Category: Collaboration

Appointment Slots: Google Calendar

[Update 12/15/2012 : Effective January 2013, appointment slots will no longer be an option.  Try YouCanBook.Me instead.]

Google Calendar now lets you let others schedule appointments in your calendar. With YouCanBook.Me, any open time can be scheduled. With Google Calendar’s new feature, you decide which times are open to scheduling.

In Google Calendar, click on an open time slot like you normally do to add a new event. Click on “Appointment slots”.

Call it what you’d like, say, “Office Hours”, then I selected “Offer as slots of 30 minutes.” Change the time to another amount if you’d like, such as 15 minutes. That’s it. Edit the details if you’d like. Add a location, say. This is where you get the URL to the appointment page that you will give to your students. Expand the amount of time you want to make open for appointments. After adding three time slots, this is what my calendar looks like.

Here’s the URL to my appointment calendar where you can only see the times when I’ve blocked off.

Note that those who wish to make an appointment this way will need to have a Google Calendar account.

Once the appointment is made, it’s added to both my calendar and the appointment-maker’s calendar. If they delete it from their calendar, it will also be deleted from my calendar, and the time slot will once again be available to future visitors.

Create an Email List:

There’s a lot to be said for a good old-fashioned email list. One address emails a bunch of people. makes it easy to create an email list and makes it easy to manage it.

I use an email list for each of my classes. I live inside of my email, so it’s easy for me to send an email to all the students in a class, and easy for them to respond. While most course management systems have the same functionality, you have to log into it to send an email.

The email list software I have been using is hosted by my college, and it comes with the ability to customize every which way you could possible want. Most of it I don’t need.

Enter I’ll be using this with my classes come fall quarter.

I just spent 2 minutes creating an email list.

To create a list, you can visit Or you can just send an email to everyone you’d like to include in your list, and cc where listname is what you want to call your list. Done. Seriously, that’s it. Here’s what creating an email list called might look like.

Don’t worry about whether or not someone else is using the listname you’ve chosen. It’s fine if they do. That’s one of the nifty things about this (free) service. Each list is private and tied to your email address. For example, I created a list called When I email that list using the email address I used when I created it, knows it’s me, and so knows who else the email needs to be sent to. If your email is associated with this list, when you email the list using that address, knows who to send your email to.

Each person you add gets this email message. (For the purpose of this blog, I just added another of my email addresses to this list. That’s why there’s only one person, me, listed as being a member.)

By logging in at, participants can change the name of the list, but it will only change for that person. For example, let’s say that I added you to my list, but you wanted to call it something else, like Great! Log in to your account at and change the name. I email and you email; our emails will go to the same people.

With, there is no list owner. Everyone who’s a member of the list can add more participants or remove participants. If they do, everyone else receives an email to that effect. email lists come with plus tag functionality. This allows you all kinds of control just using your email. For example, if I wanted to add someone new to my list, instead of logging in at, I can send an email to and add the person’s email address in the cc box. Alternatively, I can send an email to, put the person’s email address in the cc box, and put +add at the end of the subject line. Either way. Whichever you prefer works.

One quick tip. If I’m on the NY Times website, and I want to share an article with my list, it won’t work to type into the box on the website. wouldn’t know which list to send it to. To email a list, the message has to come from an email address associated with the list. Instead, I need to compose a new email message where I paste the NY Times URL into the body of my message.

Visit to read more about’s functionality, including additional tips for use, and more plus tags.

Spider Scribe: Concept Mapping

In my last post, I mentioned I was at the Pacific Northwest Assessment, Teaching, and Learning Conference. After my presentation someone asked me about concept mapping tools. (I wish I could remember who he was. He was very tall. If you happen to be reading this, can you send me an email, please?) I told him that I had recently read about a tool but I couldn’t remember in that moment what it was.

I’m afraid I still can’t remember what it was, but just a few days ago Richard Byrne of the Free Technology for Teachers blog wrote about the newly-released Spider Scribe.

I created this concept map in 15 minutes, including the 2 minutes it took to watch Spider Scribe’s introductory video. It is very intuitive, making it a great tool for students!

View this map.

After registering and creating a new map, you get a blank screen. At the bottom of the screen are 5 tools, which they call stencils: Text box, insert a file, insert an image, insert a map, or create notes with a time/date stamp.

To add a text box, just click and drag the text box stencil onto the map. Type whatever you’d like in the box. Want another box? Repeat the process. Click on one of your text boxes, and alter background color or text color by making changes in the “Properties” box on the right side of the screen.

Want to upload an image? Drag the image box onto the canvas and upload the image from your computer. Want to add another image? Repeat the process.

Want to resize a box? Grab the handle in the bottom left corner of any on-screen box and pull or push to change the size.

They’re still in beta (officially on 5/16/11), so look for the addition of new stencils and additional tools for each stencil, such as different fonts beyond the currently available serif and sans serif.

To link content, mouse over a box. See the circle at the bottom of the box? Mouse over it and it will turn into a + sign. Click on it to generate an arrow. Now drag the arrow over another box, and unclick. Done. The two boxes are now linked. Click on a box to move it around; the arrow will follow. To disconnect them, click on the arrow you want to delete. That’s it.

Maps can be private (only you can see them), or they can be public in a variety of ways.

  • I can grant only certain people permission to view it.
  • I can give certain people permission to edit it.
  • I can get a URL so only those with the URL can view it. (That’s what I chose for the “view this map” link above.)
  • I can make it completely public so that’s it’s discoverable by search engines.

Spider Scribe promises to be a very powerful concept mapping tool. I’m looking forward to watching it develop!

Dropbox: Get More Space

For those of you who have taken the Dropbox plunge, if you signed up with your edu email account Dropbox wants to double the space you get from referrals. That’s now 500MB per referral. And it’s retroactive. That’s right. They’ll double the extra space you’ve already received from referrals.

Just visit this webpage and confirm your email address. Your space will be automatically increased.

If you’re not a Dropbox user, it’s time to sign up. Not familiar with Dropbox? See this earlier blog post.

How do you get space for referrals? Log into your account, and click on the “Referral Status” tab. At the very bottom of the page, click where it says “Invite more people to join Dropbox!” At the very bottom of that page is URL you can give to friends, family, or complete strangers. If they use that URL to sign up for a Dropbox account, Dropbox will give you an extra 250MB of space – or 500MB if you use your edu email to create your account.

Discussion Board

I had a student come by my office yesterday. She has a website where she’d like to have a discussion board for her visitors to use. I knew that there must be some discussion board services out there that will give you html code so that you can embed the board on your website. Of course I couldn’t recommend something without trying it out myself.

I decided to go with In the navigation bar at the top of this blog click on the new discussion board link to see it in action. The discussion board is for you to post questions and suggestions. I hope you find it useful!

Doodle MeetMe: A Scheduling Tool

My readers know that I’m a big fan of YouCanBook.Me (see this post). In fact YouCanBook.Me has some new functionality since I last wrote about it, which means I owe you another post on that tool. In short, YouCanBook.Me gives others the power to schedule themselves into your calendar. Some of you let me know that you don’t want to give students that kind of power. For you, Doodle has a new tool.

You may already be familiar with Doodle (see this post) because you’ve used it to get a bunch of people to agree on a time to meet or to vote on some decisions that need to be made.

Doodle just launched a new tool called MeetMe. Other people can see when you’re busy, and they can request a few times as possible meeting times. The key word here is “request.” With YouCanBook.Me, the person chooses the time, and that time is booked in your calendar. With MeetMe, the person requests one or more possible times, and you make the final decision on whether or not you will meet, and, if so, when.

I have a Doodle account that is linked to my Google calendar, so when you visit my Doodle MeetMe page, you see my busy times.

If you were logged into your Doodle account, you would be able to select your calendar, and it would appear next to mine so you could easily see when we were both free. Doodle appears happy to use most web-based calendars such as Google or Yahoo. It looks like you can also use Microsoft Exchange. (If your institution uses Outlook, you’re probably using Exchange.)

Click on the times you’d like to propose. Those appear in blue. Change the length of time by grabbing the small double bars at the bottom of the meeting time and moving them up or down. When you’re satisfied with your choices, click ‘create meeting request.’

If the person who is making the request is logged in to Doodle, it will ask the person if they’d like to have those times blocked off in their own calendar. Handy if you’d like to keep those times blocked off while you wait for the person you’re inviting, in this case, me, to decide.

After the request is made, the person making the request gets an email with a link to follow if they decide they’d like to make changes to the requested times.

As the invited person I get an email asking me to respond to the meeting request by following the link in the email. When I follow the link, I log into Doodle and see the options on my calendar.

When I mouse over one of the requested times, I get this pop-up.

When I click ‘OK,’ the date turns green, and the other requested times go grey. I can also request new dates, ignore the request (harsh!), or reject the proposed times altogether. If I pick a time, as I’ve done here, I can select which calendar, if I’m using more than one, I’d like the appointment added to. If I choose nothing, it’s added to my default calendar. Finally, I click ‘Confirm date’.

But I’m not done yet. On the next page I can type a personal message to be added to the Doodle-generated email if I’d like. In either case, I have to hit ‘send’ on this page to lock in the time and send the person who requested the time an email letting them know which time I chose.

That’s it. The accepted time has been added to my calendar. And the person making the request has been sent an email with the appointment information. If they were logged into their own Doodle account when they made the appointment, the chosen appointment has also been added to their calendar. If they don’t have a Doodle account or a digital calendar, they still have the email with the time and date so they can write it in their Day Planner.

If you decide to give this one a whirl, let me know how it works for you!

Dropbox Folder Sync

As my regular readers know, I’m a big fan of Dropbox (see this earlier post). Dropbox adds a new folder to your ‘My Documents’ folder called ‘My Dropbox.’ Let’s say that you’ve created a folder in ‘My Documents’ called ‘Important Committee.’ Inside that folder are several other folders. Let’s say one of them is called ‘Stuff to Share.’ You want to share this folder with your fellow committee members for coordinating the work of your committee. But you don’t want to move your entire committee folder to Dropbox, and you don’t want to pull that one subfolder out; you like to keep your files neatly organized in one place.

Enter Dropbox Folder Sync.

After it’s installed, and you tell it where your ‘My Dropbox’ folder is located, just right click on your ‘Stuff to Share’ folder and select ‘Sync with Dropbox.’ Dropbox Folder Sync will effectively move your ‘Stuff to Share’ folder to your ‘My Dropbox’ folder, white creating a shadow folder (called a symbolic link) at its original location in the ‘Important Committee’ folder. Add a file to ‘Stuff to Share’ in either location, and the file will immediately appear in the other location. Edit a file in one location, and the edited file will appear in the other location.

If you choose the 2.0 Beta version, you also get an unsync option. Right click on the folder that’s in its original location, and select ‘UnSync with Dropbox.’ The folder in ‘My Dropbox’ will be deleted, and all of that folder’s files will only, once again, reside in the original location.

How slick is that?


Corkboard: New Features

In December 2010 I wrote a post about Corkboard, a virtual bulletin board.

They just announced some new features.

You’re welcome to play around with this live board.

If you have frequently-changing content for your students, it would be easy enough to embed a corkboard in your website or course management system (CMS), and just update the sticky notes as needed. No need to edit your website or CMS.

Have other uses for it? Leave a comment!

Doodle: Google Calendar Integration

I’ve been a big proponent of Google calendar as a personal calendar clearinghouse, and I’m also a fan of Doodle for finding a time when everyone can get together for a meeting. While you can enter all of your free times in by hand when creating your Doodle poll, you can also let Doodle pull in your Google calendar and identify the free times for you.

Go to At the bottom of the page, click “Google Calendar.”

On the next page, click “Connect with Google.”

Doodle will ask you to log in. If you don’t already have a account (free), you’ll need to register for one.

Your settings page will appear. Click “Connect new Google account.”

Google will let you know that Doodle is asking for permission to access your calendar. Give it permission. Doodle will confirm that your Doodle account is connected to your Google account. That means that when you’re logged into Doodle and are scheduling a new event, Doodle will automatically access your Google calendar.

Go back to the main Doodle page and select “Schedule an Event” as you normally do. In step 1, you title your event and provide a description. In step 2, your Google calendar will load. Make sure the time zone is correct. Check which calendars you want to see. Here I’ve only checked my primary “Sue Frantz” calendar.

Now that you can easily see when you’re free, click on the times you want. Everything in blue is a time I’ve designated as a possibility for my meeting. You can see them in list view on the far left.

Navigate through the remaining steps as you normally would. That’s it.

Doodle does NOT change your Google calendar. All it is doing is bringing up Google calendar so you can see when you’re free and lets you choose times.

Share calendars

One more tip while I have you thinking about Doodle. If there are people with whom you frequently schedule meetings, you can all share your free/busy times with each other through Doodle.

Next to your email address in the top right corner of any Doodle page, click “Manage Account.” Then click “Share calendars.”

Put in the email address of the person you want to see your free/busy times and check the box(es) for the calendar(s) you wish to share. Important: The people you are sharing with must have a Doodle account; check with them to see which email address they use to log in to Doodle.

Of course is you are at an institution that uses Outlook, you already have built-in access to everyone’s free/busy times. If you’re working with people at different institutions on a long-term project, this kind of access could be a real time saver.

Happy Doodling with Google! Share Your Desktop.

[UPDATE: See this more recent post on Join.Me’s newest features.]

Let’s say that you’re working with a few colleagues on a project. They’re scattered across campus (or the country). It may be easier if everyone is looking at the same screen as you review or edit a document, or take notes on the meeting, or debate the value of some webpage. is a free and easy way to do that. You connect to Then give your colleagues the URL you’re given. When they follow it, they see your desktop. Live. It’s as simple as that.

When I connect to, here is the toolbar I get. At the very top is a URL. That’s the URL that will connect to my computer, but only as long as I’m connected for that session. If you went to that URL now, you’d get an “invalid code” error on the website. Every time you start a new session, you get a new code.

For communication, you have a few options.

Phone: You can call each other. You can use your own conference call setup. Or you can use’s built-in conference call system. Clicking the phone icon (same for those connected to your desktop), you get a phone number to call (long distance charges apply, but that’s between you and your carrier; Skype works just fine). The access code to join the call is the same code assigned to your URL. [If you decide to use your own conference call number, you can change the information in so that your conference call information is given when participants click the phone icon. Check the conference call page in their FAQ for more information.]

Chat: There’s a built in chat window. If you have it closed, you’ll get a popup when a new chat entry is made. I wouldn’t want to have an entire meeting using chat, but it’s a helpful addition to a phone call.

The pause button freezes your screen for everyone else while you do stuff you don’t want them to see. Hit it again to go live.

The person icon shows you who all is viewing your desktop. Each person comes in as “Viewer #,” except for you. You’re “Presenter.” Participants and presenter can click the person icon, then click on the top viewer (that’s them) to change their name to something more descriptive, like “Bob.” You can have up to 250 participants. I think that’s more than sufficient. That’s a lot of Bobs.

The mouse icon, when other participants are present, lets you give control of your desktop to a participant in the room. For example, if you’re editing a document, and someone has a clear idea of how to word something, give them control of your desktop and just let them do it.

If someone is ticking you off, kick them out. Click the person icon and click the x next to their name.

Limitations: Any sounds you play on your computer cannot be heard by anyone else. If sounds were essential, you could play it over the phone, I suppose.

This isn’t a comprehensive list of features, but it’s enough to get you started! Happy sharing!