It’s Spring Cleaning Time! A checklist for the end of the semester

Broom

As the semester wraps up, we’ve created a list of a few things that you’ll want to remember to do before you head off for the summer.

  • Back up your Moodle sites. As a reminder, Information Services keeps five years of course sites active and available to you. This means that as Academic Year 2018-19 becomes active, AY 2013-14 will go offline. Before July 1, make sure that you create a backup of any course sites that contain material that you might want to use in the future. You can create a backup of the entire Moodle site, to be used for a future Moodle course site, or you can download individual file resources.
  • Download and save your Moodle Gradebook(s). As a matter of best practice, IS suggests that you save the grades that you’ve entered into Moodle. A course’s Moodle gradebook can be downloaded in Excel format and saved for long-term recordkeeping.
  • Check out your Moodle courses for next year. Moodle for Academic Year 2018-19 is up and running. Minor changes to the system may happen over the summer, but all currently scheduled courses have been loaded. If you’re teaching a course that doesn’t appear on your course list in Moodle, first confirm that it’s on the course schedule and you are listed as the instructor. If not, contact the Office of the Registrar. If it is on the course schedule, but doesn’t appear for you in Moodle, submit a WebHelpDesk ticket.
  • Return your library books. Books and other library materials that were checked out this year have a due date of May 18. Return all your loans to either Shain or Greer by that date. Don’t forget any equipment you might have borrowed from Media Services or the Digital Scholarship and Curriculum Center.
  • Submit your list of course reserves. Please help library staff avoid the crunch at the end of August by submitting your list of Fall course reserves to your library liaison or directly to Bridget Pupillo, Reserve and Circulation Assistant.

 

Advertisements

Faculty Development

As we all push through the end of the spring semester, I want to share information about an institutional resource that offers faculty multiple ways to navigate the multiple demands of our work. Connecticut College joined the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (NCFDD) as an institutional member in November 2016. The NCFDD is “an independent professional development, training, and mentoring community.” Drawing upon founder Kerry Ann Rockquemore’s The Black Academic’s Guide to Winning Tenure – Without Losing Your Soul (2008), the Center provides faculty with resources aimed at supporting our careers, and importantly, how to balance our work responsibilities with broader life priorities.

While the NCFDD is perhaps best known for its Faculty Success Program and the more recent Post-Tenure Pathfinders Program, it offers a suite of content and a writing platform online that I have found beneficial.** I highly recommend applying to the full programs for coaching and community building, as well as the short 14 day writing challenges that are open to everyone. There is a lot more available that can be taken advantage of year round.

In this post, I discuss a few aspects that I have found particularly helpful. I  encourage you to explore the set of resources as some may have more use for you based on your area, challenges, and place you are in your career.

Getting Started

All faculty can set up an account through our membership to access the general site. To take advantage of these opportunities, activate your confidential, personal membership by completing the following steps:

  1. Go to https://www.facultydiversity.org/
  2. Click on Join NCFDD   
  3. Select your institution from the drop down menu and complete the registration process.

You will receive a welcome email within 1-2 business days confirming that the account is approved and active. If you have any questions or comments, please contact Jeff Cole, Associate Dean of Faculty. If you have any technical questions, please email NCFDD at Membership@FacultyDiversity.org.

Got to Start Somewhere

As we move into the summer, I want to encourage folks to check out the NCFDD’s Every Summer Needs a Plan webinar. A basic principle of NCFDD is that it is critical to set clear goals for each semester and the summer. Through identifying what projects need to be prioritized, the basic pieces that will get you from A to B to C, and mapping both time and resources out, you can go in with a sense of what needs to happen and why. And when ish inevitably hits the fan, you are set up to more easily triage your work priorities as you have already have a plan that you can adjust. While I admittedly am not a fan of webinars (I may be overly conditioned to watch Shondaland and cooking television on my computer), it is worth meeting up with a colleague and going through the steps to make your plan.

14 Day Writing Challenges and the WriteNow Platform

My favorite part of the NCFDD is the WriteNow platform. It has a timer that you can use to track your writing time, an important point as the NCFDD message is that we all need to write 30 minutes a day during the week (they also believe that we can have weekends!). The tracker auto populates your check in page that allows you to dig in more fully into what your goals were for the day, how work went, and how you are going to reward yourself, among other things. The platform gives you a gold star for each day you complete thirty minutes and a check in, and this aspect provides some sense of confirmation that you are on the right track with your work.

You can also look at your data across time if you want to figure out some patterns in your work and how you want to support or adjust your style. While this feature is a core component of the full-fledged faculty programs, it is also available when you take part in a 14 Day Writing Challenge. This shorter opportunity is perfect for jumpstarting your work if you find yourself getting stalled out from grading, service, or existence. In addition to the individual tracking elements, you also are part of an online community and so you can get into chatting with folks to support each other in getting into writing (I’m too awkward for that typically and this option can be muted). You also may get comments from Rockquemore and other participants on your check in page, encouraging you to keep it going or congratulating you on your productivity. You can sign up for the next challenge here – https://www.facultydiversity.org/14-day-challenge.

In sum, I encourage everyone to at least try out a few features of NCFDD as I have found it transformational in my ability to seek better balance work-life balance and be consistent in my writing practice.


**Here is a quick rundown of NCFDD’s offerings:

Moodle OR Google?

In this post I would like to build on Ariella Rotramel’s and Anthony Graesh’s posts on course management systems and describe how I use Google Sites to deliver content and manage students’ assignments.

What is Google Sites?

Google Sites is the website building application in the G Suite productivity suite. The application allows you to easily build a webpage from scratch or customize a template. Although intended for webpages, Google Sites is a versatile and useful tool that can be used for many purposes. Two features make it especially useful in the classroom: collaboration and privacy.

Why do I use Google Sites?

Collaboration and privacy are the main reasons why I chose Google Sites as my course management system for my upper level Italian courses. In these courses I mostly use open-ended written responses to readings and other course material on a weekly basis. I require students to submit their writing assignments as Google Docs and share them with me so we can edit collaboratively.  Google Sites allows me to manage all these Google Docs files, which, depending on the size of the class, could be close to 200 per semester, effortlessly and efficiently. Moreover, it allows me to consolidate both students’ assignments and content delivery in the same place. In these courses I tend not to use many of the features available in Moodle, such as gradebook, rubrics, and quizzes, therefore Moodle was never my first choice.

How do I use Google Sites?

For each course, I build a simple webpage using the “Classic Sites”. I use this mode because it is the simpler but more flexible builder and allows me to design my site the way that best suits my purposes. I restrict access to only the students in the class, who also have permission to edit.

This is a snapshot of the course I am teaching this semester where I use Sites.

I use the main page of the website to post the body of the schedule of topics organized by class meetings with links to either PDFs or online resources. I find linking and posting course material much easier and faster in Google Sites than in Moodle. Any changes in schedule or announcements can easily be incorporated in the body of the page. In dedicated areas of the main page, I add other resources that students might need for the course. I then create subpages for each student enrolled in the course. Students have complete control over their subpages and over their own Google Docs files, which they can share either just with me or with anybody else in the site. 

On the first day of class I show students how to edit their webpages and divide them into sections, each one devoted to a certain group of assignments.  I ask them to adhere to a naming convention (so that I can easily track what was submitted or not submitted.

Students’ subpages look like the one here

Submitting their work on this customized platform is very easy for the students. They work on their Google Docs and, when they are ready to submit, they follow these simple steps:

  • select Edit mode on subpage
  • write the title of paper and due date under the appropriate category
  • highlight title
  • click on Link icon
  • add shareable link of the Google Docs file into the Web Address Box
  • hit Save

What are the advantages of using Google Sites?

For me there are a number of advantages, in courses of this nature, to use Google Sites over either Moodle or My Drive with separate folders and subfolders for each course.

  1. It prevents My Drive to be flooded with files from students.
  2. It prevents My Drive from having too many folders and subfolders.
  3. Content and students’ work is consolidated into a single separate space, that is saved in My Sites (NOT in My Drive).
  4. All the students’ Google Docs files are easily accessible for revisions and neatly organized.
  5. It is quicker to link content than in Moodle.

If you would like to explore this approach,  G Suite Learning Center provides detailed instructions on how to work with Sites or Lynda.com has a tutorial entitled Google Sites Essential Training by Jess Stratton.

Appointment Slots in the New Google Calendar

With advising week fast approaching we’ve been getting questions about using appointment slots in the new Google Calendar. It still works in the same way that we outlined in our original post, but finding the link to share with your students is different. Here are instructions.

1. Begin to create an event on your calendar, but select “Appointment Slot” instead of “Event.” You can then edit the duration of the appointment slots. Save (or if you want to add location and other details, edit that in “More Options”).

2. Share the link to your appointments. To find the link, open the event on your calendar and copy/paste the link for “This calendar’s appointment page” by right-clicking on the link and copying it, or opening it in another tab and copying the URL from the address bar.

A Handy Trick for Duplicating Google Docs

Faculty often create assignments in which students are asked to complete a worksheet or template. When using Google Docs for this, a common practice is to either make multiple copies of the template and share the copies with individual students , or to give students access to the original document so the students can make the copy themselves. The former option is time consuming while the latter option is risky, as students may make inadvertent edits to the original document.

At a recent NERCOMP event, I picked up a great Google Drive tip from a colleague (credit to Carol Damm of Brandeis University). There is a quick and easy way to make copies of a Google Doc (or Sheet or Slide): by changing the word “edit” to the word “copy” at the end of the URL for a Google Doc, the URL becomes a command to create a duplicate of the original Doc. The modified URL can be pasted into an email to students, or posted on the course Moodle page. A student clicking on the link will be prompted to create a copy of the original Google Doc, which will then be stored in the student’s own Google Drive. That resulting file can be edited by the student, and subsequently printed, saved as a PDF, or shared.

Watch this video to see how it’s done!

Snow day planning…

Due to demand, we are re-publishing this post from earlier in the year!


Did you miss the weatherproofing workshop last week? We focused on three types of activities you can do with your students if you are unable to attend class. Here are just a few ideas we shared. If you want more information or need step-by-step instructions about anything mentioned, contact Diane Creede or Jessica McCullough!

  1. Record mini-lectures or a full lecture. This can be so easy and done on the fly! Record audio directly on PowerPoint slides, or make mini-lectures and share with students. Students can listen/watch from any location, and you can include some of the more participatory ideas below to hold discussion and check for understanding. Technologies we demonstrated are PowerPoint (Insert Audio feature), QuickTime audio/screen capture, Jing, and whiteboard apps such as Educreations.
  2. Hold discussion, collect responses, and continue group work.  Students can participate in discussion and participate in group projects just as they would during class. Use a Moodle Forum to elicit responses to readings or your recorded mini-lectures, or to hold (asynchronous) discussion. Google Docs can be used for group work – ask students to add you as an editor and check in, answer questions, and provide feedback as they progress.
  3. Meet virtually. Have an exam coming up and want to be available to answer questions or hold a review? Hold virtual office hours using a tool such as Zoom. A free license allows for a 40-minute virtual meeting. We have a limited number of Pro licenses that we can distribute for longer meetings. Other options are Google Hangouts or Skype.

How is your class going? Tools for mid-semester feedback

Join Diane Creede and me on Thursday for a new workshop, Tools for Mid-Semester Feedback.  In this hour-long workshop, we will discuss the purpose and goals for collecting mid-semester feedback, demonstrate and teach several tools you can use, and help participants select the right tool too meet their goals. Details are below. We look forward to seeing you!

Tools for Mid-Semester Feedback – Register (or just drop-in!)
Thursday, February 22, 3:00 – 4:00 PM| Advanced Technology Lab
How is the semester going so far? Join us as we discuss technology tools including Moodle Questionnaire and Google Forms, that can provide information on students’ progress in your course and give you valuable insight to guide your teaching through the rest of the semester. This workshop will include hands-on practice and discussion.

Student View: Apps for Accessibility and Productivity (3 of 3)

This post was written by Kristen Szuman, Instructional Technology Student Assistant.

The third of three posts exploring productivity apps, this post will explore IFTTT, a chain-based events service; Vault, a password keeper; and Forest, a sustainable take on the classic timer app.

IFTTT (IFTTT Inc, $Free)

What Is It? IF This Then That (IFTTT) is a free, web-based service designed to execute chains of events based on simple conditional statements (referred to as applets). For example, if you wanted a rundown of tomorrow’s weather,you could set up an applet that sends you a text message every night at 8pm.  Or, if you dread coming home to a dark room or house, you could pair IFTTT with a smartbulb app so that the bulbs would turn on automatically when the sun set. However, while the app itself is incredibly useful, especially if you are often forgetful or easily-distracted, you are limited in what you can do by what other services or products you already use.

How Is It Helpful? Aside from the many niche chains you could trigger with this app, some of the more useful ones involve: daily weather forecasts or inclement weather notifications, automatically recording daily activities (such as workout times or work hours) to a Google spreadsheet, receiving a notification when you a specific person/company emails you, sending a message to your roommates when you arrive at a particular supermarket/Target/Walmart, automatically saving attachments received by email to your Google Drive, syncing Google emails with receipts or orders or invoices to a Google spreadsheet, automatically curating a Discover Weekly archive with Spotify, or unmuting the ringer on your Android phone each morning. However, those are just the applets you could set up with some other common and free web services; if you have an Amazon home service, a smart thermostat, smartbulbs, or are interested in syncing or archiving different social media activities, there are many more applets available for use.

Valt (Valt Inc, $Free)

What Is It? Valt is a password-keeping app with a visual approach. Available as a desktop app, mobile app, and Chrome extension, Valt allows you to store all of your passwords behind a automatically generated “master password.” That password is represented by a series of images generated by the Valt app. When you first download Valt to use, you are given a brief training session which takes you through a series of photos used to represent your master password; this way, you use your visual memory to access your account and your passwords and because Valt works across platforms, remembering the series of images allows you to access your passwords to accounts anytime. Additionally, when in the process of making a new online account, Valt provides you with suggested passwords that are automatically generated strings of characters and symbols, designed to be random and secure.

How Is It Helpful? Password-keeping apps can be tricky– there is always the worry that the app may not be as secure as it claims or that you may forget the password to the app that is meant to help eliminate such problems. As far as security concerns, Valt claims to not store your master password on any server, thereby reducing the risk of your Valt account being hacked and your information being stolen. Additionally, relying on visual memory is intended to be easier for users to remember, and more difficult for others to simply guess. Valt claims that it is unlikely you will forget your images if you are accessing your account regularly (about every other week or so) and these claims are even backed by academic research that has found you can easily recall “hundreds of images, even without seeing them for a month.”

Forest (Seekrtech, $Free)

What Is It? Forest is a sustainable solution to your productivity problems. Available as a mobile app and Chrome extension, Forest allows users to earn credits and plant trees around the world. When using the mobile app, a tree will grow so long as you do not exit the app. Forest uses a manageable 30 minute timer to start with, and as you earn more credits, you can also unlock different tree species and time intervals to choose from. As a Chrome extension, the app prompts you to add distracting websites to your Forest Blacklist. Once you start your timer, a tree will grow as long as you refrain from surfing the sites listed on your Blacklist. Forest partners with Trees for the Future (TREES), an agroforestry NGO with (currently) 14 projects underway in 5 Sub-Saharan African countries: Cameroon, Kenya, Senegal, Uganda, and Tanzania. As you grow more of your own virtual trees, you earn coins you can use to help farmers plant real trees chosen to thrive in their given environment. TREES partners with local farmers to help revitalize degraded lands. Each farmer is trained directly by TREES staff and technicians in necessary agroforestry techniques and technicians make yearly visits for the four-year Forest Garden program. While TREES provides the seeds, nursery materials, and training, the farmers in the Forest Garden program do retain full ownership of the trees they grow.

If you would like to read more about Trees for the Future and the work they do, you can do so over at their website: http://trees.org/

How Is It Helpful? While there are many productivity/timer apps out there, Forest not only helps you to be more productive, but also more present in your daily life. The app can be used for studying or homework, but it can also be used if you are trying to check your phone less often while out with your friends, to not use your phone during a movie or while reading, to not browse social media sites while at work, or even setting a longer timer to allow a tree to grow while you sleep. Overall, if you are looking for a way to stay focused while working, you can do so with Forest while also making a meaningful difference in someone else’s life.

Student View: Apps for Accessibility and Productivity (2 of 3)

This post was written by Kristen Szuman, Instructional Technology Student Assistant. 

The second of three posts exploring productivity apps, this post will explore Bear, a note taking app; and Adobe Scan, a mobile PDF scanner.

Bear (Shiny Frog, $Free) / Bear Pro (Shiny Frog, $1.49/month or $14.99/year)

What Is It? Bear is a minimalist note taking app compatible with Markdown note taking. The app boasts a Markup Editor supports over 20 programming languages, in-line support for images and photos, cross-note links that help you build a body of work, multiple different themes to choose from, multiple export options for formatting your notes, a Focus Mode that hides other notes and options to keep your workspace distraction-free, and multi-device sync using iCloud. If you want to access to Bear’s advanced features (which includes the aforementioned multi-device sync, certain application themes, and various export options), a Pro subscription is required. However, Bear does offer free trials to test out the features, and the free app itself could stand alone if needed.

How Is It Helpful? Aesthetically, Bear stands out from other note taking apps and platforms due to its simplicity. With its focus on plain text, there is little to distract you from whatever task may be on hand. For me, the benefit of Bear lies in the various themes you are able to choose from. With the free app, you have access to four different theme options including the classic Red Graphite, Solarized Light, High Contrast, and Charcoal. The ability to switch between these themes not only provides a way to personalize the app, but also a way to keep yourself focused by not becoming too accustomed to the view. Additionally, while the app itself is incredibly clutter-free, the enhanced Focus Mode helps to keep your field of vision clear of anything but your writing.

Adobe Scan (Adobe, $Free)

What Is It? The Adobe Scan app allows you to use your smartphone as a portable scanner that recognizes text automatically. Adobe’s image technology automatically detects the borders of your document and captures the image for you, sharpening the scanned content. Once scanned, the app allows you to easily touch up your new PDFs by reordering pages, cropping or rotating images, and adjusting the color as needed. Though you need to sign up for an Adobe account (free) in order to properly use the app, linking your account to Adobe Scan allows you to save your documents to Adobe Document Cloud which lets you search and copy text or open your documents in Acrobat Reader in order to highlight and annotate your newly scanned PDFs.

How Is It Helpful? Being able to keep a digital library of readings for classes or research projects is incredibly beneficial, and taking the time out of your day to scan at one of the campus printers is not always convenient or possible. Once your documents are scanned to a PDF, you are able to catch up on class readings or look over your notes on any device you wish. Aside from being an overall easy to use and well-designed app, the real benefit of Adobe Scan lies in it being an Adobe app. With Adobe Acrobat Reader being such a popular choice for a PDF-reader, the linkage Adobe Scan provides by allowing you to store documents in the Adobe Cloud means you do not need to worry about searching for PDFs in various file folders. Additionally, Adobe Scan’s border detection makes it possible to scan any kind of document (forms, book pages, notebooks, business cards, receipts, etc) with ease and still get a quality PDF.

Student View: Apps for Accessibility and Productivity (1 of 3)

This post is written by Kristen Szuman, Instructional Technology Student Assistant

The first of three posts exploring productivity and accessibility apps, this series will focus on apps that have practical application in anyone’s life, but are especially helpful for students with difficulties focusing and learning. This first post focuses on Tide, a Pomodoro timer app, and the graphic on the right presents some of the apps that will be discussed.

Technology is frequently referred to as “the great equalizer,” able to remove the barriers of distance or physical and sensory abilities. For many people, the way technology has evolved in the last few decades has provided them a way to dramatically improve their quality of life, opening doors to opportunities and experiences that were previously inaccessible. However, in practice, discussions of the ability of technology to improve accessibility remain fairly limited. This series of blog posts will present apps for iOS and OSX that can aid in productivity for everyone, especially those with learning difficulties and/or focus issues.

Tide (Moreless, Inc., $Free)

What Is It? Tide is a Pomodoro timer app. For those unfamiliar with this method, the Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed in the 1980s (described by Professor Anderson in this post). The method itself can be modified to fit individual needs, but traditionally you break down your work time into 25 minute intervals, with short timed breaks (often 5 minutes) in-between. The more consecutive working intervals completed, the longer your breaks become. Tide not only works as a timer, but also allows you to pick from various color schemes, white noise options, integrating your own music, or using the ‘Music Fusion’ feature which allows you to play white noise and music simultaneously. Additionally, the app boasts an “Immersive Mode,” which, when activated, makes it so that exiting the app results in ‘Focus Failure’ (failure to complete a full working interval) and disables the ability to pause during a Focus period.

How Is It Helpful? While timer apps may seem a bit redundant given the built-in timer most devices have, Tide does provide a much easier way to manage your time. Essentially, the convenience lies in the ability to set the timer on a loop and get on with your work without the worry of timing the intervals yourself. With the Pomodoro Technique being a fairly common system of time-management, there are many apps that provide a similar service. Tide sets itself apart not only due to the convenient built-in features like Music Fusion, but also because of its well-crafted, minimalistic design. For a free app, the app itself is free from clutter or intrusive advertisements. Additionally, once you download the app, you have access to its full range of features with no specific features you need to pay to unlock.