I’ve added a new page to this blog site. “Tech Essentials” contains the top tech tools every educator should seriously consider. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, these tools will be familiar.
What tech tools can’t you live without?
I’ve added a new page to this blog site. “Tech Essentials” contains the top tech tools every educator should seriously consider. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, these tools will be familiar.
What tech tools can’t you live without?
If your institution doesn’t have a contract with Elluminate or another web-conferencing provider, and you’re looking for a free meeting space, check out ScribLink. (See this post.)
This New York Times article comes with some good study advice based on psychological research. Follow the link, and a video of me speaking will start playing. Eyejot allows you to record a video and attach it to a webpage. (See this post on Eyejot). Scrolling down farther, I’ve boxed some text and added a note using MarkUp.io. (See this post on MarkUp.io.) Actually, the sequence was reversed. I used MarkUp.io first because it gives me a new URL, one that goes to their website where the annotations are stored. Then I attached my Eyejot video to that new URL.
I make my lecture outlines available to my students. I have a tendency to speak quickly (I blame it on my east coast upbringing, but I promise I’m working on it – the quick speaking, not the east coast upbringing), and I have a large number of students for whom English is not their first language. Not a good combination. Many students will print out the lecture outlines and bring them to class to make class easier to follow. Add the bottom of each outline is a Delicious bookmarks tag cloud that’s specifically relevant to that topic area.
For example, on the Sensation and Perception lecture outline page, at the bottom you will see this. Only bookmarks tagged with “sensation” or “perception” will appear here.
Finally, I recommend some books in the “Further Reading” section. Each hyperlink takes you to a different Google Bookshelf. Google Books allows you to save book titles to your own library. Each book can then be saved to one or more virtual bookshelves. On the left, you can see the bookshelves I’ve created and the number of titles on each shelf. On the right, you see each title and book information.
Clicking on a title provides a more detailed description, more review information, and on the right, ways to get the book, including using WorldCat finding it in your public or college library.
The thing to remember about websites is that they are never really done. Mine has been evolving since the mid-90s. If you want to add some of these elements to your own website (or course management system), don’t feel like you have to do it all at once. If you have students who often ask for book recommendations, start by slowing building a Google library. When you have some titles, direct students to them.
As you website builds, check in with your students. Do they find the content useful? Can they find what they’re looking for? Is there something they’d like to see added?
If you have a feature on your website that you really works for you, I’d love to hear what you’re doing!
I’ve been writing about technology and education for almost two years now, and I thought I’d take some time to show you how I’m using these various tools on my website. Of course you’re welcome to visit the live site and try them out.
If you see that I’m online, feel free to join me for a chat.
Everything I have for my students is on my website. I’m not a fan of learning management systems (LMS). When I’ve used them, I felt really constrained by them, having to operate within their parameters. With my own website, I have free reign. Besides, I have a lot of resources on my website that I want students to be able to access even after they’ve left the course.
Next time I’ll give you a tour of my Psych 100 course site.
When I look at new technology for use with my students, I apply a 2-step litmus test. Is it easy for me to learn? Is it even easier for my students to learn? I learned a long time ago that if it took me hours to learn how to use something, it was going to take me even longer to help my students learn to use it. Second Life is a good example of that. While a virtual world is very cool without a lot of applications for education, it comes with a steep learning curve. I crossed that one off my list.
Corkboard is the polar opposite. Go to Corkboard.me. The website will automatically generate a unique URL, in this case: http://corkboard.me/jrQMN2ykM3. There’s no login. There’s nothing to learn, really. Click on the post-it note to edit it. Click anywhere on the ‘cork’ to generate a new sticky note. No need to save; it does it automatically
IMPORTANT: If you want to access this board again, bookmark the page. It’s the only way you can get to it. If you go to Corkboard.me again, it will just generate a new board.
If you want to give students online space to collaborate, I can see this being an easy alternative. Services like Google Docs and Dropbox are fine, but each student needs to sign up with an account and then learn how to use it. Here, you just give them a link.
Obviously there’s no way to know which student left which note unless they sign them. Even then each note can be edited by whoever visits the page.
If you want to use it for student group collaboration, consider bundling the corkboard links together so you can flip through them quickly. (See this earlier blog post on bundling.) Here I’ve created 3 corkboards and bundled them together using BridgeURL. If you want students to see what the other groups are doing, give them the bundled URL. If you want them to work on their own, just give them their Corkboard URL and keep the bundled URL for your own use.
Other ways to use Corkboard:
Some additional functionality would be nice, like the ability to change the font or the color of the sticky notes. I’d also like to see an RSS feed so I can be apprised of changes to my Corkboard via my RSS feed reader. Obviously not necessary if I’m just using it for my own purposes, but it would sure be nice if I’ve given access to others.
If you try it out, I’d love to hear how you’re using it and how it’s working for you.
There are two things on my computer I have open at all times: My email and my calendar. While I use the Outlook calendar, I sync it with Google Calendar so that any changes I make in one appear in the other. (How to sync Outlook and Google Calendar.)
There are a few advantages to using Google Calendar, such as.
Here’s another advantage. I can create a calendar for my class schedule that way I don’t have to dig out my syllabus to see what’s coming up. I can just look at my calendar. By creating it as a separate calendar, I can turn it off when I’m not using it so it doesn’t clutter up my day-to-day calendar. I can also create is as a publicly-accessible calendar so my students can also access it in their own calendars without having to dig out their syllabus.
And that’s what I did for my class. After creating the calendar, I put all of my course dates into a CSV file which I created in Excel, and uploaded to the calendar.
On the left you can see my calendars.
“Sue Frantz” is my personal calendar that I sync with Outlook. To the right you can see my “Sue Frantz” calendar items are displayed in blue.
“Psych 100” is the public calendar I created for my course. The “Psych 100” calendar items are in blue-green. (The colors are customizable.)
The “Tasks” calendar is shut off.
“Verla & Sue” is the calendar I share with my partner.
“FollowUp.cc” displays my FollowUp.cc reminders.
“Weather” gives me the weather forecast for the next few days.
Create a Google Calendar
Click the “Add” link to generate this page. Put in your calendar name (I called mine Psych 100). Include a description and location if you’d like.
Crucially important: Select your time zone. When we import all of your calendar data from the CSV file, if you haven’t selected a time zone, all of your times will be off by 5 hours or so.
Check the box next to “Make this calendar public.” Or, if you’d rather just share it with the students in your class, set the permissions to “See all event details” then copy and paste all of your students’ email addresses at once. (It doesn’t much matter to me if the greater internet public knows on what date I’m covering chapter 7. Besides, my syllabus is on my website.)
When you click “Create Calendar” at the top of the page, the page will disappear, and you’ll be returned to your main calendar page. If your new calendar isn’t there, count to five, and reload the page.
Now, just because you have a calendar doesn’t mean that anyone knows about it. Even the people you’ve given permission. Let’s do some tweaking and then get the URL to give to our students.
Click the down arrow next to your calendar. Select the color you’d like. Appearance is important.
Now select “Calendar settings.” On that page, scroll to the bottom to see this.
If you want to embed your calendar on a webpage, copy the html code, edit your webpage in html view, and paste the code where you want it the calendar to appear. A word of warning: Some browsers don’t allow iframes, so any visitor with such a restriction won’t see your calendar.
Alternatively, provide a link to your calendar. In the “Calendar Address” section, click “HTML” to get the URL.
This is what the public calendar looks like.
Clicking any of the events calls up more information about the event.
At the very bottom right of the calendar is this icon. For your students who have Google Calendar, clicking will add your class calendar to their calendars.
Create the CSV file
While you could click on each date and time to enter your calendar events, it would be tedious. Instead, we’re going to create a CSV file to upload to the calendar. It’s still a little work, but less tedious.
Open Excel (or any other spreadsheet program). Save the file as CSV file so the file has a .csv extension. For example, I opened Excel, went to “Save As,” typed in Psych100 and selected CSV from the dropdown menu.
Google Calendar allows no room for error. The calendar headings have to be written like this. The only two that you absolutely need though are Subject and Start Date. (To use as a template, download this CSV file here.)
Uploading the CSV file
When your file is ready, go to Google Calendar, and click the “Add” link under “Other Calendars.” Select “Import Calendar.”
Before you do anything else, change the calendar to the one you want to import to, in this case I was importing to the Psych 100 calendar. You do not want to accidentally upload to the wrong calendar. If you do, there is no way to reverse the import. You will have to delete each entry manually.
Browse to the location of the CSV file you’d like to import. Then click “Import.”
Make sure the time and date cells in the CSV file are formatted as time and date. (Right click on the cell, select “Format Cells,” then click on time or date and choose the appropriate formatting. In the template, the time is set to a ‘custom’ setting. That’s okay.)
If you upload the file and the events don’t display as you’d like, you have to remove them from Google calendar manually, one at a time. You may want to only put a couple events in your CSV file to start. If they show up okay, go ahead and enter the rest.
I chose to keep my Subject entries short. Those are what will appear on the calendar when you’re looking at the week or day view. If they’re long, they’ll be truncated.
If you delete events and then try to upload them again without making any changes to the entry, you’ll get an error saying that Google Calendar wasn’t able to upload a certain number of events. The easiest solution is to make a small change to each event in the Subject column. On the subsequent upload, Google Reader will interpret it as a brand new event and upload it.
If your course pretty much stays the same from term to term, for the next term all you need to do is change the dates.
Google Calendar bonus tip
You can add icons to your events. Here are how the icons appear with my calendar. Yellow icons for dates when assignments are due; red icons for exams.
And here’s how they appear when you follow the public link to the calendar.
To get the icons, from your Google Calendar page, look in the top right corner. Click on the green beaker to go to Google Labs.
Enable the one called “event flair.” Go back to your calendar. When you click on an event, the icon palette appears on the right. Select the appropriate icon. Remember, in public calendars, everyone who accesses the calendar can see the icon.
While you’re poking around in Google Labs for calendar gadgets, check out “year view,” “dim future repeating events,” “jump to date,” and “world clock.”
If you’ve read this entire post and don’t use Google Calendar yet. Consider it. It provides some nice flexibility. It certainly makes it easy to change the schedule at the term progresses. Of course you still need to let students know what the changes are, but you’ll know that everyone has the same information on their calendars.
A number of my colleagues have recently acquired smartphones that run on Android. I promised them that I’d share my favorite apps. Some of them are even relevant to education.
Andricious (free). As you may know, I’m a fan of Delicious, the social bookmarking service. Andricious gives me easy access to all of my Delicious bookmarks. When I use my phone’s web browser, I can also use Andricious to save pages to Delicious. (You may have heard a rumor that Delicious is shutting down. That’s not the case. A few years ago Yahoo bought Delicious and then did nothing with it. It looks like Yahoo is now looking to sell it. I’ve looked around at other social bookmarking services, and none seem to work as well as Delicious does for how I use it.)
Ask-WA (free). For the denizens of Washington State, this is our ask-a-librarian service. No matter the time of day or night, you can pose a question to an on-duty librarian. This service has been around for a while, but now we have it in an easy-to-use Android app.
Barcode scanner (free). While you can use it to scan any barcode, such as an item you see at Target to discover if you can find it at a cheaper price elsewhere, I use this mostly for QR codes.
Business calendar (free for now). I recently switched to this calendar from the stock Android calendar. It has some functionality that I really like, such as a widget that just shows me what I have for today, the ability to easily turn on/turn off my various Google calendars, and a month view that allows me to swipe across a few days to just see those few days. This app is in beta testing at least through January 12, 2011.
Documents to Go (free, but $14.99 for “premium features”). Use this for editing your MS Office documents, including PowerPoint and Excel. You can also edit your Google Docs with this app. Very handy to use in conjunction with Dropbox.
Dropbox (free). Access your Dropbox files.
Epistle (free). Speaking of Dropbox, this quick-edit app adds a folder to your Dropbox. Open Epistle on your Android phone, and you can quickly edit a document. Alternatively, on your computer, edit a document in Epistle and see it on your phone. I’ve been using it for making my list of errands. It’s easy to add to when I’m at home thinking of what I need to do, and easy to add to when I’m out and about.
Google Voice (free). I also have a Google phone number, but you don’t have to have that to use Google Voice. The biggest advantage of Google Voice is that it transcribes your voicemails. Granted, the transcription is sometimes cryptic. If Google isn’t sure of a word, it takes a guess, and sometimes the guess isn’t all that great. Fortunately you can play the voicemail and watch each word become highlighted as the audio plays. What I really like about it is the transcribed phone numbers. I haven’t seen Google transcribe a phone number incorrectly. To call the number, I just tap on the transcribed number. Very cool. Oh, and with the transcriptions, my voicemails are searchable. One more thing. Remember with the old answering machines you could listen in as someone was leaving a message and then pick up the call if you wanted? Google Voice lets you do that. (Updated 12/29/2010: To clarify, the answering machine pickup feature is only available with the Google phone number.)
ICE: In Case of Emergency (free). Not education-related at all. This adds a widget to your opening screen that emergency personnel can use to access your important medical information and emergency contacts.
Movies (free). Also not education-related, but essential. See what’s playing and when at your local movie theaters. See reviews of those movies courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes. Add to your Netflix queue if you’d like.
OurGroceries (free). Okay. Not education-related either, but if you live with anybody else, this is an essential app. On the OurGroceries website create an account. Share your account with your partner. Your grocery list will be synced to the website and to both of your devices (Android, iPhone, Blackberry). Create multiple lists. For example, I have a list for, among others, Safeway, Walgreens, and Costco. Whenever I add something to a list, either via the website or via my phone, the list is updated on my partner’s phone. OurGroceries remembers the items. That means that I don’t have to type ‘spaghetti’ every time. When I type ‘spa’ I get all the items that contain the ‘spa’ string. At the store, as you pick up items, cross them off by tapping on them. Within seconds, the crossed off items appear crossed off on all other synced devices.
PdaNet ($15.95 for a limited time). This app tethers your computer to your Android phone allowing you to use your phone as a modem. I use this mostly when I travel. If I’m staying in a hotel that charges $12.95 a day for internet access, I just attach my computer to my phone instead. Some people have been able to connect via VPN to their office network through PdaNet. I haven’t been able to get that to work, though.
Power Control Plus ($1.99). Add a widget to your screen that lets you quickly do things like turn off sound (very handy for class), turn off wifi and GPS (handy for conserving battery power), use your phone’s flash as a flashlight, and a whole host of other customizable options.
Reader (free). Access your Google Reader feeds.
Swiftkey (1-month free trial; $3.99). This is an alternative to the stock Android keyboard. Its text prediction feature is really good. After some time it learns from what you type and does a pretty good job at guessing what you’re going to say next.
Tick! (free). A very easy to use timer. If all you want is to countdown for some number of minutes, this is the timer to use. I use it in class when I want to give my students a certain amount of time to do some task.
Where’s My Droid? (free). Have a tendency to misplace your phone? Send a text (say, from Gmail) to your phone to turn on the ringer and call it or send a text to get your phone to send you a text with its coordinates, if you left your GPS on. Again, Gmail works well for this. Click on the coordinates to call up a Google map with a marker pointing to the location of your phone – or within 30 or so feet of your phone.
If you can’t find an app to do what you want, create your own with App Inventor.
Last month I wrote about BridgeURL, a service that lets you bundle links together into one URL. Controls appear on either side of your browser window that allow you to cycle through the links. Here’s an example of a BridgeURL link. For those of you who are fans of bit.ly, the URL shortener service, they’ve recently added the ability to bundle URLs together.
Log in to your bit.ly account. Check the boxes next to the links you’d like to bundle together, and click ‘Bundle.’
Clicking ‘Bundle’ generates this page where you can add links to your newly created bundle. In this screenshot, you only see the first link. The other two are below it. You can revisit this bundle at any time to add links.
I’m going to change the title and give a description of the bundle.
This is what it now looks like.
When I click the ‘Share’ button, I get the screen below. If I click ‘Copy,’ the URL for my bundle is copied to my clipboard, and I can paste it anywhere I’d like. If I click customize, I can name the link anything that isn’t already taken. For instance, I customized this bundle to this: http://bit.ly/Correlations. If you’re giving links to students in paper form, customizing is the way to go. It’s easier for students to type in that URL than to type in random letters.
Once your bundle’s created, you can add links, remove links, and rearrange links. Go back into your bit.ly account, and click on the bundle. Or just follow the link that you created.
To add links, copy and paste your link into the box and click ‘Add to bundle.’ To edit your title or description, click on the title to change the title; click on the description to change the description. To delete or rearrange links, click the box directly above the ‘Add to bundle’ button. That will collapse all of your links so you’ll only see the titles. Click the garbage can to delete a link. To rearrange the links, mouse over a link, grab it with the hand that appears, and drag it to where you want it to go. That’s it. It’s automatically saved, and your previous customized URL will still work.
If you send your students out to the web to visit a number of sites, bundling makes it easier on you and your students. By editing your bundle, you can easily change an assignment without changing the URL you give to your students.
And for those of you have become QR code aficionados, point your smartphone here to go to this bit.ly bundle.
RSS feeds are a great way to keep track of what’s new. I use Google Reader, but there are many other ways to read RSS feeds. You can even bring feeds into Outlook. If you’re unfamiliar with RSS feeds, start with this post about Google Reader.
Here I’m going to talk about how you can push RSS feeds to your students via your website or CMS (e.g., Angel).
This is from my personal web page. Everything in the box comes from the American Psychological Association (APA). Every time APA updates their news feed, the content in this box is updated. If you visit my website and click any of those titles, you’ll be taken to the full article.
How to do it
I use a service called RSSInclude. After you set up a free account, you’ll be given the opportunity to create a new RSSbox. You’ll be given a few templates to choose from. The box you see above is “the simple vertical list.”
Next, you’re asked for the URL of the feed. To find it, look for the little orange icon. On APA’s website, for example, there’s a “News & Events” section. It’s there where you can find the RSS feed URL I used to create the above RSSbox. Following that link, I was given the option to choose from a number of feeds. I chose this one: http://psycport.apa.org/siteware/rssfeed.xml.
Here I’ve entered the feed URL.
After clicking “Add Feed,” this is what you get. Now click “Content and Styling Options.”
Now you can jazz it up a bit. Decide what title you’d like, the number of entries you want to appear in your box, the size of the box, the color of the font and the background, and so on.
Once you have it looking as you’d like, click the “save and preview” button at the bottom of the page. Do you like how it looks? It’s ready to go live!
Create as many RSSboxes as you’d like. In addition to the PsycPORT news feed, I also have an RSSbox that imports content from our psych department website. (Our website is built using WordPress, a popular blogging platform, so any new content is automatically dropped into an RSS feed.)
Try it out. If you run into any problems, let me know!
[Update 1/17/13: FollowUp.cc remains free for those who use up to 30 reminders a month. For up to 100 reminders and integration with Google Calendar, you’ll need to sign up for their personal plan at $5/month.]
A month ago I wrote about NudgeMail, a service that allows you to send email reminders to yourself in the future. For example, if you send an email to Monday@NudgeMail.com, you’ll receive that email back from NudgeMail on Monday morning. An email sent to 1pm@NudgeMail.com sends that email back to you the next time 1pm rolls around. An email sent to 5minutes@NudgeMail.com sends that email back to you in 5 minutes. Unfortunately, NudgeMail mysteriously stopped working for me. Since I found the service so useful, I went searching for another company that provides a similar service. I found one that does the same thing, but has some additional features.
The advantage of NudgeMail is that there is no registration, no login. That’s also its disadvantage, I discovered. When it stopped working for me, I had no easy to way to see the future NudgeMails I had scheduled. My only option was to go through Outlook’s sent folder. (Actually, I used Xobni to narrow down the search – see this earlier post, but it still wasn’t easy.)
For email reminders, I’m now using FollowUp.cc.
It works the same way in that if I want a reminder on Monday, I send an email to Monday@FollowUp.cc. If I want a reminder at 1pm, I send an email to 1pm@FollowUp.cc. See FollowUp’s FAQ for all of ways you can set a time for a future reminder.
When I send the reminder, FollowUp.cc will add it to a calendar that I can access on their website, and it will be added to a calendar I can view in my own Google calendar. And when that reminder shows up in my mailbox later, I can ‘snooze’ it, so it’s sent to me again at some future point.
I send this email:
A minute later, I received this email:
I can either do what I wanted to do, or I could ‘snooze’ it. If I click ‘1w,’ I will get this same email reminder back in a week. If I click ‘edit reminder manually,’ I’m directed to a webpage where I can set the time and date myself.
The FollowUp.cc calendar
I wrote that email on Friday, December 10th at 5:56am. When I visit my calendar at FollowUp.cc I can see that “An example for blog” has been added. It’s in red because by the time I was ready to take this screenshot, 5:57am had already passed.
Within the FollowUp.cc settings, you can get the URLs for both an iCal calendar and RSS feed.
If you use Google calendar, on the bottom left, there is a section called ‘Other calendars.’ Click add. Then select ‘Add by URL.’ Then paste the iCal URL from within your FollowUp.cc Settings.
The FollowUp.cc calendar only shows your upcoming reminders. (I snoozed the ‘an example’ reminder until tomorrow so it would appear in my calendar.) If you don’t want to see your reminders all the time, under ‘Other calendars,’ click ‘FollowUp.cc.’ The color will turn to white. Click it again to turn it back on.
I tried out the RSS feed, but I decided that I didn’t need my reminder information in my feed reader, too. My email and my Google calendar were plenty!
From other email addresses
By adding other email addresses to your account, you can send yourself reminders from them as well. Whatever account you send from, email reminders will go back to that account. All email reminders go into the same calendar though.
If I email me with something like, “Let’s find time next month to discuss (some issue),” and I cc January3@followup.cc, then on January 3rd, you and I will both get this email in our inboxes. If I bcc January3@followup.cc, then only I will get the reminder. If I use Subtextual (see this earlier post), then I can add an additional message to myself. And, of course much mixing and matching is possible.
For example, let’s say that I email you, cc’ing someone else and January3@followup.cc. I then write a message: “Here’s the background…” But because I want to include some additional information in the reminder for you and me, I use Subtextual.
On January 3rd, the ‘here’s the background’ email will be sent as a reminder to ‘someoneelse,’ to you, and to me. The ‘here’s the strategy’ email will be sent as a reminder to just you and me.
Remind yourself about websites
FollowUp.cc also provides a bookmarklet. When I click a link in my browser, I can set a reminder to be sent to me later reminding me to visit that website.
The developers continue to make improvements. Keep an eye on this product!
Want to give out your cell phone or home phone number to students but you don’t want them to have your phone number in perpetuity? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could, in effect, change your phone number every term?
Check out Babble.ly.
How it works
You give students a randomly-generated URL or QR code to that URL. (If you’re unfamiliar with QR codes, start with this post.) That takes them to the website below. The student enters their phone number and name (optional). The student clicks ‘Call.’ Babble.ly will call the student’s phone. When the student answers, Babble.ly will call your phone. The student doesn’t ever see your number; you don’t ever see the student’s number. (Ok, I know. As faculty, we have access to student phone numbers. Perhaps the student only has a home phone number on record with your institution and would rather you not have their cell number.)
Setting it up
After creating an account, you’ll be asked to add a phone number to your account. Once added, click the “Verify Now!” link.
Babble.ly will generate a 4-digit code. Click ‘Call me now,’ and an automated voice will ask for the 4-digit code. You’ll be told your phone number has been verified, and then the system voice says, “Thank you,” and unceremoniously hangs up on you. I found that quite refreshing, actually.
Once verified, you have a link that’s tied to your phone. Give that link to your students. Or follow the link to get the QR code and give that to your students.
When the term is over
Go into your Babble.ly account, and delete your number. At the beginning of the next term, go back into ‘manage’ your account and enter your number again, and Babble.ly will generate a new URL for you. Verify it, and give the URL and/QR code to your students.
This is a brand new service, so they’re in beta. It’s currently free, but they’re planning additional features that will be available in a pay-for version. Currently, calls are limited to 10 minutes.
[Thanks to Arvin Dang at Lifehacker for the heads up on this service!]