Apr 192017
 

I’ve been doing a lot more small group work in my courses. When I let students choose their own groups, they tend to gravitate to the people they know best. That means that they frequently get the same perspective over and over again. I decided to assign students to groups, but counting off in class is a bit of a pain – students get all settled in their seats, they count off, and then they have to pick up all of their gear and move. And I suspect there’s the occasional (frequent) trading of groups since I don’t remember who said which number.

Sumit Bansal created an Excel spreadsheet that will randomize students into groups. Visit his website and download the Excel template file. You can find the download link at the end of the very first section of text.

The random team generator is in the first and only worksheet of the file.

Since I’m creating small groups twice a week for two different classes, I added two worksheets to this file, one for each of my classes. These worksheets only contain the names of my students. If I know a student will be absent, I move them into an out-of-the way column. For the students I expect to be in class, I copy and paste their names into the “random team generator.” If there are more names than rows in the generator page, the generator page automatically does what it needs to do to include them. If there are fewer names than rows assigned by the generator, just delete the excess rows; if you don’t, you’ll have blank spots in your groups.

Now that you have your student names in the generator, enter the number of teams you want, and click the bright orange button. If you don’t like the grouping, just click the button again.

I copy and paste the names – okay, I use the Snipping Tool in Windows – into a document I can show in class. This document is the first thing I pull up on the classroom computer so students know where they need to be as soon as they walk in the door.

Jan 082016
 

Did you know that when you crop images in MS Word, PowerPoint, etc., the full image is still there? Anyone who has a copy of your file can restore the image back to the original.

This is especially problematic if you frequently crop after doing a print-screen. Do you remember what was in the background that you just cropped? A sensitive email? Student grades? Your credit card information?

Fortunately, you can ask MS Office to delete the cropped areas of your images, but you do have to ask. For each image. In, for example, a Word file, click on the image, select the Format tab, click the “Compress Pictures” icon. In the pop-up window, make sure the “Delete cropped areas of pictures” box is checked. Click Ok.


Why doesn’t MS Office automatically do this? I guess because they want to make it easy for you to restore the image back to the original in case you didn’t like your cropping job. Fair enough. But a warning somewhere that says that the part of your image that you can’t see is really still there in the background would be nice.


Dec 262013
 

I have put MS Office 2010 to bed and have moved on to MS Office 2013. There’s nothing like new software replacing old to knock you out of equilibrium. This post is going to deal with the “Save as” menu. When I first saw the “Save as” options, I was pretty stoked. I could save to my newly-created college SkyDrive account. I could save to my personal SkyDrive account. I could save to my computer. With “Add a Place,” I naively thought, “Cool, I can add places like Dropbox and Google Drive.” Using MS Office 2013 out-of-the-box, as it turns out, you cannot do this perfectly reasonable action.

This is what I wanted.

To get there, you have to do a quick and easy work-around. This method worked for Windows 7. I make no guarantees for Windows 8.

Close all running MS Office programs.

Go to this webpage and follow the directions. On that webpage you will download and run two scripts: One for Dropbox and one for Google Drive. Of course, if you just want, say, Dropox, then just run the Dropbox script. To finish running the scripts, you will need your computer’s pathways to your Dropbox and Google Drive folders. If you’re not sure what those pathways are, there’s an easy way to get them. Navigate to your Dropbox folder, and right-click in the address bar. You can even right-click on the word “Dropbox”. Select “Copy address as text.” Open a new tab in your web browser (or open a non-MS Office text editor, such as Notepad), and paste. That’s the path to that folder. If you want to do the same for Google Drive, repeat for your Google Drive folder.

Once you’ve finished running both scripts, open MS Word. Create a new document, and tell Word you want to save it. On the next Window, click “Add a Place.” You will now see Dropbox and Google Drive there as options. Click to add them.

Next time you want to save your new document to Dropbox, just click “Save,” click “Dropbox,” and you’ll be able to quickly navigate your Dropbox files. Doing this in one Office product, say, Word, makes it work in all other Office products, say, Excel.

I have a sneaking suspicion that this will be the first of many Office 2013 tips and tricks blog posts.

 

Jul 082013
 

It’s July!

Remember how you said back in January that you wanted to try out some new things when you finally had the time for it?

Your challenge for the month of July: Pick two of these to try out. The first of your picks is #1; we’re not even going to debate that. Your second pick is your choice.

  1. Stop talking on your phone while driving. This one is the easiest since it’s about not doing something instead of doing something. Watch this 55-min video of David Strayer from the University of Utah discussing his researching on multitasking while driving. This was a talk he gave earlier this year at the Association for Psychological Science convention.
  2. LastPass. This is a password manager. Remember one password and have access to all of your passwords – even on your smartphone. LastPass will generate random passwords for you – and remember them for you. You can even share a password with someone else, say, the person you share a bank account with. If you are already using a password manager and are happy with it, by all means keep using it.
  3. Cel.ly. Text all of your students at once or just texts individuals without getting their phone numbers or revealing yours. Send out a multiple choice question, and Cel.ly will tally the results for you. Read more here.
  4. YouCanBook.Me. Let others schedule themselves into your Google Calendar – and automatically send them a reminder notice. Read more here.
  5. Feedly. Create your own personalized newspaper courtesy of the internet. When new information is posted to sources you’re interested in, that information will come to you. Ask your favorite librarian about how to get information from the library databases (search results, tables of contents) sent to your newspaper. Feedly is one of many tools in the RSS feed reader genre, but it’s a good one to start with. Read more here.
  6. OneNote. You have this on your computer now. Look in your Microsoft Office folder. In there you’ll find OneNote, an incredibly useful note-taking/organization/task management program. It’s even more useful now that they have a nice mobile app. Read more here.
  7. Akindi. Print test bubble sheets instead of purchasing them. Scan the answer sheet and the student exams into one big pdf, then upload to Akindi. The tests are graded automatically, and all of the data pulled into a spreadsheet. If you attach your student learning outcomes to each of your questions, you have yourself a very easy and very powerful assessment tool. Download the scored tests for printing or sending electronically to your students. Read more here.

  8. IFTTT. “Automatically have your gmail attachments saved to Dropbox. Tweet Feedly articles you’ve tagged. Text new appointments to Google calendar. Making these kinds of automated connections is the power of today’s internet. And you know what? It’s ridiculously easy to do.” Read more here.
Feb 182013
 

MagPointer is a PowerPoint add-on (Windows only) that allows you to highlight certain areas of your PowerPoint slides on the fly. Although designed with web-based presentations in mind, it works well in the face-to-face classroom.

In the screenshot below you can see a PowerPoint slide with the MagPointer toolbar on the right – 5 colored squares. Sometimes when I run MagPointer, I get the black border you see here. Other times the slide covers the entire screen, and the MagPointer icons overlap the slide. It works fine in either case, just an fyi.

MagPointer at work

Mouse over any element to see the dotted outline of that element.

Click on the dotted outline to highlight that element. How cool is that?

Mousing over any of the squares on the right shows the MagPointer icons. The top two squares allow you to advance or reverse through your slides. Be aware that MagPointer is still in beta, so all the bugs haven’t been worked out yet. In version 3.0.0.15, when I use these icons to advance a slide with multiple bullet points, sometimes I get the next bullet point, and sometimes I get the next slide.

You can highlight any part of the slide; you’re not limited to your PowerPoint elements. Pick a spot on your slide, click once, then move your mouse anywhere on your slide to create a frame. To make the highlight disappear, click inside the frame.

Want to highlight multiple areas of a slide? Click the second icon from the bottom. Now you can click and drag anywhere on the screen, multiple times. To clear the frames, click inside each frame, or mouse over the MagPointer icons and click on the red X at the top, or simply right-click on the slide.

You can zoom in on sections of the slide. The fourth icon is a magnifying glass. Click on the icon (or right-click your mouse), then click and drag on the slide to create the size of magnifier you want. Now you can move it around the slide, magnifying as you move. When done, click the red X on the right side of the slide. In the version I was using, the magnifier would go beyond the top, left, and bottom edges, magnifying everything there. The magnifier wouldn’t go beyond the right edge, so anything on the right edge could not be magnified.

MagPointer is portable.

Portability means that you can put it on a flashdrive, carry it with you into your classroom, and run the program from there. No need to fight with your IT department to get it installed on your classroom computer. The MagPointer developers are hoping that they’ll be able to eventually sell site licenses to educational institutions. Keep an eye on that. When you download MagPointer, it will, by default, install itself on your computer. If you’d like to try out the portable version, contact the MagPointer developers directly through their webform.

Customization

Right-click on the MagPointer icon in the system tray (lower, right corner of your screen), and select “Configuration.” Here you can change how the program behaves. Set it up in a way that works for you.

Try it out

While in beta, MagPointer is free.

Jan 192013
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Side note

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

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

Jun 192012
 

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

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

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

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

Or better yet, use the keyboard shortcuts.

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

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

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