New technology based science instructional laboratory in Connelly 130

By: Dr. Brian Forster

Bio Pac
In August 2012, Connelly 130 was redesigned and deployed as a science laboratory. Students working in this lab will have access to the same technology found in the other Connelly Hall science instructional laboratories. The software program that will be utilized extensively in Connelly 130 this year will be the Bio-Pac (Figs. A & B). Although I have previously mentioned Bio-Pacs, I wish to take this time and describe them in more detail and show how these devices help students in learning about how the human body functions (physiology).

Observations are a key feature to the nature of science. What we observe allows us as scientists to ask and answer questions. The invention of microscopes allowed scientists to open the door to the world of cells and microorganisms. Studying the physiology of an organism, most notably humans, can be difficult since we cannot easily visualize all the events occurring inside the body. The actions of the human body produce electricity. Different activities produce unique electrical signals. Bio-Pac uses special electrodes that can be connected to the body to detect these signals. These signals are transferred from the electrodes to a MP3X acquisition unit (Fig. A). The MP3X processes these signals and carries that information to the Bio-Pac Student Lab software that is installed on the computers in the Connelly Hall science instructional laboratories. According to the manufacturer, it takes 1/1000 of a second for a signal to be received and displayed on the computer (Bio-Pac Student Lab manual). The Bio-Pac software allows the student to not just visualize the signals, but allows the student to analyze the data and make specific measurements.

The electrical activity that the Bio-Pac system measures allows our students to visualize skeletal muscle activity (electromyography), brain activity (electroencephalography), heart activity (electrocardiography) (Fig. B) and eye activity (electroculogram). Other aspects of human physiology the Bio-Pac system can measure include blood pressure, respiration and the human body’s response to relaxing and stressful conditions. Given the proper electrodes, numerous aspects of human physiology can be explored. There is even a prepared lab on using the Bio-Pac as a polygraph machine! Students can see firsthand what happens physiologically when someone tells their professor that the dog ate the assignment! Currently, the biology lab courses that use Bio-Pacs include Bio 165 (Exploring the Living World), Bio 201 (Bio III: Organismic Biology), Bio 260/261 (Anatomy and Physiology) and Bio 417 (Systemic Physiology).

Since several of our students are pre-health students, they also gain practice in using more common equipment to look at human physiology. Stethoscopes and sphygmomanometers (blood pressure cuffs) are provided for students to measure heart rate and blood pressure, respectively without the aid of the computer. The students are then provided the opportunity to compare their own measurements to the measurements calculated by Bio-Pac.

To learn more about the Connelly Hall science instructional laboratories and their technology, please contact Dr. Brian Forster (bforster@sju.edu).

ScreenChomp

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TechSmith, the company behind tools like SnagIt and Camtasia, has released a free iPad app called ScreenChomp that lets you create screencasts with audio narration on the go. This recordable whiteboard app is just the canvas you need to jot your ideas down, demonstrate an idea or concept, or mark up a PDF with audio narration and share it with students and the world.

A user also has the ability to upload a photo or PDF into a background and then draw all over the image/screen. You draw freehand on the iPad’s touch screen. The app offers 12 colored pens to choose from, and as you doodle, your voice gets recorded in sync with the drawing. Once you have created your video, you are cued to send your video to ScreenChomp.com where you can email the link to students or friends, or post it to a blog or webpage.

Just – Record It. Sketch It. Share It. – to create a sharable, replay-able video that tells your story clearly.

  1. Touch RECORD to capture your touch interactions and audio instructions on a plain background, or an image from your iPad camera roll.
  2. SKETCH out your ideas and talk the viewer through the “how” and “why” of it all.
  3. Stop and SHARE your video snack to ScreenChomp.com to generate a simple web link you can paste anywhere – or – post it to Facebook with one-click!

One of the great features in ScreenChomp is that you can record your project, then share it to the ScreenChomp service, and then download the MP4 file to your Mac or PC. It is easy to import the MP4 file into Camtasia for Mac or Camtasia Studio (PC) and edit further by adding annotations, zooms, and more to enhance the video.

Here is a screencast showing this process using ScreenChomp and Camtasia for Mac: http://www.screencast.com/t/p6vooWeRw

Bottom Line:

ScreenChomp is a simple drawing application with one hugely complex feature–recording. The simplicity of this app combined with its feature set is awesome. Educators will find this app very useful for sharing ideas and commenting on submitted work. This free app will take you as far as your imagination and resourcefulness will lead you.

Introducing Joanne Piombino

jpiombino4Joanne Piombino, the newest member of the CAS tech team, will serve as the Language Resource Center Technical Support Specialist (working primarily in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages).  She grew up in Malvern and currently resides in Exton with her two daughters, one in college and the other finishing high school.  Pursuing her technology degrees began later in life, first, with an Associate Degree in Educational Technology earned at Reading Area Community College, followed by a Bachelors’ Degree in Information Technology from Immaculata University.  She is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Instructional Technology here at Saint Joseph’s University.

Joanne has worked in multiple roles supporting K-12 Education over the past decade, including Help Desk and Technology Integration.  Of the nine years she worked at Great Valley School District, she spent the last four assisting teachers with the integration of technology in their classrooms.  Joanne was part of a team that created and implemented professional development opportunities such as the “Great Valley Tech Camp,” which offered teachers various technology work sessions throughout a one week term, while earning graduate credits through Immaculata University.

Joanne is very excited about the new challenge of working in higher education and she is looking forward to meeting and developing collaborative professional relations with faculty, students, and staff of the College of Arts & Sciences.  Although she is an avid football and baseball fan, she’s looking forward to “integrating” basketball into her repertoire as a Saint Joe’s Hawk!

Protecting Your Computer Against Attacks

More and more our productivity in the workplace is dependent on our ability to quickly send and receive email messages and view web pages. This continuous connection to the outside world comes with a cost. We are exposed to an onslaught of malicious software and computer security threats in the form of fake web pages, banner ads, scam emails and deceptive documents.

To combat the ever-evolving methods of attack, software publishers and computer manufacturers are continuously updating and refining their products. To help in the fight to protect your computer, it is critical to do your part by keeping all your software tools completely up to date.

Update Adobe Flash Player to the latest available version:
http://www.adobe.com/software/flash/about/

Update Java to the latest available version:
http://www.java.com/en/download/testjava.jsp

For Windows computer users:

  1. Install Microsoft updates on a weekly basis
  2. Microsoft or Start Menu> Programs> Microsoft Update

For Mac OS computer users:

  1. Install Apple software updates on a weekly basis
  2. Apple menu> Software updates…
  3. Install all available updates, and then check for available updates again until no further updates are available

Install Microsoft Office for Mac updates:

  1. Launch Word, Excel or PowerPoint for Mac
  2. Pull down the Help menu and select Check for Updates
  3. Install all available updates, and then check for available updates again until no further updates are available

Learning about the Physical Principles Behind Weather through Technology

By Dr. Brian Forster

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In January 2012, I wrote an entry for the CAS Technology blog entitled “Technology in the General Education Program Natural Science Laboratories.” In that article, I discussed the technology used in the GEP lab-based natural science courses designed for students who are not majoring in science. This semester, a third course was introduced “Exploring the Physical World” (Phy113) taught by Drs. Douglas Kurtze and Brian Forster. During lecture, students learn about the weather while in the laboratory, they analyze current weather conditions and learn the physics behind these weather patterns.

St. Joseph’s University has purchased access for Phy113 students to obtain current and past weather data from the American Meteorological Society. Student computer stations throughout the lab allow students a look at our weather in relation to the topic being discussed during lecture (Figure A). A goal for our course is that by the end of the semester, students could simply look at weather conditions and be able to make their own forecasts instead of relying on the weatherman!

As with our other lab-based courses, Phy 113 utilizes Xplorer GLX readers for a wide variety of experiments. These readers have been extremely useful in not only the GEP lab-based courses, but in other science courses too. These courses include Drs. Jonathan Fingerut and Piotr Habdas’ Biomechanics course as well as Dr. Catalina Arango’s Environmental Microbiology course.

The attachment probes we use in conjugation with the Xplorer GLX for Phy 113 are the ideal gas law chamber (Figure B) and the solar panel (Figure C). In the gas law chamber, a syringe controls the volume of gas inside the tube. Pressure and Temperature probes are connected to both the chamber and the Xplorer. As students manipulate the volume of the gas, they are able to see the relationship between the pressure, volume, temperature and density of a gas. As the students perform more experiments, they are challenged to refine their ideas for the relationships between these properties of a gas.

A solar panel allows our students to learn about solar altitude, or how far above the horizon the sun is in the sky. The solar panel has a temperature sensor that can plug into the Xplorer GLX. A halogen bulb lamp serves as our sun. Using this experimental design, students can learn the relationship between temperature, solar altitude and our seasons. The solar panel also allows students to model the greenhouse effect. If it is a clear day outside, these panels can be used “in the field” (aka outside the laboratory) to calculate solar altitude as well.

The Xplorer also serves an important pedagogical function. For our students who are less experienced in the technique of graphing, they can see how the data is plotted out to assist them in properly preparing, graphing and analyzing their data.

In addition to this technology, several of the physics experiments that our students carry out use common household items. In a recent lab for example, students learned about angular momentum. This concept is used by figure skaters who spread their arms out when they wish to slow down their rotation. We used common household supplies to illustrate this physical principle.

We hope this emphasizes to our students that many concepts in science can be seen and performed in their everyday lives. You just need to stop, look around, observe and wonder!
To learn more about these labs and their technology, please contact Dr. Brian Forster (bforster@sju.edu).

Using iPad for OnLine Grading by Dr. Vincent McCarthy

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I received the iPad on its first day in 2010 and have been a fan since (and upgraded to the iPad 3 in March). I immediately recognized its potential for instructional use, particularly in the OnLine philosophy courses that I pioneered at SJU. Students typically write two papers a week and send them as email attachments. I quickly realized that, if I could grade them OnLine and return them, it would facilitate the courses and might even help in getting students to read the comments.

Within a few weeks, iAnnotate PDF appeared and, for the price of $9.95 (out of my own pocket of course!), it was exactly what I was looking for. As a result, I was able to write onscreen comments, usually in red, as well as add typed longer comments, and to return the papers immediately. This was satisfying to both students and to instructor.

iAnnotate PDF has improved in various upgrades, and I have occasionally used it to grade and return term papers and exams, also while traveling by plane or rail.

In short, the combination of iPad and iAnnotate PDF has been an excellent tool for OnLine grading.

Useful iPad Apps by Duane Glover

What are iPad apps?
Apps are also known as application software or an “app”. They are computer software designed to help the user to perform a specific task. iPad apps are software specifically designed to take advantage of the technology built into the iPad that includes such application as word processing software (Pages), spreadsheet software (Numbers), and presentation software (Keynote).

The iPad comes with several useful apps preloaded onto the device. Built in apps include Face Time, Photo Booth, Mail, Safari, iBooks, Videos, Photos, Find My iPad, iPod, iTunes, App Store, Maps, You Tube, GameCenter, Notes, Calendar, Contacts and Camera.

The iPad launched in April 2010 with over 3000 applications designed for the iPad. By December 2010, just eight months after the release of the iPad, over 50,000 apps were available for the device. As of July 2011, 16 months after the iPad launched, there are over 100,000 apps available at the App Store designed specifically for the device.

Popular Paid iPad Apps Popular Free iPad Apps
Pages – $9.99 Dropbox
Numbers – $9.99 Flipboard
Keynote – $9.99 Dragon Dictation
iAnnotate – $9.99 Evernote

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The iPad can be an extremely useful tool to enhance teaching and learning. Personally my iPad is the tool of choice for most of my computing task. Before the iPad, I would use multiple tools to complete a single task. I now can complete multiple tasks with one tool – my iPad and its associated apps. This 21st Century tool has dramatically changed the way I do things. It has helped me to be more organized and almost paper free. I find it engaging on the professional and personal level. However, I must remind you that it is only a tool and needs to be used correctly in order for it to be useful. I liken the iPad to the invention of the power lawn mower, which made my lawn maintenance more efficient just as my iPad has made my computing task more efficient. But, when all is said and done, I still have to mow the lawn.

2012 Senior Art Show by Jeanne Bracy, Assistant Gallery Director

The 2012 Senior Art majors are very excited to present their theses that they have been working on since September. This year there are three photography majors, Laura Colussi, Evan DiPaola, and Cara Howell. Laura is using her own Nikon D5000 digital SLR camera to shoot landscape photographs which she is presenting in varied sizes 8” x 10” and smaller. Evan uses his own Nikon D7000 digital SLR camera to take portrait photographs which are all framed to 13” x 19.” And finally, Cara uses her own Nikon D90 digital SLR camera to shoot urban storefronts which are framed to 11”x 14.” All three photographers are using Adobe Photoshop CS5 software system to manipulate their images before printing them on the Epson Stylus Pro 4880 printer all in our iMac editing lab in Boland Hall.

The exhibit will also include ceramic work from fellow senior art majors, Maegan Arthurs, Angela Bennie, Darby Cotter and Tina Eccleston, and paintings by Kaitlin Ammirati, Megan Brady, Holly Colaguori and Martina Tagher. The exhibit will open on April 13th and run through May 31, 2012. All are welcome to the opening reception on April 13th from 5-9 PM.

iPad as a Tool for Science Education

by Drs. Jonathan Fingerut and Piotr Habdas

Much ado has been made recently regarding the iPad’s potential to revolutionize the realm of education through its use as a reader for e-textbooks. New software makes publishing your own textbooks as easy as making your PowerPoints, and a new marketplace for those textbooks has been created. Most importantly the price-point for those textbooks has been set an order-of-magnitude lower than most of our current texts. At $15 a piece, a student could recoup the cost of a new iPad in one semester. However, until the texts available for the iPad increase in number and quality, as much as many of us would like to save our students money, the use of the iPad in the science classroom remains limited in its scope.

There are, however, examples of how this simple, intuitive device can earn its keep until the eBook revolution occurs. In particular, boutique software that takes advantage of the iPad’s unique combination of power and intuitive input mode. In the course Biomechanics, offered jointly by the Biology and Physics Departments, as part of two different labs covering drag in fluid flow, students were given the opportunity to use a program called Windtunnel HD. This App visualizes and quantifies the flow of fluids over, around, and through objects that the students draw on the screen. This $6 download is the best fluid-dynamics software outside of expensive ($>1,000) mathematical modeling packages, and far and away the most user friendly. Instead of learning software syntax, coding rules, and complicated datasets, the students’ time can be spent manipulating the objects by dragging and rotating them with multi-touch motions, changing fluid properties using on-screen sliders and varying the data output with simple radio buttons. The students in the course were familiar with manipulating objects and settings this way, and were very engaged by the software.

Students had previously experimentally measured drag forces on objects dragged through oil with relatively inexpensive equipment (<$1000 per station). However, that approach, which is excellent for a number of pedagogical reasons, is limited in the situations it can replicate. This new software allowed students to concentrate on their predictions, testing and analyzing data without worrying about the limitations of the experimental setup. Further, its drawing features allowed students to rapidly design and test different object shapes to develop the most hydrodyanamically efficient form possible. While this could have been done empirically, the ability to try, modify and test multiple forms in a matter of minutes allowed students to be more creative before making their physical model.

This is just one small example of how the iPad can play a role in scientific education, but it is one that is uniquely suited to the interface the iPad provides. No other device combines such ease of use, input and processing power. It is likely, as more and more students have iPads, the development of such specialty software will become more financially attractive and move beyond the current hobbyist realm. One could foresee interactive software in molecular biology, mechanics, and any other field in which the easy manipulation of objects can tear down barriers to student learning and bring subjects into a medium through which they have become accustomed to interacting with their environment.

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Fig 1. Examples of the types of analysis and outputs available in Windtunnel HD to visualize flow fields, turbulence structures and lift forces (left to right respectively).

Measuring drag force in Newtonian Liquids

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The Biology and Physics departments are currently in their fourth year of a Science education grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. This grant, focused on the integration of biology, physics, and quantitative analysis, has provided for the development of two new courses, Molecular and Cellular Biophysics, taught by new faculty member and biophysicist, Dr. Edwin Li, and Biomechanics, taught by Dr. Jonathan Fingerut (Biology) and Dr. Piotr Habdas (Physics). The Biomechanics course has provided access to new instrumentation and technologies to Biology and Physics majors enrolled in the class.

For example, in one laboratory experiment, students use high-resolution force sensors and an accompanying graphing datalogger to measure drag forces exerted on objects moving through different liquids. Changing the shape, velocity and even the medium through which they are moved allows students to isolate each factor and emulate and quantify the physical forces that different organisms face in their natural environment. The graphical interface provided by the PASCO Explorer GLX datalogger allows students to isolate specific portions of their data, easily visualize changes over time, and quickly identify problems in their setup and data collection protocols. The GLX are designed to work with over 70 different probes useful to many disciplines including the physical (e.g. force, magnetic fields), chemical (e.g. pH, temperature) and biological sciences (e.g. dissolved oxygen, light levels).