Tech Tuesday – Venmo

Written by Michael Lesser

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The use of peer-to-peer payment platforms has expanded over the past few years, and most recently, many platforms have been released as mobile apps in order to target the growing user base of smartphones. While many options exist, Venmo is a new app that has stood out to me.

 

In particular, Venmo is intended to take the pain out of splitting payments among friends and colleagues. When you create an account, you can add and refer friends using your contact list or Facebook, and then you can link your account to a credit card, debit card, or bank account in order to transfer money. Like many peer-to-peer payment applications, it is relatively simple to send money to others. However, Venmo also makes it less awkward and frustrating to collect money from those who owe you. The “charge” feature lets you request money from others using the same straightforward process as you would to send money.

 

Although I have only known about Venmo for a few weeks, I am already encouraging my friends to download the app as I see a number of uses for it. As a college student, I often need to split expenses such as meals, rent, and utility bills. In addition, when others owe me money, I tend to rely on scattered notes and numerous reminders in order to actually get paid back. Needless to say, Venmo can make these tasks much easier.

 

Sending money is free as long as you use a bank account, debit card, or the balance in your Venmo account. If you choose to use a credit card, there is a 3% fee. Receiving money is always free. The app itself is free as well and it is currently available for iPhone and Android.

AT Friday: By Cameron

I recently joined the AT Fellows program and am thoroughly enjoying my experience thus far. Over the summer, I got to meet dozens of professors, showing them how to use iClicker software and WordPress in their classrooms. So far, I’ve enjoyed seeing higher education from a different perspective, and seeing how much work some professors put into their planning has given me new insight into the education I am receiving from Tufts.

 

We just finished up the book that Aaron and Mirza mentioned (How Learning Works) and it offered yet another interesting perspective. I think a large part of being an AT Fellow is being able to straddle the world between student and faculty, distancing yourself from your preconceptions and leaving yourself open to new experiences. Reading this book helped with this goal, as we saw the fundamental lack of understanding and open communication between many of the professors and students in the book. While it is easy to trivialize the efforts of professors, I think we must keep in mind that for many educators, this book may be the only training they receive before they are thrust into the classrooms.

 

Every week, as we share our current projects, it is refreshing to see the diversity of thought and experience all of the AT Fellows bring to the table. Academic Technology encompasses more than just programming, and I think that this group of fellows represents students well and is making great strides towards bettering the relationship between higher education and technology. Overall, I’ve had a great time so far and I look forward to seeing what the remainder of the semester brings.

Tech Tuesday: By Cameron

Tech Tuesday: Zotero

 

We have all experienced the frustration associated with citing our sources on research papers, technical documents, and other projects. Even with citation tools such as EasyBib or Citation Machine, finding and locating the pertinent information for each source can be tedious and time consuming. That’s where Zotero comes in.

 

What is it?

Zotero is a Firefox, Chrome, or Safari plugin that automatically senses sources as you visit them in your browser. You can cite journal articles, books, powerpoint presentations, patents, and more–all with a single click. You can even share these sources, sync them with a dropbox account, or link the sources with a group.

 

Why Zotero?

The key advantage of Zotero over other citation tools is its longevity. When it comes to making a bibliography, most of us head to our favorite citation creator, type in a list of sources, and copy and paste into our word document. Zotero allows you to create a reusable library of resources. Any time you see a source you may use, you can add it to your libary–and when it comes time to create a bibliography, you can choose the sources that you ended up using. The important part is that the sources you did not use are still stored. Now, if you change your mind or end up researching a similar topic in the future, these sources are still there for your use.

 

Organization

The largest classification in Zotero is called a library; this consists of all of the resources you have ever recorded. However, the various levels of organization in Zotero are yet another facet of its usefulness. Your options include:

  • Folders: Classifications of your sources. Each folder can be synced with Dropbox or shared with a particular group or person.
  • Tags: Each source can be tagged with certain information. Then, you can organize your sources by tag.
  • Notes: Each source can be annotated with information relevant to you and your library.

All of this content is searchable, and even if Zotero does not sense a particular resource, it is possible to right-click on any web page and store it.

 

Great! How do I start?

Head over to http://www.zotero.org to download the plugin. If you do not use Firefox, Chrome, of Safari, there is a standalone application available for Mac, Windows, and Linux. Once the plugin is installed, any time Zotero senses a citable resource, an icon will appear in your URL. Click it and that resource is added to your library. To see your library, double click on the Zotero icon on the bottom of your Browser. There, you can set up folders, tags, notes, and more.

 

Once you have all of your sources, select as many as you want to cite and right click to create a bibliography. Go forth and cite!

 

 

 

Tech Tuesday: Gamification

As the use of information technology continues to spread, and become uniform with our everyday lives, so do the distractions that go along with it. I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all spent a few hours here or there playing games. Many might consider this time “wasted”, so what are we really getting out of it? For some, it might be relaxation, the completion of a goal, simply for completion. A perceived success, to fulfill our basic human need for fulfillment. For others, it may be a form of expression, or creativity. An interesting trend that has developed, is the use of games in ways that can lead to productive, or directly useful results.

In Education

An example of this idea was put to the test in a web application called DuoLingo. In this free software, you can play easy, interactive games to learn, or enhance the learning of a second language. In an independent study, it was shown that with dedicated, and regular use of the app, a “student” could be as successful as if attending a college level language course(and typically in less time DuoLingo Study).

One Public School in New York City takes this approach, and applies it to their entire curriculum in a bold step towards rethinking the education process. QuestToLearnsupports a uniquely vibrant learning community that brings together students, educators, game designers, curriculum specialists and parents. This community is committed to student success with a singular focus, but also recognizes that student success ultimately depends on the commitment of each and every community member to his or her own continuous learning and participation.

In SocialMedia

You probably have or have at least have heard of  Facebook, the biggest social platform in the world. But have you noticed that it uses a system of gamification facilitate it’s use? Friend count, likes, pokes, and actual Facebook gaming platforms, are just some of the ways in which Facebook get’s it’s users engaged, and enthralled. Other sites like twitter and Stack Overflow use points and badge systems to keep incentivise users to stay or become active.

While gamification can be used to help the spread of knowledge, and information, there have also been incidences where it’s actually been used to solve problems, and create new knowledge. A game called FoldIt designed out of the University of Washington used a crowd-sourcing game to find more efficient ways of folding proteins. A science paper published in Nature magazine states that the results from the game actually outperformed algorithmically computed solutions.

While much debate is still going on about the true nature, benefits, and deficits of gamification, it is a trend which will only increase with the continued development of electronic informational technology.

 

AT Fridays by Hao Wan

Great opportunities and mentors

 

As a second year AT fellow, I cherish the great opportunity to learn from and work with smart and friendly mentors and colleagues. Academic Technology has a great potential to boost students’ productivity. By exploring and pitching new tools and applications, AT fellows develop over time a sense of what is good academic technology product, and how to design/program softwares that promote learning in a user-friendly way. The presentations and workshops also give me the opportunity to reach out to the community, sharing ideas with users and figure out which part of a certain technology is easy/hard to grasp.

 

Majoring in Math and Computer Science, I enjoy learning new programming tools through exciting projects. One project that I have been working on is a Java program that test trunk site’s usability. Started with Selenium, a Firefox web browser plugin which allows you to record your series of interaction with the website (Trunk in my case), I firstly build a Selenium test script in HTML, and then port it to Java. The interesting lies in the conversion. Having not used Java before, I learned from scratch how to build the Junit test program with Eclipse. While transforming the HTML to Java, there are quite a bit of syntax from Selenium library that is no longer supported by the new Firefox browser. It is challenging to figure out unconventional methods for testing. Thanks to my great mentors, I have a much smoother learning experience. The guidance always points me in the right direction and gives me plenty resources to learn. After building the Java program, the next step was to integrate it with Jenkins, a continuous integration server that allows periodic building/running/testing of programs. It is exciting to see how your program can run automatically, once the schedule is determined by you. Through this experience, I have a overview of software development flow. I’m truly grateful to the learning opportunity.

 

There are other exciting projects AT fellows are working on. Not restricted to programming, we have an exposure to a diverse set of learning opportunities and challenges. I’m looking forward to another year in the nurturing environment!

Tech Tuesday: By Hao Wan

The trilogy of office apps on Iphone

The dominance of Microsoft Office suit on Desktops and laptops has made me wonder when the time of change will come. With the rising need for mobile word/statistics editing and reading, the general public, especially students and business people, may find the trilogy of apps made by Apple a powerful revolution in the word processor industry.

The three musketeers are: Pages, Keynote, and Numbers.

Pages possesses a similar functionality as the Microsoft Word. The great advantage lies in its portability: you can edit your term paper on a train or plane, with or without internet access. Moreover, it is not just a diluted version of Word. Instead, it has a more concise interface and easy control even on a 4 inch phone screen. The best part comes with its templates: there are well designed templates that satisfy you daily work needs; moreover, the templates are expandable through purchasing when you need something even more amazing.

Keynote is like the powerpoint. If Pages is something that help you efficiently use your time on the transportation or holiday, Keynote is more critical in the sense that it gives you more time to prepare for presentations that usually requires a shorter preparation span compared to writing academic papers. Like Pages, you can use templates to speed up the editing process, and review the slides by playing it. The visual effects are comprehensive and impressive, which, if adequately used, may elevate your presentations to a great height.

Lastly, the Numbers enables you to make spreadsheet and manipulate numerical/text data in a table format. Simple to use, easy to read. Documents from all the three apps can be conveniently emailed, printed, opened in another app, or copied to iTunes in various commonly used formats. That is why we don’t need to worry about the integration of such documents with other word processors.

Have fun editing, and enjoy the higher efficiency brought to you by the abovementioned apps!