EDUC 373: Adolescent Literacy Wrapup

This week we had the final presentations for EDUC 373: Adolescent Literacy. In the class, area middle school students team up with Vassar students to develop digital storytelling projects. The students explore a number of multimedia formats, including but not limited to podcasts, PowerPoint, digital photography, digital stories and video. We had a really great sharing session as family members joined us to celebrate in their work.

You can view their projects here, thought it doesn’t really tell the full story. This was my fourth time helping Erin McCloskey with this class. This semester was a real high water mark for collaboration, attendance and productivity. The Vassar students spoke very articulately about how much they learned while working with their middle school partners. The students evinced great pride as they shared their blogs, videos, photography and stories. During the semester, I spend the workshop time helping different groups with one technical problem or another, so I don’t often get to know the students very well, but the relationships and personalities were on display yesterday afternoon as the students presented their various projects.

One of my favorites was the “Rainbow Food Review” where the participants tried eating unique food combinations simultaneously:

I was impressed with the variety and creativity of the media shared. Mya and Diamond discussed their fashion blogs along with their DIY makeup video. Tori and Simone created a short film based on the concept of an Alien Talk Show. Some students shared with writing, poetry and photography (sometimes all at once). Others presented slideshows summarizing their various projects.

Erin McCloskey discusses the class here, illustrating how the class benefits both the Vassar students and their literacy partners:

In my opinion, the underreported story here is how often Vassar students (Education students) are involved productively in partnerships with diverse community members. Many of the middle school students return year after year to participate in these digital storytelling workshops!

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GIS Tools for Teaching and Research

by Baynard Bailey

Anthropology Professor April Beisaw is a very active user of GIS (Geographic Information Systems) and other technologies in her research and in her classroom. ACS recently produced a video featuring Professor Beisaw employing mobile mapping devices in the field (devices she was able to purchase via the Frances D. Fergusson Technology Exploration Fund). Using the GPS mobile mapping device makes it easy to collect data that can then be imported/loaded into GIS to make nice maps. The video features April Beisaw using mobile mapping devices for field research.

Professor Beisaw continues to be a dynamic user and an advocate for using various GIS (Geographic Information Systems) technologies in her classroom. Last year she asked that QGIS be added to the base image for public computers on campus. I didn’t know about QGIS until April pointed it out to me. QGIS is a free and open source tool that empowers users to “create, edit, visualize, analyze and publish geospatial information”. It is also cross-platform, so that means you can use it on your Mac, Windows or Linux machine. (As an educator, I really appreciate it when software is free and cross platform!) Not too long ago, April gave a little demo in her office showing me and a couple Economics professors how to import maps into QGIS and how to get started creating your own customized maps. It seemed like a great tool for teaching and research, although there is a bit of a learning curve.

All of these maps were made with free QGIS:



I should also mention that Vassar has a GIS lab (using ArcGIS) in Ely Hall 114 and that GIS is available on the SciVis Lab machines. Vassar GIS users can also arrange a consultation with Stephanie LaRose, who is a GIS specialist that comes to campus a couple days a week. If faculty or students are interested in pursuing any of these technologies or resources and would like help, please contact Academic Computing Services by emailing acs@vassar.edu.

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Digital Storytelling – Autobiographies with Final Cut Pro

computer-eyeNot too long ago I posted about Final Cut Pro X being an awesome tool for students new to video editing. I was in a class yesterday where the students blew me away with their outstanding work, after just one hour’s worth of training. I was so excited, I wanted to share their work with you.

The Context: The past few years I’ve worked with Professor Erin McCloskey and her EDUC 373: Adolescent Literacy classes. During the course of the semester, Vassar students are paired with area middle- and high school students. They work together developing stories, podcasts, videos and multimedia. We’ve used WordPress blogs to host, document and present their work, to share with classmates and parents. For the Vassar students to introduce themselves to their middle-school partners (and to their VC peers), we asked them to produce 1 to 2-minute digital autobiographies.

The Workshop: Last week during class, I trained the students in FCP X, and this week they posted their stupendous digital autobiographies. I asked them during their presentations if they had ever edited videos before. Most had little to no experience with video. I wanted to share these videos as the assignment really played to the strengths of the students. These are highly personal and very charming.

 

Student Videos: Here are a few representative examples (but all of the stories were great in their own way):

I showed them how to make their autobiographies in FCP X, but a few students did some interesting things on their own. Logan made an animated movie using his laptop’s camera. Stephanie combined her love of photography and used the YouTube Editor and FCP X to make this video.

We had a great class yesterday (2nd in the semester) sharing these videos with each other. Next week the VC students will use their videos to introduce themselves to their middle- or high- school partners. Professor McCloskey led a dynamic follow-up discussion where she asked her students to reflect upon the difficulties they encountered creating their videos, and how that experience could possibly provide insight when they begin to work with their adolescent literacy partners.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Reflection: A Semester with FCP X – Video Editing with non-film students

fcpx2013Last summer the decision was made to use Final Cut Pro X as the supported video editing software for Vassar students. CIS deployed FCP X in the Film Department’s editing labs as well as in the Digital Media Zone in the library. To help us adapt to the switch from beloved FCP 7 to FCP X, we organized an on-campus workshop with Roberto Mighty. For two days Film faculty and CIS employees worked shoulder to shoulder, getting valuable hands-on experience with an interface that was new to most of us. There had been quite a controversy about Apple’s changes from FCP 7 to FCP X, and most of us were apprehensive about the switch. But after two days of excellent instruction, our general sense was that the FCP X could generally do anything FCP 7 did, and it did some things better. I was looking forward to using it with students.

Using FCP X for Digital Storytelling

Past years I’ve worked with French Faculty with students who were tasked with creating digital storybooks. (For more on the pedagogical goals of this project, I invite you to read Digital Storytelling in Intermediate French.) Early in the fall, I met with Tom Parker and Mark Andrews to discuss their classes’ projects. In small groups, the students compose and illustrate children’s storybooks in French, which they scan and narrate. Previously we’d uploaded the images to VoiceThread and done the recordings via their online Flash interface. Students were able to upload and record easily enough, but I found other aspects of VoiceThread lacking (editing, layering audio, search, embedding, restrictive licensing, to name a few). FCP might be harder to learn, but once learned, they would have total flexibility on how they created their projects and they would have a skill that might be used for another project or life after college. Tom and Mark were amenable to the idea so we tried it out.

I only had an hour with the students so it was a bit of a challenge to cover the essentials in such a short period. Luckily, their projects only required them to import their scanned storybook pages into FCP X, then record narration. We spent a fair amount of time doing practice narration. We touched briefly on titles, incorporating sounds and music, and exporting. Students that had brought scans of all of their storybook pages were able to get a significant amount of work done during the workshop. One of the classes was able to have a follow-up workshop where I was able to work with each group, advising and troubleshooting. This was extremely valuable and I wish we had been able to schedule this for both classes. Generally speaking, students adapted well to FCP X and were quite successful. I don’t think I would have been confident enough to use FCP 7 in the same way. Here is an example:

I liked how they were able to incorporate both their narration and some sound effects. The use of titles, music and end credits added a bit of polish too. I should add that most of the students I work with have little to no experience with video or sound editing.

America in the World Digital Narratives

Eve Dunbar and Carlos Alamos co-taught AMST 250: America in the World this past fall. For one of their major assignments, students could choose to write a paper, create a podcast, or a a digital narrative. I trained the entire class to edit audio, but a couple students were interested in using video for their digital narratives, so I met with them one-on-one. The students were able to start editing after an hour of training. Here’s an ambitious project that a student put together based on interviews she made using her phone:

FCP X FTW!

So for me and my work, FCP X has been a win. It is an easy to learn and very capable video editing platform. Students are able to get up and running with their video projects in a way that would have been too daunting to attempt in FCP 7. (One hurdle is that special formatting is required for projects on external drives to show up in FCP X.) Students do have the option to download a trial version of FCP X, which is often all they need to get through a project.

I’ve already got one class scheduled to use FCP X this semester: Candice Swift’s ANTH 245: The Ethnographer’s Craft is going to use FCP X to create digital enthnographies; they will use Final Cut to create voice-overs on top of stills and video. I am looking forward to this FCP X project and others like it this spring.

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Moodle Site Revamp in Three Easy Stages: Part 3 of 3

by Baynard Bailey

Elegant Moodle Site Design Part III

In Part I, we set the stage for redesigning our Moodle site by backing up our site and then clearing out unnecessary files. We also chose a design style for our course. In Part II, we employed Moodle “Web Pages” as a way to keep our instructional design elegant and efficient. Now, for Part III, we are going to complete our Moodle site revamp by fleshing out our course site, and building easy to use and understand links to activities and readings.

Order! Order!

A Messy Files Area Increases Cognitive Load for Faculty and Students

Building Simple and Effective Course Links

Before we build the links, it is important to remind ourselves of one of the peculiarities of Moodle. I’m not sure if this applies to all Moodle users, but it applies to Vassar’s current version – Moodle 1.9.16. If you have a file in the files area and there is a live link to the file from your course site, Moodle won’t let you delete the file. However, if you move the file, Moodle won’t automatically update the link with the file’s new location, so the link won’t work for students any more. There is no notification to the instructor that the link is broken. The best way to avoid this problem is to organize your files well before building the course links.

Instructors may choose to build links to every file, or they may choose to provide links to directories containing .pdfs and other course files. The choice depends mostly on the number of readings students access via Moodle. If you have a large number of .pdfs for the students to download, building a link to every file is tedious. It can also promote “Moodle Sprawl”, as every file linked to the front page increases the size of the page. Most professors would benefit from providing a link to a directory or directories containing readings and other files. This is a great strategy IF the professor has a consistent naming system for the files, as the file names will be the students only way of locating the readings.

Many computer systems alphabetize things differently than humans. For example,  in Moodle’s File Area, all capital letters come before all lower case letters. Hence, the letter ‘Z’ comes before the letter ‘a’. All numbers come before letters. Spaces and some symbols come before numbers and letters, other symbols follow letters and numbers. If you have ever looked at your Moodle files and been bewildered by how things are arranged, the  rules of alphabetization are probably to blame. To leverage computer alphabetization, employ a consistent file naming scheme, such as “lastname_of_author-article_title”. If you are capitalizing, make sure that you capitalize the first letter of each file. That way, when students go to find files in a directory with many articles, they will easily be able to find the readings by searching for the author’s name.

Links

Consistent File Naming in Action

Reduce Moodle Clutter: Prioritize Major Assignments and Activities

Major assignments should be highly visible at the beginning of the semester. Having fewer “clutter” items at the top level lends significance to activities and assignments that are displayed on the front page.

Forums are one of the most popular Moodle activities, but be careful to choose a forum / discussion board that suits your course. The “standard forum” in Moodle has the capacity a nigh-infinite number of questions, topics and responses. If you envision a lot of forum activity and a large number of topics during the semester, then the “standard forum” is the right choice (hint: you most likely need just one). However, if you are planning just a few activities that require  forum posts, consider the other forum types:

  • A “single simple discussion” keeps the class focused and responding to a single prompt.
  • “Each person posts one discussion” enables every student to post one topic, like a paper proposal, and everyone else can reply.
  • The “Q &A forum” is the an interesting pedagogical forum: each student must post their opinion or viewpoint before they are allowed to view their fellow students’ posts. If you are trying to prevent groupthink, this might the choice for you.

Finishing Touches

mountain range

A good banner image for a course will be panoramic in its aspect ratio (image courtesy of philflieger in Flickr).

If you haven’t already, be sure to add your contact information and office hours at the top. If you feel so inspired, create a banner (hint: something wide and not too tall, around 100 kb; large pictures punish users accessing via laptops, tablets and smartphones). When uploading the syllabus, apply a naming convention to help keep track of versions. (Hint: use numbers or letters, as having a syllabus titled “final-final-final version” is confusing.) Once you have your readings, major assignments, and activities in place, your Moodle site is ready to go. Hopefully these posts will help you revamp your site. An elegantly designed Moodle site, one that increases functionality and is easy to use, will benefit students and faculty alike.

As a postlude to my Moodle Design series, I’ll be adding an article highlighting some really great but oft-overlooked features in Moodle.

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Moodle Site Revamp in Three Easy Stages: Part 2 of 3 – Elegant Design Architecture

Building Elegant Instructional Design Architecture with Moodle Web Pages

by Baynard Bailey

In Part I of this series, I focused on the preliminary stages of revamping a Moodle site. The major steps included backing up your materials, culling unnecessary files, and choosing a course design that fits your teaching style (for most that means choosing a ‘topical’ or ‘weekly’ format). In this post, I hope to provide some tips to empower your Moodle site to enhance student understanding of the overall  arc and flow of the course.

Many of the Moodle sites I see suffer from ‘sprawl’ or ‘bloat’. The site starts out fine, but by the end of the semester, especially for courses that meet more than once a week, the length of the front page stretches on for screen after screen. Scrolling to the bottom of the page (the current week) can take a minute or more, and sifting through past weeks’ materials and activities is tedious. Why put up with this, when you can have an elegantly designed Moodle site that better reflects the structure and scope of your curriculum? Consider putting topics, class meetings or weeks into their own “web pages” within Moodle. The resulting front page of your Moodle site will be an elegant summary of the major topics of your course, easily navigable, and an aid to learning.

Compose a Web Page Screen Shot

Creating web pages makes elegant Moodle site design easy.

It is easy to overlook  the “Compose a web page” resource tool, especially when one is first using Moodle. But if you are revamping a course, this resource choice is worth serious consideration. Composing Moodle web pages provides instructors ample room to provide detailed directions for class activities without adding unnecessary sprawl to the front page of your course site. I will use some examples from a recent consult I had with Molly Shanley.

Molly wanted to meet because she had taught a course Poli Sci 278 before, using Blackboard. She was now getting ready to build her site in Moodle and wanted tips for building sites for Moodle courses that met biweekly. She had a syllabus that was 90% complete. I decided I would try and sell her on the idea of using Moodle web pages to help structure her course.

We built a few of the first class meetings with a web page for each meeting. This really reduced front page sprawl, especially in regards to the some of the early class meetings, which contained comprehensive directions and details. We discussed how this approach allowed the main topics of the course to stay afloat at the top level of the site, becoming a sort of topical outline for the semester. Students would be able to easily discern the arc of the course, and to place the topic for each class within that arc. At the same time, the full details for readings and assignments could be accessed quickly and easily. We were happy with the results so we copied and pasted the syllabus outline and fleshed out the bulk of the course.

Outline for Part of the Course

Each Class Becomes a "Branch" of the Course Outline (Draft Syllabus)

Here’s a sample “Moodle Web Page”, found by clicking on the corresponding link from the outline above:

Sample course meeting

Copying and Pasting Yielded Excellent Results

Since Molly had a well developed syllabus, it was a straightforward mechanical process to paste the details into a corresponding structure in her Moodle site. The front page of her Moodle site became an outline of the entire course. Each class meetings’ corresponding web page will contain detailed information about readings, activities and assignments. Building the design of your course into a corresponding visual and textual pattern in Moodle is excellent instructional design, facilitating the learning and teaching process.

Look forward to Part III where we’ll complete the Moodle site revamping process.

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Moodle Site Revamp in Three Easy Stages: Part 1 of 3

by Baynard Bailey

Moodle sites are living breathing documents that evolve as the semester progresses. When push comes to shove during the semester’s crunch, one thing shoved is often an effective course site design. Thankfully, the semester ends and the mess goes away. But when it comes time to teach that course again, it is a good opportunity to revamp that course site. What to do first? Where to start? I hope to walk readers through some of the major steps and processes that will facilitate an effective instructional re-design of a course site.

Currently at Vassar, we are working with Moodle version 1.9.7 so my instructions are tailored to that, but I hope that some of the broader strategies could be applied to any Learning Management System.

In order to provide the best advice possible, I decided I would actually help revamp a site. I reached out to my friend and colleague Karen Robertson and offered to assist her in redesigning her Moodle site for Women’s Studies 240: Constructing Gender. The site was a good candidate for revamping. Prior to last year, it had been team-taught, so Karen had inherited the site and had yet to really “move in”. Last spring’s site contained a wealth of great materials, but the organization could be altered to improve the presentation. Karen warmly received my idea and so we met last week.

Mini Zen Garden

Good Instructional Design Reduces Cognitive Load

I had the goal to design a neat site with a clean and uncluttered look and feel (and then to share the strategies employed in our ACS blog). Karen and I discussed why it was important to keep an uncluttered appearance to the front page of the Moodle site. She reminded me that our goal was to develop a clear and easy to use site in order to reduce labor and cognitive load.

Step 1: Back up your old materials.

Before we began, we backed up the old site. Additionally, we printed out a copy of the main page so we could have a visual map of the old site. We also printed out lists of readings in the file areas so Karen could go through them on her own.

Step 2: Take stock of your current materials. Delete duplicates and unnecessary items (first pass).

We went through the site week by week, deleting unused assignments and various items that had been used in the past but were unnecessary now. Bear in mind, we didn’t go through all of her readings, we just deleted the “low hanging fruit”.

Step 3: Choose a style of course design that fits your teaching style

This is a big step. Karen and I discussed the pros and cons of topics versus weeks (these are the two most commonly used settings in Moodle). Topics are great in that users can choose to have as many or as few topics as fit their curriculum. Weeks are useful in that the dates are auto-created and visually correspond right away to the semester’s calendar.  Karen pointed out that some topics are much longer than others, and that weeks often bridge topics. She emphasized the importance of making it absolutely clear to students what was expected each class.

On my end, I wanted to avoid Moodle “sprawl”. Every time you add a topic or a week, it adds a space to a course site. Sometimes faculty use the “Topics” setting, and then create a topic for each time the class meets or just about any other reason. To make matters worse, faculty often include extensive directions in labels right there on the front page of the site. The end result is a Moodle site that is about ten feet long, difficult to navigate, and a hindrance for faculty and students alike. To avoid “sprawl”, I showed Karen how we could put in extensive and precise directions as a “web page” resource for each topic. Since the directions were web pages, we could even include links to readings, assignments, activities, or anything else we had in Moodle.

Generally, faculty have an excellent sense of the arc of a course and a strong understanding of the intended learning goals for the semester. How well those concepts are communicated in Moodle is a mixture of teaching style and sometimes fluency with Moodle. I wanted to provide Karen a tool that would allow her to describe the arc of the course in a glance, but also allow flexibility and specificity in terms of readings and class activities as the semester evolved. The end result was a compromise between “topics” and “weeks”; we would use the “topics” setting, but provide specific directions and links for each class meeting.

I thought we were done there, as determining the arc of the course would require some deep thinking, but luckily, Karen had already done the deep thinking and quickly summed up the major topics of the course:

  • Feminism and Pop Culture
  • Secret Life of Commodities
  • Visual Pleasure: Hollywood and the Gaze
  • The Romantic Industrial Complex
  • Postermaking

Our next steps would include organizing the files area to best fit the instructional design. As part of our conversation, we had made a prototype topic for the first few classes.

Topic Prototype

Our Topic "Prototype" Keeps the Main Page Simple

I offered to continue to make placeholders for the rest of course. Karen would review the reading list in preparation for our next meeting. It had been a really productive consult with good feelings on both sides. I looked forward to our next meeting.

To be continued…

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Don’t Assume Too Much: Teaching the ‘Digital Natives’

by Baynard Bailey

In Academic Computing Services, we supervise a number of students that are truly experts in multimedia production in a variety of forms. They continually wow us with their outstanding project work. The students create remarkable multimedia in a variety of forms (video, web sites, sound projects etc.). Based on these wonderful projects, it would be easy for us to believe that all college students possess this remarkable level of digital fluency. Faculty that have also been ‘wowed’ by student digital projects could be lured to into making this assumption as well.

According to the British Journal of Education Technology article, The ‘digital natives’ debate: A critical review of the evidence, despite students’ nearly 100% fluency in email, word processing and web surfing, “only a minority of the (students 21%) were engaged in creating their own content and multimedia for the Web, and that a significant proportion of students had lower level skills than might be expected of digital natives.” My experience working with Vassar students confirms this conclusion. Despite being very facile with computers, most students need guidance and support when it gets to the nitty-gritty of multimedia production, whether it is video editing or posting to WordPress.

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

Alex Levy's ability to create beautiful video is the exception, not the norm.

If an assignment for class requires students to create some kind of media that isn’t a standard part of the course (like a podcast, movie, poster, website or digital story), arrange for mandatory skills training for the students. I’ve witnessed the best results when the workshops are scheduled as part of class time. In a pinch, arrangements can be made for something outside of class, though I’d encourage making it required. My experience is that if something is optional for students, they will opt not to come (and regret it later). In general, the students  have a tendency to overestimate their own digital production abilities, and then find themselves ‘stuck’ later on (e.g. two weeks after the workshop) when support is not available. At the very least, students should be put in contact with someone who can provide one-on-one help. Providing skill training as part of the curriculum will empower all students to have their best chances for success.

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10 Tips to get the most out of your class blog

by Baynard Bailey

Last week was jam-packed as I provided workshops for seven different Vassar classes, introducing multimedia technologies for different projects. Five of those classes’ projects were using WordPress. It made me think— Some of these class blogs will flourish and some will wither and die. Why? What makes the difference? Here are some old-school tips to get the most out of your class’s WordPress site.

Faculty Investment:

1. Discuss expectations

When beginning to use WordPress, have a discussion with your students outlining your learning goals for the site. Provide clear guidelines and timelines for posting content. Discuss how you will grade their WordPress-published work. If the site is going to be public, have a talk about appropriate content and confidentiality. WordPress knowledge unfolds over time, so you may  want to let them know that it is a work in progress and that you look forward to their input on how to best incorporate the site into the work of the class.

2. Contribute content

Make your own contributions to the site in terms of page or post content. Modeling is an extremely influential teaching tool and I fear too often neglected, especially when it comes to technology.

3. Grade

It’s blunt, but effective. Assign an appropriate percentage of the class grade to reflect writing published on the WordPress site. Keep in mind that writing can be in the form of page content, posts and comments.

Promoting High-Quality Dynamic Online Discussion (AKA Scripting Spontaneity)

4. Vary “posting” with “commenting”

If every student is posting critical responses to the weekly reading assignments, who is left to read the blog? Mix it up a little bit. For larger classes, half can post one week, and then read and provide comments the next. You could try having one student being responsible for an excellent post, and then the entire class reads and responds.

5. Write your prompts carefully

A little extra time spent on crafting a great prompt can make for more meaningful responses, or varied responses. No one wants to read thirty responses all saying the same thing.

6. Participate

Project a presence into to your class’s blog by making comments to posts. Paraphrase and/or cite the best ideas in the classroom itself. Some faculty like to make printouts ahead of class and cite them during discussion. I think this is a fantastic technique. Students will get the message very quickly that their intellectual work published to WordPress is valuable.

7. Share with the world

Students will generally write better content when they are writing for a broader audience (campus, friends, family, the world etc.). Set your privacy settings to provide access to everyone and to be “Google-able”. (Hint: Be sure to discuss this with the students.) Invite participation from beyond the campus through guest posts or comments. (Turn commenting on). Recognize student efforts that result in community interaction.

laptop

Site Design

8. Consult with your ACS liaison

WordPress is customizable and extensible. Make sure it is working the way you want it to by contacting your ACS liaison. We can help you make your instructional technology dreams come true.

9. Recruit a student to administer your site

Ask your class if there’s someone with experience running their own blog. Chances are, there is. If you have a good relationship with that student, recruit them to help you administer the site. ACS is happy to provide training for students and research assistants.

10. Make your site user-friendly

Can on- and off-campus users find the content that is being published to your site? Imagine you’ve never been to the site. Does it make sense? Be sure to include widgets that make your site easy to use. Add a button so users can follow your blog with email subscriptions or an RSS reader. Include a link to the dashboard so blog contributers can log in easily. Add the Search widget to make your site search-able. Spend some time working on menus and structure so your site is easy to navigate.

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Best Free Software for Vassar Faculty (& Others)

by Baynard Bailey

Recently, Pete Naegele shared via a NITLE mailing list an article titled “101 Free Alternatives to Commonly Used Paid Software“. I thought people might not have time to review all 101, so I’m cherry picking those I find most suitable for Vassar faculty. (Note: I’m also only picking things that are options for Windows AND OSX users.)

Email/Communications

Google Mail

Google mail syncs with practically every email system out there. It’s a great client. It can handle multiple accounts and will automatically reply with the email account you pick. The Google search-ability and portability is unmatched. A Gmail account also opens the door for a whole host of applications they offer (Google Docs, Google Calendar, YouTube, Google Reader, the list goes on….) They’ve just released a new priority In Box feature that helps you deal with get control of your In box. Amazing! If you don’t have a Google account already, what are you waiting for?

Thunderbird

Thunderbird is a cross-platform open-source mail client that works great. It even comes on Linux.

Office Programs

Google Docs (as an alternative to Microsoft Office)

Google Docs has the core programs of Micros, such as word processing, spreadsheets and calendars, and not only is it free, but it can be accessed anywhere thanks to cloud computing. You can also edit documents simultaneously with collaborators and/or publish to the internet. The online form enables you to collect data via email or websites, with instantly graphed results. Stop emailing documents to yourself and join us in the clouds.

OpenOffice (as an alternative to Microsoft Office)

As an open source office suite, Open Office allows for the utilization of the best office programs online such as word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics and databases. User contributions can be made to the project, which means that it is constantly growing and evolving.

Dropbox

An easy and efficient way to store, share and sync your files, Dropbox is a cloud service that allows users to access their files anywhere in the world. Very popular!

Website and Application Building

WordPress icon

WordPress

WordPress is a simple and easy way to publish to the Internet. It can handle simple static sites or more complex sites. Faculty and students working with faculty can request a WordPress site hosted by Vassar here. Training and support available from ACS.

Firefox

Free and open source web browser, customizable with tons of great add-ons. Empower your browsing!

Graphics / Photo Editing

GIMP (as an alternative to Adobe Photoshop)

Also known as the GNU Image Manipulation Program, GIMP allows for easy image composition, retouching and photo authoring. It also works on all operating systems. It does just about everything you need in Photoshop.

Flickr (online image collection and management)

Flickr is a great way to store photos and to share photos. It also comes with a whole suite of plug-ins and functionality. If you like to take digital pictures, you’ll instantly like and later fall deeply in love with Flickr. The free one is great and the professional upgrade (with unlimited storage!) is only $25.00 a year. It was developed by a Vassar grad! If you need uncopyrighted images, remember to visit the Flickr Creative Commons.

Audio & Video

VLC (video player and light video editor)

A player that is capable of playing almost every file and media codec, the VLC player means that you don’t have to open and close different programs to run DVDs, VCDs, CDs, web streams and other forms of media. Especially great at creating screenshots from DVDs or videos.

Audacity (sound editing)

Audacity allows for easy recording and editing of sound files, as well as the conversion of tapes and other media formats.

iTunes and iTunes U

Not everyone can go to college, but everyone who has a computer can access iTunes U. Filled with subscribe-able podcasts and video podcasts on every subject imaginable. The media can be played on phones, computers, .mp3 players, or i-anything. If you are interested in developing content for Vassar’s iTunes U, please email me (babailey [@] vassar.edu).

Skype

"The fabulous voice system able to put your family together.” Designed by advertising agency Moma"

"Skype: the fabulous voice system able to put your family together.” Ad designed by advertising agency Moma

Voip (voice over IP) service to make free computer to computer calls, or cheap computer to phone calls. Very popular amongst those who like to make calls overseas.

Hulu

Hulu is a front runner of online video services. Their tagline is “watch your favorites, anytime, for free.” If you missed that last week’s episode of “The Office” and don’t have a DVR, this is the site for you. They have a bevvy of free content or you can pay a modest fee for upgraded services. Embed their player right in your Moodle site!

Handbrake

Great program for ripping clips off DVDs. See my post on Good News for Clip Rippers. Learn how to use Handbrake here.

Also available for Windows.

Let us know if you (at Vassar) need help with any of these programs!

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