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Archive for November, 2011


Followup on the Texting Students Question

While answering a tech question earlier in the week, I discovered an existing app on my Android phone that allows me to send one text message to a group of people, students in this case. You can read, Tech Question of the Week: Group Texting here. The app was Go SMS Pro. We ran into a slight problem in the testing phase. The new question now is “how do I send a message “from” my Google Voice number in Go SMS. I never considered this because I’m always replying back to students. I never initiate the text, and there is no issue with that. So before I answer that question, first a bit more information about Go SMS and Google Voice. Essentially the way Go SMS works is you use it in place of your stock sms program, and it will handle any and all sms/mms messages coming into your phone. It will take messages from your regular cell phone number and from your Google Voice number and put them in the Go SMS program. When you send a message out from Go SMS, it uses the numbers you have in your existing address book and sends from your regular cell phone number. There is no obvious way to send it from a Google Voice number. However, the way that Google Voice works actually eliminates this problem. Here’s an explanation from Whitson Gordon at Lifehacker.

The number from which you received that text is the number through which Google Voice routes communication with that contact. We’ll call it their “alternate number”. If you text this number back, they’ll receive that text on their phone—and it will have come from your Google Voice number instead of your phone’s number. Add that number to your contacts as “Mobile 2” (or something similar) for that person. That way, when they send a text to your [Google] Voice number, you’ll be able to see that it’s from them, and not from some number you don’t know.

So what that means is that the way Google Voice works is it creates a new 406 or 976 number for everyone who calls or texts you (I’ve actually seen other numbers used as well). This 406 or 976 number replaces their real phone number. So if I text you a message to your GV number. Pretend my cellphone number is 1-(555) 123-4567. When GV forwards the text to your cellphone, it will seem as if it is coming from 1-(406) 123-4567 or 1-(976) 123-4567. This 406 (or) 976 number will be linked to my phone number 1-(555) 123-4567. So each time you call or text that number (from a cellphone attached to your GV), it will show as if the call is coming from your GV number.

Walla! There’s the answer. Okay, it’s not that easy, but what that means is you have to have ALL your students text your first before you can add them to a group and send a group text message to them. That really sucks, but it’s not impossible. It’s actually a good way to allow students to opt into receiving text messages from you. Here’s what you can do. Email or print out a message to all of your students telling them to opt into receiving text messages by sending you a text to (602) XXX-XXXX (Your GV number). Tell them to text something like: “Add Angela Jones to text reminders please” or just their name would work.  Then go into Google Voice online and add all of the new text messages to your contacts list, and create a group at the same time. This is very easy to do on the website. Make sure you add the GV number and not their real number, as you will be able to see both. You will be able to tell which is which because the GV number will be a weird combination or the 403 or 976.

So there you go. This would work great in a face to face class because you can have them all text you right there at the same time, and all those messages will be grouped together in your inbox when you go to add them. And I highly recommend adding names to the numbers in your contacts. I didn’t do that this semester it’s hard getting texts from students when you don’t know who it is. I’ll never skip that step again.


To Tablet or Not to Tablet


So I broke down and bought another tablet a few weeks ago. This time I opted for the Android version and bought a Samsung Galaxy Tab. I’d always thought the 10.1 inch was pretty sleek and sexy, but it just seemed too big. The 7 inch was just too small, but when the 8.9 version came out, I was sold. So far I’m pretty happy with my purchase.

Now I learned from my first foray into tablet land that this was not going to be a work device. It’s just way too difficult to do anything work related on this thing. For instance, I’m typing this post on the Tab right now. Even though I have Swype, it’s still difficult to type quickly. It’s kind of frustrating. I’m party sure I can type faster on my Thunderbolt. In fact, I find myself abandoning the Tab in lieu of the Thunderbolt to answer a quick email. Then back to the Tab for what I bought it for.

So what do I do on this thing? Lots! Mostly I check up on social media sites. The widgets on this thing are good for that. I also like to read my RSS feeds. I have several apps for that. You can see my favorites in the photo above. I have all my Kindle books synced with the Tab, so I often read books on it. But I really prefer reading on the actual Kindle. No tablet will ever replace the Kindle. I’m not much of a TV or movie watcher but HD video looks great on this thing. I’ve been watching more Netfix and Amazon Prime movies. I’ve even delved into the realm of torrents. As you can see, this is pretty much a media consumption device. Other than taking a few screen capture shots, I really don’t use it to take pictures or movies. I might try it at some point, but for now I’ll just stick with what I’m presently doing. It works for me.


Is It a Degree or an Education That You Seek?

I originally posted this on the Glendale Community College blog, but I thought I’d share it here on my own blog.

It’s been a long time since I was in undergrad, so maybe I’m a little out of touch with the reality of today and today’s college students. Today is a technological world and times are tough. People work hard to make ends meet, and many people return to college seeking better opportunities and a chance to get ahead. Others rush to college to update outdated technology skills to better compete with the new net generation. In a competitive job market where the college educated and tech literate are winning the jobs over the less educated and tech savvy, I understand the rush back to college. I get that. But I’m not sure if all students understand why exactly they are here. When I ask my students why they are in college, I rarely here a response like, “I want to learn about space,” or “I’m really interested in improving my writing skills.” I know. Who says that? Everyone wants “to get a good job,” “make good money,” “get enough credits to get to ASU, NAU or U of A,” and “get a degree.” That’s great! Those are all worthy goals, but there’s something missing for me. Don’t students want to learn anything? Don’t they want to be educated?

Earning a degree doesn’t guarantee anyone anything. Trust me, in this economy I know plenty of degreed individuals seeking meaningful employment. These people have years of experience in the workforce and yet employment somehow escapes them. Maurice Johnson is homeless with 2 master’s degrees (VIDEO). Is earning a degree enough today? No, it’s probably not, but it is a good start. But that shouldn’t be the only goal. Along with that degree students have to learn the skills and knowledge necessary to compete with often better educated, better experienced, and more seasoned individuals who are now willing to take less pay just to have a job. The key to success for students today is knowing what skills employers are looking for. Degree? Check. Educated? Check. Skilled? Check.

So what does it mean to be educated? Here is a list of the top 3 skills employers are looking for and how students in college today can learn these skills. “The one skill most often sought by employers is the ability to communicate well – to listen, write, and speak effectively” (Barnes, 2009). It’s interesting to me how many students sit in the back of the room and don’t participate in class discussions unless called upon. What faculty are trying to teach students is that by participating in class discussions, students can practice those much needed communication skills. So speak up and show those teachers that listening and speaking effectively are important to you. Don’t hide in the back of the room. Come to class prepared and participate. That is part of the education we are trying to teach.

Another sought after skill is the ability to work with others in a professional manner while achieving a common goal. This skill has become increasingly important in today’s work environment, yet in the classroom before I can get the two words (group project) out of my mouth, there are groans from my students. Very few want to work in a group. The complaints are numerous. I tell my students they should be thankful if they end up with a “dud” in their group. Think of all the valuable experience one can gain in overcoming all the obstacles. Working with people is often going to be difficult in many different situations, including the work place, so learning how to deal with those difficulties and still accomplish the goal is valuable. Sometimes all it takes is someone stepping up and taking the lead even if it might mean taking on a bit more of the workload. Be that leader.

The last skill, not to imply there are not many more necessary, is “the ability to find solutions to problems using creativity, reasoning, past experiences, available information and resources.” Demonstrating good problem solving skills can indicate how well you will lead when you are put in charge. So all those excuses about why that essay didn’t get submitted on time only demonstrates to your professor that you lack problem solving skills or initiative to get started in a timely fashion. We’ll save the latter for another time. Instead of excuses, try solutions. Be creative. Faculty have even been known to learn something from students who have taken the initiative to solve problems in the classroom. And it’s much more pleasurable to listen to creative ideas than excuses all day.

The choice is yours. Are you just seeking a degree or do you really want to be educated, to learn what it takes to be successful in today’s world? What your teachers are trying to teach you in those college courses goes beyond the subject matter of the class, which is important. But being educated doesn’t mean just answering all the questions correctly on the test. Being educated is “a demonstrated ability to listen carefully, to think critically, to evaluate facts rigorously, to reason analytically, to imagine creatively, to articulate interesting questions, to explore alternative viewpoints, to maintain intellectual curiosity and to speak and write persuasively. If we add to that a reasonable familiarity with the treasures of history, literature, theater, music, dance and art that previous civilizations have delivered, we are getting to [sic] close to the meaning of educated” (Denning, 2011). And I’ll leave you with that.


Tech Question of the Week: Group Texting

Not a day goes by that someone isn’t asking me some kind of tech question. Often I just get these random text messages from students, friends or colleagues. This week’s tech question comes via random text. Because I use Google Voice, often the texter is unidentified, so my usual response to random anonymous texts is first, “Who is this?” What’s funny about this question asker is before I could text my usual response, she realized her anonymity and quickly sent another text identifying herself. It made me laugh, so I was eager to help.

So here’s the question:

Now, I’ve gotten this question before, so I knew that Google Voice only permits you to send text messages to 5 people at a time. I had originally hoped that I could create groups in GVoice and then send text messages to that group, but that is not the case. Bummer. Google should really consider this, as there aren’t many options out there for this feature.

My next thought was to suggest one of the many new group texting apps that hit the market this year, GroupMe and FastSociety being my two favorites. But the problem with “group texting” is that their sole purpose is to be a mechanism for groups to communicate with each other. In the case of Terry’s question, she simply wants to send a message to all of her students. She doesn’t want to create a conversation amongst them via texting. That could result in a lot of unwanted text messages going back and forth between 20+ students. She just wants one way distribution, and if students want to reply, they can only do so back to her, not the whole class.

In order to do this, I had to search the web for a good alternative to the existing text messaging program on her cell phone. Luckily Terry has a shiny new Android phone, so this will be an Android only solution, but I’m sure there are apps for the iPhone that do the same thing. After my search I was surprised to find that the program I already have installed on my HTC Thunderbolt does exactly what Terry needs, and I didn’t even know it. Yep, Go SMS Pro (Download from Android Market) lets you send text messages to groups of people in your address book. And the best part is it uses your existing groups that you have set up in your Gmail contacts. It basically does what Google Voice should do.

Go SMS Pro works well with your existing messaging program on your phone, and it has a much nicer look and feel. There are lots of add on and features (that I didn’t even know about) to help you improve your texting productivity. To make GO SMS Pro your default messaging program and avoid receiving two notifications when a message comes in, open your stock SMS or other SMS app in Settings, disable the Notifications, and in GO SMS Pro’s Settings and verify that the Notifications option is enabled.

Some other cool features that I’m just now learning about are scheduled messages: Allows you to set a future point in time, and then send a text to single or multiple contacts. A ring tone appears when sent successfully. This is a nice feature. This app is definitely worth giving a try even if you’re not interested in sending text messages to groups. You’ll like the look and feel, and you’ll be able to so so much more with texting.



Late Night Post

Posting from my Android phone tonight after a day full of emerging technology and department partying. A day full of colleagues and talking shop. Loved it. Good thing I get to do it again tomorrow. This is what is great about Maricopa.


Tips for Creating Audio for Multimedia Projects

I’ve been assigning multimedia projects for students for years, and I’m always pleasantly surprised with what my students give me. With absolutely no training, they have managed to present some pretty exciting projects that include audio, video, photos and various other types of media. They have used wikis, blogs, webpages, Google Sites and even Web 2.0 tools to display their masterpieces. And I’ve provided little to no training, just suggestions for tools to use. I’m rarely disappointed.
This semester, however, I thought I’d raise the bar a little and provide a little training in the form of short videos introducing a tool and briefly showing them how to use it. I’m curious to see if more students will choose to use the tools and thus produce even better multimedia projects. Well, we’ll see. Projects are due on Sunday. Below is one of the short videos I created for them to introduce using audio in their projects. I introduce Audacity, AudioPal, AudioBoo and iPadio.


Audacity is free, open source software for recording and editing sounds. It is available for Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux, and other operating systems.

More Audio Podcasting Tools

  • AudioBoo is a mobile & web platform that effortlessly allows you to record and upload audio for your students or the rest of the world to hear.
  • ipadio allows you to broadcast from any phone to the Internet live.  Phone blog, collect audio data, record and update the world, or simply let your mates know what you’re doing – ipadio is integrated with Social Media & Blogging platforms.
  • AudioPal: anyone with a personal website or blog can easily add audio to their site. Engage your visitors by creating an instantly interactive website using AudioPal. Just create your message and embed your flash audio player.


Digging in Diigo for Inspiration

It’s only the 2nd day of NaBloPoMo and I’m already having trouble finding inspiration for blog posts. To help give me some ideas on what to share with you, I decided to visit Diigo. This is where I stash anything that I find of interest that I hope to visit again soon. There is a ton of stuff in there, and I have to admit, I do more stashing than I do revisiting the content. Some day. Well, today is that day apparently.

As I sit here and reflect on my usage of Diigo as an archival service for my interests, I’m feeling that sharing with you about how I use it might be as beneficial as sharing what I have there. Let’s focus on the former. I switch over from Delicious to Diigo a couple of years ago after I saw what @rrodrigo was doing with it, and Delicious had just been bought out by Yahoo! I felt that my “brain” was being messed with, so I needed to switch to a safer place that wasn’t going to disappear on me. Diigo was the choice, mostly for the added features over what Delicious was offering.

I had started using social bookmarking in my ENG102 research paper writing class, and I desperately needed an easier way to group students together by class and have them engage with each other online over their shared research projects. This was cumbersome in Delicious, but proved to be a breeze in Diigo, as Diigo has Groups, and is set up for teachers to easily add students and organize them in these groups. I was in heaven after I discovered this. But the best features that really sold me on Diigo were the annotation tools. I love that my students can highlight sections of a web page and make notes. They can comment on pages that have been saved and “Like” links that have been saved. And we can even have a discussion forum right in the middle of it all. It’s truly awesome for shared research assignments.

My students love it because it’s easy to use. They have lots of tools to make Diigo easy to use. They include Bookmarklets and browser addons. Students were able to simple drag the Diigolet up to their Bookmarks Toolbar. And there are tons of mobile apps and Web Services. My favorite is Save to delicious, which automatically cross-posts to your delicious account. I couldn’t just abandon Delicious. We go way back.

I also use Diigo as part of my Personal Learning Network (PLN). I’ve subscribed to groups and even created a group for CyberSalonAZ. One group that I’ve found great resources in is Diigo In Education. Once you subscribe to a group, you can select to get daily updates on new content via email. It’s easy to keep up with the posts when they come to email. You can also choose to have no email or maybe a weekly update. You should all join our CyberSalonAZ Diigo group and start sharing. See below for joining and seeing what we’ve saved recently.


Diigo Image from


National Blog Posting Month

It’s National Blog Posting Month: meaning you commit to blogging daily for the month of November. I know not everyone can keep up with that hefty goal, but how about committing to one a week? It sure beats trying to do NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month.  No thank you on that one, although I know some of you have done this. Last year I did NaNoVloMo (Videos) and NaNoExeMo (Exercise) – Yes, I made the last one up, but I did do it.

Anyway, if anyone is interested in posting to their blogs for NaBloPoMo, REMEMBER to cross post to the CyberSalon blog. I think most of you are already set up for that. Just use the tag or category you set up. It might be fun to read about some of the cool things you all are doing. Come on. Don’t be shy. Let’s give CyberSalonAZ a little jolt of technology infusion blogging. It’s lonely over there.