go behind the monitor. I’m now free to wander the classroom.

QTT: Drawing on PowerPoint Slides

Quick Tech Tip. Did you know that you can draw on PowerPoint slides during your presentation? You can use your mouse if you don’t have a touchscreen.

When you run your PowerPoint slides, in the bottom left corner of the screen are four hard-to-see transparent icons: Left arrow, pen, menu, right arrow. When you mouse over one of them, you can see it. In the image below is the pen.

Clicking the pen icon calls up this menu. Click the pen to draw; click the highlighter to highlight. Change the ink color if you’d like. When you want to go back to the arrow, for use when clicking on the slide, return to this menu and select the arrow.

Alternatively, right click on any slide to get this menu. Mouse over “Pointer Options” to get the pen/highlighter menu.

Or better yet, use the keyboard shortcuts.

CTRL+P: Switches to the pen
CTRL+A: Switches to the arrow
CTRL+E: Switches to the eraser
E: Erases all ink on the slide
CTRL+M: Toggles between showing/not showing ink on the slide

If you forget the keyboard shortcuts, run your slideshow, then press F1 to generate this information box. Choose the tab you want to see the shortcuts for that tab.

Boomerang Calendar: Gmail/Calendar Integration

Boomerang Calendar, a gmail addin, looks for date/time information in your incoming gmail messages, compares them against your Google Calendar entries, and lets you know if you’re free or not, and then lets you schedule a time. It also allows you to easily propose meeting times to individuals or groups.

I sent this message to my gmail account.

This is what it looked like when I opened it in gmail.

Boomerang Calendar identified date/time information, and looked at those time slots in my Google Calendar. Green means I’m free, yellow means that the time is bumping up against another appointment, and red means I’m already booked at that time.

If I mouse over those times, Boomerang Calendar gives me a little popup showing the proposed time in the context of whatever else my Google Calendar says I have going on that day. From here I can open Boomerang Calendar by clicking the “Show Calendar” button or add the appointment directly to my Google Calendar by clicking “Add This Event”. (The “Cancel” button seems unnecessary because the popup disappears when you move the mouse off the popup.)

When I click on “at 10am” Boomerang Calendar generates this popup, the same that’s generated if I were to click on “Show Calendar” in the mouse-over popup above. In the bottom left corner are the times it extracted from the email message. The 10am time, the time I clicked, shows up in orange and purple. The other proposed times are in orange and yellow.

Since the email I received suggested a time when I’m available, I’ll go ahead and schedule that by clicking on that orange and purple appointment time. Boomerang Calendar gives me another popup. It automatically enters “Meeting with Sue Frantz” by pulling the name off the email message of the sender, in this case, me. It defaults to an hour-long appointment, but I can change the length. The note field is prepopulated with the email message contents of the sender leaving space for me at the top to add any additional notes. Using the checkboxes, I can remind myself or others of the meeting, and I can use Google Calendar Invite if I’d like. At the very top of the popup Boomerang Calendar selected my Google Calendar named “Sue Frantz” because that’s what I told it to use by default. Using the dropdown menu, I can select from my other Google Calendars. Finally, I click “Add event” to add the appointment to my calendar.

I still have to email the sender back to confirm the time when we’re meeting, however. Just because it’s on my calendar doesn’t mean that they know it’s on my calendar.

Note: Boomerang Calendar does a very good job at guessing the dates/times meant in the email, but it’s not perfect. Double check Boomerang Calendar’s dates/times against what was written in the email.

Propose alternate times.

But let’s say that I don’t like any of the proposed times. I can click anywhere in my calendar, in this case 11am on Tuesday and 10am on Wednesday. Boomerang Calendar defaults to half-hour appointments but I expanded these by grabbing the white equals sign at the bottom of the appointment times and dragging them down so that each appointment is an hour long. In the bottom right corner, I can see the proposed times, and now I’m going to generate an email message with the “Generate email response” button.

And here is the automatically-generated gmail response that I am, of course, free to edit before hitting send.

But what if I want to be the first to propose times to meet?

Compose a new email message, and click “Suggest Times to Meet.”

Now I can click on any times in my calendar I’d like (shown in dark green).

If I click “location” and start typing, Google Maps helps me out.

When I click “Generate Email Template” Boomerang Calendar drafts this gmail message for me.

And, yes, if the recipient of the email clicks on “Starbucks” Google Maps will load showing the meeting location.

Group events.

Boomerang Calendar sits in the top right corner of the gmail window. Clicking its icon allows you to change settings, which, at this writing, are limited to which of your Google Calendars you want Boomerang Calendar to reference when identifying when you’re free/busy and which calendar you want Boomerang Calendar to add appointments to. Also in this menu is “Plan a Group Event.”

Enter the information requested…

And your invitees will get a message.

Unfortunately Boomerang Calendar doesn’t note those time slots in Google Calendar. You’ll have to enter them yourself as tentative appointments if you want to be sure not to schedule anything else at those times.

Each recipient notes when they are available, and they can do it directly from the email message or go to the Boomerang Calendar website by following the “click here” link in the email. If a recipient wants to change their responses, they can just open this email again, and re-enter their availability.

After each response I get an email that updates me on who is available when.

When I’m ready to schedule it, I click the appropriate “Choose Time and Notify Recipients” button. This email reply is generated in gmail. Edit it and hit send. Done.


If you use gmail and Google Calendar, this is a powerful and easy-to-use scheduling tool worth having in your toolbox.

Boomerang Calendar as of this writing is only available by invitation code. Go to their website, scroll down to where the invitation code box is, and try iuseboomerang. If that doesn’t work, tweet or email per the instructions on that page.