Tech Xpress Fall 2015

Campus Bandwidth Upgrade

Internet usage has increased dramatically over the past year due to increased bandwidth consumption in areas such as video streaming, online gaming and the proliferation of mobile devices. 

In response to the increased demand, ITD recently added another Internet connection.

This additional connection has more than doubled the speed of our existing link, providing increased speed for academic programs, administrative requirements, and residential life.

To further meet this demand, MTSU has embarked on a campus-wide plan to upgrade the WiFi network. Over the past year, state-of-the-art network WiFi has been installed in several facilities including the McCallie Cafeteria, and the new Science and Student Services Buildings. All student residential housing areas have also received these new upgrades.

The campus now has an aggregate of over two gigabits per second (2Gbps) total available bandwidth for MTSU students, faculty, and staff.

But wait, there’s more! Our overall Internet access speed will increase from the current 2Gbps to more than 10Gbps this summer. The five-fold increase in speed is expected to alleviate any Internet bandwidth constraints for the foreseeable future.

Dance Instructor Uses Technology to Enhance Choreography Classes

Technology may not be the first thought to come to mind when thinking of dancing and choreography, but Marsha Barsky is changing that perception.

“I integrate technology into all of my classes and have found exciting and novel approaches to using computer and video technology for studio classes,” she said. “For example, in the annual senior seminar, I work with my students to create an individualized online dance portfolio that integrates a wide range of applications, including social media, and, most recently, I have integrated cutting-edge technology into my studio-based choreography classes.”

As director of the MTSU dance program, Barsky has taught a variety of classes including all levels of modern dance technique, choreography, dance history, dance studies, dance pedagogy, and the Alexander Technique, a somatic movement practice inspired by the teachings of actor Frederick Matthias Alexander.

Since Barsky’s choreography class is studio-based, most class time is allotted to movement studies and presentations. Her class adheres to a well-honed method that traces its roots to the early days of choreography. The intricacy and technical nature of Barsky’s instruction requires students time to absorb it.

As a result, Barsky turned to technology for help.

Like any educator, Barsky recognizes the challenges of integrating technology in the classroom. She also understands the importance of technology in  modern academia. She evaluates which form of technology is most effective and then reevaluates and rethinks her teaching methodology on these bases.

“The work that I do happens in a physical space, with the moving body, and as such, my appeal to technology has only been to enhance my teaching,” she said. “The crucial concern for educators is to find an appropriate role in higher education and to tailor it to the task at hand. Through appropriate technologies, educators can have the opportunity to remodel their pedagogical approach, and when it’s done well, it’s possible to create a diverse learning environment suited to a host of different students.”

Barsky, who directed the Vanderbilt dance program from 2003 to 2007, recognized that technology could be used to advance what she considers the most vital component for her class—the ability to offer meaningful, constructive feedback.

“It can be difficult to recreate the precise movement at issue for the discussion, and this need for precision––and the time limitations––seemed to offer ideal platforms for the integration of media-based technology,” she said.

While researching several dance education journals, Barsky discovered a Web-based video platform called Acclaim, which is a video organizing and discussion website that allows instructors to offer real-time movement, assessment, and feedback in ways similar to the instant replay seen in sports broadcasts.

“Since Acclaim is an online platform that allows for students and professors to embed, record, or upload videos, I was able to capture and then comment upon students’ movement practices in the classroom in real time,” she said. “At the same time, since this is a video platform, once videos are available, my comments can be directly applied at specific locations in the video. These comments can then be downloaded into an Excel file for further referencing.”

The Acclaim platform allows Barsky to critique specific portions of student work such as recorded choreographic studies. Each comment is clickable, and once clicked, the video will jump to the appropriate moment being discussed. Students can also view and respond to comments from their peers.

“It allows students to closely analyze their work in their own free time and offers them the possibility to make appropriate revisions to their choreographic assignments before the next class,” Barsky said. “Many responded very well and used it as a tool for learning. There can be a steep learning curve for technology like this, but all-in-all, everyone comes to appreciate the ability to record, upload, and receive feedback on their assignments.”

Although she plans to continue using Acclaim to enhance pedagogical approaches in her classes, Barsky acknowledges that technology can never replace the physical aspect of dance education. Instead, she uses technology as a tool rather than a proxy for the classroom itself.

“Carefully selected technology is enhancing my teaching and has made the teaching and learning process more meaningful to both me and my students,” she said. “I know that there are many other ways to incorporate technology into my teaching, and I am looking forward to experimenting with those unknown terrains.” 

Tennessee Has a New Area Code

The Tennessee Regulatory Authority approved an overlay for the 615 area code to accommodate the need for more telephone numbers. The new 629 area code will serve customers in the same geographic region as the current 615 area code.  An overlay does not require customers to change their existing area code.

Dialing Local Calls:

Avaya and Lync users must dial 9 + area code (615 or 629) + seven-digit number for local calls.

Long distance calls remain the same. Avaya users must dial 9 + 1 + area code + seven-digit number for long distance calling; Lync users must dial 1 + area code + seven-digit number for long distance calling.

In addition to the new dialing procedure, automatic dialing equipment or other types of equipment that are programmed with a seven digit telephone number, need to be reprogrammed to use the new dialing procedure. Some examples are life safety

systems, fax machines, Internet dial-up numbers, alarm and security systems, gates, speed dialers, mobile phone contact lists, call forwarding settings, and voicemail services.

Additional items to note:

  • Campus 4-digit dialing will not change.
  • Your telephone number, including current area code, will not change.
  • The price of a call, coverage area, and other rates and services will not change due to the overlay.
  • What is a local call now will remain a local call regardless of the number of digits dialed.
  • You must use ten-digit dialing now for 615 area code calls.
  • You can still dial just three digits to reach 911, as well as 211, 411, 511, 611, 711, and 811.

Adaptive Technology Gives Instructor a New Calling

Beverly English was only 36 when she started losing her vision. After contracting histoplasmosis, which caused hemorrhages and left scarring on her retinas, she had numerous laser surgeries in a desperate hope to salvage what remained of her eyesight.

Because she had been extremely nearsighted most of her life, English’s retinas were already susceptible to hemorrhages, which caused her to lose her central vision.

“It started in my left eye, and I had spots in my right, but we hoped it wouldn’t start hemorrhaging,” she recalled. “But after undergoing cataract surgery in my right eye, it too began to hemorrhage.”

Over 10 years, English lost central vision in both her eyes. In 2004, she felt she could no longer drive and decided to retire from her 25-year career as a school social worker instead of     accepting a desk job.

“I didn’t know what accommodations would be available to help me with a desk job,” she said. “I just didn’t have that experience. But if I knew then what I know now, I would’ve stuck with it.”

Retirement proved to be short-lived for English, who quickly realized that being retired wasn’t any fun if you couldn’t drive anywhere. So she contacted Dr. Charles Frost, who was then the Department of Social Work’s acting chair, and was invited to come teach at MTSU.

“I was tickled to death, but a little scared,” English said. “I never saw myself as a college instructor before.”

Although she began her new job with some trepidation, she was introduced to innovative technology that helped allay most of her anxieties.

It didn’t take long for English to realize she had found a new niche as a faculty member. She’s even designed a Social Work course in which she teaches other students about working with people with disabilities. She’s been teaching online classes and conventional face-to-face courses for 10 years now.

English discovered ZoomText, which features a Microsoft Windows screen magnifier that allows those with visual impairments to magnify a computer screen up to 36 times and select which part of the screen to magnify. 

“It allows me to pull things up really, really big,” she said. “The function I use the most is magnification, which is basically zooming back and forth. A lot of visually impaired people use ZoomText, and those folks who have more visual difficulties use a program called JAWS (Job Access with Speech), which reads everything on the screen.”

English said that Brenda Kerr of ITD played a role in helping her develop her online course by teaching her the mechanics of Desire2Learn.

“It’s been a lot of trial and error with trying to figure out how to teach when you can’t see the notes,” she said. “I don’t have lecture notes like some instructors do because I can’t just scan a page and teach from it. I once tried to make the notes large enough on PowerPoint, but that didn’t work as well.”

English began using 11x14 sketch pads with three words per page to convey her lecture notes and SoftChalk for her classroom presentations.

In addition to ZoomText, English uses a CCTV (closed-circuit television) screen magnifier to read hard copies of various    documents.

“CCTVs are really handy,” she said. “This is something that I have at home so I can read just about anything. I can see only a few words at a time, which is a big issue for people with vision problems. We can’t just pick up something and scan it to get the information we need. We have to read each and every word, so it takes more time.”

English empathizes with students who have disabilities, especially in terms of accessibility.

“I have my own issues in trying to make things accessible to me,” she said. “So I try to be a lot more alert to what students with disabilities need because of that. All instructors need to start thinking about making their classes more accessible, whether it’s online or in the classroom. You’ve got to think about it from the front end. It’s even challenging for me. It’s not automatic just because I have a disability. Sure, my awareness is more heightened, but even I need to think ahead when it comes to a student with a disability. What am I going to do to make things more accessible to them in a classroom?”

For example, Youtube may be a popular classroom media tool for many instructors, but English noted that not all of the videos are closed captioned.

“A student hard of hearing or deaf will have a difficult time understanding the videos, so I need to go back through all of my content to either provide transcripts or whatever I need to do to make the class more accessible for that individual,” she explained.

English discovered other campus resources such as Campus Recreation’s Adaptive Recreation and Exercise program, which allows students with disabilities and special needs to participate in fitness and recreational activities. The program offers special equipment and trained personnel to work with people with disabilities.

The Adaptive Technology Center (ATC) is another resource for students and staff who are registered with the University’s Disability and Access Center (DAC). It provides alternate formats of print material, adaptive hardware and software, and other forms of access through technology.

Click here for more information on adaptive technologies, visit the DAC website or call 615-904-8550.

Stay Alert with Rave Alerts

Along with longer days, warmer temperatures, and blossoming trees, summertime is also a prime time for severe weather. With the threat of tornadoes, it’s important for you to stay in the loop at all times and everywhere.

When inclement weather affects the University’s daily operations, the MTSU community will be always be notified via the Rave Alert system. Rave Alerts are an integral component of MTSU’s critical notification alert system, Alert4U.

All MTSU staff, faculty, and student email addresses are automatically entered into the MTSU Critical Notification System (Rave Alert).  If you wish to add phone numbers for texting and/or voicemail or additional email addresses, please log in with your PipelineMT username and password. You may also access your Rave account through your PipelineMT account by clicking on the Alert4U tab. 

If you are new to MTSU, you will receive an email with instructions on how to access your account. You are responsible for keeping your account phone numbers up to date.

The Critical Notification System is used only under circumstances that pose a threat of imminent danger to the campus community and/or when it is vital to contact members of the campus community as quickly as possible to take some kind of action.

This critical information also includes (but may not be limited to) notification of an imminent purge of a student’s courses due to incompletion of the registration confirmation step. The system will also be used to send Timely Warnings via email only. Timely Warnings inform people of situations and encourage them to be vigilant.

For additional information, visit the Alert4U website or contact Alana Johnson at (615) 898-2677. Rave does not charge subscribers to send or receive SMS messages. Standard or other messaging charges apply depending upon your wireless carrier plan and subscription details. Once registered, you can opt out of SMS messages at any time by texting STOP to 67283 or 226787.

Cable TV

Cable TV service is provided to campus dorm rooms and to the common living area in campus apartments. Additional service may be requested for private bedrooms in apartments for $11.00 per month. MTSU's cable TV service provider, Campus Televideo or CTV, provides an all-digital solution that does not require a set top box. Since the cable TV service is all-digital, a digital TV or digital tuner is required. TV's manufactured in the last few years have digital tuners. If you have an older TV that only has an analog tuner, you will need to acquire a digital to analog converter (DTA) to connect to the system. The iView 3500STBII has been successfully tested and is recommended. The iView 3500 STBII can be purchased online through a variety of suppliers. Some standard DTA's for over-the-air reception will not work with this system. To request Cable TV service, please visit the Telecommunication Services' website

MTSU'S Wireless Network

MTSU has an extensive wireless network available for use. Coverage zones include several courtyards, most eateries, the Walker University Library, many lounges, all residence hall lounges, and most classroom areas. Additionally, higher speed coverage (54 Mbps 802.11g) is available in some areas. Coverage is constantly expanded and upgraded.

To use the MTSU wireless network, you need an "802.11b" or "802.11b/g" capable wireless network card. These cards will say "WiFi" on them and/or on the package. "WiFi" means that the card adheres to the WiFi standards and should work without problems with the MTSU WiFi compatible network.

For wireless access within the coverage area on campus, simply configure the wireless software to use the wireless network WLANMTSU. Make sure WEP and WPA are turned off (this is usually the default setting). It is important to choose "Infrastructure Mode" in the wireless software. Choosing "Any Available Network" or "Ad Hoc" modes could create an unsecured situation by connecting your computer to another wireless computer. Open a web browser to any page, and it will automatically be redirected to the MTSU Wireless Network login page.

To begin your session, enter your PipelineMT username and password for full access.

The nature of wireless activity makes the network occasionally weaker in some areas and stronger in others. Most wireless network software includes a small graph that can be utilized to determine the strength of the wireless signal in a particular area. Machines with internal wireless cards may notice slightly less coverage, as the internal antennas may not capture the wireless signals as well as external type adapters. The coverage area map is a general schematic; actual coverage varies based on numerous factors that include but not limited to: type of network adapter, PC battery power, number of people in the area, and season.

Wireless technology is less secure than connections used on a home computer. It is recommended that for any transactions that involve sensitive data that SSL or SSH encryption is used. Many Web pages are SSL-enabled. Look at the Web address to determine if the site is SSL-enabled. If the URL begins with "https" instead of "http" and has a small padlock icon appearing at the bottom of browser window, then it is SSL-enabled and any data sent and received is encrypted.

If you have any questions or problems, please call the Information Technology Help Desk at 898-5345 any time, or you can stop by the Help Desk in the basement of the Cope Administration Building Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ITD assistants will be available to answer your laptop questions.