Last week I attended the 29th annual symposium at the Human-Computer Interaction Lab at the University of Maryland. The HCIL is famous for a little thing known as the treemap, created by the founder of the lab, Ben Shneiderman. It's famous for lots of other visualizations and people too, but it's best known for the treemap.
The annual symposium is put on by the lab to showcase it's latest and greatest research. I sometimes forget that HCIL focuses on things other than visualization, so I had to sit, confused, through a few talks before I realized they weren't about visualization ("Where's the viz?" I was thinking). I won't fault them for not being all about dataviz; the Social Network Analysis Strategies for Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse by lab Director, Jen Golbeck, was thoroughly entertaining and insightful work regarding social networks.
HCIL is very kind and generous in that it puts all of its 25+ years of papers and talks online, and many of its projects are open source. You can also go to each individual's page (faculty/student) to find every talk and paper they've completed.
My favorite talks were:
- Event Flow by the hilarious Megan Monroe
- Reflections of Ourselves: Sensing and Feedback to Inform Everyday Human Behavior by Jon Froehlich
- Automatic translation of 2D textbook figures into 3D tactile models for blind students in STEM education by Tom Yeh (make a shorter title, Tom!)
- PairFinder: Identifying and Measuring Temporal Associations from Temporal Event Sequences by Hsueh-Chien Cheng
- TreeVersity: Interactive Visualization for Comparing two Trees using Topology and Node Value Differences by John Alexis Guerra-Gomez
- Motif Simplification by Cody Dunne (which I'll be reviewing in detail tomorrow).
The work coming out of HCIL is inspirational as well as practical. The lab clearly works from the premise that they can have a direct impact on everyday lives in a very meaningful way.
I also have to give a shout out to Justin Grimes, PhD candidate, for giving me a great tour, long walk, and fantastic discussion on the quantified self, quantified babies, and outdated medical devices.
Ten years ago, Princeton adopted Blackboard as its course management system. During the past decade, the system has moved from serving a handful of courses to every course. What was an occasional convenience has become an integral part of the educational process at Princeton.
In June, the University will be upgrading the system to Blackboard 9. New features promise to improve teaching, learning, and course management. The most striking change initially, though, for instructional staff and builders, will be the new interface for editing and managing the course sites.
No longer is the control panel a single page you go to with links to everything you need to manage the site, such as content editing, the grade center, user management, email, and other tools. Now, site control elements are accessed “in-line,” from drop down lists attached to, or found below, the course menu. While this method of access is more logical, it will take some getting used to for those accustomed to the old single-page control panel.
At the May 5 Lunch ‘n Learn seminar, Dennis Hood, Princeton’s CMS Manager for ten years, demonstrated many of these and other improvements. “All the tools old tools are still there, plus new ones,” says Hood, “you just get to them through a different route.”
For assignments, instructors can now permit students multiple attempts to take quizzes and exams. Faculty will know when assignments and tests have been submitted. A todo list gives students a clear sense of what tasks are outstanding. It is now far easier to manage group assignments and tasks. And the new version offers a nice range of customizing features. For example, students will see only those tabs that contain information.
Faculty will appreciate that it is easier to upload syllabi and other course materials. And those who are giving classes that are similar to others they have taught will easily be able to copy older offerings into their new courses.
They will also appreciate the inline confirmations used throughout the system. The result is a more seamless workflow… fewer clicks to navigate the system and to complete tasks, and with embedded help throughout.
The new blackboard also offers a range of new tools, notably blogs and journals. With Blogs, students can openly share their thoughts. They can post text, images, links and attachments, and their posts are open for comments. Journals are self-reflective essays. Only students and faculty can comment upon these posts, though faculty have the option of sharing journal posts with the class. In version 10, which is expected in a year, faculty and their students will also be able to experiment with Wikis.
“The transition to the new version will be an easy one,” promises Hood. “But if you still have trouble, feel to call.” Assistance with Blackboard is available at 258-0737 or at blackboard.princeton.edu
For reunions last year, OIT created a special web site tailored for the small mobile devices that are now proliferating in the marketplace, cell phones with web browsers, iPhones, Blackberries, and the like. The experiment proved to be quite successful. To accelerate the development of such services, OIT signed an agreement in December that will give the University access to Blackboard Mobile, an environment that will permit users to access public information about the University in a format especially suited to such mobile platforms.
The result will soon be a Princeton-specific application, m.Princeton, for leading brands of smart phones.
Mobile Central was founded by a group of Stanford students who developed the core products offered by Mobile Central by rising to the challenge of a course assignment in a Stanford computer science class - the task: to deliver real mobile solutions for the Stanford campus community.
iStanford now permits users to search the campus directory and campus map, view athletics and course information, and a variety of other campus services. The students later formed the company TerriblyClever Design in 2007, and developed several more mobile suites for other colleges and universities.
During the past year, several universities, notably Stanford, Duke, and MIT, have used these same services to permit mobile users to access campus maps, directories of people and places, bus schedules and campus tours, event calendars, announcements and news, as well as images and videos.
Princeton is now building a full suite of such mobile applications for the benefit of the entire campus, as well as visitors, parents, and prospective students. OIT has assembled a team with representatives from several departments to complete the first phase of the work in time for reunions this coming May. The first phase will include a campus map, a campus directory, athletics schedules, course information, news, and the public events calendar.
During the first phase, Princeton will also assemble support for Reunions, from events and campus maps through directories and local restaurant menus.
The second phase will be ready in time for the fall. It will deliver real time shuttle information, access to the library catalog, an image gallery, additional video content, building maps (library floor plans, for example), as well as an online Orange Key tour.. Additional changes will be made as needed and will be delivered as updates to the existing application.
At the April 28 Lunch ‘n Learn seminar, Janet Temos ‘82 *01 and Ryan Irwin ‘10 of Blackboard Mobile Central discussed the details about the coming Princeton mobile apps. They noted that the apps will be delivered in formats that support the Blackberry Storm, Curve, and Bold, the iPhone, the iPod touch, and eventually the iPad. The apps will also work on any smart phone that can support a web browser. The application will be free, but users will need to download the application that suits their brand of phone.
The Apple applications will be available for download via iTunes. Blackberry applications will be available from the Blackberry app store. Blackboard Mobile Central and Princeton will host the web-based version.
Check back soon at www.princeton.edu/princetonmobile.
Janet Temos was trained as an architectural historian, and received degrees in art history from Williams College (MA 1992), and Princeton University (PhD 2001). She began working with the Educational Technologies Center (ETC), in 1993, and became a full-time member of the staff in 2000. She is now director of ETC, and continues to work with faculty who wish to use computer technology in their teaching. Current projects include courses on film, archaeology, medieval manuscripts, African languages taught in the US, and a collaborative project with the Princeton University Art Museum to develop an on-line repository of digital images of objects in the museum’s East Asian collection.
Princeton University has created a cyberinfrastructure, says Curt Hillegas, the Director of Princeton's TIGRESS High Performance Computing and Visualization Center, itself a collaboration between the Princeton Institute for Computational Science and Engineering (PICSciE). Developed within the past decade, this cyberinfrastructure consists of computational systems, data and information management, advanced instruments, visualization environments, and people, all linked together by software and advanced networks to improve scholarly productivity and enable knowledge breakthroughs and discoveries not otherwise possible.
At the April 8 Lunch 'n Learn seminar, Hillegas noted that the University's research computing activity has grown to keep pace with and to provide leadership for this international trend. Tigress maintains a vast hardware and storage infrastructure. And staff provide support for programming and for the new visualization facilities within the Lewis Science library.
The effort, of course, also involves faculty across many disciplines and departments. This session highlighted the work of two University faculty: Professor Annabella Selloni from Chemistry and Professor Clarence Rowley from Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. The session demonstrated how computational science and engineering is enabling and accelerating scientific discovery.
Annabella Selloni’s research activity is aimed at obtaining a microscopic understanding of the property of materials with specific emphasis on surface and interface phenomena. At the Lunch ‘n Learn seminar, she discussed the quest to discover an efficient and perhaps less expensive alternative to platinum as a catalyst for the production of hydrogen. Princeton’s high performance computing systems have permitted her to model and to manipulate functionalized electrodes. At the seminar, she played simulations that illustrate how small surface changes can have a significant effect in the production of hydrogen.
Professor Clarence Rowley is modeling flows past a cavity, as would occur with a sun roof or an aircraft wheel well or weapons bay. Although his efforts have employed the processing power of a supercomputer, his aim has been to achieve workable results and a control design with a much more limited number of equations. Full systems require as many as 2,000,000 equations. Rowley now has control designs based upon just two equations. With such active control, it may be possible, for example, to mimic the fluid dynamics of insects and small birds and to design a controller to stabilize the leading edge of aircraft wings.
Hillegas concluded by inviting prospective users to apply to use the Tigress HPC resources. Users will find all the information needed to select the resources they need as well as information about applying for an account and time on the systems.
About the speakers:
After undergraduate studies at the University La Sapienza, Roma (Italy), Annabella Selloni graduated from the Swiss Institute of Technology in Lausanne-Switzerland (1979). This was followed by a postdoctoral position at IBM T.J.Watson Research Center, in Yorktown Heights (1980-1982). She has been Assistant Professor at the University La Sapienza in Roma (1982-1988), Associate Professor at the International School for Advanced Studies in Trieste, Italy (1988-1995), and Associate Professor at the University of Geneva, Switzerland (1996-1999). In 1999 she joined the Dept of Chemistry of Princeton University, initially as Senior Research Staff and Lecturer, and as a full Professor (since 2009). Her research interests are in theoretical and computational condensed matter physics and chemistry, with particular focus on the use of first principles electronic structure and molecular dynamics methods to obtain an atomic scale understanding of the structural and electronic properties of surfaces and interfaces, including organic-inorganic and solid-liquid interfaces, surface reactions and catalysis, photochemistry and photocatalysis. Prof. Selloni has over 160 publications in the area of theoretical / computational chemical physics. She is part of the Editorial Boards of the Journal of Chemical Physics and Surface Science.
Professor Clarence Rowley received his B.S.E degree from Princeton University, and his M.S. and Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology. He joined the Princeton faculty in 2001, and he is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and an Associated faculty member in the Program in Applied and Computational Mathematics. His research interests involve modeling and control of complex systems, particularly fluids systems with specific areas of interest including modeling and model reduction for bifurcation analysis and control; numerical methods, both for fluids simulations, and analysis of dynamical systems; and applications of geometric methods in fluid mechanics.
Curt Hillegas received his B.S. in Chemistry from Lehigh University and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Chemistry from Princeton University. Curt is the Director of Princeton’s TIGRESS High Performance Computing and Visualization Center, a collaboration between the Princeton Institute for Computational Science and Engineering and the Office of Information Technology. He has helped to build a centrally managed research computing infrastructure that includes 65 TFLOPS of computational systems and 1 PB of shared storage as well as staffing for system administration, programming, and visualization support. He also serves on the Steering Committee for the EDUCAUSE Campus Cyberinfrastructure working group. Curt’s past work at Princeton includes managing the enterprise Unix group, architecting enterprise server and storage solutions, designing and managing central email infrastructure, and general Unix system administration.
Correcting the students’ homework, sent via the local Moodle implementation, for a class on Euripides’ Alcestis in Croatian translation. I am well aware that the students have to cope with at least three obstacles at once: they must write the homework in a digital environment, read a scholarly text in a foreign language, make a coherent resume of it. And the texts are about Greek tragedy. OK, so the obstacles are four.
But Moodle is well suited to correcting a lot of homework. Industry quality.
ssh to the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences server
refresh all the configuration files (I do not have the time yet to ask where to change them in the default installation).
Today, as a special treat, I wrote a small shell script to refresh all those files (with the Classic Shell Scripting open in front of me, of course). I also had to update the call to Perseus under Philologic parser in Chicago, which CroALa uses thanks to the wonderful team of Helma Dik and friends over there (they changed the address of their server relatively recently).
Result: a sense of having accomplished something.
Good article in the NY Review of Books (read there, on their blog). For somebody who is working at the university, shape of things to come (here, too). Grafton’s are words to say when the things come.