This week was my first time presenting at a professional conference. While I’ve done many presentations for students and parents, it was different to assume a role of “expert” (or at least as someone with something of value) for experienced professionals. It went well, and I was so excited to see lively discussion at the tables.

One thing I hadn’t thought about is that yeah, there’s generally the idea of shaping the conversation in field by participating, but that applies in the micro sense as well. It was neat to be able to have the smaller conversations with people for the rest of conference about their thoughts and takeaways from my draft meaning making framework. It was also delightful to hear that people didn’t mind learning a little theory as well.

UP IS WHAT Now?

This week I decided to get serious with studying Japanese and started with Wanikani, an online system for learning kanji. Using a system of mnemonics and spaced repetition software (SRS) WK is designed to help you learn radicals, kanji, and compounds. First, you cram the new material into your brain, and then a few hours later WK will quiz you. Do well, and it’ll extend the time until it asks you again. Miss one, and you’ll see it again sooner. Repeat, repeat, repeat until learned.

What seems so promising about WK is that while it’s relatively easy to learn a single use for a kanji, I’ve never had a system that was good about teaching me multiple uses of that kanji. I would learn that 上 is the preposition for UP, pronounced ue, and then off to the next kanji. When I’d see that 上 in a sentence, half the time it was being used in a sense I hadn’t learned yet, a grammatical brick wall. WK isn’t going to let me off so easy–instead, it makes me learn 上, 上がる, 上げる, and 上手 (up, to rise, to raise, and skilled) in rapid succession.

I’m also currently working on my preliminary literature review, linking affective experiences, conceptual schema, cognitive structures and language, and narrative. One part of this is looking at how language develops, and how the metaphoric words we use expose the way we’ve grouped ideas (schema). The idea of an UP is inherently linked to the experience we have as a person; UP requires a perspective, a vantage from which UP can be above. And having that sense of the relative direction, we have linked it to positive concepts: HAPPY IS UP so we can feel up and our spirits can rise, and GOOD IS UP so things can look up and hit a peak. These categories are complex, built from our physical experiences into a net of understanding, with tiny differences between UP, OVER, ABOVE, OUT, and ALONGSIDE all having linked but different ideas. In her book Story of Over, Claudia Brugman reportedly found over 100 related meanings for the word OVER! (More on all of this in Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things by George Lakoff.)

Which brings me back to my friend 上. Japanese kanji are inherently visual, and there’s a visible representation in 上 as UP (especially when compared to down/下), so when I look at the vocabulary I’m learning I can see abstractly the connection. But I haven’t internalized these connections quite yet. Instead, WK is teaching me mnemonics that make what is abstract to me now be relatable to my existing English-based mind. Today, I’m memorizing a toe on the ground (seriously!) but someday soon the words will form into internal links of meaning.

And so I keep going, day by day, using brute force to build the schema connections in my mind, all to the end that these meanings can become as natural and opaque as cognitive structures in my native language.

Which is all to say that researching the process while experiencing it is fascinating…enough so that I feel the urge to HAPPY IS UP jump for joy!

Quick Searching in Terra Dotta on a Mac Using Keyboard Maestro

Previously, I outlined how to use AutoHotKey (AHK) to speed up access to searches in the study abroad software Terra Dotta, and speed up various other functions. AHK is only available for PC, but luckily it turns out that we can use Keyboard Maestro to replicate the same functions.

First, the sad news is that Keyboard Maestro isn’t a free option like AHK. Initially, I tried implementing the functions through the oldie-but-a-goodie open-source program Quicksilver. Some functions worked okay, including the searches, but many things like paste without formatting didn’t. Ultimately, after messing around with multiple solutions, I decided that I preferred to have a single solution even if it required paying for it (and now I can feel good about supporting well-deserving programmers too).

The way Keyboard Maestro is set up, you can set up a trigger for an action, and then a series of steps. It’s a little more difficult to copy and paste these over, so below I’ve included images showing the sequence of steps if you’d like to put them together yourself manually. I’ve also included downloadable .kmmacros, which you can open and edit to fit your site and needs. In that case, be sure to change the URLs in the files to your particular Terra Dotta install URL.

Download Macro File: Find student with control-shift-sFind Student Steps   

Download Macro File: Find program brochure page with control-shift-d
Find Brochure Page Steps

Download Macro File: Find program edit page with control-shift-f
Find Program Edit Page Steps

Download Macro File: Universal paste without Formatting
Paste without formatting steps

Download Macro File: Open Calculator
Open calculator steps

Download Macro File: Text substitution (short snippet)
For short text, it works more reliably to have KM type the text, but it gets a little laggy with long text. For that reason, I have the text substitution separated out with one method for short text substitutions and long text substitutions.
Short text substitution steps

Download Macro File: Text substitution (long snippet)
Long text substitution steps

The one shortcut I haven’t duplicated on my Mac is the transformation of a selection of email addresses from having a serial comma to having a serial semi-colon. I have no doubt that Keyboard Maestro would make that possible, but I haven’t needed it because I have been using the combination of Postbox + Fantastical instead of the perpetually buggy Outlook.

Happy shortcutting!

Quick Searching in Terra Dotta on a PC Using AutoHotKey

Some tasks we do so often that it’s worth taking a few minutes or hours to streamline the activity, saving minutes and hours down the line. During my work day, I generally live in Terra Dotta, the online software often used for study abroad management. Terra Dotta is powerful but sometimes navigating between sections of the system is a bit slower than I’d like, so it’s a bright opportunity for streamlining.

In particular, three actions that I do frequently are searching for a student and opening program public brochure pages and edit pages. For example, I receive an email from a student and I want to check the status of their application before responding, or I am on a public page for a program and want to fix a typo. By default, I’d need to copy the text, open the search page via bookmark, paste the text, and click search. But where Terra Dotta shines is in using regularly formatted URLs, which we can use as a base for faster access. Instead of the multi-step process, we can leverage Terra Dotta’s regular URL scheme to make it possible to highlight a student or a program name and with a single keyboard shortcut have the search results appear in a web browser.

I created these shortcuts using the free open-source program Auto HotKey (AHK). Using this system means that you can highlight text anywhere (e.g. in an email, in a word document, in a PDF), hit a key command (such as ctrl-shift-s), and your search result will immediately appear in your default web browser. The only place I’ve had difficulties with this working was in an Excel spreadsheet when I only clicked to highlight a field; if I highlight the text in the formula itself, the search works as it should.

To get started, first install AHK following their instructions. Next, continue through the tutorial and create a script file and paste in the text below. Make sure you swap in your site’s URL where prompted in the text. Note that any line of text that starts with a semi-colon is a comment, and has no impact on functionality.

;Search for a student in Terra Dotta by highlighting 
;a name and using ctrl-shift-s
;This is set to show withdrawn applications, but
;if you prefer to not include them, change the 
;showWithdrawn=1 to showWithdrawn=0 instead
;Must be logged in, search opens in a new tab

^+s:: 				
{				
Send, ^c
Sleep 50
Run, https://[URL OF YOUR TERRA DOTTA SITE]/index.cfm?FuseAction=StudentAdmin.SearchWizard_3&searchType=simple&iqueryid=&User_Name=%Clipboard%&Program_Name=&Program_Term=&showWithdrawn=1
Return
}

;Search for a program in Terra Dotta by highlighting 
;a name and using ctrl-shift-d
;This is set to search for Outgoing programs in my
;system. To search for other programs types,
;change the Program_Type_ID=1 to a different number
;Note that this search is designed to search as if
;the highlighted text is within quotes but
;sometimes Terra Dotta search breaks, and
;doesn't respect searches with quotes. In that case,
;the search will return a search as an OR result
;instead of an AND result
;Must be logged in, search opens in a new tab

^+d:: 				
{				
Send, ^c
StringReplace, Clipboard, Clipboard, %A_SPACE%, +, All
Sleep 50
Run, https://[URL OF YOUR TERRA DOTTA SITE]/index.cfm?FuseAction=Programs.SearchResults&Program_Name=`%22%Clipboard%`%22&Program_Type_ID=1
Return
}

;Search for a program in Terra Dotta program admin 
;by highlighting a program name and using ctrl-shift-f
;This is set to search for Outgoing programs in my
;system. To search for other programs types,
;change the Program_Type_ID=1 to a different number 
;Must be logged in, search opens in a new tab

^+f:: 				
{				
Send, ^c
StringReplace, Clipboard, Clipboard, %A_SPACE%, +, All
Sleep 50
Run, https://[URL OF YOUR TERRA DOTTA SITE]/index.cfm?FuseAction=ProgramAdmin.SearchResults&Program_Name=`%22%Clipboard%`%22&Program_Type_ID=1
Return
}

I selected the keys of s (Student), d (finD public program), and f (Find program edit page) mostly because they are close to the x/c/v combination for cut/copy/paste and close to the control and shift keys for easy one-handed use. You can also edit the commands to use different key combinations by changing what is listed before the :: and consulting the AHK Hotkey Tutorial. Just be careful to use a key command that doesn’t duplicate other shortcut key combos already in use on your computer.

There are so many things you can do with shortcuts. Based on tutorials such as this one on Lifehacker, I’ve built a few more that were useful to me. First, Terra Dotta insists on generating their lists of email addresses (in search results > Options > Send Email > view copiable address list) separated by commas, which makes Outlook angry. So, rather than perpetually pasting the lists in a text document and using find/replace to change the commas to semi-colons, I created this shortcut that let me copy and then use control-shift-; to paste the text directly into a BCC field in Outlook with the commas already switched to semi-colons.

;The command is Ctrl+; to paste text from the clipboard with all colons changed to semi-colons
^+;:: 				
{
StringReplace, Clipboard, Clipboard, `,, `;, All
Send ^v
}
Return

Putting text into a WYSIWYG editor in Terra Dotta or copying from Terra Dotta information into a Word document is a bit of a hassle because the formatting often comes through messy. So, here is a shortcut to universally paste without formatting by using control-shift-v (instead of whatever shortcut an individual program wants you to use for paste without formatting).

;Paste unformatted text using ctrl-shift-v
^+v::				
bak = %clipboard%
clipboard = %bak%
Send ^v
return

My silly fingers often would hit the insert key accidentally, so I changed the function to act like just another delete key.

;Get rid of annoying Insert Key, change to Delete instead
Insert::Delete

I often need to pull up a calculator quickly, so here’s a shortcut for pulling open a calculator with the shortcut control+[the . key on the numberpad]. You may need to adjust the path, depending on where the program is located in your system.

;Open Calculator by ctrl-. (. on numberpad only)
^NumpadDot::Run C:\WINDOWS\system32\calc.exe

You can also use AHK to set up shortcuts for text you type all the time, such as a URL, your email address, or even emails. Any time you type that text on your system, AHK kicks in and replaces the text with the substitution after the ::. I tend to use the format [text] followed by xx as my format for substitutions because it that sequence of letters doesn’t come up in any other context, but you can set any sequence of text for this. Just be careful not to use a sequence of text where it might substitute when you don’t want it.

::wwwxx::http://www.ndsu.edu/studyabroad

::e@xx::exampleemail@example.edu

::marketplacebouncexx::I am writing to you because we received notice that your payment through Marketplace for your application fee/deposit was returned. It looks like the reason for this is ----------------. We would appreciate it if you could resubmit the payment using this link:{Enter} {Enter}https://[LINK HERE]

But what about me, a Mac-user? you ask. Well, a few years ago I switched to a Mac, where AHK isn’t available. [Cue dramatic sadness.] So, next time I’ll walk through how I duplicated these functions in Keyboard Maestro.