I always appreciate when my innovative learners share the clever and inventive ways they fit their CalSouthern coursework into their busy lives. Finnie Williams is one of those innovative students.
Despite family responsibilities and other commitments, Finnie has found time to complete his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology degree here at CalSouthern, and he is now halfway through his master’s (MA) degree. And, I should add, he’s maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout!
On top of that, Finnie is an “over-the-road” truck driver for UPS. He travels five days a week throughout Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. Like many of you, he just does not have any time remaining to sit in a class room. He needs the online format to accomplish his academic goals. He also uses technology to his full advantage to meet assignment due dates and course end dates while on the road.
Curious, I asked Finnie how he does it, to provide the details for the rest of us. So here they are, his techniques for applying technology to maximize his available study time. I’ll try to describe his strategies as simply as possible, for the many of us who might not be so “technologically inclined.” (Although Finnie is an Apple person, using an iPhone, iPad and MacBook Pro, I am sure that all of us—PC users, included—can benefit from his system, and adapt it to our devices of choice.)
To begin with, Finnie added the CalSouthern Learning Center icon to the home screens of his phone, tablet and laptop. While waiting for his UPS trailer to be loaded, while on his lunch break or during any other free time he encounters throughout the day, Finnie quickly makes use of the time. He has ready access through the icon to post assignments, reply to other learners’ discussion forum posts, as well as to access, compose and reply to emails.
While away from home, brushing his teeth or packing his lunch in the morning, Finnie uses his devices and the CalSouthern library to listen to selections from The Counseling and Therapy in Video database or to listen to other research articles. He also listens to the key terms provided in the Taylor Study Method weekly assignments and even takes the weekly quizzes.
Whenever possible, Finnie purchases course textbooks in eBook or iBook format. He then downloads the texts to each device. Through the MacBook preview feature, Finnie is able to view and play the course books back in audio form. The iPad and iPhone will store texts in either iBook or in his Kindle app. While driving, he listens as his course textbooks are read to him—what a luxury! Finnie takes his MacBook and iPhone with him everywhere: “I never know when an opportunity may arise that will allow me to spend some time studying.”
OneDrive provides free cloud storage to all CalSouthern learners through their my.calsouthern.edu email toolbox. Dropbox is another free file storage service that allows users to save information in the cloud. Documents can be easily transferred from a computer’s hard-drive to the Dropbox storage folder. By using one of these storage apps, learners can instantly access any document from anywhere using any computer, iPad, iPhone or other device—and then save their work to the cloud for easy access later (again, from any device).
Dictation and Speech for MacBook
Finnie’s MacBook Pro has two very useful features that he utilizes frequently: dictation and speech. To turn on dictation, select edit > dictation or as a shortcut, press the (fn) key twice. This function allows you to dictate your notes for future papers, posts to other learners or even course assignments. Once dictation is complete, click “done.”
The speech function allows you to listen to any text document. Simply go to system preferences > dictation and speech and select your preferences. First, ensure that the volume is at a comfortable level. After highlighting the entire document (command + A) or manually selecting a portion of the document, press the option and escape keys simultaneously to enable the device to begin reading. This function can be used to listen to selected articles from the CalSouthern library or for proofreading entire written assignments, as well.
Although dictation is a feature that’s found on many devices, Finnie suggests that the free app Dragon Dictation is a more useful alternative when using text-to-speech options.
Speak Selection for the iPhone and iPad
The following instructions are the same for both iPad and iPhone. To turn on speak selection, go to settings > general > accessibility > speak selection. Turn speak selection on and set the speaking rate as desired. To select a textbook section, email, webpage or document, simply press one finger onto the document and release. Next, drag the “dots” to the portion you wish to hear, then press “speak.” (Selecting only one word will generate a “define” option when you need a definition. This feature may also be used to cut and paste information between documents.)
Finnie adds an important note: If you discover that the only option given in a document is “copy,” then select the entire document, select the copy option, then paste it into “notes” on the iPad or iPhone. After pasting the document into notes, press anywhere on the document, select all, then select “speak” to have it read back to you. Finnie creatively uses this function to write and temporarily store notes and other information. He then uses the select option to email it to himself for later incorporation into assignments.
Voiceover is a feature that “speaks” any item (document, email or webpage) that is present on the iPad or iPhone screen. To turn on voiceover go to settings > general > accessibility > voiceover. Set the desired speaking rate and then turn voiceover on again. With voiceover on, tap once to select an item, then double-tap to activate the item.
Finnie suggests that for quick access to voiceover, you should follow these steps: While in “accessibility,” select the option to triple-click the home button for voiceover. Now, each time you want to activate voiceover, simply press the home button three times. To de-activate the function, triple-click the home button again.
To use voiceover with documents and eBooks, first select the course textbook or article, then press the home button three times. Then, swipe the iPad or iPhone screen with two fingers to activate reading. The pages will be read and turn automatically. (To turn pages manually, swipe in the desired direction with three fingers.)
“The greatest benefit I achieve from using all of these gadgets and apps is the ability to complete assignments on the go, as well as to transfer information between the devices,” says Finnie. “As a result, each time I use one device to complete and update an assignment it can be saved and sent to the other devices via the cloud.”
Finnie plans to create a YouTube video containing all of all these instructions, so that other learners can benefit from his technology strategies.
So stay tuned! And thank you, Finnie!