ACTEM Conference Sneak Peek:

We’re off tomorrow to Bangor, ME, to present at the annual ACTEM Conference. I am presenting with the lovely Susan Barrett Hyde on the subject of web tools for scaffolded assignments. I hope to subdivide the general scope of the presentation into several blog posts to tide me over into 2016, and I thought I’d start things off with one of the tools I found myself using quite a bit, two or so years ago. topic

The tool is, and its angle is that it provides users with an attractive, full-featured-yet-easy, magazine-style (mouthful!) curation space. Much like Pinterest, users subscribe to one another and good curators are rewarded with likes and new subscribers. The difference between Pinterest and is that the “pins” of the former emphasize the visual elements of what is pinned and de-emphasize any textual observations made by the curator, whereas the “scoops” in deemphasize the visual elements of the scooped article in order to draw attention to any observations, rebuttals, admissions or additions made by the curator. Additionally, attribution chains of scooped and re-scooped articles are clearer to follow, rendering in a more scholarly environment than what I’ve found in any of the other curation tools I’ve tried over the years.

The topic that I curated for about a year grew pretty significantly in readership over that period–I had about 3,800 viewers, before my interest ran dry and I left the topic for another. At the height of “Narrative Tech,” I was subscribed to all the other transmedia and narrative technology buffs in, and each of us was pulling from our own customized RSS and Google Alert feeds for the pool of possibly interesting (likely not) articles on our subject of interest. We held conversations in the comments fields below each others’ scoops and began conversations with our own insights rendered upon our own scoops. I learned a ton about narrative technology and transmedia storytelling from the experience, and developed a resource network that far exceeded that which I’d started with. 2

Topics appear as magazines, and many users run their topics like standalone blogs. Note above the extent of my thoughts on that one scoop, especially in comparison to the relative brevity of the article’s excerpt.

The reason I will be showing teachers at ACTEM tomorrow is twofold. One, it is a brilliant research tool that can quickly explode the number of sources you enter with. Two, it adroitly displays the give-take nature of research, which is far too often taught entirely as a state of absorbed spectatorship. is like a bookmarking tool that immediately requires the researcher to share his/her thoughts on the scooped resource, sometimes and sometimes not stirring a response from someone else interested in the topic. can be an excellent tool to introduce early in a writing class where students are encouraged to research the same subject for the entire semester. Early on in the process of learning, the experience is teaching students about what it means to make and share observations in the midst of researching and building a network of relevant resources. By the end of the course, their pool of resources is established, complete with (hopefully) connections to other researchers in the field. 3

Foundational to and its integration into the classroom is its ease of use. With the bookmarklet, it is simple to find an online resource and then…well, scoop it. The pop up dialogue window immediately allows the user to pen his or her observations, and it’s as easy as checking and unchecking boxes to control where else in the social network sphere where the scoop will be immediately shared. It is easy enough, I’ve found, for faculty and students to pick up rather quickly.

Using Google Forms

Hey everyone,

We’re back again this week with a quick overview of how to get started with Google Forms. I was surprised to find that we hadn’t covered Google Forms before, so consider this post an introduction to some of its basic features. Because Google Forms does merit much more attention, expect that we’ll return to the tool in the future with deeper treatment of the different ways in which you can USE Google Forms, either as student, staff or faculty. Suffice to say, Forms is an excellent option for collecting and organizing information from large numbers of people. And, because it automatically stores the information in the Excel-like Google Sheets, the resulting data is immediately ready for treatment and study.

create new google form

First, let’s look at how to create a Google form. Doing so is easy: Go to Google Drive, click “New” and then click “Google Forms.” There is something to consider when you create a form, however, and that has to do with the form’s architecture on Drive. A form is not one file, but two. It consists of both the form itself and the spreadsheet, automatically generated, on which respondent answers are collected. These will always generate in the same folder (if the form is created within a folder) and with names that identify themselves as being paired, so once you realize that a form consists of the two files then the concept makes sense, and is useful. For one thing, since the responses are collected in a spreadsheet by default, there is no need to export the data in order to begin to analyze/filter/organize it in earnest. However, the most important thing to consider about the two files created when you create a Google Form is this: the permissions for each is handled independently from the other. This means that you can give editing privileges to the form, say to collaborators in a study, but keep the response file entirely private. Or the other way around. This is incredibly useful for collaborative projects in which you must carefully control the authority of your collaborators. You may be part of a team that analyzes the data, for instance, but the team as a whole doesn’t need the power to edit the form by which the data is collected.

google form back-end.

The backend of the form is also pretty simple to understand. You can navigate directly to the spreadsheet on which responses are being collected by clicking “View Responses” at the top, and you can navigate to the “Live Form” by clicking “View Live Form”. Below that are form settings on which you can set, for instance, the form to automatically collect the organizational usernames of the respondents when they submit. Or, unchecked, the forms can be kept anonymous.

question styles

Finally, the form fields. There are many different types of fields/questions you can create for your respondents, giving you quite a lot of options for how you need to collect different forms of info.

Give it a try, and tell us how you like it!

Kanopy Video Database

The UNE Library supplies us, faculty students and staff, with a huge quantity of learning and entertainment materials. Mostly, we think of books when we think of these materials, or the vast online databases connecting us with scholarly articles from around the world. But there’s more to the library than what you can check out or download for reading.

Kanopy is a database of videos, the variety of which will surprise you. To check it out, go to the UNE library’s website and click E-Resources, then Databases, then navigate to the only database whose title begins with the letter “K.”

databases by title

Kanopy’s library consists of a wide variety of streamable videos, comprising everything from old art-house films to recently released, award winning documentaries. To put a video from Kanopy into your course, simply use the share button from within the chosen video and include either the link, or if you’re familiar with the process of embedding, the embed code, into your course.

embed kanopy video

In addition to the opportunity Kanopy provides faculty for linking-to/embedding videos for their online classrooms, the database is available to students and staff for the simple pleasure of watching. Be sure to check out Kanopy when you get a chance.

Captioning in Youtube

In the interests of making the online Masters of Social Work program as accessible as possible, we’ve tried to make sure that all the video and audio content provided in the courses has, at the very least, transcripts. Above and beyond accessibility issues such as those involving hearing impaired students, transcripts are useful for students to print and take notes on, or for any students who want to “skim” the text of a presentation as a way of brushing up on it before a big test or paper submission. Video and audio are far more difficult to “skim.” The operative term in AV speak is called “scrubbing,” which anyone who has spent a few minutes hunting through a Youtube video for that one several-second-segment that they’re thinking of will tell you: it is frustrating.

So, transcripts are beneficial in several ways: They’re printable, they’re more easily referenced for specific elements that the student may feel he or she needs to brush up on, and they help with accessibility. They are not, however, the only option for increasing the accessibility of a video presentation.

Youtube provides a robust closed captioning tool for the videos it hosts. There are multiple ways to input closed captions. First, though, you must upload the video you want to caption. After you’ve done so, enter your Video Manager and select the video there that you want to add captions to.

CC 1

Underneath the video, you’ll see this “CC” icon. Click it, and you’ll enter the dashboard for creating and managing closed captions for this video.

You’ll be prompted to select a language (if you haven’t already selected one), and captions will automatically be created for the video. This is pretty powerful software, as it’s done much more quickly than any human could possibly do so. However, with that quickness and automation comes a great deal of error. In fact, it is not advisable that anyone rely on the automatic captioning Youtube provides without first understanding that they will likely have to work through the automatic captions to correct the myriad of errors that have proliferated throughout.

CC 2

To do so, select the automatic caption string to the right of the video window in the closed caption dashboard. In cases where there are multiple caption strings to choose from, you’ll be able to tell the automatic caption from the rest by its name, which will always have “(Automatic)” at the end.

YouTube 2015-08-20 23-25-56

You can see, here, how the automatic captioning has produced a large number of errors in the caption displayed, with time stamps, to the right. In addition to fixing the text, the timing of the captions can also be adjusted to more closely align with the speech rhythms of the speaker. Play around with it; these tools are more easily learned through experimentation than through telling.

After you’ve adjusted the captions produced by the automatic caption tool, you’re golden.

However, in many instances the speaker may have worked from a script, or perhaps a transcript already exists which you would like to input for the captions. This, in many ways, is the most efficient way of using Youtube’s closed caption tool, as editing the captions after the fact is not necessary when the words are already correct.

To input the text from a transcript or script for captioning, click “Add new subtitles or CC” from the closed caption dashboard, then select your language.

CC 4

Now, you see there is the option to “Upload a file.” Select that, then a dialogue will appear into which you can paste the text of the transcription that you’ve copied out of the file containing it. Now, the errors will have to have been cleaned out of the transcript prior to this process, but if you’ve done so, then Youtube’s caption tool will stop trying to understand the words your speaker is saying, and instead focus on aligning the words with the sounds in the video. The tool does this very well, and as such the resulting captions are often excellent without any additional editing necessary.

Video Everywhere Working Again! With one extra step…

Hey all! We’re excited to announce that Video Everywhere is working again. However, for the time being there is one extra step necessary for using it to embed videos directly, easily, into Blackboard. The default dimensions for the embedded video are, for the time being, set to 120×90. Before you click to complete the submission of your video, on the step illustrated below, make sure you type in “420” over the 120 default value. The Height value should automatically adjust to read “315”; if it doesn’t, type that into the Height value. See screenshot below:

Video Everywhere Working Again

Google Docs Add-Ons

We’ve touted the benefits of using Google Drive in the past. This time, we’re going to talk about a new(ish) dimension of capabilities within Google Docs (and Google Sheets, though we’re not getting into that today), that empowers users to integrate functionality from a multitude of different services directly, contextually, within Google Docs.

Google introduced add-ons to Google Docs and Sheets about a year ago, but the ecosystem of add-ons was pretty immature back then. Now, with a year gone by for services to develop add-ons, the choices are richer and more useful.

First, in order to get/manage/activate/deactivate add-ons, you should open up a Google Doc. Look at the toolbar across the top of your sheet–there should be a tab that says “Add-ons.” Click it, and then click “Get add-ons.” There you go. Now it is important to remember that add-ons won’t automatically activate after you’ve added their functionality to your doc. You have to activate them. Click “Manage add-ons” to do so.

Now for a quick rundown of the add-ons that are out there which may be useful to you!


uberconferenceUberconference allows users to start and administer teleconferences around documents. It’s free for up to 10 callers, and it’s as simple as activating it in a shared doc and sending the number and pin password to your target participants. The sidebar that opens in your doc will allow you to moderate/manage some aspects of the conference, such as muting certain callers.

I’ve used it in the past for tutoring students on the papers that they’ve written in Google Docs. It’s incredibly useful to unite synchronous, auditory communication over the phone with synchronous, visual, collaborative interaction via the Google Doc.

gGraph Handwriting, Mathematic Notation, Graphing and Statistics


pgraph handwriting

gGraph offers a great deal of functionality for all manner of notation, even voice-to-symbol mathematical notation, and will generate then insert graphs for you derived from your equations. Additionally, it will generate and insert little images made from handwritten notes you can also make into the sidebar. If you’re writing a paper that has math in it, then it can be of great use.



One of the first useful add-ons available for Google Docs was from EasyBib, and it remains extremely valuable still. The ability to not leave Google Docs while you’re verifying/generating citations is really amazing. On the student end of the assessment process, it allows the writers of large papers to keep writing with minimal break workflow when they need to enter a new source. For the purposes of assessment, it makes checking that sources are correctly cited that much easier.


Translate add-onTranslate, like EasyBib, allows for contextual, quick service that makes it possible to keep writing without breaking your creative flow. It functions very simply. Highlight text, choose a language you wish to translate the words to, and then click translate. The words are generated quickly and are easy to copy and paste wherever they’re needed.


code prettyFinally, there’s Codepretty. This isn’t useful to everyone, likely, but for those of us who handle code a lot, the color formatting of coding programs makes the job of navigating a sea of code much easier. While not meant to replace those programs, it is still nice to see the collaborative-cloud functionality of Google Docs given the ability to automatically color format the code that’s entered into it. For odd jobs, or touching up, or sharing a string of code between coders on the fly, this is pretty cool stuff.

Probably the best way to learn how add-ons can serve you is to get in there and play around yourself, but hopefully the add-ons covered above can get you started with something you’ll find useful!

Password Managers and Security

How many online accounts do you have? How many passwords? I have over 99. I’d be more specific about the number but I don’t want to count them, and the counter in my PW Manager Dashboard only goes so high.

Dashlane 2015-05-22 15-50-00

Admittedly, I probably have more accounts than most faculty and administrators. My job involves experimenting with online tools and teaching teachers how to use those tools should they pass muster. As education moved online, I found myself creating more accounts. Around the core set of accounts and passwords we pretty much all have (work and personal email, a couple bank accounts, eBay, Amazon, Facebook, etc.) I’ve piled up a mountain of new accounts that I’m not even going to try to list here. Right now I feel pretty secure about all these different faces I’ve created online, but that’s not always been the case. In order to keep track of all the usernames and passwords, I used to keep them more or less all the same. I don’t think I was, or am, alone in this. In fact I know otherwise after helping so many university employees with technical assistance. Most everyone not only ties all their online accounts to the same central email address, they also recycle the same password over and over. I did the same thing. I figured I was safe in the the crowd.

And then some former colleagues of mine, teachers and administrators, got hacked.

It could have been worse. As soon as their email accounts began spewing out identical, sketchy emails containing the same incomplete English and the same link to everyone in their Contacts lists, IT figured out what was going on and went through the proper channels to seize back control. A few Facebook accounts mutated into spam bots. I think I remember some money was spent on mysteriously spendy “furniture” in Asia. But in the end, at least officially, everything was salvaged.

More than anything else, what we had to thank for things not being worse was the hacker bot’s error of sending out all those phishing emails from the newly compromised accounts. The hackers could have been quieter about the whole thing and given themselves much more time with the accounts they’d stolen, and maybe we would never have discovered the breach.

Think about what was at stake for each of these people and for the school at which they worked. In addition to my former colleagues’ bank and web presence accounts, their logins for Blackboard and Banner had also been compromised. The hackers had access to student usernames, emails, grades, names, etc. Should the right administrator or advisor have been compromised, the hackers would also, potentially, have access to student physical and mailing addresses, next of kin, and more.

This isn’t meant to be a nightmare-scenario scare-tactics post (well not entirely), but neither is it meant to advertise on the part of any particular password manager. I can tell you that I use Dashlane, and that I like it quite a bit. However, it is only one among several recognized password managers that are highly recommended. You can see a short list of those I found in my research to be trustworthy at the end of this post.

The purpose of this entreaty is to remind everyone working at this university, and at others, that our permissions in the various school-related tools (Blackboard, Banner, Outlook) make us responsible for more than just our information. Consider trying out a password manager, so that each of your passwords can be entirely unique, and the failure of one doesn’t mean the failure of them all.

Password Managers

Check out this overview provided by LifeHacker on their favorite password managers. It’s more thorough than anything I could write on the subject, as I’ve found the one password manager that I’m going to use for the foreseeable future and I’m sticking with it.