MMLC Blog

Technology for n00bs: iMovie

You may not know this, but I wasn’t always a proud employee of this illustrious institution known as Northwestern University. Oh no!  I actually had quite a crazy 11-year run as the co-owner of a high-end aquarium company up until 2012. Yup, I sold fish tanks. We specialized in saltwater and reef aquariums, and as such, I became an expert of all things marine.

So when my parents treated me to a vacation down in St. Thomas last year for my birthday, I took full advantage of the reef right outside our door. I went snorkeling for hours every day, clutching my trusty GoPro camera and capturing the magic under the waves. It was glorious!  But then I came home and wondered what in the world I was going to do with all this amazing footage. I needed to make a movie, of course!  That meant teaching myself how to use iMovie, the one stop shop for turning your raw videos into thrilling films. It was truly addicting, and I had such a blast arranging my clips that I ended up with THREE movies instead of just one. Do you want to join in the fun?

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[Re-] Visualizing the Novel

Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo, is one of the most endearing and best-known novels of all time. Judged a literary masterpiece by many, when it was first published in 1862 by one of France’s greatest literary heroes, the work was met with hostility for political and aesthetic reasons. Yet, the story has been popular, published many times over, translated into several languages, and adapted in recent years to its perhaps most widely familiar forms on the musical stage and cinematic screen.

At Northwestern, the novel is a frequent centerpiece of courses offered by Professor Michal Peled Ginsburg, of the Department of French and Italian. From Spring of 2014, with assistance from both the MMLC and from NUIT, she has worked to boost students’ and scholars’ understanding the novel via two key visualization techniques: first, a series of updated maps to indicate landmarks, event locations and paths traveled, and secondly, a series of insightful computer-generated illustrations of the book’s characters and their relationships to one another. Full Post

Get Thee to Canvas!

Graphic showing 70% adoption rate of CanvasThis graphic from the Canvas Transition team in NUIT shows almost 3/4 of the classes at NU are now using Canvas Learning System for classes

Canvas, the new learning management system for classes at Northwestern, will be the only platform available for class use next academic year.

Already more than 70% of classes have made the switch, and for faculty who have not made the switch from Blackboard there are people from the MMLC, and NUIT, and even Canvas support staff waiting to help you make the transition with workshops, drop-in labs, even online chat available 24/7.

Remember, NUIT will switch off Blackboard for good this summer.

To help you get prepared for the move, we asked four Weinberg faculty to play mentor and guide for a few moments, to encourage colleagues to make the “leap” to Canvas.  We spoke with Denise Meuser from the German department, Raquel Amorim from Spanish and Portuguese, Noriko Taira Yasohama from Asian Languages and Cultures, and Lam-Thao Nguyen from the French and Italian department.  All have taught classes using Canvas this year, and they shared with us advice and tips to help you make the plunge with Canvas.

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To Connect and Serve: Where to go for MMLC Support Services

mmlcmanexportcameraGood news for you Humanities faculty out there! The MMLC has completed our move to the NU Library and many of you may be wondering where you can go or how you can get the same services you were used to getting in Kresge. The MMLC may be spread out across campus now, but we are committed to supporting you and your students. All of our facilities are open when classes are in session, and among some of our new spaces are:

  • The MMLC Computer Classroom (NU Library Lower Level, Room B183)
  • The MMLC Equipment Checkout Counter (NU Library Lower Level, Room B185). Open Monday-Thursday 8:30am-6:30pm, Friday 8:30am-5pm
  • The MMLC Activity Space (Deering Library Second Floor, Room 208 – shared with the Music Listening Library). Open Monday-Thursday 10am-10pm, Friday 10am-5pm, Saturday 1pm-5pm, Sunday 1pm-10pm.
  • The MMLC Student Project Studio (Locy Hall Room 316)
  • The MMLC Digital Art Computer Lab (Roycemore School B37)

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Bye-bye Blackboard, hello Canvas!

After a year of pilot testing, Northwestern officially debuts Canvas —  a brand new learning management system — this fall. Some of you might currently be in the middle of getting your Canvas site ready for fall courses, others will continue to use Blackboard this year and switch to Canvas at a later point. (Blackboard is scheduled to go offline in August 2015.) No matter what your timeline is, we thought it would be good to get you up to speed on Canvas highlights.

Over the past several months, the MMLC has enjoyed working with Faculty Support Services (FSS) from NUIT Academic & Research Technologies, the team that is implementing and supporting Canvas at Northwestern. Together, we have collaborated on hosting workshops and experimenting with the many features and functions of Canvas. We would like to introduce you to some of the staff and resources around Canvas so you can benefit from their insights. Before we get to that, let’s review how you can get started and find any needed support. Full Post

It Don’t Mean A Thing, If We Don’t Have A Swing (Space)

This summer will mark the beginning of a massive renovation of Kresge Centennial Hall. The MMLC, along with many of the building’s faculty occupants, departments, programs and centers, will move to a set of temporary locations during the nearly 3-year project. We’re very excited for Kresge’s future, but we’re also working to make sure that our assigned interim “swing space” in Northwestern’s Main Library allows us to continue meeting the learning and instructional needs of Weinberg students and faculty. In this article, we want to provide more details about our upcoming temporary home, explain how our operations will change, and share some suggestions that may help. Full Post

Design – in Time – Saves Nine

Front page of "old" Obamacare Sign-up site.

The “original” front page of the insurance exchanges site in fall of 2013.

picture of iPhone and Galaxy

Hmm. Which one is the iPhone? Hint: it is not the left one.

The word “design” seems to be used more as a noun than a verb in the last decade or so.

The “design” of the website for insurance exchanges, HealthCare.gov, was a big issue last fall, as it interfered with signing people up for healthcare.

Court rulings on whether or not Apple’s “design” for the iPhone was copied by Samsung have made headlines for several years as the trials wend their way through the courts.

Design has come to be affiliated with a kind of “personal” style. Adopting the “look” of Ralph Lauren’s clothing, or the look of Gucci or Levis, or Old Navy says something about you, and how you want to be viewed by others. Some would never wear Gucci and Old Navy at the same time. Some people would never wear Gucci, period.

You get the idea.

Can the same be true of documents, and web pages and PDF files you create? Is there “fashion” in fonts? Or at least better at doing their “job” than other fonts? Full Post

The Importance of Design in the Learning Experience

Sergei Kalugin evaluates the physical properties of the Madshus ski (with his teeth)

Sergei Kalugin evaluates the physical properties of the Madshus ski.

This January, the MMLC welcomed Sergei Kalugin to join the department as a full-time Web application developer and designer after three months of working as a contracted consultant. Graduating with Masters Degrees in Economics and Business from Baltic State Technical University in St. Petersburg, Russia in 2008, Sergei has since held a number of web design and e-Commerce positions both in Russia and the USA, before turning his focus to the educational sector. Fluent in three world languages (Russian, English, and Finnish) and equally comfortable in the languages of design and programing, Sergei brings a valuable blend of talents to the MMLC’s courseware and research development initiatives.

While many of our faculty and student patrons may not have met him yet, they have most likely seen his design and/or programming work: whether on of our recent special event postcards, or in one of our most recent courseware projects. For this article, I asked Sergei about design and its role in the learning experience. Full Post

Questions for Todd Murphey: an NU MOOC Pioneer

Todd Murphey

Todd Murphey

At our January World Wine Web event, we had the pleasure to welcome Todd Murphey, Associate Professor in Mechanical Engineering at McCormick. Todd taught one of the first NU MOOCs this past fall on the Coursera platform: “Everything is the Same: Modeling Engineered Systems.” For those of you who weren’t able to hear Todd talk about his new teaching experience, you can still benefit from Todd’s insights because he was kind enough to answer some follow-up questions.

1) What motivated you to develop and teach “Everything is the Same: Modeling Engineered Systems,” one of NU’s first Coursera courses?

One of the things I noticed early in the MOOC debate was that people teaching MOOCs were almost unconditionally in favor of them.  My concern was that there would be a fundamental bias as a result—that the only people who had any personal knowledge about teaching and learning using MOOCs would be people who bought into them ahead of time.  So I decided I would like to create a great MOOC while fundamentally being objective about the impact on our students and the online students.  I also thought it was exciting to take material we have had in our undergraduate curriculum and translate it into a medium many of our undergraduates find much more intuitive than traditional books. Full Post

Technology for n00bs: Video Accessories for Smartphones

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that everyone has at least one fairly strange obsession. And if you’ve ever looked at my hands, then you know that mine is nail art. Yes, much like a 10-year-old girl, my heart gets all twitter-pated thinking about creating itty-bitty intricate designs on those 10 little canvases. I scour nail art blogs like it’s going out of style, looking for inspiration and tips for transforming my talons. Most of these nail bloggers create wonderfully helpful tutorial videos for people like me, and I’m always left thinking, “Hey, I should make one of those someday!”  Well folks, “someday” has arrived, thanks to the MMLC’s latest purchase for students in our supported classes – the smartphone rig kit.

What treasures await me in this sleek black case?

What treasures await me in this sleek black case?

Nowadays, almost everyone has a phone with a built-in camera, so who wants to lug around a separate camera to film videos and whatnot? A silly person, that’s who! (No offense to silly people – I, myself, am one)  Of course, the phone’s video functions are rather limited when it comes to things like lighting, audio, and stabilization, but this is the 21st century!  There are now a multitude of options available for the novice filmmaker, and Cecile has tapped into her vast wealth of knowledge to compile a complete smartphone rig kit for video. I must say, this thing is pretty awesome. Full Post