Exploring Google Tango

Google TangoProject Tango is a line of Google smartphones and tablets featuring the ability to accurately track position in space with a new depth-sensing camera. Tracking position on a traditional smartphone is limited and has a large margin of error, making the technology largely unreliable in this application. The unique camera on Project Tango devices allows them to “see the world in 3D,” taking photos that capture the distance from the camera rather than capturing color for each pixel. Project Tango devices track movement of objects in the camera’s frame. Because of this, they can accurately estimate how the camera must have moved to cause objects to shift in this way. The tracking ability in the Project Tango devices opens up exciting new possibilities in a variety of fields.

“At Academic Technologies, we are very excited about Project Tango. It is extremely promising technology, and quite easy to program for,” says Ryan McGrail. Ryan has been leading the exploration of Project Tango at Notre Dame, and is in the early stages of understanding the device and its potential. “I am quickly discovering how I can apply these new features to the apps we create. It is a very well-built device, and lends itself to imaginative implementations in our apps,” he says. Ryan has also observed shortcomings of Tango. The 3D camera is not effective for scanning objects in the distance, or outdoor environments. If the camera is obscured, it attempts to interpret motion from a black image. This can lead to inaccurate data. “The good aspects of these devices far outweigh their problems,” Ryan says. He believes that the kinks observed in the developer version of Tango will be worked out before the devices hit the market.

Currently, Ryan is using Tango in a partnership with Notre Dame’s architecture program. They are developing a blueprint-reconstruction tool that would allow the user recreate a space inside a Tango device by simply walking around the building. The 3D model created with Tango easily translates into blueprints of the space, and can be imported into architecture programs. Beyond this current project, Ryan sees vast potential for Project Tango at Notre Dame. “Tango can be used as a handheld frame to see the world…We could use the devices to map out buildings on campus, such as the main building. With the models saved to a few Tango devices, Notre Dame admission officers could take them around the country, and allow prospective students to “walk” around the buildings for themselves.” Tango could also be utilized in the classroom, creating an opportunity for instructors to virtually bring students to a museum on the other side of the world, or for designers to see their work come to life. “The possibilities are truly endless, and this is just one of the simplest ways to implement Project Tango,” Ryan says. We look forward to continuing to explore the Google Tango technology, and will keep you updated as we progress.

Active Learning With Echo360

Echo360 is an active learning platform designed for use in higher education. It has many applications for digital learning, including:

  • Lecture Capture: Learning is optimized with lecture capture and webcast capabilities. Echo360 features 1080 pixel, high definition capture with the ability to schedule recordings in advance and publish automatically. These features make the system well-suited for remote teaching. Instructors can record course presentations on Mac or PC from their home or office, or they can capture lessons right in the classroom.

 

  • Instructional Content Management: Echo360 provides a Learning Library that streamlines the content management process, storing all materials in one place. Instructors can search and filter through their content. Materials are easily shared through the university’s learning management system.

 

  • Student Engagement: Echo360 allows instructors to cater to different learning styles. Students are able to follow videos, notes, and discussions at their own pace. With discussion threads and an active learning platform, students can ask questions and engage in course discussion in real time. Instructors can also build polls and quizzes directly into their presentation.   

 

  • Analytics: Instructors can access an analysis of course performance and individual progress. Further, instructors can establish what success metrics are most important to them, and prioritize the metrics they want to focus on.

 
Digital learning through Echo360 creates a unique opportunity for multi-media student engagement, bringing material beyond the traditional classroom.

Remind App: An Easy Way to Connect

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Remind is an app that helps teachers to connect with their students, sharing quick reminders about course related information. With the app, classes can connect:

Easily. Teachers sign up for the app and create a class through it. Students then receive a class code which they use to participate in course messaging.

Safely. Phone numbers are kept confidential in the class messages to ensure privacy. Teachers can only message the class collectively, not individually. They also serve as administrators and can access the message history.

Efficiently. Messages can include scheduling, voice clips, and image or document attachments. The app allows you to see who has viewed attachment content.

At No Charge. Teachers, students, and parents can use the app for free.

This Remind app is an easy way for teachers and students to stay connected about course updates.

 

Skype Kit Will Soon be Available for Checkout in Debartolo 115

Skype was first released in 2003. It allows users to communicate by voice through a microphone, video by using a webcam, and instant messaging over the Internet. Skype has a wide array of uses, and has proved valuable in the higher education classroom.

Over the past few years, Notre Dame has seen an increase in the educational use of Skype. Professors have used it for teaching remotely while attending a conference, recovering from an illness, stranded by weather, or participating in research abroad such as at the CERN European Laboratory for Particle Physics. It has also been used to connect guest experts with the class. Recently, Skype was used for a call with a topic expert at the U.S. State Department. Students can actively participate, as the speaker is able to pick up questions from about twenty feet away.

Skype has allowed faculty and students to communicate and connect in ways that would have been impossible or very costly prior to 2003. To continue to encourage this communication and connection between faculty, students, and outside experts, the University has created two Skype kits. Each kit contains all that is needed to hold a Skype video conference: a laptop, speakerphone, and web camera. Currently, these units are being tested with faculty. By the spring 2015 semester, there will be two of these kits available for checkout from 115 DeBartolo Classroom Building.

If you are looking for a way to remotely connect with your class while you are conducting research abroad, or if you like the idea of bringing an expert into your class remotely, please contact us in Academic Technologies for assistance in using the Skype kits.

Go to the Board, Wirelessly

Apple TVs in Jordan Hall 105

Apple TVs in Jordan Hall 105

We all remember the feeling: hiding in the back of the classroom hoping the teacher will not call on you to write your solution on the chalkboard. I know that for me, it was scary to display my work for everyone to see. However, it caused me to be more engaged in class, taking care to ensure I was working through problems correctly. While some may consider chalkboards to be a thing of the past, promoting student engagement during lectures is not. Classrooms in Notre Dame are exploring new applications of the Apple TV for this purpose.

 

When Apple TV was first being tested in Notre Dame classrooms, a separate wireless network had to be installed for students and faculty to connect to the device. This was limiting, as too many wireless networks interfere with the existing Notre Dame networks, and provide additional hassle for students. To resolve this issue the Apple TV has new wireless connectivity capability. Students with an iPad 2 or an iPhone 4s and later can connect through bluetooth discovery. The device can find the Apple TV if it is in the proper range without extra hardware or installation. In this way the Apple TV becomes a portable wireless projection system for iOS.

 

The improved wireless capability is expanding the use of the Apple TV on campus. Professor David Hyde’s genetics class in Jordan Hall 105 uses three screens with Apple TVs. This is the first time that multiple devices are being utilized in the same classroom at Notre Dame. The class has about 90 students, each with an iPad they owned previously or leased from OIT. Professor Hyde can display his teaching material on the center screen, and utilize the two others for displaying class solutions to problem sets. The screen will mirror what the student worked through on their personal device. This technology increases student overall engagement because it is new, interesting, and interactive. Like the traditional chalkboard, the potential of having their work displayed on screen creates a sense of accountability and engagement among the class.

 

After seeing Professor Hyde’s use of the Apple TV, there was a request for the same set up in 101 Jordan Hall. This classroom also utilizes three Apple TVs. However, this room was already set up with its own wireless network, and thus connects under the old method. This allows for comparison of the two methods to determine which will be most beneficial to utilize in the expansion of the Apple TV program on campus. As professors continue to explore new ways to engage students, the Apple TV can provide an effective solution. In the future, there is the opportunity to create a system where a teacher could check out an Apple TV for use as needed.

 

Poll Everywhere

Poll Everywhere allows presenters to determine the current level of understanding, gather feedback, and reinforce key points. They can create a poll with multiple choice or free response questions, utilizing images and formulas. The poll can be presented online, or directly embedded into a presentation. As the audience watches the presentation, they can easily respond to poll questions from their cell phone, smart phone, or computer. Votes are routed to web servers, where the vote is recorded. Once recorded, charts update in seconds, visually displaying live results. This feedback allows the presenter to make sure that the audience is following the material, and even incorporate their opinions directly into the presentation.

 

At Notre Dame, the Poll Everywhere system has been in place for six years in a wide variety of applications across campus. It has been successfully implemented for classroom use and campus events. Some recent events using Poll Everywhere include the Gigot Center Ideas Challenge and the Student Film Festival, both of which use Poll Everywhere to allow the audience to vote and determine award winners. In the classroom, 19 faculty members are currently using the premium version of Poll Everywhere and many other faculty are using the free version to engage students in learning. Poll Everywhere is a valuable educational tool, and the number of Notre Dame professors looking to incorporate it into their courses has been growing every year.