teaching + technology
support for uva english department instructors and faculty
Archive of Tech Tips
New Horizons in Research and Teaching Conference
On Wednesday, April 29, check out the third annual UVa New Horizons conference, showcasing technology in teaching, research, and scholarship. This year's conference will feature presentations by UVa faculty, luncheon round-table discussions, and a keynote talk. The conference takes place in the auditorium of the Harrison/Small Library (i.e. special collections). All events are drop-in with open attendance. Free registration may be made for lunch and the evening reception. Find the archived conference schedule and more information about the speakers here.
Image presentations with ArtStor
ArtStor, to which UVa offers access, is a huge databank of high-quality images for research and classroom presentation. It includes collections of classic to contemporary art and tons of archival photographs. Best of all: you can organize and present zooming, high res images (including any of your own you upload) with ArtStor's presentation maker. It's a vastly superior alternative to PowerPoint if detailed images are your goal. Check out the tutorials on the website to get started.
Get a Digital Signature
Can you digitally "sign" something? You can very easily make an image file of your scripted signature and add it to documents that you use. It can be nice, for example, if you're submitting an application letter as a documents attached to an email. Here are two ways to do this:
- Use an online signature maker. There are several sites that let you draw your signature with a mouse. The sites immediately create an image file which you can save to your computer. It can take a few tries to get the signature looking right.
- Sign a piece of paper and scan it. Crop the image around your signature and save.
Once you've got the image file from either of these methods, simply add it to whatever document you're using. For example, with Microsoft Word, choose Insert -> Picture -> From File. Such a picture of your signature can be a nice way to dress things up, though its value as an authenticated and secure sign of your identity is less certain. "Digital signatures" in this sense work through other means than holography and vary according to the software you use.
Clickers, otherwise known as student response systems, have been gaining popularity in large science classes. Clickers are individual remote controls with which students respond to questions in real time. Different vendors of the technology offer a few different options, but that's the basic idea. Clickers may also present some interesting opportunities for the humanities classroom, in which they have yet to be really tested. I've put together some background information on Clickers, how they might be used, and what hardware options UVa can facilitate. Read the report on the TTSP site.
How to use the new U Penn CFP list
The CFPs hosted by the University of Pennsylvania used to get emailed out to subscribers. Over a year ago, they stopped supporting the email lists. To find CFPs, you had to periodically check the site's archives. Now the site has been redesigned and upgraded. You can still just go and check for new entries. But you can also get new CFP listings sent to you again -- and you can select the specific categories you're interested in as opposed to drinking the general flood.
Here's the catch: updates no longer come as emails. Instead, you subscribe to a CFP list using an automated feed. This syndication technology, sometimes known as "RSS," is also what powers blogs, news sites, and many things Web 2.0. It's a little different, but easy to use once you get the hang of it. All you need is a "feed reader"; popular options online include Bloglines and Google Reader. These work like WebMail: they collect everything that's new from your subscriptions and provide an interface for reading them all in one place.
To help make sense of all this, take three minutes to watch this accessible video introduction to RSS. It's a nice visual aid to thinking about how all this works. After watching it, you'll be ready to start subscribing.
If you're feeling more advanced, you can also configure your email software to collect feeds too; you'll receive updates that are very similar to emails. For example, here is how to configure Thunderbird to get RSS feeds.
Finally, you can reinvent the wheel by using online services that convert RSS feeds back into emails. In other words, these services will subscribe to the new CFP for you, then send you emails anytime there's an update.
Preview the new Student Information System
Just as Toolkit will be replaced by Collab, so the university's overhaul of its technical infrastructure includes the replacement of ISIS by the new student information system (SIS). All course registration stuff that ISIS handled will be shifted to the new system by Fall 2009. A transition period begins this spring. You can find information and previews about the system here:
- Student Center Demo
- Information for faculty (includes a link to a demo of the faculty center portion of the new Student Information System)
- Comparative chart showing which features can be accessed through the new Student System and UVACollab
Free online storage with Dropbox
UVa's Home Directory offers everyone 2 GB of space for remote file storage. It's a great place for backing up files and accessing them remotely (ask the TTSP if you don't know how). But let's say you want online storage elsewhere for backing things up. Or you want to securely share your saved files. Perhaps your university affiliation changes and Home Directory won't be accessible. Maybe you don't like accessing Home Directory remotely.
Whatever your interests in online storage, check out Dropbox. Dropbox lets you store up to 2 GB of stuff online for free (you can buy more storage, if you need it). Better yet, it synchronizes those online files with the ones on your local machines. This is great if you work on stuff from different computers and different locations. And it also lets you selectively share files or folders with other people, without giving them complete access to all your stuff. Among the various online storage options available online, Dropbox seems especially handy.
Changes to UVa computer labs and DCI program
ITC recently posted two documents about changes to computing hardware policies at the university. Please find capsule explanations and links to the full documents below.
Transitioning Student Computing at UVa: Labs & Software
Basically, on-grounds student computer labs will be phased out. Most of the software will made available virtually (i.e. streaming software).
Framework to Replace the DCI Program
The current DCI plan will continue as-is, though a "university-wide community" will soon be convened to reconsider standards for departmental hardware. Interested parties can get involved with the revamping of the DCI program. All other parties can pretty much not worry about it.
Internet Phone Calls and Video Chat
There are several services that allow you to make person-to-person audio calls and live video chats over the internet. Among the most conspicuous is Skype, which has recently issued a major new release for Windows. If you're interested, this might be the time to check it out. These kind of services allow you to make online "calls" to other people's computers for free (i.e. no long distance charges). They also offer low-cost calls from your computer to telephones, either cell or landlines. And they allow for free video calls between people with webcams, which now are built into many new computers.
This technology could be great for bringing basic video conferencing into academic settings, whether inviting a speaker without the travel, teaching a class remotely, having virtual office hours, what have you. Its potential applications for personal uses almost speaks for itself. Find out more from this article by David Pogue, the quirky but dependable technology correspondent for The New York Times. Or check out more info at the Skype site.
Sync your calendar with English Department events
The English department hosts its own Google Calendar with all the department's upcoming events. If you have a Google Calendar, you can automatically pull in these listings to your calendar. Just find the little "+ Google Calendar" icon on the bottom right of the English department's events page. You can also find it by searching Google's listings of public calendars. In your "Settings" for Google Calendar, select "Calendars" and "Add calendar." This takes you to a search engine where you can find the above page, plus other UVA-associated calendars, like the GESA calendar.
If you use other software (like Outlook), Google has information and programs to assist with syncing your information.
Facebook is an extremely popular social networking site. Your students have another virtual life there. But, as many of you already know, Facebook isn't just for undergrads, nor solely for use on college campuses. Here are a few perspectives on tailoring Facebook to professional and academic needs.
The Professor as Open Book
The NY Times reflects on how "Professors of all ranks and disciplines are revealing personal information on public, national platforms: blogs, Web pages, etc. ..."
How Not to Lose Face on Facebook, for Professors
The Chronicle offers some useful perspective on the possibilities and pitfalls of social networking, including some straightforward tips about how to set your Facebook privacy settings.
12 Ways to Use Facebook Professionally
Though geared toward new media professionals, this article makes useful suggestions about how to realize the professional potentials of social networking.
University of Maryland Graduate English Program
For an interesting example of Facebook put to professional use in an academic context, check out the University of Maryland's graduate English program has an elaborate (and official) Facebook presence. It collects members past and present, an "Events" application, notes, links, discussion board, etc.
Many graduate students, professors, and organizations at UVa have found Facebook a valuable utility. Check it out; maybe even "friend" them, too.
MixedInk.com -- cool collaborative writing tool
Technology can help students to write collaboratively. But typically it's been limited to offering open access to the documents students are working on. The site MixedInk is the first I've seen to integrate writing and community tools into these documents. The site allows users to see, borrow, rate, and promote other users contributions as well as source documents in preparing a collaborative version. And the final document can reveal all its contributing sources.
For a better idea of how this works, watch MixedInk's introductory short video on the "tour" tab. Or check out how Slate.com is using the site to get people to write an inaugural speech for Obama.
Spring 2009: Toolkit's Last Gasp
The upcoming semester, Spring 2009, will be the last semester in which instructors can create new Toolkit sites. After next spring, all course sites will be created in Toolkit's robust replacement system called UVA Collab. If you want to get a jump on the transition and try Collab for your course this spring, check out one of the upcoming Collab demonstrations. Find the "Demo Schedule" link in the left-hand navigation bar on the main Collab page.
Vacation Email Responder
If you get lots of timely emails, an automated email responder can be a useful feature to manage time away from the inbox. Once turned on, the responder will send an automatic message in response to incoming emails. You can customize the settings in different ways, like sending only to people in your contacts list. The "vacation" message can be anything you want, maybe something like: I'm away from email until November 29. In case of urgent matters, please contact my mobile phone / the front office / my colleague on-call.
Turn on / off the vacation responder through UVA WebMail. Find the "Settings" tab and then select the options you wish. When you return from being away, remember to turn the vacation responder off -- it's not automatic. Happy holidays!
Fair Use in the Classroom
We've probably all used multimedia in classes as enhancements to pedagogy. But is there a usage limit specified by copyright law? What is the threshold for fair use? The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) recently tackled these issues in their "Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education" which, while specifically designed for media literacy courses, contains potentially useful guidelines for anyone who incorporates media into a course.
Top 100 tools for learning
Drawing from the recommendations of learning professionals worldwide, a technology consultant in England has again compiled her list of the Top 100 tools for learning. Watch the introductory slideshow online, or go directly to the big list, which links to descriptions of each tool and its parent category.
The DiRT on digital research tools
You don't have to be a digital humanist to find something useful on this wiki of Digital Research Tools (DiRT) covering "software to help you manage citations, author a multimedia work, or analyze texts." DiRT is the creation of Lisa Spiro -- UVa PhD and now Director of the Digital Media Center at Rice University.
Make literary maps in Google
When Julian Connolly, a professor in the Slavic Languages and Literatures department, reads Crime and Punishment with his students, he offers students a visual aid: an interactive map of St. Petersburg loaded with pictures and details about that novel's topography.
For the moment, disregard the fancy web design; Professor Connolly got help from the ASCIT group. (And you can too, if you ask them.). The inset map itself is something that anyone could make. Using Google's "My Maps" feature, individuals or groups working in collaboration can create maps specific to their needs. Mapping plots, books, or concepts over a semester could offer a powerful way for students to constructively interact with their course materials.
Office software upgrades on the cheap
New releases of some major office software suites are available to you for cheap.
FREE: the open source OpenOffice 3.0 was released last week with a bunch of new features and support for Mac OS X.
CHEAP: Microsoft Office and Vista for $10. According to ITC: "With UVa's new Campus Agreement, students can purchase Microsoft software for just $10 (Office 2007 Professional, Office 2008 for the Mac, or Windows Vista) from Cavalier Computers in the UVa Bookstore. UVa faculty and staff in Agency 207 may also get Microsoft Office software for just $10 under the Work-at-Home agreement." Just walk in to Cavalier Computers for the deal.
Five ways of looking at classroom blogs
In this article in the online magazine Campus Technology, an instructor reflects how how she has used blogs in her classrooms -- and how she has learned to use them better. The article makes salient points about shaping any kind of instructional technology, not just blogs, into solid pedagogical practice.
If you are interested in using blogs in the classroom -- as student response diaries, for collaborative group essays, in lieu of email discussion groups, for students posting relevant links and multimedia -- there are plenty of simple options available. Contact the TTSP for more information and help fitting them to your class (current or future).
Need a little help with the basics? Or just want to learn a neat trick about navigating the computer? The New York Times's inimitable technology correspondent David Pogue writes on "the essential tech bits that you just assume everyone knows -- but you're wrong." Check out his list of, yes, "tech tips" from keyboard shortcuts to efficient Internet browsing.
Liven up your PC
Microsoft is currently trying to rescue their image from the brainiac shill from Apple: "I'm a PC." If your Windows machine is seeming a little sluggish and outdated, try a couple of these options short of switching operating systems (with difficultly level in parentheses):
- Clean up disk space (easy)
Start menu --> All Programs --> Accessories --> System Tools --> Disk Cleanup
- Defragment the hard drive (easy, takes awhile to run)
Start menu --> All Programs --> Accessories --> System Tools --> Disk Defragmenter
- Uninstall unused programs (moderate, just make sure you know which ones you don't need)
Start menu --> Control Panel --> Add/Remove Programs
- Add more RAM (more difficult, requires opening up your computer, but very effective): Talk to someone who looks like a Microsoft employee for help with this.
So there are blogs and then there are micro blogs. Twitter is the most prominent service in a growing new trend called "micro blogging". Some brave academics have tried using it in the classroom. But chances are your students are using it there already. Watch a short, easy-to-follow introduction to Twitter.
Reading/Teaching texts in a cloud
Try this neat trick when teaching your next work of fiction in the public domain:
- Find a serviceable etext version of the thing (e.g. Project Gutenberg)
- If necessary, strip out the header and other nonsense
- Turn the text into a "tag cloud" to visualize predominant words
Free sites like Wordle and TagCrowd will process a bunch of text and visually represent a "cloud" of words. The more frequently a word appears in the text, the larger it appears in the "cloud." For a neat introduction to how such "tag clouds" can be used to help students read fiction in different ways, read this professor's description of using it on Mary Shelley's story "The Parvenue."
Digital Media Lab
On the third floor of Clemon Library, scores of techie undergraduate drones are just waiting to help you enliven your teaching (or anything really: conference presentation, baby blog, etc.) with media. Whatever you want to do, the Digital Media Lab (DML) is a great place to get started and get lots of help:
- pull a video clip from a film to show or share with your class
- do the same with audio clips from film or music
- scan or change image files
- start podcasting
- check out a hand-held video camera for performances
- build your own website
Check them out at http://www.lib.virginia.edu/dml/ for more information about reserving blocks of time for help.
Online to-do lists and organizers
Getting organized at the start of the semester? You might consider using an internet-based to-do list, accessible from anywhere. These handy (and free) services will synchronize with calendars and, if you want, will send reminder or summary emails. If paper lists work for you, great. Perhaps you use the built-in to-do list in a program like Outlook. But if you're looking for another option, check out:
- Remember the Milk
- Sandy (an email-based assistant; just email instructions and receive reminders)
- Or browse this huge directory of other personal organizers
Summer reading edition: academic blogs
What are they? Blogs are online magazines, personal essays and diaries, comic interludes, political opinions, etc. They might be written by one person or by a collaborative group, anonymous or named. Some blogs are personal efforts; others are offshoots of more mainstream media. Blogs are hard to define because, technically speaking, "blogs" are just the products of software that makes it easy to publish stuff to the Web. There are lots of interesting blogs out there written by academics or about academia. A couple of different examples:
Some blogs describe goings-on personal as well as professional:
The Little Professor: Things Victorian and Academic
Other blogs are newsy and generated by multiple contributors:
The Chronicle: On Hiring
Some blogs are dedicated to specific topics:
academhack: Tech Tools for Academics
Some blogs are more like a journal or a discussion group:
The Valve: A Literary Organ of the ALSC
And some blogs are in a class of their own:
Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog
How to find them? While there are search engines just for blogs (e.g. Technorati), the best way of finding academic blogs may be just browsing. Blogs usually link to other related blogs, typically in a list in a side column of the page. You might also find references within specific blog entries. Some publications offer a list of their blogs, such as on the front page of the Chronicle.com.
How to subscribe? One of the best things about blogs is that you don't have to remember to visit their web page to read the latest entries. Syndication technology called "RSS" automatically sends new entries to a blog's subscribers. To take advantage of this, sign up for a blog aggregator or a blog reader (popular options include Bloglines and Google Reader). In a sense, these work like WebMail: they collect everything that's new from your subscriptions and provide an interface for reading them all in one place. To help make sense of all this, a couple of visual aids:
Free interactive timeline maker
Check it out: Dipity. Either as a review tool or as something to integrate in future courses, Dipity.com lets users create (or add to) timelines about anything they want. You might imagine timelines for things like individual books, genres (e.g. epistolary novel), literary historical periods, just the information in your class, whatever. A couple of existing examples: Aphra Behn (not much there yet) and Harry Potter.
Dipity shows promise for collaboration within a class or class groups, or as a study aid for students. (Access to timelines can be restricted to given users or groups.) Timeline items can have different media and descriptions, and Dipity allows for multiple views of the information: timeline, list, flipbook, and geographical. Dipity also provides code to embed timelines into an existing site. Each timeline has its own RSS feed should users like to subscribe.
Collaborative online class review
Planning on doing an end-of-semester review for your students? Or want to encourage your students to gather in small groups to review among themselves? One interesting approach came up during last week's teaching + technology panel on wikis: have students collaborate to create and share review notes online.
Wikis are easy-to-edit web pages; you don't have to know any code, really. Here's a nice, short animated introduction to wikis in plain English: http://www.commoncraft.com/video-wikis-plain-english
Once you're ready, there are plenty of free wiki sites out there to use, including:
- (Course sites in Collab feature wikis, too.)
Merely register to create your own, then share the web address with your class. Students can then visit the site and start creating and editing pages. Here's a description from a Victorianist professor on how he assigned "wikified class notes".
The trick, as he points out, is to provide your class some structure about how to proceed. From there, they can take it away, collaborating and sharing notes online. You'll have to decide in advance about what kind of presence you, as the instructor, will have on the site. But there's a lot of potential. For additional help, please contact the TTSP.
How to use del.icio.us for academic research
Use the web to do research? One promising way to help store and organize the resources you find is to use the social bookmarking site del.icio.us. It lets you store, describe, and organize the useful or notable websites you find as online bookmarks.
Start with this short explanatory video about social bookmarking (i.e. del.icio.us) in plain English. Then check out some background from a PhD student in theology about setting up del.icio.us for researching the web. And finally his specific tips for using del.icio.us to do academic research (gets a little more complicated).
On-grounds printing from your laptop
If you use a laptop in the library or around grounds, you can set it up to work with the university's public printers. See these instructions for Windows and Mac machines. Here is a list of printer locations. The public print stations will deduct cash credits from your UVA identification card at 8 cents per page. You can make deposits on your card at stations at the libraries.
Simultaneously upload multiple files to Toolkit
Did you know that you can upload multiple files at once to Toolkit's Materials section? Which means not having to endure its built-in, hair-pullingly slow, one-by-one process? Just "zip" (a.k.a. compress) your files and upload the resulting zipped archive file. Toolkit will automatically unzip the files for you. While you can also specify the destination directory/folder, the files will only unzip into one place. More info:
- Basic information about zip files
- WinZip software available from ITC (on-grounds computers only)
- Other recommended file compression software options from CNet.
Midterm self-assessments with Toolkit Anonymous Feedback
Professor Paul Hunter calls it a "mid-course correction". Many instructors find the semester's halfway point an opportune time for self-assessment. It helps instructors fine tune their pedagogy and helps students feel involved in the direction of the course. There are plenty of ways to take students' pulses (or to double check that they have any). One simple procedure is to use the Anonymous Feedback feature of Toolkit. I find this works best with some structure, as opposed to simply asking students to visit the form and write whatever they're thinking. Here's one approach:
- Make sure the Anonymous Feedback feature is enabled in your Toolkit.
- Write an evaluation questionnaire. Include whatever questions or feedback prompts you would like.
- Send the questionnaire to students in an email. Ask them to type their answers and then copy/paste the completed form into the Anonymous Feedback section on Toolkit.
- Use a deadline; send an email reminder to the class with the link to the Anonymous Feedback page. You can find links to all of your Toolkit features by going to "Manage Display of Class Home Page" --> "List of URLs for class home page features".
Daily eBooks, free audiobooks
Here's book on the beach 2.0 -- a couple of neat ways to read on vacation (or any time). Lots of books are in the public domain and accessible online, but a couple of tools can help with the delivery:
DailyLit eBooks: Read a little bit of a book everyday by subscribing to an RSS feed. The free service at DailyLit automatically delivers installments of classic books a little bit every day. (Finish Bleak House in a mere 440 parts!) Not sure what RSS means or how to use it? Here's a good introduction to RSS in plain English.
Free audiobooks: download files and listen on a portable music player. Import the files into iTunes, for example, and listen on your iPod while strolling down South Padre. At LibriVox, lots of volunteers collaborate to produce free audiobooks.
Research and Bibliography, Part 3: Converting text-based bibliographies
Speaking personally, I have long kept lists of books and bibliographies in word processing documents. I would like to import them into bibliography software. Can it work?
Yes and no. Bibliography software (covered in previous Tech Tips) uses special tags and "metadata" to identify bibliographic information beyond the text entries themselves. This metadata allows you to import/export into different bibliographic programs. My bibliographies don't have this metadata; they are basically text files. And this is the problem. Computers have a hard time "reading" and parsing such information, especially when there are multiple kinds of things to consider: bibliographic entries for books, articles, web sites, lectures, emails, etc.
So what to do? If you really want to get such bibliographic data into your software, there are a couple of options, but all have drawbacks. This is just what I have discovered myself after searching around and consulting with librarians. If someone has a better solution, please let me know! (For a further discussion of the options, see these threads in the Zotero forums.)
- Copy and paste. This is the brute force method. While it can be time consuming, it gets the job done. Keep your bibliography file open opposite your bibliographic software program and manually transfer the data.
- cb2Bib: this program was designed to extract unformatted references from articles, and apparently it can work for humanities citations, though I have not been able to automate it successfully. It outputs to a BibTeX file -- a standard format for bibliography metadata -- which can then be imported into other bibliographic programs.
- Bibliography generation script. A Japanese researcher created an online form that lets you copy/paste text and automatically generate BibTeX versions of it, which can then be saved and imported into the program of your choice. The output is not perfect and needs massaging. It might be better than nothing.
Research and Bibliography, Part 2: Bibliographic Software
[The second of a multi-part series of Tech Tips on research and bibliography tools.]
Several software options exist to help you collect, organize, and produce your bibliographic references electronically. Why use them? Three primary reasons.
- Storage: store bibliographic information and notes in a flexible, often accessible-from-anywhere format. Once you've entered the information, you don't have to do it again. Further, you can save and export your data from one program to another, should you want to change.
- Collection: these tools allow you to automatically pull in citations from research databases, online articles, library search pages (VIRGO and WorldCat), even Google Books pages. Collect as you go.
- Produce/convert citations: this software is integrated with word processing programs, so you can call in references and adjust the citation style as needed. Especially useful if you need to retool that manuscript from, say, MLA to Chicago style. The software makes global changes and can produce bibliographies.
Some commercial programs, like the popular EndNote, are available to academics at a discount. But there are other good free options that are worth looking into, whether you're just getting started or whether you want to convert your existing citations.
RefWorks -- UVA provides free access. See the links below for how to get started:
- Main RefWorks page with short tutorials on how to register and begin
- Instructions (from U Michigan) on how to manage citations to/from a RefWorks account
- Tutorial on how to import citations into RefWorks from InfoTrac databases (i.e. the MLA Bibliography)
Zotero -- very promising open-source software actually created by academics at George Mason U. Zotero works with Firefox Internet browsers as a "plug in." So it works right in your web browser as you go. Check out the introduction and video tutorial at their main site: http://www.zotero.org/
Advanced Zotero users may be interested to know that you can customize Zotero to find saved items through UVA library catalogs (the "Locate" function). In Zotero's "Preferences" menu, change the link for OpenURL to UVA's link resolver at this address: http://re5qy4sb7x.search.serialssolutions.com/
Research and Bibliography 1: Library Search Toolbar
[The first of a multi-part series of Tech Tips on research and bibliography tools.]
Doing research online? You can search VIRGO, online journals, and WorldCat directly from a toolbar in the Firefox internet browser. This lets you search without having to return to UVA library sites. Just type and search. Note that this add-on currently only works for Firefox 1.5 and higher. Find details and installation instructions here: http://www.lib.virginia.edu/databases/libx.html
The library toolbar has another powerful function, which might also appeal to users too jealous of their screen space who would rather hide the toolbar. The toolbar also adds "context menu" items in the right-click menu of your pointer. In other words, select some text, right click on your selection, and you can perform a number of different searches on that text. (See a sample screenshot here.) You can customize these in the Preferences menu of the Toolbar: which databases to use, what kind of keywords or information to search, etc.
To show or hide the toolbar, choose the View menu --> Toolbars and un/check any toolbar you which to access or remove. To uninstall it, choose the Tools menu --> Add-ons.
Access internet browser bookmarks from anywhere
Here are three different options to store and access your internet browser's bookmarks/favorites from anywhere:
- Export your bookmarks/favorites as a list. You can save the resulting file to your computer, a disk, or for remote access to your Home Directory account. Exporting also backs up your bookmarks as you would any valuable file. You can access the exported links either by opening the file directly or by importing it into another browser.
- In Internet Explorer: File --> Import and Export --> Export Favorites.
- In Firefox: Bookmarks menu --> Organize Bookmarks --> File menu --> Export.
- In Safari: see complete instructions
- Synchronize bookmarks automatically: Do you use the Firefox browser from multiple computers? The add-on Foxmarks allows you to synchronize bookmarks between any of your computers.
- Store your bookmarks online: You can upload your bookmarks to the internet and access them from anywhere through the site http://del.icio.us. You can also add new bookmarks to your online del.icio.us account from anywhere with an internet connection. You can also choose to share them with other users, as well as search for more. Here's how to get started.
Computer hardware has all too short a lifespan before it is technically obsolete. Wondering what to do with your old stuff? Get started on spring cleaning with these three options:
- Repair: Sometimes all an old product needs is a good upgrade, like adding more memory to a computer (inexpensive, easy) or getting a professional to fix or refurbish something.
- Reuse: If it ain't broke, keep it in circulation by donating it to a worthwhile organization or someone who needs it:
- Recycle: Electronics can leech heavy metals and toxins into landfills and water tables, so before consigning anything to the trash, please find out where electronics and accessories can be properly disposed of or recycled.
Office Software Alternatives
Rage against the Microsoft machine. Support open source software initiatives. Get free programs. Or just experience a different look-and-feel when using office software. There are several notable alternatives for office software (a suite of programs that typically includes a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation maker). This list is just for starters:
OpenOffice: an open source project, this suite is compatible with major office software programs and includes everything you would expect in a suite (including nifty stuff like a PDF converter). Free to download, OpenOffice is also installed around computers on grounds.
Google Docs: while not open source and limited to a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation maker, Google's office suite lets you work and store files online without downloading any new software. Hence you can access and work on your files from any computer with an internet connection. This makes sharing and collaboration easy, too.
More free office software sites: beyond commercial offerings, there are all kinds of individual programs for download out there. Check out the extensive list of free office software at Downloadpedia. Other free online office packages include Zoho and Thinkfree.
Classroom Projectors and PowerPoint
In-room computers and overhead projectors in Bryan Hall classrooms and around grounds make it easy to share multimedia and instructional presentations. Many instructors already take advantage of these tools to share a series of images with students, enhance lectures with visual aids and quotes, or otherwise bring multimedia into the classroom. If you'd like help with the equipment or how to set up your presentations, contact the TTSP.
Presentation software, including Microsoft's ubiquitous program PowerPoint, offers a simple way to make slideshows of such materials. PowerPoint can do straightforward image and text presentations as well as incorporate sound and video. For personal help, contact the TTSP. For a DIY approach see the overview of PowerPoint, tutorials on making slideshows, and suggestions on good design.
Use Technology for Your Spring Semester Class
Toolkit is just the beginning. There are all kinds of options for making instructional technology work for your classes: help with assignments, student collaboration, multimedia, research, and more. When planning this semester's course, check out this TTSP site's directory of resources at UVA and beyond for planning and using technology in the classroom or in your own research. You can also contact the TTSP directly about starting points about teaching with technology, or for specific questions or in-person consultations.
Teaching + Technology Fellowships for Faculty
The Teaching + Technology Initiative (TTI) has announced a request for proposals for their 2008-2009 faculty fellowships: "assistance to selected faculty who are finding ways to transform teaching and learning by integrating technology into their courses." The deadline for applications is Monday, February 11, 2008. Please see the TTI website for more information on the program, a look at past fellows and their projects, and how to apply.
Sample Electronic Grading Options
Excel Wizardry: If you keep track of your grades in a spreadsheet program, you can use functions (SUM, AVERAGE, etc.) to calculate grades automatically for individual students and the entire class. This tutorial from Penn State goes into the details, including how to convert numbers to letter grades, how to drop lowest scores, and more. Or try this ready-made spreadsheet by graduate student Mark Meier.
Toolkit Options: Grade Book and Submit Final Grades: Toolkit offers a grade book with which you can keep track of student grades, weight them appropriately, calculate final grades, etc. Instructors must use the Toolkit editor for the grades, which can be kind of slow. Toolkit also offers the option to "Submit Final Grades," which is actually not very helpful, as all instructors must turn in paper grade sheets anyway.
Turn Long Links into Shorter, Easier-to-Read Links
We've all received emails with impossibly long, practically illegible URLs to some website or another. Sometimes they break over lines in your email and do not work correctly. Two free online sites can help. For example, at TinyURL this long and complicated link to a Toolkit site:
... can become ...
Only 25 characters long. Here's another example following the same principle. At DecentURL this long and complicated link, a map to Cabell Road:
... can become ...
Still short and helps people see what the link actually goes to. TinyURL and DecentURL are easy to use; just go to their sites to find out how. There are plenty of other sites that also redirect URLs (here's a list). Most are free to use and their edited URLs do not expire.
Use the Online Course Waiting List
Have an overflow of students interested in your spring semester course? Dispense with paper forms and constant student emails by using UVA's Electronic Wait List. The Wait List system is integrated with ISIS and the COD, so when students try to register for a full course with the online Wait List enabled, they will be directed to that list. The online lists register the order of students signing up and solicit their reasons for wanting to join. The instructor retains control of which students are ultimately invited to enroll.
GoogleGuide for Novices and Experts
Want to make the most out of using Google? Whether you are a novice or a more advanced Googler, you'll probably find something at GoogleGuide to sharpen your skills, including learning all the basic search parameters, more advanced shortcuts, additional Google services, and more.
Text scanning and OCR
Text scanning-including Optical Character Recognition (OCR)-is incredibly useful when transcribing paper books into digital editions. It can also be useful when you want digital versions of other kinds of paper documents. For example, you could scan evaluations, handouts, worksheets, evaluations, etc. that have only previously existed in paper format. Output to PDF files or word processing documents. Whatever your intended use, the Scholars' Lab in Alderman library has the staff and the machines to help, including top-loading scanners for stacks of loose papers.
Get (and use) an email alias
Note that you can get a more memorable email address than your UVA computing ID. You can create an alias that is much more human; it's a second name for your account, rather than a new account. Choose anything you want, though some variant of you name may make the most sense, e.g. email@example.com becomes firstname.lastname@example.org. Use the web form to make a request. Then make sure to use your new email alias as your "From" address. Though different email programs have different settings, usually this is under "account options." You can even change it for use in UVA's WebMail under the Settings tab.
If you can't beat them, join them. Facebook applications are all the rage. As deadlines for papers start to draw near, your students might be interested in Facebook Librarian: a directory of search engines and databases for books, articles, and scholarly sources. This little application doesn't do much more than the databases the library offers. However, it does plug in right onto a students' Facebook page, perhaps decreasing the distance, in some ways, to the library. Facebook members can access it directly.
Many people have moved from paper calendars to digital versions, with the added benefits of accessing them remotely, sharing with others, and synchronizing to desktops and portable devices. Here are a couple of options, some at UVA, that might be of interest.
Be a Toolkit Pro
Toolkit is UVA's in-house course management software (CMS). It's easy to use with lots of features. If you'd like to start with Toolkit, are having problems with it, want to learn more about any of its features, or discuss potential alternatives, just contact the TTSP. Toolkit basics (syllabus, materials, email) are pretty straightforward. Here's a quick rundown of some other useful features:
- assign and collect papers or course work online
- request library staff to find and upload course materials
- copy previous Toolkit sites into sites for new courses
- get a photo composite of your entire class roll
- get a list of short URLs for your Toolkit site's features
- expand access to TAs or other instructors
- open access to Toolkit sites from previous semesters
- conduct a structured mid-term self-evaluation with Anonymous Feedback
Having been around since 1998, some of Toolkit's features are showing their age or are limited in their use, including:
Not using Home Directory yet? UVA offers everyone 2 gigabytes of free file storage. That's a sizeable chunk of space. And you can access it from anywhere with an internet connection. Why to use it:
- back up your important files
- access files from anywhere: home, grounds, remotely
- because floppy disks decay
You can access Home Directory through a simple program from ITC (http://www.itc.virginia.edu/central/). Even if you're on a computer that doesn't have Home Directory installed, you can still access your files on the web. Here's the link: http://www.virginia.edu/homedir/
Advanced users should know that Home Directory also allows you to publish web pages and files on UVA's servers. Check out how here: http://itc.virginia.edu/homedir/web/home.html
- Announcements (class email does this now)
- Quizzes (good for practice tests, bad for real ones)
- Newsgroups (pretty much outdated)
- Roster (students can join to let people outside the university check the class roll)
- Submit Final Grades (perhaps useful, if at all, for instructors who keep grades in spreadsheets for big courses; everyone has to turn in paper sheets anyway)
Feel free to ask the TTSP for more opinion or advice. For documentation, FAQs, and technical support for Toolkit, visit:
The UPenn CFP
The new SIS
Free online storage with Dropbox
ITC announces changes
Toolkit's last semester
Vacation email responder
Fair use in the classroom
Top 100 tools for learning
Digital research tools
Cheap upgrades for office software
Intro to Twitter
Digital Media Lab
Online to-do lists
Read academic blogs
Collaborative class notes
On-grounds printing from laptops
Batch upload to Toolkit
Daily ebooks, free audiobooks
Bibliographic file conversion
Library search toolbar
Access browser bookmarks anywhere
Use Tech this spring
TTI faculty fellowships
Electronic grading options
Make URLs shorter
Online course waitlist
Text scanning, OCR
Be a Toolkit Pro