Category Archives: Helpful Information

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.




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!)



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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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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EMAIL: How to Send It, Write It, Share It

Dr. Kassorla's Blog

EMAIL:  How to Send It, Write It, Share ItI was shocked by a revelation by my friend, Frederick Cope, that many of the students he teaches do not know how to email.  “WHAT?” I said.  (I’m still in shock, really.)

I’m in shock mostly because Frederick doesn’t teach the elderly, and he doesn’t teach K-12.  Frederick is an Assistant Professor of English at a Community College.  He teaches college students.  You know, the “Millennials,” the Wunderkinder of social media.  Yeah, them.

So, what is the deal with email?  Why don’t they know how to use it?  It is, after all, a basic digital skill.  But, as I thought it over, I realized that my teen kids don’t really email.  So, perhaps email passed them by?  Their generation wasn’t taught computer skills in school–so what they know, they know in order survive socially: they use Snapchat, they text, they Facebook Message, they Tweet–but they don’t email.

Perhaps all that…

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Exploring the New Google Drive Add-Ons: Mail Chimp


MailChimp Update (2/11/15): Merge has been removed from the Google Drive add-ons store and is not being actively developed at this time. We’ll update this post if there are any changes to its status.

Many of you are completely unaware that Google Drive has, again, changed dramatically.

If you have been using Google Drive at all, and have been paying attention even a little bit, you probably noticed that little menu item at the top, but many have completely ignored the treasures that await beyond the tab marked, simply,  “Add-Ons.”

Add-Ons act somewhat like extensions in your browser.  They allow you to do things in Google Drive that you couldn’t do before–like accessing some awesome tools without leaving Drive.  Why would these companies want to contribute time and effort to make a Google Drive Add On? . . . for the simple reason that it brings awareness of what they have to offer to an amazingly broad audience that may have never known their product existed, let alone understand why they need it.

I see them as small gifts.  Tiny jewels hanging inside the cave of wonders known as Add-Ons . . . but that’s just me channelling my inner geek (or maybe not?).

One of those amazing gifts from Google’s new Add-Ons comes from an unlikely source: the e-mail distribution company Mail Chimp.  Mail Chimp is a young company, hungry for market-share, and dedicated to service.  They have their offices right here in Georgia, so I was already inclined to support them before I Continue reading →

Welcome to English 2112 World Literature

Dear Students,

I will be using this blog to post a lot of “outside of D2L” stuff that you can access.  Some of the students in the course were not able to access D2L, so I want to make sure they don’t fall behind.  This is what we are doing this week:


Read Syllabus (official)

Read Syllabus (unofficial)

Read “European Enlightenment”

Read “Introduction to Tartuffe”

Watch Tartuffe Video While Reading the Play

Participate in Discussion=I’ll keep it open so you can do it later!

Write and turn-in Translation Paragraph: Write one well-formed, well-worded paragraph on the following: When you listened to the video while reading the play, there were times when the translation differed significantly. Identify one specific word or line that was different, and explain why you thought one translation was better than the other.

I hope this helps!!

Playing with NGram Viewer

Dr. Kassorla's Blog


Yesterday I spent a few hours on the phone with a similarly geeky friend, Fredrick, playing with NGram Viewer from Google.  If you have never been on NGram Viewer, I have to warn you–make sure you have enough time!!  We got sucked in quick, and we stayed a while.

NGram Viewer is a wonderful tool that allows you to enter one or more terms  into a search box.  Then, through the magic of Google (search, books, pictures, etc.), you receive a wonderful graph informing you of the popularity of whatever you have entered.

As we played with the tool, we were looking for ways to use it in the writing classroom to generate authentic research.  For example, we put the word “ipod” into the Ngram viewer and got the following results:

ipod jpg

Then, of course, we asked, “Why were people in 1800 and 1905 so crazy about ipods?”  It’s easy to…

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