Mar 022011
 

The American Psychological Association recently created a browser toolbar for one of their constituencies: Psychology Teachers at Community Colleges. You can read a little about the toolbar and download it here. They used a free service called Conduit. You know me well enough by now that you can guess what I did. If you don’t know me well enough, I gave it away in the title of this post. I created a toolbar for my class.

Why create a browser toolbar? Experts in behavioral change will tell you that the fewer barriers there are between yourself and a behavior, the more likely you are to engage in that behavior. Want to get those papers graded? Set them on your desk, or, if grading electronically, open them on your computer. Even if you don’t grade them now, it will be easier to get started when you are ready. Want to snack less? Put more barriers between you and the snacks. For example, put the potato chips on the top shelf of your cupboard. And then padlock it. Then put the key in your office desk. You can eat the chips any time you want, but you’re going to have to really want them to get through all of those barriers.

Want students to spend more time with your course? Give them a toolbar that stares them in the face whenever they open their browsers. (This works with all of the major browsers: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, and Chrome.)

You can download my Psych 100 toolbar here.

What the toolbar does

Global toolbar controls. Users can do things like visit my class website (home page), remove the text from the toolbar and just use the icons (shrink toolbar), or clear search history.

Search box. Users can use Bing to do an internet search, or they can search for more specific content.

Contact information. The “Email me” link will open the user’s default email program. “Schedule an appointment” sends the user to a page where clicking the “schedule an appointment” link will direct the user to my YouCanBook.Me calendar. (Blog post on using YouCanBook.Me.)

Psych 100. Here users can find the course calendar, upload their assignments, download syllabi, among other things. (Blog posts on creating a course calendar using Google calendar and using DropItTo.Me for uploading assignments directly to Dropbox.)

Lecture outlines. These links direct the user to the outlines I use in class.

 

Recommended reading. These links send the user to my ‘bookshelves’ in my Google library.

 

Highline resources. Users have easy access to these Highline websites.

 

 

 

RSS feeds. Mousing over each of these links shows the most recent news content from each of these websites.

 

How to create a toolbar

Visit Conduit.com, click “join the network” to set up an account. Once you’re logged in, click “Community Toolbar.”

You’ll see a large number of items you can add to your toolbar. My toolbar was created using two tools.

Click the “menu button” to create a dropdown menu. Almost everything in my toolbar was created this way, so I’m going to take the “Contact S. Frantz” dropdown menu as an example. Clicking “menu button” generates a webpage that gives you this.

Click “Your Menu” then click “Edit.”

That will give you this pop up window. Type in the name of the menu, in this case “Contact S. Frantz.” Anything typed in the “hint” box will appear when your user mouses over that section of the toolbar. I’m going to leave it empty. If you want your users to click on the toolbar button itself to go to a particular webpage, put the URL in here. Since there isn’t any particular place I want to send a user, I’m also going to leave this blank.

Next, click “Icon” to select an icon that will accompany the menu button. While there are 6 categories of icons to choose from I had a hard time finding icons that worked for me. Fortunately, Conduit makes it easy to upload your own icons. Click “Your icons” to upload new ones. The program seems willing to use any image you have in whatever format you have. I uploaded jpegs, and it took them just fine. Of course you can also leave the icon empty.

Clicking “save” will take you back to the original screen. Now click on “Edit link 1” to create the links in the dropdown menu. The process is the same. Enter the name of the link, the URL, add a mouse-over hint if you’d like, and finally add an icon if you’d like. Repeat for additional links. Rearrange links by clicking the “move up” or “move down” button.

Tip: To create a link that will open the user’s email program with an email already addressed to you, in the URL box, enter mailto:your@email.edu.

If you’d like to add more links, or a submenu, or separators, mouse over the name of your menu, then mouse over “add.”

For example, the “Psych 100” button on my toolbar has two submenus. When you mouse-over the links with the arrows on the right, you get a fly-out menu. It also has 3 separators, the thin, recessed lines that separate the content into sections.

Repeat this process for each of the menu buttons you want to create.

Once your content is created, Conduit makes it easy to move or edit buttons. On the main page, you’ll see your toolbar take shape. Mouse over a button, click and drag if you’d like to move it to a different space on the toolbar. Click “Edit” to edit that particular menu.

Analytics

Want to know how many people are using your toolbar or how they’re using it? Click “Analytics.”

After 2 days of being available, here’s how my students have used my toolbar.


Creating additional toolbars

If you want to create toolbars for your other courses or for your department, log out of Conduit, and create a new account. You can use the same email address, but the login name needs to be different.

Uninstall the toolbar

“Internet Explorer users can uninstall Conduit Engine using the Add or Remove Programs function, and Firefox users can uninstall using the Tools > Add-ons menu in the browser” (Conduit FAQ).

What does your toolbar look like?

If you make a toolbar for your course or department, please add the download link to the comments for this post. I’d love to see what you’ve created!

Feb 262011
 

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 Doodle.com. 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 Doodle.com account (free), you’ll need to register for one.

Your Doodle.com 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!

Feb 172011
 

Whatever your motivation, switching from grading by hand to grading electronically may take a little extra time until you get down a system that works for you, but it’s worth it. Students use less paper. I write more comments since they’re not constrained by margin size, and my comments are legible. Having electronic copies of student work is handy when a year or two later a student asks for a letter of recommendation. 

Students submit assignments.

Decide if you want files sent in a particular file format. MS Word can handle most formats, but if you want to be cautious accept just doc, docx, and rtf formats.

If you don’t use a course management system), there are two main ways students can submit their assignments.

Via email. When students submit assignments, immediately respond with a “got it” message. Consider using a program like PhraseExpress to quickly type the response email.

Create an email folder called “Grade these.” Move the student’s email to that folder. That keeps those emails from getting lost in your inbox.

When you’re ready to grade, open your “Grade these” folder, and pull the attachments off into a “Student papers” folder on your desktop, in Dropbox, in My Documents, or wherever you’d like to save them. If you use Outlook, EZDetach is a program that will pull all of the files from email messages in the same folder all at once, adding the sender’s name, email address, and most anything else you’d like to the attachment’s filename and drop them into whatever folder you’d like, in this case, your “Student papers” folder.

File location tip: If you want to be able to grade from home or work, create your “Student papers” folder inside of Dropbox.  Wherever you have Dropbox, you’ll have all of your papers you need to grade.

Via Dropbox. If you use Dropbox, then I recommend using DropItToMe. Students visit a website, and with a password you provide, students upload their files to a folder called “DropItToMe” located in your “My Dropbox” folder. Since DropItToMe sends you an email to let you know when new content has been added, you can keep track of when assignments were submitted.

As due dates pass, move files from your DropItToMe folder to your “Student papers” folder on your desktop, in Dropbox, in My Documents, or wherever you’d like to save them. This keeps newer assignments separate from older assignments.

DropItToMe tip. Ask your students to name their files in some standardized way, such as lastname firstname time assignment, e.g., Garcia Juan 230 paper 1. That way you know what exactly what the file is just by looking at the filename.

Late assignment tip: If you want to keep track of assignments that are sent late, add “LATE” to the end of the filename.

Deadline tip: Since assignments are being sent online, you can make your assignments due any time. Mine are due at 11:59pm. If it came in yesterday, it was on time. If it came in today, it’s late.

Use MS Word’s track changes.

retaining the original. For example I’ve added ‘add’ and ‘remove’ while deleting ‘delete.’


Both of these functions can be found on the Review tab.

For common comments, try PhraseExpress. For example, many of my students will start a sentence with a number. Rather than type out the same comment each time, I have programmed PhraseExpress so that when I type “#num” PhraseExpress replaces that with “Write out numbers that begin sentences.” Very handy!

I recommend saving the file as a PDF to send back to the student. This serves two purposes. 1.) It doesn’t matter what program the student used to write the paper. You can use Word’s functionality to grade it and send back all the changes and comments in a form that most everyone can read. 2.) If you want the student to continue to work on the paper and submit future drafts, the student has to go into their document and make the changes. If sent back in Word, the student could simply “accept changes,” and all of the editing you did on the paper would immediately become part of the paper without the student even needing to read through the changes you made.

Keyboard shortcuts. Instead of going through the ribbons to turn on track changes or add a comment, use your keyboard.

Turn on/off track changes = CTRL-SHIFT-E
Insert a comment = Highlight the text you want to comment on, then CTRL-ALT-M

Here’s a PDF of the Word 2010 keyboard shortcuts if you’d like to learn others. There are 11 pages of them. Just pick out a couple to add to your repertoire. Once you have those down, move on to others.

If you don’t want to remember the keyboard shortcuts, add “track changes,” “insert comment,” and “save to PDF” to the quick access toolbar. The quick access toolbar is the row of icons at the very top of MS Office programs. You can add just about anything to it. Instead of clicking through ribbons, you can just click the icon. To add or remove shortcut icons, click the down arrow on the far right of the icon row. That will give you this menu. Select “More Commands…” at the very bottom.

That will generate this popup. Click the down arrow under “Choose commands from,” and select “Review Tab.” From the options listed, click on “New Comment” to highlight it, click the “Add” button. Then repeat for “Track Changes” which you can find further down the list.

Finally, from the “Choose commands from” menu, select “File Tab.” Scroll down to “Publish as PDF,” and add it.

Using the quick access toolbar. You can either click on the appropriate icon with your mouse or you can use an easy keyboard shortcut. Open Word and hit the ALT key on your keyboard. Notice how each icon on the quick access toolbar has a number? Just hit that number to launch that function. For me, ALT-5 saves my file as a PDF; ALT-8 opens the menu of my most recently used files.

Want to change the order of the icons on your quick access toolbar? Go back into your toolbar customization area. Highlight the icon you’d like to move, and click the appropriate button to move it up or down in the list.

Return assignments to students.

Now that you’ve graded the assignment, it’s time to return it to your student. If you use a course management system, you can upload it to the student there.

I email them. I put my students’ email addresses next to their names in the Excel spreadsheet where I keep their grades. Excel will automatically make the email address a hot link. Just click the address, and Outlook launches a new email message. To attach the file, open the folder that contains the assignment, and drag it over to the body of the email. Outlook will automatically attach it.

Email tip. In your Excel file, right click on the student’s email address and “edit hyperlink.” That will generate this window. In the subject box I have “Psych 100 assignment” so that every time I click on the student’s email address, the new mail message that pops up has the student’s email address in the “to” line and “Psych 100 assignment” in the subject line.

File management tips. Inside my “Student papers” folder I have a “Graded” folder. Once I’ve graded a few assignments I move them into the “Graded” folder. The assignments are easy to identify because there’s both the original document and the PDF. Inside my “Graded” folder is a “Sent” folder. Once I have a bunch graded, I open my Excel spreadsheet and email my students their graded assignments. Once they’ve been mailed, I move the files to the “Sent”

Video. If you’d like to see this in action, this video walks you through how I receive, grade, and return a student paper.

[swfobj src=”http://suefrantz.com/MediaFiles/GradingElectronically.swf” width=”600″ height=”400″]

What tips, tricks, and shortcuts do you have for grading electronically?

Feb 112011
 

[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. Join.me is a free and easy way to do that. You connect to Join.me. 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 Join.me, 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 Join.me 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 Join.me’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 Join.me so that your conference call information is given when participants click the phone icon. Check the Join.me 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!

Feb 112011
 

Is your computer desktop cluttered with icons? Having trouble sorting through them? I recently read one of those blog posts (Digital Inspiration) that makes you go, “I can’t believe that never occurred to me.”

I changed my desktop wallpaper to this minimalist image of a desk and bookcase, then arranged my icons on the bookcase. How cool is that?

(Thanks to Digital Inspiration for the suggestion of putting the computer and recycling bin with the desk.)

Visit this website to get the image. Right click on it and select “Set as Desktop Background.”

Then go to your desktop, right click on any empty space. Under “View,” make sure “Auto arrange icons” and “Align icons to grid” are unchecked. Now arrange them however you’d like.

Icons rearrange themselves?

Because I move from my laptop to monitors at home and monitors in my office, my screen resolution often changes, and the icons get moved around. Before it was a minor annoyance, but with the bookshelves it’s a bigger hassle. After doing much reading, I opted for a little free program called DesktopOK. It keeps track of where my icons are for each screen resolution. If my icons get moved, I can right click on the DesktopOK icon in my taskbar, and choose the resolution I want my icons to restore to.

DesktopOK initially runs in German. Click on “DesktopOK” then under “Sprache,” to select English, or another language of your choosing.

Remove text from icons

Text is nice to have for some icons, like files and folders. But for others, like Dropbox or the recycle bin, the text just clutters stuff up. For the obvious icons, I got rid of the text.

You’re not going to believe the solution to this one. Right click on the icon whose text you want to delete. Select “Rename.” Now press Alt-255, but the numbers have to be selected using your NumPad. On a laptop, you probably have to use something like your function key to turn on your NumPad. (That would be Alt-Fn-kii on my laptop keyboard.) Then hit Enter. The name has disappeared. If you want to do it with another icon, you have to do Alt-255 twice, then Enter. For a 3rd icon? You got it. Alt-255 Alt-255 Alt-255. “Alt-255” is a keyboard shortcut for a space. See more shortcuts here. Even though an icon can’t be named a ‘space’ with the regular spacebar, it can be with the Alt-255 shortcut. What you’re really doing is renaming those icons ‘space,’ ‘space space,’ ‘space space space.’

Other desktop wallpaper organizers

While I’m partial to the bookcase and desk, you might enjoy a bit more pizzazz. Check out these very cool (free) ones from Clay Butler. Here’s a sample of what they look like.

If you’re the adventurous type, you can create your own using any photo editing program.

Happy organizing!

If you come across, or create, a desktop organizer that you really like, add it to the comments on this post. I’d love to see it!

Feb 052011
 

[UPDATE 12/12/2012  : Bad news.  JoliPrint is shutting down effective January 4, 2012. Use PrintFriendly.com instead.]

Find an article online that you’d like to print out for your class for discussion that day? JoliPrint takes the webpage content and turns it into an uncluttered PDF.

Here I’ve taken my post on colorizing Windows folders and turned it into a PDF. Pretty, isn’t it?

A couple things to note. The date and time are included at the top of the page. That’s the time in Paris where one of the company’s offices is located. At the bottom of the page is the website’s URL. In the PDF, the link is live. Just click it to go to the website the PDF came from.

How to use it

If you visit the JoliPrint.com website, just paste the URL you want to PDF-ize into the box.

Better yet, drag their JoliPrint button to your browser’s bookmarks toolbar. Whenever you land on a page you want to print as a PDF, click the bookmark, and the page will be saved as a nicely-formatted PDF. Very slick!

At the very bottom of this post, you’ll see a JoliPrint icon. Click that icon to PDF-ize this blog post. Check it out!

Feb 052011
 

You’re probably familiar with student response systems (aka clickers). Perhaps you even use PollEverywhere (see this blog post). Both allow you to get feedback from your students in real time. Back channel communication also lets your students communicate with you, but without you asking a question. And everyone else can see what others are saying. In real time.

There are a few different systems out there, but Backchan.nl (open source from MIT; free) is, of the ones I’ve seen, the one I like the most.

What it looks like

Give students the URL. It works fine with both computers and mobile devices. Here’s one I’ve created: http://techworkshop.backchan.nl. That takes you to this screen.

 

Here’s the QR code for that link if you’d like to see what it looks like on your mobile device.

That link loads the screen below. Students and instructor see almost the same thing. The only difference is that if I log in I get a green checkmark and red x next to each submission. The red x deletes it. The green checkmark marks the submission as addressed, removing it from the main comment area, and moving it to the bottom of the list at the bottom of the screen.

Anyone who is participating can see the comments made by everyone else and can vote the comments up or down. Comments with the most up votes get moved to the top of the screen; those with the most down votes get moved to the bottom. That’s all there is to it. It’s pretty straight forward.

How to create a backchan.nl

When you visit Backchan.nl, there is a “Make a Backchan.nl” button. Clicking it loads this page.

Name: This is the title on the webpage. Username: The URL I’d give students would be http://FrantzPsych100.backchan.nl. Password: I’d use this to log in (to get the green checkmark and red x). [Important: Keep track of your password. There is no way to recover it if you forget it. ] Email: I don’t know why they ask for this. The participants aren’t given it anywhere, and it’s not used to log in to your backchan.nl.

Once created, you’ll be prompted to “add a meeting.” I would then go in and add meetings for each class session.

Now when students follow this URL http://FrantzPsych100.backchan.nl, this is what they’ll see. They just click on the appropriate link, and they’re in.

Considerations

Moderators. If I didn’t want to monitor the comments while lecturing, I could also give the backchan.nl password to my teaching assistants (if I had any) or a ‘student moderator for the day’ who would alert me to any popular questions or comments.

Use while watching a video. Students could offer their comments or questions during video as a sort of live journal. All of the comments could be addressed afterward or I could pause the video to address the comments or questions.

Quiet students. I wonder if shy students or students who are non-native English speakers would be more inclined to use this forum than to raise their hands in class.

Address comments after class. I could look at all the questions and comments after class and address them in the next class or on my class listserv or discussion board.

Inappropriate comments. In one workshop one participant said that he tried a live twitter feed during class. He said he got a lot of comments like, “Can we leave early today?” Those students were anonymous. To ensure that students log in with their real names, you could offer participation credit for posting comments or questions. Or if you have a moderator, they could just delete those kinds of comments as they appear.

Mobile technology. How many students have the ability to participate in using this technology? I recently (January 2011) asked my students how many of them could access the internet right now in class: 92%.

Useful educational tool or another distraction? Will it work to engage students more with the material or will it be just one more thing that keeps them from paying attention? I don’t know, but it’s an empirical question.

 

Presentations

In my future presentations and workshops, I’m going to include this as a communication tool. I know that I’ve been in many presentations where I had a comment or question but didn’t want to interrupt the speaker, and then there wasn’t time at the end for questions.

 

[Thanks to Richard Byrne at his Free Tech for Teachers blog for the heads up on this technology.]

Jan 142011
 

Ever look at your Windows folders and just see a sea of yellow? What if you could color-code your folders?

You have a couple options. Rainbow Folders (free) is an older program that still works just fine in Windows 7. In this post, though, I’m going to cover Folderico (also free) since it’s optimized for Windows 7.

Once downloaded and installed, right click on the folder you’d like to change. Mouse over “Folderico,” then select the icon you’d like to use. I’m going with violet for my Psych 100 folder.

And this is what it now looks like.

To change themes, when you right-click and select Folderico, select “Change theme.” You can choose from these two. (Visit this website to download more themes.) Selecting a theme doesn’t change all of your folders. It just provides the icons you can choose from. You can have folders with different icons from different themes.

Quick tip: If you share folders using Dropbox, the icon Dropbox uses puts two little people in the bottom right corner of the icon as a reminder that this is a shared folder. If you change the icon on a shared folder, the little people will disappear, and you may forget that it is indeed a shared folder. For the sake of simplicity, I recommend against changing those icons. (Still not using Dropbox? Read more about Dropbox.)

Happy color coding!

For the curious, the little green dot in the bottom left corner of my folders is courtesy of Carbonite, my online backup service. That tells me the backup is current for the files in that folder. (While I’m an advocate for Dropbox, the free version of Dropbox limits how much space I have. Since I want my entire hard drive backed up, I use Carbonite which gives me much more space.)

Jan 092011
 

You’ve probably heard of microloans. Let’s say a gentleman in Peru needs $1000 to expand his internet café. Through Kiva.org, you can loan him $100. All he needs is another nine like-minded people to do the same to get enough for the expansion. Over time, he pays the money back, money that’s deposited back into your account which you can loan out again if you’d like.

Microvolunteering applies this same concept to volunteering. Sparked connects nonprofits with online volunteers. The volunteer projects vary widely. Some are looking for suggestions, such as how to get more people engaged in their blog, what a mobile app for their nonprofit might do, tips for using social media, how to improve their website. Depending on what you teach, Sparked may provide some interesting group projects for your students.

For example, if you teach web design, small groups could offer suggestions to a nonprofit on how to redesign their website, perhaps even offering the nonprofit some templates to choose from.

If you teach writing, one nonprofit would like to send a thank-you note to their donors and they’re looking for suggestions on what it should say. Sounds like a great project for a writing class!

If you teach psychology, student groups could, based on their knowledge of persuasion, provide suggestions on how an organization could get more people to donate to their cause.

If you teach marketing, there are several nonprofits looking for help in that arena.

With the different kinds of nonprofits and the different kinds of help they need, you’ll likely find one that fits your discipline. What a great way to show students the real-world applications of what they’re learning!

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