April 11, 2007
An NSF Major Research Instrumentation grant awarded to NSM Faculty Francis Starr (PHYS), David Beveridge (CHEM), and Kathryn Johnston (formerly of ASTR) in July 2006, funded the purchase of a 288-processor high performance computing cluster from Dell. The cluster is maintained by ITS (Henk Meij is the cluster administrator) and is housed in the now-expanded Operations data center. When fully operational, the cluster will be used by Wesleyan faculty and students for computationally-intensive research. It is a central resource and so available to any faculty or student on campus with a demonstrated need.
More information at http://swallowtail.wesleyan.edu/
ITS has chosen Xythos (http://www.xythos.com) for a campus content management solution. The decision was made after a long look at a variety of competing products (see the content server wiki pages at https://dokuwiki.wesleyan.edu/doku.php?id=content_server:start). The system will be a replacement for Dragon, for static website serving done on condor, and also provide a file management facility for Blackboard.
The motivation for employing a content management system included:
NSM will be the initial focus of a new content management system rollout. The system will replace Dragon for file storage and file-sharing within departments (i.e., the “G-Drive”), as well as the Dragon home directory, or “H-Drive.” Xythos can also server out static websites (i.e., those that contain no dynamic content or Frontpage controlled features, such as forms, Frontpage shared borders, themes, or dynamic “bot-driven” content).
A Blackboard add-on (courtesy of Northwestern University) will provide a connection between the content server and Blackboard.
A pilot project being run this year has been testing various methods for recording classroom lectures. The recording methods that have been employed include “iPod in the pocket,” Camtasia, and Apreso's Anystream. The latter is a room-installed system that can be scheduled to start and stop at specific times, and uploads the recorded materials directly to a course's Blackboard.
Variables being considered in the study include: ease-of-use for faculty and student, staffing and end-user support levels required, cost, and whether availability of online recording effect attendance. The Office of Institutional Research has provided support in surveying students in participating courses.
The following NSM courses have used/are using polling (aka clickers) this academic year (estimated enrollments in parentheses): BIOL182 (141), CHEM144 (60), CHEM119 (120), MBB203 (25), PSYC105(200).
Next year, the campus administrative departments will be moved off of Meeting Maker and Eudora, and on to Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, an email, calendaring, and collaboration platform that works with Outlook (Windows) and Entourage for Mac. Since most staff in administrative departments use Windows operating system, the lack of full support for Macintosh is not deemed a problem. The primary benefits to Windows users include the greater functionality of a combined email and calendaring environment, disk space savings on email attachments that are sent to/shared by many users at once, and more uniform support for mobile access to email (via laptop, PDA and web-based email clients).
Faculty and other academic staff who want to use the Exchange server will be welcome, otherwise, no changes will be made to the academic community's email and network calendaring.
We're working on a roadmap for the upcoming year to help focus our efforts. The draft of this plan is at https://itsdoku.wesleyan.edu/doku.php?id=its:web_simplicity .
The major categories are:
Question:Are these the right catagories? What's missing? What seems less important?
Future Agenda Topic: Both the NSF and the American Council of Learned Societies have started national conversations around the topic of cyberinfrastructure, which is a jargony word to describe the set of hardware, software, support services and scholarly practices that collectively comprise how they think academic work will be done in the 21st century. Should we read some of these documents and think about how these propositions and action plans relate to what happens at Wesleyan?
We've been collecting various statistics about usage of blackboards, of computer labs, of the network. We would be interested in hearing more about what sorts of statistics would be helpful in our planning and evaluation efforts.
ITS has rolled out the Technology of the Month Blog (see http://blogs.wesleyan.edu/tom ) . ITS Staff submitted ideas, then voted (using clickers) on how important they deemed each submission. Based on these votes, all submissions were ordered, forming the list of topics for the next year or so. However, anyone else in the Wesleyan Community with ideas for a TOM article are welcome to submit them at the blog website.
Question: what are some topics you think we should write about in the upcoming months?
In support of the new high performance computing cluster, a group of NSM faculty and ITS staff (David Beveridge-CHEM, Danny Kirzanc-CS, Francis Starr-PHYS, Michael Weir-BIOL, G. Ravishanker-ITS, Michael Roy-ITS, Jolee West-ITS) submitted a Fund for Innovation grant. The proposal requests funding for a half-time staff member to run a pedagogical program related to cluster use. A tutorial program, along the lines of the Writing Workshop and Math Workshop, would employ talented undergraduates and provide tutorial support to courses using the cluster or other computationally-intensive activities. Also proposed is a summer program to give undergraduates experience working with faculty on related research topics, and a series of workshops and lunchtime seminars for Wesleyan faculty and those from other nearby institutions.
Question: does it make sense to pursue an analogous technology center for the arts that could help support use of technology in the arts, both by students, and to foster faculty collaborations?
The Visual Resources committee has been examining the pedagogical use of digital images on campus. The committee members include: Valerie Gillispie (Archives), Mary Glynn (ITS), Sally Grucan (Olin), Susanne Javorski (Art Library), Barbara Jones (Olin), Rob Lancefield (Davison Art Center), Alex McLane (Music Library), Susan Passman (Slide Library), Mike Roy (ITS), Dan Schnaidt (ITS), Phil Wagoner (Art & Art History), Jolee West (ITS), Allyn Wilkinson (ITS).
The committee, under the auspices of the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE), commissioned a multi-campus study of the use of digital images in liberal education (read the report at http://www.academiccommons.org/files/image-report-executive.pdf), and explores such topics as projection quality, asset management and storage, digital and image literacy). The report forms a foundation from which the committee is systematically approaching infrastructure planning, including making decisions and recommendations about centrally-provided asset management tools, as well as desktop tools for faculty to manage images stored on their local systems.
Note: In the upcoming weeks, we'll be looking for faculty and students willing to help us evaluate the products we are evaluating. If you are willing to help us, please let us know.
ITS is reorganizing its various digital media services into a single entity named the Academic Media Studio. The new group will be composed of the technicians, designers, and programmers of the Digitization Service, the Learning Objects Studio, and the WebTech Program (which was retired two years ago). A full-time manager is being hired to run the Academic Media Studio. Once in service, the Studio will provide the same services as the component groups, but in a more unified fashion.
Note: We are in the final stages of evaluating candidates for this position. If you are able/willing to participate in interviewing our three finalists, please let us know.
Issue : We will need to establish a set of policies about how we go about prioritizing work, about what scope of project we can take on without external funding support, and what sorts of projects we don't want to do at all.
Issues relating to support of Intel-based Macs and the Windows Vista operating system are being explored currently by User Services within ITS. Both products have known compatibility problems with softwares currently supported on campus. Windows Vista will not be provided on University-purchased systems for at least a year.
Question: if we can work out the logistics of a dual-boot mac so that it can run all of the pc-based applications, would it be okay to remove all of the pcs from the classrooms and labs, and offer up dual-boot macs instead?
This year, ITS and other administrative staff members formed Web 2.0 working groups in order to explore applications and understand how they can be used on our campus (see https://dokuwiki.wesleyan.edu/doku.php?id=its:web_2.0&s=web%202%200).
The applications being examined include blogs, wikis, rss and rss readers, social media, social bookmarking, online office applications. The goals are to examine current and potential uses of these applications on campus, benefits and pitfalls of various softwares, and to make recommendations of adoption and or support of particular software based on these analyses.
Also, a group is looking at the future of web editing on campus. Frontpage has been discontinued by Microsoft, no new releases will be made. Because of this, we are examining how to transition our campus website and personal websites away from dependence on the Frontpage server extensions we have been using for the past several years. These extensions support forms, embedded search engines and site indexing, included content, shared borders, themes, etc.
Note: We will be looking for pilot projects for this summer and fall. If you are interested in participating, please let us know.
We have put together a set of questions to ask faculty about their satisfaction with respect to classroom technology, but would prefer to do this survey via email rather than via phone, and so have waited to further discuss this option before proceeding.
We have also been analyzing the capital budget for classroom technology, and believe with existing funds we could add more rooms to our inventory of multimedia rooms.
Question: We need to decide whether or not to do fewer full-blown multimedia classrooms or more pared-down media rooms which, for example, might require presenters to provide their own laptop, to use their laptops as dvd player, and might not have a VCR.
We'll start working on the fall 2007 A(T)R program in the upcoming weeks. Please suggest topics.
We'll also start working on the fall 2007 revision to Teaching Matters in the upcoming weeks. Please suggest topics.