Post 1 in a Series of Useful Browser Extensions - 

A browser extension is a downloadable feature that extends the functionality of a browser. My browser of choice is Google Chrome, so I’ll be talking about the Chrome Extensions, but most of the extensions can also be found on Firefox, Edge, Internet Explorer, and Safari. In Chrome, an extension can be downloaded from the Chrome Web Store.

I use quite a few extensions - and no, it’s not just because I work for Extension :) I’m going to write a series of posts to tell you about some of the extensions I use. I have two other posts planned out, so stay tuned:
  1. Helpful Accessibility Checkers
  2. How to Capture a Screenshot of the Whole Web Page

I Want To See Like The Colour Blind

Screen shot of where to download the Chrome extension

This is an extension I showcased at Program Conference during the Quick Bytes session. Its purpose is to help users understand what people with colorblindness see when they look at something. There are 8 different types of color blindness that can be experienced with the extension.

Why should we care?

Color blindness affects 8% of men and 0.5% of women. As we design graphics for presentations and/or websites, we should take into consideration what someone might see when they view the graphics. It is a good practice to use color + a pattern or color + an icon to differentiate between items on a page.

Here’s an example of what different people may see when viewing a colored pie graph
Example of a pie graph showing 9 different color blindness types (Normal, Protanopia, Protanomaly, Deuteranopia, Deuteranomaly, Tritanopia, Tritanomaly, Achromatopsia, Achromatomaly).
As you can see, there are types of color blindness that make certain colors hard to differentiate. Adding in a pattern or icon to the colors will help all people understand this graphic.

If you'd like to download this extension, you can do it in the Chrome Web Store. Once downloaded, it appear to the right of the address bar.

Screenshot of extensions next to the address bar in Chrome with the Colour Blindness extension circled

Click on the icon and choose Experience Colour Blindness from the dropdown. Another dropdown will appear with all the types of color blindness. As you click through the options, the colors on the page will change to show what it looks like through the eyes of someone who experiences that type of blindness.

U Minnesota is an instance of Guidebook that we will be using at Extension's Program Conference. It is used at conference to share up-to-date event information and materials with you on your mobile device. In the app, you can review the conference agenda, create your own schedule, view speaker information, evaluate sessions, network with other attendees and more. Below are some tips for getting the most out of the app:

First: Download the App

Scan the QR Code

 --- OR --

Go to on your device and download the app.

Next: Install the Program Conference Event Guide

  1. Open the UMN Guidebook app
  2. Tap  Enter passphrase  (under the Block M) and enter ExtPc2017 to download and install the guide

What’s in the app?

Onsite Info and Activities: Hotel wifi information, Extension Issue Area poster info, health, wellness & networking activities, conference committee members
The Schedule: Sessions are listed for each day. Tap on a listing to get more information such as the course description, speakers and room location. Add sessions to your personal schedule.
My Schedule: Create your own agenda with sessions you want to attend during the conference. You can add a reminder when the sessions are about to start. Be sure to fill out an evaluation survey for sessions you attend.
Keynote Speakers: Find out who is presenting at the conference and read their bios.
Poster Abstracts: Read about the public value and research posters presented during the conference. Be sure to fill out an evaluation survey for the posters you want to review.
Map / Floorplan: Hotel conference area map with room information
Twitter: Share your tweets with the conference hashtag
My Notes: Use this feature to take notes during the conference. Select the Notes icon from the main screen or when you are viewing a session description, tap the “Create Note” (IOS) or the Pen/Paper icon (Android).
Conference Photo Album: Take and share pictures during the conference
Attendee Check In: Create an account and check into the conference app. You will be listed and visible to other users. Tap on a user’s name to view their profile.
Network With Colleagues: Post a comment or comment on someone else’s post.
Messaging: Send messages to other attendees. This is not SMS so you will not be charged for text messages.

Before the Conference

Build your own schedule
Review the schedule and decide which sessions you want to attend. Tap the plus sign next to the sessions you are interested in to build your own schedule. Add a reminder if you would like one.

Create an account
If you want to interact with other attendees in the app at conference, create an account and set up your profile. 
  1. Tap the icon in the top-right corner of the screen 
  2. You can set up an account with an email address or with a social media account
  3. To set up your profile, tap the account icon again and then tap the gear icon near the top-left to edit your profile.

During the Conference

  1. Connect to the hotel wifi. 
  2. Tap Attendee Check-in to let others know you are here.
  3. Tap My Schedule to view the sessions you selected to attend.
  4. Take notes, share conference photos, tweet and connect with colleagues.
  5. Evaluate breakouts and posters

How to find the evaluation form for breakouts and posters

You will find an evaluation survey at the bottom of each session description and poster abstract.

NOTE: There will also be a post-conference survey sent out via email for all other conference components and general conference feedback.

Google Search Tips

In honor of Google's 19th birthday (!!), I've put together five of my favorite Google Search tips. Be sure to add your favorite tip in the comments!!


My top tip and one that I use all the time! Search for something, then above the results select Tools, then narrow by time (past month, past year, etc). This sorts out all the old information!


Another function I use a lot is to use Google as a dictionary. Just type "define: word" in and you'll get a dictionary type entry at the top of your results.


If there's one thing I am terrible at, it's conversions. I blame it on having to learn both the metric and English systems in school! Good thing you can type it in Google, like "pints to mL" or "euros to dollars" and the top result is a calculator that does the conversions.

Advanced Search Page

The simplicity of the search page is one of Google's trademarks. But did you know there is a very detailed "Advanced Search" page?

Google Scholar

Google Scholar is essential and mind-blowing and if you haven't tried it in a while, hold on to your hats because they are going to come right off. You can search (duh), see other articles that cited that article, get citation formats six ways to Sunday, and most importantly, you can click the links to view full text and you can even view full text of things that the Libraries have bought!
Follow these directions if you are off University network and trying to do this feature.
It is simply glorious and I highly recommend Google Scholar!

Quick Bytes Live! Podcast

#21:  Getting Jazzed about Drupal

(recorded August 30, 2017)
Karen, Amy, Terri, and Alison talk over the exciting bits and the scary bits about UMN Extension's large website redesign project. We also answer a question about Qualtrics and talk about our brand new process for hosting podcasts. 
 Links from this episode:
Be sure to subscribe and let us know your feedback!

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Extension has been doing a lot of video work lately. I know this because our Extension Technology Equipment Loan video kits have been booked pretty regularly all summer and now well into October. By the time you are done planning, shooting and editing your video, uploading it to YouTube may feel like the last step. It's not. One of the most important steps in the video production process is captioning. Adding captions to videos can feel time-consuming and you may be tempted to skip it but there are so many reasons why you shouldn't!

The Importance of Captioning

Adding captions to your videos make them accessible and usable by people of all abilities and all Extension videos must be captioned to be in compliance with The Americans with Disabilities Act. But not only does captioning help people with disabilities, research shows that everyone can benefit from from closed captions. A 2015 study on Student Uses and Perceptions of Closed Captions & Transcriptsconducted by Oregon State University's Ecampus Research Unit, showed:
  • The majority of students without a disability use captions at least some of the time
  • 66% of ESL students find captions "very" or "extremely" helpful
  • Captions help with comprehension, accuracy, engagement and retention.

Additional benefits of closed captioning and transcripts:
  • Improved indexing and searching: Search engines can’t watch a video or listen to audio but closed captions and transcripts make your video text-searchable.
  • View anywhere: Closed captioning allows people to view videos in places where audio is limited (e.g. library, office, bus).

Closed or Open Captions?

Closed captions are most common and utilize the functionality within video players and browsers to display closed captions below the video area. Closed captions can be turned on or off.

Open captions are a permanent part of the video and can’t be turned off. Open captions are usually added in the video editing process and are usually more time-consuming/expensive to produce.

Captioning Options

  1. You can do your own captioning
  2. You can hire a service to caption for you. They usually charge by length of video (approx $3/min). 
  3. The UMN Disability Resource Center is available to help if a person with a disability has specifically requested captioning. 

How to Caption in YouTube

There are three different methods for captioning in YouTube.
  1. Auto-sync is where YouTube creates captions for you which provides a good start if you don’t have a transcript file. You will always have to correct the auto-synched captions. If you don’t believe me, check out Rhett & Link’s caption fail YouTube channel (funny). 
  2. Create a transcript .txt file and upload it to YouTube. It should match the audio exactly.
  3. Create a transcript directly in YouTube. 
Step-by-step instructions for the three methods for captioning in YouTube are on the Accessible U website.

Do you have any tips for captioning videos to share with others? Please leave them in the comments!

Maybe it shouldn’t be a course at all.

You have evidence-based information and resources people want on topics they care deeply about, so they sign up for your course. But without a “carrot” or “stick,” when is the last time you completed an online course (or signed up at all)?

There is a great deal of agreement that online learner engagement and course completion rates are often low, especially in the non-credit setting. While there is a breadth of research on how to engage online learners in traditional online courses, the literature does not address the inherent challenges in assuming online courses are the primary way to provide educational content to specific audiences online who are not seeking credit or certification. It also fails to adequately describe the way people learn online informally in daily life. As a result, when people across Extension asked me (time and time again), “Why won’t people complete my online course?!” my answers came up short.

So this spring, I started working on a theory-building metasynthesis that aims to pick up the conversation here. I’ll jump to my findings here, but to learn more about the study methodology, get a copy of the associated rubric I created, or to generally nerd out with me on this topic, follow up with me during the Program Conference poster session (or any time!).

Online outreach education should be/have:

Learner-focused Content

The information and learning needs of a community should come first, rather than the implementation of the technology or selection of a specific tool or format.

Search & Navigation Friendly

In self-directed, informal learning, discoverability and easy navigation are critical elements to attracting and retaining potential learners.

Flexible Levels of Engagement

It is important to provide opportunities across the engagement spectrum (e.g., passive information acquisition, personal reflection, discussion-based processing, and building or generating something new).

Generally speaking, we Minnesotans don't need courses and workshops like we did “back in the day.” We rely on Google and our social networks when we want to learn a new skill or troubleshoot an issue in our homes, gardens, communities, etc.

How can your program be a part of the new paradigm?

Every once in awhile, I run into a video that refuses to play on my computer or it won’t import properly into a PowerPoint document. A solution that works for me is to convert the video file to an MP4 file format. I use a University supported tool called MediaHub to convert videos to a usable format.

How it works:
  1. Go to
  2. Upload one or more video files at once
  3. Select the type of video file you want for playback: IOS/Android/Mobile, PowerPoint or Web. All of these options will produce an MP4 file but in the appropriate size/resolution for your playback choice.
  4. A download link will be emailed to you in a short time. Files are stored for 15 days and not recoverable after that.
You may not use this tool often but it sure is handy when you need it!

A couple of weeks ago, I was part of a brainstorming session where some people couldn’t attend in person. Our in person plan was to bring different colored post-it notes and use an in-room whiteboard. I set out to find us an online solution so everyone could participate.

I’ve used a few sticky note apps in the past, for organizing my own work and for online collaboration so I looked at those apps first. After considering Google Keep, and Stormboard, I settled on RealtimeBoard for our meeting.

RealtimeBoard is an endless virtual whiteboard that can be accessed from anywhere. You can:
  • Add files, notes, stickers, icons, draw, comments, images, video
  • Collaborate together at the same time or on your own
Here is an example of our whiteboard (zoomed out):

You can start with a blank board or from a template:

Once you are on your board, use the toolbar to add files, text, notes, boxes, arrows, lines and comments. You can upload documents from your computer, Google Drive, Dropbox, capture a web page, create a chart, add wireframes, icons and images:

I was able to copy/paste an entire column from Excel and it created notes for every single cell. That saved me a bunch of time!

When you add a sticky note, you can change the size, format text, change color, add tags and emojis. You can layer your notes or drag them anywhere on the whiteboard.

You can view a map of your whiteboard and use the zoom tools or your mouse to move to different parts of your board.

Use this app for your projects, visual planning, building wireframes, consensus workshops, presenting, creating infographics, brainstorming and visualizing ideas. I downloaded the app for my iPhone which will be great for times I don't have my computer with me. Check it out for yourself! It’s an awesome tool. Best of all is that it’s free for educational use.

It worked great for our meeting. I'd love to hear how a tool like this could help your work. Share your thoughts in the comments.

Quick Bytes Live! Podcast

#20:  The New Google Sites, Canvas update, and Tech Finds

(recorded July 18, 2017)
Karen and Amy talk over the features and limitations of The New Google Sites, as well as answer a listener question about Canvas. We also share our Tech Finds of the week.
 Links from this episode:
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Earlier this year, the New Google Sites was enabled for our University domain. They are pretty different from what we are used to, and in some cases that is a good thing!

To refresh all of our memories on why we love having Google Sites in the world:

Google Sites' strength is in its collaboration. Multiple people can be in charge of it. You can setup a site for a committee you're on, and everybody can add and maintain stuff. It is common for committee and project work. Below you'll see an example of using it for education--a great way to set it apart from the main website as a self-contained chunk of curriculum. ("Self Contained Chunk" is a very technical term!)

Here are two GREAT examples of pages made with the new Google Sites:

(the first one is just a screenshot since it's only supposed to be for Master Gardeners and you possibly aren't one of those)

Master Gardener "Flowers for Pollinators" teaching package resource site:

OMGosh. SO PRETTY!! And there are embedded google docs and presentations all over the place. It looks great.

Here's the new Google Site for Extension's big web re-design project:

You can see on both of these how you can add a little branding. I show that in the video below too.

Old Google Sites was very unique looking

Just Tell Me What's Different Already!

  • Less distinctively weird looking. More modern.
  • Looks good on mobile
  • Add anything from Google apps (Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, Charts, Videos, or Images, Calendars, Maps, and YouTube videos). All of these show a preview of the file, with the full content viewable after a visitor selects the file. The Old Google Sites did something similar but it's just nicer now.
  • You can drag content around and it snaps into place
  • You can publish just to your organization ( or the world. The World! Mwahahaha!
  • You can customize the url (a bit)
  • If you want super granular permissioning (like picking what specific people can see specifically), it is possible in the Old Google Sites but I haven't found a way to do that in New Google Sites
  • As far as I can tell, you can't convert an Old Google Site to a New Google Site.

In which I demo making a site in less than 5 minutes

The University’s URL-shortening service recently added some great new features that you should know about! Back in March 2016, our article How to Shorten a Link (URL) and Track It described what is and why you would use it. Today I want to highlight what is new in Z and share a short video that shows you how to use the new features.

Transfer Ownership

You now have the ability to transfer ownership of your links to someone else. This feature is great if you are leaving your position or if you no longer need to manage the z-link for a project, event, document, survey, website, etc.
  1. Under My Z-Links, select one or more URLs
  2. Click Give to a different user
  3. Enter the name or Internet ID of the person you want to transfer to
NOTE: The person you are transferring to must accept it. You can revoke access until they accept.

Organize and Share Collections

You can group your URLs into collections to organize them (e.g. projects, events, documents). Collections can be shared with other users to edit, view stats and add URL’s.

Create a collection:
  1. Under My Collections, click Add New Collection
  2. Enter a name and description and click Create Collection
Share a collection:
  1. Under My Collections, click the under the actions column and select Members
  2. Enter a name or Internet ID and click Add member
Transfer a URL to a collection:
  1. Under My Z-Links, find the URL you want to transfer
  2. Under the Collections column drop-down, select a collection

Departmental Accounts

You can use a departmental account to log into to create and manage URLs. You can also share collections with departmental accounts.


As soon as you create a URL, you can click the Tweet button to quickly share the URL via Twitter.

QR Code

A custom QR code is automatically created with any new z-link. When you create a new URL, you can click the QR Code button to download a QR image to your computer. 
Existing links:
  1. Click the under the actions column
  2. Select Share and QR code
  3. The QR code image is downloaded to your computer


You can still view statistics about your URLs by clicking the under the actions column and selecting stats. The page layout has changed a bit and they’ve added a place to manage the collection for your link, and buttons to tweet and create a QR code.

Quick Bytes Live! Podcast

Ann Fandrey and IT Goldy, ready for podcasting

#19:  Don't Call my Slides PRETTY

(recorded June 19, 2017)
We welcome the lovely Ann Fandrey, Academic Technologist at UMN, on the show to talk about her research and recommendations in academic slide design. She talks about bullets, clip art, stock photos, charts, conceal and reveal, and lots more about how and when to use these tools. 
 Links from this episode:

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Do you need a slide? flowchart, as described verbally in the podcast

Image uploaded from iOS.jpg
Ann Fandrey, Academic Technologist, U of MN College of Liberal Arts
Last week at the Innovate! Teaching with Technology conference in Morris, I attended a workshop about academic slide design led by Ann Fandrey, Academic Technologist in the UMN College of Liberal Arts. Ann’s interactive session provided lots of examples, research, practical tips and a space to discuss challenges people have with visual design.

Below are a few of my takeaways from this workshop. Be sure to also listen to the Extension Quick Bytes podcast discussion we had with Ann this week!

We aren't born with visual literacy skills. 

  • Analyze lots of examples
  • Practice making visuals
  • Practice collaborative critique with other people and iterating your own designs. 

Try to be intentional with your design.

You should have a reason for every slide and for every element on each slide.

People cannot listen and read at the same time.

When you are doing a live presentation, people are watching and listening to you. If you show slides that are too text-heavy, you force your audience to divide their attention between reading your slides and listening to you.

Do you need a slide?

Slides that try to do 3 things at once (teleprompter, speaker notes, and visual aids) end up doing none of them well. To decide whether you need a slide, ask yourself whether your slide is meant to
  1. Clarify
  2. Help them retain information
  3. Sustain interest
Look at this awesome decision tree!

Photo of a PowerPoint slide titled "Do you need a slide?". It includes a graphic of a decision tree about needing a slide or not.

Bullet points may still be the most efficient design choice.

For example, use bullets only when:
  • You want people to recall items from memory
  • Items map directly to your learning objectives
  • You need a list
TIP: use progressive disclosure: conceal parts of your slide and reveal them when you want to talk about them.

Use assertion evidence technique.

People remember more when you put your main point (short sentence at the top) and use an image to prove it in the body. Don’t assume everyone can see/read the slide or understand the use of an image. Here is one of Ann's before/after examples:

Poorly designed slide example with the title "Buffer strips" and several long sentences bulleted.
Fandrey, A. 2017. Academic Slide Design: Visual Communication for Teaching and Learning. Mpls: Scale + Fine
Redesigned slide with an aerial photo of a field with large text and an arrow showing Buffer strips improve soil, water and air quality.
Fandrey, A. 2017. Academic Slide Design: Visual Communication for Teaching and Learning. Mpls: Scale + Fine

Use a style guide.

A style guide is a set of micro-agreements you make (with yourself) at the start of the slide design process. Making these decisions with colors, fonts, animations, pointers, alignment, shapes (use round or hard edges), etc., helps you stay consistent within slides. Consisten slides create a more cohesive deck, which makes it easier to learn from your slides and adds up to your professional credibility.

Other tips.

  • White space is the best tool to focus attention 
  • The big thing or the bright thing on your slide get looked at first 
  • Eyes follow lines. Lines divide content

My notes barely scratch the surface of this workshop but I highly recommend you check out Ann Fandrey’s book Academic Slide Design: Visual Communication for Teaching and Learning. that was just published in April 2017!  It will be available in mid July at the UMN library and of course available to purchase online on Amazon. It is full of examples, tips and an excellent resource. Thank you Ann for a great workshop, podcast conversation and sharing this great information!