Campus Cocoa Coding Consortium

by Jeffrey Hanrahan, Academic Technologies

Throughout the University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College, there are departments that are using Xcode and iOS to develop mobile and workstation applications for internal use, teaching, learning and research.

In an effort to collectively identify the application developers and pool everyone’s knowledge and expertise, a group named Campus Cocoa Coding Consortium (C4) was formed at the University of Notre Dame.  The purpose of the group is to help each other learn how to develop applications in Xcode and iOS, talk out code problems, conceptualize processes, troubleshoot programming workflows and design human interface elements.

The C4 group is composed of faculty and staff from the University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College.  The knowledge level extends from novice to expert and knowledge is shared.  You get to hear about technical issues and information that you don’t find in the programming manuals.  Every member has some type of specialty knowledge and others get to learn this information.

There is a weekly brown bag lunch meeting with the purpose of discussions that get very technical in nature.  These are working meetings where code is written and tested.  The C4 project code resides in the web-based hosting service GitHub where the group members can access project files at any time from anywhere.

So far, the group has provided assistance for a mobile application from Architecture and is currently working on a facial recognition mobile application.

If you are a faculty/staff member at the University of Notre Dame or Saint Mary’s College and would like to join the C4 group, you can contact John Slaughter at jslaught [AT] nd.edu.

Guest Post: Mobile March Madness!

Today’s blog post is a guest article by ND’s own Tom Klimek. Manager of Network Services.  Tom is a big basketball fan, and in his copious spare time … 

bracket_2014It’s an annual rite of passage every spring.  The NCAA announces the field of teams for the tournament and the office pools begin.  I love college sports, particularly football and basketball and while I still partake in March Madness pools, this time of year also brings a fair amount of stress.  Since 2009 a friend and I have been developing apps for college football and March Madness.  It all started with an idea for a college football app, something I could see myself using throughout the season to keep track of schedules, scores, rankings, stadium seating charts, etc..

One day during a game of pick-up basketball at Rec Sports I shared the idea with a friend who liked the idea and offered to help. My first question was “Are you a C programmer “ ? He answered “yes” and I said OK let’s get started. At this point neither one of us have ever used a Mac nor programmed using an object oriented language. We proceeded to purchase a Mac Mini, establish a developer account with Apple, learn the SDK, and refine our idea.  About 7 months later and just in time for the college football season we launched our first app “Gridiron 2009”.  The app was well received and we were even fortunate enough to get featured by Apple for a few weeks to give us added exposure.

bracket_poolNext we were on to college basketball with a similar app and toward the end of the season we decided to create an app for the tournament originally named “Bracket Madness”.  The first version of this simply allowed you to enter a bracket and track you progress along with updates to final scores. The app was very popular selling as much as the college football app all season in one week’s time.

 

app_storeThe following year we decided to add pool functionality to the app. We anticipated that this would make the app more desirable but it also added a lot of complexity. Now in addition to maintaining an app and web site, we added an SQL database and server side scripting, along with scoring the brackets. There was a lot more that could go wrong and nearly no time to recover. It takes over a week to get an app approved even if it is just an update, and the window for sales is just over a week. A bad launch would lead to negative reviews and possibly doom the app. Hence the stress. The name was changed to “Men’s Bracket” after the NCAA claimed that “Bracket Madness” was a derivative of March Madness and over the years we have updated and improved the app, added an iPad version, and a Women’s version.

It is consistently in the top 5 Paid Sports Apps during the tournament and has been the #1 iPad Paid Sports App during the tournament for several years and this year for a brief time it was the #1 iPhone Paid Sports App.

Innovation happens all around us, and we thought it would be nice to feature Tom’s story during March Madness. If you’d like to get in touch with Tom you can email him at tklimek [AT] nd [DOT] edu. Good luck to everyone with your bracket competitions!  Here’s a link to an earlier story about the Gridiron app:

http://ndsmcobserver.com/2011/09/app-developers-achieve-top-rankings/

iTunes U is Taking Textbooks to Your Tablet

This iBook was developed for professor Mazurek's History of Ancient Rome course

This iBook was developed for professor Mazurek’s History of Ancient Rome course

Lugging heavy textbooks to class may soon be a thing of the past. No, this does not mean students are going to stop learning. It means that textbooks and course material may soon be completely digital with the help of iTunes U, Apple’s open education platform. This program provides the tools needed for educators to create a fully digital curriculum. Textbooks, assignments, interactive material, and apps can all be included in an iTunes U course.  The program’s agenda-like interface provides students with a list of assignments that can be checked off as completed. They can take notes as they move through the material, and iTunes U will save them in one place. The ease of use and comprehensive material available through iTunes U has the potential to replace traditional textbooks and university course structure in the coming years.

 

Notre Dame is currently exploring the benefits of using iTunes U as a content delivery platform. In July 2012, Matt Willmore, Elliott Visconsi, and Andre Murnieks traveled from Notre Dame to Apple headquarters to learn about iTunes U and Apple iBooks Author. After learning about the technology, Visconsi developed an iBook for his First Amendment course and partners with OIT to lease iPads to each student in his class. Willmore teamed up with Notre Dame professor Elizabeth Mazurek to develop her History of Ancient Rome course for iTunes U. The course includes a custom iBook that incorporates text, images, video clips, and interactive diagrams. All content is available in the same place and works together, allowing students to better comprehend course material.

 

This page from the iBook shows how text can be combined with images and diagrams

This page from the iBook shows how text can be combined with images and diagrams

This content is free to anyone with an iPhone or iPad, bringing the benefits far beyond the Notre Dame community.

“Even if you can’t get the physical experience of sitting in a Notre Dame class, you can still get the knowledge that class would provide,” says Willmore.

While the full potential of iTunes U is still being explored, it is clear that the program could radically change our education system. Not to mention lightening the load of student backpacks.

 

To explore Professor Mazurek’s iTunes U course, click here.