Thursday, June 15, 2017

Getting Your Computer Ready for School

Most of you either bought a new computer for school or kept one (complete with all the stickers) from high school. I am in both groups, actually: My main traveling computer is a laptop that has been with me for a couple of years, but my home desktop unit just got a new hard drive, so it's completely blank.

Here's some summer advice to make your transition easier (and besides, doing something like this will feel like you are progressing toward being a college student).

  • Clean house. Go through all those files and ask yourself whether you really need that homework from your first Junior semester.
    • You might like to delete or hide some of those embarrassing photos.
    • And that desktop image.
  • Back up the really important stuff. (Your only picture of Uncle Ed, the school addresses of your buddies, and so forth.) I put mine on a CD. If you can't do that, you can upload a copy to Google Drive. Computers crash at school. Computers get stolen. There are some things you don't want to lose.
  • Figure out Google Drive. Everyone who has a gmail account has access to this cloud drive, and when you get to Ashland, you have an AU Google Drive account with infinite storage space. It's an excellent way to move things from one computer to another and to save important things.
  • Don't buy a copy of MS Word. AU students get a free copy. As soon as you are permitted, go to this Ashland University link and download your copy.
    • MS Word is a huge file! You probably want to start the download before you go to bed.
    • The download instructions are complex, so I suggest you print them out before you begin.
  • Windows users: figure out OneDrive. Go to this Microsoft link to see how. (OneDrive is a free service that allows you to back up your work to a Microsoft server so you can get to it from other computers. If your computer quits, your writing is still on the cloud server.)
  • Apple users: our cloud server is iCloud. Here is the link to setup instructions. (Note: iCloud is fairly small unless you pay Apple some extra money, so if you have a lot of music or video material on your computer, it won't all fit. There's a way to set up iCloud so it only saves items you specify.)
  • This one should be obvious: If the computer is giving you trouble, get it to a repair shop before you get to school.
  • Learn how your system does file folders and set up your system. I suggest a master folder called something like "Fall 2017" with daughter folders inside for each course you are taking. Inside each course folder you can create folders for such things as major papers, homework assignments, and class notes. By the way, you should come up with document titles that actually tell you something—not names like "English Paper." The whole idea here is to help you find what you need without wading through a mountain of unrelated material. Your time is important in college.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Writing Teacher in the Summer

This is the first summer in a very long time without any classes (my choice). I was tempted to go on a European journey (Wales was very appealing), but instead I find myself focused on two activities: bicycling and writing.

Ohio has an enormous mileage in Rails-to-Trails routes, and some really beautiful ones are within half an hour's drive of my home in Mansfield, so that's where you will find me at least four days a week. A thirty-mile ride in the evening sounds grand. (People ask me how long that takes. I'm a fairly slow rider, so it's 2½ to 3 hours.) The picture is an Internet image of my favorite wheels, a Giant Roam.

The other part of the summer has been writing. I'm working on a textbook for prisoners who are taking a college English course online. It's quite a project, and I have never done anything like this before, so it's a somewhat frustrating adventure. Loose papers everywhere! Notes to myself about great ideas to include—but will I find the notes when it comes time to write that chapter?

On the non-biking evenings (and many mornings) you will find me in a restaurant with a cup of coffee, a stack of paper, and a pen, working on the next chapter. People are fascinated. They have never seen anyone do anything like this before. It's like seeing someone perform brain surgery with a butter knife. For my part, handwriting just feels better, and gave me the added advantage that the computer crash of a few weeks ago didn't take away a single word of my book. Though I already have several good pens, I bought this one to commemorate the start of the project:

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Keyboarding skills

A quick heads-up: The State of Ohio thinks that a college freshman English course should require 25 pages of edited, finished, typed papers per semester. If you are taking five academic courses (a pretty standard number), that means you might type as many as 100 pages of papers this semester.

That's a lot if your idea of "typing" is two thumbs on an iPhone. That's a lot if you have to search around for the "q" or you don't know how to actually type a quotation mark.

Now is not too soon to practice your typing skills. I did a quick search on Yahoo and found this free touch-typing practice page. It looks pretty good, and there are others if you search Google. (And your local bookstore certainly has a selection of how-to books for beginning typists.)

Every college freshman struggles with time pressure; learning to produce your papers quickly and efficiently should help at least a little.

Bulletin for Ashland students

Part of your tuition pays for a free copy of Microsoft Word, so don't buy one this summer.
  • This link to our Information Technology department is the beginning point for your free download.
    • I don't know how soon you have permission to download that software, but you need to sign in to MyAU Portal. The link is halfway down the page.
    • The instructions for downloading MS Word are very complex. I suggest you print them out before you start.
  • For Windows users (whether Ashland students or not), here is an excellent (and huge) free alternative to MS Word: Apache Open Office
    • As an Apple user, I greatly prefer NeoOffice, which is Open Office ported for the Apple. It costs a bit of money, but I think it's worth the expense.
  • Apple users already have Apple Pages, a very good word processor.
  • And of course, we all have Google Docs. You get there from your Ashland email account.