Skip to content

Are you overwhelmed by your email inbox? Email overwhelms and irritates most of us. Part of the problem is that most of us were never given any training on email. We were just given an email address and no instructions.

email inbox with 6763 new messages

Joanna Stern, of the WSJ, created a short video with 10 time-saving tips to help you master your Gmail inbox. Her video shows you keyboard shortcuts to increase your efficiency, hidden features and tips to turn you into a Gmail ninja.

Note: How you get to your Gmail settings has changed since this video was recorded. Follow these instructions to change to your Gmail settings. Additionally, tip #3 and #5 in the video refer to a “Labs” tab in the Gmail Settings. The “Labs” tab has been replaced with the “Advanced” tab. Canned Responses are now called Templates. The settings for the Preview Pane were moved to the “Inbox” tab in the Gmail Settings.

Do you want to get to inbox zero? Read this What Is Inbox Zero, and How Can You Achieve It? blog post by Rob Woodgate.

If you are looking for more ways to boost your productivity, check out my Keyboard Shortcuts and Type with Your Voice blog posts.

Image credit: image by gabrielle_cc from Pixabay

Computer stress
Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Wow, we spend a lot of time on Zoom these days— for classes, office hours, workshops, committee meetings, and even happy hours! Zoom has been both a God-send and a time-suck. It is pretty user-friendly, and has allowed us in CAT+FD to keep offering events while also allowing me to stay in (better) touch with my siblings.

But after a long day of multiple Zoom meetings, I find myself worn out in a special way. My back hurts, my eyes are tired, and my ears are sore from my fancy Bluetooth headset. The Stanford University Virtual Human Interaction Lab recently studied “Zoom fatigue” and found four roots causes. Spoiler alert: they include having extended up-close eye contact, seeing ourselves on video all day, being stuck in front of our computer cameras, and requiring an increased cognitive load.

Check out this article which includes some simple fixes for each root cause (for example, reduce the screen size for Zoom, hide your own video). The article also includes the 15-item Zoom Fatigue and Exhaustion Scale that you could take to identify how videoconferencing is affecting you.

Have any tips that have helped you combat Zoom fatigue? Please share them!

 

2

Mardi Gras in New Orleans wasn't much fun this year, what with the pandemic and the subfreezing temperatures. But take heart, friends! A certain carnivalesque spirit pervades the CAT+FD Camtasia studio. Here's our own Bart Everson with a short and silly showcase of the software's capabilities.

What's the point? We just hope to get you thinking about possibilities. Remember, all Xavier faculty have access to Camtasia via site license. (Get yours now.) You may not want to use all of the effects deployed in this demo. In fact, you may not want to use any. When it comes to video production, less is usually more. We just want you to be aware of the possibilities.

1

Sharing your screen in Zoom meetings is an essential skill. But do you know how to get the most out of screen sharing while presenting with Zoom? In this 7 Zoom Screen Share Tips Every User Should Know (video), Scott Friesen shows you his favorite tips and tricks from sharing videos to polling your participants. Get ready to become the master of sharing via Zoom meetings!

Also, we have Zoom how-to resources on our CAT FooD blog. You can find links for the Zoom how-to resources here:

NOTE: You should update your Zoom to the most recent version to be sure you have all the current security settings.

file folder with documents inside

Are you still sharing files via email? An article by Lauren Suggett suggests three reasons why you should stop sharing documents via email. Her reasons are:

  • Nothing is trackable
  • Accessibility is limited
  • Email inboxes can be black holes

As you may know, Xavier adopted G Suite (formerly Google Apps). This means everyone has an account that allows them to store files in their Google Drive. Instead of emailing files back and forth, you can share files in your Google Drive. For more information on Xavier’s adoption of G Suite and how to share files using Google Drive, read Bart Everson’s Drive Right In blog post.

Additionally, Google Apps can be integrated into Brightspace. ICYMI, read my Google Apps Integration blog post.

Image credit: image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

young woman staring at a computer screen with a look of frustration on her face

In an Edsurge article by Jenny Abamu, she notes that one of the biggest misconceptions following Millennials is that they are digital natives. Students at a New Media Consortium Summer Conference (NMC) pushed back on the generational generalizations, noting that assumptions regarding their attitudes, hobbies, and abilities are hurting them academically.

I did not know how to use headers, footers or page number in Microsoft Word, so I got five points off every essay for an entire semester. - Alyssa Foley, Student

Jenny goes on to say that Alexandra Pickett, the Director of New York State University’s Center for Online Teaching Excellence, noted that many of her students know how to use online platforms such as Twitter and Facebook for fun, but have no idea how to leverage them for academic and professional use. This is a point the students at NMC echoed.

The students said that in order for their educational institutions to better serve them, it is important to challenge the assumption that students are digital natives.

While the EdSurge article's results were from surveying Millenials, anecdotal evidence shows that the same holds true for Gen Z students. That is, Gen Z is savvy about using social media personally. However, they are not as savvy about how to use tech tools academically or professionally.

Instructors can help students learn the basics for the tools that will be used in their course by providing them links to how-to resources.

Did you know that we have a list of Brightspace how-to resources for students on our CAT FooD blog? You can find the Brightspace how-to’s and other help resources at the following links:

Brightspace help for students
Brightspace video tutorials for students
Help students get started with Google Docs (video)
How to add headers and footers in Microsoft Word (video)
Using Google Drive Video Playlist
Using Google Docs Video Playlist
Using Gmail Video Playlist

Here's an example of how you might include how-to instructions for a discussion forum in your Brightspace course:

example of a Q&A discussion forum
Example of Q&A discussion forum with instructions on how to post to the forum

In this example, instructions for the Q&A forum are provided along with instructions on how to post to the forum as well as a link to a how-to video.

Including information on how to use course tools will go a long way to helping students to be successful in your course.

Image credit: image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay

Google Chrome web browser icon

Google Chrome is my preferred web browser. I’m always looking for ways to work smarter and not harder. If you use Google Chrome and are looking for ways to be more efficient with it, check out Rajtilak Bhattacharjee’s Google Chrome tips and tricks to help boost your productivity.

ICYMI, check out my Getting Started with Google Apps, Boost Your Gmail Productivity, and Brightspace Tip #55: Google Apps Integration blog posts.

Image credit: image by geralt from Pixabay

Did you know you can get CAT+FD events in your electronic calendar? Use this LINK and you can get workshop listings automatically in your Google Calendar, iCal, or whatever system you prefer.

That might also make it just a little easier to remember that we are continuing our popular mid-week meditation series, now entering its fourth year. It starts this Wednesday, August 21st!

Read on for details... ...continue reading "Put a Little Quiet in Your Calendar"

Brightspace, our Learning Management System (LMS), was designed with accessibility in mind. However, it is the responsibility of the instructor and/or course designer to ensure their course content is formatted using best practices for accessibility; including the use of good heading structure, text formatting, contrast and color, descriptive links, alternative text, tables, lists, etc.

I am writing a series of accessibility related blog posts that will provide suggestions on how you can make small changes when creating course content to make it accessible. This is the seventh tip in my series of accessibility related blog posts and it focuses on tables.

A table is a means of arranging information into rows and columns. Tables are very useful for displaying data in an organized manner. Your course schedule and office hours are examples where formatting this information in a table could make the it more accessible.

Tables should be avoided when you want to simply format other content (i.e., just to line things up neatly.) Using tables just for layout purposes is not the best practice for accessibility and may make it nearly impossible for people who use assistive technologies to access the information. If you do choose to use a table to layout text on the page, make sure you lay it out so it will make sense when read from left to right. Text-to-speech software by default will read the information in a table left to right, cell by cell, and row by row.

This video shows how a screen reader reads information in tables. There is an example of a good and a bad table layout. The video demonstrates how reading order AND the information in the columns are important considerations when creating accessible tables.

In the bad example in the video, the use of the dash and abbreviations for the months can be confusing when read by a screen reader. The abbreviated months would have been less confusing if the year had been included. The use of 1,2,3 in the "Week" column in the bad example can be confusing as well. A better option is to use Week 1, Week 2, Week 3 in the respective column.

When creating tables, read your table left to right, top to bottom (never repeating a cell). Does it make sense? Keep in mind that a screen reader will read tables in this way. If it doesn't make sense, you should reorganize the table so that it makes sense when read left to right, top to bottom without repeating a cell.

Consider these examples of accessible tables:

example of accessible tables

The tables, in the examples above, make sense when read left to right, top to bottom, without repeating a cell.

Follow these tips when creating tables to make them accessible:

  • Do not use tabs or spaces to create tables. It may look like a table; however it will not be recognized as a table and can be confusing when read by assistive technologies.
  • Add Row and Column Headers to tables to distinguish the heading text from the data area of the table. Screen readers read simple tables efficiently when the column or row headers are clearly defined.
  • Repeat Row Headers if the table spans more than one page. Tables that are contained on multiple pages should have the header row repeated on each page.
  • When you use tables for the presentation of data, summarize the table to aid reader comprehension. This helps all students to know the high points of a table.
  • Break up complex tables (nested tables and merged or split cells inside of tables) into a series of simple tables. Simple tables are more usable for everyone.
  • The information in each cell should make sense if read without the column heading. For example, instead of entering 1, 2, 3, in a "Chapter" column you should enter Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, in the cells to make it clearer when read by a screen reader.

When applying structure to documents and web content, you should use the appropriate built-in formatting structure tools to do so. Doing so will make content accessible to everyone, including users of assistive technology.

Creating tables in MS Word 2013:

  1. On the Insert tab choose Insert Table and select the appropriate number of rows and columns for your table.
  2. Select the header row in the table and press the right mouse button. A Table Properties window will open.
  3. Select the Row tab and check the box next to Repeat as header row at the top of each page. Press Enter key or Ok button. This header row will be repeated at top of each page.

insert table in MS Word

Creating tables in PowerPoint 2013:

  1. Use the Insert Table function in the Slide layout select the appropriate number of rows and columns for your table.

insert table from placeholder in PowerPoint

You can also insert a table

  1. From the Insert tab, click the Table command.
  2. A drop-down menu containing a grid of squares will appear. Hover the mouse over the grid to select the number of columns and rows in the table.

insert table in PowerPoint

Working with tables in the Brightspace HTML Editor:

To create a table in the HTML Editor:

  1. Click the insert/edit table function and select the appropriate number of rows and columns for your table to begin adding a table in the text area.

HTML Editor - table formatting options
HTML Editor - Table formatting options

To create column headers:

  1. Put your cursor in one of the cells you want to mark up as a table header.
  2. Then click on the drop-down menu next to the Table icon in the toolbar.
  3. Choose Cell Properties. The Cell properties window will pop-up.
  4. In the Cell type field, click on the drop-down list and select Column Header.
  5. Click Update. You will know you have successfully changed the row to table headers because the look of the table cells will change.
  6. Repeat for each cell that is a column header.

create column header in HTML Editor
HTML Editor - Create column header

You will remove significant barriers for users of assistive technology if you take these suggestions into consideration when creating course content. An added bonus is that if you include properly structured tables when creating your course content you will be ahead of the game in the event you do have a student who requires the use of assistive technology. Remember a properly structured table is good design and can benefit everyone.

Additional information about tables can be found here:

Brightspace, our Learning Management System (LMS), was designed with accessibility in mind. However, it is the responsibility of the instructor and/or course designer to ensure their course content is formatted using best practices for accessibility; including the use of good heading structure, text formatting, contrast and color, descriptive links, alternative text, tables, lists, etc.

I am writing a series of accessibility related blog posts that will provide suggestions on how you can make small changes when creating course content to make it accessible. This is the sixth tip in my series of accessibility related blog posts and it focuses on lists.

A list is a set of items that share a purpose and/or have common characteristics. Lists are great from an accessibility standpoint because they provide structured order to content in a linear fashion.

Properly structured lists help to identify order and hierarchy in documents and web content. Lists that are properly formatted allow all users, especially those using assistive technology, to identify and navigate through a related group of items. List items that are not properly formed or grouped may not be translated properly by assistive technology.

bulleted list

Unordered (bulleted) lists should be used when there is no order of sequence or importance. Ordered (numbered) lists suggest a progression or sequence.

Compound lists contain multiple levels of classification. For example, a compound home improvement list would have items organized by category (e.g. electrical, hardware, flooring, plumbing.) With compound lists, relationships are shown visually using indents and different item markers (i.e., bullets, numbers, letters, etc.).

Compound lists may be difficult for visual users to decipher if the visual cues are insufficient. Also, compound lists may be disorienting for nonvisual users. Use a simple list structure whenever possible.

As with headings, lists should be used correctly and for the right purposes. Lists should never be used for merely indenting or other layout purposes.

When lists are formatted using asterisks, hyphens or images to create the look of bullets in a document, users of assistive technology are not able to detect the hierarchical structure and relationship of the list items. You should never rely on indentation to provide a visual list, use the proper structure instead.

Lists should be created using the built-in tools for ordered (numbered) and unordered (bulleted) lists. Without using these tools, a list is not really a list, which makes the content more difficult for assistive technology users to fully understand.

Creating lists in MS Word and PowerPoint 2013:

  1. Select the text that you want to add bullets or numbering to.
  2. On the Home tab, under Paragraph, select the appropriate bullet from the list.

create list in MS Word

Creating lists in Google Docs and Slides:

  1. On your computer, open a document or presentation in Google Docs or Slides
  2. Click a page or slide where you want to add a list
  3. In the toolbar, choose a list type. If you don't see the option, click More ...
  4. Start typing your text for the list

create list in Google Docs

Creating lists in the Brightspace HTML Editor:

  1. In the HTML Editor, select the text that you want to add bullets or numbering to
  2. Select the unordered list or ordered list button

create list in HTML Editor

You will remove significant barriers for users of assistive technology if you take these suggestions into consideration when creating course content. An added bonus is that if you include properly structured lists when creating your course content you will be ahead of the game in the event you do have a student who requires the use of assistive technology.

Additional information about lists can be found here:
Learn how to create lists in Word 2013
Learn how to create lists in Word 2016
Learn how to create lists in PowerPoint 2013
Learn how to create lists in PowerPoint 2016