Every Student Affairs Hero Needs a Sidekick

by @jessmsamuels

Yes, the academic year is wrapping up, but as you know, important emails go year round.  In some ways, email is a fantastic invention.  It allows us to work asynchronously with our colleagues, replying when we have the time between meetings, and communicating with several people simultaneously.  Email however can also be very frustrating.  Not only for the sheer volume of it, but because you send email out into the ether and sometimes never receive a response.  You don’t know whether your colleagues or students have opened it, or clicked on a link.  You just have to take it on faith that your emails are being read.  No more!

Let me introduce you to your own email Sidekick.  Sidekick (by HubSpot) is a browser plug-in that can be used with Gmail, Outlook and Apple Mail.

Sidekick allows you to:

  1. Track emails and clicks
  2. See profiles for the people you are emailing
  3. Schedule emails for later (coming soon)

Here is how it works –

  1. Track emails

    Sidekick does this by embedding a small invisible image in each of your emails.  When someone opens your email you will be able to see a pop up window next to each email when it was opened and if any links were clicked.  Be aware however that when you send the email to multiple people at once it only tells you that “someone” opened it but not who specifically.

Sidekick email example

  1.   See profiles for the people you are emailing

    Want to know a little more about the person you are emailing?  Sidekick pulls in twitter feed, mutual contacts, prior emails and more.  All you do is put in the person’s email address and the information will pop up on the right hand side.  If you are sending to multiple people you hover over each name for it to show up.

Continue reading “Every Student Affairs Hero Needs a Sidekick”

Every Student Affairs Hero Needs a Sidekick

Highlight an App – Easy Chirp

by Rachel Luna

There are myriad Twitter applications out there (e.g., TweetCaster, Echofon, HootSuite,etc.), and each has it’s own spin on how social media is consumed.  For today’s Highlight An App post, I’m turning the spotlight on Easy Chirp, a Twitter application focused on accessibility for people with disabilities.

Formerly known as Accessible Twitter, Easy Chirp is described as “web-accessible alternative to the Twitter.com website.”  The look, feel, and function of this app is optimized for compatibility with assistive technology, such as keyboard-only navigation and screen readers.  In a nod to universal design principles, these structures and systems are not only helpful to folks with disabilities; they also make Twitter more accessible to people using older web browsers, slower Internet connection speeds, and those who do not use JavaScript.  At first glance, it may seem to lack the bells and whistles of Twitter, such as favoriting a tweet or viewing replies as conversations, but rest assured all the functions are there.

In honor of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), which just passed on May 15, the folks at Easy Chirp unveiled a new feature that I think is a potential game-changer: the ability to add accessible images to tweets by including alternative text.  Alt text is particularly helpful for people who have visual disabilities or are otherwise unable to view the image you’ve uploaded.


I tried out the new feature and found the process simple and intuitive (check out my tweet about yummy cupcakes).  The accessible image is presented on a clean page with my image and chosen description.  To be fair, there are some limitations to posting images with this method, some of which are described on the Easy Chirp image help page.  The biggest issue for me is that the image is not uploaded to Twitter directly, which means it shows up in tweets as a link instead of an image.  This also means images don’t preview in tweets nor do they become part of Twitter media feeds.  Despite these drawbacks, this is a cool feature and an important step toward more web accessibility for all users.

I encourage you to explore the Easy Chirp app and try creating your own tweet with an accessible image.  Here’s the process, as described by WebAxe:

  1. Log in to Easy Chirp with your Twitter account.
  2. Select Write Tweet.
  3. Select Add Image.
  4. Select an image from your device.
  5. Enter a title of the image (short description).
  6. If necessary, enter a long description of the image.
  7. Click the Upload Image button. A URL will be inserted in the tweet input (text area).
  8. Finish writing the tweet and click the Post button.
  9. Happiness!

Share your adventures in accessibility by posting your tweets in the comments or tweeting at me @RachelHLuna.  I’m excited to see (and read) your accessible images!

Highlight an App – Easy Chirp

Highlight An App: Office for iPad

By Brenda Bethman

If you follow tech news at all, you likely know that in late March Microsoft (finally!) released a version of Office for the iPad — and also made the iPhone version free. The iPad apps (Word, Excel, and Power Point) are also free, as are versions of OneNote for the Mac and iOS.

Well, technically free. With the free versions of the iPad apps, you can view and read files, but not edit them. Editing requires an Office 365 subscription, the cost of which varies depending on the type of plan purchased. For folks working in higher education, it’s not a bad deal. If you don’t already have a subscription through your university (which many do), you can purchase Office 365 University. The cost is $79.99 for 4 years, and includes 2 installations of Office on Macs or PCs, access to the tablet apps, 20GB of storage on OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) and 60 Skype minutes per month.

Even if you don’t buy the subscription, I recommend downloading the apps for anyone who works with a lot of Office documents and uses their iPad in meetings. Unlike former solutions where formatting would be a hot mess, these apps preserve the formatting, meaning your documents look basically the same on your iPad (first photo below) as on your laptop (second photo below):

Word document on iPad


Word document on Mac laptop

While Microsoft obviously couldn’t include all the functionality of the computer apps, the important things are there, including document review and the ability to add/read comments. If you use and love (or even like) Office a lot and want to be able to work on Office documents on your iPad, you will love these apps.

What you will not love — the price (especially if you don’t qualify for a University subscription), the inability to print (which Microsoft says is coming), the lack of cloud options other than Microsoft’s OneDrive (no saving to Dropbox or iCloud), and the inability to work offline. Nonetheless, these are solid, well-built apps, and a vast improvement over previous options for the iPad.


Highlight An App: Office for iPad

Apps for your soul

By Valerie Heruska

Some of us like to start our day with a cup of coffee. Some of us like to start our day with reading books and newspapers. I like to start my workday with quotes and I have some great apps for you to get to feed your soul with words of inspiration. On most of these apps, you can set the time you receive the quote (I get mine at 8:00AM, so it is the first thing I read in the office) and you can also post them to both Twitter and Facebook.

For the runner: Mile Post

Mile post brings the best quotes from runners. If you feel like you need that little boost of inspiration to run, get this app full of good quotes. Here’s one:

” Some seek the comfort of their therapists’s office, other head to the corner pub and dive into a pint, but I chose running as my therapy” – Dean Karnazes

For the Daily Quote:  Daily Quote of the Day

For the Yoga person in your life: Yoga Quote of the Day

For those who need inspiration: Inspire Me Today

Do you have any other apps that you use to feed your soul? Let me know!

Apps for your soul

What’s up with WhatsApp?

By Josie Ahlquist

This will serve as my first official post as part of the blogging team on Student Affairs Women Talk Tech, which I am honored to be part of!  I am a second year doctoral student at California Lutheran University, with my research based around social media and higher education.

I will admit my primary lens of technology in higher ed is through communications, marketing and community development, hence why many of my posts will have roots in social media.  I am not always an early adopter or ‘in the know’ about every new device or platform.   It takes a little convincing and sometimes even a couple tries for something new to sink in.  Many times I will explore a new application, but with the intent of answering two questions: the what and the why.

So, I appreciated the challenge of specifically highlighting an app, which has been picking up steam with youth around the globe called WhatsApp.  Last week a number of articles were released, featuring the strength of WhatsApp, especially to youth.  I caught myself asking, “What’s Up with WhatsApp?!”

As listed on their company website: http://www.whatsapp.com/

“WhatsApp Messenger is a cross-platform mobile messaging app which allows you to exchange messages without having to pay for SMS.”

The company started in 2009 from previous Yahoo staff, with now 10 billion messages per day.  The verge.com reported that CEO Jan Koum announced there are 350 million active users, up 50 million just from August.

What does this mean?  An article from The guardian claimed it makes WhatsApp the largest messaging app in the world by users, even more than Twitter at 218 million.

Finally, what really got my attention was an ABC News feature, on how teens are leaving Facebook for WhatsApp.  The article points to teens finding networks that adults are not on and are instant communication tools.

Armed with information (like a true doctoral student/qualitative researcher), I sought to understand from others why they use WhatsApp.  I took to the Twitter stream, seeing if any of my followers actively used it.

Within seconds, responders cheered.  The common theme: communication with family in other countries.  This makes sense, as WhatsApp has the strongest force outside of the United States.

For me, without close family in other countries, it is hard to know if I would have begun using this application at an earlier date.  Come to find out, I have had the app downloaded on my iPhone for sometime, buried in a folder three swipes in.

Logging into the application was simple and automatically populated with the contacts in my phone.   When I downloaded it over a year ago, I added the byline “exploring.”  While I am still not what WhatsApp would classify as one of their 350 million active users, I am keeping a close eye and, as my byline announces, still exploring.

I encourage my colleagues to do the same.  Applications will surge, settled and compete against the next emerging platform.  For WhatsApp, this is against WeChat, who has a strong presence in China and 235 million monthly active users globally.

No matter the app, what can be assumed is that mobile communication applications are in demand.  Mobile users are looking for alternative methods for messaging other than text, especially those connecting internationally.   As higher education professionals the challenge is not to download every emerging app, rather gaining an understanding of trends and answering the what and the why.

Happy Exploring!










What’s up with WhatsApp?

Highlight an App: Groupme

By Niki Messmore

These are strange times for communication. We live in a period that has dozens of available platforms to communicate with others (phone, Skype, Facetime, Facebook, Twitter, etc) yet it can still be difficult to touch base with those we care about. While 3-way phone calls were a hip thing back when I was a teen, society’s methods for group communication have evolved. Yet besides Facebook and email, what are the best ways to communicate with a group?

If you say texting, you’re only partially correct – while many of the smart phones will create a group text that allows everyone to see all responses, if a person has a different brand phone or a ‘dumb’ phone, then it appears as randomized texting gibberish that gets confusing to understand.

Groupme is the alternative that brings together a group conversation over text regardless of phone type. This app is available for download over phones, tablets, and computers. You register using your phone number and then, upon granting access to your phone, groupme will bring up all your contacts who use groupme. Have a contact who does not? No problem! As long as you have their phone number you can add someone to a group conversation – even if they haven’t downloaded the app.

The app is simple to use and allows images to be sent along with texts as well. All images sent within the group are saved, providing you with a private photo album.

I enjoy groupme for keeping in touch with groups of friends. It allows us all to communicate and send updates on lives at once, hereby making it easier to keep in touch and have ‘real talk’ about life updates. It can also be great for special event planning and other work opportunities when having quick contact with one another can be crucial.

I’m not a heavy user of groupme just yet – mostly because a)I’m a grad student, b)it is October; ergo c)I have less time for social fun – but I think it is a simple and creative way to communicate with groups of people. Special shout out to Courtney Rousseau for introducing me to the app!

So what do you think – is groupme an efficient and fun way to keep in touch with people? Or are there better alternatives out there? Let me know in the comments or hit me up via Twitter @NikiMessmore


Highlight an App: Groupme

Highlight an App: GoodNotes

by Niki Messmore

There are plenty of things that I do not believe in – shoes (prisons for your feet!), Miley Cyrus’ ability to twerk, and wasting printer paper. Fortunately, I have a solution for the latter – my beloved iPad.

Allowing me to download articles for easy perusal, my iPad has been a savior throughout my time as a grad student. However, some of the platforms for reading PDFs can limiting. Thanks to my friend Anna, I’ve discovered my new favorite app for PDFs: GoodNotes.

GoodNotes app allows the user to download PDFs, make handwritten notes, and highlight key information. I love the ability to write in the margins (using different pen sizes and colors) and highlight when I’m researching – all without needing to kill trees (and print credits!) by printing off articles. Not to mention, it is fun to doodle all over the page (especially when I get frustrated by long articles) only to click the ‘reset’ button and have it revert to its shiny new state.

Worried that your handwritten notes will look rubbish? Goodnotes’ pen function flows easily across the screen. Even if that does not work, there is also an ‘insert text box’ option.

There’s even an ‘insert image’ function! Imagine: You have 200 pages of articles to read. You are weary. But! There is hope in the form of fun graphics. You can insert images of student affairs grumpy cat or the cast members of SuperWhoLock to the end of different pages in order to reward yourself for a job well done!

Additionally, the navigation tools are easy to use, allowing you to bookmark and flip through the pages easily.

The only downside? The initial download is free but only allows one PDF. In order to process more, the user is required to purchase the app for $5.99….which, for a grad student, is a little painful to spend.

Eh. I’m the kind of person who attends all the campus events with free food in order to reduce my spending, but surprisingly I love this app enough to make the commitment. It simplifies my crazy #sagrad life and for that I am grateful.

Do you enjoy using GoodNotes? Got any tips on other similar apps? Let me know your thoughts in the comments or via Twitter at @NikiMessmore.

Highlight an App: GoodNotes