Is Google Classroom right for you?

A team of Notre Dame staff and faculty recently reviewed Google Classroom to see if this new learning management system has potential.  We we were encouraged how Classroom tries to simplify creating, distributing and grading assignments paperlessly and how it ties many of Google’s products (but not all) together.  However, there were many more things that discouraged us than encouraged us about Classroom.

For example, Classroom has no gradebook, no tests and quizzes, no discussion forums, no calendar, no way to connect Classroom to our student information system to automatically create and populate classes with students, and no way to connect to other systems like Piazza or Kaltura using the Learning Tools Operability (LTI) standard used by all the major learning management systems.  We really wanted to like Classroom, but this lack of basic tools made us decide that Classroom was not right for us at this time.

We will continue to monitor Classroom’s development and possibly revisit this decision at a later date depending on the progress of Classroom’s tool set.

If you would like to read our review of Google Classroom, please visit this link to our report in Google Docs: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1RAahDVstuCLMyNOD7ImAfkVTcDN2mkRYph5Nubg5Jss/edit?usp=sharing.

 

 

MFA Lighting Projections in the Snite Museum

We recently assisted student Allison Evans with lighting projections for her MFA project, on display in the Meštrovic´ Gallery at the Snite Museum of Art.

Evans’s project explores the relationship between light, space and perception by recreating the quality of light that existed in the Meštrovic´ gallery in the 1950s. At this time, the space served as a sculptor’s studio, featuring skylights that brought in abundant natural lighting.

Using three projectors, each powered by Raspberry Pi, the skylights and lighting effects of the 1950s are brought back into the space, transforming its atmosphere. The projectors are programmed to turn on at sunrise and off at sunset true to the calendar of the 1950s.

Allison’s project will be displayed in the Snite Museum until May 17th, 2015. To read more and see images from the installation, check out Allison’s page in the MFA exhibition supplement: https://readymag.com/46259 and visit the Meštrovic´ Gallery in the Snite.

3D displays? No glasses? Impossible! Or not…

A few months ago the DDMC at Duke took a look at a 3D display from IZON. What was so special about it? You didn’t need to wear glasses to see content in 3D. They were extremely impressed by it. IZON was on their way to the NAB show in Vegas and they were nice enough to stop here on campus to demo their displays.

They brought 2 displays with them to demonstrate how it could be used either for digital signage or with more traditional content. We had quite a few people show up to look at the displays and the general consensus was that the tech was pretty impressive.

2015-04-09 15.17.28

Left: Titanic 3D – Right: Digital Signage

Background

IZON has been doing 3D conversions and content creation for the film industry for quite a few years. In fact they have created their own software to do 3D conversions. What they have done is take that software, and put it on a chip that can be installed in displays. They use a lenticular lens on the front of the display that can be tweaked with the chip to work most effectively at certain distances. (The default is 9 – 12 feet.) IZON buys the 4K panels from a large OEM and assembles the displays themselves in Florida.

As you move around the room, the intensity of the effect changes. (If you ‘re looking at the display while you’re moving, the effect can be a bit disorienting.) The viewing angles are very impressive. As you move from 90° from the display towards the side, the effect gradually diminishes until you get to about a 25° degree angle. Then it just stops. You’re not left with a blurry and unwatchable picture though. It’s now just a 2D image that still looks as good as most displays at that angle.

Joey 3D glasses

It’s coming right at me!

The process couldn’t be easier. Any 3D content (DVD, Blu-Ray, 3D-Camcorder, etc) that you feed into the display is processed in real time and the effect is impressive. If you give it normal 2D content, you just get 2D content as you would expect.

JAWS 19 coming soon!!!

I never felt as if I was going to be eaten.

This is the holy grail of 3D acceptance really. Insert content, press play, enjoy. No glasses. No lighting restrictions. No limited seating positions. Just high quality 3D content.

A few observations about each application:

Digital Signage
  • The content was extremely attention grabbing and some items appeared to come off the screen
  • The quality of the effect is entirely dependant on the quality of the content.
  • The displays currently only do 3D in landscape orientation
  • Gave me a headache after looking at it for 2 hours
Consumer Content
  • Titanic looked great for a movie that wasn’t filmed in 3D
  • Wasn’t distracting or headache inducing
  • I really wanted to see Avatar after this
Camcorder
  • This was the least impressive but it’s consumer grade hardware doing real time processing. Better to err on the side of caution and restraint
  • Very dependant upon the device and the environment (distance to objects, lighting, focal length)

We had one person from Architecture that really wanted to view some of their 3D renderings on the display. We tried on both a MacBook Pro and a Lenovo laptop to get this working but were unable to figure it out. Basically you have to get the computer to output content in side by side mode and we couldn’t figure that out on either system. Not all video cards and drivers are capable of doing this and laptops are probably the least likely to be able to do so. I’m sure a nice desktop video card could do this easily.

Implications

It wasn’t hard to think of a few ways that these displays could be used on campus.

  • Viewing 3D renderings and walkthroughs of buildings and rooms
  • 3D video production and editing
  • Digital signage
  • Video game design
  • Creating and viewing models, samples and scans of scientific or artistic objects (pottery, bones, fossils, etc.)
  • Displaying molecules
  • New data visualization techniques

What’s next?

The two biggest things standing in the way of this technology aren’t new. Content and price.

Content: Where do you get 3D content? Sure you can get a lot of movies in 3D but once you expand beyond that, your options shrink. ESPN-3D is shut down for the time being. This would be amazing for digital signage but you’d have to have someone make the content for you. I’m sure there’s no shortage of places that do this, including IZON themselves, but how much will it cost you to have it produced? The inability to use it in portrait mode is also limiting. They’re working on this but they have a long list of other things to work on as well.

Price: The list price on a 50″ unit is over double what you would pay for 4K 3D TV that requires glasses. Later this year they will be shipping a 65″. Considering the capabilities of these units (3D and 4K capable) the prices aren’t horrendous.  10 years ago a 50″ plasma would have cost you about the same. I’m sure as production increases, competitors emerge, and licensing deals are struck, prices will drop quickly.

This isn’t for everyone. Certainly not in academia. But if you want to have a group discussion and display content in 3D, right now you really don’t have any good options. Unless you’re happy with everyone wearing glasses or an Oculus Rift. With one of these displays, it’s very doable. I can definitely see one of these in an architect or engineer’s office or conference room.

I have to say that the most drool worthy thing I saw was their pre-production 3D tablet. (They were carrying it in a Pelican hard shell case and bubble wrap.) It’s a 10″ Android unit and the effect was amazing. They played a movie clip with some of the head’s up display from Ironman and… WHOA!!! It is truly Tony Stark’s tablet. Jaw droppingly awesome.

Many thanks to IZON for making the trip and showing us what’s just beyond the horizon!

Arduino Workshops at Notre Dame

IMG_0679 Arduino is an open source physical computing platform that allows you to interact with the physical world from your computer. As an open source platform, Arduino focuses on sharing knowledge and ideas between makers. It is an affordable option that can be used with many operating systems. Experienced hobbyists can extend and improve upon the system as they use it in projects, and beginners have an inexpensive way to start experimenting with the technology. Incorporating electronics and simplified microcontroller programming through Arduino creates a unique opportunity for innovative solutions to real-world challenges.

 

“With Arduino, communities can come together to solve the problems they are facing,” said Matt Willmore, who coordinated a two-day workshop on Arduino programming basics for the Notre Dame community at Innovation Park. The sold-out event had fifty participants. Each participant received an Arduino clone kit that included the board, breadboard, wires, transmitters, and a remote. The workshop was sponsored by AT&T and SAP, so attendees only had to pay a $20 fee for the cost of their Arduino clone kit.

IMG_0677

“The events we have held were very successful, and we are looking to hold additional workshops in the future,” Matt says.

In addition to repeating the Arduino basics class, Matt hopes to have follow up events that build upon the introductory workshop. Future classes may include a workshop geared towards families and advanced classes focusing on programming and hardware. Keep a look out for additional Arduino events at Notre Dame this summer and fall.

Recording with the One Button Studio

The One Button Studio opened in the Hesburgh Library this month. Based on the model developed by Penn State, this recording studio allows video content to be recorded and saved to a flash drive with the push of a button. As a student with no video recording experience, I had to ask: is it really that simple? I headed to the Hesburgh Library to put the One Button Studio to the test.

 

The Studio: The room setup is streamlined with the screen and projector at one end of the room, and the cart which contains the recording equipment and the computer at the other end. When you plug the the flash drive into the USB hub, the lights turn on and you see a preview of what the camera will record. I was prompted to push the “One Button” to begin recording. Once the button is pushed, recording begins.

kiosksetup Kiosk computer and camera setup in the One Button Studio

You can incorporate presentations into your video recording by using the computer in the room, or by connecting your laptop with the cables  provided. Content is projected onto a gray screen. High contrast presentations and large, readable text will work best. You can also use the system in green screen mode. This lets you record content and then use iMovie to replace the background.

Gray screen  The gray screen in Notre Dame’s One Button Studio

When you’re done recording, simply push the button again and the file is saved to your USB drive. When it’s done copying, you are prompted to either remove the drive or press the button again to start another recording. When the USB drive is removed, the lights and camera turn off automatically. The file is saved in an MP4 format and can be imported into iMovie or Adobe Premiere for further editing.

 

The Verdict: The One Button Studio makes recording video content easier than I had imagined. As a recording novice, I was impressed with the easy, streamlined process and the quality of the recording. Here are a few tips I picked up during my trip to the One Button Studio:

 

  • The computer in the room can be used to move your recording to Cloud storage or to display notes.
  • There is a switch that allows the user to change from the gray screen backdrop or to select a blue or green screen effect.
  • Come prepared! Since time is limited, bring your notes and know what you’re going to say ahead of time.
  • USB drives, whiteboards, and projector remotes can be borrowed from the Hesburgh Library circulation desk.
  • If you do run into any issues, library staff will be available to help by phone or at the circulation desk.

 

Chris Clark created this video for his class using the One Button Studio:

Ready to start recording? For additional instruction regarding the studio, click here. You can reserve the One Button Studio in 30 minute blocks for up to two hours per day here.

Horizon Report 2015: Notre Dame and the Digital Horizon

In February, the Hesburgh Library Center for Digital Scholarship hosted the Horizon Report 2015 Event: Notre Dame and the Digital Horizon, which looked at emerging technological trends and how they will affect teaching, learning, and creative inquiry at Notre Dame over the next three to five years.  The Horizon Report is published annually, in collaboration with the New Media Consortium and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. The event was a collaboration with the Hesburgh Libraries, the Kaneb Center, OIT, and the Office of Digital Learning. It consisted of a welcome lunch followed by lightening talks that focused on:

 

Online Learning

The value of online learning is now well understood and set to impact education with its flexibility, ease of access, and integration of sophisticated learning technologies. How can Notre Dame use online tools to enhance the excellent education we already provide?

 

Badges / Blending of formal and informal learning

Badges allow for reward incentive and progress monitoring with online learning. Incentives like this are increasingly prevalent with blended learning environments. The term flipped classroom refers to a pedagogical model where the in-class time with students is primarily focused on problem solving activities, rather than presentation of information.  The prerequisite information is reviewed by students prior to coming to class.  Many classrooms are being flipped in an attempt to integrate active learning. Blending this with traditional lectures promotes hands on, real world application of concepts that foster curiosity-based learning among students.

 

Data-Driven Learning and Assessment

Online applications and tools generate a lot of data as faculty and students use them.  Universities around the world are developing tools to help analyze the data in ways that can help us understand and predict student success or failure.  Learning progress can be monitored through data analytics services, providing a more personalized learning experience.

 

Makerspaces

Makerspaces are workshops that offer the tools needed to carry out ideas from start to finish.  These tools often include traditional shop tools used in woodworking, but they also include newer technologies conducive to rapid prototyping such as 3D printers, laser-cutters, and CNC machines. Makerspaces help students develop critical skills in design, engineering, and creativity, preparing for their careers.

 

Bring-your-own-device

Many institutions and organizations are supporting the use of personal devices. Students and educators are bringing their own devices into the classroom and connecting them to the University’s network.

 

Understanding the findings of the Horizon Report is important for the Notre Dame community.  These trends are set to have great impact on teaching and learning in the coming years. Implementing them properly and understanding their impact will prepare our students for the future.


Exploring Google Tango

Google TangoProject Tango is a line of Google smartphones and tablets featuring the ability to accurately track position in space with a new depth-sensing camera. Tracking position on a traditional smartphone is limited and has a large margin of error, making the technology largely unreliable in this application. The unique camera on Project Tango devices allows them to “see the world in 3D,” taking photos that capture the distance from the camera rather than capturing color for each pixel. Project Tango devices track movement of objects in the camera’s frame. Because of this, they can accurately estimate how the camera must have moved to cause objects to shift in this way. The tracking ability in the Project Tango devices opens up exciting new possibilities in a variety of fields.

“At Academic Technologies, we are very excited about Project Tango. It is extremely promising technology, and quite easy to program for,” says Ryan McGrail. Ryan has been leading the exploration of Project Tango at Notre Dame, and is in the early stages of understanding the device and its potential. “I am quickly discovering how I can apply these new features to the apps we create. It is a very well-built device, and lends itself to imaginative implementations in our apps,” he says. Ryan has also observed shortcomings of Tango. The 3D camera is not effective for scanning objects in the distance, or outdoor environments. If the camera is obscured, it attempts to interpret motion from a black image. This can lead to inaccurate data. “The good aspects of these devices far outweigh their problems,” Ryan says. He believes that the kinks observed in the developer version of Tango will be worked out before the devices hit the market.

Currently, Ryan is using Tango in a partnership with Notre Dame’s architecture program. They are developing a blueprint-reconstruction tool that would allow the user recreate a space inside a Tango device by simply walking around the building. The 3D model created with Tango easily translates into blueprints of the space, and can be imported into architecture programs. Beyond this current project, Ryan sees vast potential for Project Tango at Notre Dame. “Tango can be used as a handheld frame to see the world…We could use the devices to map out buildings on campus, such as the main building. With the models saved to a few Tango devices, Notre Dame admission officers could take them around the country, and allow prospective students to “walk” around the buildings for themselves.” Tango could also be utilized in the classroom, creating an opportunity for instructors to virtually bring students to a museum on the other side of the world, or for designers to see their work come to life. “The possibilities are truly endless, and this is just one of the simplest ways to implement Project Tango,” Ryan says. We look forward to continuing to explore the Google Tango technology, and will keep you updated as we progress.

Active Learning With Echo360

Echo360 is an active learning platform designed for use in higher education. It has many applications for digital learning, including:

  • Lecture Capture: Learning is optimized with lecture capture and webcast capabilities. Echo360 features 1080 pixel, high definition capture with the ability to schedule recordings in advance and publish automatically. These features make the system well-suited for remote teaching. Instructors can record course presentations on Mac or PC from their home or office, or they can capture lessons right in the classroom.

 

  • Instructional Content Management: Echo360 provides a Learning Library that streamlines the content management process, storing all materials in one place. Instructors can search and filter through their content. Materials are easily shared through the university’s learning management system.

 

  • Student Engagement: Echo360 allows instructors to cater to different learning styles. Students are able to follow videos, notes, and discussions at their own pace. With discussion threads and an active learning platform, students can ask questions and engage in course discussion in real time. Instructors can also build polls and quizzes directly into their presentation.   

 

  • Analytics: Instructors can access an analysis of course performance and individual progress. Further, instructors can establish what success metrics are most important to them, and prioritize the metrics they want to focus on.

 
Digital learning through Echo360 creates a unique opportunity for multi-media student engagement, bringing material beyond the traditional classroom.

Remind App: An Easy Way to Connect

Remind-22ydh5z-e1405910926695

Remind is an app that helps teachers to connect with their students, sharing quick reminders about course related information. With the app, classes can connect:

Easily. Teachers sign up for the app and create a class through it. Students then receive a class code which they use to participate in course messaging.

Safely. Phone numbers are kept confidential in the class messages to ensure privacy. Teachers can only message the class collectively, not individually. They also serve as administrators and can access the message history.

Efficiently. Messages can include scheduling, voice clips, and image or document attachments. The app allows you to see who has viewed attachment content.

At No Charge. Teachers, students, and parents can use the app for free.

This Remind app is an easy way for teachers and students to stay connected about course updates.

 

Livescribe Spartpen

The Livescribe smartpen records what the user hears and writes. It functions as a normal pen with additional digital capabilities. Written notes are easily transferred onto the computer, and audio lecture can be played back word for word. Livescribe creates a “pencast” playback, allowing the user to hear, see, and experience notes as they were originally captured.

pulse_paper

For students, this unique combination of visual notes and audio recording can help them retain and understand course material. Rather than scrambling to write down every word, students can focus on being engaged with class material and present during lecture. The Livescribe pen also has potential for instructors, allowing them to create pencasts as they draw and narrate difficult diagrams or demonstrations to be shared with the class.

 

To learn more about tools available to benefit the Notre Dame academic community, visit our page What Technology is Available to Me?