Archive for the ‘How to’ Category

A Recipe for Free Range Learning


On Saturday I spoke on the Live Stage at the Maker Faire in Detroit. The stage was in the Henry Ford Museum and it was the first time I have ever spoken under an airplane.

Description: Never has there been a time where information could be so freely found outside of formal education. It’s a time when you can learn just about anything you desire. However, it’s not enough to just have access to the information. To engage in learning (in or outside of education) you need to have the essential ingredients and a good recipe. What can you do today to enhance the effectiveness of free-range learning, and how will the DIY movement affect learning in the future?

This prezi has a fabulous new illustration by Mat Moore (the house of free-range learners/makers).

 

We did record a video, but I’ll warn you right now that while the audio is good, the video quality is not fantastic (the room was dark).

I only had about two weeks notice to come up with a presentation for this event, so this was quite a bit of work in a short time frame. Hope you enjoy it!

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How to replace a Screencast file without losing the URL


Occasionally I (gasp) find there is a mistake in one of my video lessons or that I’ve posted the wrong one in the virtual classroom.
At that point, I would normally have to upload the new file to screencast, get the new URL, go into the virtual classroom, and replace any and every URL to the file.
However, TechSmith has enlightened me on how I can do the entire process from Screencast.
Here’s a short video from TechSmith on how to do it (no sound … just visual).
And here are the steps:
1) Go to the uploaded file you want to replace. Use the “attachment” feature to upload the new file.

2) Click on the “swap” button to swap the original file with the attachment. Note that the “swap” button does not show up unless you have something to swap!

3) Delete the old file (which is now the “attachment”).
This way, all of your URL links to the file will remain valid. Given the number of URLs I might have to a single file (between my campus website, the TeachingCollegeMath site, this blog, my mind maps on mindomo, and my calculus classes), that’s something to be very happy about!

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Nudging Text in MathType


Here’s where I have to admit that I used MathType for YEARS before I learned this little tip. However, it’s one of those that I use all the time now that I have learned it.

Have you ever had mathematical text that just didn’t look right? You can actually “nudge” each character to a new position to get it exactly the way you want it to look. While that is helpful, you can also use nudging to overlay some text on top of other text – this can be used to create, among other things, number lines!


Now, I can certainly make beautiful number lines in other programs too, but when I need a quick & dirty number line, there’s no reason why I can’t use MathType to do it. Here’s a little video demo of the nudging technique and a “How to” on making a number line.

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How to Build Animations in PowerPoint


Since someone (thanks Sheila) asked how to do these animations in Power Point, I recorded one of the animations that I made last semester … while I was making it. of course, then I forgot about it, and never posted it because my queue of draft posts is so long. Today I thought I’d resurrect this one.

To view the final animated sequence (about deriving the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus), watch the short produced video clip here.

To view the “How to” video on how to make this animation sequence, watch the longer video here (about 13 minutes).

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Creating an Assignment in WebAssign


This feels like “WebAssign Week” here at the the technology blog, but I’m getting all my courses set up and it seems like a good way to pass along the information about the technology to anyone who might need it.

Also, I’m here in San Diego doing WebAssign demos this weekend, so it’s on my mind.

Here’s another video for instructors – how to create a new assignment. I can create an assignment in about 3 minutes, but the video runs a little longer so that I can explain the various features.

Creating an Assignment in WebAssign

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Animated Demo of Domain and Range Projections


I promised (long ago) to share some of the Action Button material that you can do in PowerPoint and I think the easiest way to convince you to try this out is to show you an example of what you can do.

If you’ve ever done programming in Visual Basic or Flash, the principles of action buttons should be pretty straightforward to you. The buttons essentially act as hyperlinks to other slides in your presentation. Thus, you can put an overview on the first slide, and then use action buttons to allow users to jump to specific topics of interest to them.


This is an interactive demo (read-only file) that I created using PowerPoint and Action Buttons in about an hour that shows visually how to find the domain and range from a graph using projections onto the x- and y-axes. Normally, this is a fairly difficult concept for students to visualize, and so I think the animation of this would really help to make the concept clear. Just a little warning, although the file seems to run perfectly on my computer, it begins to get glitchy once it’s on the web and I can’t figure out why. You may have to click more than once to activate some of the animations.

The inspiration to do this type of PowerPoint cam initially from Kenrick Mock’s blog post on Active Learning with PowerPoint. Also, a thanks to Bob Mathews for help with a little technical glitch I just couldn’t figure out!

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How to Make Pretty Graphs in PowerPoint


Excel graphs are easy to make, but don’t always suit the purpose on tests and handouts. In this case, we wanted to make a graph where students could easily read the points and draw a best-fit line and it needed to be publication quality. Here’s the original Excel graph.

I have included some tips on just modifying this graph in under two minutes to be possibly good enough to suit most purposes.

The video takes you all the way to making a “pretty” graph for publication, like this one:


Here’s the link to the video (it’s a fairly big video, so it may take a minute or two to start playing).

I should mention that I normally do not go through this much work every time I need a nice graphic. Start a file called “Nice Graphs” and keep adding to the file. It is much easier to edit an existing graph than start a new one. Often, you just need to change the scale and headings or change the line on the graph and it’s good to go. Very rarely do I have to start from scratch.

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How to use Pen Tools in Acrobat or PP


I’ve been playing with this inexpensive Wacom Bamboo tablet periphery this week to see what it can do ($79 on the Wacom website). It is definitely a viable “bulk” purchasing option if your college cannot afford tablet PCs for all instructors… few can.I will write a separate review of the Bamboo tablet, but I need to try a few more of its features first.

Here is how to use the pen tools for a few different software platforms. If you have no tablet, you can use these tools with the mouse, but hand-writing with a mouse is a bit of an art form.

If you have a tablet periphery (like the Bamboo tablet) or if you have a tablet PC it is much easier. I’m pretty sure this will not work with a digital pen & paper (like the Logitech io or the new LiveScribe). These are all short video demos:

  • Adobe Acrobat Standard
  • Power Point (Office 2003) – this demo includes a “how to” on turning an existing non-tablet PC into a SmartBoard type device using an auxiliary tablet and PowerPoint.

My Tablet PC has just arrived (Yay!), so I will demos from a tablet with Office 2007 on the blog when I get the computer up and running.

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How to Resize a Table in Word in ONE step


I had one of those “now I feel like an idiot” moments today when I discovered how to do something completely by accident. I always suspected that there might have been an easy way (in Word) to resize an entire table at once.

Old way:
1) Move right side of table.
2) Distribute columns evenly.
3) Move bottom of table.
4) Distribute rows evenly.

New way: Watch the video
(it can be done in ONE easy step)

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How to extract pages from large pdf files


Sometimes you get a large pdf file from someone, and you want to use just a few pages of it for a chunk of your online class or to send to a colleague. If you have Adobe Acrobat Standard ($90 with education pricing), you can extract just a few pages of the pdf and save it as a new file. Here’s a short demonstration of how to do it.

Click here to watch the video demonstration.

I post the group activities that come with my calculus book for the online students to work on and then they can collaborate on the discussion boards. Sometimes I use these materials as part of my videos too. Either way, it is convenient to have the smaller packaging.

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