Teaching with Tech
The Secret Technology Club
Maria H. Andersen, April/May 2012
At Muskegon Community College, we've been hosting a weeklong Math & Technology Workshop for four years now. Every year, we have a session on the first day to catch participants up with random tips and tricks for using Internet technology and desktop software (such as Microsoft Windows and Word). In 2008, one of our participants nicknamed this session the "Secret Technology Club," claiming that technology power-users have tricks that nobody else knows.
Well, that's not quite how it is. Arthur C. Clarke wrote (in 1962), "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." When observing expert tech users, people can feel as if they are seeing wizard-like skills.
In reality, it's just decades of technology immersion that results in a gradual accumulation of random facts, learned through both natural curiosity and trial and error.
At our workshop, new technology users are grateful for the information in that first-day session, but others want to skip it. The thing is, even those who have been playing with technology for years find that they fill in miscellaneous gaps in their knowledge. Honestly, I've learned something new every time I've prepared for or given this session. If you don't know what you don't know, it's hard to fill in the holes.
Recently, I transferred about half of these tips to an online slide deck, and for this month's column, I'd like to send you to that presentation so that you can become a member of the Secret Technology Club too. To whet your appetite, I'm going to share one tip from each of the six sections, and you can decide whether to see the rest of the tips online.
The Internet: If you need to shorten a URL (for example, to write it on the board of your classroom), you can send it through a URL-shortener such as bit.ly. Just copy the original URL, paste it into the bit.ly box, and click "Shorten." No account is required.
Browsers: You can use CTRL+T to open a new tab in your web browser (for Mac users, this is Cmd+T). To open any hyperlink in a new tab, right-click on the hyperlink (Mac: CTRL+click) and select "Open link in new tab."
Search: To remove a word from an Internet search, use a minus directly in front of the word. For example, I was looking for information about leaving a digital footprint online and put in the keywords "digital footprint." Many of the search results involved ways to collect fingerprints via digital scanning. My next search was "digital footprint -fingerprinting" and I found the information I wanted. Note: Make sure there is no space between the minus and the word to be removed from the search.
Windows: Using the Windows Start Button, you can launch programs by typing their name in the Search field. For example, students have trouble locating Windows Journal on their computers. I tell them to type the word "Journal" into the search field and press Enter. Poof! There's Windows Journal, and now they can draw their graph on screen.
Editing: When pasting text from webpages, you can paste text without including the formatting (font style and size) by using Ctrl+Shift+V (PC only). For years I had been pasting text into Notepad to remove the formatting, and then copying and pasting from Notepad into the target site. No more.
Images: To wrap the text around an image in Word, right-click on the image and look for "Wrap Text" (Mac: CTRL+click). In the "Wrap Text" menu, you'll find various ways to wrap the text around the image.
The slide deck is by no means an all-inclusive set of great technology tips and tricks. In fact, I hope you'll consider sharing your favorite time-saving and sanity-saving tips and tricks with me so that they can be included in next installment of the Secret Technology Club.
This column appeared in the April/May 2012 issue of MAA FOCUS.
Maria H. Andersen is a Learning Futurist for The LIFT Institute and a Math Professor at Muskegon Community College. She is also president of Edge of Learning LLC (formerly Andersen Algebra Consulting LLC), an educational consulting business. Follow her on Twitter @busynessgirl or visit her official website.