A renovated Digital Learning Lab

After a summer of construction and many months of planning, the renovation of the McGraw Center’s Digital Learning Lab has completed and is open for business. The Digital Learning Lab (DLL) is a flexible classroom space optimized for teaching and learning with technology. The DLL’s renovation refreshes a unique campus resource designed for teaching with technology and contributes to the broader conversation at Princeton about “new pedagogical practices transforming higher education.” The DLL serves as a physical hub that supports creative teaching and learning. The DLL invites partnerships with faculty who are interested in exploring the possibilities for digital tools and methods in their coursework and teaching.  More information about the DLL can be found at their website at https://mcgrawdll.princeton.edu/

Date posted: October 15, 2019 | Author: | Comments Off on A renovated Digital Learning Lab

Categories: Active Learning McGraw Event McGrawECT Media for Learning


During a recent summer study abroad trip in Aix-en-Provence, students used Siftr to document the ‘linguistic landscape’ in France.

Siftr is an online platform and accompanying smartphone ‘app’ that allows groups of people to collect photographs ‘in the field’ and have those photos geo-located on a map. Developed by Field Day Lab at the Wisconsin Center for Educational Research at the University of Wisconsin Madison, Siftr is a freely available data collection and visualization platform that allows users to upload, caption and geotag images and field observations. Uploaded information can be viewed and accessed as icons on a map or in a photo gallery. Users can filter the view of information by zooming in on the map, sorting the collection by tags and categories, or by searching for keywords. Students can add captions to their posts and leave comments on posts uploaded by others. Siftr has been used in language classes here at Princeton and in summer study abroad experiences to catalog language use in public, but could also be very useful in research or in classroom work that involves any sort of field data collection.

Date posted: July 17, 2019 | Author: | Comments Off on Siftr

Categories: McGrawECT

Overleaf for collaborative editing in LaTeX

The Princeton University Library provides free Overleaf Professional accounts for all students, faculty and staff. Overleaf is a collaborative, online LaTeX editor supporting real-time group authoring of LaTeX documents. Overleaf also includes a document history outlining changes made to a document, who made those changes, and when those changes were made. Documents can be reverted back to earlier versions and files can be synchronized with Dropbox, GitHub, or other Git repository.

LaTeX, the markup language used in Overleaf documents, is most well known as a tool for authoring scientific documents due to its ability to render complex mathematical expressions, but LaTeX can be useful for academic writing in any discipline, including functions for document layout, footnotes and annotations, tables, bibliographies, and international language support including spellcheck in over 60 languages. With the addition of add-on packages of which there are thousands, LaTeX can be extended to create graphics such as chemical or circuit diagrams, flowcharts, and timelines.

Overleaf provides a range of templates to get your projects started, including templates for writing academic articles, formal letters, lab reports, CVs, and even posters and presentations. The Overleaf interface offers a convenient dual-pane layout allowing you to compose LaTeX in one window and compile a preview of the resulting document in another.

Visit the Overleaf Princeton Portal to create a free professional account using your Princeton e-mail address as your username.

Date posted: January 4, 2019 | Author: | Comments Off on Overleaf for collaborative editing in LaTeX

Categories: McGrawECT

Digital Project Tools

Annotated Maps

Google MyMaps

Create custom maps to share and publish online. You can add multiple layers of locations, annotation, photos, videos, and images. Data can also be imported, mapped and color-coded.



Create slides including text, images and accompanying map locations, then generate an attractive display of the sequential narrative.



ArcGIS Online, StoryMap Tool

A tool included in the online version of ArcGIS (of which the desktop version is considered the most comprehensive GIS platform). Story Maps combine text and images with maps that pan and zoom to locations to tell stories.




A tool for creating custom maps with markers, lines, and polygons, much like Google MyMaps but using the open source OpenStreetMaps. A wide variety of basemaps are available, data can be imported, and the platform is very easy to use.



Brief tutorial: https://www.journalism.co.uk/news/how-to-create-interactive-maps-with-maphub/s2/a634898/

CartoDB Odyssey.js

A little bit difficult to use because the project is in development (change https in the URL to http to get it to work).  Create slides using Markdown and associate with locations on a map. When complete you can download a single, HTML file of the project or embed on other sites in an iframe.


Combining Maps and Timelines


Catalog your data in a Google Sheets spreadsheet and import it as your data source.  Date or time-associated data can include photos, videos, audio, maps and links. TimelineJS generates an attractive sliding timeline.




Combine text and images with a map and a timeline, all in one display.



Google Tours

Google Tour Creator

Create interactive virtual-reality tours using Google Street View. “Scenes” are culled from the street view and 3D photos found in Google Maps. Highlight points of interest and add 2D images for additional information. Support brief scene descriptions and voice narration.


Google Tour Builder

An older but fully functioning, 2D relative of Google Tour Creator. Add ‘slides’ with text and images and associated with points along a pathway on a map.



Many free website building tools exist, including:

Wix https://eunicelee621.wixsite.com/eas369-eunicelee

WordPress.com https://powerfuleastasianwomen.wordpress.com/

SimpleSite https://www.simplesite.com

Exposure.so http://www.exposure.so/

Audio & Video

Many tools will allow you to combine images, music, audio narration, and video, incorporating transitions, pans, zooms (ala Ken Burns) to produce a video.  All the available presentations tools, such as Powerpoint, Keynote, and Google Slides, allow you to incorporate animations in your slides. Powerpoint and Keynote allow you to record voice-over narrations (If you are able, use Keynote for this.  The recorder is much simpler to use.). Presentations can then be exported as a video using Powerpoint or Keynote. You can also record a narration outside of Powerpoint or Keynote in the excellent, and free, Audacity audio recorder and then combine with the video using video editing software such as iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, or Adobe Premiere.  Alternately, perform and record your presentation ‘live’ using a screen capture program such as Screenflow. Adobe Premiere and Screenflow are not free, but are available in the University’s Digital Learning Lab in the Lewis Science Library Building or in J. Street Library in Wilson College.

Date posted: December 4, 2018 | Author: | Comments Off on Digital Project Tools

Categories: Active Learning Curriculum Innovation Flipped Teaching McGrawECT Media for Learning Tools

Platforms for digital project-based learning

Last Spring, Sorat Tungkasiri and I presented some of our work at the Blended Learning in the Liberal Arts Conference at Bryn Mawr College.  We’ve recently found out that we will be given time to speak again at the upcoming 2018 conference.  This is great because to my mind this is one of the most useful conferences related to educational technology and digital pedagogy.  It is also unfortunately a rather unique conference – a type of conference that I wish there were more of.  While most of the sessions in the conference are in some way related to technology, this is less a technology conference than it is a teaching and learning conference. The conference highlights creative ways that people from liberal arts colleges are using technology. In the context of the liberal arts, this conference also acknowledges the importance of the learning experience, both within the classroom and within the context of the college campus. This view of educational technology as offering the potential to enrich and enhance the interpersonal interactions in the learning experience and to facilitate learning experience is certainly very much aligned with what we try to do in the McGraw Center. I do however stumble a bit over the term ‘blended learning’. The term seems to emphasize the otherness of technology, as something foreign to a traditional learning experience. There’s no real sense in over-analyzing this. Terms such as this tend to come and go, but it does occur to me that perhaps a more apt or useful description of much of the work we most often do and the support we provide would be project-based learning.

The idea of project-based learning as an instructional strategy in which students are involved in the production of some real-world artifact or in being actively engaged in an authentic problem and thereby creating context in which learning can be applied has been around a very long time. The proliferation of digital tools and platforms have opened up many possibilities for project-based instruction.  The development of a website, digital archive, or documentary film could be the project itself that students are engaged in or could be used to report about project work done in the field.

While instructors can find a huge array of online tools and environments for such work, the McGraw Center administers  and recommends several digital platforms for coursework that are simple to use, simplify the process of registering students, and we feel have broad generic usefulness. Below is a list of some of these platforms.

Platforms for publishing

The following tools are some that stand out as being particularly easy to use and immediately available for project-based coursework.  Assistance with these platform, including in-class instruction is available from the McGraw Center, all available free-of-charge to Princeton faculty for their teaching.

McGrawCommons’ WordPress is an extraordinarily flexible online platform for creating websites for coursework at Princeton. While traditionally a blogging platform, websites in WordPress need not adhere to a journaled writing style.

Omeka is a web publishing platform developed at the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University focusing on the creation, curation, and exhibit of digital assets. The platform encourages the development of virtual exhibits, containing an extensive list of descriptive metadata fields for describing digital assets. An example of Omeka in action here at Princeton can be found at http://commons.princeton.edu/omeka/exhibits/show/princeton3x3/nassauhall1

Neatline is a suite of geotemporal add-on tools for Omeka. Using Neatline, students can create beautiful and rich maps annotated with images, and build chronological narrative sequences based on items in the Omeka media collection. Example of Neatline projects can be found at:


Scalar is an open-source authoring and publishing platform designed for scholarly use. Developed by the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture at the University of Southern California, Scalar is a digital publishing platform specifically oriented toward the writing of media-rich, long-form, born-digital scholarship. In addition to text and image driven website, Scalar support the inclusion of image and video annotations, maps, timelines, and other data visualizations.


scalar.usc.edu The Alliance for Networking Visual Culture


Tools for smaller scale projects

TimeMapper from Open Knowledge Foundation Labs is an online tool for visualizing data from Google Speadsheets. The tool pulls together several open source projects to display information in textual, geospatial and chronological ways. And since the underlying datastore is a Google Sheet, this tool is especially well suited to collaborative classroom work.

TimelineJS from KnightLab at Northwestern University is another online tool for making visually-rich, interactive timelines. Like Timemapper, TimelineJS uses Google Sheets as a source of data

Google MyMaps is a tool for creating personal, custom maps, enhanced with the rich data found in Google Maps. Maps created in Google MyMaps can be shared and collaboratively edited and can be embedded in other sites.

Twine is cross-platform software assisting in the creation of interactive fiction and branching narratives.  The software is free and open-source, and requires no programming knowledge .Finished projects can be exported to webpages to be shared with the world.



Wellesley College Blended learning Initiative – a three year grant from the Mellon Foundation that started in 2014

Blended Learning Conference : Blended Learning in the Liberal Arts


Image: CC Rebecca Siegel




Date posted: March 29, 2018 | Author: | Comments Off on Platforms for digital project-based learning

Categories: Active Learning Curriculum Innovation Flipped Teaching Lecture Flipping McGraw Digital Learning Lab McGrawECT Media for Learning Online Learning Resources Social Pedagogies Tools

Digital tools for course-based digital projects

Online platforms that facilitate collaborative and project-based teaching provide students with opportunities to work with course content in novel, creative, and ‘hands-on’ ways. Remediation assignments in which students use course materials in different contexts and through different media have the potential to inspire new understandings of those materials. Visualizing course materials in terms of time or geography can also provide an explicit, shared mental model of a knowledge domain. The act of creating an online map, visualization, or collaborative writing project within the context of a course can serve to provide motivation to students and result in an online artifact that outlives to the semester. The following list highlights a few online tools that are simple to understand, require minimal training resulting in less class time devoted to teaching the tool, and can be used to facilitate ‘one-off’ digital assignments.

Maps and geospatial tools

Google MyMaps

Similar to the familiar Google Maps, Google MyMaps allows you to add markers, lines, and regions to a map and to annotate a map with text, images, and video. Maps created in Google MyMaps can be shared, collaborated upon, and exported to other mapping applications such as Google Earth, qGIS, and ArcGIS.


uMap is an open source platform using maps from OpenStreetMap allowing you to add annotated markers, lines, and regions, data layers to custom maps, and to embed those maps on other websites. uMap can be found at: https://umap.openstreetmap.fr/en/

ArcGIS Online

Made available through Princeton’s Maps and Geospatial Information Center, ArcGIS Online allows you to create interactive maps without having to install software and is available to anyone with a Princeton netid. Maps can be shared within a private group or made public on the web. ArcGIS Online contains wide array of basemaps and datasets with which to design and populate your map. Additionally, ArcGIS Online provides templates for the development of digital narratives in which writing can be illustrated with images, audio, video, and interactive maps. More information can be found at:
To set up Princeton sponsored accounts, contact the Maps and Geospatial Information Center


A plugin for WordPress included on the McGrawCommons course website platform, WPGeo adds Google Maps to blog posts, allowing you to associate geographic locations with blog posts by dragging and dropping a marker on a map. A master map of all the locations can then be generated and visitors to the site can explore students writings based on location.


Palladio is a toolset for analyzing datasets, including the visualizing of locations and associated information on a map. In addition to maps, Palladio also includes timeline, gallery, and network graph visualizations. Palladio is available online at: http://hdlab.stanford.edu/palladio/


One of several extraordinarily valuable tools developed by the Knight Lab at Northwestern University, StoryMapJS allows students to associate short sequential multimedia writings with locations on a map. StoryMapsJS then generates an attractive self-contained map interface for the display of those writings.



Data visualization


RAWGraphs is quick and easy-to-use online application for generating data visualizations from your data. Paste in or upload a data file and drag and drop options for your charts.  RAWGraphs can generate a wide variety of attractive charts including Scatter Plots, Circular Dendrograms, Bar charts, Pie charts, and Streamgraphs.


Text and Media Analysis

Juxta Commons

JuxtaCommons is an online platform, featuring the Juxta web service, that allows you to collate and visualize differences in multiple witnesses of a single text. Users of the platform can upload files, select witnesses to compare, and generate visualizations of collations.



IMJ (Image Macroanalysis in Javascript) is a tool for collating large sets of images, such as sequential still images from video or chronologically sequenced images of paintings, and generating visualizations. The tool can create three types of visualizations: a montage of all images in the corpus in sequence, a barcode-style visualizations, and a plot visualization that sorts images by hue and saturation.

IMJ is available at http://www.zachwhalen.net/pg/imj/

Voyant Tools

Voyant is an online text analysis environment providing many tools for the ‘distant’ reading of text. The platform includes word counts, word frequencies, keyword-in-context concordances, and information about word trends. A wide range of visualizations of this information is also available in the form of word clouds, line graphs, bubble charts and many, many more.



Juxtapose is an online tool that helps to tell stories of changes over time by superimposing one image over another and providing the ability to easily hide or display either image using a ‘swipe’ tool. The tool and examples of the tool in action can be found at https://juxtapose.knightlab.com


Data collection and curation

Google Sheets and Google Forms

Google sheets is an intuitive and easy to use online spreadsheet useful for the collaborative collection and collation of information. Google Forms enables the creation of online forms for surveys, polls, and data input. Information collected with Google Forms is automatically added to a Google Sheets spreadsheet for further analysis.


Qualtrics is an advanced online survey tool providing input elements not available with simpler tools such as Google forms. Qualtrics also provides functions for generating reports and visualizing data.

Transcription and Annotation


TranscriptionSpace is a theme available in the McGraw Center Commons specifically suited to simple collaborative annotation tasks. Images of content to be transcribed can be displayed in a zoomable window alongside a plain text editor for entering transcriptions. Contact the McGraw Center at mcgrawect@princeton.edu to set up this theme in a McGraw Commons website.



Developed by the ScholarsLab at the University of Virginia, Prism is an online tool for the collaborative tagging of text.  The tool allows students to highlight portions of the text according to a predefined list of thematic labels and to see visualizations of this work in the form of pie charts and word clouds. Prism is available at http://prism.scholarslab.org


Ten Thousand Rooms

The Ten Thousand Rooms project is a collaborative workspace for textual studies developed at Yale University supporting the annotation and viewing of manuscript images. Built upon the Mirador Viewer and IIIF (International Image Interoperability Framework), Ten Thousand Rooms allows users to upload images of print, manuscripts, or inscriptions and add and search transcriptions, translations, and annotations upon those images.



Recogito is an online platform for collaborative document annotation, maintained by Pelagios Commons. Recogito assists in the extraction of  named entities such as people, places, and events from text and images. The platform automatically scans text for instances of such entities and allow sone to highlight and annotate regions of an image.




TimelineJS, a product of the Knight Lab at Northwestern University, takes information from a Google Spreadsheet and lays it out on a visually-rich sliding timeline that can include text, images, video, maps, and links. The emphasis on TimelineJS is on creating self-contained narratives that can be explored in a timeline fashion.Writing and ePublishing


Omeka on McGrawCommons

Omeka is a free, open source management system for online digital collections. Omeka can be used to create archives of images, videos, and audio files, and includes the Dublin Core metadata schema for cataloging. Omeka can also be extended with a variety of additional plugins.


Writing and hypertext

WordPress on McGrawCommons

The McGraw Commons is an online publishing platform specifically for teaching and learning at Princeton University. WordPress, a website creation tool included in McGraw Commons, is an intuitive platform supporting  collaborative writing, media collection, discussion, and other activities related to coursework at Princeton. More information can be found at http://commons.princeton.edu/


Twine is an open-source tool for creating interactive, nonlinear, hypertextual stories. Add passages to your story, create links to other passages, and publish your story online, without any programming.

Date posted: January 9, 2018 | Author: | Comments Off on Digital tools for course-based digital projects

Categories: McGrawECT

Using Princeton Art Museum collections in McGraw Commons

A few weeks ago, the McGraw Center hosted a faculty panel entitled Teaching with the Archives. This session highlighted several courses in which students are working with objects in library and museum archives and the ways in which those resources, or at least digital facsimiles of those resources, are being used in the classroom. The McGraw Center’s Educational and Classroom Technologies group and Digital Learning Lab are keenly interested in coming up with ways for faculty and students to work with archival objects and in the session I mentioned a couple of technologies, specifically IIIF and APIs, that hold promise for expanding the possibilities for learning interactions with digital objects. Using these technologies, for example, several projects that the McGraw Center has collaborated on such as the ABCBooks, Komonjo, and Playing Soviet archives have pulled images of book pages directly from Princeton University Digital Library collections and placed them into platforms in which students can tag, annotate, discuss, and comment. A practical application of APIs can also be found in a recently developed plugin for the McGrawCommons course website platform. When enabled in a course website, the PUAM Search plugin adds a search interface to the Princeton Art Museum‘s online collection. Because the Art Museum has made their collection metadata available online via APIs and images available using IIIF, users of the McGrawCommons platform can search the collections and pull images and associated metadata directly into a course website. It is our hope that with this plugin, and more to be developed in the future, that we can encourage the classroom use of library and museum resources both in and outside of the archive.

Once the plugin is enabled, authors of posts and pages will find an additional tab in their media library allowing them to search and import Princeton Art Museum resources into the course website.

If you are interested in setting up a course website or in learning more about this and other features of the McGrawCommons platform, contact the Educational and Classroom Technologies group at mcgrawect@princeton.edu.

Date posted: November 9, 2017 | Author: | Comments Off on Using Princeton Art Museum collections in McGraw Commons

Categories: Active Learning Information Literacy McGraw Digital Learning Lab McGrawECT Media for Learning Online Learning Resources Tools

McGrawCommons as a multi-media platform

Screenshot of the McGraw Commons site at commons.princeton.edu

A primary focus of much of our work in the Digital Learning Lab and the Educational & Classroom Technologies group is to support the creative use of media in teaching and learning. While the Learning Lab in the Lewis Library Building provides cutting-edge equipment, computers, and software for media creation such as podcasting, audio and video editing, digitization, image manipulation and mapping, another way we support the use of media in coursework is through the McGrawCommons website platform.

This platform, based on WordPress, serves as the primary platform for the creation of course blogs. WordPress provides a stable, consistent, and easy-to-use platform for collaborative writing, knowledge construction, and publishing that can serve as a project-based focal point during the semester, but an also serve to encourage multi-modal expression. In conjunction with more traditional assignments and term papers, a course blog provides new, media-rich, frames for course content and scholarly production.

While WordPress by itself is a useful tool for collaboration, writing, and expression, the platform can be extended by the use of ‘plugins’. This means we are able to extend the functionality of the platform based on the needs of specific courses and to take advantage of the resources available at Princeton University. Below are some examples of plugins, either developed here at the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning or selected from the wide range of plugins available online, that encourage the use and manipulation of various forms of media for coursework.

Create image galleries

An often overlooked feature built into the WordPress platform is the Gallery tool. Images added to a McGrawCommons blog can be organized and presented in a tiled image gallery or as an in-page slideshow.  Images can be sequenced individually or displayed randomly.

Import images and metadata from the Princeton Art Museum

Developed during the summer 2017, this plugin ties into the online digital collections of the Princeton Art Museum, allowing you to search, select, and embed images from the collection in your course blog.

Collective tagging of images

Images and other media can be embedded in pages of your blog with a crowd-sourced tagging feature. This feature aggregates descriptive tags submitted by students and generates a tag cloud visualization.

Glossary tool

With the addition of the glossary tool to your course blog, a list of vocabulary words and definitions entered in a Google spreadsheet can automatically generate and insert pop-up tips, or glosses. The tool was developed with foreign language instruction in mind, but could be used for many different purposes.

Embed video

By default, WordPress allows you to upload videos or to easily embed videos from YouTube, Vimeo, Hulu, and many other websites.  Functionality has been added to allows for the embedding of video from Princeton’s own Kaltura media server and Video-On-Demand service.

Video clipping

Video embedded from the Kaltura streaming media platform can also be referenced with start and end timecodes, allowing you to display just a portion of the video.

Embed audio

Audio files can be uploaded directly into blog posts. Blogs can showcase student-produced podcasts or audio documentaries.

Annotate video

The video commenter plug-in, developed here at the McGraw center, allows comments to be assiciated with specific times in a video. When a comment is added to the page, the current position of the video playback is stored with the comment, allowing one to bookmark that point in the video.

Create zoomable images

Using a plugin developed at the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning, large images can be presented in a ‘zoomable’ window allowing users to focus in on details in the image.


Text authored on McGrawCommons can also include footnotes. Footnotes can contain links, images, audio clips, and video.

Create a network of annotations

Using our annotator plugin, students can annotate posts with other posts, creating a network of linked annotations.  The annotations can then be exported as a spreadsheet or as a network graph for further analysis.

Annotate a reading

AnnotationSpace centers the website activity on extended annotations of texts.  Student responses to readings take the form of blog posts, allowing greater flexibility than the built-in footnotes tool. On the website, posts are linked to from the spine text and displayed side-by-side with the text proving a convenient and attractive annotated reader.

Associate geographical coordinates with blog posts and illustrate your blog with maps

The wpGeo plugin adds a Google Map to the editing interface for each post, allowing students to designate a geographical location with their writing. A map is then embedded in the post. Cumulative maps containing all locations or all locations associated with some category of posts can also be included on your site.

Add Dublin-core metadata

The Dublin Core Metadata extension adds common cataloging fields from the Dublin Core to the post editing interface.

Import citations from Zotero

With Zotpress, collections of bibliographic citations can be imported from your online Zotero library or from a group Zotero collection.

Juxtapose any two posts

A juxtaposition theme, developed by the McGraw Center, showcases featured images in posts and allows users to select posts for side-by-side display.

These ‘plugins’ cover a lot of ground, but are all focused on moving a course blog beyond a text-only medium. If you would like to learn more about any of these plugins, or would like to propose a new use for media in your teaching, feel free to contact us in the Digital Learning Lab in the lower level of the Lewis Library Building or by writing to mcgrawect@pricneton.edu.

Date posted: September 14, 2017 | Author: | No Comments »

Categories: Media for Learning

Jupyter Notebook

Jupyter Notebook is a browser-based Python application enabling the creation of documents that can contain both rich text and executable computer code.  By mixing text and code in the same display, these notebooks are useful for presenting not only data analysis and visualization, but also textual descriptions of the code and of results. Text is normally entered using the Markdown syntax, but Jupyter notebooks can also include HTML, Javascript, and LaTeX code for equations. These documents are meant to be both human-readable text documents while also containing executable code. Jupyter runs Python most natively but by installing alternate kernels can execute R, Ruby, Haskell, Scala, Go, and many other languages.

A good introduction to the platform by Corey Schafer can be found on YouTube. Those who are interested in learning more about using Jupyter in teaching might be interested in JupyterDay, a day long session devoted to teaching with Jupyter at Bryn Mawr College on May 19, 2017

Date posted: March 28, 2017 | Author: | No Comments »

Categories: Media for Learning Online Learning Resources Productivity


Scalar is a free, open-source authoring and publishing platform designed from the ground up for scholarly use. Developed by the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture at the University of Southern California and inspired by the work of Vectors Journal, also at USC, Scalar stands out as a digital publishing platform specifically oriented toward the writing of media-rich, long-form, born-digital scholarship. One sees this academic orientation in the tools available within Scalar but also in the basic ways in which a project is created in Scalar.

Scalar encourages authors to collect and assemble multimedia materials from a variety of sources, write text, and then to construct  narratives using a wide variety of layouts and designs. As with other platforms, multimedia materials in Scalar can be uploaded directly, or  embedded from YouTube, Vimeo and Soundcloud. But Scalar also includes interfaces for searching and pulling resources from popular online archives, including Critical Commons, the USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Omeka websites.

Scalar supports the additional annotations on imagesOnce those materials have been collected, they can be juxtaposed with writing to form complex, layered, possibly non-linear texts. Materials can be tagged or added to ‘Paths’ to assemble displays of material either in more conventional layouts that replicate familiar print structures or in ways that take advantage of the unique capabilities of digital writing, including nested, networked, and non-linear formats. Interestingly, Scalar includes tools for visualizing the structure of the website itself, thereby encouraging a critical consideration of digital scholarly publishing.

Scalar allows users to add annotations to video and audio and to have those annotations displayed as the media plays backAnother area in which Scalar incorporates the scholarly process, and really excels, is in its facilitation of and emphasis on annotation. Pages in Scalar, the basic structural unit in the system, can be designated as annotations that comment upon other pages. Authors can annotate video, audio, images, source code, and text. Annotations of audio and video can have start and end times associated with them so that when the media is played, the corresponding annotations are highlighted. Images can be annotated by drawing a box around a portion of an image and entering a comment.

Scalar has many potential uses in teaching and learning, particularly in disciplines related to visual culture, the visual arts, media studies, or public history. Several examples of Scalar websites can be found in the Showcase page of the Scalar website, including some involving Princeton faculty members. If you are interested in using Scalar, you have several options. Scalar can be used either through a free, hosted account at scalar.usc.edu. Princeton departments or projects with cPanel web hosting can install Scalar with the click of a button. If you are considering using Scalar as a platform for teaching and learning, reach out to us at the McGraw Center (mcgrawect@princeton.edu) to discuss these options.  We can also host your site and provide in-class training and support.

An excellent example of the type of work that can featured with the Scalar platform is the Digital Paxton Project highlighted on the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture website.

Date posted: March 26, 2017 | Author: | No Comments »

Categories: McGrawECT

Recording lectures on snow days

Like much of the East Coast, we have been hit this week with snow storms. With the University closed last Tuesday due to the snow, it is a time when some instructors might be interested in recording their lectures and distributing those lectures to their students rather than holding class face-to-face. With that in mind, I spent some of today reviewing the processes for creating videos of slide presentations with accompanying voice narration in the two most popular platforms for creating slide shows, Powerpoint and Keynote. Both of these platforms have very nice features for recording your voice as you go through your slides. All you really need to make this work is the software, an existing presentation, and some sort of microphone attached to your computer. That being said however, there are some important differences.

Keynote, as you might imagine, is intuitive and easy to use. You can create your presentation in Keynote or open a Powerpoint file and build upon that. The recording features are equally simple to use. When one chooses to record a session, the software provides an interface that includes a visualization of the sound levels (so you know your microphone is actually working) and images of the current and next slides.  You can also choose to display presenter notes, a clock or a timer if you wish. As you progress through the presentation, clicking the space bar to forward to the next slide, your voice is recorded together with any audio or video you might have embedded in your presentation. When you reach the final slide and would like to finish your recording, simply press the record button again to stop the recording. You can then export your presentation as a Quicktime file (an m4v file) and that file can be shared with your students.

In Powerpoint, things are a bit more complicated, perhaps a bit less intuitive, but basically work the same way. Depending on your version of Powerpoint, when you click the ‘Record Slide Show’ button, you are taken to a recording interface in which you can see the current and next slides, pause button, and a timer indicating the progress of the recording. The interface does not include any indication of microphone audio levels which means it is very likely you will have to make a practice recording first before recording your actual presentation so that you can check the levels. Powerpoint is however in many ways a much more sophisticated recording tool and provides basic features that can be particularly useful when making longer recordings, which lectures tend to be. Powerpoint does not simply create a recording from beginning to end as Keynote does.  Powerpoint keeps track of the timings of each slide and captures audio for each slide in the presentation.  This means, crucially, that if you make a mistake, you can simply pause the recording, reload the current slide, and start recording again. Your new recording become the recording for that slide and the mistake is overwritten. This is an extremely valuable feature. It basically allows you to do in-line editing of the video while you are producing it. When you finish recording, you will have a continuous sequence of audio and timed slides. If you are on a Windows computer, you can export your presentation as a video file and share it with your students. If you are using a Mac, as I was, there does not seem to be any way by default to export a video file. I have no idea why this is so, but it is very frustrating. I was forced to send the presentation to a Windows computer, open it in Powerpoint, and then export as video.

Apart from these frustrations, the two software tools are not terribly different in terms of their ability to make video recordings of lectures. If you are the type of person who does not make mistakes or one who is not bothered by the fact that you do, Keynote is a very nice tool for recording lectures. If however you are someone who perhaps gets nervous when in the presence of a microphone, you might find the recording features of Powerpoint much more useful, but be aware that if you are on a Mac, it may be difficult to actually save your file.

If you would like to get more specific advice on recording your lectures in Keynote or Powerpoint, reach out to or drop by the Digital Learning Lab in the Lewis Library building.

Date posted: March 17, 2017 | Author: | No Comments »

Categories: Flipped Teaching Tools


I am always on the lookout for simple-to-use online tools for visualizing information in the classroom.  Tools such as Voyant and Palladio may not be as powerful as installed software or scripts written in Python or R for text analysis or for generating network graphs, but are sufficiently powerful to encourage experimentation, and in the context of teaching and learning, experimentation is key. Lowering the barriers to producing visualizations is important in that it reduces the amount of class time needed to train students on the use of a software package, but also that it encourages repetitive experimentation with the tool and critical analysis of the tool itself. More often than not, visualizations show their merit not in revealing some absolute truth, but rather in producing individual opportunities for interpretation of the source materials from multiple angles. All this is to say that there is a new tool to add to this list.

TimeLineCurator is a browser-based authoring tool that automatically extracts dates and events from freeform text using natural language processing, and plots this information on a visual timeline. Extracting dates and their corresponding events from text can be extremely time-consuming work. There are excellent tools out there for extracting dates, personal or place names, and other ‘named entities’ from text, but TimeLineCurator extracts both the date and the associated text concerning what happened on that date. And, crucially, the barriers to using this tool, could not be any lower.

After adding a text to the tool, either by providing a URL or by pasting text (or texts) into the tool, TimeLineCurator allows one to quickly identify the extent of time encompassed by a document, and the distribution of events occurring along this timeline. After this initial automated stage, one can sort, curate, and edit the dates and events. This process of curating the events might be what makes this tools especially potent as a teaching tool. Students can alter the text extracted from the source text,  refine the dates, and add new events and dates. After this is complete, the entire timeline can be saved or exported as a TimelineJS timeline.

TimeLineCurator was developed by the InfoVis group in the Department of Computer Science at the University of British Columbia.

Date posted: January 13, 2017 | Author: | No Comments »

Categories: McGrawECT