A Qiqqa Way to Reference Management

Reference Management

Whether you are a student, faculty member, researcher, or instructional designer, there comes a point when you realize there must be a better way to manage and organize your PDF collection.  I reached my tipping point when my PDF collection topped 100 half-way into my second, research-heavy online course.  As a technology neophyte, I had no idea how many tools were out there that could help me organize and manage my research.  After I figured that out, the question became: Which Tool? There is no questioning the value in finding the article or research you need, when you need it.  According to Mead and Berryman (2010) “Few people ever capture their search strategies and carefully download their references…people want to make a usable database of their already retrieved PDFs. They want them to be instantly viewable and searchable” (p. 390).  Here are some questions to consider when choosing a reference management tool: First, what are your needs and how do… Read More >

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Webinar - The Blackboard Grade Center

Webinar Series

We’ve received several requests to dive more purposefully into the nitty gritty of using Blackboard, and so today we conducted the first in a series of webinars on it, focusing on the Grade Center. As we found ourselves jumping rather quickly from tool to tool, we think the video may be less valuable as a recording than a textual breakdown, with screenshots, that you can jump through at will below. Navigation Finding the Blackboard Grade Center We always suggest faculty use the “Full Grade Center,” as the “Needs Grading” page will not always show you all the assignments that need grading. For example: A student may receive permission to submit an assignment a second time. The second submission will not appear in “Needs Grading” if the first was already graded. If the faculty is using only “Needs Grading” with the (understandable) assumption that the new submission will appear there, the new submission may go unacknowledged. The Invisible Scrollbar (on Mac computers)… Read More >

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Polish Your Lecture Audio with Audacity

Audio Lectures with Audacity

Have you ever listened to an audio file that just didn’t sound right? It might have been a podcast, a radio interview, or even an online lecture. Maybe it was plagued by a constant hissing noise in the background. Perhaps the speaker’s voice was clear and loud at the beginning, but muffled and soft towards the end. Or, you might have found the “ums” and pauses between statements to be distracting. Surely, you’ve also heard audio files that sound professional. There is virtually no background noise, the speaker’s voice plays at a consistent volume, and the oral delivery is articulate and smooth. That’s how you want your online lectures to sound. In this post and in the video below, we’ll show you how to use free software to iron out the wrinkles in your audio files. They won’t sound like an episode of All Things Considered, but they will be clear and semi-professional. The first step towards better audio is… Read More >

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Speech to Text

One of the great qualities of language is that it allows people to connect across seemingly unbridgeable gaps. Above and beyond the everyday miracle of two distinct persons being able to share their feelings across a cup of coffee, language is flexible enough to be jump multiple mediums, and translate through several languages, without the conveyed content transforming too much. Famously, Helen Keller learned to read and write through the touch of her teacher; Christy Brown composed poetry through the only limb left under his control, the eponymous left foot; and Jean-Dominique Bauby, completely paralyzed except for his left eye following a car accident, wrote his memoir The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by blinking.  Technology has improved our ability to take advantage of just how tough language is, allowing more and more people to express themselves with greater and greater freedom. A simple example of this, that has nonetheless proved useful for many students and teachers facing widely varying… Read More >

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Webinar: Google Drive for Course Development

Laptop and hands

Hey all, as promised here is the recording from today’s webinar, Using Google Drive for Online Course Development. Here, too, is the handout we attached and the link to a support for how permissions in Google Docs work. Enjoy!

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ACTEM Conference Sneak Peek: Scoop.it

scoop.it screenshot for ACTEM Conference

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. The tool is Scoop.it, 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 Scoop.it 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 Scoop.it deemphasize the visual elements of the scooped article in order to draw… Read More >

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Video Annotations and Discussions

faces with a play button as in video

In our courses, we sometimes use videos as a prompt to start a discussion. The video is most likely to be included in the viewing section (aka Multimedia or Watch this), and possibly a link would be included in the prompt itself. It’s also possible to streamline the discussion flow by removing the permission to create a new thread on the student part. As creative as we can get when we push against Blackboard limitations, the result is not often optimal. I am going to show a couple of options where the interface is way friendlier. VideoAnt This is a good social tool for annotating videos. You may use it with your own video from YouTube or use other people’s videos. It’s clean, may create a conversation among viewers (signing in with an existing account, such as Google user, required for responses and adding notes, but not for viewing). Create as many as you want. (Optional viewing) Vialogues Another similar… Read More >

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Using Google Forms

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. 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… Read More >

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Captioning in Youtube

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… Read More >

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Webinar: Peer and Self Assessment in Blackboard

Webinar: Peer and Self Assessment in Blackboard

Please consider watching this brief webinar on Peer and Self Assessment and adding an activity of this nature to your course where appropriate. Thanks for watching! For more information, you can also revisit our previous write-up about Peer and Self Assessment.

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How, and why, to Create Chrome Profiles

Google Chrome Profile

Hey all, here’s a quick but useful tip for creating and managing Google/Chrome profiles in your Chrome browser. Doing so allows you to have multiple browser’s tailored to the different hats you wear in your life. I maintain separate Chrome browsers for my personal and my work lives. How might you use it?

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Self and Peer Assessment


In many instances, it is beneficial to students to do peer evaluations – that makes them look at submissions more critically and learn in the process, plus using a predetermined rubric helps identify the high points and the important performance criteria for an assignment. The Self and Peer Assessment feature in Blackboard allows students to submit an assignment to a dropbox, then to be randomly assigned several of them for review (anonymous option available) and offer feedback, and even include a self-evaluation, if desired. In the current courses, we often have a discussion forum set up for similar purposes, where one has to submit an assignment – usually as attachment (and sometimes viewing of the discussion forum is restricted so that students can only access the other threads after creating their own). Then one will pick which papers they will read and provide feedback based on either suggested criteria or their own perception of a quality paper. Both papers and… Read More >

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Password Managers and Security

All accounts

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. 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… Read More >

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How to Work with Google Drive Folder Shared with You

In your course click on Course Documents in the navigation menu

We have been trying to streamline the process of storing and sharing files, especially in document-intense courses like Field Seminars and Practica. While there are a number of advantages to setting up our system this way, there has been some difficulty navigating around the shared folders as they don’t always feel intuitive for a particular task. All of the course documents are shared to allow anyone who has the link to view the contents of the folder. You can also download certain types of files without as much as logging into Google. 1. In the Course Navigation Menu on your left, click on Course Documents 2. You will be able to view documents all at once either as a grid or a list. You can click on any of the documents and get an instant preview. 3. Close the file preview, and add documents to your Drive. If you are not signed in already, click on the blue [SIGN IN]… Read More >

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Analyze My Writing

Analyze my Writing

Thanks to another mention by FreeTech4Teachers.com, I have looked into this Analyze My Writing engine. In the past we have talked about Wordle and Tagxedo, which are both fine word cloud generators, which in addition to making long pieces of text look pleasant, highlight most commonly used words in a chunk of text. The idea behind these is that you can manage and introduce large boring text without scaring off your readers/audience, and possibly generate some conversation in the process. With Analyze My Writing, you can go several steps further and analyze your own writing or another person’s writing and “gain a wealth of information about your text including word and character counts, word and sentence lengths, the readability of your text, and other analyses”. The site offers a few pre-selected sources for your viewing convenience. Why use it? You may want to use this to gain insight into your own writing style, find words and phrases you mostly use,… Read More >

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Web Annotation with Hypothesis Extension

Hypothesis Pop-Up

One of the most powerful differences between printed text and digital text, as we’ve already covered, is the ability to annotate in the margins as you would a physical book. We’ve talked about tools that allow you to annotate screenshots, and tools that allow you to curate, then annotate, webpages and articles–now, I want to cover a tool, and point anyone interested toward the philosophy that underpins its existence, that allows you to annotate the web directly. The tool is called Hypothesis, and it is the product of a team that goes by the same name. Hypothesis lives in your browser and allows you to, when you highlight a section of text with your cursor, annotate that text. The annotation’s relationship to the page’s content is stored online, and is viewable by other users of Hypothesis as well as, of course, always there for you when you return to view the page. The annotations can be hidden or shown, and… Read More >

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Randomize Group Enrollments

Edit Group Set Enrollments - New Student Orientation

Instructors often like to have control over student group assignment. Sometimes, it matters not who is where, but a rather quick assignment is needed. While there is absolutely no way to change the type of the group set already created (at present), it’s possible to have the system randomly assign all the students (more or less evenly) across all the groups. If you would like to know how to do so, here are two simple steps: 1. On the groups page (make sure your Edit Mode is switched on), mouse over the group set line and select “Edit Group Set Membership” from the drop-down menu: 2. Use “Randomize Enrollments” to fill in all the groups at once. You will have a chance to go through the users and remove extra roles (assistants, teaching assistants, leaders, instructors etc.)

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Types of Cloud Storage Tools Pt. 2


(This is Part 2 of a 2-part survey of the various cloud storage tools you can utilize in the classroom. For Part 1, looking at Dropbox, Box and Copy, click here.) Some cloud storage tools have evolved beyond offering storage on their own. The advantage of using the same tool to create your media as you use to store it is obvious, and has contributed to the success of such tools in the last few years – especially Drive. Media-creation functionality adds a significant dimension for assessing which of these you’d prefer to use. Additionally, here at UNE we have accounts with both Microsoft and Google which should also be considered. Google Drive is the most established of the tools covered here. OWL is utilizing Drive more and more within the courses we help design, and we find it incredibly useful as both a cloud storage and a media (documents, slideshows, spreadsheets, etc.) creation tool. Perhaps the greatest advantage of using Drive, though, is… Read More >

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Dropbox or ...?

Box Logo

Types of Cloud Storage Services – 3 and 3 – Part 1 (In Part 2, I’ll return to talk about Drive, OneDrive and iCloud) Box, Copy and Dropbox This group of cloud services is simpler than the group I will cover in this two-part series, “Types of Cloud Storage Services.” Box, Copy and Dropbox provide some ancillary services, but their focus is in providing cloud storage and sharing. All install a folder directly on your computer which you can drag files into and out of in order to upload or download those files from the cloud. Sharing with these tools is simple: You put the file in the folder, share the file with those other [whatever the service is] users and set those other users’ permissions accordingly. Once a file is shared, whenever anyone updates and then saves over the original, he or she is doing so for everyone (great for student projects). Additionally, each of these services allows public links to the files/folders to… Read More >

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Interactive Stories

canoe line drawing

We have already talked about writing. In online courses, writing is often the predominant activity. It’s not just styles, grammar, and perfect APA citations that matter, of course. There are lots of skills that students must demonstrate when writing academic papers. What we don’t include as much is this dimension of interacting with writing (stories). Stories can lead you down different paths based on decisions (choices) made at certain crucial points in the narrative. Digital interactive stories have been around for a long time, as different technologies to support this sort of writing and user interface have been used – from a web of wikis to simple code to complex productions (like alternate endings in full-feature movies). Another tool came across, Inklewriter. It may be considered as a more or less low learning curve tool, which allows you to create your own scenarios or have students (in groups or individually) do the same as a project (sample story). In fact,… Read More >

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Look at all these Writing Tools in Blackboard


Hey y’all! One of Blackboard’s strengths is the variety of tools it has that allow students to express themselves in writing. I’ve divided these tools into two camps, Individual and Social. Tools in the Individual camp are designed for writing projects that only the student and the teacher see; tools in the Social camp are designed to engage the class as a whole or students in groups. Individual Assignments A Blackboard Assignment stores all the information from when the student submits his or her project through the assignment portal. The assignment portal links that information directly to a column in the grade center. Each submission is called an attempt, and any assignment can be programmed to allow multiple attempts or only one, but only one of the attempts is meant to be graded for any one assignment. The emphasis of the assignment tool is on product, by which I mean that, generally, students are graded on the quality and polish… Read More >

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Customizing your preferences for course notifications settings

global navigation

With the recent developments, it looks like we are now able to set up email alerts for the events in your course that you want to keep track of. The switch happened to be turned on on Tuesday without a warning and your inbox may have been affected: all of a sudden, instructors and teaching assistants started receiving alerts from “admin@null.com” about journals needing grading, assignment submissions and discussion posts. The indiscriminate switch may be too much – and honestly, quite unnecessary and annoying for those of us enrolled in a dozen or more courses. Now, however, the settings can be customized, so you can turn on notifications for things you care about in the courses that make most sense to your teaching or supervising load. Here is how: Step 1. Use this link Edit Notification Settings to access the settings (you need to be logged in Blackboard at UNE). Step 2. Select either individual courses or all courses that you are… Read More >

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Monosnap and Skitch - Screenshot Palimpsests

monosnap window

You know the word palimpsest? It is one of my favorites. It refers to a document on which more recent writing appears over older writing. The intent of such writing isn’t defined by the term itself–sometimes the newer writing is meant to deface the older writing (as with graffiti), sometimes to supplement it (as with JJ Abrams’ new book) but many times it is meant to explain or explicate what it is written over. The practice is old and useful. We all know it from our own experience as students for when we took notes, or received them, in the margins of our books or on the papers we submitted for evaluation. Those notes, or added visual direction of arrows and underlines written overtop the original copy of a then-scanned and re-copied section of a textbook, could be so helpful. Digital media has turned our margins into dynamic wrappers on which our ballpoint pens no longer work, but with applications like Monosnap and… Read More >

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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… Read More >

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