OK, Glass. Shoot a laser beam!

Google GlassHave you tried it on?

Glass is Google’s wearable computer that sits on your right ear and displays its contents through a tiny prism projector screen over your right eye. (duh)

During this summer break, CIS had a test-out event of a Google Glass loaned from the Claremont Library for two weeks. Soon after the announcement for the event, several people (six faculty, seven staff, and six students) with exceptional curiosity jumped right in. At Harvey Mudd, we like scientific experiments. So in this case, the hypothesis to accept (or otherwise sadly reject) was “Google Glass helps teaching and learning (in a way).” (Hey Google, isn’t Harvey Mudd a perfect place for testing such an emerging technology in higher ed? Contact us if you want to donate a Google Glass or two. ;))

Anyway, those 18 enthusiastic experimentalists came back with their personal opinions after trying Glass out for two to three hours. Two common responses were “It’s cool!” and, interestingly, “It made my head and eyes hurt.” A group of MyCS students tried it for a scavenger hunt using Glass apps like Word Lens for a group of teachers and reported that it went really well–this was actually a great use case for Glass in an educational setting. In addition, a couple of faculty members noted that the usefulness in teaching and learning would be dependent on the Glassware you use.

In fact, the default functions of Glass are pretty basic: google something, take a photo, record a video, get directions to, and send a message to, etc. But my 13-year-old son’s first command for Glass was “OK, Glass. Shoot a laser beam!” Unfortunately (and fortunately to me) it didn’t shoot a laser beam on me. It, however, could’ve done that if he had installed a Glass app doing it (at least on its screen). And it could’ve been educational (in a way) like showing how to calculate the power density of different laser beams depending on parameters like the beam diameter and the distance from the object. So as our faculty members noted in their feedback, with the right Glassware, it may be useful for education in near future.

P.S. We couldn’t accept or reject the hypothesis due to the small sample size. Google, we are eager to do more experiments and you know what to do. ;)

Changes to Audiovisual and Educational Technology Support

The Educational Technology and Media Services group has been in existence for a little over 5 years, having been created in 2009 when the group split off from the User Support Group. CIS was able to make this change thanks to a generous grant from the Fletcher Jones Foundation which made it possible to create two new positions: Director of Educational Technology (Elizabeth Hodas) and Scientific Computing Specialist (Jeho Park). When the group was created we decided to combine educational technology with audiovisual services and both Michael Meyka and James Sadler left the User Support Group and joined ETMS.

The CIS department has seen a lot of changes since then. The User Support Group has grown to five permanent, full-time staff and is now under the leadership of Cindy Abercrombie. The campus has seen some big changes too, especially with the opening of the Shanahan Center for Teaching and Learning. We have seen a sharp increase in demand for audiovisual support. At the same time, there is more interest in incorporating technology in teaching and research. This spring we took the opportunity to consider how best to continue providing support for audiovisual services while increasing the scope of educational technology support.

As a result we have moved Michael Meyka, our Multimedia Support Manager, back into the User Support Group where he will have access to more operational resources. He will continue to lead the provision of audiovisual support for classes, meetings and large events with assistance from the User Support Group. James Sadler has been promoted and has a new title, Instructional Media Specialist, and will remain in the Educational Technology Services Group. We’ve changed our group name to reflect our new emphasis on technology in the classroom, high performance computing and exploration of new technologies. In his new position, James will focus on providing support to faculty and students in their use of educational technology in the classroom. His first big project has been implementing and supporting our new lecture capture system in the Shanahan Center. This summer the ETS group will be re-evaluating our faculty development program and preparing for some exciting new technology pilots in the fall. We look forward to being able to expand our services in support of educational technology at HMC.

May 2014 update from the CIO

We made it!  Commencement was great, congratulations to all new graduates.caps

Summer is a time for projects for CIS and we went full steam ahead starting on Monday May 19th.

Electronic Billing
We plan to roll out paperless billing starting July 1.  Bills will be presented via the Portal, where the College already accepts payments. This Portal improvement has many beneficial side effects, and not just for those paying bills.  It removes a lot of tedious printing and scanning of paper bills (which were the hybrid by product of a pre-printed form and an electronic source) and eliminates the cost of mailing out the bills.  I’d like to thank Patricia Wang and Scott Martin for their patient help with reaching this goal.

IAM@HMC
Last week, we took a step in the IAM@HMC project that had the effect of synchronizing people’s passwords over a number of systems. This passed unnoticed for most people, but is a prerequisite for steps we are taking over the next few weeks.  In preparation for paperless billing which starts on July 1, we are adding people to the JICS portal this week and bringing portal single sign on live.  Next week, we’ll be creating accounts for incoming students.  There is a lot of complexity to single sign on, but hopefully most of it is hidden from your view.  One thing to note is that the interaction between systems and the identity provider will often have the result that the only way to fully log out of a particular application is to close your browser.  We look forward to hearing and reading your reaction to this stage of the IAM@HMC project.  For more information, see the new IT Mattters section of our website.

Parsons Rewiring
The work began on time May 19th. As I mentioned last time, in tandem with the vacated space project we are rewiring all of Parsons (east and west). The contractors will be pulling 1,900 cables out of the conduit, and we’ll rewire with less than half that number. We’re setting things up for a high traffic  “converged network” that can carry video, VOIP phone traffic and all the traditional network traffic. We are placing more than 70 wireless access points in the building (before there were 9) and are consolidating the distribution switches. The cabling infrastructure will be capable of supporting 10Gb to the desktop, should the College want to do that in the future.

Engineering Department VDI Project
We’ve begun a fascinating exploration of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) with an Engineering Department Project that contemplates replacing the Engineering Computing Facility (ECF) with a central service that can be reached from anywhere but provides the same tools, such as SolidWorks and ModelSim. Two of our summer employees, Graham Gordon and Minh Triet Nguyen, are helping Prof David Money Harris to examine solutions like Citrix XenDesktop, VMWare, Apache VCL and Microsoft DV. We hope to have an extended pilot available for testing by students in the Fall. 

Reorganization in CIS
We have made a small reorganization within CIS, which allows us to achieve two goals: first, broaden the base of audiovisual support for classes and events; second, focus more on Educational Technology.  We’ve moved support for AV back into the User Support Group, led by Cindy Abercrombie, and sharpened the focus in the newly named Educational Technology Services, led by Elizabeth Hodas. Elizabeth has written a more detailed article about these changes to Audiovisual and Educational Technology Support.

CMC Course Schedule Discontinued
Many faculty and students were used to using the CMC “Classic” Course Schedule, which was linked from our Portal.  It used some older Jenzabar technology, but many liked how it laid out the course areas. In mid-May, a security problem came to light.  It had to do with scripts that were potentially subject to SQL injection.  Among other things, this meant that CMC had to remove the old course schedule from their site.  It won’t be coming back, as it was built on a version of the portal technology for which Jenzabar discontinued support some time ago.  The newer course search has the same course areas, but they are listed in a drop down box. CMC and Pomona conveyed their apologies for these sudden changes, but the security issues overrode other concerns.

Employee Anniversaries
At the annual staff lunch on May 19th, three CIS staff received service awards:

  • Jeho Park, Scientific Computing Specialist (5 years)
  •  Pete Sanchez, Technical Analyst (15 years)
  • Roger Wiechman, Network Manager (20 years)

Collectively, that’s 40 years of service to the HMC Community.  Thank you, Jeho, Pete and Roger.

Summer Learning Community: Google Apps for Education.
When Debra Mashek proposed setting up a learning community on the topic of Google Apps in Education, we were delighted at CIS.  We have regularly received feedback and requests for additional information about the many features of Google Apps for Education that are available via g.hmc.edu.  We do not see ourselves as the experts on this complex topic, but as “accomplished novices” who want to learn alongside you. “Learning Community” seems like exactly the right way to go. Fourteen people have signed up and the groups start meeting this week on Thursday and Friday at 11am.  It’s not too late to join us.

Learn a little more about this, and reach the sign up form, in the article on the Google Apps Learning Community.

That’s it for the May 2014 update. Make sure you’re enjoying the summer, and gather ye rosebuds while ye may, old time is still a flyin.

Changes to Sakai Authentication on May 27, 2014

On May 27th, Pomona will be switching to a new authentication system for The Claremont Colleges instance of Sakai. We will be using a system called CAS (Central Authentication Service) for logging in to Sakai. While there will be a different user interface for logging in, you will still be using the same username and password.

The first difference you will see is that there will be two login buttons (“Login” and “Guest Login”) on the top right page.

Sakai login

Guest account users who don’t have a college username and password will need to click the “Guest Login” button. The login process will be the same as before for guest users after this point. Claremont Sakai users who have a college username and password should click the “Login” button for the new login system. This will redirect you to the new CAS login page as shown below:

CAS login

On that screen, you will need to “select your college” and then enter your college username and password. If you select “Remember My College”, you will not need to select your college on subsequent logins. You can enter either your full Sakai username (i.e. ehodas@hmc) or your shortened username (i.e. ehodas) once you have selected your college.

Once CAS authenticates you, you will see your Sakai homepage as usual. To sign out, press the logout button and close the browser. You must exit the browser to fully log out from CAS when you have finished.

If you have any questions about the migration or about CAS, please contact the HMC Help Desk.

April 2014 Update from the CIO

As we round the corner into the home stretch and everyone’s focus is on those last few weeks of the Spring Semester, I hope you can take a moment to read the news from CIS.

New CIS Web Site
The new College website was launched in January. In line with that effort, Elizabeth Hodas led a team within CIS that developed a new CIS site. It emphasizes simplicity and is designed to help us keep information accurate and up to date.  Since January we have made a couple of important additions.  We now have a “top IT Projects” page, which lists the status of our most important projects and will receive at least quarterly updates. And we also have a rapidly developing “service catalog” page which will list all of the services we provide, with information about how to request them.  Take a look at http://www.hmc.edu/cis

Top IT Projects
Our Top IT Projects page https://www.hmc.edu/cis/it-projects/ is intended to give you an overview of our top projects, even though it is a subset of the 50 or so projects that we have in the pipeline at any time.  The CIS Management Team (CIO + four Directors) chose these projects as the “top” ones by considering such things as importance to the community, impact and cost & effort required.  We review this list on a regular basis, with each project owner giving an update on status at least once per quarter.  Early feedback has been positive; it included suggestions that we avoid acronyms and be more specific in places. We’d love to hear  your feedback too.

Educational Technology
We have reorganized a little in CIS in order to focus even more on Educational Technology, shifting the responsibility for everyday AV operations to the User Support Team.  This is a natural progression from the creation of an Educational Technology Group in 2009, originally funded by the Fletcher Jones Foundation.  Elizabeth Hodas has been taking the group through some online professional development experiences, which will help shape future work.  In the coming year, we anticipate a collaboration with the Claremont Libraries around digital badges; we are looking at video over IP solutions and there is rumor that we will have access to a Perceptive Pixel.  If there is an area of Educational Technology in which you are particularly interested, please make sure to contact Elizabeth about it (ehodas@hmc.edu).

The Computing Committee
The Computing Committee got off to a slow start this year, with only one or two meetings in the Fall, due to some issues with membership and faculty assignments.  But under the intrepid leadership of Rachel Levy, the committee made important contributions in what remained of the year. This year’s committee was Rachel Levy (Chair), Deb Mashek, Weiqing Gu, Tim Hussey, Jacob Bandes-Storch and myself. In the policy arena, the committee reviewed and made significant changes to a draft policy on safeguarding private information and suggested a new statement on incidental personal use. Both are currently under review by Campus Counsel.  The committee sent out a survey requesting feedback and created a mechanism for ongoing feedback to the committee (https://www.formstack.com/forms/hmc-computingcommittee).  It cautioned against asking faculty to complete a long survey to benchmark IT services and provided strong feedback about ways in which we at CIS could improve communications and the quality of service provided through the Footprints Ticket System.  The committee was also instrumental in the design of our efforts for Data Privacy Month (https://www.hmc.edu/cis/dpm/).  We also engaged in vigorus conversation about the role of the committee in IT Governance, which will benefit future instances of the committee. I would like to publicly thank Rachel and the other committee members for a really great year.

Consolidation of web servers
We have started consolidating older web servers such as www2, www3, www4 and www5.  The number of servers proliferated over time to meet different needs, but they have proved somewhat difficult to maintain.  For example, when www4 crashed as part of the Charlie issues we dealt with in January, we were not able to revive it.  So we worked with the seven or so faculty who had material on that server and moved it all.  One of the new destinations is the new Charlie, but in a new, more secure manner that is easier to maintain.  Tad Beckman was one of the people affected by this and the result was some adventures in self publishing.  Read about them at http://www5.hmc.edu/ITNews/?p=2779.

Network Infrastructure work during the summer
At the January Board meeting, the Budget and Financial Planning Committee approved additional IT Infrastructure Funds (ITIF) to undertake a complete rewiring of the two structures that make up the Parsons building (Parsons East and Parsons West).  We will be removing a large amount of unused cable, and recabling the whole building.  We will reduce the number of network closets down to two from six, and make serious improvements in the wireless network, increasing the number of access points from nine to seventy three.  This work will come with some disruption and network downtime unfortunately, but you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.  We are working closely with the building occupants on this project.

The summer will also see work on the network in preparation for the new dorm; we will bring online a new fiber connection from Claremont to downtown Los Angeles; and we are researching solutions for more wireless capacity on campus, particularly in the residential areas.

Other topics
People have been asking for more support for Google Apps for Education (g.hmc.edu). So we were delighted by Debra Mashek’s note.  Read more …

Elizabeth Hodas wrote that Sakai will be upgraded to version 2.9 this summer, with a new look and feel being planned.

Several faculty have told me that they were surprised by some of the things they learned when they took the FERPA quiz. Take a few minutes and see how you do yourself.

The CIS staff and I wish you the very best for a busy, but at last celebratory, end of semester.

Adventures in Self Publishing

This is a story in the “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade… ” category.

After we experienced some hardware issues with the Charlie file server, some of the older websites that were published under www4.hmc.edu went offline.  The new version of Charlie did not provide the file system needed by the www4 server, which had been limping along for some time.  So we quickly began to explore ways to host those pages. The inimitable Mitch Shacklett (Director, Systems and Network) came up with a great way to do this, by making a subset of your folders on Charlie visible on the web.  He promises that we will soon have a way to password protect pages being offered in this way too.

One of the people affected by this was Tad Beckman, Professor Emeritus in the Humanities, Social Sciences and the Arts Department.  Tad had a collection of pages that included some essays and lecture notes that were referred to by many people around the internet.  Together we looked at a variety of options to publish this material in a more permanent format.  In the end, Tad found a very interesting solution: he published five eBooks on Amazon’s Kindle Store.  I was intrigued by this idea, and asked Tad a few questions by email:

How did you discover that you could publish on Amazon’s kindle store?

I Google searched self-publishing and Kindle Direct Publishing was one of the sites that came up.

Why did the  Claremont library not want to take your material?

The Claremont Digital Library program seems to be only for faculty works that have already been published somewhere. I was dealing with course notes and unpublished materials.

To whom would the material be of interest?

All of these materials have been on my WebSite from the early 1990s onward. Some were developed for courses I was teaching but others were just pursuing interests of mine. Philosophy students around the country have used my course notes and I’ve had extensive contact with some of them. Students of Native Americans (especially California 4th graders) have used my extensive notes for my freshman course “Indigenous People of the Western US”. I used to interact with parents, students, and teachers quite a bit. In addition, I wrote a whole book about California’s indians (The View from Native California) but failed to finish it when I became department chair for the second time. It wound up on the WebSite. In addition, I put up an article on Martin Heidegger which has been read widely over the internet.

How easy/difficult was it, in your opinion to get this done?

If you already have an Amazon account, it is easy to create an account on Kindle Direct Publishing. If you intend to publish, you can go ahead and fill out the tax-related forms as well. Then you get a “bookshelf” from which you can add new titles. It is very easy to do if you have your material in MS Word format. (I was using Word for MAC 2004 but switched to Word for MAC 2011.) When you add a title, you fill out a longish form with all the vital information — title, subtitle, author, categories, search words, etc. You will do two important things toward the bottom of this form — first, create a cover using their cover-maker (import your own image or leave it without an image) and, second, upload your Word file. After that, you go to a second form where you select a price and authenticate that you have authorship rights. After that, it takes the system about 12 hours to put your book into the store. The book appears on your “bookshelf” and offers several operations that you can perform — like creating an updated version, etc.

The one thing that gave me trouble until I finally figured it out was creating a table of contents that worked on a Kindle or iPad. When you know the magic it is easy in Word. In the MAC version at least, you just insert a “bookmark” over the title of a chapter, essay, etc. Then, in your table, you insert a “hyperlink” to that bookmark. When you are all finished, the table works in the Word version and is taken up by the Kindle-format conversion.

What would you say to fellow faculty about your experience with the Amazon system?

Well, I wanted these materials someplace where people could continue to use them and this looks like a good place. It was a very easy process to convert my Web pages into Word format and then coalesce them into a full document. Most of the time went into proofreading, editing, and making additional text so that the final document would be coherent. In about three weeks, I have created five publications. (You can see them by searching “Tad Beckman” on Amazon.com.) I’ve even sold a few!

Any other comments?

Retirement is great!

——————-
I am grateful to Tad for telling me about this. You can take a look at his new  pages, served from Charlie, at http://pages.hmc.edu/beckman and his Amazon publications can be found at http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=tad%20Beckman

 

 

Summer 2014 Upgrade to Sakai 2.9

This summer the Pomona IT staff will be upgrading the consortial Sakai server to version 2.9. We are currently running version 2.8. The Sakai Administration Team will be testing version 2.9 over the summer, with a tentative upgrade date of August 12, 2014. More information on how long Sakai will be down during the upgrade will be available as we get closer to the upgrade date.

Some important dates to keep in mind:

  • April 29, 2014: Summer 2014 and Fall 2014 5C course sites created, but not populated with faculty and staff. Faculty can request that they be added manually to a site by contacting the Help Desk with the name and section number of the course.
  • May 16, 2014: Summer 2014 5C course sites populated with faculty and students.
  • June 10, 2014: Spring 2014 course sites unpublished. Students can no longer see these sites, but faculty still have access.
  • August 12, 2014: Upgrade to Sakai 2.9. Sakai will most likely be unavailable for some amount of time. More information will be available as we approach this date.
  • August 19, 2014: Fall 2014 5C course sites will be populated with faculty and students.

The release notes tell us that “Version 2.9 of Sakai contains significant performance improvements, updated technical infrastructure, hundreds of bug fixes (over 600 bug fixes and over 20 security improvements), and it sports a new, updated look and feel, including smoother navigation, with a new neo-portal skin. Significant features have been added to the Resources, Gradebook, and Section Info tools in core Sakai. Major additions and improvements have been made to the “Indies,” including Lessons, which is now turned on by default, Samigo Test & Quizzes, Profile 2, Forums and Messages.”

Google Apps Learning Community

google appsOne of the priorities that came out of the Spring 2013 survey of faculty priorities, was a request for training in Google Apps for Education.  This feedback has come to us through a number of channels, so we are delighted to participate in and support the initiative announced in Debra Mashek’s recent email to faculty and staff, which is the first step in the creation of a “learning community” around Google Apps for Education.  As she was preparing her call for participation, I got the opportunity to share a favorite quote, from an article that Dan Stoebel sent around last year (thanks Dan!):

“A healthy alternative is one that celebrates being an ‘accomplished novice’ who is proud of his or her accomplishments but realizes that he or she is still a novice with respect to most that is knowable and hence actively seeks new learning opportunities.” John D. Bransford and Daniel L. Schwartz, “Rethinking Transfer: A Simple Proposal with Multiple
Implications,” Review of Research in Education, vol. 24, no. 1 (January 1999), pp. 61-100.

What better way to approach a learning opportunity like Google Apps for Education?  If you’re inspired, please visit the form to express interest and preferences by Monday, May 5th  http://tinyurl.com/googleappslearningcommunity

Scientific Computing Seminars: MATLAB, Parallel Computing, and GPU Computing

CIS is very excited to announce the post-spring break events specially hand-picked for you. We have three scientific computing seminars lined up for the week of March 24th and April 1st. If you are interested, please pick one or two (or even all three) and register online to reserve your seat. Please find the details below:

MathWorks MATLAB Seminar:
Wednesday, March 26th from 12:45 pm to 3:30 pm in Sprague Learning Studio Classroom
Register online at https://www.mathworks.com/hmc2014

Title: Programming with MATLAB
Topics covered will include:
•    Basics of the MATLAB programming language
•    Automating with scripts
•    Building robust, maintainable functions
•    Tools for efficient program development
•    Using objects and authoring classes in MATLAB

Parallel Computing Seminar:
Thursday, March 27th from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm in Sprague Learning Studio Classroom
Register online at http://www.formstack.com/forms/hmc-seminar_registration_spring2014

Title: Parallel Computing with MPI (Message Passing Interface)
Topics covered will include:
•    Basics of Parallel Processing
•    Ways to make your program run (much) faster
•    Hands-on examples of MPI

XSEDE HPC Monthly Workshop on OpenACC GPU Programming:
Tuesday, April 1st from 8:00 am to 2 pm in Sprague Learning Studio Classroom
Register online at https://portal.xsede.org/course-calendar/-/training-user/class/163

Title: OpenACC* GPU Programming
Topics covered will include:
•   Parallel Computing and Accelerators
•   Intro to OpenACC
•   Using OpenACC with CUDA Libraries
•   Advanced OpenACC and OpenMP 4.0

*OpenACC is the accepted standard using compiler directives to allow quick development of GPU capable codes using standard languages and compilers. It has been used with great success to accelerate real applications within very short development periods. This workshop assumes knowledge of either C or Fortran programming.