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If you use any Google services, you've undoubtedly noted their new privacy policy, since they've been springing pop-up alerts to users over the past month or so.

How does it all boil down?

Sharon Vaknin offers a concise summary of the changes and why you might have cause for concern:
Five ways Google's unified privacy policy affects you

Download Conversation #13

Alexios Moore

A conversation with Alexios Moore of Xavier University of Louisiana on teaching, learning, and the future of this podcast.

In academia sometimes we tend to hunker down and settle within our institutions, and I think it's really important to initiate conversations with folks that are in other institutions that are dealing with some of the same issues that we all share, both within and without the classroom.

Links for this episode:

...continue reading "Conversation #13: Transition"

I recall as an undergrad I was advised, repeatedly, of a surefire formula for success in life: find what you liked to do, and then find a way to get paid for doing it. Did you get the same advice? Do you give this advice to your students? If so, you may want to consider this brief but worthy meditation by Oliver Segovia.

Like myself, today's twentysomethings were raised to find our dreams and follow them. But it's a different world. And as the jobless generation grows up, we realize the grand betrayal of the false idols of passion. This philosophy no longer works for us, or at most, feels incomplete. So what do we do? I propose a different frame of reference: Forget about finding your passion. Instead, focus on finding big problems.

Read the rest at the Harvard Business Review.

A funny thing happened on the web yesterday. Many of the most popular sites went dark, either blocking access to their content entirely or making symbolic gestures of protest. Visitors to Wikipedia were directed to contact their Congressional representatives about certain pending legislation, but Wikipedia's actual articles were unavailable. It was in fact the largest online protest in history. And it wasn't just online; people were marching in the streets in New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Seattle.

These stunts were designed to broaden awareness of SOPA and PIPA. Apparently, it worked. I was contacted by a couple of professors here at Xavier who wanted to know what it's all about. They were surprised when they couldn't access Wikipedia.

So, I thought I'd offer this brief primer. SOPA — That's the Student Oral Proficiency Assessment right?

Wrong. SOPA is actually the Stop Online Piracy Act. PIPA is the Protect Intellectual Property Act. SOPA is a bill in the House; PIPA's in the Senate. These measures have support from the entertainment industry but are generally opposed by the internet industry. Think of it as Hollywood versus Silicon Valley. However, this is not just a "Clash of the Titans." The consensus amongst advocates of free speech and the open internet is that SOPA/PIPA are highly problematic.

As writer Brian Barrett explains,

SOPA is an anti-piracy bill working its way through Congress that would grant content creators extraordinary power over the internet which would go almost comedically unchecked to the point of potentially creating an "Internet Blacklist" while exacting a huge cost from nearly every site you use daily and potentially disappearing your entire digital life while still managing to be both unnecessary and ineffective but stands a shockingly good chance of passing unless we do something about it.

That's the case against SOPA in a nutshell. Here's a short video that makes the same case:

For more facts, consider CNET's list of frequently asked questions.

See also: A typically strident statement from The Pirate Bay.

How do things stand after the protests of January 18? According to Forbes, SOPA is "unlikely to recover, at least in its present form." President Obama has all but indicated he'll use his veto power to stop the legislation. An alternative bill, OPEN, has been introduced in the House. Meanwhile, protests continue. With as much as has been invested in this legislation so far, you can bet the fight isn't over. Anyone who uses the internet should be concerned and stay informed.

The beginning of the semester is a good time to get started using Blackboard. Blackboard courses are automatically created using the course information in Banner approximately two weeks before the start of the semester. You can post your syllabus, course documents, and announcements to your Blackboard courses. You can also customize your course menu and/or add a course banner.

If you teach a course that is cross listed you will have a Blackboard course for each cross listing. You can combine the cross listed courses into one Blackboard course so that you can post course materials and grades to one combined Blackboard course. Combining courses may also work for you if you are teaching different sections of the same course and would like to have the different sections combined into one Blackboard course so that you can post course documents and grades in the one combined course. The beginning of the semester is the best time to combine your Blackboard courses before you add course material or grades to the courses.

Follow these steps to do it.
Here are links with instructions for

  • Merging courses [HTML]
  • Hiding old courses from view [HTML]
  • Getting started with the course environment [PDF]
  • Changing the display name for your course [HTML]
  • Adding a course banner [HTML]
  • Adding items to the course menu [PDF]
  • Posting announcements [HTML]
  • Copying content into another course [HTML]

Want more information?
Stop by one of the drop-in sessions for one-on-one help.
Explore Blackboard's On Demand Learning Center [HTML].
Visit the Blackboard FAQs for additional blackboard information
or email or call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418

Student access to courses is removed two weeks after the end of a semester. During this process all grade book records are deleted. You should download your gradebook to your local computer after you submit your final grades.

Follow these steps to do it.
In order to download (export) the gradebook for a course, you should:

  1. Goto the [Control Panel] for that course and click on the [Grade Center] link to expand it. Click on [Full Grade Center].
  2. Move your mouse over the [Work Offline] button on the menu bar and then click on the [Download] link.
  3. Under [Data] section, select the [Full Grade Center] option, under the [Options] section, select [Tab] as the delimiter type and [Yes] to include hidden information.
  4. In the [Save Location] section, choose [My Computer] and then click on the [Submit] button at the bottom of the page.
  5. On the next page click on the [Download] button. You should get a dialog box with a request to save the file. Save the file to a location where you can find it later. The file you saved can be opened with Microsoft Excel.

Want more information?
Step-by-step instructions are available [PDF].
Explore Blackboard's On Demand Learning Center [HTML].
Visit the Blackboard FAQs for additional blackboard information
or email or call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418

Smart Views let instructors create custom views of the Grade Center that only display the students and columns you choose. Smart Views let you create criteria that reflect student activity and achievement in your course. You can create Smart Views based on a variety of criteria, including categories, groups, performance, or a custom set of criteria that you choose.

Follow these steps to do it.
1. To create a Smart View click on [Grade Center] in the control panel to expand it, then click on [Full Grade Center].
2. Roll your mouse over the [Manage] menu and click on [Smart Views].
3. Click on the [Create Smart View] button.
4. Enter a name for your Smart View and setup the criteria for your Smart View.
5. Click [Submit] when you are done. Your new Smart View will be displayed on the Smart Views page.

You can add a Smart View to the control panel by clicking its corresponding star icon in the “Add as Favorite” column. You can view Smart Views from the Smart Views page or from the Grade Center by clicking on the [Filter] button and selecting the Smart View.

Want more information?
Creating Smart Views [Video].
Explore Blackboard's On Demand Learning Center [HTML].
Visit the Blackboard FAQs for additional blackboard information
or email or call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418

Tweet Shield

Scott Belsky has written an interesting article titled "What Happened to Downtime? The Extinction of Deep Thinking & Sacred Space."

We are depriving ourselves of every opportunity for disconnection. And our imaginations suffer the consequences.



The relevance to the Academy and the "life of the mind" should be clear. The themes Belsky raises resonate with the message of David Levy's stunning "No Time to Think: Reflections on Information Technology and Contemplative Scholarship." (See the video, read the paper.)

Belsky's article helpfully includes five potential mindsets and solutions to consider. Check it out.

Professors frequently copy information from Microsoft Word and paste it into Blackboard to save time when creating content in Blackboard. Often unnecessary Microsoft specific code is included when text is copied from Microsoft programs and pasted directly into Blackboard. This extra code may cause unforeseen results (e.g. browser instability, slow course load times, unexpected text formatting, random font size/style changes, students are abruptly exited from exams).

There is a new "Paste from Word" Mashup tool that allows you to paste the text you copied from a Microsoft Office program into Blackboard. The Paste from Word Mashup tool strips off the MS Office hidden proprietary code. You should use the Paste from Word Mashup tool when you are pasting text from Microsoft programs into Blackboard in order to minimize potential problems with Blackboard. You should suggest to your students that they also use the Paste from Word Mashup tool whenever they are pasting text from a MS Office program into the visual text box editor.

Follow these steps to do it.
1. Start by copying the desired text from Word.
2. In Blackboard, enter the item where you want to paste your information.
3. In the visual text box editor, click on the Add Mashup icon and select Paste from Word. The Paste from Word window will open.
4. Click on the Paste icon. Alternatively, you can press Ctrl + V on your keyboard (Mac users should press Command + V).
5. Your browser may block the paste from working. If this happens follow the prompts to allow access.
6. Once the pasted information is shown in the Paste from Word window, click on Submit. Your text will be pasted into the visual text box editor.

NOTE: The Paste from Word Mashup will not include any images that were in the copied information. Images should be inserted using the visual textbox editor’s Attach Image button.

Want more information?
Step-by-step instructions are available [PDF].
Explore Blackboard's On Demand Learning Center [HTML].
Visit the Blackboard FAQs for additional blackboard information
or email or call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418

The digital dropbox is not available in Blackboard Learn version 9.1. The digital dropbox was replaced with a more robust Assignment tool. The Assignment tool significantly improves file collection and exchange. Rather than having one large unorganized drop box, the Assignment Tool lets faculty create a secure location for students to submit work for each course assignment. Faculty use the Grade Center to monitor the submission process, to view and/or download submitted work, to compose and send confidential feedback to students, and to grade the assignment. Faculty can download all of a particular assignment’s student submitted files in a single zip file. In the download zip file, each student submitted file will be renamed automatically to include the assignment’s name, the student’s username, as well as the filename the student originally submitted.

Multiple options are available when creating an assignment:

  • Assignment Files - allows faculty to attach supplemental information
  • Assignment Availability - allows faculty to create assignments in advance
  • Date and Time Restrictions - allows faculty to decide when students can access the assignment
  • Individual or Group Assignments – allows faculty to choose who has access to assignment
  • Tracking Statistics - track the number of views and by whom

Want more information?
Getting Started with Assignments - instructors [PDF].
Submitting Assignments - students [Video].
Visit the Blackboard FAQs for additional blackboard information
or email or call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418