Google Add-ons: MailChimp, HelloFax, EasyBib and Many More

At first, I wanted to write about Arts and Social Work, but that was quite a bit of a stretch as I was only going to tell you guys about a very cool Google Chrome extension (only works in Chrome, of course) called “Google Art Project”. It can enrich your web browsing experience by opening a beautiful piece of art every time you open a new tab (change it in options) or stick with one piece of art for the entire day, and it will change tomorrow. This will disable other extensions, like “Dayboard” for example. But then I thought that this wouldn’t meet the 500 word guidelines we have for our blog posts (ha-ha! not true!).

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 3.02.09 PM

Anyway, instead, I am going to offer information about Google Doc add-ons. These are special add-ons (scripts) which will increase functionality of your docs, and provide extra features not available otherwise. No trip to the Google Doc Add-ons Store needed, because below you will find some of the highlights.

So, you want the mail merge, or to fax a document, or get approval of your document or a signature, grade and organize your students’ papers, or just keep track of your references for a very formal paper with correct format EasyBib? Here is your list:

1. Doctopus – An octopus for docs! Teacher-built tool for scaffolding, managing, organizing, and assessing student projects in Google Drive. Doctopus gives teachers the ability to mass-copy (from a starter template), share, monitor student progress, and manage grading and feedback for student projects in Google Drive.

2. Merge by MailChimp

3. Letter Feed Workflows

4. Bibliography Creator (from EasyBib)

5. HelloFax

and 6. UberConference for conference calls within a Doc for up to 10 people

Find detailed descriptions and links to individual add-ons in this article 9 Useful Add-ons for Google Docs, and in this article, 7 of the Best New Add-ons.




Timelines as Creative and Attractive Projects

We are all very familiar with the basic presentation tools and formats. Oftentimes, projects are envisioned as white papers, an  MS PowerPoint presentation, or an alternative, such as Prezi or Keynote, and a website project. Recently, we have been adding YouTube videos as either oral testimonials, “sales pitch” presentations for grants, or weekly video check-ins.

Sometimes the reasons behind these are using something different and more exciting, or providing the vehicle for collaboration and visual presentation.

Having just sent a number of timelines to instructors about the upcoming course refresh work, I came upon these two tools that I am going to pitch today. Fancy timelines!

One is HSTRY


Timeline of construction of EifelAs can be deduced from the title, it’s about history and timelines generally are appropriate in this subject (although plenty of ideas can be found, such as project management, or even life planning!).

Check out this example: Ancient Olympic Games | Hstry

Whether talking about a country’s policy timelines, history of women’s suffrage, or preventable disease battles, this offers an opportunity to put together something informative and visually appealing without the boring feel of PowerPoint slides. It’s not just about “less boring”, either. You can clearly see where this is a more appropriate tool than a trite slideshow.

The other one is Timeline JS

Timeline JS

typewriterA different look and feel for this interactive tool, which is a bit more involved, but also offers elegance and a friendly user interface. You can definitely do more with this tool. Ranging from Mandela’s Extraordinary Life Timeline from Time to the Evolution of User Interface, the tool will inspire you to create one of your own well-developed timelines. In fact, it would be absolutely amazing to try this ourselves and develop this as a resource for a course. Are you ready to have fun or are you ready to have fun?

This can add a variety and depth to your online projects and expand your resources.

As always, please let us know what you think in the comments below!

Why Use Word Clouds?

word cloud

Word Cloud

You may be quite familiar with word clouds (by Wordle or Tagxedo, although lots more options also exist: thing 1 and thing 2). A whole bunch of text is popped into a word cloud engine and then – boom! – you only get a handful of words (you control the number) which are usually the most frequently used and/or the most important words of a larger text.

Why use it? On the one hand, you can analyze the text for focus or bias. On the other hand, you can fish out the most important words before you read the text (and then upon actively reading it, ascertain that your initial assumptions were correct or have them refuted). Additionally, because it may lead to active reading, the large amounts of text may seem much more digestible and less intimidating and overwhelming. Well, and it looks pretty neat, too.

Additionally, the word cloud may be used a discussion prompt. Not only will it liven up an online course, but having it in a face-to-face classroom will make it a focal point for a class activity. Hmmm… Now you are thinking!

P.S. Wordle doesn’t seem to work well in Chrome, but works beautifully in Firefox or Safari on a Mac system.

Another Safe Source of High Quality Copyright-Free Images



It’s amazing how generous people can be with their creations! Pixabay is a website which hosts and allows you to download high quality images that you can use and reuse any way you want! They don’t even require attribution, although that is always nice to mention. If your students are creating web pages or any other publishable materials, they may want to explore this site. The only caution is that you will also see “sponsored images” – they are clearly marked, have a watermark, and are NOT free, but they already went out of their way to make it very obvious, so there is really no confusing them!

What is Pixabay? Read the FAQ.

And just a nice touch, you can always buy your favorite volunteer photographer a coffee (donate to the site).

I have written about using Google search to find copyright-free images in the past. Remember this blog is filled with invaluable tips, so set aside time to explore it!

Bringing stories home using maps

There has been this trend to map either individual stories or certain events, or works of fiction to bring them to life in geographical terms.

The most obvious ways to use this would be to have students map out stories of their clients, clearly refugees, immigrants, and those who have moved a lot are best suited for this type of product. Alternatively, social services may be mapped in an area in this way as well. Finally, there are already maps that can readily be used in certain courses with a historical perspective.

The American Revolution from Heganoo

100 Years of Unrest

Bringing local awareness: Mapping Gunfire near DC Schools

Bringing international awareness: Mapping the Syrian Civil War

What other ideas may you have for your online and on-campus courses?


online learner

The online learner
Credit: Pixabay/Public Domain CC0

If you were looking to improve your understanding of Universal Design and accessibility requirements for Online Courses, your dreams have come true! Cynthia Curry, the new Disability Services Coordinator, and a colleague of mine from a prior career, has shared this course with me and I am spreading the goods across the entire University.

Accessibility of Online Courses

Check it out!

15 Things You Didn’t Know Your iPhone Could Do

15 Things You Didn’t Know Your iPhone Could Do.

Today we are on to a lighter theme: the iPhone! Knowing a few cool tricks will definitely earn you a “hip” reputation.

For those not in immediate possession of their iPhone or those shunning the iDevices altogether, here is a practical guide on image copyright found by Amy Storch. This may be widely used and re-shared, if you don’t mind the typos in the original item, just follow the spirit of the law! For more information on finding and using images, check out an earlier post.

By the way, how do you like Dayboard? I have been using it every day, and while a bit nagging and it just won’t go away, it is so helpful in keeping me on track and making me get things done!

Take a short poll: Which 3 out of the 15 things listed did you like best?

Organizing Your Tasks

We, the online folks, often have a running list of things to do, and our environment is such that we may be working in cafes, at home, at libraries, in hotels, you name it! Plus, the constant potential disruptions in the form of incoming Skype calls, emails, actual phone calls, meetings we need to attend, virtually or otherwise, and sudden issues that pop up or scheduled events, like grading a set of papers, and then there is this blog to read, which fortunately comes out at the most convenient time and has wonderful tips on how to keep your online sanity!

Since we have been pushing Chrome as one of the better browsers for Blackboard, here is how you can leverage Chrome extensions to create your own task lists. Every time you open a new tab in Chrome, you will see this (your own version of this, that is!):

today's to-do list

When you mouse over an item, you can trash it or edit it, but by all means, the goal is to check it off! If a list gets overwhelming, you can switch to the focus mode  – one task at a time!

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And then you can pat yourself on the back, when you look up your history. I have nothing to show yet (slacker!), but I am just getting started!

Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 8.52.40 AMThis is certainly not limited to just online faculty, it can be useful for anyone! Your students may be the most avid users of this extension as well.

To get your extension click here – Dayboard. Click install, and then just open a new tab.

Let me know how it goes. In fact, add it to your task list to report back! 🙂

I first found it on Free Technology for Teachers.

Combining A Web Site Project With Rich Multimedia And Collaboration

Online courses life restrictions on tools when it comes to student projects and their impact. In a number of courses, students use Google Sites (a fairly straightforward tool) to create group or individual projects, and to promote awareness among colleagues and community. In several other courses, students create videos, either as a check-in assignment or as oral/visual presentations of their papers.

It appears that Tackk allows one to make both an engaging presentation of content with rich multimedia and invite participation through the commenting feature.

To learn more about sharing and commenting, check out this announcement by Tackk.

I came upon this resource by reading Free Tech For Teachers blog, which is prolific and is mostly geared towards K-12 audience. However, there are all sorts of universal resources one can use in any setting.

Prompts that Are Good to Look At

We all know that a lot of data is often much more digestible and palatable and certainly easier to understand and remember if it’s presented as a story. Visuals are a great source of such stories. Fortunately, there are lots of resources out there on the web which may fit a story you intend to tell or your students intend to tell. These are also a great way to start a conversation.

For example, let’s track the human life cost across countries or throughout several centuries.

Human Cost - A Disturbing Truth

by rhalloran.
Explore more visuals like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.


How Much Would You Cost?

Explore more visuals like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.