R programming language: course available 24-7 online!

RData-segment_2bData Analysis and Visualization Using R: an introductory R programming course available online 24-7 through Princeton Coursera to current Princeton University community members around the globe.

Sometimes you need an R programming lesson on a Tuesday at 12:00am, or 1:00pm on a Sunday. What to do? Princeton Quantitative and Computational Biology graduate students David Robinson and Neo Christopher Chung, in association with Princeton Online/Princeton University Coursera, have created a multi-lesson searchable course based on the successful introductory R programming workshops taught by both Robinson and Chung over the past two years for the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning and the J Street Library and Media Center.

The course is currently only available to current Princeton University members with a NetID, and does not appear on the Princeton University Coursera webpage.  Check out the course using the Princeton link, and login using your NetID and password.

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/

The Productive Scholar: Janet Temos on Using Word Effectively

The Productive Scholar logo
The Productive Scholar logo
The Productive Scholar logo

Janet Temos, the director of the Educational Technologies Center at Princeton University, spoke to a Productive Scholar audience about Word 2011 to share some of its less obvious features, such as styles, templates, themes, and interoperability features in Microsoft Office applications.

Temos started by talking about Powerpoint, and demonstrated how most users are familiar with choosing themes to style their presentations. She used this familiarity to show similar features in Word. She gave the example of a user writing a report, and getting feedback on a draft that all chapter headings be centered, not right aligned. If a user applies styles to the text, such as chapter headings being styled as “Heading 1”, as they write, this change becomes a quick and easy two-click change by simply changing the settings of the “Heading 1” style which then carries those changes to all text styled as such. By turning on “Navigation” under the View ribbon,  you can see the outlined structure of the document as you apply styles, and quickly go to those areas of your document with a click.

Themes are collections of styles, colors, fonts, sizing, and other design aspects of documents packaged as a single applicable choice. You can quickly take a well-styled document, where titles, chapters, and body content are properly tagged with styles, and quickly apply different themes in order to add new flavor and variety to documents.

Templates are starting points for documents that are always similarly styled. If you find yourself writing a lot of reports, it makes sense to either find and download an existing Word Document template for reports that you can customize, or create your own and start with it each time, so that you need not spend any time re-styling or re-theming your new reports.

Because Microsoft Office comes as a suite, many users have the benefit of more than one Office application installed such as the ability to use charted data in Excel to inform and update a chart in Word. You can also apply the theme that you are using in Word to the chart so that the visual introduction of the data becomes seamless in your document.

When you added an image to Word documents in the past, you had to open a separate image editing application to make changes to the image. Word 2011 has many powerful image editing capabilities built-in,  such as the ability to crop, re-size, and affect the brightness & contrast of an image.

Some related resources that Temos shared include:

TechSmith Jing, for creating advanced screen captures and annotations. http://www.techsmith.com/jing.html

Templates from Endnote. http://endnote.com/downloads/templates

Temos created a list of resources at http://bit.ly/stylesheets that includes a Princeton University Dissertation template.

Her presentation from this session is available here:

Using Word Effectively by Janet Temos

Here is a screencast of the session for you to watch and hear everything that she did during the session.

Lunch & Learn: Jill Moraca on Website options at Princeton University

Lunch & Learn logo
Lunch & Learn logo
Lunch & Learn logo

Jill Moraca of Web Development Services (WDS) at Princeton University talked to the Lunch & Learn crowd about the various options offered to the Princeton community for creating websites. She explained that the conversation usually starts with the idea that the options available to you depend on who you are (e.g. individual, group, or project), what your specific needs are (e.g. how much support you need and how development-savvy you are), and how much you have in your spending budget (e.g. no budget, some money set aside, or a dedicated budget for the effort) for the site’s creation, development, and maintenance.

Jill Moraca

Moraca begins by assessing a customer’s specific needs and their audience’s needs by asking questions such as:

  • How much time can you devote to your website?
  • What content do you have or need to have for the site?
  • Do you have the technical skills to update and patch the website?
  • What are your goals and outcomes for the site?
  • Who will read the site?
  • What are they looking for?
  • What do they need to do?

When developing official sites that represent the University and its various departments, Moraca always makes people aware that there are specific IT security and usage policies, requirements and recommendations (http://www.princeton.edu/itpolicy) such as those that prevent the selling of items, biased or political representation, and so on. The Office of Communications has its own set of required elements, such as site owner contact information, and highly suggested features, such as  the prominent presence of your site’s title on every page (http://www.princeton.edu/communications/services/web/launch/requirements/).

Moraca noted that there are now 8 options for publishing at Princeton, shown here in this handy chart from her slide deck:

What Who OIT Support Cost
Google Sites
Students Not yet Free
Faculty, Researchers, Graduate Students Yes Free
Departments, Faculty, and Staff Yes Free
Central File Server
Everyone Limited Free
(Departmental and Personal)
Everyone Limited Free
Departments, ODUS-recognized student groups, Courses Yes Free
Departments Yes Free – $50/hour
Departments Yes Custom projects only available at this time ($50/hour). Free option on the horizon.

Moraca described the options in some detail, organizing the options according to those available for individuals, individuals & groups, and groups only.

Individual options:

Google sites for students integrates with Google Apps, calendaring, blogs, and is templated, quick, easy to use, and has a point-and-click interface. OIT provides some light support, and the service is free to students. There is no fee-based customization for this service. http://www.princeton.edu/studentapps/google-apps/

Open Scholar is available for faculty, researchers and grad students who want to have a professional online presence with CV options. It is templated, quick to edit, easy to use, offers a point and click interface, and offers biography, publication and bibliography information, calendaring, classes, and more. It is supported, managed, patched, and secured by OIT. It is not very customizable, and there is a 2 GB quota. http://www.princeton.edu/etc/services/openscholar/

For individuals and groups:

SharePoint is available for faculty, staff and groups. It is templated, and best used for sharing information and documents. At Princeton, it is typically used as an intranet for internal, protected sharing, and not as a world-facing site. NetID is required for creation, but guest access is available. It is well supported, and users can get training. It is free, and there is no customization available. http://helpdesk.princeton.edu/kb/display.plx?ID=5286

cPanel is available to departments, programs, centers, labs, and individuals. It primarily provides a LAMP-based (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) environment for building applications, but also offers Scriptaculous, which allows for quick, one-click  installs of popular packages such as WordPress for low-bandwidth access by the world. Support is limited, and the user builds and secures the site themselves. It is free and has a 2 GB quota. More information is available at http://helpdesk.princeton.edu/kb/display.plx?ID=9807

WordPress is available to departments, groups recognized by the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students (ODUS), and faculty. WordPress is a blog-based web content management system. OIT offers vetted templates and plugins and limited support is available. Patching and updates are done by OIT, and the ETC offers specific support for faculty use in courses. It is free and comes with a 250 MB quota. It is available at http://blogs.princeton.edu

Only for groups:

Roxen is available to departments, programs, centers, and labs, but not individuals. Open scholar is a good alternative for those individuals looking for personal publishing. Roxen is a Content Management System (CMS), meaning that for users, no knowledge of code is necessary to create or edit a site. Templates and customizability, as well as many functionality modules  (e.g. directory listings, news items, etc.) are available. It is highly monitored, and training is available. OIT offers customization for Roxen in a few levels of service: free, (a standard template), low-cost, (some tweaks to CSS), and fully customized, (a group builds the site from scratch with full support and help from OIT). Documentation, training, and a variety of themes are available. It’s hosted, patched, and updated by OIT http://www.princeton.edu/roxen

Finally, Drupal is similar to Roxen, but far more customizable. It is also very well supported by OIT, with 24/7 monitoring, per-site training, with OIT managing all patches and upgrades. If you decide you want customization, there is a $50/hour rate for help. A recent pilot of Drupal has ended successfully, and OIT is launching production-ready sites. http://www.princeton.edu/wds

For more information or to get started with your website at Princeton, please contact Jill Moraca at jmoraca@princeton.edu, or visit http://www.princeton.edu/wds

Below is the presentation and video from Moraca’s session.

20121128_moraca Powerpoint file

Screencast: How to Use Pinnion Plug-in on Princeton Blogs to Create Polls

This screencast demonstrates the WP plug-in called Pinnion we have installed on the Princeton WordPress blogs. It is available to all who have a Princeton WordPress blog. Pinnion allows for you to create polls or surveys that will record results and provide instant feedback to your students or audience. One of its strong points is that you can embed this poll right inside a WordPress blog post easily and it looks great on mobile devices.