Wednesday, November 20, 2013

LibX by Jen Holman

The LibX toolbar is an indispensable tool in any researcher’s toolkit.  If you haven’t yet heard of LibX, it’s an amazing grant-funded, open-source project from Annette Bailey (digital assets librarian) and Godmar Back (assistant professor in CS) of Virginia Tech University. Our LibX toolbar links you back to Murphy Library resources and librarians whether you are browsing books at, doing research in Google, or reading the New York Times online.
LibX Main Features:
  • Toolbar (quickly search the library catalog, Google Scholar, or FindIt! by title, author, keyword, etc.);
  • Context (right-click) menu (highlight text from any web page or PDF and right-click for a list of options);
  • Reload any page through the library's proxy server (EZProxy);
  • Access to our FindIt! services;
  • Embedded links (available on sites like, Wikipedia, etc.).

To illustrate the utility of this toolbar here’s a quick story: Sitting in a coffee shop in downtown La Crosse, you find a great JSTOR article through a Google search.  You know that Murphy Library licenses JSTOR content, but JSTOR is asking you to pay for content. With LibX installed, you simply right-click on the article web page, select “re-load page via EZProxy,” authenticate, and then read the article. In cases in which Murphy Library doesn’t have access, the toolbar will redirect users to the FindIt! menu from which they can easily and quickly request the article via ILLiad (interlibrary loan/document delivery service).
Want to see LibX in action?  Here’s a quick video showing the re-load feature with PubMed and Elsevier. More information and installation instructions are available at:

Submitted by Jen Holman, Murphy Library

Today's Meet by Jen Snook

A technology that I like is Today’s Meet - This is a free, web-based microblogging application (microblogging meaning that posts are limited to 140 characters) that is much like Twitter but requires no account creation or signing in. The real time microblogging space in Today's Meet is called a room and can be created by anyone and accessed by anyone who possesses the unique link to that room. Posts can be accompanied by a user name or posted anonymously. Rooms can be open from one hour to one month and at any time (during the time the room is open) a full transcript of activity in the room can be saved or printed.

Today’s Meet offers the ability to instantly create and post to a temporary and focused space. I have used this application to collect evaluative information from students about my course - taking advantage of the ability to post anonymously, as a backchannel during lectures where students are able to ask questions or make comments as I am speaking and as a low stakes classroom assessment tool collecting information about the “muddiest point” or concise summaries of main points of lectures and readings.

Submitted by Jen Snook, CATL

Podcasts by Grace Deason

Do your students ask for real-world examples and varied classroom activities? Do you sometimes suspect that your students have not completed the assigned reading? Podcasts are a fun way to bring course topics to life and promote student engagement. Especially at mid-semester, when students are burned out on reading textbooks, podcasts provide a refreshing alternative to the “usual” course activities.

A podcast is a type of digital media that can be downloaded or streamed online to a computer or mobile device. Some podcasts provide original content and others are archived episodes of radio programs. Some of my own favorites are Radiolab, which combines stories and science, and This American Life, which tells stories related to a central theme. You can even create your own podcasts to which your students can subscribe, or ask students to create podcasts of their own as a class assignment. To find existing podcasts relevant to your course: search Google or the iTunes store, listen to NPR and make a note of stories to look up later, and/or subscribe to podcasts yourself and listen regularly for relevant content. Once you’ve found an existing podcast you’d like to use, there are many ways you can incorporate it into your course. Here are some ideas:
  • Assign the podcast in place of a textbook reading
  • Design a short assignment for students to complete after listening
  • Play the podcast in class followed by a group discussion
  • Explicitly ask students to connect the podcast content to readings and lecture
In my experience, students find podcasts novel, approachable, and memorable. They help students understand concepts from class through vivid examples, and encourage them to apply course material to understand their daily life. If students become fans of an episodic podcast, it can be a source of lifelong learning. I created a GoogleDoc to keep an on-going list of podcasts that I can use to teach psychology. You can view the list HERE.

Submitted by Grace Deason, Psychology

Wednesday, October 16, 2013 by Melanie Healy

Ever have a hard time prying your students’ eyes off of their cell phones as class begins? A tool I like to use in my classes is Unlike some of the other free web-based polling tools available, there is no class size limit to this tool.

I’ve used this tool in a couple of ways. The first is as a “quick and dirty” method to engage students in the upcoming topic, or as check of base knowledge as the students enter class.

I send a bulk email to students five or ten minutes before the start of class with a link to the poll, along with the four number poll ID. A note on the overhead projector will prompt them to use the link and ID on their email to answer the questions via phone, laptop or other device. Students can complete the quick survey as they’re settling into their seats.

Students can then watch real-time results as others log in and complete the survey. As class begins, I project the results on the overhead, and talk briefly about each question.

The other way the tool might be used is as a midpoint or end-of-class check for understanding, or as a review of content from the previous lecture. This tool can also be used effectively as a prompt for a discussion question in an online course. is another good alternative for class sizes of 40 or less.

Try one of the mock polls that my students helped me with here. Poll ID is 1487:

Submitted by Melanie Healy, Exercise and Sports Science

Jing by Tim Gerber and Greg Wegner

Combining Science and Social Studies Methods classes lends power to teaching combined content topics in teacher education courses.  Our science/social studies methods teacher education candidates used topics from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) 2012 annual meeting theme:  “Flattening the World:  Building a Global Knowledge Society” ( to build interdisciplinary lesson plans.  Each lesson plan had a “technology in the classroom” component which required our teacher candidates to incorporate Jing into their plans. Jing is a screen and voice capturing software available on all lab computers and available free for download at this site:

Tim Gerber
To prepare students for working with Jing, we scheduled the first Jing session in a computer lab with a technology trainer from Academic Technology Services, in IT at UW-L.  This session was conducted to allow our teacher candidates to “play around” with the software.  The second Jing session was for our teacher candidates to work together on their connected lesson plans.  At the end of the semester, each student group presented their Science/Social Studies Integrated Curriculum lesson plans to the entire class including their Jing-based materials.  Among the environmentally-related lesson plan AAAS topics developed by the students were biodiversity, population, global health, agriculture, renewable energy, development, climate change, and economics.
Greg Wegner

Combining Science and Social Studies Methods classes was a valuable experience for our teacher candidates from both the integrated curriculum development and technology in the classroom perspective.

Submitted by Tim Gerber, Biology and Greg Wegner, History 

Zotero by Deb Hoskins

I use Zotero ( as my research note-taking system, and I teach students how to use it too. It mimics my old system that I learned in graduate school – separate bibliography cards and note cards with hand-written entries, sortable to an evolving outline, and filed in shoeboxes. Zotero functions within a web browser (Firefox, Chrome, or Safari), and there is now a stand-alone version as well. Because Zotero stores information in a cloud, I can have my work with me anywhere I go. Zotero captures a copy of any electronic source and generates a bibliography entry. Then I record my own notes on the sources. I can tag each note for quick searching, and generate citations that import easily from right inside Microsoft Word using any variety of citation styles. Students can collaborate very easily in Zotero simply by setting up a shared folder. This video explains the major features of Zotero Because our librarians are awesome, Jen Holman has developed an excellent library guide to help us and our students learn how to use Zotero ( Zotero also has a mobile application called ZotPad, designer for both iPhone and iPad (

Other developers have created a variety of enhancements, including apps for Apple and Android devises that allow you to view your Zotero library and attachments on a mobile devise, and/or apps or plugins to send a .pdf to an annotation/highlighting program (like Notability for iPad), where you can highlight and make comments on the .pdf, then send the .pdf back into Zotero, saving each highlight and annotation as a separate note.

No more shoeboxes.  And I don’t have to store my precious research notes in the freezer in a vain and paranoid attempt to protect them from fire.

Submitted by Deb Hoskins, CATL

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Pencasts: LiveScribe SmartPen by James Murray

A 'Pencast' is a video of someone writing on a notebook page, while narrating what they write. It is made with a special ballpoint pen, called a SmartPen and made by LiveScribe, that has a small video camera filming what happens at the tip and includes a microphone to record audio. Pencasts can be used to complement face-to-face lectures, be used in a "flipped classroom," or they can enhance an online class.

I create 3-5 minute Pencasts to supplement my classroom lectures. I focus on material that I would teach using a chalkboard in a face-to-face class. This material usually involves mathematical or graphical problem-solving techniques, and guiding students through worked-out problems. I also focus on some of the most difficult concepts from my classroom lectures, as usually my intent is not to have these replace class attendance. Students in my face-to-face classes have reported appreciating that they could return to my lecture to listen again to worked-out problems that were difficult to learn the first time.

There are some benefits to creating Pencasts instead of traditional videos. Pencasts are more interactive. Students can click anywhere on a page to jump to that part of the Pencast. My students report it is useful to easily jump ahead or move back to an important part of the video which they did not completely understand. The technology is also very easy to learn. Pencasts can be created as quickly as you can demonstrate something on a chalkboard, and they can be posted online instantly when using a Wifi SmartPen.

There are some drawbacks to creating Pencasts instead other types of videos. Video editing is not possible, so be prepared to publish Pencasts with an occasional mistake followed with quick a correction. Also do not make your Pencasts too long. In the event you make a significant mistake, you do not want to have done more work than you are prepared to redo. It is also not possible to include printed material or computer graphics in a Pencast. The entire content is what you can write by hand on a notebook page.

Those interested in viewing some examples from an economics course may visit my page, Pencasts for Introductory Macroeconomics.

Submitted by James Murray, Economics

Pocket by Nick Bakken

A useful tool that I use on a regular basis (both inside and outside of the classroom) is Pocket. Pocket (formerly Read it Later) is a free application that helps you manage, organize, and save a reading list of news articles, pictures, or videos online that you can come back to later. Pocket is particularly useful for when you come across an interesting article or web page that you don’t have time to read, or that would be useful for one of your classes. One feature that is particularly useful about Pocket is that is automatically syncs between your computer, tablet, or phone, allowing you to view the saved file at any time, from any device.

I regularly incorporate timely news and media sources into all of my classes as a means to help students apply the theoretical and conceptual material in the class to contemporary events. Pocket allows a user to save and manage these sources, categorize or label them based on your own preferences or needs, and quickly share the source using a variety of social media (email, Facebook, or Twitter). These features make Pocket useful for both face-to-face and online courses.

Pocket can be downloaded on your computer, or as an app on your Apple or Android device. You can access Pocket at or via the App store for your mobile devices.

Submitted by Nick Bakken, Sociology and Archaeology

Brainshark by Diana Tempski

A technological tool I really appreciate is Brainshark. Brainshark offers a free online service that allows you to enrich PowerPoints, PDF files and many other documents with your voice to create more dynamic and enriched course content that can be accessed anytime, anywhere. Once you create your Brainshark screencasts, you can share the link of what you create and track how many individuals view the content as well as the duration of their viewing time. The company’s website boasts that you can “build a Brainshark in 3 minutes.” In all honesty, it has taken me a few minutes more than that, but the website is very user-friendly which is why I love it most!

Brainshark’s cloud-based technology is actually designed for sales professionals and business people, but I believe its ease and simplicity of use makes it a perfect tool for higher education.

I have used Brainshark to create numerous screencasts of content for my online courses which I have also made available to my students in face-to-face courses. Students have repeatedly expressed their appreciation for this additional learning tool that I have made available to them.

Submitted by Diana Tempski, Finance