Jan 302016
 

Years ago you created a Dropbox account and installed Dropbox on your home computer, your work computer, your personal laptop, and maybe even a work laptop. It was, and is, a great way to access all of your files wherever you may be. Do you remember when you used to email files to yourself? Or tried to remember whether the newest version of a file was on your home computer, your work computer, or a flashdrive – wherever you might have left that flashdrive, whichever flashdrive it was? Dropbox has even more powerful functionality with Microsoft integration. You can now edit documents with others, live, via Dropbox.com. But that’s not what this post is about.

Not only did you find Dropbox useful for storing your work files, you found it useful for storing your personal files. But do you really want your vacation photos on your work computer? One issue I’ve seen with those non-work photos on a work computer is that many work computers are backed up to an institutional or company server. Even if the photos are Rated G, they are taking up tons of space on servers that don’t have a ton of space. It’s one thing if those photos are work-related. It’s another thing if they are not. Or, less ethically troublesome, maybe you just have some folders that contain files that you don’t really need anymore. You’d like to keep them as an archive, but they don’t need to take up space on your computer’s hard drive.

Let’s separate the Dropbox folders you don’t need on your work computer from the folders you do need using “selective sync”.

Selective sync lets you tell Dropbox which folders you want to sync with a particular computer. To choose which Dropbox folders you want synced on your work computer, from your work computer click on the Dropbox icon in your system tray. Click on the gear icon, & select “Preferences”.

In the Dropbox Preferences window, select “Account”. Click on “Selective Sync…” The popup will show you all of your Dropbox folders. Leave checked the ones you want to sync to this computer; uncheck the ones you want removed. Click “Update” and “OK”.

Dropbox will delete the unchecked folders from your work computer, but they will still exist at Dropbox.com. I promise. Those unchecked folders will also still sync with any other computers you have. If you want to remove, say, 2009 committee minutes from your home computer, repeat this process from your home computer.

You can always resync those folders by going back into preferences, and checking the folders you want to sync to that computer.

You’re not doing anything else this evening. Take the opportunity to free up some space on your computer disk drives.

 

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Sep 282015
 

Over the summer, Dropbox added a nifty new feature.

Save bookmarks from your web browser in any Dropbox folder.

Highlight the URL in your web browser, left click on the highlighted URL, and drag it into your chosen Dropbox folder. Notice that the file “type” is Internet Shortcut.

Like filenames, you can rename your URLs by right-clicking on the filename and selecting rename.

Yes, if you share a Dropbox folder (read/write privileges for your share-ees) or share a link to a Dropbox folder (read-only for your share-ees), the links are also shared.

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Jun 292015
 

Dropbox logoOnce upon a time, there was a third party service for Dropbox called DropItToMe. It allowed others to upload files to your Dropbox account. That service went extinct some time ago, but the programmers at Dropbox have been working on creating that functionality inside of Dropbox itself. And it is now available. The feature is called “File requests”. Give people a URL, and when they visit that URL, they will be able to upload a file as big as 2 GB (I think) to your Dropbox account. How cool is that? And, of course, once the file arrives is uploaded to Dropbox.com, Dropbox will sync it with all of your devices where you have Dropbox installed.

Dropbox left navigation menuTo access this feature, log into your Dropbox.com account via your web browser. On the left, click on “File requests”. Click the big blue button “Create file request”.

The pop-up window asks where you want the files to go. Dropbox will create a new folder aptly-named “File requests” in your root Dropbox folder. When yDropbox File Requests Windowou write something in the required “What are you requesting” field, like “Assignment 1”, Dropbox will create a new subfolder called “Assignment 1” that will reside inside of the “File requests” folder. If you already have a Dropbox folder location in mind, say, in an assignment subfolder that resides in your course folder that resides in your academic year folder, you can click “change folder”, and Dropbox will show you all of your folders. Pick the once you want.

Click “Next” to get the link. You can either just copy the link or you can enter email addresses of those you want to receive the link and let Dropbox contact them.

Now when you click on “File requests” you will see your open and closed file requests. Clicking on “Assignment 1” opens my “Assignment 1” folder in Dropbox. Mousing over it gives me two options. I can edit it, which essentially takes me back to the “Create file request” pop-up window where I can change the folder, although there is one additional option on this screen now; I can also close the link. Closing the link means that even when someone visits the URL, they will not be able to upload a file. The second mouse-over option allows me to add more people; this takes me back to the second pop-up where I got the link allowing me to copy the link again or enter more email addresses for Dropbox to send the link to.

Dropbox screen for managing all of your file requests

Click “Request files” if you want to create more. If you have different courses or sections with different assignments, create a file request for each one. If you’re picturing having to move files once they’ve been uploaded, set things up on the front-end so that Dropbox does the sorting for you.

What does the person who visits your file request URL experience?

They will be asked to navigate through their computer’s file structure to identify the file they want to upload. And then they will be asked for their first name, last name, and email address. They can even add more files to upload. Dropbox will append the person’s name to the beginning of the filename. Let’s say that Charlie Brown uploads a file he named “Assignment 1.docx”. The file will be renamed “Charlie Brown – Assignment 1.docx”.

What happens to the email address the person entered when uploading? Dropbox uses it to send the person a message saying that their file has indeed been uploaded.

And you, as the person requesting files, will receive an email informing you that a file has been uploaded along with the name of the file and a link to access the file on the Dropbox website.

Quick recap of Dropbox download/upload features

Two-way street (download and upload). If you share a folder with someone, both you and that someone can manipulate the files in that folder; what’s yours is theirs and what is theirs is yours.

One-way street toward downtown (download only). If you create a link to a folder or file, anyone who has the link URL can download the files in the folder or that individual file; they cannot make changes to your folder or file that resides in Dropbox.

One-way street toward uptown (upload only). If you create a file request, anyone who has the URL can upload files to the Dropbox folder you designate; they cannot see or download any of your Dropbox files.

Conclusion

If the occasional person emails you a file, then there’s no need to use this feature. If you have a bunch of people emailing you files that you’re just going to add to Dropbox anyway, why not skip the email middle-man and just have them add their file directly to your Dropbox account?

 

 

 

 

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Sep 202014
 

I’m not a big fan of flashcards, although I have found an interesting use for them. Flashcards take the material you’re learning out of context making it harder to learn, but easier to memorize. Students can use flashcards, for example, to memorize the bones in the body. They will be able to remember that the ulna is in the arm, but without context, they won’t know the ulna’s relationship to, say, the humerus. Having said that, the sheer memorization that flashcards afford does have a place. If you want to just learn new vocabulary words, flashcards can certainly help.

Having said that, I have a colleague (shout out to Liz Hammer at Xavier University of Louisiana!) who suggests having students create application cards. For each concept in a course, ask students to generate an example of that concept from their lives or from other sources such as news media. Students write the concept on one side of the card. On the other side, students provide an example of the concept. Now picture these as virtual cards where all students have access to the card deck… on a website or on their mobile device. The exercise’s greatest power comes from generating examples, but students being able to see an example, and then trying to figure out what it is an example of makes use of the testing effect where the act of retrieval strengthens memory.

There are a bunch of flashcard makers out there, but I’m particularly enamored with Flashcard Machine. Creating flashcards is easy through both the web interface (free) and the mobile app (iOS and Android for a small fee). A group of students, or an entire class, can share flashcard sets.

On the mobile device, students will see the “definition,” in our case an example, come up. Tapping the bottom of the screen will reveal the term that goes with the example.

In one chapter of the textbook I use, I count about 30 terms. If, say, 30 students each generated one example for each of those terms, that would be 900 flashcards – just for that one chapter. Perhaps students could be in groups of 5. That would be 150 flashcards per set. It would require some background work, but students could have editing power for their own group’s flashcards but be able to see and use the flashcards of other groups. Want to increase accountability or grade individually? Have each student initial their cards. Or perhaps each student makes their own set of (gradable) cards but then makes them available for their group members to use. Or each group member could choose their best cards, and copy those cards into the group set that each group member could use for studying.

Creating flashcard sets

After creating an account, click on “New Flashcard Set.”

Enter the “General Set Details,” including a short title and description. Leave the “Flashcard Library” disabled if you don’t want the set to be publicly available. Enable “Private Sharing” so you can give the url to other students in the course allowing them to use the flashcards without the power to edit them. Enable “Collaborative Editing” to invite students to add flashcards.

After saving the set, you will see the editor tool bar. Click “Quick Editor.”

In the Quick Editor, add the term in the first box, add the example in the second box. Then click “+Add Another” to add another new card.

Studying

Students click on the flashcard set they want to study, and then click “Start Study Session.”

On the “Configure Study Session” page, students should select “Definition then Term” since, for our students, examples have been entered on the definition side of the card. When given an example, can students identify the term?

Conclusion

If your students try Flashcard Machine, I would love to hear what they think of it! More importantly, when your students create examples and work with examples created by others, do you see an improvement in exam scores?

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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 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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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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Oct 152013
 

You are working with a student or a colleague. You are both standing in front of a whiteboard drawing, writing, and discussing your topic. But how do you do this online if you and your collaborator are not in the same physical location? I love Join.me for screensharing, but it’s not very useful if you want to draw something – unless of course you have some type of drawing program on your computer, like EpicPen.

Try Scribblar if you’re looking to share a whiteboard, in real time.

After setting up a free account (maximum of one room and only two users per room; see plans and pricing for more information), create your first room. You can play on the whiteboard without anyone else in the room, but to get a true feel for it, invite a friend by copying the URL for the whiteboard and emailing it to them.


The drawing tools

The menu to the right of the whiteboard provides the drawing tools. In Scribblar, mouse over each icon to see the popup descriptor.

Selector (arrow): Once you’ve written or typed on the board, click on this icon, and then click and drag on the whiteboard to select the elements you’d like. Dragging over any portion of an element will select the whole thing. If it’s a drawn image, you can click and drag to move it. Selected elements can be deleted with your keyboard’s delete key.

Pencil: This is the basic, freehand drawing tool. You can change the color and thickness.

Smooth pencil: You can change the color of this tool, but not the thickness of the line. It does appear to render a smoother line than the regular pencil.

Text (the “A” icon): For those who’d rather type than draw.

Shapes (straight line, square, circle, triangle, polygon, wedge). Select, then click and drag to set the size. Each shape element has its own features. The wedge, for example, includes a slider that lets you determine how much of a wedge you want to show, from 1 degree to 360 degrees. The straight line tool has options for adding arrows to one or both ends of the line. Change the fill color, line color, or both.


Highlighter: It works just like a highlighter. Change the color and the width.

Stamp: This tool comes with 6 premade stamps: Star, arrow, diamond, trademark symbol, registered trademark symbol, and copyright symbol.

 

The editing tools

The menu along the top of the whiteboard space provides the editing tools. Like the drawing tools, mouse over each icon to see the popup description.

Cut, copy, paste, undo, redo, delete, flip horizontally, flip vertically, lock the page to editing, unlock the page, clear the page, clear all the pages (how to add pages is explained below), take a snapshot of the whiteboard (your best option for saving what you produced), pointer (for, well, pointing – if you’re pointing, no other whiteboard tools will work for you. Click the icon again to toggle it off.), make the background a grid, equation editor, Wolfram/Alpha (for those with a paid plan), and change the whiteboard to a color other than white.

Adding new boards


In the lower left corner of the whiteboard, you can add new whiteboard pages to your room. Just click the right arrow, and a new page will appear. To switch back to the first page, click the left arrow or click the dropdown menu and navigate to the page you want.

If there is a way to delete a page once you have created it, I haven’t found it. If you erase an entire page, the page will still be listed here; it won’t be deleted. You can always delete the entire room and start over.

Audio, chat, and files

To the right of the whiteboard is the list of participants. The icons to the right of each participant’s name let you determine what kind of control that person has. Click the pencil, chat bubble, and microphone to toggle those off. If you’re the “admin” for the room, you cannot turn these off for yourself. The chat window is directly below the participant window. Above the participant window is the microphone. Click it on to talk.

The “assets” tab icons give you the power to upload an image, import a snapshot of a webpage, add a Flickr image, set a selected image as a background to your whiteboard page, download the selected image, delete the selected image, and refresh the “assets” window. If you want to just add the image to your whiteboard screen, click and drag it from the “assets” window to your whiteboard page.

Embed code

Want to embed your whiteboard room in a webpage? In the top right corner of the Scribblar whiteboard screen, click the little arrow next to “Room Options” and select “Embed this room.” A popup screen will give you the html code.

Limitations

Scribblar is built on Flash, so it won’t work on many mobile devices.

Scribblar only allows for audio communication, not video. If you want video, use Skype or some other video communication service.

No screensharing. Scribblar is only about sharing this particular program; you cannot share your entire desktop. For that, consider Join.me or Google Hangouts.

Caution: If you create a room, and then don’t visit it for 60 days, Scribblar will delete your room. If that’s a concern for you, use a service like FollowUp.cc to remind yourself to visit your room every 59 days.

 

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Mar 102013
 

Join.me is my go-to screen-sharing application with Google Hangouts running a close second. However, both only allow one person to “be” on the screen at any given time. ScreenHero (Windows and Mac) allows two people on the screen simultaneously.

Getting started

After installing Screenhero, you will need to “Add People” you can share your screen with. You’ll be asked to enter the email address and name of someone with whom you’d like to, at some future point or now, share your screen. If they already have a Screenhero account, enter the email address they used to create their account.

I invited myself under a different email address and received this email as the recipient of the invitation. The invitation comes with a default username (email address) and password.

I installed Screenhero on a different computer, and now I can see in the Screenhero window that my alter ego is online. When the person is offline, the chat icon and “Share” button disappear.

Screen sharing

When you click the “Share” button, you get two options. “Share Window”will let you choose which window you’d like to share. The screen-sharing buddy will only be able to control what’s in the window you share. “Share Screen” let’s you share everything on your screen.

Once you select which you’d like to share, the other person will get this pop-up notification along with a pleasant-sounding chime.

After clicking “Accept Share,” you will see the other person’s pointer on your screen, labeled with their name, plus your own pointer.

The other person will see both your pointer and their own.

But you cannot type simultaneously. You can switch back and forth without issue, but both people cannot control the screen at the same time.

Communication

Screenhero comes with built-in chat. Use it to communicate or go old-school and just talk on the phone.

Conclusion

As of this writing, Screenhero is still in beta, so watch for the addition of new features.

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Feb 222013
 

Google Hangout is a quick and intuitive way to work with up to 9 others in a virtual environment. If you have a Google account, you can create a Hangout. Talk in real time over your computer’s microphone, see each other via webcam, and even share your desktop.

Starting a Hangout

In Gmail, you can click on the camera-in-the-callout box icon next to your photo to start a new Hangout.

Or if you look below your name, you’ll see your contacts that are currently available. Mouse over the ones with a video camera next to their names, and a card will popup. Click on the Hangout icon to start a Hangout and invite that person in one fell swoop.

You can also go to Google Plus and find the Hangout button in the top right corner of your screen.

After clicking “Start a hangout,” a screen pops up showing you some people you might choose to hang out with. Click on the top entry box to enter email addresses, names (if Google has them connected to you), or people you’re connected to in Google Plus, including entire circles if you’d like. Next give your Hangout a name, or not, and then click the “Hang out” button.

The Google Hangout window

Since I haven’t invited anyone, this isn’t very interesting. I’m going to “invite people,” specifically, my alter ego.

This is the invitation email that I received from myself. Everyone who is invited would get this email.

Now, this is a little weird, but there are two versions of me in this Hangout. This screenshot is taken from my computer. On my Xoom tablet, I’m in the Hangout using the Google Plus app.

When you enter a Hangout, your microphone and webcam are turned on by default. As soon as you enter, you can start talking. You can turn off the mic and webcam using the icons at the top of the screen.

If your participants are accessing your Hangout using a computer instead of a mobile device, your participants will have the same tools you have. Mobile devices do not have this toolbar – at least not as of this writing.

Click the chat button to open the chat window. The chat window will appear on the right side of the screen. No chat for mobile devices, either. To close chat, click the button again.

Click the screenshare button to share your screen. A window like this will pop up. Here I can choose to share my entire screen or just one of the programs that I have open. Mobile devices will show a screenshare, but mobile devices cannot share their screens. To stop sharing your screen, click the screenshare button again.

Click on Google effects to do things like add a snorkel and facemask to your own image. And, yes, the other people in the Hangout will see it, too. Just click on what you’d like to add, and the object will automatically be added to your image. Click the object again to turn it off, or click the “Remove all effects” button at the bottom of the effects panel. To close the Google effects panel, click the Google effects button again.

 

Now before you dismiss this as totally frivolous, at Klutz Press, at one time anyway, they said that any time there were disagreements among the employees, the employees in question had to put on Groucho Marx glasses before discussing the issue in question. I sincerely hope that they really did this – and that they still do. Picture using this technique virtually with a self-destructing student group. Or with those two faculty members in your department who are renowned for their bickering at each other.

It certainly seems like it would help keep people from taking themselves too seriously.

When you’re done laughing, let’s get back to work. Click on Google Drive to collectively edit a Google Drive file or open a new document for notes or even a sketchpad to draw on. Unfortunately someone using the app on a mobile device won’t be able to see your Google Drive documents. To switch off Google Drive, click the “Google Drive” button again.

Click on View more apps to discover other nifty additions. I just added Symphonical. It’s a drag and drop task organizer. When you have your plan together, email a copy to everyone. It’s tied to your account so the next time you go into a Hangout and open Symphonical, it will be there. Have more than one project? Click the green “Add wall” button in the top left corner. Adding Symphonical to a Hangout will automatically get you access to your walls at Symphonical.com. You’ll get an email from them about that. And, no, this doesn’t show up in the mobile app either.

Try it out

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