Technology for Educators

September 16, 2009

Navigate Folders Faster: QuickJump

Filed under: Productivity — Sue Frantz @ 8:03 am

As another academic year gets off the ground I’m shuttling more files around than I did all summer. I have folders, subfolders, and sub-subfolders on my C:\ drive and my college’s M:\ drive. I used to use the M:\ drive both as backup and to hold files not currently in use, like PowerPoints and handouts for courses I hadn’t taught in awhile. About a year ago I copied onto my new laptop my flash drive files that I carried around with me. I put them all in a folder called ‘flash drive files’ with the anticipation that I would sort it out later. I’ve found myself using the electronic equivalent of the ‘archeological dig’ filing system. You know the one I mean. Papers pile up on your desk, and you can find what you’re looking for, roughly, by date. “That was a long time ago, so that paper’s near the bottom.” My electronic files have begun to take on some of those same characteristics.

Managing folder trees to find the right folder to either locate a document or to save a new document has become an adventure. Sometimes even when I know exactly where something is, it may take several mouse clicks to get there.

Enter QuickJump, the latest product from TechHit, the company that brought us SimplyFile, the email filer I blogged about last month. (QuickJump only works with Windows products, sorry Mac users.)

QuickJump allows you fast and easy navigation of your folders. When you first run it, it only indexes the folders in “My Documents.” If you’d like it to index additional folders or folders on other drives, like network drives, just let it know. In my case, I added the network M:\ drive.

With a keyboard shortcut (CTRL-SHIFT-J is the default, but you can make it whatever you’d like) you get this pop-up:

An alphabetical listing of the first 100 of my 1134 folders is nice, but QuickJump’s power is in its searching ability.

When I type ‘assessment’ into the search box, I get the 85 folders that contain the word assessment. (I have 85 folders that contain the word assessment?!)

If I keep typing I can narrow it down even further. When I add “psych” I get it down to 7 folders. Much better! Partial words are fine. In fact, QuickJump revises the list of results as you type. After I had typed “assessment ps” I had already identified the folder I needed. Word order doesn’t matter, either. If the words or partial words you type appear in the folder tree anywhere, QuickJump returns the folder.

QuickJump works any time you want to find a folder. No programs open and you’re looking for a folder? CTRL-SHIFT-J. You’re in MS Word, and you’re ready to save your document? Hit save, then CTRL-SHIFT-J. You’re in your email program and are saving a file, like all of those emailed student assignments? As soon as the “save as” box appears, CTRL-SHIFT-J.

I did a little test. I timed how long it took me to get to a given subfolder buried 4 layers deep. With QuickJump, it took me 6 seconds to get there. Using standard navigation, by double-clicking on My Documents and double-clicking through layers of folders, it took me 9 seconds. QuickJump was 1/3 faster even when I knew exactly where to find the folder using standard navigation. That makes it exponentially faster when I’m not sure where a particular folder is!

QuickJump made my life run just a little more smoothly. Now if I can just find a similar product to help me manage all of those papers on my desk.

This product is $29.95 and comes with a 30-day free trial. Readers of this blog can purchase QuickJump for $23.95 (20% off). Just use this link before September 22nd, 2009.

September 7, 2009

Twitter: There Are Educational Uses?

Filed under: Social Networking — Sue Frantz @ 5:06 pm

I joined Twitter some months ago, and then quickly became one of 60% U.S. Twitterers that Nielsen found didn’t return a month after joining. But now I have to do some rethinking.

I’m a member of a social networking group called College 2.0: Higher Education, Online Learning, and Web 2.0. Here is a recent post to a discussion forum where the topic was Twitter (reproduced here with permission of the author).

For a long time, I’ve been a big fan of Facebook, and I’ve been thinking about ways I might somehow incorporate Facebook into my classroom (given that I know many of my students use it, and it seems like it might be something that could engage them and get them excited about learning statistics). I still haven’t figured out a way to use Facebook in my classes, but I did think about something I could do with Twitter. This summer, I asked my students to “tweet” about things they were finding in the news or online that related to statistics (e.g., news reports that included statistical information, uses or misuses of statistics, interesting graphs, cartoons, data sets, websites that teach statistics, survey or poll results, YouTube videos, etc.). I thought this would be a great way to emphasize statistical literacy in my course and to help my students become more savvy consumers of statistical information they are presented with in the “real world” on a daily basis. These are definitely learning goals in my courses. I presented this as an extra credit opportunity to my students (they would get a point for each “tweet” they posted, and they could post up to five “tweets”) and I provided them with information about how to set up Twitter accounts if they did not already have one. I had 20 students in my summer course, and 15 of them signed up for Twitter and participated in my “experiment.”

I’ve been so excited about how this went and how involved my students got in this “experiment” that I plan to continue doing this in future classes. It got my students looking for how statistics is used (or sometimes misused) in the “real world,” and I can’t tell you how many discussions I overheard my students having before and after class about things they were finding that they wanted to “Twitter” about. One of my students–who is also a teacher–actually e-mailed me yesterday to tell me that this Twitter experiment gave him many ideas for how he might incorporate this technology into the courses he teaches. Plus, I found this exercise was a great way for ME to make announcements to my students about things I was also noticing in the news. I don’t always have the time to go over these things in class, but using Twitter allowed me to get the word out and to model the kinds of questions I hoped my students would ask as they came across different information presented in news reports, polls, and journal articles.

If you want to learn more about what I did and see some examples of the kinds of posts my students and I put up on Twitter, you can follow me and my class on Twitter. You can follow me at www.twitter.com/MGEverson, and, if you enter #epsy5261 as a search term, you’ll see things that we all posted.

I realize I am very biased here, but I think this could have some potential in many classrooms, and that’s why I wanted to share it here. It’s a way you can incorporate more technology in your course if you want to, and I also feel it’s a good way to get students thinking about how what they are learning about applies to their everyday lives. For me, teaching statistics is sometimes a challenge because many of my students are taking the course because they HAVE to, and some are not very motivated to learn the material (or are very anxious about it because they assume it’s just a math class). For those students who come to our courses with little motivation or interest in the subject, this might engage them a bit more, especially if they are interested in social networking. I’ve learned through doing this (and talking to others–like you–about Twitter) that there are so MANY other ways in which Twitter can be used in the classroom, and to me, this is exciting. I can’t wait to experiment more!

One thing I must admit, however, is that my course is a graduate-level course. I would hope this would work in a similar way with undergraduates, but I haven’t tried it yet with my undergraduate course. Hopefully, the next time I teach that course, I can try it.

Michelle Everson

Department of Educational Psychology

University of Minnesota

When classes begin this fall, I’ll ask my (undergraduate) students if they Twitter. Whether they do or not, I’ll ask if they would be interested in the sort of experiment that Michelle Everson tried.

Has anybody else used Twitter in a course? What did you do, and how did it work?

September 5, 2009

Electronic Grading: Germ-Free!

Filed under: MS Office — Sue Frantz @ 3:43 pm

If you’re concerned about the flu virus and you haven’t moved to electronic grading, now might be a good opportunity to start.

Managing email. As soon as I get an assignment, I hit reply, type “Got it,” then hit send. This eliminates follow-up emails from students asking, “Did you get my assignment?” In my email program, I keep a folder called “Grade these.” All student assignment emails are moved there so they don’t get lost in my inbox. (SimplyFile makes this easy to do with the click of one button. See this post for more information about SimplyFile.) After I’ve emailed students their graded assignments, I move their emails into the “Graded” folder.

Outlook folders:

Managing the documents. The papers themselves are saved to a “Student papers” folder in “My Documents.” Each file I save is renamed with standard nomenclature: Student last name, assignment, and whether the assignment was turned in late. For instance, if Alan Ladd turned in his second reaction paper on time, I would name the file LaddRP1. If he turned in his experimental design assignment late, I would name it LaddXD-Late. After grading the assignments, I move them into the “Graded” folder located in the “Student papers” folder. (UPDATE 10/10/09: See a more recent blog post on EZDetach for an easier way to save files from email messages.)

My Documents:

Once I’ve sent a graded assignment back to a student, I move the file into a “Sent” folder.

Attaching files to Outlook email: A tip. You can drag and drop files into open emails to attach them. (You can also drag attachments out of emails that have been sent to you into folders or onto your desktop.) See this video:

Using MS Word 2007 to grade assignments. Select the “Review” tab. Click “Track Changes.” Any change you make shows up in red. Deletions are struck-through; additions are underlined.

Track Changes

To add a comment, with your mouse highlight the text on which you’d like to comment. Click “New Comment,” then type your comment.

Add Comment

When you’re done, save your file, record the grade, and send the file back to the student. That’s it!

TabletPC users. On the Review tab, select “Start Inking.”

Start Inking

That produces the “Pens” toolbar. Just write like you normally do.


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