Nov 172013

I’ve written before about Join.Me for communicating with others while sharing your computer screen. (See the most recent post.) But let’s say that you don’t want to share your screen. You just want to have a conference call (maybe join via your computer or by phone), see who is speaking during the call, and maybe even share some files. And maybe you have some people who will be on the call who haven’t bothered with downloading Skype or figuring out Google Hangouts. Like Join.Me, Speek just needs users who can follow a link. is one of the newest kids on the audio communication block. Give your Speek URL to your conference call participants (in the free version up to 5 people can join a call including you), and Speek will give them three options for connecting to your call. Only the person originating the call needs to have a Speek account.

When you create your free account, the username you choose will be your Speek URL. Visiting that URL brings up the connect page. Before you connect, be sure to log in to Speek. This will give you administrative privileges on the call. More on those below. Your conference call participants will see the same screen when they visit the page. Connect to the call by using the mic/headphone on your computer, have Speek call your phone, or you can call in to the Speek number then enter a PIN. Your participants can choose any of the three methods as well.

Once connected, you’ll see everyone on the call. Here it’s me and my guest where my guest was actually me calling in on another device. At the bottom of the screen are a set of tabs. The “Conference” tab shows who is on the call, who is currently talking (outlined in green), and the percent of time each person has spoken displayed under each avatar. I don’t know that this last feature actually keeps certain problematic people from dominating the call, but for those who don’t wish to dominate, it’s useful feedback.

If you mouse over one of your conference call participants, you will see the options to mute them or remove them from the call altogether. How’s that for power?

To mute yourself, click the speaker icon in the top right corner of the screen. This is an essential tool for when the postal carrier comes and your dogs go bananas – hypothetically speaking.

Click the “Files” tab to share files with the others on the call. Drag and drop a file from a folder onto the gray box on the right side of the screen. Or you can click “file browser” to navigate to the file you want to upload. Participants who are connected to the call by something other than a phone can click on the filename to download it. The only people who can see the files are the people who are currently on the call. If someone arrives late, they won’t be able to see the already-uploaded files. I see the “link your accounts” option, but I’m not sure what benefit that serves when you can just drag and drop. Maybe it makes sense if I’m using a computer that is not mine. I could access my files directly through, say,

Click on the “Comments” tab to, well, add comments. This is a useful space to take notes or put together a to-do list for each conference call participant.

Have someone else you want to add to the call? Click the person icon in the top right corner, and enter the person’s phone number. Speek will give them a call. When they answer, they will hear, “Welcome to Speek,” and then they will be connected to your conference call. Since there isn’t much information for them to go on, you either need to speak very quickly once they’re connected or drop them an email or text message to let them know that Speek will be calling on your behalf.

After the call is over

You’ll be given the option to name your call. It’s not a requirement, but it may make it easier for you later.

Click on “Hey <your name>” in the top right corner to access your Speek dashboard. You will see a summary of your Speek usage for the last 30 days, which you can change to a different time period. Click on the “Call History” tab. On the left are the calls for the last week. The ones with paperclips have files that were uploaded during the call. If I click on a call, I see the name of the call (“Blog Post Test Run”), call begin/end (total time), who the participants were along with their participation time percentage (minutes) – if Speek has their contact information, it’s provided to the right of the name (phone number and Twitter handle, in this case), the files that were shared which can be downloaded again by clicking on them, and the comments that were made in the comment pane during the call.

If someone joins your Speek conference call when you’re not on, their call will also appear in your call history.


Aside from the obvious uses for collaborators or committees working at a distance, I could see where someone might want this when, say, advising students over the phone. Share files and make notes as you talk. If you’re hyperconscious about documentation, Speek is certainly the tool for you. If you want to be notified by text message when someone joins your Speek conference call when you’re not already on the call, go into your dashboard ( click on “Hey <your name>” in the top right corner), and select the profile tab. Under “SMS notification” select the number you want to use for texts.

Mobile app

There is an app for Android, iOS, and Windows phones. Interestingly the Android app is compatible with my Samsung Galaxy Nexus phone, but not my Samsung Nexus tablet. While I could connect to the call through my tablet’s web browser, the mic worked fine, but I couldn’t hear anything. I did just try one web browser though; I may have better luck with a different one. You’re probably better off with the app.

Pro version

For $10/month or $100/year, you can have an unlimited number of participants on your call. And you can have Speek audio record your conference call. Speek’s page (updated August, 2013) that describes the difference between the basic and pro accounts says that the pro account grants file sharing and commenting. The basic account, as of this writing anyway, includes those features.

If you would like to try a free month of Speek Pro, you just need to convince 3 people to join. On the dashboard page, on the far right you’ll see the offer. Click on one of the avatars to get to the sharing options page.


Ready to give Speek a try?

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Nov 162013

Want to receive text messages on all of your web-enabled devices? If you have an Android phone, install ZipWhip (free) on your smartphone, laptop, desktop, and Android tablet. Any time you get a text message, the message will appear on all of your devices. When I’m working at my computer, like now, my phone is who-knows-where. But when a text message comes in, I will get a pop-up on my computer screen showing me the text. It doesn’t matter on which device I read the text, ZipWhip will mark it read on all of my other devices. I can even reply from my computer. It is much easier to type a message on a full keyboard than it is on my phone’s keyboard. For new text messages, I can send them now or schedule them to go out at some future time. ZipWhip will tell me when I have a call coming in on my phone and the number that’s calling. If it’s from a number that’s in my contacts, ZipWhip will tell me who it is.

If you connect to the internet when you fly, you can receive and send text messages via ZipWhip. Gogo is launching a “Talk & Text” app for both iPhone and Android devices that will allow you to send and receive texts and phone calls although it’s unlikely that the talking half of the service will exist on U.S. domestic flights. I certainly don’t want that – not because I don’t want to talk to my wife, but because I don’t want to listen to you talk to yours – the support that I can give to your relationship has limits. The pricing on this app is still a mystery as of this writing, but it probably won’t be free. If you’re buying internet access for your laptop or tablet anyway, might as well text using ZipWhip.

How it works

After installing ZipWhip and launching the application, the ZipWhip webapp will open in your web browser. The interface is ridiculously easy to navigate. On the left are the numbers from which I have received texts or phone calls. On the right are the text messages/phone calls I’ve received or dialed. If I want to reply to a text, I mouse over the text, which I have done with the second text, and click “Reply.” Clicking the arrow will let me forward it. The trash can will delete it. Since ZipWhip synchronizes with my phone, anything I delete here will also be deleted on my phone.

Click “New Text” to send a new text. Click the down area to the right of “New Text” to access the scheduling option.

Arriving text

Text messages appear in a bright orange box in the top right corner of my computer screen, and then slowly fade.

Privacy mode

If you don’t want messages appearing on your screen because you’re presenting in class from your personal laptop – or perhaps you are giving a talk on technology to a large group of workshop participants, right-click on the orange ZipWhip “Z” icon in your system tray (bottom right corner of your computer screen). Click on “Privacy Mode.” The orange “Z” icon in your system tray will turn half gray and half orange, making it easy for you to confirm that no embarrassing text messages will appear unbidden.


Back on the ZipWhip webpage, click “ZipWhip” in the top left corner of the screen and select “Settings.” In the popup window, click the messaging tab.

My new-message volume is set to zero. The bright orange box is enough notification for me; I don’t need sound, too. I don’t include a signature with my text messages; I type everything I want to say.


Not bad for free, right? Now, if you’re willing to pony up $19.95 per month, you can receive text messages sent to your landline. Students could text you at your office phone number; their texts would appear on your computer screen and all of the rest of your connected devices. If you like that idea and are willing to put a little effort into setting it up, check out, a free text messaging service (see this blog post).

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Nov 132013

EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR) conducts an annual survey of undergraduate students regarding their use of technology. Read more about the 2013 study. In this post I give some commentary on the data presented by Eden Dahlstrom, Director of Research at EDUCAUSE, in her 11/12/2013 webinar. Want to watch the very well-done, hour-long webinar? Watch it here. Want to just see the slides? They are here. In 2014 EDUCAUSE will include a faculty study. Want to participate?

The slides are ECAR’s; the commentary is mine.

Here’s the survey methodology for the 2013 student survey.

Students see the value of technology, although only 61% perceive it as helping them “prepare for the workplace.” Is this because students don’t know what technology is being used in the workplace? Or even what their future workplace will look like?

Two-thirds of students that we, as faculty, “have adequate technology skills,” “use technology effectively,” and “use the right kinds of technology.” What do the other 1/3 think we should be doing? But what’s most fascinating is that only 52% think we “have adequate technology training.” What are those 52% of students seeing that make them think that? Are we fumbling too much with the classroom computer? Are we being compared to their instructors who are early adopters of technology?

Even though half of our students don’t think we’re adequately trained, more than 2/3 want us to train them in the use of technology. I’m not entirely sure what to make of these data. It sounds like 60% or so of students would like to have a technology module added to their face-to-face content courses.

The student/technology landscape changed considerably between 2010 and 2013. Course/learning management system (CMS/LMS) use jumped from around 73% in 2011 to about 97% in 2012. Interestingly, that number dropped to 91% in 2013. This could just be sampling error. Or it could be a reflection of an actual drop in the number of faculty using a CMS/LMS. Anecdotally, I have been hearing from more and more faculty who are interested in developing their own websites. Partly it’s driven by wanting to make content available to students before/after the course is over, partly it’s driven by a frustration of updates to their institution’s CMS/LMS or movement to an entirely different CMS/LMS platform, necessitating a boat-load of work on the part of the faculty to port their courses.

Less surprisingly we see big jumps in the use of web-based citation tools and e-books. For those who aren’t familiar with those web-based citation tools, look for an upcoming blog post on that topic.

This was the first year for the open education resources and simulations or educational games options. I’m curious to track those responses in future surveys.

CMS/LMS use is high, although about half of us are not using their full potential.

And 2/3 of students think we should use them more. I’m not sure what features students would like us to use, though. This is an opportunity to check in with your own students. If you aren’t using a CMS/LMS, would your students like you to? If so, why? If you are using a CMS/LMS, do your students want you to “use it more”? If so, what would they like?

Students overwhelmingly prefer print books over digital. If they have to go digital, they prefer to read on a desktop/laptop. David Daniel, psychologist at James Madison University, has data on the difference between reading a textbook in print versus reading a digital version; it takes students longer to read a digital version. I’m not all surprised that reading a textbook on a smartphone came in last – tiny print and frequent page turns. If you increase the size of the print, you have to turn the page even more frequently.

Almost 75% of students say they “studied differently with e-textbook than paper textbook.” Given the number of students who prefer print textbooks, “differently” was evidently in a less desirable direction.

Students aren’t impressed with the “features” that may be packaged with e-books. Largely if they’re using e-books it’s because they’re less expensive. David Daniel has also found taht those “features” in e-books serve as a distraction. If I’m reading, I want to read the narrative. I don’t want to stop mid-paragraph to click on a link to a video or mouse over a word for a definition. If I do that, I lose the thread. I recently read “The Telling Room” where the author made liberal use of footnotes. He used them purposefully as a distraction from the main text, and that they were. I finally got to the point where I skipped the footnotes until I had finished a chapter.

A big deal has been made of “digital natives.” If you’re a follower of this blog, you know my thoughts on this already. People know what they know. Younger students are masters at texting and downloading music. That does not mean that they know how to leverage technology to help them learn.

Students perform better in hybrid courses compared to online or face-to-face courses. See South Texas College, for example. You can find additional references in this 2004 Academic Quarterly article.

MOOCs are a tiny piece of the puzzle. While the number of students taking a course completely online may increase, I don’t anticipate MOOCs having too much impact on undergraduate education. Who are taking MOOCs? People who already have degrees or people living outside the U.S. Read more here.

To paraphrase one participant in the webinar, do institutions have strategies for “badging competency-based learning”? I would add, how many institutions have a “MOOC strategy”? The sense I get is that most are in a wait-and-see mode while letting others venture out into that particularly murky mess. San Jose State decided to try MOOCs for their remedial math courses. Those of us in community colleges weren’t surprised at the results. “In January [2013], San Jose State announced plans to offer three online math courses in the spring semester through the Udacity platform, which students could take for just $150 each and receive credit for if completed. However, pass rates for the courses turned out to be worse than for students who took the comparable courses on campus.” (See full article here.)

Students are ready to use more technology in their courses. Do faculty know how to make use of those technologies?

I’m not surprised at the increase in the number of students who have smartphones. The increase in the number of desktops does surprise me, though. I’m not sure why it should. After years of being desktop-free, we recently bought a desktop for my wife’s office. (Shout out to Puget Systems who custom-built it.) Desktops have a lot of power for a lot less cost. With cloud-based email and file storage, the need to have a laptop as one’s primary computer is behind us.

Students seem pretty comfortable mixing and matching operating systems. Laptops and desktops are Windows, tablets are iOS, and smartphones lean toward iPhone, but Android has a healthy share of the market.

The checkmarked items are ones institutions can help with. With better campus wi-fi we eliminate “slow network,” “cost of data service,” and “limited network access.” While we can’t improve battery life, we can go the route of airports, and make more outlets available. One person in the webinar said that his institution’s library has installed charging stations.

What are you and your institution doing to make use of student-owned technology?

I am surprised that students aren’t using technology to connect more with other students. What can we as faculty do to foster greater communication among and between students?

I can’t blame students here. I also prefer to keep my social and academic lives separate.

These graphs seem to be largely a lesson in normal distributions. The early alerts graphs skew more toward desiring these resources, though.

Students want more face-to-face interaction, more email, and greater use of the CMS/LMS. The presenter noted that in focus groups students said they like email for documentation. “You said I could turn this in late. Here’s the email you sent me.” Or “I turned in that assignment before the due date. Here’s the email I sent with the assignment attached.”


There is a lot to think about in this data. In the comments, please add your reactions to the survey results. Are you going to do anything differently with your students?





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Nov 062013

Free webinar.

November 12, 2013 at 1pm ET (10am PT).

The EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR) conducts an annual study about undergraduates’ technology experiences and expectations in higher education. The results of this study provide a unique look at students’ perceptions about technology use, trends, challenges, and opportunities in higher education. In 2013 ECAR partnered with 251 institutions and surveyed more than 112,000 undergraduates about their technology perspectives. Join us for this webinar to learn what students say about their technology experiences and hear ECAR’s plans to expand this work to include faculty perspectives. Participate in polls and backchannel discussions to inform ECAR about what matters most to you and your institution regarding research about technology in the academic community.”

I blogged live from this webinar in 2011 if you’re interested in seeing the kind of information they present.

I hope to see you at the webinar! Register here.

If you can’t make it, I don’t know that I’ll blog live or just hit the highlights afterward, but you’ll be able to read more about their findings here.

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Oct 152013

If you are going to hand your laptop to a prostitute as collateral while you visit an ATM, might I suggest that you use a service like FolderLock to secure the personal health information of the 652 clients you have stored on said laptop?

This was the news story I was reading this morning that immediately preceded me choking on my toast.

The woman of ill-repute thought the laptop more valuable than the forthcoming cash, so she pawned the laptop. Now, I doubt that anyone who had their mitts on the laptop really cared about the healthcare records, but I still wouldn’t want to be the owner of the laptop – or one of the people whose healthcare records were compromised. Or the prostitute, for that matter.

While I hope that most of us would not use our laptops filled with private student data, such as grades and assignments, as collateral for, well, any activity really, legal or illegal, having a laptop stolen is a real possibility. If it’s portable, it can walk away.

This might be a good time to review the FolderLock post and get your sensitive student information locked up.

Laptop cable lock

Now is also a good time to get a laptop cable lock to physically secure your computer if you don’t already have one. Granted, a cable lock wouldn’t have been much help in this circumstance since he voluntarily surrendered his laptop. But work with me. I’m trying to provide some new information here.

You’re at the coffee shop grading papers. You need to make a run to the restroom. Do you pack up your laptop and take it with you? Do you let it sit there unguarded? Perhaps you ask a stranger (!) to look after it? My recommendation? Use a cable lock.

On your laptop is a little slot built just for cable locks. The location varies from computer to computer. On my Fujitsu, it’s on the back corner. If you look carefully, you’ll see the lock icon to the left of the slot.

Take the lock end of the cable and wrap it through an open slat in a table or a chair. I also wrap mine through a handle on my laptop bag. Next, send the lock end through the loop at the other end of the cable. Now, attach the lock to the computer. If it’s a combination lock, enter the correct digits, then press the button on the lock. That will cause the tabs at the end of the lock to come together. Slip the compressed tabs into the lock slot on your computer. Let go of the button, and give the numbers on the combination lock a twirl. That’s it.

Of course this isn’t exactly high-tech security. Bolt cutters would slice through the cable in no time, but someone walking around a coffee shop with bolt cutters would certainly draw the attention of the other patrons.

Here’s a video of how to use one of Kensington’s newer models, the “Click Safe.” This video shows a keyed lock, but you can also get it as a combination lock. Mostly I just wanted to show you how to use any locking cable, regardless of the actual locking mechanism.

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Oct 152013

You are working with a student or a colleague. You are both standing in front of a whiteboard drawing, writing, and discussing your topic. But how do you do this online if you and your collaborator are not in the same physical location? I love for screensharing, but it’s not very useful if you want to draw something – unless of course you have some type of drawing program on your computer, like EpicPen.

Try Scribblar if you’re looking to share a whiteboard, in real time.

After setting up a free account (maximum of one room and only two users per room; see plans and pricing for more information), create your first room. You can play on the whiteboard without anyone else in the room, but to get a true feel for it, invite a friend by copying the URL for the whiteboard and emailing it to them.

The drawing tools

The menu to the right of the whiteboard provides the drawing tools. In Scribblar, mouse over each icon to see the popup descriptor.

Selector (arrow): Once you’ve written or typed on the board, click on this icon, and then click and drag on the whiteboard to select the elements you’d like. Dragging over any portion of an element will select the whole thing. If it’s a drawn image, you can click and drag to move it. Selected elements can be deleted with your keyboard’s delete key.

Pencil: This is the basic, freehand drawing tool. You can change the color and thickness.

Smooth pencil: You can change the color of this tool, but not the thickness of the line. It does appear to render a smoother line than the regular pencil.

Text (the “A” icon): For those who’d rather type than draw.

Shapes (straight line, square, circle, triangle, polygon, wedge). Select, then click and drag to set the size. Each shape element has its own features. The wedge, for example, includes a slider that lets you determine how much of a wedge you want to show, from 1 degree to 360 degrees. The straight line tool has options for adding arrows to one or both ends of the line. Change the fill color, line color, or both.

Highlighter: It works just like a highlighter. Change the color and the width.

Stamp: This tool comes with 6 premade stamps: Star, arrow, diamond, trademark symbol, registered trademark symbol, and copyright symbol.


The editing tools

The menu along the top of the whiteboard space provides the editing tools. Like the drawing tools, mouse over each icon to see the popup description.

Cut, copy, paste, undo, redo, delete, flip horizontally, flip vertically, lock the page to editing, unlock the page, clear the page, clear all the pages (how to add pages is explained below), take a snapshot of the whiteboard (your best option for saving what you produced), pointer (for, well, pointing – if you’re pointing, no other whiteboard tools will work for you. Click the icon again to toggle it off.), make the background a grid, equation editor, Wolfram/Alpha (for those with a paid plan), and change the whiteboard to a color other than white.

Adding new boards

In the lower left corner of the whiteboard, you can add new whiteboard pages to your room. Just click the right arrow, and a new page will appear. To switch back to the first page, click the left arrow or click the dropdown menu and navigate to the page you want.

If there is a way to delete a page once you have created it, I haven’t found it. If you erase an entire page, the page will still be listed here; it won’t be deleted. You can always delete the entire room and start over.

Audio, chat, and files

To the right of the whiteboard is the list of participants. The icons to the right of each participant’s name let you determine what kind of control that person has. Click the pencil, chat bubble, and microphone to toggle those off. If you’re the “admin” for the room, you cannot turn these off for yourself. The chat window is directly below the participant window. Above the participant window is the microphone. Click it on to talk.

The “assets” tab icons give you the power to upload an image, import a snapshot of a webpage, add a Flickr image, set a selected image as a background to your whiteboard page, download the selected image, delete the selected image, and refresh the “assets” window. If you want to just add the image to your whiteboard screen, click and drag it from the “assets” window to your whiteboard page.

Embed code

Want to embed your whiteboard room in a webpage? In the top right corner of the Scribblar whiteboard screen, click the little arrow next to “Room Options” and select “Embed this room.” A popup screen will give you the html code.


Scribblar is built on Flash, so it won’t work on many mobile devices.

Scribblar only allows for audio communication, not video. If you want video, use Skype or some other video communication service.

No screensharing. Scribblar is only about sharing this particular program; you cannot share your entire desktop. For that, consider or Google Hangouts.

Caution: If you create a room, and then don’t visit it for 60 days, Scribblar will delete your room. If that’s a concern for you, use a service like to remind yourself to visit your room every 59 days.


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Oct 062013

Your computer files. Are they locked away from prying eyes? Are they backed up? Are they backed up offsite, away from fire and flood danger?

For the most part, I don’t have super-secret data on my computer. I teach psychology.

My work computer is a laptop that I tote around with me. I have never had my laptop stolen, but that was true for everyone who had their laptop stolen for the first time.

Security I already have in place

If I left my computer sitting on the roof of my car, it blew off on the 405 and rendered junk by a passing Kenworth, I would still have access to my files through I used to have an external hard drive at home I would use for backup, but it occurred to me that this would not help in case of, say, a fire at home. I’m a big fan of offsite backup.

In the case of mischievous riffraff, the thief needs to get into my laptop by guessing or bypassing my computer login. Once in, if they go into my web browser, they won’t be able to automatically log in to sites like Barnes and Noble or, more problematic, Wells Fargo. None of that username/password information is stored in my browser. All of that is stored in LastPass (see this blog post). When I travel with my laptop, I tell LastPass to log me out every time I close my browser. Even so, if I discovered my laptop stolen, I would immediately hop on my smartphone, tablet, or someone else’s computer and change my LastPass password. Just in case.

But all of my files and folders are theirs to see. Granted, I don’t much care if they want to read my syllabus, in fact, that would be kind of nice. I can’t imagine anyone being interested in committee meeting minutes. Reading those might be punishment enough for stealing my laptop. Student grades and assignments are more problematic. Realistically, does the average computer thief really care what Jane or John Doe got on their first psych exam? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean I’m not nervous about it.

Folder Lock ($39.95, free trial).

With Folder Lock, I can lock or encrypt files or folders. There is a lot of encryption software out there. Folder Lock gets high marks for both security and usability.

After downloading and installing Folder Lock, you’ll be asked to create a master password. Make it good. And do NOT forget it. Repeat: Do NOT forget it. And do NOT write it on a sticky note you put on your monitor. Nothing kills security faster than handing the keys to the thief. I have my password saved as a “secure note” in LastPass.

Locking a file or folder

Folder Lock is ridiculously easy to use. To lock a file or folder, navigate to the file or folder location, then drag and drop into Folder Lock.

Here I have added a folder. With the folder “locked,” it no longer appears in the original folder. It’s there, but it’s hidden. In fact, since this is a Dropbox folder, I still have access to it everywhere I have Dropbox installed. [That means that I had better have good security on my mobile devices – at minimum a lock screen. Save yourself the worry and install Lookout Mobile Security ($30/year and worth every dime) – locate your mobile device or wipe it clean.] If I want to access this folder from this computer, I have to go into Folder Lock and double-click on the folder. If I click on it once, I can unlock it (it will be visible again) or remove it (it will also be visible again). Which option I choose depends on whether I’m going to want to lock it again or not.

Encrypting a file or folder

This is upping the security significantly. Encryption scrambles the file data so that it’s unreadable to everyone except the person who holds the key. In this case, your key is your Folder Lock master password. If you are going to be storing sensitive data in the cloud, say in Dropbox or any other web-based storage service, encrypt it before storing it.

In Folder Lock, encrypted files or folders are stored in “lockers.” Click “Encrypt Files” and then “Create Locker.”

Name your locker and identify where you’d like that locker to be stored.

Next you’re asked to create a password for the locker. Don’t forget this one, either. (Create another secure note in LastPass!). Now choose “type” – the default is fine. Choose the maximum size for this locker – how much crap are you going to want to store in here?

After the very satisfying congratulatory message at having set up your locker, let’s go back to the main Folder Lock program. We see the locker we just created.

In fact, Folder Lock has created a whole new drive on my computer. It acts just like any other drive. Copy or move stuff into it like you would any other folder.

When you exit Folder Lock, you will be asked if you want to close this locker. Say yes. With Folder Lock closed, the drive will disappear. To access it, you need to run Folder Lock again. Here you can see my locker status shows that it’s closed. To open it, double-click on the locker and enter your locker password.

The folder with the locker contents will open, and the new drive will appear again.


If you don’t want to save your encrypted files or folders in Dropbox or some other cloud-based storage service, you can use Folder Lock’s secure backup.   Folder Lock will not be able to access your files. They were encrypted (scrambled) on your computer. The only way to unscramble them is to have your password, which Folder Lock doesn’t have. That’s why you can’t ever forget your master password! There’s a storage fee depending on how much space you want. The smallest amount, 10 GB, is $5/month.

Backups are done automatically. All you have to do is save your files like you normally do, and Folder Lock will drop them in the queue for uploading.

Protect USB/CD and encrypt email attachments

Need to take your encrypted files with you on a flash drive? Use this option to copy your existing lockers or create new lockers on a flash drive or other portable media. If you lose your flash drive, no worries. No one can get into your files without your master password.

When you encrypt email attachments, Folder Lock compresses them into a password-protected zip file. The recipient will need to extract the files using a zip program like the free 7-Zip. The recipient will be prompted to enter a password – give them the password you attached to the file when you created it. For obvious reasons, it’s best not to do this in the same email message as the password-protected file.

A quick note on email. Email is the least secure method of sending information. In fact, at many institutions, email is considered public communication. Your IT staff – and the IT staff of your recipient(s) – can easily read your email. They probably aren’t as a matter of course because, frankly, your email is as exciting as your committee meeting minutes. That and they have plenty of their own email to read.

Folder Lock isn’t the only tool that can password-protect attachments. The aforementioned 7-Zip can password-protect zip files. But if you’re already in Folder Lock, you can do it with a couple clicks of the mouse. This feature alone, however, is not a reason to purchase Folder Lock.

Make wallets

Keep all kinds of stuff in this password-protected space – like your credit card information.  This isn’t a feature I use; anything I would store in here I already have stored in LastPass.

Xtras and settings

With these buttons at the very top of the Folder Lock screen, you can do things like shred files, or go into “stealth mode” where it’s not obvious that you even have Folder Lock installed. When you go stealth, you’ll be asked to set a hotkey combination. That’s the keyboard combination you’ll use to run Folder Lock. Don’t forget that, either!


Up your security.  You’ll sleep better at night.

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Oct 052013

It’s about how you use the technology.

I recently read author and commercial pilot Patrick Smith’s book, Cockpit Confidential. His pet peeve: When people say “Planes can practically fly themselves.” He assures us that they cannot. He notes that the claim that technology is all that and a bag of chips is not unique to aviation. Smith quotes author and surgeon Atul Gawande from a New Yorker essay, “Talk about medical progress, and people think about technology… But the capabilities of doctors matter every bit as much as the technology. This is true of all professions. What ultimately makes the difference is how well people use technology.”

My favorite example is in construction. A nail gun is more efficient than a hammer. But if you don’t know how to actually build anything, the nail gun isn’t going to magically give you that knowledge. You will still build a crappy house, but you’ll do it faster.

It’s not all that different in education.

Except you don’t have to use technology at all to teach well. Years ago I had two colleagues who taught history. One was a brilliant lecturer; he could keep a class riveted for the entire hour. The other was a brilliant discussion leader; he could engage students, think on his feet, and get everyone to the same place at the end. I don’t think either of them ever so much as picked up a piece of chalk.

Technology can be used to provide an out-of-class forum where the lecture students could write or tell their own stories – or discuss the day’s lecture. Technology can be used to provide an out-of-class forum where the discussion students can continue their discussions – or write or tell their own stories. Technology can be used to enhance learning.

But every instructor who has tried a new technology with students knows that it’s not a Field of Dreams. If you build it, they may not come. If technology is being implemented with students, students will need some guidance in how to use it. And to the IT folks, the same goes for when you bring in a new technology. Don’t be surprised if faculty and staff don’t immediately glam onto it in droves.

A panel of instruments – in a cockpit, on medical equipment, in a course management system – needs someone skilled at using them to truly make them useful.

Much has been made of “digital natives” – people who have been raised on the internet and all the gadgets that come with it. Too much has been made of them. Remember the first word processing program you learned how to use? You figured out how to use the features that you needed. When you got your next word processing program, you figured out how to make your new program do what your old program could do. You probably didn’t take the time to learn the new features of the program – perhaps even promising yourself you’d look into it later. And now how many generations removed from that first program are you? I confess that I never bothered to learn “styles” in Microsoft Word. I see the style buttons at the top of the screen taking up a boatload of real estate, so I figure someone must be using them. They’re probably pretty useful. But honestly, I have never had a compelling reason to take the time.

Our students are the same way. A colleague related the following encounter that took place in her class.

Student: I completely forgot to do the assignment!

Instructor: Did you put it on your calendar?

Student: I don’t have a calendar.

Instructor: Don’t you have an iPhone?

Students: Yes, but I don’t have a calendar.

Instructor picks up student phone and taps the calendar icon. Calendar pops up.

Student: Wow!

Our younger students are masters at text messaging and music apps. If they haven’t had a need for using the other features of their phones, they may not know what they are. [And I bet there are some older smartphone owners who have mastered the calendar, but are now thinking, “Wait! I can play music on my phone?” Yes, yes you can.]

Take the time, right now, to decide what technology you’re going to try this week. It could be new technology or features you haven’t used in a technology you’ve been using for a while. As for me? I’m going to check out the MS Word styles buttons.

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Sep 272013

My favorite email reminder service, (see this blog post), has just added a new tool to their arsenal.

For those not familiar with the service, you send an email to, say,, and Tuesday morning, you will receive that email. would return that email to you on January 12th. This is my “tickler” file. Anything I want to follow up on later gets sent to I use this, for example, to remind me of conference registration deadlines. If early bird registration ends on October 30th, I’ll send a FollowUp email to with the body of the email containing the link to the conference registration page and any other information that I’d like to have later. If someone says that they need two weeks to get back to me, I’ll forward that email to In 2 weeks, that email will appear in my inbox. You can create recurring reminders, and there is Google calendar integration. is one of the tools I use to achieve Inbox Zero.

But I digress.

What I really want to tell you about is’s new Chrome extension for Gmail.

Composing a new message

After installing the extension and reloading the Gmail webpage, when you compose a new message, you will see the toolbar.

Here I clicked “Days” and selected 2, then clicked the “@” symbol, and then clicked on “Time,” selecting 6pm. The extension rendered that as and helpfully added that to the bcc line. Yes, I could have just typed that in myself, but I’m happy to let this extension do it for me. Since this message will be bcc’ed to, I can email whomever I’d like. That person gets the message, and in 2 days at 6pm, I will get that same message back as a reminder to do whatever I need to with it.

If you have a specific date you want the reminder for, click the calendar icon and select the date.

Replying to a message

Clicking “Reply +FollowUp” will add to the bcc field. If you want a different day/time, click on an address in the To, cc, or bcc line to get the full toolbar. No need to delete the address; clicking on the toolbar icons will change the address.

If you don’t want the default address to be, you can change it by going to the menu at the very top of Gmail’s screen.

If is not at the top of screen…?

This was the problem I ran into. technical support (; very quick to respond and helpful!) suspects a conflict with another Chrome extension. Here was their excellent suggestion:

  1. Go into Chrome settings, click on Extensions. Scroll to the extension, and check the box that says “Allow in incognito.” Since most extensions don’t operate in incognito mode, this move effectively blocks all other extensions.
  2. Open an incognito window. Click on Settings and select “New incognito window” or use the keyboard shortcut: CTRL+Shift+N.
  3. Open Gmail in the incognito window. The option should now appear at the top of your Gmail window. Click on it to change the default address.
  4. Now you can close the incognito window and go back to normal browsing, happy with your default bcc address.


There is something very cool about getting emails from your past self at the very moment you need them. The Chrome Gmail extension makes this even easier to pull off.


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