Archive for December, 2008

Cowles Web Site Hosts Drake Curricular Discussion

In order to encourage ongoing academic dialog at the University, Drake’s Curriculum Task Force (DCTF) has posted the Executive Summary of the Draft proposal for Drake Curriculum reform. We encourage everyone in the Drake community to read this document, and “add comments” at the bottom. Also, there is a longer version of the proposal that is linked from the Executive Summary. The DCTF welcomes your input!

Information Literacy Pays off!

This page reports the results of an instructional experiment: it includes responses from an Information Literacy assignment at Drake University.

The Assignment

Students were given the following assignment:

  • First, the students (20 in all) drew out, at random, a “function” or Internet service that a small company, or even an individual, might need in the course of daily business.
  • Next, the students were asked to consider the following scenario:
    Pretend you are working at your first job. Your boss comes up to you and says, “Hey, you’re information literate, right? We need to find a solution that will provide (FILL IN YOUR FUNCTION HERE). You have access to the Internet to find it. There may be several ways to do this; just find the best one! And, oh, by the way, we want it for FREE!”
  •  So, search the Internet (yes, you may use Google!) to explore your “function.” Find: 1) One site (or piece of software) that would seem to do this well, and why (roughly 150 words) 2) One site (or piece of software) that looked interesting, but you decided against, and why (another 100 words)

    Portal Software

    Endonesia looked like a site that would be easy to use. I used a Google search to find Endonesia, and the Portal Software is for free. Also, it is relatively easy to use after downloading the .zip file. The fact that it is easily accessible and free overrides the inherent risks of downloading internet applications.

    Online Gradebook (for teachers)

    A site that I found for an online gradebook was Engrade. It seems like a great program that allows teachers, administrators, students, and parents to keep track of things in the classroom. allows teachers to keep a calendar for assignment due dates, keep track of attendance, and post grades. Teachers can provide students and parents with instant progress reports, and can utilize an instant messaging system to connect with families and give answers right away. Administrators can create accounts as well to connect with teachers, and manage classes. Parents and students are the last group of people that can create an account on the site to view grades or connect with teachers about any questions they have. The Engrade system is free, safe, and secures all information to maintain privacy for everyone involved.

    Sharing Sound Files (not necessarily music!)

    The best source I found for the use of sharing sound files was This website offers the free sharing of not only music but also videos, photos, and books. When someone signs up for this service, there are different options depending on how much you are willing to pay. The free service offers similar functions as the more expensive ones, but with a smaller size limit and slower bandwidth. Examples of functions included are video streaming, music files, and its own online anti-virus scanner. When a folder is shared the user can decide who has access to it, send the link to it via email, and use passwords to protect the information. One other positive is the website was easy to access and better organized compared to other websites I considered using. This sharing method would be adequate for the average person looking for basic file sharing of different types of media.

    Editing images online

    The software that looked the best to me was Picnik. Picnik is the best free software because of its ease of use and the way it is integrated into different websites such as flickr, facebook and myspace. This type of connectivity really adds an extra factor to the software and gives it an edge over the others. Another reason I decided it was the best is that I found it in first place on a blog called lifecleaver that rated it 1st in the top 10 ranked free photo software.

    Sharing large files of any kind

    At first glance this website, seemed a little ambiguous; the opening page did not have much information about the software. Upon looking further I found the necessary information very easily. The first thing I was trying to look for in a system was whether or not it seemed like a legitimate website and that what I would be downloading is a safe and legitimate program. This website was colorful at first glance which is a good way to draw people in, but it was also very simple and there were links that were easily found that lead me to other information that I needed to consider, such as who had created the software and whether or not they used it themselves. This software was created as a weekend project for a software company called Axosoft; it can transfer large files up to 1 GB in size. However, this software is not widely promoted by the company, it’s some sort of great secret apparently but they do make it available to the public and it was one of the first search results found. And of course it is free.

    Online Discussion Board

    The platform I chose to utilize for our online discussion board is Google Groups. It offers many features that can be streamlined as to the goal of the discussion board. If we wish to keep it a “controlled” discussion board, we can dictate who can join the board and who can post. If we wish to make it a public forum, we can allow the public to join and write on the discussion board. It also allows you to “ban” people – which takes away the option for the user to rejoin the group or have access to write on the boards. It’s easy to navigate and to setup. Users can create profiles and upload files. It creates an email address for the group as well as a separate web address.

    Shared editing of a document – NOT Google Docs!

    One site I found for Shared Editing of a Document is DokuWiki. It’s a free open source software that can be downloaded from the internet. I thought this one would be one of the better ones to use for shared document editing because of the features it has, such as the ability to edit small parts of a page, the easy-to-use toolbars and access keys, the automatic table of contents generator and it locks to avoid edit conflicts. Dokuwiki does not require a database so it is easy to integrate. You have the ability to add other features such as CamelCase—which is a way of automatically linking to other pages in the Wiki using words with a capital letter at the start and the beginning. CamelCase is disabled in Dokuwiki by default but can be added through a configuration option.

    Online “to-do” list maker

    As I browsed the internet looking for free to-do list software I fell upon I have decided that this website would be the best for our company because it is simple, easy to use and most importantly free. One can also manage tasks online within other programs such as Google calendar. Yes, it is an online based tool but you can use offline as well through Google Gears. Everything that you add or remove from your to-do list will be uploaded and synchronized once you connect to the internet. The to-do list is also connected to twitter, so that you may send private messages to your friends who might be included in the tasks that you have to do on your list. This to-do list is perfect for employees or even entire companies who use gmail. You can just add it in to the gmail service. The feature that I was the most impressed by was the ability to use this to-do list with smartphones such as blackberries and iphones. Our employees are much more productive when they can get out of the office and this program will allow them to be more mobile.

    Online checkbook – personal

    The thing that I chose was PLCash. It’s a java application so it can run on any computer that has java. This is good because I personally have a mac and I know how hard it is to find things that work on both macs and PCs. So this makes it so the business doesn’t have to rely on just having Windows or a certain operating system. This software is also good because it seems fairly easy to use and can manage many different accounts. The software is also compatible with Quicken and QuickBooks, so it would be easy to transfer data or import data. It also allows for you to easily create and view reports of your accounts.

    Household Budgeting

    The website that I found on household budgeting that I thought was appropriate, easy, and free was the site. The main reason that I chose this site was because it was free, but that by far was not the only reason. This site catches a home owners eye with their slogan of make money, save money, and get out of debt. Another reason that I like the website was it gave rules to financial management, ways to plan for retirement, and a free excel spreadsheet in which the home owner could keep track of everything on his or her budget. This spreadsheet had everything from income to necessary expenses to investments. As you typed in one amount, it changes the whole outcome of your money left instantly. I think that is the most efficient thing for someone who struggles keeping track of their money. Excel does all the calculations for you instead of having a mess all over papers. Everything is organized and all right in front of you, plus it is all for free. This is a great site that informs home owners on great strategies to having an easier life.

    Make a banner (a REAL “paper” one!)

    While searching for a website to create printable banners I ran into several sites that seemed interesting and that could get the job done. The website that I found the easiest to use, most effective, and also for no cost was This website allowed you to choose a simple layout for your banner, or you could spice it up my importing your own images. They also allowed you to add color effects. By doing this you could make colors fade in and out making it more visually appealing to the eye. Around the banner you could choose from 4 different types of borders to really draw attention to the main part of the banner. With a variety of fonts and the ability to change the sizes you could never be unsatisfied with the look of your banner. being able to adjust the size and the font allowed you to add a more abstract look while ensuring to add all the information necessary to get the message across. Overall I was pleased about how simple the site was to use and the quality of art it could produce.

    Edit audio or video files

    When I searched on web, I came across Windows Movie Maker software. It contains features such as effects, transitions, titles-credits, audio track, timeline narration and so many other useful aspects. The one of the main reasons I chose this software, because it is very easy to use. There are so many different types of web-sites that provide instructions how to use Windows Movie Maker software. Plus, Windows is widely known and it won’t carry any sort of viruses within the software like others. Therefore, I trusted this name and thought using this particular software would be an advantage.

    Share a powerpoint presentation online (like a slideshow)

    The site that I decided would work well for sharing a PowerPoint presentation online was myPlick. This site allows you to upload power point slides, sync with audio, and share with your friends or whomever. This site is compatible with many different file formats such as PowerPoint, pdf, openoffice odp, ect.. More reasons why I thought this site would work well for my function were because it is very easy to navigate through, quick and easy sign up process, and most of all it is free. In addition to the free service of sharing this site allows you to either publicly share with everyone or only share it within a small private group. You can also how users are viewing you presentation, for example, how much time people stayed on each slide. User feedback and statistics like this will help improve individual’s presentation making skills.

    Open source (free) software that is an alternative to Photoshop

    Having a pre-standing knowledge about free software alternatives to Photoshop, I did a Google search and the alternatives that I knew about already came up to the top of the list. The first one I would recommend is Open Canvas. Open Canvas is free from the 1.1 version and down. It does not handle exactly the same as Photoshop, but if one was already familiar with Photoshop the learning curve is considerably shortened.

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