Bit.ly Bundles: Bundle Your Links

Last month I wrote about BridgeURL, a service that lets you bundle links together into one URL. Controls appear on either side of your browser window that allow you to cycle through the links. Here’s an example of a BridgeURL link. For those of you who are fans of bit.ly, the URL shortener service, they’ve recently added the ability to bundle URLs together.

Log in to your bit.ly account. Check the boxes next to the links you’d like to bundle together, and click ‘Bundle.’

Clicking ‘Bundle’ generates this page where you can add links to your newly created bundle. In this screenshot, you only see the first link. The other two are below it. You can revisit this bundle at any time to add links.

I’m going to change the title and give a description of the bundle.

This is what it now looks like.

When I click the ‘Share’ button, I get the screen below. If I click ‘Copy,’ the URL for my bundle is copied to my clipboard, and I can paste it anywhere I’d like. If I click customize, I can name the link anything that isn’t already taken. For instance, I customized this bundle to this: http://bit.ly/Correlations. If you’re giving links to students in paper form, customizing is the way to go. It’s easier for students to type in that URL than to type in random letters.

Once your bundle’s created, you can add links, remove links, and rearrange links. Go back into your bit.ly account, and click on the bundle. Or just follow the link that you created.

To add links, copy and paste your link into the box and click ‘Add to bundle.’ To edit your title or description, click on the title to change the title; click on the description to change the description. To delete or rearrange links, click the box directly above the ‘Add to bundle’ button. That will collapse all of your links so you’ll only see the titles. Click the garbage can to delete a link. To rearrange the links, mouse over a link, grab it with the hand that appears, and drag it to where you want it to go. That’s it. It’s automatically saved, and your previous customized URL will still work.

If you send your students out to the web to visit a number of sites, bundling makes it easier on you and your students. By editing your bundle, you can easily change an assignment without changing the URL you give to your students.

And for those of you have become QR code aficionados, point your smartphone here to go to this bit.ly bundle.

RSSInclude: Add RSS Feeds to a Web Page

RSS feeds are a great way to keep track of what’s new. I use Google Reader, but there are many other ways to read RSS feeds. You can even bring feeds into Outlook. If you’re unfamiliar with RSS feeds, start with this post about Google Reader.

Here I’m going to talk about how you can push RSS feeds to your students via your website or CMS (e.g., Angel).

This is from my personal web page. Everything in the box comes from the American Psychological Association (APA). Every time APA updates their news feed, the content in this box is updated. If you visit my website and click any of those titles, you’ll be taken to the full article.

How to do it

I use a service called RSSInclude. After you set up a free account, you’ll be given the opportunity to create a new RSSbox. You’ll be given a few templates to choose from. The box you see above is “the simple vertical list.”

Next, you’re asked for the URL of the feed. To find it, look for the little orange icon. On APA’s website, for example, there’s a “News & Events” section. It’s there where you can find the RSS feed URL I used to create the above RSSbox. Following that link, I was given the option to choose from a number of feeds. I chose this one: http://psycport.apa.org/siteware/rssfeed.xml.

Here I’ve entered the feed URL.

After clicking “Add Feed,” this is what you get. Now click “Content and Styling Options.”

Now you can jazz it up a bit. Decide what title you’d like, the number of entries you want to appear in your box, the size of the box, the color of the font and the background, and so on.

Once you have it looking as you’d like, click the “save and preview” button at the bottom of the page. Do you like how it looks? It’s ready to go live!

Click the “Include!” tab to get the code to add to your webpage. For most webpages, including your CMS, javascript works just fine. Copy the code provided. Edit the page where you’d like to include your code. Be sure to select something like ‘html view’ or ‘code view’ so you can see the html code used to display your page in a browser. Locate where you’d like your RSSbox to go. Paste your code. Save your page.

That’s it!

Create as many RSSboxes as you’d like. In addition to the PsycPORT news feed, I also have an RSSbox that imports content from our psych department website. (Our website is built using WordPress, a popular blogging platform, so any new content is automatically dropped into an RSS feed.)

Try it out. If you run into any problems, let me know!

FollowUp.cc: Remind Yourself

[Update 1/17/13: FollowUp.cc remains free for those who use up to 30 reminders a month.  For up to 100 reminders and integration with Google Calendar, you’ll need to sign up for their personal plan at $5/month.]

A month ago I wrote about NudgeMail, a service that allows you to send email reminders to yourself in the future. For example, if you send an email to Monday@NudgeMail.com, you’ll receive that email back from NudgeMail on Monday morning. An email sent to 1pm@NudgeMail.com sends that email back to you the next time 1pm rolls around. An email sent to 5minutes@NudgeMail.com sends that email back to you in 5 minutes. Unfortunately, NudgeMail mysteriously stopped working for me. Since I found the service so useful, I went searching for another company that provides a similar service. I found one that does the same thing, but has some additional features.

The advantage of NudgeMail is that there is no registration, no login. That’s also its disadvantage, I discovered. When it stopped working for me, I had no easy to way to see the future NudgeMails I had scheduled. My only option was to go through Outlook’s sent folder. (Actually, I used Xobni to narrow down the search – see this earlier post, but it still wasn’t easy.)

For email reminders, I’m now using FollowUp.cc.

It works the same way in that if I want a reminder on Monday, I send an email to Monday@FollowUp.cc. If I want a reminder at 1pm, I send an email to 1pm@FollowUp.cc. See FollowUp’s FAQ for all of ways you can set a time for a future reminder.

When I send the reminder, FollowUp.cc will add it to a calendar that I can access on their website, and it will be added to a calendar I can view in my own Google calendar. And when that reminder shows up in my mailbox later, I can ‘snooze’ it, so it’s sent to me again at some future point.

An example

I send this email:

A minute later, I received this email:

I can either do what I wanted to do, or I could ‘snooze’ it. If I click ‘1w,’ I will get this same email reminder back in a week. If I click ‘edit reminder manually,’ I’m directed to a webpage where I can set the time and date myself.

The FollowUp.cc calendar

I wrote that email on Friday, December 10th at 5:56am. When I visit my calendar at FollowUp.cc I can see that “An example for blog” has been added. It’s in red because by the time I was ready to take this screenshot, 5:57am had already passed.

Within the FollowUp.cc settings, you can get the URLs for both an iCal calendar and RSS feed.

If you use Google calendar, on the bottom left, there is a section called ‘Other calendars.’ Click add. Then select ‘Add by URL.’ Then paste the iCal URL from within your FollowUp.cc Settings.

The FollowUp.cc calendar only shows your upcoming reminders. (I snoozed the ‘an example’ reminder until tomorrow so it would appear in my calendar.) If you don’t want to see your reminders all the time, under ‘Other calendars,’ click ‘FollowUp.cc.’ The color will turn to white. Click it again to turn it back on.

I tried out the RSS feed, but I decided that I didn’t need my reminder information in my feed reader, too. My email and my Google calendar were plenty!

From other email addresses

By adding other email addresses to your account, you can send yourself reminders from them as well. Whatever account you send from, email reminders will go back to that account. All email reminders go into the same calendar though.

Remind others

If I email me with something like, “Let’s find time next month to discuss (some issue),” and I cc January3@followup.cc, then on January 3rd, you and I will both get this email in our inboxes. If I bcc January3@followup.cc, then only I will get the reminder. If I use Subtextual (see this earlier post), then I can add an additional message to myself. And, of course much mixing and matching is possible.

For example, let’s say that I email you, cc’ing someone else and January3@followup.cc. I then write a message: “Here’s the background…” But because I want to include some additional information in the reminder for you and me, I use Subtextual.

On January 3rd, the ‘here’s the background’ email will be sent as a reminder to ‘someoneelse,’ to you, and to me. The ‘here’s the strategy’ email will be sent as a reminder to just you and me.

Remind yourself about websites

FollowUp.cc also provides a bookmarklet. When I click a link in my browser, I can set a reminder to be sent to me later reminding me to visit that website.

Conclusion

The developers continue to make improvements. Keep an eye on this product!

Babble.ly: Share Your Phone Number without Sharing Your Phone Number

Want to give out your cell phone or home phone number to students but you don’t want them to have your phone number in perpetuity? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could, in effect, change your phone number every term?

Check out Babble.ly.

How it works

You give students a randomly-generated URL or QR code to that URL. (If you’re unfamiliar with QR codes, start with this post.) That takes them to the website below. The student enters their phone number and name (optional). The student clicks ‘Call.’ Babble.ly will call the student’s phone. When the student answers, Babble.ly will call your phone. The student doesn’t ever see your number; you don’t ever see the student’s number. (Ok, I know. As faculty, we have access to student phone numbers. Perhaps the student only has a home phone number on record with your institution and would rather you not have their cell number.)

Setting it up

After creating an account, you’ll be asked to add a phone number to your account. Once added, click the “Verify Now!” link.

Babble.ly will generate a 4-digit code. Click ‘Call me now,’ and an automated voice will ask for the 4-digit code. You’ll be told your phone number has been verified, and then the system voice says, “Thank you,” and unceremoniously hangs up on you. I found that quite refreshing, actually.

Once verified, you have a link that’s tied to your phone. Give that link to your students. Or follow the link to get the QR code and give that to your students.

When the term is over

Go into your Babble.ly account, and delete your number. At the beginning of the next term, go back into ‘manage’ your account and enter your number again, and Babble.ly will generate a new URL for you. Verify it, and give the URL and/QR code to your students.

Limitations

This is a brand new service, so they’re in beta. It’s currently free, but they’re planning additional features that will be available in a pay-for version. Currently, calls are limited to 10 minutes.

[Thanks to Arvin Dang at Lifehacker for the heads up on this service!]

QR Codes: Ideas for Use

Back in March, I wrote about QR codes. I just came across this document which offers some interesting ideas on how to use QR codes. It was written for a K-12 audience, but there are a bunch of ideas that are relevant to higher education.

I learned a couple things I didn’t know.

First, the size of the QR code is correlated with the size of the URL. Makes sense. I just didn’t know that. If you have a long URL but want a small QR code, use a URL shortener like bit.ly or goo.gl then create your QR code. Actually, bit.ly and goo.gl make it easy to create QR codes. Use bit.ly or goo.gl to shorten the URL. Paste the URL into your browser’s address box. Then add ‘.qr’ at the end. Hit enter. Bam. QR code. Just copy and paste the code wherever you’d like. For example, this link will take you to the main page of my blog: http://goo.gl/FtvWJ. When I add .qr at the end, http://goo.gl/FtvWJ.qr, I get this QR code. I right-clicked on the image, selected copy, came here and clicked paste.

For generating QR codes from websites, I use a Firefox Addon called QRLinkMaker. I right-click anywhere on a webpage and select “QR code.” A pop-up box gives me the QR code. I right-click on the image, click copy, then paste wherever I want it. If you right-click on an image, the generated QR code will send users just to the image.

The second thing I learned is that one of the QR code generators, QR Stuff, let’s you change the color of the code. That could be useful. [If you use QR Stuff, you can just right click on the preview image to copy it.]

Campus tour

One suggestion offered in the document is to create a tour of campus for new students. I can envision something like this. The students get a map with certain areas marked, such as the bookstore. Outside the bookstore are 2 QR codes. One is labeled “Website” and printed in black. The students scan the QR code into their phones to visit the bookstore’s website. The other is labeled “Video” and printed in blue. The students scan the QR code to watch a short video. The video could be something like the bookstore manager welcoming students to the store and explaining some of the key things students need to know about the bookstore. Clearly there’s nothing special about the color of the codes other than, with experience, the students will see the color and know what kind of information the code with give them.

If you do this as a scavenger hunt for something like a freshmen orientation course, you can have students respond to questions. While the number of students with smartphones is on the increase, not all students have them. I suggest having students work in pairs or small groups where at least one person has such a phone.

Syllabi

My syllabus is available on my website as a pdf. After I post it, I generate a QR code for it, add it to my syllabus, and then resave my syllabus to my website. This is from the top left corner of my syllabus. Although next quarter, I’m going to generate a QR code from URL shortener so I can shrink the size of the QR code.

Handouts

When you distribute handouts, include QR codes to online content, such as videos. It’s a whole lot easier to scan a barcode and watch a video on my smartphone than it is to type a URL into my browser.

Poster presentations

I’m also picturing my next poster presentation at a conference. I can add QR codes that direct visitors to websites or videos. Actually QR codes can be used for anything, really. Let’s say at my poster presentation, I run out of handouts. Scan this code to generate an email to me with the email address, subject line, and message already filled in. Or better yet, if you use Dropbox, put your handout in your public Dropbox folder and create a QR code for the URL of that file. Visitors can scan the code to download the file to their smartphone.

Scavenger hunt

Earlier I mentioned a scavenger hunt for a freshmen orientation course. QR codes can be generated for plain text (see QR Stuff again). You start students off with some clue, like, find the Campus Security office. When students arrive there, there’s a QR code posted next to the door. Scanning this code generates a message that directs students to a specific book in the library.

Perhaps in the front of the book is another QR code that generates a phone number. Students call the number, and it’s the office number of their instructor. That’s how the instructor knows the students have completed the hunt. Granted a 2-stage scavenger hunt isn’t very useful, or fun for that matter. But you get the idea.

Conclusion

QR codes make it easy to move between the real world and the virtual world. We no longer need to be in front of a desktop or laptop to access the internet. For many students, the internet is at their fingertips. Let’s use it.

Google: AROUND

With the end of the term upon us, are you looking for a better way to detect plagiarism?

We’ve probably all put a suspect passage into Google. If the quote is exact, the source is easy to find. But what if the student has changed a few words? Those are a little tougher. But here’s a little known tool that can help a lot. In Google, you can use the operator AROUND (must be in all capital letters) to find terms or phrases that are ‘around’ each other.

Here’s an example.

Original passage: “When you have PTSD, it can seem like you’ll never get over what happened or feel normal again. But help is available – and you are not alone.”

Plagiarized passage: When someone has PTSD, it can seem like they’ll never get over the trauma.

If I drop the suspect passage into Google, this is what I get. The original source is not here. In fact I went 5 screens deep without encountering the original source.

But now let’s do a search using AROUND. To use it, I take a guess at what I think the original words likely were. I chose ‘PTSD,’ ‘it may seem like,’ and ‘never get over.’ Those are pretty sketchy terms to use in a normal Google search. But here, they become much more powerful.

PTSD AROUND(5) it may seem like AROUND(5) never get over. This tells Google to search for web pages that contain the word PTSD, then look within 5 words of it for the word seem. Also look for the word like and look within 3 words of it for never. Oh, and look for the word get, too. The first and third results give us the source. (Who knows which is the original? Plagiarism on the internet is rampant. That probably doesn’t help our students understand it’s wrong.) The second result does meet the criteria we gave Google; it just doesn’t contain the passage we’re looking for.

I hope all of your students properly cite their sources, but if they don’t, this search tool should provide some help.

Wondering what else Google can do? Check out the Google Guide.

[The tip on how to use AROUND comes from Amit Agarwal, Digital Inspiration blog. Thanks!!]

YouTube: Link to a Specific Time

Here’s a quick tip for YouTube users.

Let’s say that you’d like to show a YouTube video in class, live from the web. (See this post to learn how to download YouTube videos to your computer for viewing offline.) You link to it from your PowerPoint slide. Once your browser loads and the video begins to play, you remember that the first 5 minutes aren’t relevant to your lecture. You use the controls at the bottom of the video to advance to the spot.

Wouldn’t it be easier if you could just create a link to the YouTube video so that it would take you to the right spot in the video?

Pause the video where you want it to start, right click anywhere on the video screen, and select “Copy video URL at current time.” It will seem like nothing has happened, but the URL has been copied to your computer’s clipboard. Go to your PowerPoint slide (or anywhere else you want to paste it), and paste.

Here’s the link for this video at 5 seconds in, http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=voAntzB7EwE#t=5s. (For the curious, at the end of the link t=5s is what causes the video to start 5 seconds in.)

[Thanks to Amit Agarwal and his Digital Inspiration blog for this tip!]

Outlook: Managing the Email Onslaught

One of the nice things about living in a digital world is the amount of contact we can have with other people via email. Of course that’s one of the bad things about living in a digital world as well. How much of your work day is spent writing, reading, filing, deleting, or searching for email? In previous posts, I’ve suggested some tools that can help with this (see Subtextual, SimplyFile, Phrase Express, Xobni). In this post I want to talk about some of the built-in power that comes with Outlook. Specifically, I’m going to talk about how to set up rules so that at least some of your email is filed automatically.

Setting up rules

I’m on a few listservs, a couple of which are high-volume. I don’t want to have to deal with messages from those listservs as soon as they come in. Instead, I have Outlook file them into a folder in my inbox when they arrive, and then I read them later at my leisure.

If you don’t already have a folder set up for filing such messages, create one. Right click on ‘Inbox’ folder, and select ‘New Folder.’ Name your new folder whatever you’d like. For this post, I’m going to be filing messages from the PsychTeacher listserv, so I created a folder called ‘PsychTeach.’ Clever, I know. (You can also create folders inside of other folders if you are so inclined.)

When email arrives from this listserv, I want Outlook to immediately file it in this new PsychTeach folder. I chose one of the messages that came from that listserv, and I right-clicked on it. I selected ‘Rules,’ then ‘Create Rule.’

That generates this pop-up window. I checked ‘Sent to,’ and ‘Move the item to folder,’ and clicked ‘Select Folder’ to locate the PsychTeach folder I created.

That’s it. Now any time a message arrives from that email address, it will be filed in the folder I designated. If you want to get really elaborate, click the ‘Advanced Options’ button. But in this post, I’m keeping it simple.

If there are unread messages in the folder, the name of the folder will be bolded and the number of unread messages will appear in parentheses next to the folder name.

When you visit the folder and click on the unread messages, the number disappears and the bold print returns to normal.

Set up a few rules, and you’ll spend less time sorting email and more time doing what needs to be done.

YouCanBook.Me: Customizing for My Purposes

UPDATED 9/5/2011: Be sure to read a more recent post on this tool.

Last month I wrote about a new service (YouCanBook.Me) that lets students schedule appointments with you themselves. (See the original blog post.) Now that I’ve been using it for a couple months, I wanted to share with you what I’ve learned.

The booking form

The default booking form asks those making an appointment with you to give you their email address (required) and leave a note (not required). I, however, want more information than that, and YouCanBook.Me gives me the power to ask for whatever I’d like. Specifically, I want the appointee’s name, email address, and the reason for the meeting. And I want the appointee’s name to show up in the subject line of my calendar.

In the YouCanBook.Me dashboard, clicking the ‘booking form’ tab allows me to make those changes. Each line produces a separate input box. The asterisk means the appointee must enter something in that field. Whatever is entered in the first line will be entered as the subject line for the appointment.

Default Booking Form

My Customized Booking Form

What the appointee sees:

How to get it to look that way:

[Thanks to my colleague Rich Bankhead for his suggestion to add a ‘bigbox’ for the ‘reason for meeting’ area instead of the default small box.]

A different calendar for each quarter

With the fall quarter coming to a close, it occurred to me that I didn’t want students to be able to schedule an appointment with me after the last day of the quarter, but I didn’t want to block off all of the days from mid-December to early January in my Google calendar since I use my calendar for things other than scheduling time with students.

YouCanBook.Me lets you select start and end dates for booking, so I changed the dates to match the dates of fall quarter.

But then I thought that some students may want to schedule an appointment with me next quarter right now. If the calendar ends on December 9, they won’t be able to do that until I change the calendar dates on December 10. Keith Harris at YouCanBook.Me suggested that I solve this by creating separate calendars for each quarter. What a great idea!

On the main dashboard, you’ll find a list of all of your calendars. If you have just one calendar, you’ll see just that one. Once it’s set up as you’d like, click ‘copy.’

I created three, one for each quarter. I changed the dates of each to match the dates for the quarter. Then I changed the title and the subdomain (on the ‘basic’ tab) to match the quarter.

For example, for the winter quarter calendar, I changed the title to Winter 2011, and I changed the subdomain from sfrantz to sfrantz-winter. Here are my three calendars.

Rather than link to each of these separately, I embedded the calendars on a newly-created ‘appointment’ page on my website. On the top of the webpage I put the instructions for scheduling an appointment which I deleted from each calendar. And then I copied the embed html code from each of the calendars and pasted it on the webpage. You can use the embed code wherever you can use HTML code, including on pages inside your course management system (e.g., Angel, Blackboard).

The embed code can be found right above the preview pane in your YouCanBook.Me dashboard for each of your calendars.

[UPDATE 12/3/2010 : To embed calendars on a page, YouCanBook.Me uses iframes.  Unfortunately the security settings on some browsers keep some users from viewing that content.  After having a couple students say that they couldn’t see the calendars, I deleted the web page I created and am again linking directly to my YouCanBook.Me calendar.  In the calendar instructions I’m including a link to the next quarter’s calendar for students who want to schedule an appointment further out.  When this quarter ends, the hyperlink on my website will go directly to next quarter’s calendar whose instructions include a link to my spring calendar.  To see what it looks like, go to my main web page and click on “Schedule an Appointment with Me.” ]

Schedule 15 minute appointments for the first two weeks of the term

Keep the ability to create different calendars in mind if, say, you want students to set up 15-minute appointments with you at the beginning of the term, perhaps as a ‘come introduce yourself’ sort of meeting.

Copy an existing calendar, change the subdomain to something like YourName-15, set the start and end dates to whatever you’d like, then set the appointment length to 15 minutes. Give the link to students.

If you want to do the same thing at the end of the term, edit this calendar so that the start and end dates are for the end of the term.

Syncing with Outlook

I sync my Google calendar with Outlook 2010, and I’ve discovered that Google has a weird bug. When events with guests are scheduled in Google calendar, they get stuck in a weird loop with Outlook.  A ‘ghost’ version of the event (only those with guests) gets created and set to 1979.  Whenever Outlook syncs with Google calendar, that 1979 event gets dumped into Outlook’s deleted folder.  Since it happens every time they sync, that deleted event shows up over and over again.  The only solution I’ve found is to go into Google calendar, search for the appointment (which is not 1979) and remove the guest from the appointment (or delete the appointment altogether).

The default for YouCanBook.Me is to add the appointee as a guest to the appointment. This is handy because if you delete the appointment, you’ll be asked whether you’d like to notify the appointee that you’re canceling the appointment. If you don’t sync with Outlook, or if you do but don’t have the 1979 experience, there’s no need to change anything.

If you’re in my position with those ghost appointments showing up in your Outlook’s deleted folder, you can change YouCanBook.Me so that appointees aren’t brought in as guests. On the ‘afterwards’ tab, uncheck the ‘add participants’ box. That’s it.

If you’re using YouCanBook.Me, I’d love to hear how it’s working for you!

MS Office: Quick Access Toolbar

One of the cool features of MS Office 2007/2010 is the quick access toolbar. I have a sneaking suspicion it is underutilized. It allows you to quickly access any function, thus the name: Quick access toolbar.

This toolbar is at the very top of the screen in all of the MS Office programs. For example, this is what mine looks like in MS Word.

A click on the appropriate icon lets me quickly do that icon’s function. Or pressing ALT on my keyboard will assign numbers to each of the icons.

Then I just press a number that corresponds to the icon I want. For example, if I wanted print preview, I would press ALT followed by 2. That’s it.

Word comes with some default icons in the quick access toolbar, such as save (the little blue floppy disk). Its real power is that it lets you add and remove whatever functions you’d like. Since I grade papers electronically, I’m frequently accessing ‘track changes’ and ‘save as PDF.’ So, I added those functions to my quick access toolbar. ALT then 4 turns on track changes. ALT then 5 saves the file as a PDF.

I’ll walk you through how to add ‘track changes’ to your quick access toolbar.

Click the down arrow on the far right side of the quick access toolbar. It will give you this menu.

If the option you’d like is there, great! (The checkmarks show the commands that are already on my quick access toolbar.) Since we’re looking for ‘track changes,’ select ‘More Commands.’ That will generate this pop-up window.

On the left side of the screen, Word gives you popular commands. Scroll to the bottom, and track changes is there. Alternatively, use the dropdown menu (where it reads ‘Popular Commands’ highlighted in blue) to select from the various tabs. Track changes is on the Review tab.

 

Once you find the command you’re looking for, click the ‘Add’ button in the middle of the screen. The command is now available in your quick access toolbar. Use the arrow buttons on the right to change the order of the commands.

That’s it! If you want to remove a command, select it so it’s highlighted, then click the ‘Remove’ button.

Note the commands you frequently use. Consider adding them to your quick access toolbar for easy access.