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Talking tech again in Ohio #17OPRA

On April 6, 2017, I have three tech sessions scheduled for the Spring Ohio Provider Resource Association conference in Columbus, Ohio.

I always like to experiment a bit with presentation tools, so here’s what I’ll try this time.

Screenshot of G Suite and Office 365 resource pages.
Resources for G Suite on a Google Site, and resources for Office 365 in Microsoft Sway.
For “G Suite vs. Office 365: Which is better for you?” I put together sets of resources with a tool from each of the respective suites:

Sway delivers content both as a page, as well as in sequential slides, while the new Google Sites delivers an easy web-site building tool. Both serve content that works well in browsers on all screen sizes.

Screenshot of desktop view of Google Slides for the Screenful of Apps workshop.
When you view the slides, click (or tap) on an app to learn more.
For “A Screenful of Apps“, I created a few Google Slides with screenshots from Android and iOS devices. I added invisible boxes over each app image, so that when you view the slides, you can tap (or click) on an app to see the app in either the app’s respective store (i.e., either Google Play or the App Store). Slides:

Screenshot of "Social Media" title page for OPRA 2017 workshop.
Using social media to talk about social media: A Twitter Moment instead of slides.
And, for a “Put the ‘social’ back in social media” session, I created a Twitter Moment of about 20 Tweets from all sorts of sources. Moments and Collections are part of my daily workflow. Moment:


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What I’ve learned about Playstation Vue and Amazon Fire TV

Late this summer, our family “cut the cord”: we canceled our cable subscription, while also increasing our cable internet connection speeds (150Mbps down / 20 Mbps up). We actually see these speeds, thanks, in part to both a fast modem (SB6141) and router (NetGear r7000).

To replace cable, we went with Sony’s PlayStation Vue subscription service and bought an Amazon Fire TV box.

But we saw sporadic freezing, especially when we streamed live baseball. The show would just stop. Sometimes I had to restart the device to get things working again.

It took a bunch of troubleshooting, but here’s what resolved the problem for me.

1. Connect the Amazon Fire TV box ONLY to the 2.4GHz channel.

The Amazon Fire TV box doesn’t work with all 5GHz channels. And when I “locked” the device to one channel, I noticed our other devices didn’t connect optimally. So I connected the Fire TV ONLY to our 2.4GHz network.

2. For DNS, use OpenDNS settings on the router.

Typically, I use Google’s Public DNS servers. I find them more reliable than my cable provider’s — and they support DNSSEC. I tried configuring OpenDNS with settings on the Fire TV only, but we still saw buffering. When I changed the settings on the router, streaming worked. So we give up DNSSEC, but get a working solution. (Trade-offs. Welcome to real-world engineering. From my location in Ann Arbor, Michigan, OpenDNS ping times are around 18 ms, compared to 28 ms for Google’s DNS servers.)

I’m not claiming this will solve buffering for everyone. You’ll have a different ISP, modem, router, device, WiFi environment, etc.

But for me, these two tweaks made it so that PlayStation Vue consistently worked on our Amazon Fire TV box.

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Google Docs: Explore replaced Research, but you still have citation alternatives

Google replaced Explore with Research in Google Docs.

Thanks to add-ons, you have alternatives — but digital citations remain a challenge.

[Update December 5, 2016: Google added citation formats to the Explore tool. So that’s no longer a concern.]

In September 2016, Google built search into Google Docs and named the feature “Explore.” Choose “Explore” to search for related topics, images, and links. Browse through the items, choose one, then create a link or insert an image.

Explore is so important that Google added an Explore action button to Google Docs on the web: Look for a four-point star in the lower right. On Android and iOS, the feature is a menu item that you access as you edit a Google Doc. (Explore works much like Google search in the Google Keyboard app on Android and iOS.)

Google’s new Explore feature in Google Docs replaced the Research tool.


The problem is that Explore replaced a more complicated search option called “Research.” Most people will find Explore helpful, since you no longer need to leave a Doc to search for a link. However, educators and students may miss the ability to limit searches to Google Scholar and insert traditional citations and footnotes from the search results.

Citation add-ons

Fortunately, educators can get Google Docs add-ons to help manage citations.

The EasyBib add-on lets you search for a book, journal article, or website. You select your resource from the results, and EasyBib adds the item to a bibliography list for your document. As you add additional resources, each item appears in the EasyBib sidebar. When you’re done, select the “Add Bibliography to Doc” button, and all the citations from EasyBib will be added to the end of your Google Doc. EasyBib offers a paid pro version, a free service for schools, and an Android add-on for Docs.

The Paperpile add-on offers a single-stream search—no need to differentiate between sources. Enter your terms, then scroll through the results. When you see the reference you want, choose “Cite.” Paperpile inserts a reference with a link to your resource stored online at, and adds a citation to the item in your document. You can follow the link to edit the details of the citation. Paperpile offers versions for both academic and business users.

Of course, you can always manage citations manually—with your own footnotes, links, and bibliography entries.

Two Google Docs add-ons help with academic citations: Paperpile (left) and EasyBib (right). Both support citations in a variety of styles.

Future of citations

You may wonder why a link isn’t enough.

Tim Parks suggested that a link and search might be sufficient. In a piece for The New York Review of Books, he challenged the need for many academic citations. He asked: “In the age of the Internet, do we really need footnotes to reference quotations we have made in the text?” Later in the piece he suggested that “it’s time to admit that the Internet has changed the way we do scholarship and will go on changing it.”

Kathleen Fitzpatrick advocated for citations in “The Future of Academic Style: Why Citations Still Matter in the Age of Google.” She suggested: “Citations in academic writing, not unlike those in legal writing, are intended to refer the questioning reader back to the sources or precedents for the argument at hand.”

A web link isn’t exactly the same thing as a citation. An academic citation must be more robust than a link. When a researcher wants to verify a cited detail, a broken link shouldn’t block discovery of the referenced material. To increase the ability to find the source material, academic citations include additional information, such as author(s) name(s), full titles, publisher information, publication date, and more. The details make it possible to find and review another person’s work. Equally important, a citation also acknowledges another person’s work.

The digital citation system we have today relies on one-way links—each citation or link points elsewhere. Digital links didn’t have to be this way. I used “Belinda Barnet hypertext” as my search term for citations above, intentionally. Barnet’s book, “Memory Machines: The Evolution of Hypertext” explores the history of modern, linked digital text, including Ted Nelson’s ideas. Nelson envisioned a connected word world—where texts visibly connect, both ways. A world of two-way links.

The world we live in today offers one-way, all-too-often broken links. But without additional innovation—and possibly an academic citation revolution—we will have to rely on links and citations. Until then, most academics will want to supplement Google’s Explore tool with additional context.

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Two screens to learn: one to read & one to experiment

I asked people to bring both a laptop and phone to a tech training session. This way, each participant not only can work with the database on the laptop, but also refer to concepts covered in the slides on a phone.

I created my Google Slides in vertical format, so they should look just fine when viewed full screen on a phone.

The goal of the session is to help people become comfortable with the organization’s database, so the slides contain a mix of concepts and activities.


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Cook Family Foundation Tech Talk series

Over the past several months, I’ve led a series of Tech Talks among nonprofit staff in Owosso, Michigan.

The Cook Family Foundation funded the project, and prior to each meeting the foundation shared a post about the upcoming session.

Owosso Workshop 2013

I thought I’d gather all six topics and share the links as a group here, too:

Personal learning tools
Personal learning: it’s a process
, which focused on how we manage what we see, save, search, and share. (December 2014, hosted by the Shiawassee Family YMCA)

Improve security with 3 Apps covered how to enable 2-step authentication, use a password manager, and manage mobile devices remotely. (January 2015, hosted at Safe Center)

Website and social media
Build your org online
 examined the two ways most nonprofit organizations engage online — with a website and over social media — and explored how stats can help inform where and how we engage. (March 2015, hosted by the Shiawassee Arts Center)

Infrastructure basics
Enough Technology for your Nonprofit
 covered the core systems and tools every organization needs to address: the internet, devices, applications, and data. (April 2015, hosted at The Arc Shiawassee)

Collaborative tools
Over the summer, we explored Solving Problems Together. We look at the Think-Create-Share-Comment cycle that often occurs with online content and dialogue. We tried a few tools, too. (July 2015, hosted at the DeVries Nature Conservancy)

Data and databases
Next, we’ll look at how organizations capture and used data — and databases: Got Data? Use it. “Big Data” sounds impressive, but in my experience, most organizations also benefit from a focused analysis of basic data and workflows. (October 2015, hosted by the Child Abuse and Prevention Council)

A special “Thank you!” to each of the organizations who served as a host to your colleagues for one of the Tech Talks.

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Slides, Pins, and Tweets: three resource collections

In October 2014, I’ll lead sessions at conferences in Illinois and Ohio. The sessions address mobile and social tools for work purposes.

I chose three tools to organize and share the resources for the sessions: Google Slides, Pinterest, and a Twitter collection.

1. Google Slides, which are inherently SEQUENTIAL, provides structure to the process of selecting and securing a smartphone.

2. A Pinterest board allows me to GROUP a variety of work-related mobile apps. I drew and pinned a few illustrations to highlight important concepts. The illustrations stand out from the other pins. See the full board here:

3. A Twitter collection seemed the best way to GATHER a set of Tweets for a session about Twitter. If possible, I prefer to use a tool to teach about the tool. In this case, I created the collection using Tweetdeck.

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Civ V on a Chromebook

I figured out how to get Civilization V running on the Acer i3 Chromebook.
First, I put the device into developer mode and installed Linux using Dan Graziano’s instructions posted at CNET (see “How to run both Chrome OS and Ubuntu on a Chromebook“).
Then, from the Ubuntu software center, I installed both PlayOnLinux and the Chromium browser.
PlayOnLinux allows me to play Civ V via the OnLive streaming service. It works just fine, although there’s no sound. (I haven’t messed with the sound drivers yet.) With OnLive, gameplay remains steady through the entire game. In contrast, when run locally, Civ tends to slow down late in the game, as the system takes more time to process moves.
Separately, I downloaded Chromium and installed Steam for Linux. This installs Civ V and all expansion packs locally. This setup supports multi-player mode, which OnLive’s version does not.
Now, to play Civ on my Chromebook, I just hit Ctrl-Alt-T, type shell, then ‘sudo startunity’, and double-click on either the OnLive or Steam icon on the Ubuntu desktop. No need for an old-school PC at all. 🙂
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