How to Use Zotero

I’m going to start by giving some great news:  Zotero is now available on Google Docs as a default App.  This is an EXCELLENT resource for those of you who want to create research papers in Google Docs with Zotero!

Now, on to the main purpose of my post:

What is Zotero?

Zotero is an open source, free, bibliographic management system created by The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and the New Media (RRCHNM) at George Mason University whose purpose is to democratize history with new technology and tools.  The RRCHNM also created the open-source browser, Firefox (which, because it is open source, should ONLY be downloaded from the Mozilla Foundation website!).

Why We Use Zotero

Zotero is one of the most useful tools you can have to make research papers.  It is an Open Source, FREE tool to make citations and bibliographies in ANY STYLE.  With Zotero you can:

  • keep track of multiple research projects,
  • create bibliographies in many different styles,
  • create citations, and
  • automatically create Works Cited and Bibliographies for papers

This is not all Zotero can do, but it is a good start!!

Here’s the basics from GSU Librarian and Zotero Specialist, Jason Puckett:

Downloading Zotero

If you want to watch the entire WebEx Seminar Given by Jason Puckett, Click HERE.

In order to use Zotero, you must download two components of the program:

  1. Zotero Stand-Alone (this lives on your computer)
  2. Zotero Connector (this lives on your browser.)

These are the step-by-step instructions to downloading Zotero into any computer.

Step 1: Check Your Computer & Browser

Zotero can be downloaded into the following computers:

✅ Apple,

✅ Windows (including Surface tablets),

✅ Linux.

Zotero will not work on:

❌ Chromebooks

❌ Mobile Devices, or

❌ iPads.

If you need to, you can use any lab computer at the college to run Zotero. Zotero has been white-listed by the IT department for installation on GSU campus computers.

Continue reading →

Trying (Really Too Hard) to Use iPads in the College Classroom

ipadLast October, I learned that my three Composition II classes would have no access to a computer lab at all.  This is a serious problem for me.  I run a relatively paperless classroom (once in a while I ask them to write something down), all of my reading assignments are online, and every assignment I teach is digital.  So, I was reasonably shaken.  I looked for a creative solution to my problem, and found that the college had a stash of reasonably new iPads that I could use.

This began to open up all kinds of possibilities to me.  I knew of a dozen really cool free AR programs, games, annotation software, and apps I could use for my class.  I was excited and happy.

So, I requested their use.  I wanted to use a 1:1 iPad setup and let my students check out an iPad for the semester.  My first disappointment came when I was contacted for the first time by the “iPad guy.”  He wrote that he didn’t have enough iPads for 1:1 classroom use (I needed 75). However, he could supply me with an iPad “cart.” I would have to settle on checking out 25 iPads for my students to share each class. I thought that wouldn’t be too bad, so I set up a meeting.

I wanted to meet the iPad guy,  talk to him about the iPads, and, of course, check out an iPad from the college to begin working on my course plan.  He came and introduced himself.  He handed me an iPad with a broken keyboard case, and explained that I could use it to begin planning my course.  “Do you have any training for this?” I asked.

“It’s not really a common thing,” he said, “so, no. If you have any questions, though, you can call me any time.”  He handed me his card.

I started playing with the iPad, but there wasn’t much I could do with it.  It came with the general Apple software, and that was it.  I was also concerned that it kept asking me to establish a pin and to enter an Apple ID. Just those two things made my head swim.  How could I work with iPads with three different classes when, potentially, one or more of my students had established a locking pin or had added their Apple ID to the iPad?  I didn’t even want to imagine the difficulty of trying to protect the identity of a student who had inadvertently downloaded their entire digital life to the school’s iPad.

I called the iPad guy again and asked to come to his office at the end of Fall semester, “What kind of management software do you use?” I asked him, earnestly.  I knew that everything depended on the how I could access tools and apps for my course.  He answered with reference to a security bundle.

“No,” I tried to clarify, “The management software.”

He answered again with the name of a security bundle–so I assumed that the iPad security bundle probably had some management software built in.  So, I left his office and began to research it.  After an hour, I realized there wasn’t any management software built in–it was a security bundle.  They could track the iPads, but there really wasn’t any way of actually managing them.

I called the iPad guy.  “Yeah, uh, can you tell me if you have any access to a management software program for those iPads?  You know, with some granular control on access to admin, instructors, and users?”

“Wow.  That would be really handy,” he answered.  “They really haven’t trained me or let me know any specifics about these, actually,” he said.  “I have had to learn everything I know on the fly.  The way we have been doing it with another instructor is that you just establish an Apple ID for the college iPads, I put that ID on all the iPads, and then whatever you install will appear.”

“O. . .K . . . ” I answered tentatively.  I was very uncomfortable with sharing an Apple ID.  There had to be a better way.  Maybe, I thought, I could work around it.  All I needed to do was find out what I could add to the iPad I had been given. “I will just take this home and see what I can do with it.”

NOTHING.  NOTHING was the answer.  The iPad came with the generic Apple Applications, and I when I tried to add other applications the app store was blocked.  I downloaded IOS11 so that I could use the split screen–but that didn’t work, either.  The only thing I could get it to do was use a pin number (which I didn’t want), and go on the internet via Safari.  By adding an Apple ID based on my school email address, I was able to access some public-access books through iBooks, but that was it.

That is when I started redoing my syllabus, erasing any elements I had intended to use with the iPad.  I would have to rely on the student’s own mobile phones and hope that most of them had computers.

The first week of class, I got an email for the iPad guy asking me when I wanted the iPads delivered.  I answered, “I changed my mind.  Sorry.”

The iPad guy answered, “I’m not surprised.”

iPads can be amazing in the classroom, I know.  I have read wonderful accounts of their use in K-12 and college classrooms–but the college is just letting them sit there unused because of the absence of management software and training.  It isn’t the iPad
Guy’s fault.  He is trying the best he can.  Without the proper administrative support, iPads just don’t work–especially when they can easily be replaced by already existing mobile phones.



The Baseball Practice Shooting and the Importance of Rhetoric in Our Time

The Baseball Practice Shooting and the Importance of Rhetoric in our TimeAristotle wrote Rhetoric, The Art of Persuasion almost 3,000 years ago, and it’s influence on the culture is significant.   The idea of Ethos-Pathos-Logos seems so obvious, that it is hard to remember that a lot of my students, and our culture in general, have not been exposed to these ideas.

It’s a shame, really.  In fact, it is more than a shame.  It is dangerous.  Yesterday’s shooting at the Congressional baseball baseball practice was evidence of that danger.

When people don’t know how to effectively argue, they also lose their ability to effectively deal with the emotion and anger of the human condition.  Frustration mounts, but there is no place for the frustration to vent.  Anger just builds and builds, and because the angry person cannot effectively communicate their frustration and anger, or open themselves up to see another view to mitigate their seemingly endless cycle of miscommunication, they become isolated and desperate to be understood in ways that are toxic to the society around them.

Cussing, when I stub my toe, may be temporarily effective to deal with the stress of that moment, but cussing will usually not help if I am angry about my phone bill, or the mistimed traffic lights on my commute, or the political situation in Washington. For those issues, I have to move beyond cussing and bitching and start thinking of how to formulate an argument to persuade others.  I need to persuade others with sensible arguments (logic) that connect to my audience (pathos), and encourage them to do the right thing (ethos).  Unfortunately, few people are capable of wielding the delicate and powerful weapon of rhetoric.  Instead, they go into their home offices or stand in their kitchen and post vitriolic tantrums or, worse–they arm themselves with physical weapons and conspire to physically harm or eliminate those with whom they disagree (the most extreme form of an Argumenum Ad Hominem fallacy).

The Baseball Practice Shooting and the Importance of Rhetoric in Our TimeRhetoric is not hard to learn, but it is difficult to master.  It takes practice and persistence, and it also takes a clear understanding of your audience.  By “audience” I do not mean the unwashed masses of social media butterflies that may retweet or repost a clever snide comment.  Audience consists of the very person or people you wish to persuade.  In order to make an argument, you must have true empathy for those who disagree with you.  You must spend some time getting to know why they feel the way they feel, what their position is, and how you might most effectively reach them.

The simple act of understanding an audience forces the rhetorician out of their carefully buffered political or social silo, and into a meaningful study of an opposing view.  This forces the rhetorician to begin consideration of alternative perspectives, and, usually, some self-reflective consideration of their own perspective.  This is the beginning of critical thought.

Critical thinking is the self-reflective analysis of thought, action, and reaction.  In order to be truly persuasive one must be willing to push themselves out of their own comfort zone, and away from their usual cadre of political, social, and cultural like-minders, to grasp at the brass-ring of subjective analysis:  “What makes my opponent think the way they do?”  Once an opponent is viewed not as a flawed human being; but as a sane, intelligent person with rational thought–civility must persist, and civil discourse blooms.

It is this tradition of civil discourse, so hopelessly forgotten in our contemporary daily lives, that has been the basis of democracy, law, and basic human decency for thousands of years.

So, with this in mind, I appeal to you to revisit rhetoric in your own life.  If you don’t know how to effectively argue, begin to learn.  Start with understanding those around you and practicing gentle persuasion.  Watch some videos on rhetoric or maybe, if you have an opportunity, pick up that classic by Aristotle.  It really is worth your time.

Setting Up Amazon Echo’s Alexa to Alert Family to Emergency

Getting Amazon #Echo's #Alexa to Notify Family of an Emergency Using #IFTTT

Alexa now notifies the family if there is an emergency.

My mom is pretty dang tech savvy for an 84-year-old.  She has an iPhone 6, she texts, and she even has a Snapchat (although we made her promise not to sext!).

So, when she called me up in February and told me she had a new Amazon Echo and wanted to set it up, I wasn’t surprised.  I hadn’t gotten an Echo, but I had watched from the sidelines–reading everything I could about Amazon’s wonderful speaker with the AI assistant, Alexa, available, like a genie in a bottle, to grant your every wish.  You can shop, listen to music, track your packages, and even control a smart home–why wouldn’t I be impressed?

A long time ago, my mother and I started sharing our Amazon Prime account, and so when I went to set up the Echo for her, it was a breeze.  Almost immediately, I wondered, “If my mother fell or had an emergency, could she use Alexa to call for help?”  I Googled the question, only to find that the new Alexa “skills” marketplace had no way to connect Alexa to 911 or any emergency services.  Developers had complained saying that only Amazon engineers could install that capability.

So, I looked for another option.  Yesterday, I started looking at recipes for Alexa in the very wonderful “If This Then That” app (IFTTT) on my iPhone.  I discovered that there was a way to have Alexa call your phone–even an IFTTT recipe for that–but all it would do is call.  It was good for finding your phone, but not much else.

What about texting?  I couldn’t find a recipe to directly text, but I did find a recipe for an app I use a lot:  GroupMe.  GroupMe allows you to create a group of people you want to text.  I have used it a lot with my classes to inform them when I am late, or when class is cancelled, or when we have an assignment coming up. I also have a group for family that I established years ago when my son was seriously ill in the hospital.  It was PERFECT.

In the IFTTT app, I created the following recipe:

Getting Amazon #Echo's #Alexa to Notify Family of an Emergency Using #IFTTT

I set up the “Alexa” part of the recipe by first connecting the Alexa app on my phone to IFTTT (it’s painless, they just ask you for permission), then I chose “say a specific phrase” as the Alexa trigger.  I set that phrase to be “emergency.”

For the GroupMe part of the recipe I already had a group set up, but if you don’t, first establish a group of family and/or friends that you would want to notify in an emergency on the GroupMe app on your phone.  Then add GroupMe to the recipe.  It will ask you which group to connect to. Select the group you established for the emergency notification.

Next it will ask what you want the message to say.  I knew I wanted to test the recipe first to make sure it worked, so I put in “This is a test.  I am setting up an emergency notification for Mom’s Alexa.  If you see this message, it worked!”

Make sure you save the recipe before you test it.  To test it, I called my mother and asked her to say, “Alexa trigger emergency.”  She replied “Sending to IFTTT,” and I immediately received a text on my phone with the message I had typed.

I then went back into the IFTTT app and changed the message to read, “Someone at mom’s house has just indicated there is an emergency.  Please call:  (I added her house phone here).  If there is no answer, please notify 911.  Her address is:  (I put in my mother’s address and zip code.)”

That’s it. Now we have an emergency notification set up and, as I said to my mother, “I hope we never need it.”

ZCast: Live Podcasting

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 8.00.43 PMI just tried a new app called ZCast, and I am so excited about it!  It’s like Periscope or MeerKat, but it is for audio only–for podcasting live to anyone else who has the app.

Tonight I tried listening in to a few of the podcasts, and the quality of the sound was impressive.  I also enjoyed messaging live to the hosts of the podcasts and sharing my perspective with them.

In order to join in the fun, search the Apple App Store for ZCast and download (it was free). Then, connect it to your Twitter account, and you are good to go.  Mostly, I am intrigued by how I can use it in my teaching.

The first thought, of course, was teaching in real time when my classes are cancelled due to weather this winter.  How cool would it be to have my students listening in and chatting while I podcast my class?  It would be a great way to keep everyone moving forward on my syllabus.  The only drawback is that it does not yet support recording those podcasts–so I can can’t archive it for my students to listen to later (I hear that is coming).

Also, I found another drawback as I was trying to participate in the conversation online.  I am lazy.  I don’t actually text–I use the voice to text on my phone.  When I spoke my comments into the little mic on my keyboard, it cut off the audio to the app and I missed what was going on.  I also couldn’t send it in, and ended up redoing my comments.  These are problems that are sure to ironed out, as the app is very very very new.

Meanwhile, I also thought of a great way to use this app for accessibility.  I have a student who is hard of hearing.  In that class, I could use ZCast during my lectures, and my student could listen live on her phone with her headphones–adjusting the volume as she needed.

I’m also thinking about doing a short edtech broadcast with this app, but I will have to work up my nerve and find a quiet space to do it (not easy with so many rugrats running around!)



What Facebook Doesn’t Get about Friendships in the 21st Century

It's time for Facebook to recognize something obvious about friendship in the 21st Century.


Let’s start with the basics:  there are two types of Friendships:  Virtual and Real-World.

I know this is something that has been brought up before, or I wouldn’t have the proper lexiconic terms to apply to these relationships–but I don’t think anyone has made the oh-so-obvious leap I am about to make within the walls (virtual or real-world) walls of Facebook’s corporate structure.  If they had, we would have a very different way to categorize our friendships in Facebook.  I don’t think about my friends as “friends” and “close friends,” as Facebook now categorizes them.  I think of them as “virtual friends,” and “real-world” friends.

We should be able to shuffle our friends into these two categories, and then have an option to change our relationship status from “virtual friend” to “real world friend” when we have an opportunity to meet.  This is important, because it is a big moment when we can finally meet someone with whom we have only had a virtual relationship.

I’m not saying that virtual friends cannot be good friends, and that “virtual friend” is somehow a lesser status.  I count among my closest friends some people I have only known via the internet–but there is something inherently different about seeing that person in the flesh, speaking to them, and having a moment to embrace them.  That is an entirely different type of friendship, an elevation of status that recognizes a human connection.

In fact, I was thinking to myself, that there should be a ritual to this process.  There is nothing more annoying than standing there with little to say to your newly minted “real world” friend.  I know when Germans move from referring to a person as “Sie” (a formal “You”) to “Du” (an informal and friendly “You”) they perform a ritual known as “Bruderschaft Trinken” (a drink to friendship).  It is a formal process where the older or more respected member of the friendship suggests to the other to drink “Shemollies” to formalize their friendship.  Then, the transition from “Sie” to “Du” becomes formalized, and they refer to one another in the familiar from that moment on.  I have always thought that this quaint custom of friendship is one full of power and beauty.

In this world of increasing inhumanity, it is ritual that makes and keeps the bonds of human relationships.  Wouldn’t a similar ritual, and maybe an exchange of a “friendship token” of some sort make sense when one moves from virtual to real-world friend?  I think I would like to make a collection of those friendship tokens, to treasure them, and to look at them as I age.  It would be a talisman of sorts, a touchstone to represent the friendships that transcend the virtual world.

So, how about it Facebook?  Can we have a “virtual friend” relationship status for our friends, and an announcement to others when we change that status?  Can we begin a new ritual and a new way to look at something that is so obvious in our lives?  Imagine the financial tie-ins!  Friendship tokens could be the new hot commodity — and evolve to include Internet of Things and Virtual Reality tie-ins.  Not only would this make common sense, it would make business sense as well.

Let’s start a movement!  Tweet and post your support and comments with #FriendshipStatus! Let’s design some friendship tokens, and get busy making one of the first social-media rituals.

Do You Love a Free and Open Internet? Then Get Rid of Your AdBlock NOW!

imgresI just removed Adblock from my phone and my computer.  Yeah, I will miss being free of the advertisements, but I also want to make sure that the internet that I love–the one with all the free tools and great advice and wonderful blogs–stays that way.

Every single one of you that still has an adblocker needs to realize that what you are doing is wrong.  You should not be enjoying the free internet if you won’t at least spend some time looking at the ads that support it.  Yes, those ads are annoying, but they are also paying for your right to access free content.  Those businesses, and spammers, and silly cat video promoters are doing you a big favor–so, you should , at least, spend some time looking over what they have to share with you.

I will even readily admit that I do, on occasion, click on the ads I see, just to make sure that my favorite internet blogger gets some traction on the ads on their site.  I want to make sure that the advertisers know that some of us do see those ads, do notice them, and do click.

Like it or not, the world runs on money, and the people who share great tools and advice and great blogs need to get paid at the end of the day.  If you start blocking the very same ads that give those people revenue, you are insuring that the next generation of internet stars are practicing their craft behind an internet paywall.

I think of using an adblocker somewhat like being a petty thief.  Yeah, you may get away with it, but you will, eventually, make everything a lot more expensive for everyone else.  It’s not fair to enjoy the benefits of an open internet if you won’t at least spend a few minutes closing pop-ups.

So, I’m hoping that you will join me.  Get rid of the adblocker on your computer and your mobile phone, and take a stand to protect free and open internet access–an internet paid for by those annoying, essential, and sometimes creepy ads.


GTA is Educational, and Not the Type of Education You Think It Is!

Dr. Kassorla's Blog

My son is nine, and he loves Grand Theft Auto (GTA).  Now, before you start condemning me as a bad parent and scolding me about how I shouldn’t let my son play a game clearly designed for older players, hear me out.  My son is the seventh of eight boys.  In other words, the game was purchased for older players, but they have since aged-out of my house and left for college and life.  So, what we have is a legacy game, a game he grew up watching his brothers play–and he plays.  But, if you still want to condemn me, I have to say there are a lot of other mothers and fathers out there that need condemning as well because, just in my experience listening on the other end of the game (and I do listen!), I have heard him play with scores of kids his age and…

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Goodbye “Hello.” Evernote has killed you.

I have received several notifications from Evernote lately regarding one of my favorite Evernote add-ons, “Hello.” I am sorry to see that Evernote will stop supporting and updating the app as of February 7, 2015.

I’m really bummed because Hello was such a wonderful concept.  I loved handing my phone to a new person and explaining that Hello was a type of digital card and, as soon as they gave me their contact info, it would magically send them mine.  I loved watching the take a selfie for the Hello directory in my phone.

Yes, I know.  Evernote can scan business cards.  Yeah, yeah, Evernote can keep track of my location and my information.  But, dang it!  Evernote Hello was better than Evernote in the “keeping contacts in one place” scenario.

I didn’t have to go trudging through my voluminous Evernote files to find the contact I met at the ISTE conference because, in Hello, I could just pull it up, browse, and get that contact right away.

Hello was the digital equivalent of a digital Rolodex that was right at my fingertips.

Evernote is more like a filing cabinet.

Yes, I love Evernote, but it’s not Hello!  I can’t just hand over my phone and have someone add their name and contact info into Evernote with a handy little form like I did with Hello.

So, Goodbye Hello.  We had some good times.

Meanwhile, if you were an avid Hello fan, you want to make sure you sync your Hello contacts before Evernote pulls the plug on February 7.  There are specific directions for doing so here.

Flipped Learning Using Google Add-On

Dr. Kassorla's Blog

Flipped Learning Using Google Add-On Flipped Learning Image via

Flipped learning is great, isn’t it?  It is the basis of much of my face-to-face and online courses, and it provides an opportunity to get my students involved and interested in the lesson before they come to my class.

Like most faculty that uses flipped learning, I often use videos that I find online or that I make myself to prepare my students for in-class workshop.  Unfortunately, because students are used to watching videos for entertainment, they lack the capacity to view video in an efferent way.  More often than not, I find my students letting video lessons simply wash over them without accessing or retaining knowledge that I expect them to hold onto for my lessons.  Many students lack the skills to absorb detailed information from videos without specific direction–especially in online courses.

This is where comes in.  It is useful open source Google Drive add-on (and Chrome extension) that provides an easy…

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