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College of Liberal Arts E-News: Biweekly news from the College of Liberal Arts

All posts in Reboot Category

Have you found spreadsheet analysis in Excel, Numbers, Open Office or other packages good, but want something more? You should be delighted to hear that Google Fusion Tables is now available for Google Apps at the University of Minnesota. If you've heard about Fusion Tables (or never heard) but wonder what all the hullabaloo is about, and why this could be important, let's get a quick overview.

In early October, the Office of Classroom Management (OCM) dropped a bombshell: their email to all faculty and support staff laid out a plan for the gradual retirement of VHS and DVD players in general purpose classrooms. This came as a shock to many faculty and instructors who feel like essential tools are being taken away without replacing them with other good options. Teaching can be a delicate balance that is easily interrupted when something goes wrong. Having to transition to unfamiliar delivery options can create barriers to a smooth classroom experience.

Revenge of the Nerds V: Business School Edition

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I'm a student again. And this time things are different.

New video resource for CLA!

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Now that fall semester is underway and settling down, I would like to invite you to reflect back on the time you just spent planning and preparing for all the courses you are teaching. Have you asked yourself any of these questions (or something similar)?

Mind the Gap

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This summer, we in CLA-OIT have been asking ourselves, "Who are we? What do we do? Why are we here?" Some may think we have amnesia, or possibly a newfound interest in philosophy. Actually, we've been taking time to reflect on the challenging issues we face as technologists in a liberal arts college.

Google: A Smooth Drive?

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Google Drive has replaced Google Docs... have you seen the new features or tried the new functionality?

Support Without Barriers

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What would it mean to offer technology support without barriers? Providing assistance anytime, anywhere, on any device? I serve on a University-wide IT committee on technology support issues and these are the tough questions we are trying to tackle.

Research Data and the IRB

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While most researchers have interacted with the Institutional Review Board (IRB) successfully at least once, few can say they fully understand what does and does not require IRB approval, and how to ensure one's research is approved quickly. There are many good resources available to help researchers with this important process, and in CLA-OIT we have worked closely with the IRB to document the processes of our research services to simplify and clarify the process.

A Call to Action for the U of M IT Community

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In collaboration with my colleagues in other colleges and University offices, I recently helped write the following "Call to Action" to the IT community. I share it with you today so that you can see our rapidly changing technology world is not only having an impact on students, faculty, and staff, but it is presenting an enormous challenge to those who provide IT support and services. I welcome your thoughts and perspective on these issues.

Forsythia: A CLA Collaboration

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In less than a month, two instructors from the University of Minnesota will learn if their original web series has won an award at the prestigious Los Angeles Web Series Festival (LAWEBFEST). In its third year, LAWEBFEST is the first panel to honor and call attention to the growing number of serialized shows being created specifically for the Internet, and features entries from all over the world.

One Video = A Million Words

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If a picture is worth a thousand words, then how many would a video be worth? We live in the age of digital media, with many opportunities for the capture and sharing of our daily experiences. If we get creative with the medium, say by introducing stop animation and music, there is no limit to what tales can be told.

1Password to Rule Them All

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I need to confess my password sins. I've shared passwords with my wife. I've used the same password on multiple websites. I have passwords written on a post-it note on my desk. I keep reusing the same 17-year-old password for my...ahem...financially-related accounts. I recycle the same passwords over and over. I also blamed Apple for losing months of content from my iPad when it was actually me who had forgotten my password. I've broken many of the password rules, and I ask for your forgiveness.

CLA hosted annual academic technology showcases from 2008 to 2010. Showcases featured projects that were made possible with student technology fees, shared with the University community how CLA was using technology in support of teaching and learning, and provided an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the contributions our colleagues make in this space.

On January 18, 2012, two dramatic shifts were seen in the copyright world. Thousands of websites, including Wikipedia, Google, and Boing Boing, went dark in protest of two proposed pieces of legislation - SOPA (Stop Online Privacy Act), and PIPA (Protect IP Act). On the same day, the Supreme Court upheld Congress's right to move foreign materials previously in the public domain back under copyright protection.

Paperless is Now Practical

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"@#$%!," you say? "Paper will never die," you claim? You love books? "I can't read on a computer"? Maybe. But today I'm telling you that I'm 95% paper-free[1].

Café Conversation

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Recall a recent conversation that you found to be very satisfying and thought provoking. How often do you have the opportunity to have deep, meaningful conversations about teaching and learning with your peers?

Screencasts: When Videos are Worth a Million Words

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Written instructions not quite getting your point across to your students? Looking for a way to show and tell rather then just tell? Consider creating a screencast, a powerful way to demonstrate step-by-step procedures. Don't let the name scare you, although it sounds complex, it is simple.

Google+ You = What?

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I am not what some would call a "social person." I have more Twitter accounts than tweets and I haven't been on Facebook for over 6 months. So why am I writing to you about Google+?

Technology Grants: Enhancing the Student Experience with Technology

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Have a great idea to improve your course but need funds to purchase equipment or hire a student? Look to the CLA Technology Grant Program, administered by the CLA Technology Grant Committee.

Two All Beef Patties, Special Sauce...

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Whether or not you eat there, you know what to expect when you enter a fast food restaurant. You can quickly select a meal from a well-organized menu, you are not upset that your food comes in a bag, and you know that it is your job to bus the table.

Presentations That Zoom!

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Ever feel like PowerPoint limits your creativity? Or that it is too linear for what you want to communicate? Or do you feel it hinders your spatial analysis capabilities? Do you like to incorporate various forms of media in your presentations? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you may find that Prezi is a presentation tool that fits your style.

Mission: Impossible

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"Good morning, Mr. Hansen. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, involves providing the very best technology services to the faculty, staff, and students in CLA. You must also close 14 audit findings, bring oversight to all independent IT operations in the college, and help guide the future of academic computing. You may make minor changes to the CLA-OIT organization, but you cannot hire more staff, expend more resources, or violate University policies. The community will want you to support every user request regardless of time, expense, or eccentricity, and they'll want you to do it for every smartphone and gadget ever made. You have six months to complete the mission. As always, should any member of your team be caught upsetting anyone, the college will disavow all knowledge of your actions. This message will self-destruct in five seconds..."

Psy 1001 Takes Assessment Online

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Psychology 1001 had a history of course transformation long before receiving a Course Transformation Program award in 2009-10.

Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli

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Many of us travel occasionally as part of our jobs here in CLA. Even when traveling for fun, some of us have a difficult time leaving work behind. Here are a few things to consider before your next trip.

Poll: Mobile Devices

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The number of mobile computing devices is exploding across the country. For those of us in the tech field, this is a very exciting time. How about a reality check? How prevalent are mobile devices in CLA? How much interest is there in the new tablets? Take a minute to share a little about your situation and opinion.

Ghost in the Machine

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Bomgar - weird name, killer app.

Manage Departmental Email with Gmail Delegation

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Do you have multiple people checking a departmental email account? You probably share the password with all of them. If staff leave or change job responsibilities you then have to reset the password and distribute a new one. You did change the password, didn't you?

Google Forms can do magic.

Cut the Cord


Save money and untether yourself from older technologies.

The following are changes I have made in the last year to save money and reduce my reliance on less flexible services. I bring these up as ideas for you to consider now, but also to provide a description of the what the future likely holds for all of us.

IT Version 3.0: Mobile Computing and Personal Devices


As a first time attendee at the 2011 Consumer Electronic Show (CES), I was astounded by the dizzying variety of gadgets on display at the thousands of booths in the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC). Imagine all of the Mall of America's (MOA) retail spaces filled with small booths of every color, millions of flashing lights, a few thousand TVs hanging in the air, dozens of huge flashy stages for the biggest vendors, and throngs of people everywhere. Now imagine it even bigger: the LVCC has almost a million more square feet (3.2M sq ft) than the MOA's retail space (2.5M sq ft).

Eating Our Own Dog Food

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Believe it or not, CLA-OIT does not seek out ways to annoy you. Restricting what a faculty or staff member can do is never a great way to get ahead in higher ed. Although recent projects like the Google migration may have been difficult transitions for some, it is the new security rules that have pushed many people too far, and it is getting increasingly common for tech staff to be called police or even the TSA.

Going the Shortcut Route

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It has taken me time to learn the Gmail shortcuts. As a web app, Gmail has to do things differently -- like not using the Command or Control keys when typing a shortcut. For those who use keyboard shortcuts every day, this can be strange. But for those who have not bothered to learn traditional shortcuts, Gmail may actually be easier. Read on for a few shortcuts you can use everyday.

Constant Vigilance: Protect Yourself from Phishing Schemes

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You are being attacked. Right now, criminals are trying to steal your identity--maybe they already have.

Sometimes what's old becomes new again.

Gopher Messaging isn't new but with the prevalence of smart phones and other mobile computing devices, it might be time to take a second look at the University's unified messaging system. In addition to regular telephone-based voicemail, there are some clever features that let you customize the way you handle calls, messages, and faxes.

Let's Stop the Google Conversation: Unthread


Two months ago I said:

"If you fully understand Google's threaded email conversations, you can't help but like them. Although there are rumors that Google will provide an opt-out of this trademark feature, threads are a requirement of the Gmail client today and something you need to understand as soon as possible."

Well, the rumor was true.

Email is great, except when there's too much of it. Give Priority Inbox a try -- it can be trained to automatically identify your important messages and separate them out from everything else, so you can focus on what really matters.

Make It So

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The iPad and its use on campus

Set Gmail as Default for Email Links in Webpages


Sometimes you may have an email address link in a webpage that you want to use to send an email. When you click on the link, by default, your computer opens your local email client (e.g., Thunderbird, Eudora, Outlook, etc.). But you want to use Gmail, right? You can set Firefox to open Gmail as your default email client, so when you click on email address links in the future, you'll be using Gmail to send your message.

Beyond Thunderbird

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Why we are requiring the use of the Gmail web client and not supporting traditional desktop clients like Thunderbird, Outlook, Mail, Eudora, etc.

Let's Talk About Gmail: Message Threads

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If you fully understand Google's threaded email conversations, you can't help but like them. Although there are rumors that Google will provide an opt-out of this trademark feature, threads are a requirement of the Gmail client today and something you need to understand as soon as possible.