#edtech Links of the Week – 09.05.14

Learning, Technology, and Faculty Time

Joshua Kim, Director of Digital Learning Initiatives at the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning, talks about the where the real potential for integrating technology into the classroom lies.

…technology in the small face-to-face seminar will only be of marginal assistance.

The promise of learning technology is to help make large enrollment classes feel like small enrollment classes, and to enable geographically dispersed students to act and feel like face-to-face residential learners.

Kim writes that the most important resource an educator can have to integrate new technology into the classroom is time, noting that “all these investments will be for naught if faculty don’t have time to take advantage of these new resources.”

How to Integrate Tech When It Keeps Changing

Edutopia’s Todd Finley shares simple ways to keep up with the latest technologies without being overwhelmed by them.

What won’t work is waiting for technological change to stabilize. “The only way to make sense out of change,” said Alan Watts, “is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”

Finley encourages educators to take off their expert hats and return to being curious learners.

What Online Educators Need to Know About Social Media Marketing


Schoolkeep breaks down why an educator would post to the various social networks and how best to utilize each one.

Social networks aren’t one-size-fits-all, nor do successful strategies require activity across all platforms. Craft an approach that increases the number and quality of your students.

How Teachers Can Create Videos That Engage Students

Creating engaging videos isn’t always about adding more production value. eduCanon’s Swaroop Raju writes that “data out of MIT’s edX shows that variables within your control (and budget!) have more of an impact.” Raju gives the following tips:

  • Shorter videos are more engaging. Engagement drops after 6 minutes.
  • Videos with a more personal feeling are more effective than high-fidelity studio recordings.
  • Videos in which the instructor speaks quickly and with high enthusiasm are more engaging.
  • Khan-style tablet drawings are more engaging than power point slides.

12 Good Tools for Gathering Real-time Feedback from Students

Richard Byrne shares his latest batch of useful sites and services for gathering feedback from students via chatrooms, text message polling, QR code multiple choice and more.

Using Time Machine to back up an external drive

Whether you are working with thousands of photos, hours of video or semesters of lesson plans, securing and backing up your data remains critically important. If you have all of your data stored on the hard drive in your computer, this can be as easy as plugging in an external drive and setting up Time Machine (on a Mac). More likely, if you work with a lot of photos and video like I do, you have most of your data on an external drive. In an ideal world, you would back these up using some sort of Network Attached Storage RAID array. Coming from a newspaper environment, I know this isn’t always a reality. Sometimes all you have are a few externals lying around. Did you know that you can also set up Time Machine to back up one external drive (a media drive or capture scratch for example) to another external?


To do this, we will first go to our Apple Menu Items in the top left, and select the System Preferences. From there, open up Time Machine. Once in the Time Machine preferences panel, click on “Select Disk…” and choose the drive that will serve as the Time Machine backup.


Next, click on “Options…” in the lower right corner. This will bring up a window showing you what drives are excluded from the backup process. By default, your external drives will be here. Your backup drive is automatically excluded from the backup process, as it wouldn’t make sense to back it up to itself. However, we DO want to backup the Media drive, so let’s remove it from this list by selecting it and hitting the minus symbol as shown below.


As currently configured, Time Machine will try and backup the Media drive along with any internal hard drives. But we only want to backup the external Media drive, so let’s add our internal drives to this exclusion list. Click on the plus sign next to the minus sign you used earlier, and then find and exclude your internal drives.


In my case, I have two internal drives that I needed to exclude from Time Machine backup. Once complete, you can hit “Save” and then turn on Time Machine.


Journalist turned academic technology evangelist

Earlier in the week, I looked back on my time in journalism. Today, I am looking ahead to the opportunities and challenges that await me in academia.

For the past seven years, I have moved from state to state (and sometimes country to country) telling stories through the lens of my camera. Last Monday, I began my new role as multimedia specialist in the Academic Technology department at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine.

While the two positions seem unrelated initially, as a digital first journalist, I have been providing my own form of technology support for reporters and photographers in every newsroom that I have been a part of. From Dropbox to screencasts and video conferencing to social media, many of the tools being utilized to reach readers are the same tools that instructors turn to to reach their students.

It also hasn’t hurt that my wife is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Delaware. For the past two years, I have fielded any number of questions on how best to utilize X or if there is any new technology that does Y.

With this new incarnation of my blog, I hope to write about the tools/techniques that help make an instructor and/or staff member’s life easier. You can follow along here as well as at higheredtech.edublogs.org.


Creating an automated yearbook using InDesign and Excel

Last Monday, I began my new job as a multimedia specialist at Rowan University’s School of Osteopathic Medicine. One of the benefits of coming in to a new job is that you see get to look at the various tasks being done with fresh eyes.

One such area was in the yearbooks that media services makes for each incoming class. Early on, class sizes were small, and it was possible to lay out each yearbook one by one in Microsoft Word. However, with the 2018 class growing beyond 150 students, formatting each student’s photo, name, degree, university, specialty and hobbies quickly became unmanageable (especially when late adds or drops meant that each student had to be shifted over individually).

Enter InDesign and Excel (or any spreadsheet really).

To create this yearbook, we will be merging the data from our spreadsheet into a template we create in InDesign. To help populate this spreadsheet, we first need a script that will help point InDesign to the images associated with each student. Thankfully, the folks over at InDesignSecrets (where I found the initial steps to this walkthrough) already have such a script which you can download here.

To install the script, open the scripts panel in InDesign by going to Window –> Utilities –> Scripts. You can then right-click on User and select Reveal In Finder. You should now be able to drop the file you downloaded, imagesToCSV104.jsx, into the Scripts Panel folder and you should see it in InDesign immediately.


Next, you need to point the script to your folder of images. Before you do this, you want to make sure that your images are renamed in some standard format. In my case, I chose lastName_firstName so that I can sort alphabetically by last name and more easily merge the data with any future data. Now, double-click the script in your scripts panel and it will ask you to select a folder with images. This will create a .csv file that includes two columns; the filename and the path to the image.


This is where the InDesignSecrets write-up leaves you, but we want more information than just a name and image. Instead, we are going to open that .csv up in a spreadsheet program (Excel, Google Spreadsheet, Numbers, etc.) and add additional data.


This can be done in a few ways. In my case, I had to enter all of the data by hand from freshman orientation forms, but in the future, this form should be digital and the two columns from the script can simply be pasted in. When saving the new .csv file, be sure that you save it into the folder with the images.


Now its time to build the template for your yearbook. For my template, I want one graphic frame and six text frames underneath that (for the six columns of data from my spreadsheet). Once you have your frames laid out, you can map the various columns of the spreadsheet to what frame it will merge with in InDesign. First, click on the Data Merge panel (if you don’t see it, go to Window –> Utilities –> Data Merge). Clicking on the top right of that panel will allow you to select your data source. In this case, navigate to the folder with your images and select the .csv you made earlier. You should now see the fields that you created in the spreadsheet. To map them to the template, click on an empty frame, and then click on the field that should go there. You can also set fonts, alignment, font size, etc.


With your template mapped out, you can now click on Create Merged Document on the bottom right of the Data Merge panel. Set your records to merge Multiple Records per document page, and then select preview to get an idea of how each record will show up on your new template. You can then play with the margins and spacing until you are happy with the overall layout.


Once you are happy with the general layout, hit OK and InDesign will create a new document with the merged items. It may also pop up an overset text report, showing you where the text went over the text frame. In my case, because some students didn’t fill out every field, and some had answers that are far longer than others, I am going to go back in to clean up some of the formatting. Once complete, new entries can easily be added to the spreadsheet, and the data merged again, eliminating the hassle of having to reposition students individually.