Notes on a minimal set of tools to handle one's office-on-the-computer and enhance teaching/learning interactions in a sustainable way
(last update Sept. 26, 2015)
Work towards an OHIO office -- Only Handle It Once.
Although there may be more sophisticated software available to undertake the tasks below, you need to consider whether you have $$, computer memory, teachers, or learning time to equip yourself to use it. Even more so, if you use software or systems in your teaching, it seems to me preferable to use something non-proprietary that your students can use when they are no longer students.
You are invited to work through these notes step by step, visit each website mentioned, search for a Windows equivalent if MAC software is cited, and record questions and make notes in the margins of a printout
Consistent organization for files
On the different computers you use and storage in the cloud have the same arrangement of folders (or directories) and folders within folders, etc. Save files within some folder, not left loose on the desktop. Transfer attachments from wherever they reside into the appropriate folder if you want to keep them.
- (My major subdivision is Bibliography, Correspondence and Workplace, Email, Papers, Proposals, Research, Website. Every five years I copy the arrangement into a new folder, e.g., Peter Taylor's files through 2015.)
After turning on computer and plugging in my flashdrive, update files that have been changed while working on other computers. On MACs use Synchronize! available from http://www.qdea.com/
. Synchronization requires consistent organization for files across the different computers you use (see above).
Synchronization onto your other computers and a flash drive is also a form of backup. At any time, you can have three copies of files -- at home, at work, and on the flash drive. You do not have time to deal with loss of files after the inevitable hard drive crash.
- (Some people use the cloud--DropBox or a google drive--to ensure synchronization [and to provide other people with customized access to folders], but I find it hard to keep consistent organization for files the way these services work.)
Backup to an external hard drive can be performed using the same synchronization software. Given the backup provided by synchronizing daily (see above), I backup at the end of the year--after cleaning out unneeded files.
I use Endnote to input the full citation for any new article or section of a book I am reading and likely to cite (including newspaper articles). Endnote creates bibliographies in any format I specify, with minor editing needed to brush up the result. I input my own two letter keyword codes to help retrieve relevant references. Endnote can be downloaded for a 30 day trial from http://www.endnote.com/
. I use diigo
to bookmark and tag other items from the web that I might want to return to.
More and more I use wikis created on http://www.wikispaces.umb.edu
where I would, in the past, have made a webpage. Wikis are, in effect, an easy-to-edit, non-flashy website. Wikis were hailed as a way to have "collaborative generation of knowledge," but I have found this to be just one -- indeed a minor one -- of the uses of wikis
. Uses include materials for and follow-up to presentations (e.g.,http://bit.ly/CTMay15
), to share up-to-date information with colleagues (e.g., background updates to prepare for meetings) and students (e.g., available office hours slots), and to make notes for myself (e.g., a to-do list). If the information has a longer shelf-life, I export it from the wiki to html, then upload it to my website.
I use Google+ hangout
for conference calls, both of which can bring in people by phone.
- (Hangouts allow free calls to phones in the USA, but skype allows international calls. I set up a payment system for skype that can be automatically recharged when it runs down. At 2c/minute, it's not a big deal.)
I use Audacity to record audio and Hangout on air
to record audio and visuals together. The recordings are made available on the relevant wikipage or via googledrive.
I use wordpress.com to compose short essays or think-pieces, then create a google+ post that introduces and points to the wordpress post. My wordpress posts are automatically forwarded to my twitter and facebook accounts, both of which are unusual in not being filled with personal posts. I use http://bit.ly
to generate shortlinks that can be shared.
Email is the most difficult aspect of online life, in part because of spam and solicitations, in part because one's inbox mixes so many different kinds of communication, in part because it distracts us from focused use of our time, and in part because people have woeful email etiquette. Take note of my guidelines for "Making time and taking the time" (http://wp.me/p1gwfa-F0
), and for our email-mediated interaction, E-etiquette
I check email, reply, and file into folders using Eudora (http://www.eudora.com/
). (As long as you can establish the POP or IMAP server address for your email service, you can use Eudora with any kind of email service. However, new operating systems do not accommodate ) With Eudora I download all my mail and get off line so I can read and reply to messages without the pressure of being on-line. For the same reason, I store my email on my own computer rather than leave mail on the server. (When I am away from my home computer, I use http://webmail.umb.edu
to access my new email. I can only access old email away from home when I carry it on my laptop.)
Lists of many users can be combined under one alias or nickname. Messages can be sent to many people using the Bcc (blind carbon copy) field, thus avoiding long headers before the message starts. Email messages and attachments can take up a lot of space so every new year I transfer the contents of my folders to a similarly named folder with the year as a prefix. Eudora allows me to search quickly for anything I have stored (back to 1992).