Category Archives: Technology

Creating Categories and Weighed Columns on Blackboard

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Useful Tech Info from David Pogue

David Pogue: 10 top time-saving tech tips

I’ve summarized the tips outlined in this helpful video.  I hope you find something of value.  Thanks to the helpful instructor who passed this on.

  1. Use the space bar to scroll down a page on the web.

Shift + Space to scroll up.

  1. Use the Tab key to go to between boxes on forms to fill in online.

When there’s a pop-up menu for your state or country, type the first initial repeatedly to get to the right letter.

  1. For viewing bigger text on your screen: press + with the Control  (or command) key or minus for smaller text.
  2. Smartphones

Press Space bar twice to end a sentence (iPhone, Android, Windows phone, BlackBerry)

Adds a period, inserts one space, and capitalizes the

  1. All Cellphones

Tap the Call or Dial key to call up the last number dialed.

(On a non-smartphone, opens a list of all recent numbers)

  1. Interrupt the voicemail message by pressing the carrier’s interrupt key:
  • Verizon: *
  • AT&T-Mobile: #
  • Sprint: l
  1. Google Stunts

“Define”  to find the meaning of any word.

  1. Flight tracking.  Type the name of the airline and the flight for details.
  2. Unit conversion. Type in eg: inches in 32cm.

10. Four Text Basics

  • Double-click to highlight a word.
  • Don’t delete!  Just type over it.
  • Double-click/drag to select in one-word chunks.
  • Triple-click to highlight a paragraph.

11. Cameras

How to eliminate shutter lag completely: half-press the shutter button to pre-focus.

12. Presentations

Press the B key to black out the slide.  Press again to return to slide.

(W key for whiteout)


Safe Assign on Blackboard

I’ve posted before about technology and plagiarism. Well, for teachers at Oregon State University, a new Blackboard update has made it even easier to detect plagiarism. Our latest Blackboard upgrade came with “Safe Assign”. You will find this new feature under “Create Assessments”.


Students will submit papers through Safe Assign. Safe Assign then checks the internet and Safe Assign’s database of student papers. It will document what percentage of a student’s paper is unique. It won’t tell you if anything is plagiarized. (Ten percent of the paper could be from other sources, but that information may be correctly cited or simply common phrases.) Safe Assign will, however, help you track down any uncited sources in student papers. It can also show studsafe_assignents that they have some questionable areas before they submit their papers. This way students can learn to document their sources correctly without being penalized. Safe Assign will also stop students from sharing old papers with  friends as all papers run through Safe Assign are added to its database. I’ll be talking more about Safe Assign on Friday’s training, but this document from OSU’s Technology Across the Curriculum is a great resource. This is one of those pieces of technology that will help (and students) with very little time investment.


example_paper for training today from Read, Write, Think

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TESOL 2013 Handouts

2013-03-25_0942TESOL 2013

It was wonderful  to meet so many interesting and engaged teachers in Dallas. I was amazed at how well attended our sessions were. For those of you who couldn’t come or who couldn’t get a handout, the handout are available through TESOL. I provided the links below.


Making it Meaningful      If you would like a copy of the macros, please email me. The file type cannot be easily uploaded and shared.

Again, it was such a great experience, and I can’t wait to see everyone next year at TESOL 2014 in my home state of Oregon. Until then, feel free to contact me.

Audioboo and Screencasts

I am giving a workshop tomorrow at Willamette University for pre-service teachers. We are going to talk about giving audio feedback through screencast-o-matic and making audio recordings through audioboo.
The handouts from the presentation are below:

Five Reasons to Use Interactive Whiteboards

I know, many complain that interactive whiteboards are difficult to use, and they don’t see the added value. Sure, some activities on the boards don’t improve on a basic chalkboard. But, here are five things I like about interactive whiteboards:

  • Dragging and dropping so you can:
    • Do attendance – students drag their name to the “here” space when they arrive
    • Match vocabulary words to pictures or definitions
    • Practice correct word order – similar to refrigerator poetry
    • Complete cloze activities
    • Reorder stories or paragraphs
  • Saving so you can:
    • Finish activities at a later date
    • Reference materials created in a previous class
    • Work on a grammar chart or vocabulary wall over numerous meetings
    • Use in future terms
  • Clear visuals so you can:
    • Appeal to visual learners
    • Use a wide variety of colors (not just blue, green, red and black whiteboard pens)
    • Incorporate more pictures
    • Have clear handwriting (with writing to type features)
  • Going online so you can:
    • Seamlessly bring in images from Google Images
    • Quickly look up words in a dictionary
  • Importing other PowerPoints and PDFs so you can:
    • Improve materials
    • Incorporate student ideas
    • Annotate documents
    • Use graphic organizers
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Plagiarism and Technology

Are you good at spotting plagiarism? I think, I’m pretty good. I can identify material that doesn’t have a student’s typical style or skill level, although I often rely on technology to find plagiarism. Our university doesn’t offer plagiarism software, so I used to google phrases to find their original source. Recently, I started using Plag Tracker, a free site.  You can copy and paste a paper into Plag Tracker, and it highlights parts that may have been plagiarized and links them to the original source.

When I first tried the site, I ran a student’s paper through that I thought was not plagiarized. Well, I was surprised to find that the student had in fact plagiarized a small part of his essay. He had taken a quote, the sentence introducing the quote and a nice summary of the quotes main points. He had cited the source of the quote, but not the other material. It was a relatively small mistake, and he might not have even known that what he did was plagiarism. I started to think that the site might help him reflect on his own writing and to identify and rework any instances of plagiarism.

On the other hand, it might help him learn to beat sites that identify plagiarism, like Plag Tracker. In fact, Quick Student has learned to beat these plagiarism trackers and let’s other students do the same for free. According to the Quick Student, here is how it works:

  • Smart Thesaurus Replacer – Replaces commonly used words with other common words. It uses a large database that is constantly growing and all words have been handpicked and checked for authenticity.
  • Adjective Adder- Adds common and vague adjectives onto specific words; for example “truck” might become “crimson truck” or “shiny truck”.
  • Big Word Replacer – Most students don’t use complex words like “Bombastic” or “Erudition”, this function replaces big words with simpler ones.
  • Common Word Replacer – Switches out common words to more specific ones; for example “orange” might become “clementine”.

I have to admit that sites, like Quick Student, worry me. They introduce little mistakes and throw off the plagiarism trackers. So, here is the question: Do you tell students what/if you use a plagiarism tracker? How do you educate students about plagiarism?

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Here are some good google search tips. Just click the image below and enjoy. Also, here are some posters, handouts, and quizzes about google search.

You can use some of these search tips, like “” to search for phrases, to use google as a corpus. Sha (2010) in the CALL journal compared google  to the British National Corpus searches and found that it often provides more examples and may be a good option for students. You can find the article through the OSU library. The full citation is:

Sha, G. (2010). Using Google as a super corpus to drive written language learning: a comparison with the British National Corpus. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 23(5), 377-393.

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Deciding to Use Technology

Personally, I use new technology all the time, but I am more hesitant to introduce new technology to students. Three years ago, I blogged about my process for choosing instructional technology, and it hasn’t changed much. I still believe the initial question should be the learning objective. What do I want students to learn? (I wouldn’t encourage teachers to start with a piece of technology they want to use and then see how that would fit with their learning objectives. Learning objectives need to be first.) After choosing to focus on a learning objective, I ask myself what is appropriate and feasible. The question of feasibility should include resources and time available, along with usability. Of the remaining technological options, I ask myself what affordances do they offer. Are they social or interactive? Do they provide quick feedback to students? etc. Then, I can make a good decision. The chart below has more details, and here is a larger, more readable copy.

How do you decide what technology to use? What factors do you consider? I didn’t include assessment in the process. Would you?

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SEP Mexico: Technology Class

ImageWe have a wonderful group of Mexican teachers at INTO OSU this month. They are taking courses in ESL trends, methods and technology, along with sharing information about their country and culture. Teaching their technology course is certainly a highlight of my summer. In the last two weeks, we have discussed audio recordings, text analysis tools, collaborative writing, and using videos. I have been posting all of the materials from the class online, so if you want to check out what we have done so far, please visit the class website. And meet the teachers this week at the public library where they will be giving a presentation.

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