Enrichment Day Session Addresses New Technology at Work

Posted: March 16, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Robin Herron

As part of last Friday’s University Enrichment Day program, Star Muir, director of the Instructional Resource Center, TOPS, the Mason Media Lab, and the STAR Center, offered some technology tips and tools that can make your work life easier. Following is a summary of a few of them.

Software: Being a George Mason faculty or staff member has its rewards, Muir points out. Through the university’s site licenses, staffers have access to several free or low-cost time-saving software packages for business use.

  • Corporate Time Calendar software can save endless phone calls and precious time when trying to set up a meeting with multiple participants. It checks participants’ calendars to see what blocks of time are mutually open, and it can also be used to book a meeting room. For even more convenience, the software is accessible from a personal digital assistant (PDA) such as a Palm Pilot. You can arrange to have Desktop Support Services install Corporate Time on your computer by calling the ITU Support Center at 703-993-8870 or e-mail support@gmu.edu. Free workshops on using

    Corporate Time are available through the TOPS Center.

  • EndNote is available for downloading or media can be purchased for $10 through Patriot Computers. The software allows users to organize research sources and automatically insert references into research papers. University Libraries also offers workshops on using the software. (This is also available to students.)
  • Docushare is another free service that can be used for posting, reviewing, and evaluating documents among group members. For example, the Board of Visitors documents are posted on Docushare. For a Docushare account and password, send an e-mail to jcherry@gmu.edu.

As a George Mason faculty or staff member, you are entitled to purchase Microsoft Office disks at low cost to install on your home computer if you use it to conduct university business. Disks for the complete XP Professional version are available at Patriot Computers for $30 (students may purchase disks for $99). Adobe Photoshop Elements is a basic, streamlined version of the more sophisticated software and is available for a less-sophisticated price as well–$49 from Patriot Computers.

Techno-gadgets: Some handy gadgets that Muir demonstrated include a flash drive, (also called a thumb drive or key chain drive), which is about the size of a key chain and plugs into your laptop or computer’s USB port. It can store significantly more data than a floppy disk. There are 16 MB, 128 MB, 256 MB,and even 1 GB versions. (A 256 MB drive is $60 at Patriot Computers.) A radio frequency remote mouse is useful for advancing slides of a PowerPoint presentation as you walk around the room and may even have a built-in laser pointer. They start at about $35.

Timesavers: For those who talk faster than they can type, Muir suggests voice recognition software, which has greatly improved in quality since the introduction of Pentium III computers. Other timesavers include Microsoft Word features such as templates for creating consistent looks for documents, and macros for inserting repetitive information into documents.

If all this technology leaves your head swimming and you feel burdened by information overload, Muir has some suggestions for that, too. He points out that studies have shown that the more information you take in, the less effective you become at making decisions, even though you don’t feel that you’ve become less effective. “It’s just like drinking,” he says. The key is to “take control of your information flow.” Although he admits to not being able to follow this rule himself, for maximum efficiency he advises checking e-mail only at specific times. Another suggestion is to “uni-task”–focus on one task–rather than multi-task. And as a last resort, when you’re completely overwhelmed, he says, you can always “go on a data fast for a couple of days.”

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