Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tried Something New? Trying Something New?

So the end of the semester can be quite chaotic with students rushing to finish their assignments and instructors rushing to submit their grades.  But as the dust settles and you have time to reflect upon the previous semester, what worked?  As you look forward to the next semester, what are you thinking about trying? 

We want you (and your ideas)!
Here in Academic Technology, we always want to hear from faculty about what you're doing and how it's going.  Did you use a new feature in Angel you hadn't tried before?  Did you integrate blogging into your class?  Are you using Powerpoint or Prezi for your class for the first time?  Did you have your students make videos?  

So if you have a moment, please let us know what new project you've tackled or even let us know if you're tackling a new project.  At times, we may be able to help and guide you toward useful resources and at other times, we just want to hear about great ways our faculty are engaging our students.  Some of the best ideas and resources that we have here to offer faculty come from faculty sharing and brainstorming with us ways to more broadly apply different projects. 

As we've said elsewhere on this blog, we like to share some of those great ideas and we're always looking for new ones.  So if you get the chance, share some ideas either here in the blog or feel free to email us.

Along those lines, we hope that you by now have heard about our  College Instructional Technology Study that we are in the process of conducting.  If you haven't heard about it or want to hear more, check out our  public document.  And if you want to set up an appoint with us to talk about your experiences, challenges, concerns, and ideas about instructional technology, please let us know.  If you don't want to meet with us, but want to share your thoughts anyways, feel free to fill out this survey


Monday, December 17, 2012

5 Means of Handling Gmail Effeciently

Like many of us, I sometimes have a foreboding dread about opening my Gmail and being inundated with messages, both relevant and irrelevant to my work.  For some, this probably prolongs opening it and further increasing the amount of potential emails in their inbox.  

However, there are ways to mitigate email in efficient ways to save you time and the dread of opening an over-cluttered email box.  This post examines how to get your email on mobile devices, how to forward your email, how to filter and organize your email, and finally, how to more quickly respond to certain perfunctory communications.

1.  Email on Mobile Devices.  
Faculty and staff are often interested in getting their school email on mobile devices, particularly their phones.  This allows them to deal with the emails in smaller batches (a few at a time rather than scores).  If you have a mobile device that is Internet enabled and would like to receive your email on it, the best place to go to is Pipeline.  In Pipeline, one of the tabs is specifically dedicated to Gmail explaining a variety of great tools and information (The "Gmail Is Here" tab).  Specifically, the tab contains step-by-step instructions on how to program your smartphones to receive email. 
2.  Forwarding Gmail
Some folks don't necessarily want to deal with several different email streams into their mobile devices.  Instead, they would just prefer their email forwarded to their personal email.  The advantage to this is that at least the person knows what's in the work email box, but does not feel obligated (real or imagined) to respond right at the moment he or she receives a work-related email.  This works even better when you create filters to identify the email (see below).    

You can get the step-by-step Google guide to forwarding your NSCC Gmail account here or you can also check out this video that shows how. 

3.  Labelling Email
A great method that I use to keep my email organized is labelling.   Labels are akin to folders in other email systems.  Email can be labelled to help you quickly determine where to put that email.  For instance, I have all the newsletters, blog updates, etc that come in, labelled as "News."  I'll create folders for different projects or types of correspondence (class related, order related, etc).  As email come in, I can place it in the appropriate folder so that when I'm ready to look at that subject matter, all the emails are there waiting for me.  But what's great about Gmail is that you can create filters to automatically label certain emails (from specific addresses, emails containing certain words, or other specific attributes).  

You can get the step-by-step Google guide to labelling your NSCC Gmail account here or you can also check out this video that shows how.  

4.  Using Filters.
Filtering your email is a great way to save time and deal with only the most pressing emails as well as to organize everything coming into your inbox.  This is a great way to either see your inbox highly organized or only filled with certain types of email.  Maybe you serve on a committee; you can have any email from the people on that committee or any email containing the specific name of the committee (e.g. "Student Life Committee") be automatically tagged with a specific designation or moved out of your inbox and into label (that is, folder).  Maybe you tell your students to always include the course title when emailing you and use that as a basis to filter those emails into a Student folderThis is a highly versatile tool for keeping that inbox from overloading you. 

You can get the step-by-step Google guide to filters for your NSCC Gmail account here or you can also check out this video that shows how. 

5.  Canned Responses
Are there certain emails that you grow tired writing (and writing again and again)?  There's a tool for that within Gmail.  Faculty can create canned responses that they can quickly send off with just a few clicks.  A good example for this is if you are taking submissions from students and want to confirm without writing the same email time and again, you can send a canned response already on hand and save yourself substantive time.  It's useful to look past your older sent emails and see what types of emails have you had to send regularly and then script those canned responses, ready to go whenever needed. 

To learn how to activate the Canned Responses in Gmail and then how to create them, check out this video.  

How do you manage your email in a way that doesn't overwhelm you? 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Preparing Your ANGEL Course for the Spring Semester

As you start to think about your spring courses, we wanted to share with you the following important information that will help you prepare your course site in ANGEL.

Please review the “Preparing your ANGEL Course for a New Semester” checklist for directions on getting your course site set up for a new semester.

If you have any questions, please contact us at

Thursday, December 6, 2012

For Ever and Ever and Evernote...

I thought I would deviate from my usual ANGEL tips and mention an app on the iPad I have started using called Evernote.  This free app allows you to capture and store a variety of different things, such as pictures, notes, and articles and then allows you to share them across your different devices.  Evernote is a great tool for helping you organize your documents or "notes" into what it calls “Notebooks”. You can have many notebooks and even notebooks within a notebook.

I downloaded the app to both my office computer and my iPad and the program will sync between the two automatically (or I can manually sync if I want to be doubly sure!). I find it very useful when I am at a meeting and want to record my notes but not carry a big, cumbersome laptop.  I bring my iPad, type my notes and then I can either email them or access them on my PC when I get back to my office. Evernote  automatically stores your notes in the Cloud so you can find them on either device.  Your “ notes" automatically save and sync. 

Evernote also assigns you a custom email address that you can use within your account. You can email pictures, notes, etc. to that account and it will show up in your Evernote account. Or you can quickly email your notes to someone.

There are a couple of apps that Evernote works with.  It connects with the drawing tool, Skitch.  You are able to annotate, label, and markup with arrows, shapes, word phrases, etc. to make your point and then share it with others. It can demonstrate a point quickly and highlight what is important. Again, what's great is that it will automatically sync across your devices too. Once you download the app, it will ask you if you would like to create a new notebook in Evernote called “Skitch” to house your images. 

There are great ways that these tools can be used.  Imagine this – you are an instructor of horticulture. You are in a meeting and have a really interesting speaker who is demonstrating how to diagnose a particular plant disease.  You can type your notes on your iPad, take a snapshot of the plant, show the diseased leaves by pointing to it with an arrow and voila, when you get back to your office it shows up on your computer! Or you could email it to your class and quickly point out the information! 

Another interesting Evernote app is called WebClipper.  It will easily clip part of or all of any webpage, including text, graphics and links.  With it you could collect anything that interests you and keep it forever, even if the original site goes away.  It is not a free app but an interesting one.

Any apps that you would like to share?  We would love hearing about them!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Using Clickers to Help Facilitate Controversial Topics in the Classroom

One great way to use clickers in the classroom is to help facilitate discussion around controversial issues.   What are your students' opinions on such topics as drug and alcohol use, government services, taxes, same-sex marriage, abortion, etc?   Is it difficult to get students to speak up around controversial issues?  A simple technology tool--the clicker--can be used to help poll students on these and other subjects and stimulate class discussion.  Clickers allow for students to participate and answer such questions without necessarily feeling vulnerable and exposed for their beliefs.  This can also help build trust and designate the classroom as a safe space to have good discussions on such topics, allowing for more meaningful conversations.

Here are a few good websites on strategies for using clickers on controversial topics, if you're interested in knowing more:

If you've been grappling with the idea of using clickers here at North Shore, please contact me at

We're just a "click" away! (sorry couldn't resist)