Blackboard Workshops Scheduled for August 2011

The following Blackboard (Bb) Workshops have been scheduled for August 2011.
There will be additional workshops scheduled for September 2011.

All Bb courses for Fall 2011 were made available on June 20th.
Spring 2011 courses will be available in Bb on October 24, 2011.

We will be upgrading Bb to the latest service pack (SP6) on August 14th.
Service Pack 6 includes fixes for bugs we encountered in Bb 9.1.
Below are some of the new features that are included in SP6.

Blackboard 9.1 – Getting Started:

This workshop will provide an overview of Bb 9.1 and will cover the “Student View”, Building course navigation and uploading Content and the Control Panel features.

Upon completing the workshop, attendees will be able to perform basic operations in Bb9.1.

The Bb9.1 “Getting Started” workshop will be repeated on the following dates and will be held in Science 129.

August 15 1:00-2:30 Bb Basics
August 22 2:00-3:30 Bb Basics

Source: Al Labonis, Instructional Designer/Blackboard Administrator, ITDL

iPad 2 in the Humanities Classroom: Revolutionary Educational Technology?

by Jim Caccamo, Department of Theology and Religious Studies

Regular readers of the CAS tech blog might remember from a post in May that I recently co-authored a two disc, interactive software and video publication entitled Living Worship. For that publication, I served as technical director as well as author. I did much of the programming, instructional design, and video production myself. I am in the humanities but I am no luddite.

Yet, if you were to visit my classroom, you would find it a relatively low-tech affair. Early in my teaching career, I experimented quite a bit with a variety of ed. technologies. From the humble email list serv to complicated in-class, four point video conferencing, each promised to revolutionize the learning environment. Each was very interesting and novel, but I found that the techs rarely enhanced student learning sufficiently enough to justify all the time and effort behind them. (Yeah, Blackboard, I’m talking to you.). I remained open to new ed. techs, but as time went on, my tech portfolio slimmed down to things straightforward and entirely reliable, and only thing that did something I could do no other way.

Enter the latest ed. tech phenom: the iPad 2. On paper, it looked like a great device. But even with it on order, I was still a bit skeptical. Another “revolutionary” technology? Would it really help me do new things in the classroom? Or if not new, would it actually improve what I already do?

After about 6 weeks with the device, I can say that to my surprise, the answers are “yes” to each.

One way that that iPad has changed my classroom has been to serve as a central hub for my presentational media. When I use media in the classroom, I tend toward things I can’t just write up on the board. Most of the time, this means playing videos and songs, which the iPad is perfect for. With the video mirroring capabilities of the iPad 2, I simply hook the VGA and audio outs to the classroom “laptop in” port, fire up a media item I’ve put on the iPad before class, and we’re good to go. While I applaud IT’s ability to keep classroom computers running at all, no longer having to deal with abused hardware, out of date drivers, and systems that faculty have decided to “fix” has improved classroom flow.

But what I really like about the iPad as a presentational device is it’s elegance. On those occassions when I want to throw a piece of text on the screen, I can use Pages to entirely remove all of the interface from the screen. There are no menus, no scroll bars, no rulers or buttons. There’s just the text. Beautiful and clean, there’s nothing to draw focus away from what’s important.

The iPad has also changed my classroom enhancing two activities we do all of the time: examining texts and laying out ideas on the board. Pretty much every day in class we spend a good chunk of time talking about things the students have read. As we do that, the students and I constantly point out key passages in the readings. The only problem is that there’s always a lag as people turn, for instance, to “the third full paragraph on page 24, about 3/4 of the way down,” trying to find exactly where the quote is. Using GoodReader on the iPad, I can quickly throw the article that we are reading up on the screen (I have my course readers in pdf format) and circle the text we’re focusing on. Students can then quickly find the right spot without much mucking about and feeling lost. It’s a simple thing, but it has been really helpful.

The iPad has also enhanced the way that I lay out ideas on the board during class. Being a more aural than visual person, I have had to work on developing ways to help our visually savvy students engage the material. Many faculty do this by throwing images or outlines of text on the screen. Yet, that never seemed to me a particularly interactive way of proceeding. It is hard to edit PowerPoint on the fly based on student input! So I’ve focused on working with students to build diagrams of concepts and arguments on the board as we move through the class. This works well to facilitate student participation in collaborative construction of knowledge. But it has the disadvantages of being difficult to save, hard to read (due to my poor handwriting), and often quite messy. Interactive yes, but ideal, no.

Using the iPad, I have started to experiment with a couple of different apps (SimpleMind and MindNode) that do what is sometimes referred to (grandiosely) as ”mind mapping”. These apps allow you to draw flow charts, decision trees, and “mind maps” that connect major premises and ideas to their supporting concepts. Using the touch screen, you draw shapes, type in text, and connect items to one another with arrows and lines. Best of all, you can save the completed maps as jpg or pdf files, email them to the class, edit them, and bring them back up in later classes. While I have quite a bit of work yet to do in order to gain real facility with the software, we’ve been able to use it successfully in the classroom to collaboratively create visual guides to course readings and concepts. Again, a simple thing that has been really helpful.

The bottom line is this: the iPad 2 has helped me do what I do better. And in the end, that’s the most important thing to me: I haven’t had to change my teaching for the sake of the technology. I haven’t had to adopt new pedagogical strategies to use it. I haven’t had to rethink class sessions and assignments. I haven’t had to adopt new workflows. And I haven’t had to expend energy worrying about whether or not the hardware or network will work. It has been utterly reliable across a variety of classrooms.

With the iPad, I have been able to keep my mind squarely where it should be: helping students learn. Now that’s a revolutionary educational technology!

Are You Suddenly Unable to Get Email on Your iPad?

ipad21SJU’s wireless network utilizes enterprise security protocols that require you to authenticate with a valid SJU username and password. If you return to campus with your iPad and discover that you are unable to get email, it is likely you are not authenticated on sjuwireless, even though the iPad’s wireless network icon may indicate that you successfully reconnected.

Try launching Apple’s Safari web browser to see if you can successfully load any web pages. If loading web pages fails, follow these steps to get reconnected:

  1. Return to the iPad desktop and launch Settings.
  2. Tap “Wi-Fi” in the left column and look for sjuwireless in the list below “Choose a Network…”
  3. Tap the “>” symbol to the right of sjuwireless.
  4. Tap the “Forget this Network” banner, then click “Forget” to disconnect from the network.
  5. Tap sjuwireless in the Choose a Network… list, enter your SJU Username and Password and tap Join.
  6. Tap the Accept button at the Security Certificate prompt.

Head back to the iPad desktop and launch Safari to verify loading a web page works, then try launching Mail. Look for the “Checking for Mail…” message at the bottom of your Inbox or Mailbox window to see the status change to “Updated” with the current date and time.
If Mail still fails to connect to the server, follow these steps to reset your account:

  1. Return to the iPad desktop and launch Settings.
  2. Tap “Mail, Contacts, Calendars” in the left column.
  3. Look in the list of Accounts on the right side and tap on your sju.edu account
  4. Tap the “Account” banner
  5. Delete and re-enter your password and tap “Done”to verify your account information. You will receive an alert if your name or password is incorrect.
  6. Tap “Done” to close the Account window.

Return to the iPad desktop and launch Mail and watch for the “Checking for Mail…” message which may persist for several minutes depending on the amount of mail you have.

Laptop Ergonomics Part 1: Protect Your Health and Improve Productivity By Following Ergonomic Laptop Usage Best Practices

Laptop computers have greatly increased productivity by compacting all of the components of a desktop computer into a small, portable form factor. Unfortunately, this portability comes with a price. Straining your upper body to conform to the laptop’s keyboard and track pad may contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome and hunching forward because of the laptop’s significantly lower screen height increases your risk of back and neck problems.

Vodafone Group, PLC, beautifully illustrates how to correct your posture to provide optimum ergonomics for laptop use in this brief but effective video.

Laptop Ergonomics Part 2: Keep Following Ergonomic Laptop Usage Best Practices When You’re “On the Road”

Here is another great video from Vodafone Group, PLC, which presents three scenarios a traveler may encounter while using his/her laptop computer on the road along with strategies to make the best of each situation. The moral of the story is this: you don’t have to forgo ergonomic laptop usage best practices just because you are using your laptop away from your perfectly customized workspace.

Things to remember:

  • Keep your back straight and don’t slouch forward.
  • The bottom of the computer can get very hot! Use your briefcase or a book to protect your lap.
  • Keep your arms at a right angle.
  • Make use the resources you have a hand: a cushion or pillow to support your lower back, or a book to raise up your laptop.
  • Take a 2-3 minute break every 30 minutes to exercise your upper body.

Watch the video.

Technology: Not Just for Technical Fields Anymore

by Dr. Jim Caccamo, Department of Theology and Religious Studies

For better or for worse, the humanities have the reputation of being more interested in the past than the present. And for good reason. As a historian of religion friend of mine likes to say, “some of my best friends are dead people.”

Yet, just because we humanities faculty hold the work of previous centuries in high esteem, it doesn’t mean that we aren’t on the cutting edge of using tech in teaching and research.

Case in point: Living Worship (Brazos Press, 2011), a work that I recently co-authored with Dr. Todd Johnson (of Fuller Theological Seminary) and Dr. Lester Ruth (of Duke University), published by. Living Worship is multimedia case study of the worship life of a real-life Christian congregation in Chicago. It is a kind of interactive software “textbook” on Christian worship.

Living Worship is a computer-based case study of eighteen months in the worship life of an actual church. The interactive application features a host of media documenting the worship life of Ravenswood Covenant Church (RCC), including more than twenty hours of video of worship services and service planning meetings, video interviews with church ministers and members, texts on the church’s history and development, sociological data on the community and neighborhood, images of historical documents and the surrounding environment, and scans of church bulletins and brochures. There are also on-camera interviews with leading experts in liturgy. The video portions capture a wide array of events in the church’s life, including a wedding, a funeral, an Advent service, and an Easter service. For most of the services, viewers can even switch back and forth between several camera angles (such as wide shots, close-ups, and views of the congregation) on the fly.

Living Worship provides a new way to study Christian liturgy. Traditionally, students focus on reading theological and historical texts. But due to logistical and scheduling issues, courses aren’t always able to see the way that the ideas they study play out in real life. Who wants to do a field trip on Sunday morning? Living Worship opens up this lived reality of community worship by enabling what we call “virtual participant observation”: using technology to closely observe a community as it tries to embody its beliefs in its public worship. Exploring the program, students can see the practical implications of theology as they examine how theological commitments and pragmatic choices play out in the real world setting. It provides a window into liturgy that history and theology can’t provide. And it is entirely unique in the field.

Living Worship also includes a second disc, Speaking of Worship. SoW is a standard video DVD with short interview segments from leading scholars on vital—even controversial—issues and questions related to worship. It is designed to be used in the classroom setting, providing 1-2 minute interview segments that can be used as supplements for lectures or as conversation starters.

So, even though we love our books, it turns out that the faculty in the College of Arts & Sciences are also at the forefront of using technology to enhance teaching and learning.

Technology Alert: Email Scams

In the past week, 18 employees of the university have fallen victim to an e-mail based scam often described as “phishing.” The purpose of the scam is to enable Internet spammers to acquire university network account access information, which is then used to send unwanted spam messages to recipients around the world. The scam messages sometimes appear as legitimate requests for information designed to enable Information Technology personnel to address a specific recipient’s need or concern. These messages request user name and password information. When one of our users responds to such a request, the security of the university’s technology resources are compromised, and the account information is used to generate tens of thousands of illegitimate e-mail messages in a relatively short period of time.

The impact of falling victim to one of these scams is extensive. The distribution of many thousands of spam e-mails from the university’s systems significantly slows down the processing of legitimate e-mail traffic. When spam messages emanating from the university are received by other e-mail systems, the recipient sites routinely (and often in an automated fashion) add the university’s systems to “blacklists,” sites from which e-mail messages are unconditionally rejected. In the past week, the university has been blacklisted by numerous organizations, including large Internet providers such as Comcast. Blacklisting has prevented many members of our community from exchanging legitimate e-mail with people and organizations outside of the university. Information Technology personnel have invested dozens of hours identifying compromised accounts, deleting outgoing spam messages as these are identified and working through the process of removing the university’s systems from numerous blacklists.

It is important to remember that the Office of Information Technology will never send out a message asking for anyone’s password via e-mail, over the phone or in person. IT receives many spam/phishing attempts on a daily basis. The Help Desk staff always posts information regarding the latest phishing attempt on the IT Blog located at http:/www.sju.edu/blogs/oit.

If you have already responded to one of these scams, you must immediately change your password from the Forgot Password link in the red login box located at http://my.sju.edu. You should also notify the Help Desk at helpdesk@sju.edu or 610-660-2920 so that IT can determine if your account has been compromised in any way. This is a very serious matter. A single compromised account could jeopardize the security of all SJU members. So we ask that you do your part by keeping your password private.

A good way to know that an e-mail is fake and not from SJU IT is to remember that employees of SJU will never ask you to provide your User Id and Password via email. When the Saint Joseph’s University Help Desk sends out a message to the community, it will come from the email address hdstaff@sju.edu. The message will also have the SJU Office of Information Technology header at the top and usually contain “IT Alert or IT Outage” in the subject line. There is also a standard Help Desk signature that concludes the IT Alert or IT Outage emails.

Maintaining the security and integrity of the university’s technology resources is a responsibility shared by every member of the community. Your attention to this serious matter is greatly appreciated.

Permission to blog was obtained from the Office of Academic Affairs on March 30, 2011.

The 2011 Senior Art Show

The 2011 Senior Art majors are very excited to be the first to utilize the new gallery space in Merion Hall on the Maguire campus.  This year there are three film majors, Adam Hutchison, Priya Sorathia and Jon Dorfman.  Both Adam and Priya are using the Art Department’s Panasonic AVCHD cameras to shoot their films along with the Lowel Lighting kits.  All three filmmakers are using Final Cut Pro and Soundtrack Pro software systems in our Mac editing lab in Boland Hall.  They will eventually use QuickTime to download their finished films onto DVD.  Their films will be presented in Merion Hall on a 60″ monitor that is wired to a control room with a Blu-ray player with web feed capabilities.  The exhibit will open on April 1st and run through April 29, 2011.  All are welcome to the opening reception on April 1 from 5-9 PM.

“Love in the Classroom”

Dr. Aimée Knight loves her new classroom in Merion Hall that enhances teaching and learning.

“I’m having a love affair. With my classroom. It’s true, I love it so. It is a collaborative, interactive learning space to support multimedia production work in the new Communication Studies Program. It features seven wall mounted displays designed for laptop use. (No more crowding around laptops!)”

To read more about her blog, check out this link:

http://aimeeknight.com/2011/02/14/love-in-the-classroom/