I’ve Been Elected to the Faculty Senate!


A photograph of the front page of the Faculty Senate HomepageI am humbled and honored to say that my colleagues have elected me to the Faculty Senate at GSU. I have decided to dedicated a portion of this blog to my new Senate Actvities. Please see the new page (in the tabs above) entitled “Faculty Senate.”

If you wish to contact me regarding a Faculty Senate matter, my Senate service starts April 15, 2021. You may contact me at MKASSORLA@GSU.EDU. You may also text me at (4) 955-3618.



How to Use Zotero

I’m going to start by giving some great news:  Zotero is now available on Google Docs as a default App.  This is an EXCELLENT resource for those of you who want to create research papers in Google Docs with Zotero!

Now, on to the main purpose of my post:


Zotero is an open source, free, bibliographic management system created by The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and the New Media (RRCHNM) at George Mason University whose purpose is to democratize history with new technology and tools.  The RRCHNM also created the open-source browser, Firefox (which, because it is open source, should ONLY be downloaded from the Mozilla Foundation website!).

Why We Use Zotero

Zotero is one of the most useful tools you can have to make research papers.  It is an Open Source, FREE tool to make citations and bibliographies in ANY STYLE.  With Zotero you can:

  • keep track of multiple research projects,
  • create bibliographies in many different styles,
  • create citations, and
  • automatically create Works Cited and Bibliographies for papers

This is not all Zotero can do, but it is a good start!!

Here’s the basics from GSU Librarian and Zotero Specialist, Jason Puckett:

If you want to watch the entire WebEx Seminar Given by Jason Puckett, Click HERE.

Downloading Zotero

In order to use Zotero, you must download two components of the program:

  1. Zotero Stand-Alone (this lives on your computer)
  2. Zotero Connector (this lives on your browser.)

These are the step-by-step instructions to downloading Zotero into any computer.

Step 1: Check Your Computer & Browser

Zotero can be downloaded into the following computers:

✅ Apple,

✅ Windows (including Surface tablets),

✅ Linux.

Zotero will not work on:

❌ Chromebooks

❌ Mobile Devices, or

❌ iPads.

If you need to, you can use any lab computer at the college to run Zotero. Zotero has been white-listed by the IT department for installation on GSU campus computers. Continue reading

How to Claim Your Blog in GSU Sites!

You may have not realized it, but if you are a GSU student, faculty, or staff member; you have a blog already set up and waiting for you to activate it!  I have put together a short slideshow for anyone who wants to claim their blog and start using it.  It contains basic information for setting up your blog, posting content, and using widgets.  Please let me know if you have any questions!!

  • How to Claim Your Blog in GSU Sites


Finishing Up Spring –>Planning Summer!

As my classes finish up for the Spring, I am planning for Summer’s courses!  I am teaching English 098, Developmental English, this Summer!

I am looking for innovative ways to integrate reading and writing, and pushing my students to do their very best.  Please let me know if you have any ideas for me!


Jewish Holidays 2016-17

This is my annual list of Jewish Holidays, including links and a “Jewish Holidays at a Glance” calendar for planning.

Jewish High Holidays

Academic Year 2016-17


Each holiday begins at sundown and ends one hour past sundown.

These are holidays in which work is not permitted (Yom Tovim, i.e. “Days of Happiness”).  I have not included holidays when work is permitted.

The definition of “work” includes (but is not limited to): driving or travelling in a car or other vehicle, writing, using electronic devices, using phones, and engaging in commerce.

I have not included the Jewish Sabbath (Shabbat) in this list.  However, Shabbat is observed each week every week beginning at sundown and ending one hour after sundown.  Holidays that end on Friday night go directly into Shabbat.  There is no time between the end of the holiday and the beginning of Shabbat.



Rosh Hashanah
No work is permitted: Just before sunset of Sunday, October 2 through one hour after Sunset of Tuesday, October 4

Yom Kippur
No work is permitted: Just before sunset of Tuesday, October 11 through just after sunset of Wednesday, October 12. (Note: This is a 25 hour fast with no food and no water.  Employees may need to leave early in order to prepare for this fast.)

Sukkot Holidays
This is an eight-day holiday, but just the first two and the last two days of the holiday are days when no work is permitted.  The eight-day holiday starts just before sunset on Sunday, October 16 and goes through one hour after sunset on Tuesday, October 23.

No work permitted:

First Two Days—beginning just before sunset, Sunday, October 16 to one hour after sunset, Tuesday, October 18.

Shemini Atzeret
No work is permitted: Just before sunset of Sunday, October 23 until just after sunset, Monday, October 24. (This holiday goes directly into Simchat Torah with no break.)

Simchat Torah
No work is permitted: Just before sunset of Monday, October 24 until one hour after sunset on Tuesday, October 25.


Purim (Holiday Celebrating Queen Esther)
This is not technically a Yom Tov, but I have included it because many keep it like a Yom Tov.  Work is permitted, but highly discouraged, from just before sunset on Saturday, March 11 until after sunset on Sunday, March 12.

Pesach (Passover)
Pesach is an eight-day holiday.  No work is permitted the first two days and the last two days of the holiday.  Remember that days begin and end at sundown

Pesach 1 & 2: No work is permitted: Just before sunset Monday, April 10 until after sunset Wednesday, April 12.

Pesach 7 & 8:  No work is permitted: Just before sunset Sunday, April 16 to one hour after sunset, Tuesday, April 18.

Shavuot (Celebration of the Giving of the Torah)

No work is permitted:  Just before sunset on Tuesday, May 30 until after sundown on, Thursday, June 1.

Jewish Holidays at a Glance

Here is the PDF for Downloading:


Using Slack in the Classroom

Slack is a collaboration and messaging app.

I admit I didn’t come up with this myself.  At the start of last Spring semester, we had a great Open Conference on Teaching and Technology at GSU, where faculty members shared a lot of great stuff about what they were doing in their classes.
One of the participants, Fernando Rochaix, an Art Professor at GSU Perimeter’s Decatur Campus, who is light-years ahead of me in the use of mobile technology in the classroom.  He shared some awesome technology he was using in his classroom–including Google Cardboard and Slack.

I’m still looking into ways I can incorporate AR, VR, and Gamification into my own Literature and Writing courses, but in the meantime, but I wanted to play with Slack right away.


I’ll start with what Slack is (and what it is not!), and why I needed an app like this for my classes.

Slack is a collaboration platform for communication and sharing.  It is used primarily in business in order to limit the need for email.  It allows group and direct messaging, file sharing, and 3rd party app integrations.  It is also FREE! (Yeah!!)


The reason I needed an app like Slack is because I wanted to integrate more mobile technology into my classroom.  Every one of my students has a cell phone, and I want to leverage this technology toward classroom use.  I know we have an LMS for our classes, but it is clunky and students have to sign-in every time (even on their mobile device).  I was looking for something a bit lighter and easier to use.

I had already tried to use Facebook, Twitter as “back-channel” communication in my courses, but none of my students were very happy with any of those integrations in the past–mostly because they intermixed their own personal social network lives with class social network–a big no-no!  GroupMe was pretty good–but it notified via the student’s own text messaging, and this was also a bad intermix of class-life with personal-life.

Slack seemed different.  First of all, Slack notifies through the app–not through text messaging.  Also, none of my students had slack accounts, so it wasn’t poaching on their already-established social spaces.  A third advantage is that I could get my students familiar with an app that was already adopted by businesses all over the world–so they might have an advantage when they left my class and moved into the “real world.”

I also wanted to do more with mobile than provide back-channel communication in my course.  I also wanted to provide a way that students could easily reference files from my course when they were working in groups.  Slack provides a nice space where we can all upload files to share with one another.  We can also break into casual “teams” at any time and share files only with that team.  It is flexible and, I thought, intuitive.

The proof is in the pudding, however.  I wouldn’t know whether it was a fit for my course until I tried it out.  I wanted to start out slow and see how my students liked Slack.   So, as a test, I started using it in my relatively small English Comp class this summer.


OK, this wasn’t as smooth and professional as it sounds.  I just kind of announced that we would be using Slack in the classroom, and I pulled up the website on my class computer.  I did a brief explanation (very brief, because I wasn’t really a heavy user myself!), and I asked them to download the app on their phones and come up and add their “real” every-day email address to the slack group membership page.  I though to myself, “Yeah!  I’ve got this!” and I was patting myself on the back about how efficiently I had added everyone to the group–until I checked later and found out that only one student had been added!

InviteSlackApparently, after each addition, you have to click the green “Invite 1 Person” button.  My students didn’t do that.  Instead, they just typed their information over the information of the previous student.  So, only the last student was added when I pushed the button at the end of our “sign up” session.

So, I went into the student information system and looked up each student’s non-official email address and emailed the membership to them.

Most of my students didn’t check their email and never clicked on the invitation.

The next class, I asked them all to check their email to accept the invitation, and spent about 15 minutes helping individual students figure out how to join the class.  Sigh.

Woot!So, it wasn’t as easy as I thought to get them all added–but now they were in there and I could communicate with them and share files.


After the initial burp, the students seem to have accepted the app.  A few of them have commented that it is much better than GroupMe or Remind because they can easily share files, and they can choose how they want to communicate and with whom.  They can also use the app to make in-app phone calls to members of the team.  Mostly, they commented how they like that it is a separate app that doesn’t come through their regular text messaging.  When they see an alert there, they know it is class related and it is probably important.

Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 12.49.44 PMI have also been using the app in my teaching–telling students I have uploaded a handout as a JPG or PDF in Slack so that they can reference it while they work with a computer or another device or in group work in the class.  This saves me time–and I don’t have to use the crummy departmental copy machine, ever.

One of the best things with the app happens by accident.  A few weeks ago I had a Jewish Holiday, and was offline for three days.  My students have become accustomed to instantaneous casual communication with me, so this was a bit of a hardship–at first.  Fortunately, we are all on slack, and they handled it themselves, even when I was back online on Monday:




Setting Up Amazon Echo’s Alexa to Alert Family to Emergency

Getting Amazon #Echo's #Alexa to Notify Family of an Emergency Using #IFTTT

My Alexa now notifies the family if there is an emergency.

My mom is pretty dang tech savvy for an 84-year-old.  She has an iPhone 6, she texts, and she even has a Snapchat (although we made her promise not to sext!).

So, when she called me up in February and told me she had a new Amazon Echo and wanted to set it up, I wasn’t surprised.  I hadn’t gotten an Echo, but I had watched from the sidelines–reading everything I could about Amazon’s wonderful speaker with the AI assistant, Alexa, available, like a genie in a bottle, to grant your every wish.  You can shop, listen to music, track your packages, and even control a smart home–why wouldn’t I be impressed?

A long time ago, my mother and I started sharing our Amazon Prime account, and so when I went to set up the Echo for her, it was a breeze.  Almost immediately, I wondered, “If my mother fell or had an emergency, could she use Alexa to call for help?”  I Googled the question, only to find that the new Alexa “skills” marketplace had no way to connect Alexa to 911 or any emergency services.  Developers had complained saying that only Amazon engineers could install that capability.

So, I looked for another option.  Yesterday, I started looking at recipes for Alexa in the very wonderful “If This Then That” app (IFTTT) on my iPhone.  I discovered that there was a way to have Alexa call your phone–even an IFTTT recipe for that–but all it would do is call.  It was good for finding your phone, but not much else.

What about texting?  I couldn’t find a recipe to directly text, but I did find a recipe for an app I use a lot:  GroupMe.  GroupMe allows you to create a group of people you want to text.  I have used it a lot with my classes to inform them when I am late, or when class is cancelled, or when we have an assignment coming up. I also have a group for family that I established years ago when my son was seriously ill in the hospital.  It was PERFECT.

In the IFTTT app, I created the following recipe:

Getting Amazon #Echo's #Alexa to Notify Family of an Emergency Using #IFTTT

I set up the “Alexa” part of the recipe by first connecting the Alexa app on my phone to IFTTT (it’s painless, they just ask you for permission), then I chose “say a specific phrase” as the Alexa trigger.  I set that phrase to be “emergency.”

For the GroupMe part of the recipe I already had a group set up, but if you don’t, first establish a group of family and/or friends that you would want to notify in an emergency on the GroupMe app on your phone.  Then add GroupMe to the recipe.  It will ask you which group to connect to. Select the group you established for the emergency notification.

Next it will ask what you want the message to say.  I knew I wanted to test the recipe first to make sure it worked, so I put in “This is a test.  I am setting up an emergency notification for Mom’s Alexa.  If you see this message, it worked!”

Make sure you save the recipe before you test it.  To test it, I called my mother and asked her to say, “Alexa trigger emergency.”  She replied “Sending to IFTTT,” and I immediately received a text on my phone with the message I had typed.

I then went back into the IFTTT app and changed the message to read, “Someone at mom’s house has just indicated there is an emergency.  Please call:  (I added her house phone here).  If there is no answer, please notify 911.  Her address is:  (I put in my mother’s address and zip code.)”

That’s it. Now we have an emergency notification set up and, as I said to my mother, “I hope we never need it.”

GTA is Educational, and Not the Type of Education You Think It Is!

My son is nine, and he loves Grand Theft Auto (GTA).  Now, before you start condemning me as a bad parent and scolding me about how I shouldn’t let my son play a game clearly designed for older players, hear me out.  My son is the seventh of eight boys.  In other words, the game was purchased for older players, but they have since aged-out of my house and left for college and life.  So, what we have is a legacy game, a game he grew up watching his brothers play–and he plays.  But, if you still want to condemn me, I have to say there are a lot of other mothers and fathers out there that need condemning as well because, just in my experience listening on the other end of the game (and I do listen!), I have heard him play with scores of kids his age and younger.  So, now that we have that out in the open, we can be honest with one another.  I’m not going to pretend I keep my kid away from anything other than “E”-rated games, and you are not going to pretend like I’m the only parent doing this.

iba9TBRgXk3mFHGTA is such an expansive game that, like life, it offers my son a lot of choices–but unlike life, I can sit on the couch behind him, watch what he does, and hear what he says.

I don’t do this all the time (I have a life), but I do it often enough that I have started to critically analyse what my son does in-game. I know you will be skeptical, but I propose that GTA is one of the most educational games out there–and not the type of education most attribute to the game.

Before I get to the amazing skills my son has developed through GTA, I will start with the basics so you have an idea of his set-up,  his level, and the general way in which we allow gaming in our house.  We’ll start with the environment he games in: We have an aging XBox 360 in a family room. It’s a fairly public place, which is how I like to keep online games and computers in our house.  His little brother likes to sit in there, and they switch off playing games–often without civility.  None of us have a computer or a game console in our rooms, and I also discourage the use of any electronic devices in bed. (I model this behavior by turning off my addictive iPhone at 8:30 every night, and doing without until 6:30 a.m.)  Although we have one XBox 360, we have two XBox Live accounts in order to permit parallel play in Minecraft, and so that brothers keep their game identities separate as much as possible. (Nothing ruins your street-cred like your seven-year-old brother playing your avatar badly.)

My son has been playing GTA in its various generations for years now–and he enjoys the expansive map available in GTA5, even though he had to give up the opportunity to play as a cop. Although he often plays online, he also enjoys some quiet repast in a solo game every once in a while to catch his breath.  He is at level 115, which he assures me is pretty high.   Continue reading

Do You Love a Free and Open Internet? Then Get Rid of Your AdBlock NOW!

imgresI just removed Adblock from my phone and my computer.  Yeah, I will miss being free of the advertisements, but I also want to make sure that the internet that I love–the one with all the free tools and great advice and wonderful blogs–stays that way.

Every single one of you that still has an adblocker needs to realize that what you are doing is wrong.  You should not be enjoying the free internet if you won’t at least spend some time looking at the ads that support it.  Yes, those ads are annoying, but they are also paying for your right to access free content.  Those businesses, and spammers, and silly cat video promoters are doing you a big favor–so, you should , at least, spend some time looking over what they have to share with you.

I will even readily admit that I do, on occasion, click on the ads I see, just to make sure that my favorite internet blogger gets some traction on the ads on their site.  I want to make sure that the advertisers know that some of us do see those ads, do notice them, and do click.

Like it or not, the world runs on money, and the people who share great tools and advice and great blogs need to get paid at the end of the day.  If you start blocking the very same ads that give those people revenue, you are insuring that the next generation of internet stars are practicing their craft behind an internet paywall.

I think of using an adblocker somewhat like being a petty thief.  Yeah, you may get away with it, but you will, eventually, make everything a lot more expensive for everyone else.  It’s not fair to enjoy the benefits of an open internet if you won’t at least spend a few minutes closing pop-ups.

So, I’m hoping that you will join me.  Get rid of the adblocker on your computer and your mobile phone, and take a stand to protect free and open internet access–an internet paid for by those annoying, essential, and sometimes creepy ads.