Summer Housekeeping Part 1

With graduations aplenty around the US, there is no shortage of people who are about to have a few months off. Congrats to those faculty who don’t have to teach this summer, go on a research trip, etc. (Oh, and sorry staff and administrators…you’re destined to walk the lonely, quiet halls by yourselves for a few months.)

But regardless of whether your load is less heavy or completely open, I know that most college / university folks like to do a little bit more for “themselves” during the summer. Whether it’s the summer reading list, organizing your files, or catching up on some Netflix, now is the time a lot of people yearn for throughout the year.

So, let me see if I can assist you a bit. The next few blogs will be some possible “to do” items for your list, all of which might make your life a little bit better, brighter, or smarter by Fall.

Let me start with some apps. You really should go through your phone, tablet, and/or computer applications at least once per year. But while you are deleting those unused games, turning off the notifications that have been driving you buggy for months, and preventing some software from using too much memory, you might consider a few new apps. In this blog, I’ll recommend both phone and computer applications, but know that these are either available in the iOS or Android store, or on the web. They may have slipped past you as they aren’t Twitter or Mint, but it will only cost you time because I am only looking at free (or at least freemium) apps here! See what you think:

Shotcut (Windows, macOS)

Don’t you hate it when we lose an amazing tool for teaching? (I’m looking back at your Today’s Meet!) Well, since the demise of Windows Movie Maker, Windows users have lacked a simple, free, user-friendly video editing program for home projects, but the open source Shotcut answers the call with a variety of useful features and a traditional timeline view. A host of video formats are supported, and there’s a macOS version of the application too.

Libby (Android, iOS)

Audible is amazing, but did you know you can access thousands of ebooks and audiobooks from your local library, free of charge? Just download Libby, the app that guides you towards librarian picks and what’s popular with other readers, or lets you just browse around yourself. Books can be sampled and borrowed in a tap and read right inside the app too.

Google Arts & Culture (Android, iOS)

Every academic knows Google Scholar, but have you stumbled upon Google Arts & Culture yet? This app lets you take in some of the best art and museum exhibits in the world, without leaving your home office chair (or couch…), as well as find culture events near you and identify any artworks or exhibits you might be physically standing in front of. Note that this app can really suck you in, but you don’t feel nearly as badly about yourself as after 8 hours of Fortnite.

Otter Voice Notes (Android, iOS)

Transcribing those research or experiment interviews is a pain in the neck. Enter Otter Voice Notes, an app which can listen in on your conversations and then transcribe them in real time—perfect if you spend a lot of time in meetings or doing interviews where records need to be kept. It’s uncannily accurate and you get 600 minutes of recording time free each month.

Microsoft Office Lens (Android, iOS)

Turn your phone into a receipt tracking, document scanning, any written letter to digital copy tool with Office Lens. The tool features automatic cropping of letters, whiteboards, irregular images, and optimizes them all, flattening them as you go. It’s also easy to tie to other apps, as well as export to PDF, Word, and more.

Unsplash (iOS and Web)

Sorry Android users, Unsplash (for iOS or web) is great for blogs, articles, or any other education publication looking for free images (do whatever you want with them). While you need to upload them from your phone or tablet, there are a lot of choices. From sweeping mountain ranges to intimate library corners to cute-looking animals, there’s a lot to explore here.

Canva (Android, iOS, web)

Speaking of images, Canva (which does have mobile apps but becomes far more powerful on the web), essentially lets you design anything—a logo, a flyer, a poster—in a way that needs no technical know-how or expertise and yet which also avoids a dumb template-driven approach. You can produce beautiful designs in minutes, and really feel like you’re the creator.

HandBrake (Windows, macOS)

Last but not least is one especially for my fellow Speech Instructors out there. You know how problematic it can be when a student uploads a video file that you can’t open, let alone view. Were they stalling for time? Were they cheating? Or is this something you should be able to open? Is it your computer? Check out HandBrake - a versatile, reliable video transcoder that can get video files from almost any format (like DVD rips) into almost any other format (like Apple-friendly MP4 that’ll work on your iPhone). It’s not the simplest tool you’ll ever load up, but it’s likely to be one of the best and one of the most useful.

Well, hopefully that will take up an hour or so as you clean up and tune up your phone / tablet / apps. Come back next Monday for a curated book list. And enjoy your summer!

Good luck and good learning.

Jeff Borden