Nov 222012

Since I wrote about in February 2011, the developers have added some new features. For those who missed that post, is a desktop sharing application. Run, and the program generates a URL. Share that URL with whomever you’d like, and they will see your computer’s desktop in their web browser.

In the free version of, you use your computer’s microphone to talk with those who are seeing your desktop.  To listen, use headphones, not your computer’s speakers. If you use your speakers, it will sound okay to you, but the others who are participating will hear an echo of their voices. The sound from your speakers is picked up by your microphone so anyone who is speaking will hear their voice through their headphones. If you want conference calling over the phone, sign up for Pro. Or use Or

Multiple monitor support

The center icon in the toolbar has been changed from a pause button to a monitor. Clicking on it still pauses your screen. Let’s say you want to do something on your screen without everyone seeing it, pause freezes your screen for everyone who is watching, but you still retain full control.

Clicking the down arrow under the monitor icon is magical if you are running dual monitors. Click on “Switch screen”. An orange outline will appear around your screen to show that you are currently sharing, say, monitor 1. Mouse over to your second monitor, and the orange outline will move with you. Click anywhere on that screen to share it. Repeat the process to move back to monitor 1. Okay, maybe it’s not magical, but it is pretty cool.

Mobile app (Android/iOS)

Visit Google Play/App Store, to add the free app to your smartphone or tablet. Run the app, and enter the 9-digit code (hyphens are added automatically). If you view someone’s screen from the app, you join the audio as a conference call via a phone number and access code (pro version is not required). The other limitation is that you do not have the option to control the computer screen you’re viewing. You can only look, not touch.

Teaching tip

I have an engineering colleague who teaches in a computer classroom where each student station has dual monitors. During class, the professor runs, and his students watch his screen in the web browser via on one monitor while they do the same steps on the other monitor.

How are you using

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Apr 262012

The newest Dropbox feature, made available to all on 4/23/2012, is “get link.” You no longer have to put content in a public folder to share it.

Open your Dropbox folder, right click on the filename or folder (yes, I said folder!), and under “Dropbox” select “Get link”.

Or if you’re accessing your files from the website, mouse over any file or folder, then click the “Get link” icon.

If you choose to share just a file, your file will open in your browser. Copy the URL from your browser to share with whomever you’d like. The recipients can view the file in the browser window. If they would like a copy for themselves, they can click the “Download” button.

In the image below you can see that I’m sharing a folder called “Syllabi”. In the browser window you can see all of the files and folders I have in there. Clicking on the “Old syllabi” folder, you would see all of the files and folders in there displayed in the same way. Clicking on a file would show the file contents like in the image above and the “Download” button would appear.

When you’re ready to stop sharing, go to the URL. If you can’t remember the URL, right click on your file or folder in your Dropbox folder, and click “Get link” again. If your file or folder is currently being shared in this way, the URL will be the same. To remove the link, click the settings button (the little cog icon), and select “Remove link”.

Once the link is removed, anyone who follows the now-disabled link will get a webpage that displays this image.

If you want to re-enable the link, just go through the process again, and a new URL will be generated.

Interestingly, this new feature only works in folders that are something other than the Public or Photo folder. The files and folders inside the Public and Photo folder still work the same way they always have.

Why use “Get link”?

  1. You don’t have to disrupt your file structure to share files.
  2. You can turn on and off file sharing without moving files.
  3. Sharing an entire folder makes it easy to share a lot of files at once. And you can add or remove files as needed without having to change the link to the folder.

Other Dropbox changes you may have missed

If you use the web version of Dropbox, you can now drag and drop files from your computer to and vice versa.

If someone signs up for Dropbox through your referral, you now get an extra 500 MB of space whether you have an edu email address or not.

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Mar 052012

Live blogging from EDUCAUSE’s session on the Horizon Report. The Horizon Report “review[s] various emerging technologies likely to have a significant impact on teaching, learning, or creative expression over the next five years and highlight how institutions across the world are implementing these technologies.”

View the audio recording, slides, and transcript. View the report and other resources on the Horizon Report wiki.


Wrapping up.

The presenters encourage people to use the Horizon Report as a leaping off point for discussion on our campuses about emerging technologies and what we can do to prepare for and take advantage of those technologies. Much, much to think about.



More trending technologies.

#5 – Gesture-based computing. Includes touch, such as touching a touch screen, and motion, such as Kinnect. Must be intuitive to use and the computer response to gesture must be pretty immediate.

Very useful for addressing accessibility issues.


#6 – Internet of things. These are objects that connect to the internet on their own. Google’s driverless car is an example. Check out the Internet of Things Comic Book.


11:08 am

To learn more about learning analytics, visit the Society for Learning Analytics Research.



More on learning analytics.



More trending technologies.

#4 – Learning analytics. Both summative and formative. With formative analytics, can we make changes mid-stream to increase student success?



More trending technologies.

#3 – Gamification of education. Check out this infographic.



Trending technologies.

#1 – Mobile apps. Created by both educational institutions and private companies. “iPhone and Android have redefined what we mean by mobile computing.”

What do students want in mobile technology? More content, more help in using it, streamlining access to the content.

#2 – Tablet computing. Tablets are being used by users to supplement smartphones, not replace them.

How are they being used? Digital textbooks, campus services apps, library navigation apps.



What are the current trends in teaching and learning in higher education?

Drawings: David Sibbert, The Grove International

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Mar 042012

A group of psychological scientists have identified 25 principles of learning. Of those 25, this group identified 9 to explore in greater depth as they relate to instruction. In this series of posts, I’ll look at each in turn, discussing some of the relevant technologies that can be used to take advantage of those principles.

The first in the list: “The single most important variable in promoting long-term retention and transfer is ‘practice at retrieval’—learners generate responses, with minimal retrieval cues, repeatedly, over time.” In short, if students are going to be able to retrieve what they learned later they have to practice retrieving now (the testing effect), and they have to space out that retrieval (the spacing effect). Practicing retrieval for 4 hours straight is not as effective as spacing those 4 hours out over the course of a couple weeks or more.

The authors make 4 recommendations.

  1. “During lectures, ask students questions to elicit responses that reflect understanding of previously introduced course material. This serves the dual purpose of probing students’ knowledge, so that misconceptions can be directly and immediately addressed in the lecture.”

    Ways to do this.

    1. 4-question technique. Dietz-Uhler and Lanter (2009) found improvement in quiz scores by asking students four questions following an in-class activity.
      1. “Identify one important concept, research finding, theory, or idea in psychology that you learned while completing this activity.”
      2. “Why do you believe that this concept, research finding, theory, or idea in psychology is important?”
      3. “Apply what you have learned from this activity to some aspect of your life.”
      4. “What question(s) has the activity raised for you? What are you still wondering about?”
    2. Fill-in-the-blank, content-based questions. Gier and Kreiner (2009) found improvement on exam scores when students were periodically asked to respond to fill-in-the-blank questions over course material during class.
    3. End-of-class questions. Lyle and Crawford (2011) found improvement on exam scores in a stats class when their students were asked to respond, unassisted, to a few questions over the day’s material at the end of class.

    Useful tech tools.

    1. Pen and paper. There is nothing wrong with this old school technology. Depending on the size of your class and how often your class meets, you could be wrangling a lot of paper.
    2. Student response systems. If you don’t currently use a system. Try Socrative (max 50 students, free). This tool is easy to use and allows both multiple choice and short answer questions. The data is downloadable via an Excel spreadsheet.
    3. Forms in Google Docs (read more about how to use this feature). Give students the URL to the form via a link on a website or in your course management system, a shortened URL (I recommend, or a QR code for your mobile users (read more about QR codes). Students enter their names, their email addresses, their class time, and then whatever questions you’d like them to answer about the course material. The data is dumped into a spreadsheet that you can download from Google Docs. When I do this, I add a column for my comments and a column for my grade. Then I create a form letter in Word, link it to my spreadsheet, and do a mail merge to send my feedback to students (read more about mail merge here).


  2. “On homework assignments, have students retrieve key information from lectures and readings. Chapter summaries, for instance, may include study questions that ask students to recall major points or conclusions to be drawn from the reading.”

    Useful tech tools.

    1. Forms in Google Docs (read more about how to use this feature). For each reading assignment, I ask students to answer four questions. The first two questions cover the content. Question 3 asks what was the most difficult part of the reading and what questions they may have. Question 4 asks what was the most interesting thing they read. I use the mail merge procedure discussed above to send my feedback to students. This is my first quarter using this approach. On the first exam, I saw no difference in exam scores compared to last quarter. I saw a statistically significant jump in exam scores on the second exam – a full letter grade. In my perception, students wrote more and wrote better responses during the second section of the course leading up to the second exam. That may be due to my feedback, to my asking better content questions that require more synthesis of information, or to something else entirely.
    2. Word documents. If your students submit assignments by attaching them to email messages that you get in Outlook, I highly recommend SimplyFile, an Outlook add-in (read more here), to quickly file the messages in a folder so they’re out of your inbox. And then use EZDetach, another Outlook add-in (read more here), to save all of the attachments with student email address and student name appended to the filename to your “grade these” folder.


  3. “Encourage group studying in which students actively discuss course topics. In these groups, students have an opportunity to explain difficult course concepts to one and another, engaging in ‘practice at retrieval.'”

    Useful tech tools.

    1. Doodle (read more here). A lot of students say they’d like to form study groups, but they don’t quite know how to do it. Create a Doodle poll that asks students to mark the times they’re available for a study group. Students can see who is available when they’re available. Let the students take the initiative to contact those other students.
    2. TitanPad (read more here). For students whose schedule or location makes it difficult to get together, they could use this tool to explain concepts in their own words or provide their own examples. Groups of students can work together on the same ‘pad’. With the time slider feature, you can easily see who contributed what and when if you’d like to assign a participation grade.
    3. Google+ hangouts with video or Skype. These are good tools for students who’d like to get together to study at a particular time, but are unable to be in the same place.

  4. “As with probing questions during lectures, test questions offer another opportunity for ‘practice at retrieval,’ thus, potentially enhancing knowledge of the material being tested. Ideally tests should be cumulative and test items should probe for understanding of the material.”


    In terms of test performance, it doesn’t matter if you give a paper-and-pencil test or a computer-based test (Frein, 2011). Whichever you use, I encourage you to look at how your students perform on each question. If a lot of students missed the question, what incorrect answer did they choose? This will give you valuable information about common misconceptions.

Whatever changes you decide to make in your course, I strongly encourage you to track the impact your changes have made on student learning, however it is you choose to measure it. Your institution may be interested for their assessment reports to their accreditors, and I encourage you submit your results for publication in a peer-reviewed journal or a conference that’s interested in the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL). This site provides some resources for locating those journals and conferences.



Dietz-Uhler, B. & Lanter, J. R. (2009). Using the four-questions technique to enhance learning. Teaching of Psychology, 36(1), 38-41. doi:10.1080/00986280802529327

Frein, S.T. (2011). Comparing in-class and out-of-class computer-based tests to traditional paper-and-pencil tests in Introductory Psychology courses. Teaching of Psychology, 38(4), 282-287). doi: 10.1177/0098628311421331

Giers, V. S. & Kreiner, D. S. (2009). Incorporating active learning with powerpoint-based lectures using content-based questions. Teaching of Psychology, 36(2), 134-139. doi:10.1080/00986280902739792

Lyle, K.B. & Crawford, N.A. (2011). Retrieving essential material at the end of lectures improves performance on statistics exams. Teaching of Psychology, 38(2), 94-97. doi:

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Feb 102012

[Update 2/29/2012: The folks at announced that someone else will be taking over maintenance of the service.]

In this earlier blog post, I recommended using as a tool for collaboration. It was a quick and easy way to create email distribution lists. Unfortunately just announced that they’re closing down effective March 1st, 2012. They are open to a buyer, so if someone is looking for a business opportunity…

Looking for an alternative? Try Google Groups. You can create a private group just for your class. I’ll write more about how Google Groups work in a future blog post.

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Dec 082011

As the term comes to a close and you slide into the break for a bit of a breather, consider checking out these tech tools. I know you probably don’t have time now to look at these, although if you’re looking for a good excuse to do something besides grade papers… If you don’t want to take the time now, bookmark this webpage, and take a look at these when you need a break from your visiting in-laws. (Yes, I know you love them, but that doesn’t mean that you have to spend the entire week with them.)

Here they are (the tools, not your in-laws), in no real order. Not using yet? Still carrying around a flashdrive or emailing files to yourself? If it were foolproof, I’d say keep doing it. But flashdrives fail or get lost. People forget to email that changed file back to themselves, having to call home when they get to work, hoping someone you live with is still there. And for those who live alone, hoping that someone has broken into your house and willing to answer your phone.

Instead, install Dropbox on your work computer and your home computer. Dropbox will add a folder called “My Dropbox” to both computers. Anything you put in that folder on one computer will synchronize with the other folder. Automatically. Edit a file at home. Save it. And it will be there waiting for you when you get to work. [Internet connection required.] (Click here for an earlier blog post.)

Shortmarks. My partner tells me that this is the best technology I’ve brought into our house since the PDA I got her as a replacement for her five-pound DayTimer several years ago. And you know that a lot of technology has flowed through our home in that time.

With Shortmarks, you enter a bit of text in your browser’s address bar, and Shortmarks directs you to that website. They start you off with a bunch but make it easy to add your own. For example, qty in my browser’s address bar takes me to the quarterly. Entry takes me to the entry code page. But it gets even better than that. For sites that allow you to do searches, you can search that site before even going to the site. For example, when I type z unbroken into my browser’s address bar and hit enter, I’m immediately directed to Amazon’s page that displays all results for the term “unbroken”. (Click here for an earlier blog post.)

Speaking of Unbroken I highly recommend it. By the author of Seabiscuit, Unbroken is a page-turner, or a screen-tapper for those of with e-readers. I believe it has a chance to with a Pulitzer for general nonfiction.

Sandglaz. Ready to get organized? I’ve finally found a task management system that replaces all of my little paper notes. Click to add a new task. Add a note or a due date to it if you’d like. Have one list for work stuff with a few different areas cordoned off for different kinds of tasks. Add a new list and share it with others to help keep track of what’s been done and what’s left to do. Bookmark the site on your Android or IOS phone and add stuff on the go. But not while driving. (Click here for an earlier blog post.) It’s an easy way to share your desktop with others. I use it during conference calls that I’m coordinating. I run, and it generates a link. I send that link out to the people who are part of the meeting. They click on the link, and they can see my desktop in their browser. To talk to each other, we can either join the conference call using’s built-in conference call number (free, but long distance for everyone), or by some other means.

It’s also handy when consulting with students and you want to show them something – a document, spreadsheet, webpage, really anything on your computer. Send them the link, and have them call your office phone. (Click here for an earlier blog post.)

YouCanBook.Me. Using Google Calendar, this service shows students when you’re free and lets them book themselves into your calendar. It will even send them a reminder. They also get a cancellation link. If they click that, it will remove them from your calendar. Use gsyncit ($20) to synchronize Google Calendar with Outlook. (Click here for an earlier blog post.)

If you’d rather give students access to only certain times in your available calendar, check out appointment slots in Google Calendar.[Update 12/15/2012: Effective January 2013, appointment slots will be discontinued. Existing appointments will be fine, however.]  (Click here for an earlier blog post.)

If you want even more stuff to try, flip back through these blog posts for the last year or two. I’m certain you’ll come across something interesting to try!

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Nov 082011

A colleague (thanks Craig C.!) recently sent me a link to a Forbes article (10/18/2011) about Drew Houston, founder of Dropbox. (Disclaimer: Craig swears he doesn’t usually read Forbes; he was in the waiting room of his dentist’s office.)

At a recent presentation before 100-or-so psychologists (educators, researchers, and practitioners), I asked how many used Dropbox. About 90% of the hands went up. I confess I was surprised at the number. But in case anyone had any doubts about the widespread use of Dropbox, read this excerpt from the Forbes article:

The opportunity in front of Drew Houston revealed itself again a few months ago during a booze-fueled lunch at VC Ron Conway’s Belvedere, Calif. bayside villa. As Houston carefully explained what Dropbox did, he was cut off in the exact way that Steve Jobs had so many years ago: “I know, I use it all the time.” Rather than a tech CEO, his drinking buddy was rapper of the Black Eyed Peas, who told Houston he used Dropbox to collaborate with producer David Guetta on the hit “I Got A Feeling.”

Such tipping point anecdotes now pour in. After his laptop crashed during final exams one law student wrote in: ”Without Dropbox I would have failed out of law school and be living under a bridge.” A watch design firm just outside of Venice, Italian Soul, uses Dropbox to create new pieces with a designer in Mendoza, Argentina, the hulking 3-D files living painlessly in the cloud. Haitian relief workers kept up-to-date records of the deceased and shared those names with Miami and other cities. Professional sports teams inventory videos of opponents’ plays, accessible wherever the team is playing. 

While others are nipping at Dropbox’s heels, e.g.,, iCloud, and Drive (a promised product from Google), Dropbox has quite a head start. As of this writing it has 50 million users. And new users are joining at the rate of about 1 per second.

What is Dropbox doing to keep the hounds at bay? “Houston must combat a MySpace-like implosion by spending a lot of his war chest on ubiquity. He’s protecting his flank against Google via a new deal with phonemaker HTC, which will make Dropbox the default cloud storage option on every one of its Android phones. Deals with six other phone firms are almost inked; PC and television makers are next. Houston has hired a team to tailor Dropbox to businesses. A couple hundred outside developers are making apps for Dropbox.”

Keep an eye on Dropbox. If you’re one of those 50 million users, how has it changed how you work? Not a member of Dropbox yet? Now’s a good time to join.


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Oct 162011

As you all know, I’m a Dropbox fan. But what happens when your Dropbox capacity is 2GB and you’re sharing a folder with someone who has 16GB, and that person puts a 3GB file in your shared folder? (Shout out to the attendees of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology’s Best Practices conference – especially to the person who raised this question!) Well, Dropbox chokes.

Here’s an alternative. (via LifeHacker) lets you transfer large files others. How it works? You go to, drag your file onto the webpage.

Copy the URL (CTRL-C), and send it to your collaborator.

You have to stay on the page until your file has completely uploaded and until your collaborator appears. Your collaborator needs to stay on the page until the file has been completely downloaded.

See the “waiting for recipient” message in the bottom right corner? Once the file download is completed, it changes to “transfer complete!” The file will be in your recipient’s browser’s download folder.

That’s it.

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Sep 072011

Today’s Faculty Focus article is on using mind maps to get students to engage with the course material. While the author recommends using a large sheet of a paper, I would ask faculty to consider pointing their students to

Earlier this year I wrote about SpiderScribe. (See this blog post.) It has a very short learning curve, and with the ability to include text, images, URLs, and documents, the maps that students create could be very powerful study aids.

Using the share feature, students could work in pairs or groups to create the maps. No need to print them off. Students can add their instructor as a ‘reader’ so the instructor can stop in to see how the map is progressing. Alternatively, students can save the map as an image and email it to their instructor.

While I really like this tool, I should note that it’s still technically in beta. As of this writing, there hasn’t been an update to the SpiderScibe blog since June.

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Jul 092011

TitanPad allows you to quickly collaborate. Create a public pad, copy the URL, and email it to your collaborators. They follow the link, then just start typing in the pad. In the top right corner, new visitors are assigned a color and are named “unnamed”. Clicking in the “unnamed” box will allow them to enter their name. Attached a name to a color allows you and your collaborators to see who added what. If others are logged in at the same time as you, you’ll see their changes as they type. Changes are automatically saved. With the chat window, text will stay there even when you leave. It’s a handy space for leaving messages for your collaborators.

When I last wrote about TitanPad two years ago, that was pretty much all there was to say. They’ve since added a lot of functionality.

Import/export. Import text from, say, a Word document. Or Export your TitanPad to, say, Word document.

Saved revisions. While TitanPad automatically saves, you can also create save points. Use this after a major revision so you can quickly restore to that revision at a later point if you’d like. With this pad, I clicked “save now” at two different points. Now, under “saved revisions” I have two restore points.

Time slider. Below is the time slider view. I can click on the circled bar to move it back in time, then I can click the play button to watch how the document changed over time. The stars designate when I hit “save now” to create a saved revision. But notice that with the time slider, you can move the slider anywhere I’d like, then click “link to” or “download as” to get that specific version.

The newest functionality, though, is the creation of a private space. In effect, the public pads are private. After all, you can only get to an existing pad if someone has given you the URL. But that also meant that you needed to bookmark the URL because that was the only way there was to get to a pad you created.

Now you can create a space where you and your collaborators can see the multiple pads you’re working on. Go to TitanPad and click on “Get your own private space” in the bottom right corner. Name your team site. For example, I might want a team site for my department – hccpsych. The URL I would give to my colleagues would be Fill out the rest of the form, and click the “create team site now” button. [Note: Notice how it’s called EtherPad here? EtherPad was the original software. When it was no longer being supported, it kind of fell into the public domain. TitanPad was one group that adopted it.]

TitanPad will send you an email with a URL. Following it will take you to TitanPad where you’ll be asked to create a password. When you’re done, you’ll be taken to your main page. To add collaborators, click “Admin”, then “create new account.” To create a new pad, click “create new pad”. You can see all of the pads you’ve created with the “Pads” link.

The pads themselves operate the same way with the addition of two functions. You can name your pad. And there’s now a link at the top of that pad that lets you return to the list of pads you have for your team site.

I’m sometimes asked why use this instead of Dropbox. I use both. I use Dropbox for most storage and sharing of files. I like to use TitanPad for brainstorming, especially when others are editing at the same time. For example, we might be on a conference call, and we call up a TitanPad to take notes so we know we’re all on the same page. . A few times I’ve created a public pad, and sent the URL out on the teaching of psych listservs when I’ve been looking for new examples to use in class. With a public pad, people follow the URL, then just start typing. No login. No need to save. Just type and go.

Can you envision using TitanPad with your students? Maybe for small group work? It’s easy to learn how to use, and it’s easy to see who contributed what and when with the color coding and the time slider.


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