Saturday, January 17, 2009

tt4t_071 Another new semester, get organized

It’s Saturday, January 17th, 2009 and welcome to episode 71 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. This past week was the first full week of the new semester and students of EIU descended upon the ITC in mass. The new computers just installed in the lab all worked flawlessly and our students are now enjoying the updated technology.

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We did install both Office 2007 and Office 2003 with the newer version being the default. Many students were already using Office 2007 and those that have not seemed to adjust rather easily to the new ribbon interface of Office 2007. For those that did need a little extra help my student workers in the ITC were able to assist with basic questions.

Since this is the beginning of a new semester let me share a couple of tips in setting up your electronic file system to get organized whether you are a faculty member or student. I previously have shared in a prior episode of TechTalk4Teachers that I create a new folder on my computer at the beginning of every academic year that I label with the letters ay and then the academic year, for example this year I created a folder called ay20082009.

This helps me in a couple of ways. First since the folder name starts with the letter A it is always at the top of my folder list when I view files using My Computer in windows explorer. Secondly the academic year is clearly identified and this helps me with managing archives of past academic years and helps make it easy to find things I may need to retrieve in the future.

The other thing that I do at the start of each new semester is create a folder for each course that I teach named with the course number, section number, and semester. Anything related to this course is saved in this folder. For example I am currently teaching EDU2022 Section 8 so I created a folder called EDU2022_008_SP2009. I save all information related to this course in this folder so I can easily find it in the future. It also makes it very easy for me to make backup copies of this information. It is easy to copy this folder and the information contained within it to a flash drive that I can take with me to the classroom computer where I teach. This makes it easy to share assignments and resources located in this folder from the flash drive.

The final benefit of this system that I have used over the years is that I have files and folders organized chronologically that are easily referenced if I ever need to refer back to a previous year, which I often do.

It also helps with my backup process because once an academic year is over I can burn an archive DVD with the entire years content. Once the old information is archived I leave it on my computer but I do not have to make regular backups of the old information, I can concentrate my backup strategy only on the files in the current academic year that change regularly.

For very large files like audio and video files I generally save large files and folders outside the academic year folder system and backup those folders as needed. This keeps my backup process streamlined and fast. When I switched computers last summer this system made it painless to copy work-related files and folders to the new computer and I was productive right away not missing a beat.

I encourage students to setup a similar system and save all course related information in the appropriate labeled folders. If you do so you will have an archive of all your work you do here at EIU as you progress through your coursework. This can be very helpful when you graduate and need to find examples of your work to share with future employers. This also encourages you to make backups because it is easy and fast. Remember to always have your data in two places for backup purposes.

Technology Pick of the Week

Since everyone wants to get off to a great start this semester My Technology Pick of the Week this week is a website called Study Stack that offers great study resources for a variety of subjects and levels. The tagline for this website is “Study tools for hungry learners”.

Study Stack

I went to the Math section of Study Stack and the website listed flashcards, study stacks, study tables, crosswords, word searches, matching, and a hangman game all related to Math content by topic and level. The site listed math subjects from the elementary level of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division up through algebra, geometry, and calculus.

The Study Stack website does contain quite a bit of advertising but if you can get past the advertisers the site offers tons of resources that can help you and your students with studying or reviewing material.

One interesting benefit of the study stacks is that you can discard study stack cards as you study through them. For example, I went to the Geography section and selected the 50 States/Capitals category then selected the Study Stack option at the bottom of the page. You are presented with a flash card that is divided in half, on the top half the state and on the bottom half the capital but this information is concealed until you click on it. You simple reveal the state and then the capital by clicking, if you were correct with your answer you can discard the flash card and go on to the next or keep it so it will be presented to you again. What this does is get rid of the information you already know and therefore you can concentrate on the information you are having trouble remembering.

Since many of the activities are interactive and based upon Java there is also the potential to use selected study stacks and other activities in the classroom with a Smart Board to get students to interact with the content in class. Study Stacks can help you provide lots of practice and repetition to reinforce the learning for your students. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

That wraps it up for episode 71 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you have a comment of suggestion please send an email to or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.

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