P-Card Accounting On the Fly (or in Vietnam)

Institutional credit cards, or purchase cards (‘p-cards’ for short), are quickly becoming part of the routine work habits of some faculty and many staff in higher education. Although the adoption of the p-card has obvious benefits to an institution, it can also create more work for more people, resulting in a net uptick in time allocated to accounting-related matters.  In an effort to reduce some of this work, most of which is attendant to digital processes, I have advocated for the use of mobile scanning apps that convert images to PDF and then archive files in the cloud.  

CamScanner is still my go-to, timesaving app for these basic tasks. At the point of purchase, I capture and upload an image of my receipt to a folder that can be easily accessed when I later reconcile expenses online. This approach saves me considerable time at the departmental copy machine, sorting email attachments, etc., but also is solid insurance against losing that precious receipt.

Google Drive screenshotHere, I offer an addendum to this strategy that may be useful to colleagues whose p-card expenses must be reconciled with more than one pot of money and/or who work closely with someone else who does much of the actual reconciling. For example, the Director of the Office of Study Away first approves my p-card expenses relating to SATA Vietnam. Given the SATA travel schedule as well as the exigencies of working in a lean country, she is skeptical (for good reason) of my ability to meet accounting cycle deadlines.  As such, she is managing the online reconciliation process. My job? Send the receipts.

Uber receiptCapitalizing on CamScanner’s agility at uploading PDF images to the cloud, I now direct all of my receipts to a shared folder on Google Drive.  In this folder, I created a dozen or so subfolders, each of which is labeled to reflect a two-week accounting period at Connecticut College. Digitized receipts are directed to the appropriate folder and easily accessed at the convenience of the Office of Study Away.

Overall, this innovation in workflow has saved us much time, time otherwise spent with redundant digital processes, such as uploading, sending, downloading, and re-saving attachments via email. This is especially so in recent weeks when I adopted Uber as a cost-saving mode of transportation in Ha Noi. SATA-related Uber rides are charged to my p-card, and the digital receipts – perhaps as many as 8-10 a week – are directed to the shared Google Drive folder.

February Teaching with Technology Workshops

Don’t forget to add the following Teaching with Technology workshops to your calendar! Workshops are open to all faculty and staff. We’ll see you there.

Get out of your inbox! Gmail Productivity
Gmail LogoTuesday, February 9, 12:00-1:00 PM
Neff Lab, Second Floor, Shain Library
Spending too much time in your inbox? In this session you will learn quick tips to make email work for you. Tools include Boomerang, canned responses, calendar integration, and Google Groups. We will also cover methods of organizing your email for maximum efficiency.

Free Textbooks?! Using Open Educational Resources
Friday, February 19, 9:15 – 10:15 AMOER Logo
Advanced Technology Lab, Shain Library, Lower Level
Back by popular demand! Open Educational Resources (OER) are shared teaching, learning, and research resources that are free for anyone to reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute. Using high-quality, peer-reviewed OER instead of costly textbooks has several advantages, including: equitable access to learning materials, increased student achievement, and complete flexibility. In this workshop we will hear from faculty who are using OER and explore high quality examples. You will leave with strategies for finding, evaluating, and integrating OER in your courses!

Technology Assignments When You Are Not the Expert: Part II

Fuente-Oveja student work
Cover of final student work

Perhaps because InDesign was as new to me as it was to my students, changing a course project by incorporating new software felt like a bold move. With the support of faculty and staff peers, however, I began the project confident and prepared with what I offer to you as recommended practices:

  • Make sure the assignment itself is as clear as possible before adding any kind of new technology. The software you introduce using lynda.com should facilitate the learning objectives of the project (and the course) without becoming the dominant focus.
  • With the importance of effective imagery established, enlist the help of your library or technology liaison to share visual research methods and resources. Lyndsay Bratton conducted an excellent workshop with my students and created an invaluable online research resource that also included proper citation guidelines for images.
  • Before working with your class, test out a number of introductory Lynda.com videos. Lynda sometimes offers several different videos that serve the same introductory purpose. Find the one that strikes the right tone and goes at the right pace for you. Also, sometimes “introductory” can actually mean “novice” in the world of Lynda; make sure the videos you choose are well-suited to the experience level of your class.
  • Once you’ve selected the Lynda video that’s right for your class, try a practice run with some trusted colleagues to anticipate where challenges might arise. The Advanced Technology Lab in Shain Library is a great place to do this with a small group.
  • Preparing the way for InDesign, share with your students examples that demonstrate the difference between information communicated without much attention to layout and imagery versus those that do. It can be a great opportunity to discuss the power of iconography.
  • Work through the first video as a class, stopping and starting as needed. Allow for plenty of time as it may take much longer than you think it will (this is where that earlier practice session will pay off).
  • As helpful as Lynda is, it can’t beat one-on-one instruction. This, of course, is a challenge if you’re new to the software yourself. Thankfully, the Academic Resource Center may be able to help. Student tutors with experience in InDesign and other programs from the Adobe design suite were available to help, even during the busy final weeks of classes. A tutor came to my class and scheduled meetings with students to help them to stretch the basics far enough so that they could realize their vision for the project.
  • Sometimes nothing beats a clear handout. Whether you make your own or find one online, like this tutorial from Marquette University, it might offer the extra needed perspective that can help students to navigate unfamiliar software early on.

The results were tremendous. Not only were the projects professional-looking, but two students independently commented that they were proud to add InDesign to their resume. View one example in the slideshow below. Work is shared with permission of student creators.

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Technology Assignments When You Are Not the Expert: Part I

As covered previously on Engage, lynda.com can be a treasure trove for faculty looking to brush up skills in various applications (i.e. Photoshop) and even strengthen habits in life skills such as time management.

Lynda logo

For me, Lynda is like one of those old friends you don’t get to see very often but when you do, it’s like no time has passed. There’s that instant connection. You love catching up but you’re never quite able to make the time for the kinds of meaningful interactions that make the friendship so great. I tend to go to lynda.com only when I feel like I have time to explore (which isn’t very often).

When using technology in the classroom, I want to be an expert on whatever tool I’m using. This semester, I tried something new.

Through the Technology Fellows Program, I used Lynda.com to incorporate InDesign into a long-established project in a theater history course. I had no experience with the program and only one of my students had used it before, and in a limited capacity.

“Congratulations!” the assignment begins, “Gordon Edelstein, the Artistic Director of the Tony Award-winning Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, has hired you and a partner to serve as interim dramaturgs for a production in their upcoming season. [The play is not one assigned to the class as a whole; each team of dramaturgs will draw the title of their designated play at random from a selection of important works emerging from each of the historical periods covered in the course.]

For this project, sometimes spanning an entire semester or, in this experimental semester, concentrated in three weeks, students synthesize historical research in order to provide insight into a play; they illuminate the text by considering the playwright’s biography as well as the social, political, and economic contexts that would have resonated with the play’s first audiences.

Their chief responsibility was the creation of 4-5 pages of content for the production’s in-depth performance guide to enrich the audience experience. The assignment overview concludes, “the guide is intended to be entertaining as well as informative – exercise your creative freedom as you consider the most effective way to communicate your research and reflection on the play. If done well, your work will entice readers to make the trip to New Haven to see the production at the Long Wharf and your career in professional theatre will be launched!”

This kind of creative communication, modeled on examples from professional theaters, is essential to the assignment. In the past, it was often achieved with Microsoft Word or by literally cutting & pasting images before scanning a final product. During my first year at Conn, a team of students produced something so professional looking I had to ask them about their methods; they had taught themselves InDesign.

With some basic research, I found that InDesign and similar Adobe software skills are increasingly in demand, no matter the long-term career goals (and no matter the major of our students). I had a mission for the next time I taught the course.

To find out how InDesign was incorporated into the course, stay tuned to Engage!

Image credit:flickr photo shared by liberalmind1012 under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license


Weatherproofing Resources Recap

Snowscape at Connecticut CollegeToday seems like an appropriate time to dig up our weatherproofing posts from the past. As always, feel free to contact an instructional technology liaison for help in planning technological solutions for inclement weather (ideally before inclement weather arrives!).

  • Our post from February, 2014 includes four simple ideas for communicating with your students and staying on track during a snow day: Snow Day Resources: Don’t Let Snow Stop You!
  • I summarized last year’s weatherproofing workshop in two posts. The first focused on our discussion regarding communication with students, the impact of snow days, and accessibility issues. The second post focuses on technological solutions for lecture and content delivery, group work, and synchronous video communication.

Image credit: Linda Lear Center for Special Collections, flickr

Exploring Global Current Events through Twitter

Twitter conversation from #SPA250I learned about Twitter in a trip that I took a couple of years ago to Granada in Southern Spain to participate in a forum on the political future of Spain. In the long way back to Madrid, my friends helped me to create an account and since that day I have been using Twitter sporadically to get news from around the world and keep in touch with my friends in Spain. What I didn´t know that day was that Twitter would soon become an interesting, crucial and very rewarding component in my SPA 250 Spain: A Journey Through Culture and History, a class that I teach every fall with an enrollment of around twenty students.

With the help of the Technology Fellows Program, at the beginning of the semester we created the hashtag #SPA250 and asked the students to join the group. Since then, we have been regularly tweeting comments on news from Spain and around the world. Most days we spend between 10 and 15 minutes talking about the tweets and using this to foster conversations on currents events. In addition, since this is a class in which our students are still working with their Spanish skills, I use this activity to correct minor grammar or structural problems that I find in the 140 characters a tweet requires.

Even though, as in any new activity that we implement for our classes, there is a learning curve both for the students and the professor, it was evident by the middle of the semester that this activity was working very well and the students really saw the advantages of using social media to learn more about currents affairs. Right before Thanksgiving break, I bumped into a student and s/he told me ” Usually I don´t like social media, but I love the way we have integrated it in the class”. It was, certainly, one of the greatest moments of this semester. I have to tell you that I can´t wait for next fall when approximately 20 new students will join the special community that we have created around #SPA250.

Visualization Wall Update

Left-to-right: Ray Coti ’16, Virginia Gresham ’17, Joey Mercado ’16, Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology students presented their “Visual Institutional Hierarchy” project during Fall Weekend, sponsored by the Ammerman Center and CCSRE

Fall 2015 was the first full semester since the Diane Y. Williams ’59 Visualization Wall was installed in the Technology Commons of Shain Library. We saw new and innovative uses of the wall by professors and students in a range of departments.

Here are just some of the ways courses made use of the wall this past fall:

  • AHI/THE297—Professor Sabrina Notarfrancisco’s Costume History students met at the wall many times throughout the semester, displaying their individual visual research wirelessly from their DELI iPads.
  • BIO110—Professor Martha Grossel’s Accelerated Cell Biology students met on Mondays for their course and used the wall to simultaneously and wirelessly display the results of group work from their laptops. Up to five laptops or mobile devices can be displayed at the same time.
  • Women’s Rowing teams—Coach Eva Kovach’s team members used the wall to review team practice footage with a telecaster iPad app. The app allowed Kovach to play footage in slow-motion and mark it up, so that students could better see how their form could be improved.
  • AT222a—The Ammerman Center for Arts & Technology’s Visiting Mellon Fellow Caroline Park’s Experimental Music class made use of the visualization wall’s sound system and connected with guest artists via Skype.
  • Architectural Studies—Visiting Professor Emily Morash held an architectural Lego event and information fair at the wall to attract students to the Architectural Studies program. Current students in the program shared their Study Away experiences on the wall during the event.

During Fall Weekend, three students of the Ammerman Center for Arts & Technology also presented the latest iteration of a project they began on the visualization wall last spring semester for Professor Steve Luber’s History of Arts and Technology course. For one of the class’s three-week lab modules, students made use of the wall’s technological capabilities—in this case, its touch-enabled interactive display—and designed projects focused on the theme of social media. One group used Unity software to create the prototype for an interactive visual hierarchy that would make professional relationships and job duties of administrative staff at Connecticut College more transparent. Since then, Ray Coti ’16, Virginia Gresham ’17, and Joey Mercado ’16 received a grant from CCSRE to develop the project further, with a new interface and an updated database. Users can touch and drag the pictures of administrators to see who reports to them and what their responsibilities include. Eventually, the group hopes to add more layers of data, including committee membership and other staff involvement.

If you are interested in taking advantage of the wall’s ability to display multiple devices (computers, laptops, tablets, smart phones, media players, cable TV, etc.) simultaneously, its touch-enabled interactive screen or 4k resolution, please contact Lyndsay Bratton for more information and scheduling.

Shortening Distances through Technology

Employing technology in the classroom can shorten distances; this semester student researchers into topics of sustainability and social justice enrolled in SRS/HIS/CRE299 History and Cases of Equality interacted through Skype with counterparts in California, Illinois, Washington, D.C., Peru, and Mexico.

Alumni in each location described how they came to engage in social justice research while at the College and in study away. Critical pedagogy, on-going self reflection, and making study away intentional proved critical in each case. Finding ways to combine activism with research remains core to how they are currently undertaking teaching, law school, and graduate school.

Cuban popular educator Ariel Dacal Díaz visited class September 30th
Cuban popular educator Ariel Dacal Díaz visited class September 30th

Skype allowed the class to learn from and share their own beginning projects the students and activists who have gone before them. Technology in the classroom allowed this to happen during the assigned class period in our assigned room, bridging time zones, overcoming the prohibitive costs of bringing these guests to class in person, and requiring only 30 minutes of their time (half a lunch break for one of the teachers).

The main flaw in my approach to this was not scheduling enough time to reflect on and discuss the Skype interactions in class right after they happened and we had hung up. I also scheduled too many, sometimes two back to back in the same class period. In the final analysis, the students concluded that the class visits by activists and scholars from Chicago and Cuba were more powerful and more beneficial to their own research. Therefore, I will strive to improve the first and continue the second.

Results from #CCjpn201: A Semester-Long Twitter Project

Tweet from student of Japanese

My project was to have my JPN201 students communicate with college/ university students in Japan through Twitter for 13 weeks during the fall of 2015. This project challenged not only students but also myself. My students were asked to find out Japanese college/ university students’ lives. We ended this project by presenting each student’s discovery in class. Each student uploaded his/her Storify on our hashtag, #CCjpn201 (see image above and slideshow below).

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Why so challenging? Students have difficulty communicating in the first place. On top, they had to communicate with native speakers of Japanese in the Japanese language!! None of them had communicated with native speakers with this intensity. It was difficult for them to read “unedited” Japanese passages written by native speakers. There were so many unknown words or Chinese characters in tweets written by natives. It was easy to misunderstand natives’ tweets. It was frustrating for them not to be able to ask what they wanted to ask because they didn’t know how to ask. Even if they used a dictionary to find a word they wanted to use, they ended up choosing a wrong one, which created further miscommunication! They protested to me that they used a dictionary or asked a Japanese friend on campus. Nevertheless students in Japan didn’t understand what my students asked, and replied apologetically, “I’m very sorry, but I don’t understand X,” “What do you mean by Y?”, “Maybe you wanted to ask me Y didn’t you?”

After this project, I asked both my students and students in Japan to take surveys. The following is what they said:

  • I strongly disagree or disagree to the statement, “I enjoyed the Twitter Project.” (3 out of 6)
  • I didn’t enjoy this project because it was time consuming. (5 out of 6)
  • It was challenging to tweet in the Japanese language. (4 out 6)
  • I felt this project was very challenging. (4 out of 6)

Chart showing 4 students considered the project challengingAlthough these were rather negative opinions on the Twitter Project, all of them agreed to recommend this project to next JPN201 students. Interesting! I am sharing some of their responses.

  • It was difficult for me and often I didn’t like it. But I have improved enormously in my reading and writing ability, also in my ability to think creatively and respond well. It is important to get to know Japanese culture as told by Japanese people, not based on the positions of the people who wrote our textbook. I would recommend this without reservation.
  • It is a great opportunity, despite its many challenges to use Japanese in the context of conversation and communication with native speakers.
  • It let you have chance to use the language even you are not in Japan.

Students in Japan also felt challenged because they had to think through in order to explain things to my students who are not sharing their lives. All of them encountered differences between US and Japan in various aspects. They said that they enjoyed the project unlike my students, and wanted to participate again.

My students realized that they needed to study Japanese harder!!! I am very happy to know that I have convinced my students to study Japanese harder;)