Tag Archives: Tools for Teaching

The Productive Scholar: What’s New in Blackboard 9/19, 12noon

Topic: What’s New in Blackboard
Speaker: Dennis Hood, Blackboard Learning Management System, OIT, Princeton University

Time: Thursday, September 19,12:00pm – 1:00pm 
Location: HRC Classroom Room  012, Lower Level, East Pyne

Blackboard is a Learning Management System in which a site is created and available for use by faculty and/or instructional staff for every class taught at Princeton. It is currently in active use by approximately 70% of the Princeton faculty to facilitate course organization, manage course materials, assignments, and faculty-student communication.

About the speaker:
Dennis Hood begins his 14th year of managing Blackboard for Princeton in October. He also has instructor’s perspective of Blackboard, having used it for several years in his speech communications courses at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY.

To subscribe to the ETC announcement listserv, email: mrdaniel@princeton.edu

Lunch & Learn: iPad for Beginners with Angel Brady and Janet Temos

Lunch & Learn

Lunch & Learn

In the Lunch & Learn session on Wednesday, February 20th, 2013, Janet Temos, Director of the Educational Technologies Center at Princeton, and Angel Brady, Instructional Technologist in the Humanities Resource Center at Princeton, gave an introductory talk for new users of the iPad, Apple’s famously popular tablet.


Temos started the talk by introducing the iPad’s interface, sometimes met with culture shock by long time users of desktop computers because of the touch based interface, which has different interactions than a mouse based interface. Using two fingers versus one and gesturing, or holding down your finger for an extra second have meaning on tablet interfaces, and no easy equivalent on a mouse based interface. Temos noted that collecting many applications can make navigating that large collection more difficult, but you can create folders on your iPad to organize those apps that go together, or to make sense of the way that you work. Janet has a folder just for presentation apps. From your home screen where your apps are listed, the clean interface may make you wonder how to do such a thing as adding a folder. If you hold your finger on an app for a few seconds (a long press gesture), the apps start to ‘shake’, at which point you can move or delete them. Shaking is a visual indicator on the iPad that you can make a change to the shaking items, such as deletion or moving. To create a folder, after a long press, drop one app on to another. To add an app to a folder, after a long press, drag it into the folder. While your apps collection may span several screens that you can swipe through, the dock (the area at the bottom of the iPad screen) remains constant. To store your most often used apps for quick opening, store them on the dock. When you are all done, hit the physical home button on the iPad to exit the ‘shaky’ editing mode.

Managing app processes and settings

Do a double press on the physical home button to see what apps are in memory. You can press each icon to remove the app from active memory, which relieves the processor from having to manage that app actively. You can customize the iPad dramatically via the Settings app. Add email accounts, join networks, and change your sound settings, among many other options. Temos suggests that you explore the settings and their effects to get deeply familiar with your iPad. You can also change the setting of each app here.


The iPad’s virtual on-screen keyboard works when a Bluetooth keyboard is not present. Long presses on this keyboard’s keys often give shortcuts to alternative characters and strings. A long press on O, for instance, gives many alternative versions of the O such as various accented versions.

App store

You can manage and add to the installed apps on your iPad via the App Store. You must login to your iTunes account to buy, update and track apps, even the free ones. If you have to rebuild your iPad, you can reinstall previously purchased apps. You can visit the purchased area of the App Store app to see what you have installed in the past.

Hardware add-ons

Temos suggested that while the iPad is a self-contained, fully working object, you can get many benefits from the various add-ons that you can buy for it.

Headphones make for a more private audio experience. A bluetooth keyboard can make your iPad into a small, highly portable laptop. A stylus can make drawing and writing on the iPad far easier than with your finger. Various dongles, ranging from $30-50 allow you to send your iPad screen to VGA, HDMI and other video interfaces, for display on a projector or a TV. You can also use an Apple TV, about $100, which allows you to show the iPad on-screen via a wireless display technology Apple calls Airplay. You can also use the Apple TV to buy and watch movies from Apple, or use your Netflix, Hulu, and other media services.

Security and cloud storage

Temos briefly mentioned that by default, you need only ‘swipe to unlock’ a running iPad, which is the default, but that you can set a password as an extra layer of defense so that if you lose your iPad or if it gets stolen, the finder or thief would need to guess or crack your password to make use of your data. Brady told the audience that you can add many cloud storage services to get access to those files. In particular, she described how you can add WebSpace via the WebDAV protocol, which both WebSpace and the iPad support. (http://helpdesk.princeton.edu/kb/display.plx?id=9924)


No talk about the iPad would be complete without sharing various useful apps for the audience to consider. Both Temos and Brady suggested apps that might make sense for faculty, staff and students at Princeton. Brady and Temos presented various levels of detail on the following applications.

The Orchestra (TouchPress)

This app allows you to explore the orchestra in innovative ways, including written explanations of instruments from musicians, a follow-along version of the  score, and simultaneous shots of players and conductor during the performance. The app focuses on works by Haydn, Beethoven, Berlioz, Debussy and others. http://www.touchpress.com/blog/2012/12/our-creative-director-waxes-lyrical-about-orchestra/


If you want to watch courses on technology, business, and productivity, including a fantastic list of popular design applications like Photoshop, this app is a great place to get your fill. Because of Princeton’s site license for Lynda, Princeton faculty, staff, and students may use it for free. (http://lynda.princeton.edu)

Camera App

The iPad’s front and rear facing camera allow you to take pictures or video of yourself or what’s in front of you. You can add a grid to help you to compose your shots. Connect via USB, use email, or use Photo Stream to move the photos from the iPad to your computer or elsewhere. (http://www.apple.com/icloud/features/photo-stream.html)

Note taking apps

Angel Brady presented a set of apps specifically for taking notes in the field, including Evernote, Notability, and others. She detailed her findings in this post at http://blogs.princeton.edu/etc/2013/02/20/field-note-taking-with-the-ipad/

Lunch & Learn: William Howarth on Chrome and Chromebooks for Research and Writing.

William Howarth uses Chrome to write, research, and work.

William Howarth

William Howarth

On February 13th, 2013, William Howarth, Professor Emeritus at Princeton University was joined by John LeMasney and Janet Temos of Princeton’s Educational Technologies Center (ETC) to talk about the use of Google’s Chrome browser and the Chromebook in writing and research. Chrome is a web browser created by Google and allows you to visit and interact with web sites and services on the Internet. The Chromebook is a laptop from Google (collaborating with manufacturers) that runs only Chrome and nothing else.

Howarth began by showing the way that he uses Chrome as a browser on Mac OS. He discussed how he uses Chrome’s New Tab Page to store shortcuts to key applications that he uses every day. Previously, he has used an iPad, a Kindle Fire, and is now focusing on using Chrome as his main place of doing work digitally.  He said that part of the reason that he has settled on Chrome is that he feels like Google is the contemporary technology thought leader, set to dominate in business, mobile, and shopping. “Google runs the Web”, says Howarth, citing that in January 2013, they were the most used search engine, far ahead of others, and that in December of 2012, they had the leading browser, 47% of users, far ahead of Firefox or Internet Explorer. He suggested that their leadership and success is due to their emphasis on both speed and universal, cross-platform access.


As a browser, Chrome is fast (http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57547157-93/google-chrome-has-gotten-26-percent-faster-this-year/), and it runs on all major platforms, including Windows, Mac OS, iOS, Android, and Linux (http://support.google.com/chrome/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=95411). It works on desktops, laptops, tablets, and phones. But it is more than a browser, according to Howarth, because it strongly supports and integrates web services and can function as an operating system, especially in the case of the Chromebook, where the browser has settings for the display, sound, and hardware (http://support.google.com/chromeos/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1047362). When Chrome is an operating system, it is referred to as ChromeOS, to signify the extra abilities of hardware management, etc. You do not need to have a Chromebook to use ChromeOS, because you can boot ChromeOS from a USB key using the Vanilla Bootable USB Key Chrome OS project (http://chromeos.hexxeh.net/) managed by a Googler named Liam McLoughlin.

Chrome is self-upgrading: just restart it, about an eight-second reboot on the Chromebook, to upgrade to the latest version. Customize Chrome via themes (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/category/themes?hl=en), extensions (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/category/extensions?hl=en), and apps (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/category/popular?hl=en). Chrome comes with basic cloud storage of 5 Gigabytes via Google Drive (http://support.google.com/drive/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2736257), though you may use other cloud storage as well. Extensions add functionality to the browser itself, such as the ability to select text, and upon copy, automatically add surrounding quotes, URLs and other citation material to the buffered text (Copy URL Plus). When you sign into Chrome with a Google account, you track all the changes you make to the settings, history, extensions, and web apps, which are the synchronized and made available to all of your other Chrome installs. In Chrome, if you install a web app on one running instance, the web app becomes available to your other instances of Chrome.

Researchers and writers can use Chrome for notes, files, and storage. Some notable apps in this regard are Evernote, Dropbox, Box.net, and Google Drive, all available for install at the Chrome Web Store. Google Drive‘s docs features allow you to share, edit, distribute, and collaborate on files with others in real-time for free. If you decide to adopt Google’s cloud based lifestyle provided by Chrome, Howarth suggested getting familiar with Google’s Drive, in which you can create documents, spreadsheets, drawings, forms, and presentations. It has an integrated PDF viewer and the ability to create PDFs, Word documents, and other Office documents. It also has a print preview and print features. You can upload, share and store any kind of file you wish in Drive (http://support.google.com/drive/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2424368).


The Chromebook is a simple idea, executed simply: A laptop form factor that does only one thing: run ChromeOS. Howarth explained that the Chromebook solves some mobile computing issues for him. He can’t type easily on an iPhone or iPad screen keyboard, and prefers a physical keyboard. The iPad bluetooth keyboards work for many, but not for him. “This machine is low-cost, lightweight, easily portable, and is more durable than a netbook” says Howarth.

The recent Samsung model is 2.4 pounds, has an 11 inch screen, costs $199 or $249 depending on configuration. The Mac Air, by comparison, is about $1,000. In 2013, there are four known makers of Chromebooks: Samsung, Acer, Lenovo, and HP, though the most commonly sold devices are from Samsung and Acer (https://play.google.com/store/devices). Howarth suggests that a bluetooth mouse may be helpful, but that the screen and keyboard are very good, while the trackpad is usable. You can store and move files to and from a USB key to extend the storage of the Chromebook.

He notes that there are some differences in the user interface for Chrome on other operating systems and Chrome on the Chromebook. But essentially, the experience is the same. If you work online most of the time, as Howarth does, he suggests that you look at Chrome as a solution. “No matter what machine I’m using, I’m in the Chrome browser” he says.

Pros and Cons of Chrome:


Some fear a Google technology monopoly, privacy issues, and invasive advertising. (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505124_162-57569867/google-privacy-issues-in-forefront-again/)
There is some question of the future of Google’s two operating systems, Chrome and Android, and if and how they will coexist. (http://www.cnn.com/2011/TECH/mobile/05/17/google.chrome.android/index.html)
Cloud: is it a fad, or is it here to stay? With cloud based storage, different problems may emerge, such as synchronization failures. (http://support.google.com/drive/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2565956)
A Chrome user who does not use a traditional operating system is more or less dependent on online access, despite progress in offline use of Chrome applications, such as those in this app collection (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/category/collection/offline_enabled?utm_source=chrome-ntp-icon).


Lower costs than traditional laptops
Google constantly grows, innovates, and integrates as part of their brand (http://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/quarterly/innovation/8-pillars-of-innovation.html)

Chromebooks will come in bigger, faster versions (HP has a 14″ Chromebook coming, Google HD display in the works).
Howarth believes that Chrome will have its biggest impact in education, from primary and secondary right up to Universities.

For the recorded portion of Professor Howarth’s talk, please see the video below.

Lunch & Learn: The “Mapping Globalization” Project with Miguel Centeno and Manish Nag



Detail from “Steamship routes of the World” circa 1900, the American Express Company.

“Mapping Globalization” was the topic of today’s Lunch ‘n Learn featuring Professor Miguel Centeno and graduate student, Manish Nag, both of the Department of Sociology at Princeton.

Centeno began the talk by describing the origins of his interest in globalization, about 11 years ago, about the time of Thomas L. Friedman’s first publications on his theories about the relationships between nations (The Lexus and the Olive Tree, 2000 and The World is Flat, 2004). Centeno said it occurred to him that there were many ways to frame the subject of globalization, and that the process, in fact, had been going on for thousands of years. How, he wondered, was the best approach to grasp the complexity of the concept without resorting to banalities–and what was the best way to diagram information as complex as that describing global trade?

The International Networks Archive

Centeno’s first attempt to answer that question was to develop the International Networks Archive, (INA), where he used graphic arts, among other things, to try to depict complex relationships in easy-to-understand ways. Using some common reports published by the United Nations, he used trade data to support the generation of diagrams that showed some stunning conclusions about global transactions.  Centeno calls these images “infographics.” An example, The Magic Bean Shop and The Fries that Bind Us, are two of the diagrams in the INA collection. They show the effects of McDonalds and Starbuck’s franchises on global trade. This diagram, he noted has been the most popular on the site, having been reprinted multiple times as an example of the sort of trends the INA is best at describing.



The fries that bind us? A diagram showing the effects of Starbuck’s coffee shops and McDonald’s restaurants on world trade. Image copyright 2003, INA.


“Globalization is nothing more than a complex series of transactions across the planet,” said Centeno, alluding to the strong connections that can be made by analyzing trade data. “Most of these data sets are available publicly,” he noted, showing a table that tracks the annual number of minutes spent in phone communications between countries. Data about the imports of movies, books, as well as trade data, are among the many other ways to show how these transactions take place through what seems like simple exchanges.

The INA project was followed by the “Mapping Globalization,” where data was visualized in three distinct ways.

Mapping Globalization

The first section of the Mapping Globalization site contains a collection of maps, and links to maps of various kinds: these include historic maps, interactive maps, and modern satellite imagery that help to convey the notion of geographic location as a critical, but often overlooked aspect of globalization. “Globalization involves connections between at least two places,” the website explains, “and the first step in our understanding must be an appreciation of what this means in a concrete sense of place.”

The second, and least developed, section of the “Mapping Globalization” site is the “Narratives” section, a series of animated movies that show general trends in globalization over time, such as “Migrations” and “Empires.”

Finally, the “Data and Analysis” section uses diagrams generated by technology from NetMap Analytics, which creates diagrams showing the density of trade between nations. Using data from GKG trade statistics, NetMaps are circular diagrams that show relationships between various countries, grouped by continent. Thresholds can be set on the data depicted to clarify the diagrams. For instance, setting a threshold of f “0.3%” means that links corresponding to a trade share less than 0.3% of the total dollar value in the category are not shown in the diagram.


Thumbnail image for ApparalandAccessories1980_2001.png

Trade in Apparel and Accessories in 1980 and 2001 with a 0.3% threshold. From “Brief Introduction to the Data and Selected Images from the GKG Project” by Miguel Centeno and Abigail Cook.

Despite best efforts at the time, there was no way for the NetMaps to be generated dynamically on the website, however images of several of the most interesting patterns can be found in the section of the site called “NetMap Combined Studies.”


The talk next focused on a project undertaken by Manish Nag, a graduate student in the Department of Sociology at Princeton who now studies with Centeno. Nag explained his past career as an IT consultant, and his first interest in studying globalization at Harvard, studying with Jason Beckfield. At Harvard, Nag worked on a project called Sonoma, as a way to visualize statistical data using maps. When he came to Princeton to continue his studies, he began to work with Centeno on making an interactive database that would allow anyone to diagram world trade relationships. The result was the MapTrade project.

MapTrade, still in beta, shows various projections of a world map (Robinson, Winkel Trippel, Gall-Peters, or equirectangular are the map views that the interface supports). Trade flows can be diagrammed on top of the world projections, showing trade between selected nations, based on specific commodities, or all trade between all nations. Trade data is available for 1980, 1990, 2000 and 2009.

Using the interface, it is possible to save generated maps, so that comparisons can be drawn, and the results saved for use in research and presentation. As with the earlier NetMaps projects, filters can be applied to clarify the data by setting thresholds, or by limiting the transactions by their total percentage of world trade.

Centeno and Nag used the MapTrade interface to generate a series of maps, showing the shift in trade centers over time.



A diagram showing the top 75% of trade in wheat among all nations, 1980. Image generated by MapTrade.


A diagram showing the top 75% of trade in wheat among all nations, 2009. Image generated by MapTrade

The audience then requested several maps showing various commodities, countries and time periods.


Who knew so many fish sticks were traded between the U.S. and China in 2009? That the top 50% of word trade involves only 10 countries? You may have suspected these things; MapTrade can draw you the picture to prove it!

A future phase of Centeno and Nag’s collaboration will include making the NetMaps data interactive, much in the way that MapTrade currently is, so that users can generate and save their own diagrams.


Links to all three of the projects discussed in today’s talk can be found at:



A podcast of the talk can be found here.


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