Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Classroom Technology Updates - Fall 2016

Reike Science Center - Leraas Lecture Hall
Over the summer I&TS User Services teams upgraded several classrooms to include smart podium technology, added new computers to some classrooms, upgraded computers in some classrooms to Windows 10 and Microsoft Office 2016, and upgraded TurningPoint 5 clicker software to TurningPoint Cloud 7. Read on for more details.

Classroom Podium Upgrades

New or updated classroom technology was installed in:

  • ADMN 211A, 211B 
  • HARS 109 
  • HONG 246A 
  • LIBR 332 
  • MGYM 103 
  • RCTR 103 (Leraas Lecture Hall), 116, 128, 212 

Computer and Software Upgrades

New computers with Windows 10 and Microsoft Office 2016 were deployed in:

  • HONG 246B 
  • MBRC 202 
  • RCTR 113, 210, 220 
  • XAVR 140 
Upgrades to Windows 10 and Microsoft Office 2016 were installed in:

  • ADMN 101, 202, 204A, 204B, 206A, 208, 211A, 211B, 212, 213, 215, 217, 219, 220, 221 
  • Garfield Station 22 
  • INGR 100, 109, 115A, 115B 
  • MBRC 116, 306, 322, 334 
  • OGYM 103, 104, 205 
  • RAMS 202, 203, 204, 205, 206, 207, 208, 317, 319 
  • UCTR 100, 133, 171, 201, 203, 214E, 214W 

TurningPoint Cloud

Last spring, Turning Technologies rolled out their new clicker software, TurningPoint Cloud, to replace TurningPoint 5.X software. This summer we upgraded the Turning Technologies Sakai integration and classroom computers were upgraded with TurningPoint Cloud software 7.3. Visit the web page Making the Transition to TurningPoint Cloud for details and help documents describing what you need to do to prepare for using clickers in the Fall.

Have more questions? Contact itech@plu.edu for assistance or to schedule an Instructional Technology consultation.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Fall 2016 Technology Workshops

Check out the schedule of Fall 2016 Technology workshops at http://www.plu.edu/itech/workshops/ along with full workshop descriptions and registration information. Workshops include a diversity of topics, including:
  • Google Docs and Drive Collaboration 
  • Prezi Basics
  • Web Conferencing Tools
  • HTML Basics
  • Intermediate Excel
  • Photoshop Basics
  • InDesign Basics
  • Backups and Data Security at PLU
  • Windows 10 and Office 2016
For a complete listing of workshops and their descriptions, see the workshop listings page.

If you have a particular need for specialized and customized technology workshops for your class or department, contact Layne Nordgren (layne.nordgren@plu.edu, 253-535-7197) and we'll do our best to meet your specific needs.

Need one-on-one assistance with technology? Contact itech@plu.edu to schedule a consultation. We'll find the right staff to assist you with your specific needs. In addition, Instructional Technologies provides a design lab with computers and software for digital editing projects. The Digital Design Lab is located on the first floor of the Library near the Help Desk.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Open Science Framework Changed My Workflow (for the better)!

by Jon Grahe, Professor of Psychology at PLU

It never occurred to me that I needed the Open ScienceFramework (OSF). It was shared with me because the developers knew that I was interested in trying to create large scale collaborative research projects, and so I ended up on their email list.  The Center for Open Science developed the OSF (free to all users) to provide researchers with the capacity to engage in scientific transparency. You might have noticed the furor around the Reproducibility Project or perhaps the slowly emerging consideration of the more impressive Transparencyof Publication guidelines.

However, I wasn’t involved in those activities, and that isn’t why I’m suggesting you consider using the OSF in your own scholarly and teaching workflow. While addressing an audience for a Psi Chi Distinguished Lecture at Western Psychological Association in 2012, Brian Nosek (cofounder of the COS) explained the value of the OSF by sharing a story about a collaborator emailing him and asking for a project file. He recalled the struggle of tracking the file on lab and personal computer to another collaborator’s computer. This story is one that any researcher might recall from his or her own past. Whether that file was ever found or not, the internet allows us to avoid losing files on hard drives. The OSF provides the capacity to keep those files in one place so that all collaborators (or any interested reader as the owner allows) can access them for future use.

Think of the OSF as an online, electronic file cabinet with the potential to serve as an interactive website. This cabinet can hold folders with other folders inside of those folders. I have no idea how many layers of folders are possible, but each folder can be kept private or shared as desired. Within each folder, files can be “dragged and dropped” from computer to the OSF location. Collaborators or visitors can download those files following the owner-allowed permissions. Documents and spreadsheets, pictures and video (or links to large video): files galore at your disposal. In the 2 ½ years I have been exposed to the OSF, I have come to rely on this electronic file cabinet/interactive website for most of my research projects and I have increasingly introduced it into the classroom.

The OSF allows me to collaborate easily with researchers at different institutions. Each of us can edit, upload, and create asynchronously. These folders (which are called components on the OSF) can be connected to other online applications (i.e., Google Drive, Dropbox, Github). When I make a new file and put it in a certain Dropbox folder, that file automatically gets saved on all my Dropbox computers as well as on my OSF project. My primary research activity encouraging undergraduates to coordinate their research activity could not be possible without the OSF. In addition, my local collaborations also benefit from using the OSF as our shared workspace.

In the classroom, the OSF provides a platform for students to share their work easily and privately with their partner; they can also include the instructor or the public. The OSF is not limited to psychology, or sciences. My 16-year-old daughter is using the OSF to conduct her own independent art study by uploading a weekly activity and seeking feedback from mentors. She can even share her artwork with her grandparents just for their own enjoyment.

While the OSF should not replace other online resources, it is quite easy to integrate them with it. I am shocked at how much the OSF has influenced my workflow. I invite you to try it as well.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

TurningPoint Clicker Software Transition

What’s Changing?

June 3 UPDATE: PLU has now transitioned the Sakai integration to TurningPoint Cloud. Faculty or presenters using clickers should now be using TurningPoint Cloud v. 7.x. See Making the Transition to TurningPoint Cloud for details.

May 9 UPDATE: PLU's transition date has been changed to June 3, 2016 due to delays in the release of TurningPoint Cloud 7.3. Dates have been changed accordingly in the post below. 

This spring, Turning Technologies is rolling out their new clicker software, TurningPoint Cloud, replacing TurningPoint 5.X software. Effective January 31, 2016, TurningPoint 5 clicker software is being phased out, with support ending on June 30, 2016. We want to ensure you are aware of these changes sooner rather than later. To prepare for this transition, Instructional Technologies will be upgrading the Turning Technologies Sakai integration on Friday June 3 and classroom computers will be upgraded with TurningPoint Cloud software v. 7.x starting the week of June 6.

If you currently use TurningPoint clickers and software, read on to learn what you need to know to prepare for this transition. There will be a few small differences within the software that we will help you become familiar with over the next several months. A list of what’s new in the software as well as Frequently Asked Questions are provided below.

To make sure we keep you informed of these changes, please fill out the following web form so we can be sure to send you targeted future updates regarding this transition.

Subscribe to Turning Technologies Transition Updates

What Do I Need to Do Before the Transition?

  1. If you want to load clicker data collected in version 5.X software into your Sakai course Gradebook, do so before June 3.
  2. If you have an older gray USB receiver, upgrade your Turning point USB receiver by contacting Clayton Poston (cposton@turningtechnologies.com) at Turning Technologies. If your receiver is white and branded similar the photo to the right, it is compatible with TurningPoint Cloud.
  3. Request an upgrade of your laptop or desktop software to TurningPoint Cloud to be installed sometime after June 3. Create a helpdesk ticket at https://helpdesk.plu.edu. Use the request type “Software - Install/Update.”
  4. If you plan to use classroom computers with clickers after June 3, be advised that the computers will likely have TurningPoint Cloud software installed rather than TurningPoint 5.X software. 

What’s New with TurningPoint Cloud?

If you are familiar with TurningPoint 5, TurningPoint Cloud will come naturally to you. Some of the changes you will see include:
  • FERPA Compliance - Enhanced security to properly safeguard student data. Login passwords and collected data are encrypted. Files (participant lists or session files) are password protected when exported.
  • Required Instructor Registration - All instructors using the software will need to register in the new system. Detailed instructions will be forthcoming.
  • Required Student Registration - All students using clickers will need to register their clickers. Detailed instructions will be forthcoming.
  • Attendance Poll Function - Attendance can be polled multiple times throughout a clicker session.
  • Support for ResponseWare v2.1.0 - For use from computers and mobile devices rather than clickers. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Will my current version 5.X software work after June 3?

Yes, it will work as a standalone, but will not be compatible with the updated Sakai integration and all classroom computers will be updated to TurningPoint Cloud after June 3.

Can I transfer data collected in version 5.X software to the Sakai Gradebook after June 3?

No. The files and data formats from version 5.X are different from that of TurningPoint Cloud and will not be recognized by the Turning Point Sakai integration after the June 3 transition. Be sure to transfer any data collected in version 5.X that you want to go to the Sakai Gradebook of your course before June 3.

Will my students’ clickers still work with TurningPoint Cloud?


Is TurningPoint version 5.x compatible with Windows 10?


Is TurningPoint version 5.x compatible with Office 2016?


Have More Questions or Concerns?

Contact itech@plu.edu and we’ll do our best to address them.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Exploring Tackk: Is it Really “Ridiculously Simple Creation + Sharing”?

A quick look into potential uses of the web tool tackk for enabling web page creation, blogging, and discussion streams for courses.

Click image to view site

Several months ago I was searching for an easy-to-use web tool that would enable students to creatively introduce themselves to a class or share their course work -- without having to spend a lot of time learning how to use the tool. Several tendrils of my search led to Michelle Pacansky-Brock’s “What is a Photo Quest?” web page, an optional extra credit activity for her History of Photography course, created with a web tool called Tackk. I was struck not only by the nice-looking web page, but by the engaging nature of the activity in which students were asked to post a picture about a topic on a web tackkboard and write 200-300 words about it. I wondered how much technical overhead it would take to enable students to complete the assignment.

Ridiculously Simple?

Diving deeper into the tackk.com web site I came across the tagline “Ridiculously Simple Creation + Sharing,” leading me to skeptically question “Can it really be that simple?” I’m all for getting the job done and, where possible, having the technology get out of the way. So I began exploring tackk to understand how simple it really is.

What is Tackk?

According to the tackk FAQs page, tackk was created “to empower anyone to create great-looking content on the web, without needing special design or technical skills.” To create web page you can add headlines (such as a page title), add text, drag and drop images, insert videos, and adjust page colors, fonts, and backgrounds.

Once you’ve finished your page, you can make it private, password-protect it, share it with individuals, or make it available to anyone on the web. In the context of a course, you could provide a link to the page via your course’s Sakai lesson page, resource, or assignment. Collaborators can contribute to the page and public users can add text and photos to a comment stream to add feedback or contribute to a discussion.

So in a nutshell, tackk is sort of mashup of functionality that includes characteristics of web pages, blogs, and wikis -- yet in a simple-to-use interface. See Why tackk? for a quick set of examples of tacck content blocks in a tackk page.

Potential Uses

Below are just a few examples of how tackk might be used in a course:

  • Personal Introductions - Develop an activity for your and your students to introduce themselves to the class, with the option of easily including photos and videos. 
  • Unit or Lesson Orientation - Introduce a unit or lesson with a video orientation to the content. Tired of some of the tedious constraints of Sakai lesson pages? Tacck provides a simple tool set to get creative with the look of your pages. 
  • Assignments - Create engaging assignments with incorporation of rich media. 
  • Blog Reflection Posts - Provide web space for individual or course blog postings. 
  • Interactive Syllabus - Create an interactive syllabus with images, videos, and buttons. 
  • Group Project Reports - Ask student groups to prepare a page that describes their project and progress. 
  • Peer Feedback - Have students share their individual or group work and receive feedback from their peers via discussion streams. 

Getting Started with Tackk

Though you don’t need an account to begin experimenting with tackk, your tackk pages will go away after five days if you don’t have an account. To create an account, go to the tackk home page at http://tackk.com. From here you can sign up for tackk or alternatively connect with your Google+ account by clicking the “More signup options link.” The next screen will allow you to adjust your user profile.

Click the green arrow in the upper right corner of the screen to create a new tackk. You can choose a blank canvas or choose from other templates.

Adding Content

The canvas provides a set of tools at the bottom to add content objects to your tackk. Each object can be moved up or down on the canvas and settings can be adjusted.

Some of the key content adding tools that are useful in context of a course include the first seven on the left of the toolbar above:
  • Headlines - You can add bold or italic formatting as well as links.
  • Text - You can add bold or italic formatting, bulleted and numbered lists, as well as links.
  • Photo - Add a photo by searching photos from 500px, uploading an image, pulling an image from Instagram, or by providing an image URL.
  • Video - Paste in the URL of a video from sources like YouTube or Vimeo or upload a video.
  • Audio - Paste in the URL of an audio file from sources like Soundcloud or Spotify.
  • Button - Add a button that links to a URL; customize the text on the button.
  • Map - Add a Google map of a location you specify.

Privacy and Comment Settings

Before publishing your page, you’ll want to check your Privacy settings under the options area. By default your tackk page will be public. You can adjust the page to be private or even require a password you set.

You can provide access to a private page by adding the tackk page link to your Sakai course or emailing those you want to share the page with. They will then be able to add to the page and comment on it via the comment streams. If your page is public, you can set whether comments can be made anonymously.

Adjusting the Look of Your Page

If you’re artistically and/or graphically inclined you can adjust the colors, fonts, and patterns of your page. But be prepared to try out a myriad of design combinations.

Is Tackk Ridiculously Simple?

For basic tasks, absolutely! But it does take a bit of experimentation to understand various details and options.

Schedule a Consultation

Need help with using tacck for your course? Schedule a consultation with Instructional Technologies staff via itech@plu.edu. We’re eager to assist!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Fraudulent Email and Phishing Redux

Example of phishing email (click to enlarge)
Yet another round of fraudulent "phishing" emails have been sent across Campus masquerading as an official email warning users that their accounts are about to be shut down unless they are verified.

As we have noted multiple times during these campaigns, the Help Desk will never solicit your account information. All of our account work is done via our ePass website [epass.plu.edu], and we will not intentionally put your account into a position where it cannot be recovered.

Given how these emails continue, we felt it would be appropriate to pass on a small FAQ to help better inform the PLU community about these phishing emails.


  • PLU (I&TS) will never solicit your account information via email
  • If you ever have even the slightest inkling that an email might be fraudulent, do not do anything with it and call the Help Desk at 253-535-7525
  • If you have clicked on any links in these emails or responded to them, call the Help Desk at 253-535-7525
  • This phishing campaign has been attacking users for several months, taking over PLU accounts and sending more phishing emails from PLU accounts
  • They often include PLU logos to mimic official PLU emails and claim to be from the non-existent PLU Webmail Management Team


Q: What exactly is a phishing email?
A:  A phishing email is basically an email meant to trick users into revealing sensitive information, "baiting" them into giving out private info such as passwords, credit card information, etc.

Typically, a phishing email will masquerade as coming from an official source, often claiming to either have important information for the user or claiming that their "account will be terminated" if the user doesn't give out their password information.

Unfortunately, methods will vary from phishing email to phishing email.

Q: How can I tell if an email is a phishing email?
A: Most phishing emails are plagued with:
  • Spelling errors
  • Grammatical mistakes
  • Strange use of punctuation
  • Bits of "code" showing in the email
  • Vague claims or threats towards your account
  •  Inconsistent or incorrect information about the account system
Q: Why is this still happening months after the initial email?  Can't these emails be stopped?
A:  The way this particular phishing campaign is working is to send out as many emails as possible to PLU emails, collect a few accounts, sit on these accounts for a bit while sending out more emails, and continue to collect more accounts.  Every time the attackers get another account, they can send out hundreds of emails; if even one person responds, that's another account and another couple hundred emails.

It's a vicious cycle that we can only break by educating users about the existence of these emails.  While we do our best to shut down the accounts as soon as we receive a report, usually we don't get a report until after a few minutes of sending, which can be hundreds of emails by that point.

We are considering other alternatives system side, but we need to be vary careful about such alterations as they can affect the receiving of legitimate emails as well.

Q: What do the attackers have to gain by doing this?
A:  Just more sources to spam people with.  Once the spammers have a sufficient number of accounts stocked up, they can start sending out spam emails to other people.  Often times we will cleanse an account and find that it has been altered to look like a bank or a school or a credit union.

Q: What should I do if I have responded to one of these emails?
A:  Change your password immediate by going to epass.plu.edu [epass.plu.edu] and call the Help Desk at 253-535-7525.  We will need to walk you through cleaning your account to ensure that no one else has access.

Q:  Is there anything I can do to help combat these emails?
A:  Yes!  Continue to report them to us every time you get one.  It may seem futile or redundant, but the sooner we know about a new wave, the sooner we can take action.

Tell your colleagues and friends about the phishing emails and about how they can learn more about them; the more people that know, the better chance we have that the phishing waves will be ineffective.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Using Google Maps in the Classroom: Teaching an old software new tricks

Christmas break is nearing, and with it comes a chance for faculty to catch their breath after a long and hard fall—before revving back up for another semester. The holiday break is ideal for exploring new methods of teaching, so why not start small by finding innovative ways of using familiar, ubiquitous technology?

Whether you're going across the world or across the street for the holiday, you’re likely to use Google Maps before the end of the year. This free software is so common that most students (and faculty) already know how to navigate it; with the right lesson plan, it is easy to integrate into a classroom setting, and allows student a concrete, visual way of understanding certain kinds of information.

The examples below demonstrate how using Google Maps will put you on the road to success by adding new texture and depth to a lesson, invigorating the learning process for you and your students.

Contextualizing Location

Our first example comes straight from PLU from History Professor Mike Halvorson, who created an interactive map of Ancient Egypt that overlaid modern-day Egypt for his course on Western Civilization. Students can zoom in on important locations and monuments, while still able to keep these locations rooted in a global context.
A google maps screen that is focused on Egypt, with red pinpoints at along the Nile River. On the left is a listing of locations, including the Giza Pyramids and Lower Upper Egypt.
Halvorson marks sites down the Nile River. Click to view larger.
A google maps screen that is zoomed in on the Great Pyramids at Giza. There are mutiple red pinpoints on the map, indicating many pyramids.
Bird's eye view of the pyramids. Click to view larger.

For students of literature, it can be thrilling to see how the people and places in a work of fiction can crossover into the real world. This is especially true for books where location plays an important role, such as in James Joyce’s classic, Ulysses. Using a map like the one below, students can follow, chapter-by-chapter, as the protagonists journey around real-life Dublin.
Click on the locations in this interactive map to see how context has been applied.

Likewise, what better way to follow the road-trip of the Joad family in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath than a Google Map? This map includes both quotes from the book and a short description of notable events that take place along each stop, helping to visualize the dramatic length and difficulty of the journey.
A google maps screen that is focused on Tulsa, Oklahoma, with a blue line following Route 66. There are many multi-color pinpoints along the path. On the left the following text appears: “Oklahoma City to Bethany is fourteen miles.” (pg. 170). The Joads meet the Wilsons and camp with them overnight. Grampa has a stroke and dies on the Wilson’s mattress -- the second fatality. He is buried illegally, and the two families decide to travel together.
The Joads' long journey along Route 66. Click image to view larger.

Language faculty may find it useful to help students visualize the diversity of locations where a language is spoken, as seen in this map by French teacher Samantha Decker via her blog, The French Corner: a blog about teaching French. This map marks francophone countries across the globe, and can be incorporated into a discussion of how a foreign language became important in these regions.
Click on this interactive map to see what countries include French as a national language. 

For more information on creating custom maps, check out Google's My Maps documentation.

Google Earth

More adventurous faculty might try playing with Google Earth, a free software built using extensive satellite imagery, with the principle focus of exploration. Whereas Google Maps is great for routes and marking distances—perfect for visualizing the Joad’s arduous trek—Google Earth shows faculty and students an overhead view of any location on the planet, and even some in space! You can design tours that include text, pictures, landmarks, close-ups of 3D buildings and geographical features, and more.

Some excellent examples of innovative Google Earth topics include:
A screenshot of the Google Earth software. It shows a detailed geographical map of Uganda with diamond-shaped markers. Beneath a marker labeled "Alluvial mining," there is a pop up with a black and white photo of a man in a muddy body of water, sifting gravel with a box. The caption reads: Kadir Van Lohuizen “Diamond Matters” Legend: Domingos Papa Seko (35 years-old), Angola. ‘Originally I am from Malange. I have been a miner since 1992. During the war, I was sent to Bula as a soldier. Since then, I am washing gravel here.'
Each stop includes the story of a real diamond miner. Click to view larger.
Google Earth is easily applied to a variety of topics, and there is no shortage of tutorials to help you get started. For a browser-based software, consider using Google's Tour Builder software, which also has plenty of online help available.

Virtual Tours

The excitement doesn’t end there! A wealth of ready-to-use virtual tours can be found online, providing an in-depth look at sights that would otherwise be very difficult to visit on a field trip.

Here are some of our favorites:

PLU Resources

For help creating a Google Maps or Google Earth tour, set up an Instructional Technology consultation with Jenna Stoeber or Katie Martell at itech@plu.edu