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

Dr. K's Blog

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 with Echo–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…

View original post 509 more words


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

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 younger.  So, now that we have that out in the open, we can be honest with one another.  I’m not going to pretend I keep my kid away from anything other than “E”-rated games, and you are not going to pretend like I’m the only parent doing this.

iba9TBRgXk3mFHGTA is such an expansive game that, like life, it offers my son a lot of choices–but unlike life, I can sit on the couch behind him, watch what he does, and hear what he says.

I don’t do this all the time (I have a life), but I do it often enough that I have started to critically analyse what my son does in-game. I know you will be skeptical, but I propose that GTA is one of the most educational games out there–and not the type of education most attribute to the game.

Before I get to the amazing skills my son has developed through GTA, I will start with the basics so you have an idea of his set-up,  his level, and the general way in which we allow gaming in our house.  We’ll start with the environment he games in: We have an aging XBox 360 in a family room. It’s a fairly public place, which is how I like to keep online games and computers in our house.  His little brother likes to sit in there, and they switch off playing games–often without civility.  None of us have a computer or a game console in our rooms, and I also discourage the use of any electronic devices in bed. (I model this behavior by turning off my addictive iPhone at 8:30 every night, and doing without until 6:30 a.m.)  Although we have one XBox 360, we have two XBox Live accounts in order to permit parallel play in Minecraft, and so that brothers keep their game identities separate as much as possible. (Nothing ruins your street-cred like your seven-year-old brother playing your avatar badly.)

My son has been playing GTA in its various generations for years now–and he enjoys the expansive map available in GTA5, even though he had to give up the opportunity to play as a cop. Although he often plays online, he also enjoys some quiet repast in a solo game every once in a while to catch his breath.  He is at level 115, which he assures me is pretty high.   Continue reading

Goodbye “Hello.” Evernote has killed you.

Dr. K's Blog

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…

View original post 117 more words

Flipped Learning Using Google Add-On

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 integration of video notetaking for student and faculty use.  What does is load an online video into a template that synchronizes notes with the video.  Flipped Learning Using Google Add-On

The template contains two panes side-by-side. On the left is a video viewing pane.  On the right is a note-taking pane.  As you view a video, you type a line of notes into the note-taking pane. At the moment you begin typing into the note pane, the program marks the video so that your notes and the video are synchronized. When you go back to your notes and click, takes you to the time-marker corresponding to that note.

Because it is a free program, and it is in development, it does have one major idiosyncrasy:  often, when accessing a link, you this (somewhat) disconcerting message:

Flipped Learning Using Google Add-On

Sometimes this warning pops up–but it is not a problem when students know to expect it and where to click.

I’m not sure this happens on all computers/browsers, but it always happens on my Mac.  I warn my students that, if the message appears, they simply need to click on the “” link under “Connected Apps” and it will take them to the right place.  Other than this small quirk, the program works flawlessly.

Here is a screenshot of my page for teaching Haiku. has a nice interface that guides you through the set-up of your videos with a pleasant pop-up tour and specific directions.

Flipped Learning Using Google Add-On

A Screenshot of the page for teaching Haiku.

As you can see, the video appears on the left with all the usual controls.  On the right, along with a time-mark, are the notes that I have included to guide my students through the important information in the video.  If you want to see what this is like for the student, please click on my link to check this out in real time.  When you want to access a point in the video where specific information is imparted, you simply click on the note and it takes you to that point in the video.

If you want to get the program for yourself follow these directions:

  1. Go to and connect the tool to your Google Drive.
  2. Connect a video you want to annotate into the tool by pasting the video URL.  Not every video will work, but I have used it with YouTube and Vimeo with excellent results.
  3. Begin the video.  As it plays, type notes into the note pane on the right. will automatically create a file folder in your Google Drive account that will include the annotated video so that you can access and share it.  The program is free to use, but if you use it and can afford it–please tip the developer!!

Some Ideas On How to Use this Tool

I have used this tool mostly in my online courses.  It is an excellent way to draw student attention to the specific areas of a video. I often use the notes to create my homework quizzes, so if they don’t access the first time, the learn, very quickly, to begin using the tool!

I have been thinking of a thousand other ways that this tool could be used, however.

For example, I could have students do online speeches and annotate their videos using!  I could also open up a in Google Apps for Ed and have my students assist in annotating a video or movie used in a digital media or film course.  Students could also do peer annotation on video projects and share those annotations with me.

I have also shared this tool with the Disabled Students Services office at my school so that they can assist students in annotating class videos.

Do you have some other ideas?  Please post them in comments!

Exploring the New Google Drive Add-Ons: Mail Chimp

From my Dr. K Blog . . .

Dr. K's Blog

mailchimpMany 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…

View original post 506 more words

Confessions of an Academic Platypus

Reblogged from my Class Blog at

Dr. K's Blog

WOW. I have never been to an International Society of Technology and Education (ISTE) conference before.  In fact, I have never been a member of ISTE until now.  You see, ISTE is mostly a K-12 organization, so there were very few of us University Ivory Tower members there mixing with the hoi polloi of teaching.

But, I was there.  I was TOTALLY there.

Why? For the simple reason that K12 teachers are the change makers, the developers, the directors of the educational experiences our students have before entering college, and I wanted to see what they were up to, technologically. Also, frankly, I have somewhat lower expectations for what Higher Ed faculty are up to, technologically.

Innovation, Thy Name is K12.

I have come to the disturbing realization that most of the higher education establishment is dragging its heels on technology, and instead of being out in front of…

View original post 1,333 more words

Playing with NGram Viewer


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 get the answer, of course.  By clicking on the links at the bottom of the window, we easily accessed some of the texts that lead to the result.  In this case, it seems to be a result of Google’s poor character recognition in the use of pre-digital scanned books.  Anything that ends in “od” and has an indistinct first character will show as “ipod.”

The results from the 1970s and 1980s are very interesting, however.  IPOD is used extensively during this period to refer to the “International Phase of Ocean Drilling,” and Continue reading

Building a PLN (Infographic)

I just made this infographic to show how to make the most of a Professional Learning Network.

Building a PLN

I wish I would have had time to publish it with two articles I have just posted on Hybrid Pedigogy.  My most recent articles were based on post from this blog (with a lot of editing help from the wonderful staff at Hybrid Pedigogy!)

Here they are:

How Shadowing my 2nd-grader Led to a New View of Tech in the Classroom


A Primer for EdTech: Tools for K-12 and Higher Ed. Teachers

My Turn: Why I Established This Blog


I have kept a class blog for years.  It is a very pragmatic blog that augments my classroom teaching by directing my students to websites and resources.  Actually, I don’t know what I would have done without it.  Every professor and teacher should have a class blog.

However, until I posted that class blog for another teacher, I wasn’t aware of the limitations of my educational blogging.  Her simple comment, “This looks like a great content blog, but you should have a theory blog as well,” made me think about the need for an academic blog.

So, here goes nothing!  🙂  Welcome to my academic blog!