Go to the Board, Wirelessly

Apple TVs in Jordan Hall 105

Apple TVs in Jordan Hall 105

We all remember the feeling: hiding in the back of the classroom hoping the teacher will not call on you to write your solution on the chalkboard. I know that for me, it was scary to display my work for everyone to see. However, it caused me to be more engaged in class, taking care to ensure I was working through problems correctly. While some may consider chalkboards to be a thing of the past, promoting student engagement during lectures is not. Classrooms in Notre Dame are exploring new applications of the Apple TV for this purpose.


When Apple TV was first being tested in Notre Dame classrooms, a separate wireless network had to be installed for students and faculty to connect to the device. This was limiting, as too many wireless networks interfere with the existing Notre Dame networks, and provide additional hassle for students. To resolve this issue the Apple TV has new wireless connectivity capability. Students with an iPad 2 or an iPhone 4s and later can connect through bluetooth discovery. The device can find the Apple TV if it is in the proper range without extra hardware or installation. In this way the Apple TV becomes a portable wireless projection system for iOS.


The improved wireless capability is expanding the use of the Apple TV on campus. Professor David Hyde’s genetics class in Jordan Hall 105 uses three screens with Apple TVs. This is the first time that multiple devices are being utilized in the same classroom at Notre Dame. The class has about 90 students, each with an iPad they owned previously or leased from OIT. Professor Hyde can display his teaching material on the center screen, and utilize the two others for displaying class solutions to problem sets. The screen will mirror what the student worked through on their personal device. This technology increases student overall engagement because it is new, interesting, and interactive. Like the traditional chalkboard, the potential of having their work displayed on screen creates a sense of accountability and engagement among the class.


After seeing Professor Hyde’s use of the Apple TV, there was a request for the same set up in 101 Jordan Hall. This classroom also utilizes three Apple TVs. However, this room was already set up with its own wireless network, and thus connects under the old method. This allows for comparison of the two methods to determine which will be most beneficial to utilize in the expansion of the Apple TV program on campus. As professors continue to explore new ways to engage students, the Apple TV can provide an effective solution. In the future, there is the opportunity to create a system where a teacher could check out an Apple TV for use as needed.


Make Your Media More Interactive and Engaging

Have you ever wondered how to make your video accessible for people who have a hearing problem or speak a different native language? Have you ever wondered how your video can benefit visual learners who absorb and recall information best by reading as opposed to listening? Have you ever wondered how to give the audience the freedom to search across your video and jump to the exact keywords that interest them? You are not alone, we have been wondering about that for a while. Fortunately, we now have a solution … interactive transcript.

Interactive transcript provides the audience a new way to enjoy your media content. Similar to subtitles in many ways, interactive transcript is displayed next to the audio/video source. As the audience hears the words being spoken, they can also see matching words highlighted or underlined in the transcript. The entire transcript is clickable, users can click on any word and start to enjoy the audio/video from that exact point. They can also search the transcript and jump to the part that interests them. Interactive transcript provides users a much richer experience with media content.

1. Click on word "mammals", the video jumps to that point and starts to play from there.2. When "mammals" is spoken in the video, it's also highlighted in the transcript.3, Search "fish", all the parts that mention "fish" are highlighted in the transcript.

1. Click on word “mammals”, the video jumps to that point and starts to play from there.
2. When “mammals” is spoken in the video, it’s also highlighted in the transcript.
3, Search “fish”, all the parts that mention “fish” are highlighted in the transcript.

There are a nurmeous of interactive transcripts providers, of which 3PlayMedia and SpeakerText Captionbox are among the most popular. We ran a small pilot with 3Play Media’s service. We provided them audio/video files along with the transcripts, and they synchronized the text with the media using automated speech technology. The result has been very satisfying, except we find the price to be a bit high.

Can the price be a showstopper? If you are like me, a strong believer in OpenSource, you must be wondering if there is something like that available for free. Well, after some digging, voila! Pipwerks already published the API(s) for adding captions and interactive transcript for online videos. And it’s completely OpenSource. Now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and climb onto the shoulders of giants. Thanks to the EasyCaption and Kaltura API, I was able to help an Irish Studies professor build a repository (Irish Stories) to collect and share Irish Immigrants’ stories in a more interactive and engaging way. If you are interested, here is an example.  Please feel free to contact me at xiaojing.duan@nd.edu for any technical details.



3D Printing Update

Check out Eric Morgan’s blog for an update on the fledgling 3D printing group at ND:


Next meeting Friday, April 4, from noon to 1 pm.

Also please note that the Library’s Center for Digital Scholarship will host a workshop, From Imagination to Realization, for anyone interested in 3D printing. The workshop will be held March 28, from 1 to 5 pm.

Mobile Device Lab

Mobile Device Lab in B003 DeBartolo

Mobile Device Lab in B003 DeBartolo

Not having the proper resources for technology can be a major obstacle for developers. Notre Dame’s new Mobile Device Lab solves this problem, creating a space for developers to test applications on a variety of smartphones, tablets, and laptops free of cost. The Lab is located in the OIT Academic Technologies offices in the basement of DeBartolo hall, B003. Students can use any of the devices while in the Lab. Staff and faculty can check out devices for up to one week. To inquire about device availability or ask any questions, email mobile@nd.edu.





Currently, the Mobile Device Lab offers:

  • 14 smartphones running Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry OS, and iOS
  • 9 tablets running Android, Windows 8, and iOS 7
  • 2 laptops running Chrome OS and Windows 7
  • Google Chromecast
  • Unlocked GSM 3G Modems


The Lab is unique because it offers a wide spectrum of devices. It features both the most popular devices on campus and the newest devices on the market. These are often not the same. For example, while Apple’s iPhone is currently the most popular phone on campus, the 3rd most popular device is the LG Optimus S, a smartphone released in 2010 running Android 2.2 (Android 4.4 was just released). The Mobile Device Lab has both, along with 25 other devices. This creates a unique opportunity for mobile developers on campus to see how their applications run on the devices that students and faculty use most.

A complete listing of available devices is provided on the mobileND website. Additionally, the Lab is accepting donations of both new and used mobile devices.

The Mobile Device Lab exists to serve. Contact mobile ND at mobile@nd.edu or visit DeBartolo B003 to get started!

Poll Everywhere

Poll Everywhere allows presenters to determine the current level of understanding, gather feedback, and reinforce key points. They can create a poll with multiple choice or free response questions, utilizing images and formulas. The poll can be presented online, or directly embedded into a presentation. As the audience watches the presentation, they can easily respond to poll questions from their cell phone, smart phone, or computer. Votes are routed to web servers, where the vote is recorded. Once recorded, charts update in seconds, visually displaying live results. This feedback allows the presenter to make sure that the audience is following the material, and even incorporate their opinions directly into the presentation.


At Notre Dame, the Poll Everywhere system has been in place for six years in a wide variety of applications across campus. It has been successfully implemented for classroom use and campus events. Some recent events using Poll Everywhere include the Gigot Center Ideas Challenge and the Student Film Festival, both of which use Poll Everywhere to allow the audience to vote and determine award winners. In the classroom, 19 faculty members are currently using the premium version of Poll Everywhere and many other faculty are using the free version to engage students in learning. Poll Everywhere is a valuable educational tool, and the number of Notre Dame professors looking to incorporate it into their courses has been growing every year.

Notre Dame Documents Excavation in Butrint, Albania

Butrint, Albania excavation site

Butrint, Albania excavation site. photo by Eric Nisly and Allison Evans

Butrint is a UNESCO World Heritage site located in south-west Albania directly across a narrow strait from the island of Corfu Greece. The ancient city was occupied by the Greeks, and later the Romans, making it a diverse site with a rich history. It was abandoned by the Italians and others in the late Middle Ages after marshes formed in the area. The mud and vegetation that eventually covered the area kept the ancient ruins well preserved. In 1928 modern archaeological explorations of Butrint began and continues today. http://butrint.org

Notre Dame assistant professor David Hernandez has been studying Butrint since 2004. Hernandez has led multiple archaeological excavations in Butrint involving Notre Dame students and archaeologists from Albania.

Thanks to a special travel grant from the College of Arts & Letters Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts Hernandez was able to fund Eric Nisly from the Office of Information Technologies and MFA photography graduate student Allison Evans from the Art, Art History and Design department to join his 2013 archaeology team to create high resolution digital images of his new archaeology work in Butrint. Many of the ruins he and his team recently discovered are below the current water table, so each new carefully excavated area must be filled in at the end of each season’s work. Therefore digital documentation and cataloging of new excavation sites and the artifacts discovered are very important.

Using a variety of tools Nisly and Evans created time lapse imagery, spherical 360 degree panoramas, and high resolution gigapixel photos of numerous Butrint ruins, including Hernandez’s current dig sites. A GoPro video camera was used to create time lapse videos of site excavation activities. To capture some of the unique digital images of the ruins, Nisly created an innovative field mount using a PVC pipe he purchased locally. This ten foot monopod allowed shots to be taken from an above ground perspective, giving panorama viewers a wider view of the ruins. A Programmable Seitz Roundshot VR Drive and Gigapan Pro robotic camera mount were used to shoot 360-degree and gigapixel images that capture extremely high detail of the ruins. The Roundshot shoots a low-resolution full 360 spherical set of images in about thirty seconds, and a high resolution gigapixel image set in five to ten minutes. The older Gigapan panorama tripod head often takes an hour or longer to shoot a similar gigapixel panorama image set. This longer exposure timeframe creates numerous problems when trying to stitch high resolution panoramas from large image sets. The sun or clouds moving overhead and people moving around the site causes shadows and ghost artifacts to appear during the post processing stitching phase which require a lot of manual touch-up work to fix. Nisly and Evans also brought a MacBook Air laptop on site to test stitch the gigapixel images using Autopano Pro software, making sure that high resolution image sets were well exposed and complete while still on location.

Using the Gigapixel panorama technologies described above brings a new perspective to the traditional forms of documentation Hernandez usually develops as part of his field work. The high quality images created of this important World Heritage archaeological site allow researchers and students to virtually explore the site back on campus and in the classroom.

Below are some examples of 360-degree panorama images Nisly and Evans created since returning from Butrint in July 2013. The areas featured were discovered in the 1950s. As Hernandez completes his research on the recently excavated areas he will use the gigapixel panoramas to help illustrate and explain his findings in Notre Dame courses, journal articles, books, public presentations and in future grant funding applications.

iTunes U is Taking Textbooks to Your Tablet

This iBook was developed for professor Mazurek's History of Ancient Rome course

This iBook was developed for professor Mazurek’s History of Ancient Rome course

Lugging heavy textbooks to class may soon be a thing of the past. No, this does not mean students are going to stop learning. It means that textbooks and course material may soon be completely digital with the help of iTunes U, Apple’s open education platform. This program provides the tools needed for educators to create a fully digital curriculum. Textbooks, assignments, interactive material, and apps can all be included in an iTunes U course.  The program’s agenda-like interface provides students with a list of assignments that can be checked off as completed. They can take notes as they move through the material, and iTunes U will save them in one place. The ease of use and comprehensive material available through iTunes U has the potential to replace traditional textbooks and university course structure in the coming years.


Notre Dame is currently exploring the benefits of using iTunes U as a content delivery platform. In July 2012, Matt Willmore, Elliott Visconsi, and Andre Murnieks traveled from Notre Dame to Apple headquarters to learn about iTunes U and Apple iBooks Author. After learning about the technology, Visconsi developed an iBook for his First Amendment course and partners with OIT to lease iPads to each student in his class. Willmore teamed up with Notre Dame professor Elizabeth Mazurek to develop her History of Ancient Rome course for iTunes U. The course includes a custom iBook that incorporates text, images, video clips, and interactive diagrams. All content is available in the same place and works together, allowing students to better comprehend course material.


This page from the iBook shows how text can be combined with images and diagrams

This page from the iBook shows how text can be combined with images and diagrams

This content is free to anyone with an iPhone or iPad, bringing the benefits far beyond the Notre Dame community.

“Even if you can’t get the physical experience of sitting in a Notre Dame class, you can still get the knowledge that class would provide,” says Willmore.

While the full potential of iTunes U is still being explored, it is clear that the program could radically change our education system. Not to mention lightening the load of student backpacks.


To explore Professor Mazurek’s iTunes U course, click here.


Profile Manager Server Puts More iPads in the Classroom

The iPad provides a window to the future of University learning. Since fall of 2010, Notre Dame has utilized the iPad for app development classes. Thirty iPads were individually configured and tailored to a specific class at the launch of this pilot program. As the program expands, with 135 iPads being distributed this semester, it is no longer feasible to individually manage and update each device. Consequently, Notre Dame has turned to Apple’s Profile Manager server for iOS, allowing iPads to be registered to a specific group and managed remotely. The Profile Manager server provides the ability to efficiently update and configure iPads simultaneously.

Professor Elliott Visconsi recording audio of the custom iBook for his class.

Professor Elliott Visconsi recording audio for his  custom iBook used in his class.

Using this server, each serial number is registered to a group that contains an associated profile including security, network and VPN settings, airplay capabilities, and email for exchange. When students register the iPad for their class, profile settings for that group are installed and made active. Changes and maintenance for the group can be made remotely, and immediately pushed down to all of the iPads registered to the group, eliminating the need to update each individually. If an iPad is stolen, it can be wiped remotely, preventing the loss of personal information. For students who already own an iPad, the class settings can be added to their personal device. The program expansion resulting from the use of the server creates exciting opportunities for professors and students at Notre Dame.

Andre Murnieks, assistant professor of art, and Elliott Visconsi, associate professor of law, are utilizing iPads registered to the Profile Manager server in their classes this semester. Customized iBooks give students relatively inexpensive access to the class textbook, and apps in the group profile allow for new forms of collaboration and discussion. The profile includes access to airplay, allowing content to be displayed wirelessly over a network. Using Apple TV’s AirPlay, students can display work from their iPad on the classroom’s projection system. Professors can present slides, video, audio files, and iBooks right from the iPad, enriching class discussion and changing the learning experience.

Using Apple TV AirPlay, Professors can present slides, video, audio files, and iBooks right from the iPad.

Using Apple TV AirPlay, professors can present slides, video, audio files, and iBooks right from the iPad.

Utilizing the iPad creates valuable opportunity for discussion outside of class. The Profile Manager server gives students access to VPN settings, allowing them to log into the Notre Dame network from off campus. Visconsi, for example, utilizes apps such as Google+ for forums and class discussion. Course content can be uploaded to ITunes U and shared with the class. This minimizes handouts needed, reduces the material and textbook cost for students, and minimizes the amount of material that needs to be carried around.

The Profile Manager server has allowed Notre Dame to expand their pilot program of class iPad rentals, stepping into what very well could be the future: iPads replacing textbooks as the primary instrument of University learning.

New Classroom Makes Learning Easier

As a student, there is nothing more frustrating than feeling lost in class. Students often do not  realize how confused they are until they try to tackle their homework or their exams, and professors often do not detect this confusion until they are grading exams. The DeBartolo B011 classroom integrates technology thus allowing the professor to monitor student work and provide targeted feedback.

The classroom has a central cluster of computer monitors surrounded by tables and eight monitors mounted around the perimeter of the room.  These eight monitors can be controlled individually by wireless keyboards, allowing students to work on problems. The professor can easily see if anyone is struggling and can intervene during the learning exercise.  Walls function as dry erase boards from floor to ceiling, and faculty and students can use this space to brainstorm, make notes, or otherwise augment the content on the digital screens.

When the professor sees work that is a good example for the class it is easily pulled up onto the monitors clustered in the center of the room through a Crestron touch panel. This allows the professor to focus on an individual monitor without disrupting any of the student screens. The Crestron system also makes it simple to switch between the Mac and PC operating systems without rebooting, saving valuable class time to really focus on problems. It is as if B011 were designed to help us confused students!