Category Archives: Tech Tools

Spreadsheet Wisdom: Teaching and Learning with Excel

What I’ve learned from working with the Penn community – students and faculty – is that Excel can be customized to projects across vastly different disciplines. If you’ve been to one of my workshops, you’ve probably heard me say that the best way to deal with Excel is to learn to “think like Excel.” Approaching problems like a computer program can not only help give you new perspective but it can also provide a practical method for troubleshooting Excel’s functionality on your own.

If you can figure out what Excel is missing or misinterpreting that is making your data look funny, you can go in an quickly fix the isolated issue. This takes some initial practice but can be accomplished with a bit of patience and the help of Penn Libraries’ newly updated Excel guide. Here you’ll find sample files and notes to guide you through performing tasks ranging from basic to advanced.

Tips and Tricks

Below is a list of spreadsheet wisdom covering frequently asked questions and a few tips and tricks for optimizing your Excel workflow.

Hidden Commands

  • In Excel, commands can often be found in multiple places. If you can’t find the button you’re looking for in the top ribbon, try right clicking to see what Excel suggests.

Chart/Graph/PivotTable

Resize 01---Chart
To add a graph to your sheet, simply click and drag to select the data, navigate to insert on the top ribbon and choose whether you want a table, chart, or PivotTable.

Paste Special

Resize 02--PasteSpecial
Remember when pasting charts into other Office programs that they remain dynamic using a simple paste, meaning the chart will change if you edit the spreadsheet data. To create a static chart, go to paste special and choose a picture format (JPEG or PNG).

Freeze Panes

Resize 03---FreezePane
Freeze panes to allow a header row or column by navigating to view in the top ribbon and selecting freeze panes.

Functions

Resize 04---Fx
Insert a function by clicking on the fx button beneath the top ribbon. You can select cells by clicking and dragging after choosing the mathematical function you’d like.

Autofill

05 - AutoFill
Autofill data by hovering over any corner of a cell until you see a black cross then click and drag to where the cells you’d like to populate.
  • Autofilling formulas automatically adjusts the cell references.
  • Autofilling number series or days of the week automatically fills in the next member of the set.

Filters

Resize 06---Filter
Add filters by selecting the first cell in the column you’d like to sort and then selecting filter from the sort & filter menu on the home ribbon.

When using Excel, keep in mind that this program can function as a calculator, chart maker, list creator, and more! If you think there should be a way to perform a task in Excel, there probably is. Be patient while exploring and experimenting with different ways to manipulate the data. Finally, don’t hesitate to ask for assistance from WIC if the problem becomes too time consuming. We can always be reached at wic1@pobox.upenn.edu.

Sara Leavens: Communications, Marketing, and Social Media Coordinator

This blog post is the kick-off for a series of profiles that I will be doing on Penn Libraries staff and how their work coincides with the use of social media to reach patrons both traditionally (as in, in-person) and digitally (as in, via blogs, social media, websites, etc.).

The Penn Libraries has been a personal, intellectual home for me over the last five years, and as I wrap up my time as a graduate student here, I hope to share with you some behind-the-scenes insight into the people and resources that have made it possible for someone like me–a non-traditional graduate student–to do the amazing work I’ve been able to do with social media and working directly with library patrons.

My hope is that by the end of this short series, you will come to appreciate all the Penn Libraries has to offer its patrons, and share in my wonder that we have access to these space and resources.

–Jaime Marie Estrada
Social Media Intern, Weigle Information Commons, Penn Libraries
Master of Liberal Arts Candidate, Philosophy and Communications, 2017

For the first blog post of the series “Social Media at Penn Libraries,” I’d like to introduce you to Sara Leavens, a recent addition to the Penn Libraries staff. Sara Leavens came to UPenn from the University of Kansas where she studied creative writing. Sara’s strengths lie in that she understands how to engage with students, faculty, and staff to make the resources available at the libraries more visible using social media and other forms of communications and marketing.

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Sara and learn how she came to Penn and what her first few months on the job were like:

Sara Leavens started at the Penn Libraries as Communications, Marketing, and Social Media Coordinator in 2015.

Since Sara comes from a creative writing background, some of her role comes naturally to her! Sara has an MFA in Creative Writing and had originally planned on being a professor. However, she didn’t want to pursue a PhD, and with a technical communications background from her undergraduate work, she realized there was a need for social media at her academic department at the University of Kansas. Sara started the department’s Twitter and FB pages at the University of Kansas. Eventually, these pages became the most visited departmental pages at UKansas from 2013-2015.

When Sara first started at the Penn Libraries as Communications, Marketing, and Social Media Coordinator in 2015, she found the libraries’ many social media accounts to be quite established. She described her first few months here as a “good will tour,” where she met with head librarians and directors of the 14 (!!!) libraries, to learn about their current social media management and future needs.

From there, Sara went about the challenging and fun work of trying to ascertain and corral all of the social media accounts that each center and library had established for itself. In some cases, it took her as long as two years to hunt down and redirect some of the accounts! Centralizing communications and social media is a common trend being undertaken by many college and university campuses as they are starting to see social media less as a grassroots initiative and as more central to the branding and marketing of higher education to its most important audience: the students.

Continue reading Sara Leavens: Communications, Marketing, and Social Media Coordinator

Social Media Outside of the Classroom

As the graduate intern for social media, I’ve been teaching social media workshops for Penn students, faculty, and staff at the Weigle Information Commons for over two years now. When I first started, it still was not clear what the purpose of social media was in the classroom or in academic life for that matter. However, more and more people are now buying into the idea of personal/professional branding and using social media platforms as learning tools.

In the last two years, we have all noted the rise of social media usage and how the lines between personal, professional, and useful are blurring. With the close of election 2016, the beginning of 2017, and the resurgence of using social media to organize in-person gatherings and protests, there is absolutely no doubt that social media will continue to rise in importance for college-age Americans and those who serve them as educators, mentors, colleagues, and support staff.

Here at the Penn Libraries, January has been an exciting time. On Saturday, the 14th, a hundred or so librarians, scientists, coders, hackers, and interested parties gathered to scrape data from NOAA.gov and other websites prior to the new administration potentially removing it from those sites. In addition, we have a series of workshops on identifying and avoiding “Fake News.” Individually, neither of these events is about “social media” in the way that my social media workshops are, but they are inherently linked to how undergraduate, graduate, and professional students use social media in their everyday lives on-and-off campus, in-and-out of the classroom.

Fake news is often perpetuated through news feeds on social sites like Facebook, Twitter, etc. In addition, accessing real news, and learning about real “threats” such as losing valuable information about climate change or other public scientific data, also occurs on social media sites. Most of us access our news digitally and many of us access our news on social media platforms.

For many years, I’ve heard concerns from older generations that millennials and younger generations consume news and “real information” differently and perhaps less intentionally. This quote from the Media Insight Project’s study on how millennials get their news is illuminating:

The worry is that Millennials’ awareness of the world, as a result, is narrow, their discovery of events is incidental and passive, and that news is just one of many random elements in a social feed.

This has been the concern of older generations of educators since I started working professionally with social media in college in 2010 and continues through to today. From my experience, students at both the graduate and undergraduate levels are very concerned that they are accessing and publishing the right information. There is a lot of social anxiety around what our brands look like online and building those brands requires a certain level of familiarity and comfort with using social media. For intellectual spaces like Penn, it also means that there is growing concern among active users of social media that their intellectual growth and learning empowers them to understand what they read and take action on it. Here are some of that 2014 study’s findings about how millennials consume news:

  • While Millennials are highly equipped, it is not true they are constantly connected. More than 90 percent of adults age 18-34 surveyed own smartphones, and half own tablets. But only half (51 percent) say they are online most or all of the day.

  • Email is the most common digital activity, but news is a significant part of the online lives of Millennials, as well. Fully 69 percent report getting news at least once a day — 40 percent several times a day.

  • Millennials acquire news for many reasons, which include a fairly even mix of civic motivations (74 percent), problem-solving needs (63 percent), and social factors (67 percent) such as talking about it with friends.

As we look forward into this new year, I plan to attend as many workshops and teach as many workshops as possible about how to continue to be a responsible consumer of media. Keep the Penn Weigle Information Commons and the Penn Libraries’ programming sites bookmarked as these are themes that we continue to explore as a university and a community.

If you’re interested attending our ongoing workshops relating to media consumption, digital, and social media, here are a few:

(Jan. 30) Shoddy News

(Feb. 8) Creating Meaningful Graphics

(Feb. 15) Creating Video Presentations

Penn and the Surrounding Community

On the edges of the Van Pelt Collaborative Classroom, located just down the hall from the Weigle Information Commons,  an exhibit about the edges of Penn’s presence in West Philadelphia runs until Friday, February 24, 2017. Penn and the Surrounding Community is a collection of work by Dr. Rosemary Frasso‘s students from the SW781/PUBH604 class entitled Qualitative Research in Social Work and Public Health. This semester’s exhibit focuses on how undergraduate and graduate students here at Penn conceptualize the University’s impact on its urban setting.

Nominal Group Technique (NGT) (in which members of a group name, then rank items) was used to determine the topic of exploration for the class research study. Briefly, Dr. Frasso moderated a session where in the students suggested potential topic ideas, then ranked those ideas. The topic of Penn and the Surrounding Community was collectively chosen as the central theme for investigation.

First, the students collected free-listing data. Each of the 25 students in the class recruited 5 participants (total of 125 people) from the Penn community and asked them to share the words that come to mind when they think about Penn’s relationship with the surrounding community. These data (words generated) were then analyzed to determine the salient domains.

Then each student recruited one additional participant to take part in the Photo-elicitation arm of the study. Briefly, each participant was asked to think about Penn’s relationship with the surrounding community and using their camera or smartphone to take photos that would help them explain their impression of this relationship. The photos were then used to guide a qualitative interview. All interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim and analyzed in the Collaborative Classroom.

The preliminary analysis yielded 10 thematic categories: Benefits, Safety, Permeability, Double-Edged Sword, Accessibility, Responsibility, Exclusivity, Bubble, Boundary, and Penntrification. Within these broad categorizations, representative photos and their accompanying captions were chosen for exhibition. The finished product will ultimately include an abstract for presentation as well as a manuscript for publication in addition to these preliminary findings currently on exhibit. The project can be viewed on the Scholarly Commons’ New Media Showcase.

The photos and quotes paint a complicated picture of how students perceive Penn’s relationship with the West Philadelphia community. The work highlights both the beneficial nature and drawbacks that are byproducts of Penn’s presence in West Philly, best described as a “double-edged sword.” For thought provoking insights like these, the exhibit is an enlightening and self-reflective project that is well worth the visit. Research rigor and critical social immersion blend to demonstrate the strengths of research in Public Health and Social Work.

 

Technology and Language Change: How Memes and Emojis Are The Language of The 21st Century and That’s OK

Prescriptivism is dead. That should be read as a warning of bias. This article is written from the perspective that overly regimenting language is a harmful practice. (Counterarguments and thoughts about this topic are more than welcome in the comments section below!) In a linguistic sense, prescriptivism stunts natural language change and prevents linguistic growth. Without language change, Latin would never have become the Romance languages. That’s right – no Italian, French, or Spanish, to give examples from just one language family.

Technology is a huge (and still growing!) part of the modern world and as such it impacts nearly all aspects of our lives – language included. Therefore, letting technology run its course on language brings our communication more fully into the 21st century.

Brief intermission:

My name is Julianna Pakstis. Hello and welcome to my first WIC blog post! As you can tell from the topic of this post, I have a fascination with language and how it has changed over time. I studied Classics and Linguistics at Penn as an undergrad but have recently switched gears a bit to become a Library Science Master’s student at Rutgers University. And that, ironically, led me back to Penn. I am now an intern at WIC and am excited to explore how WIC connects technology to various academic areas… like the internet and Linguistics.

Now, back to the post.

The study of language change has a long history. Therefore, criticism for language change has a long history as well. The impact of technology on

phaedrus
Plato’s Phaedrus is an ancient document which contains a criticism of the technology of writing.

language is no exception to this criticism. From writing itself, to chatspeak, and emojis, there is and seemingly always has been an outcry against the supposed degradation of language these forms of communication cause. There are voices in favor, too, however. There are authors, linguists and journalists alike, who do not condemn the new forms but embrace them, analyze them, and use them, whether professionally or simply personally.

Linguist Gretchen McCulloch is one of those authors. Back in 2014, she did a fairly neutral post on meta-analysis of the language of doge meme for the internet on website, The Toast. In this article she considered whether visual elements, like the Shiba Inu with a piercing expression or the bright comic-sans font made the meme. What she ultimately discovered, however, was that the peculiar grammar of doge meme was its defining feature.

For those readers who might not be familiar with doge meme, the viral image consists of a picture of a Shiba Inu dog with short, punchy phrases written in bright comic-sans layered over top. Typically the words read like this: “such dog,” much cute,” and perhaps most frequently “wow.”

doge-meme-and-tech
It’s very easy to create your own exemplary meme.

McCulloch concluded that “doge phrases,” short one or two word adjectival phrases, are most characteristic of the meme. You can now hear someone IRL (“in real life”) say “such wow” and envision the meme as the two of you recall a common mental image. While doge speak may not be the most popular internet borrowing for vocalized speech (OMG or LOL may be a better example there), it is a unique way of speaking that can definitively be traced back to this particular meme. When a way of speaking integral to a meme integrates into real life speech, language has changed by technological cause.

The end result is that people have nuanced ways to connect ideas and words. They still know the standard form of the language but can now manipulate it in line with new information.

The doge meme example leads to interesting questions about how fast, mass, and written communication, like the internet, affect language and orthography itself. The orthography issue is a hot topic lately as emojis “threaten” to destroy language as we have always known it.

First, we must tackle the debate of whether or not emojis are or can become a language inemojis and of themselves. There are compelling arguments on both sides, but the consensus right now seems to be that emojis enhance communication but do not have a clear grammar of their own. This lack of clarity (or presence of ambiguity) prevents them from really
overthrowing verbal and written communication. To be fair, one could say that even our established vocabulary and grammar has large amounts of ambiguity and therefore does not count as a language, though that would go against the common definition that what we speak and write is our language. This is a complicated issue so, again, your thoughts are welcome in the comments sections.

In the end, emojis, chatspeak, and memes are rapidly changing forms of expressions. The rapidity and universality are products of their technological context. Because they enhance communication, these symbols are part of our writing system and can be considered language. Rather than destroying language, however, these computer mediated forms of communication participate in a linguistic feature as old as language itself – change.

Why Social Media?

Why social media at Penn? Social media at Penn and in college, graduate school, and in the professional world is not about scrubbing all traces of who you are off the internet. It’s about creating content that you are “sincerely” passionate about engaging with and making connections online that will lead to IRL experiences like your next research project, a career, a new friend, or an amazing conference experience.

I’ve now had this conversation countless times. As the Saturday consultant at the Weigle Information Commons, I’ve taught social media workshops at the Penn Libraries for two years now. Now and then, I publish a blog post on a particular social platform or tool. Every few months, a friend, a patron, a colleague, or a stranger asks about my work with social media and says, “Oh, I should really do more online!”

Continue reading Why Social Media?

Summer Lightning

June workshops
June Calendar

This Memorial Day weekend has brought sunny hot days that end in evening thunderstorms. The flashes of lightning outside remind me to share the playlist of 16 videos from our April Lightning Round. The short clips are perfect for a tweet-out. Thanks to Chris Vandegrift for amazing video work!

Two June workshops build on Lightning Round energy. Ben Wiggins joins our intern Chava Spivak-Birndorf, creator of WIC and Dogs Timelines, for a TimelineJS workshop on June 8 and Ian Petrie presents a Scalar workshop on June 15. June has more fun topics as well, including how to get Google to notice your website.