Apr 042012
 

[Update 6/6/2012 : See this newer blog post on KeyRocket.]

I’m a fan of keyboard shortcuts. A few months ago I wrote a blog post on Shortmarks, a service that lets you create shortcuts to websites. This time I’m writing about KeyRocket, a tool that helps you learn keyboard shortcuts in Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. (In the free version, choose one; in the $5/month version, choose all three.)

After installing KeyRocket, I chose to use it with Word. When I highlighted text and clicked the “U” button on the Home tab, this popped up in the lower right corner of my screen.

And then after I used the shortcut, I got this very supportive popup.

With each subsequent use, my progress bar showed me moving further from the trashcan and closer to the star.

And when I reached the star, I got a nice celebratory message.

After that, I got no further encouragement. However, when I returned to using the “U” button on the Home tab, I got the reminder again. And, sadly, I lost my ‘star’ status.

KeyRocket resides in your taskbar. Right- or left-click on the icon to call up this menu. Here you can see your most recently learned keyboard shortcuts, and you can access the “Shortcut Browser” – or bypass this step altogether. Win+k opens the browser from wherever you in the Office program.

In the Shortcut Browser, enter a search term for the kind of shortcut you’re looking for. Here I entered ‘bullet,’ and KeyRocket gave me a couple of possibilities.

Interestingly, it doesn’t pick up everything every time. For example, I inserted the links above using the “hyperlink” button on the Insert tab in Word. I usually use CTRL-k, but KeyRocket didn’t flag it. After I searched for “link” in KeyRocket’s shortcut browser, it began notifying me of the shortcut. I had the same experience with bulleted lists.

Having said that, at this writing the product is still in beta, and it’s free to use with Word, Excel, or PowerPoint.

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Mar 242012
 

New data from the Pew Internet and American Life Project finds “63% of all teens say they exchange text messages every day with people in their lives. This far surpasses the frequency with which they pick other forms of dailycommunication, including phone calling by cell phone (39% do that with others every day), face-to-face socializing outside of school (35%), social network site messaging (29%), instant messaging (22%), talking on landlines (19%) and emailing (6%).”

Next quarter I’m trying out SendHub, a group texting service. This will allow me to text all of my students at once. Students can sign up by texting a word I’ve given them to the phone number SendHub has assigned to me.

In the free version, you can have up to three groups with up to 50 people per group, and send up to 1,000 messages per month. (One text sent to 50 contacts counts as 50 messages.)

To send a message to my students, in the “To:” line I start typing the name of the relevant group, and SendHub gives me everything that matches what I’ve typed. Then I type my text message. If I’d like to schedule it to be delivered at some later time, I can click “Schedule Delivery.” Finally, I click “Send.”

To create a group, on the “Contacts” tab, click the “New” button on the left. Type in your group name. If you’d like your students to be able to add themselves to this group via text, check the box next to “Enable Text to Join.” Enter a keyword. This is what your students will text to your SendHub number to join the group. The keyword defaults to your group name, but you can change it to whatever you’d like. Don’t worry about whether some other SendHub user is using that keyword. Since students are texting to your SendHub phone number, SendHub knows that the student belongs to you.

To unsubscribe a student, you can do it by selecting “All Contacts,” clicking the checkbox next to the student’s name, and selecting “Delete.” A student can unsubscribe by replying to any text from your SendHub number with the word “stop.”

To access your settings click the cog icon in the top right corner.

In the “Plan” section, track your usage.

If someone calls your SendHub number, the call will be forwarded to the phone number you have on record (“My Number”). If you don’t want the call forwarded, check the box next to “Disable voice.” Want to add a signature to your texts? Add it in the “Signature” box.

If you send out a text to your class, and a student responds, you will receive the text at the number you have on record. Texts back to you in this way will count against the 1,000 free texts, however. If you don’t want to receive texts through SendHub, check the box next to “Disable Incoming Messages.” If you disable incoming messages, add an auto-response that will be sent to everyone who texts this number, something like, “This number does not accept texts. Email me at…”

When you’re done with your changes, click the “Save” button at the bottom of the page.

Are you using text messaging to communicate with your students? Why or why not?

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Mar 132012
 

I sometimes use my computer’s desktop to store newly-created files or newly-downloaded files that I’m working on. On more than one occasion I have gotten home only to realize that the files I want are on my work desktop.

A solution comes to us from this Lifehacker blog post.

The author of the post goes so far as to sync both desktops. That’s more than what I need. I just want to access the files on my work desktop from home.

The solution: Change the location of my work computer’s desktop folder. (Did you know that what shows on your desktop is just stuff stored in a folder called “desktop”?)

First, in Dropbox, create a folder called “Desktop.”

Next, on your work computer navigate to your “User” folder. To get there, go to your computer’s hard drive, click on “Users,” then your login name. The “Desktop” folder should be there.

Right click on the “Desktop” folder and select “Properties.” Click on the “Location” tab. Click “Move,” then navigate to the “Desktop” folder you created in your “Dropbox” folder. Click “Select Folder.”

Done.

Anything saved on your work computer’s desktop will now be available to you in the “Desktop” folder in Dropbox. Any file you add to that folder from, say, your home computer, will show on your work computer’s desktop when you get back to the office. How cool is that?

*****

In other news, as of February 2012, Dropbox.com “adhere[s] to the US-EU Safe Harbor Framework and the US-Swiss Safe Harbor Framework.” See this Dropbox.com blog post for more information.

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Mar 092012
 

Dropbox users,

If you’ve visited the Dropbox.com website recently, you’ve noticed some changes. The site is now ‘cleaner’ and easier to use – not that it was difficult before. For those of you who spend a goodly bit of time accessing your Dropbox files from the web interface, there are some features for you.

Right-click on a folder to share, download, delete, rename, copy, or move. Right-click on a file to download, delete, rename, copy, move, or view previous versions.

Click and drag on multiple folders or files to select more than one.

Drag and drop files or folders to move them.

Looking at images you have saved in Dropbox? You not only get thumbnails, but you also get a built-in image viewer making it easier to identify the image you’re looking for.

For a rundown on the rest of the changes and for updates on future changes, visit the Dropbox.com blog.

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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.

 

11:20am

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.

 

11:00am

More on learning analytics.

 

10:57am

More trending technologies.

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

 

10:49am

More trending technologies.

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

 

10:41am

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.

 

10:32am

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 goo.gl), 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.

 

References

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:
10.1177/0098628311401587

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Feb 282012
 

The following is copied from the EDUCAUSE website. Hope to see you online at this webinar!

EDUCAUSE Live! Webinar

March 5—The Horizon Report in Action: Emerging Technologies Today and Tomorrow

Speaker:

Malcolm Brown, Director, EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, EDUCAUSE 
Veronica Diaz, Associate Director, EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, EDUCAUSE

Date:

March 5, 2012

Time*:

1:00-2:30 p.m. ET (UTC-5); convert to your time zone 
*Note: this webinar runs for 90 minutes.

Topic:

During this free, one-and-a-half hour session, “The Horizon Report in Action: Emerging Technologies Today and Tomorrow,” Malcolm Brown and Veronica Diaz of the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative will discuss what’s new in mobiles, electronic books, learning analytics, and other emerging technology areas as they review the annual publication of the Horizon Report.

 

 

Reserve your seat now—virtual seating is limited.

Thanks to Our Sponsor

EDUCAUSE Live!webinars are supported by Dell, a Platinum Partner.

Dell’s Connected Campus can centralize disparate data centers using virtualization strategies to optimize deployment, management and scalability of core IT services and applications while enabling departmental autonomy.See how.

About EDUCAUSE Live!

Interact with today’s leaders in higher education IT while learning about emerging trends with Diana Oblinger and Marc Hoit as they alternately interview a special guest during this free webinar series.

Find Adobe Connect technical requirements; past webinar archives; instructions for attending webinars using an iPhone, iPad, or android; and suggestions for making webinars a collaborative event on your campus on the EDUCAUSE Live! website.

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Feb 212012
 

[Update 2/27/2012 :  Grab is a similar utility for Mac users.  Go to Applications and look in the Utilities folder. — Thanks, Steve!]

Well, you already have this screen capture tool if you’re a Windows 7 user. Click the start button, select “all programs”, and in your accessories folder you’ll find “Snipping Tool”.

Now that you’ve found it, right-click on it, and select “pin to start menu” so it will be easily accessible.

When you run Snipping Tool, this little window pops up.

Click the little down arrow next to “New” to decide how you’d like to take a snapshot of your computer’s desktop. Whatever you choose will be the default the next time the program runs, but you can change it any time. I prefer the “rectangular snip”. The next time I run the program, I will just click the word “New”, bypassing this little menu.

Your screen will become faded, except for the Snipping Tool window. A cross (+) will appear. Click the mouse and drag the cross to encompass the area you want a picture of. Unclick. A preview will show in the window, like this screenshot I took of the word unclick.

Now you can save it, copy it to your clipboard (then paste it, for example, in a document like I’ve done here), email it to someone, write on it, or highlight some part of it. If you write on it, and want to erase, click the little eraser icon.

To take another shot, click the “new” button.

Almost all of the screenshots you see in this blog were done using Snipping Tool. Others, like most of the ones for this particular blog post, I used “Print Screen”. On your keyboard there’s a key labeled something like “PRTSC” or it may even say “Print Screen”. Hit that button, and while it looks like nothing has happened, an image of your computer’s desktop has just been saved to your clipboard. Go to, say, a Word document, and paste. An image of your computer’s desktop will be embedded in the document.

 

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Feb 142012
 

I’m a fan of keyboard shortcuts, so here’s another one. (Okay. I confess. My wife asked me to find this one for her.)

Let’s say you’re reading a webpage, and in the process, your cursor gets moved out of the address bar. You now want to type in another web address, so you reach for your mouse to move the cursor into the address bar ready to highlight the URL so you can replace it with a new one.

But wait! You don’t need your mouse.

In Firefox and Chrome, CTRL-L not only places the cursor in the address bar, but it also highlights the entire URL. Just start typing your new URL.

Use this keyboard shortcut in combination with Shortmarks (see this previous blog post) for blazing fast web-browsing.

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