Thursday, August 3, 2017

Fingerprint Authentication is a Big Deal (at least for me it is)

I’ve been a smartphone user for close to a decade now. There are some conveniences—mobile internet, email, and camera, for example—I now take for granted. Other features, such as the ability to check my bank account balances via mobile app, have been available for a while, but slightly more cumbersome due to password authentication. Having to both recall and manually enter credentials to various services often outweighed the convenience and speed that was part of the selling point. While I understand the need for security, it did not make it any easier for me to quickly remember and enter the correct password for my banking app to check my balance while in line at the grocery store.

Utilizing a password manager has partly addressed this problem. I have used LastPass in my browser for a while now, though the LastPass mobile app had limitations—most notably, it did not auto-fill. While I could open the application, look up the password, copy it, and paste it into the field, that was several thumb taps and swipes away from the convenience I was looking for. For the bargain price of $12 a year, users gain the ability to auto-fill from LastPass on mobile. While that certainly made things easier, I still had to re-enter my master password at least once-a-day...which was approximately as often as I needed to log into mobile banking.

My recent mobile phone upgrade included a fingerprint scanner feature, allowing me to use my fingerprint as an authentication method instead of a numeric PIN or swipe codes to unlock my device. While I do still have to deal with the occasional “be sure your finger covers the entire scanner” error, unlocking and accessing my phone became quicker and easier. I was also pleased to discover not only could I unlock my phone using fingerprint, but I could also enable LastPass to accept my fingerprint authentication rather than the master password. Even better, however, was that most mobile banking apps allow the enabling of fingerprint access separate from my password manager. After I logged into my banking app and enabled fingerprint access, I had officially achieved the dream of one-touch secure access to information like my bank account balance, password manager, PayPal app, and other financial services.

An unexpected (but hardly surprising) consequence of my growing reliance on fingerprint authentication and password managers is I am now more impatient with manually keying in a password. I want (perhaps even expect) my computer to be as easy and quick to access as my phone and most websites, and it’s become a small, but notable irritation to momentarily return to manually entering a password.

Fingerprint scanners—like all security tools—are not infallible. Fingerprints can be copied faked, and physical changes to fingerprints may prevent access (I’ve scanned both my index fingers to be safe). In the end, I'm less concerned with these scenarios as I am with someone watching me type in my password or PIN. For me, fingerprint access provides an acceptably high level of security while also being much easier and faster than memorizing several passwords for several accounts.

...perhaps a USB fingerprint scanner is in my future?

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Faculty Technology Institute 2017

Assistant Professor Rebecca Lingafelter describes the use of
VR technology in a Thesis Theatre Festival project.
EdTech kicked off the summer in style with the 18th Annual Faculty Technology Institute

The program follows a conference format organized in themed tracks. Our 2017 tracks were Adding Value with Video, Foundations in Technology, Encouraging Engagement, and Tech to Transform Teaching and we had over 75 participant attend sessions.  A big thank you to the presenters from across campus who helped develop and deliver our oustanding 2017 program.

As in past years, faculty told us they appreciated the wide variety of sessions. Lunchtime conversation buzzed around new topics such as Copyright, Digital Literacy, Open Educational Resources, Accessibility and Universal Design, and Google Classroom. Faculty were also interested in hands-on sessions on our in-class polling software pilot, video production, web publishing, and classroom technology. Finally, there were several sessions and opportunities during meals and breaks for faculty to share ideas and discuss methods for engaging students. Over half of our participants came away with ideas for future collaborations - a big win for FTI 2017!

We Built a Lightboard!

Over the spring semester, your EdTech team designed and built a lightboard.  What's a lightboard, you ask?  Basically, you write on it like a whiteboard, but it's transparent and lit from the edges by LEDs.  The visual effect is easier to grok with a picture:

A Lightboard, just like it says on the lightboard...

 The idea here is for an instructor to be able to see and interact with students while writing on the lightboard.  The image is flipped 180 degrees and projected above the teacher's head in glorious visually appealing fashion.  We got the idea based on a similar design put together by some good folks at San Diego State University.

They call their original device "Learning Glass."  As described on their website, "Learning Glass was developed by SDSU Physics professor Matt Anderson to make learning a more engaging experience for both on campus and online students.
Dr. Anderson has utilized the Learning Glass to create over 450 online videos, stream synchronous lessons, and incorporate this technology into face-to-face and hybrid courses for thousands of STEM students on his YouTube Channel –" Check out the link for cool-futuristic-learning-fun.  

We received the bulk of funding for this project through a grant from the Library/EdTech committee.  The total was a few hundred dollars, not counting a few days' hard labor. (Who knew cutting acrylic glass could be so much fun!)  We'd like to especially thank Steve Attinasi from the Physics workshop for lending his time, tools and expertise.

To pilot test our Lightboard, EdTech has solicited the help of faculty in Math/Computer Science and Economics.  We'll be rolling it into classrooms starting fall semester 2017.  Check back for updates on the project, and hopefully we'll have videos of our Lightboard in action.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Gamify Classroom Response with Kahoot!

Kahoot is a free web application that makes it easy to create game-based quizzes, polls, or discussions that students can play using any device that can access the web (computer, tablet, smartphone, etc.) The games you create and play are called Kahoots.

Once you create your free account, it's easy to get started by using an existing Kahoot or creating your own. The create Kahoot site walks you through the steps of creating your own game which can be customized with videos and images. Students do not need to create accounts to play.

How you might use Kahoot

  • Introduce a topic or discussion
  • Formative assessment
  • Check for understanding
  • Anonymous polling
  • Gamify class sessions and engage students with individual or group competition
  • Quizzes for self-paced study or in class test prep 


  • The Copyright/Trademarks section of Kahoot's Terms and Conditions gives Kahoot! property rights to all created content.
  • Those playing a Kahoot can enter anything as their identification.
  • By default, Kahoots you create are publically shared and resusable.
  • Kahoots! require internet access.

More Information

Collins, Katie. “Kahoot! Is Gamifying the Classroom.” WIRED UK.
Singer, Natasha. “Kahoot App Brings Urgency of a Quiz Show to the Classroom.” The New York Times, April 16, 2016.
Wang, Alf Inge, and Andreas Lieberoth. “The Effect of Points and Audio on Concentration, Engagement, Enjoyment, Learning, Motivation, and Classroom Dynamics Using Kahoot!” In Proceedings From the 10th European Conference of Game Based Learning. Academic Conferences and Publishing International Limited, 2016.

You can check out Kahoot at

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Get a Custom Fit with Scan Tailor

So a student came to me asking about how to scan a chapter of a book so she could read it on her phone.  My first thought was, "Sure, we've got scanners--go for it."  Of course, my inner Sisyphus said, "No, no, no.  Let's see if there's a new way to do this--and not use scanners...

I had been using an app called Genius Scan for a while to take photos of receipts, convert to .pdf and save on Google Drive.  This works fine--it's a great app--except for the ads.  So, I went looking for something free and open source, and without ads.  I found Scantailor on Github and decided to give it a try.  Here's the rub on what it is:

Scan Tailor is an interactive tool for post-processing of scanned pages. It gives the ability to cut or crop pages, compensate for skew angle, and add / delete content fields and margins, among others. You begin with raw scans, and end up with tiff's that are ready for printing or assembly in PDF or DjVu file.

Anyway, we tried it. It worked fine, and the student had what she needed. The only major drawback, was that Scantailor doesn't aggregate your scans into a multipage document.  

- Open Source
- Lots of features
- Customizable options
- Easy to use

- Not updated very often
Best Fee DIY Book Scanning Post-Processing Software (although that's really not saying much)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Using Pear Deck for Interactive Presentations

For the Spring 2017 term, IT is evaluating interactive presentation software PearDeck as a possible permanent polling solution. During this trial period, PearDeck is available to all users in the domain, which includes students, staff, and faculty. PearDeck may be accessed either via the web through the PearDeck website (sign in with your LC Gmail credentials). You may also access PearDeck from within Google Drive by either opening an existing Google Slides presentation directly into PearDeck (right-click > Open With > Pear Deck) or selecting the New button and selecting PearDeck from the list. PearDeck presentations—both imported and created from scratch—are saved in the user’s PearDeck home screen as well as within Google Drive.

When creating Poll Slides for your PearDeck presentation, audience interaction options include multiple choice, drawing, draggable indicators, and free text response, as well as some variations of each of these options. At the beginning of a presentation (as well as in the bottom corner during the presentation) PearDeck displays a code users may use to enter the presentation via the site PearDeck requires participants to log in with Google credentials. Keep in mind that if you plan to use it for a presentation that may include non-LC participants, some users may not have a personal or professional Google account.

PearDeck is available to all users within the domain. Please feel free to try this polling tool and please take the time to send us feedback on your experience.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

G Suite - Winter 2017 LC Update Highlights

It's been a little while since our last update, but here are G Suite Updates that are now available to our users. For a look at what's on it's way, you can check out the G Suite Updates Blog or the G Suite Launch Release Calendar (we're on the Scheduled Release track).

Link to Cell Ranges in Google Sheets (02/13/2017)

With this new functionality, you can create a “table of contents” for your spreadsheet, direct others to specific content within your spreadsheet, and retain links to cells when you import spreadsheets from other applications. To link to cells in your spreadsheet, simply go to "Insert link" > "Select a range of cells to link" and type or highlight the desired range.

Quickly and Easily Cite Your Sources with Explore in Google Docs (12/05/2016)

Google has enabled quick and easy citation through the Explore feature. Users may now directly add citations in MLA, APA, and Chicago formats from within the Explore window.

Save time with new custom templates in Docs, Sheets, Slides and Forms (11/16/2016)

As you've probably noticed, templates are now available from the Docs, Sheets, Slides and Forms home screens. Not only can you utilize existing emplates, you may also submit new ones of your own.

New iterative calculation settings and more in Google Sheets (12/06/2016)

To prevent the errors that sometimes plague complex calculations, today we’re launching a new setting in Sheets on the web (File > Spreadsheet settings > Calculation > Iterative calculation) that allows you to set the maximum number of times a calculation with a circular reference can take place.