Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Clickers in Class

For several semesters now I have used PRS (Personal Response System) in my large CS1371 lectures at Georgia Tech (~300 students are enrolled in each lecture, though less than that actually attend). Students respond in real time to multiple choice questions displayed on the projector by clicking a button a a remote-like device. It takes some extra time to create the questions, and definitely slows down the pace of lecture a bit, but from my experience it has seemed to increase engagement (if only anecdotally). This semester, a handful of students cheer every time I say, "and now for a PRS question". Not sure if they are cheering because they are there and thus that means they will get the "participation point" for the day, of if they are cheering because they enjoy the PRS experience. Perhaps this is something I will investigate when I get some time...

Anyway, seems like PRS-like systems are gaining popularity: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/16/education/16clickers.html?_r=2&ref=todayspaper

What do you think about it?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Competition for ASIMO

Back when I was in grad school, I had the honor of dancing with ASIMO, Honda's humanoid robot (yes, that's me wearing that awful outfit in the picture with ASIMO!). 4 years or so later, Toyota has developed their own version. Apparently it can run faster than ASIMO and has better balance. Both robots are very cool, but I still have a special place in my heart for ASIMO :-) Check out the video of Toyota's version...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Cell phones on the the brain - part2

Leave it to my Dad to make me realize how narrow my thinking can sometimes be… perhaps rather than finding safer ways to use my cell phone, I could just limit my use all together. Duh!

This brings up a good point: these days I’m all too quick to depend on gadgets…especially my iPhone. Without it, I wouldn’t remember any phone numbers or birthdates, I wouldn’t know to navigate many parts of Atlanta, and (gasp!) I wouldn’t be able to respond to email nor check my facebook on-the-go.

Thanks, Dad, for being so smart and always encouraging me to think outside the box. Below I’ve included his original email, which was copied to all those I sent my original cell phone warning email to. Hopefully you get the same inspiration from it as I did, or at least a good laugh!

"Kristin, you are killing your dad here!


Life and business was so much simpler and less worrisome before MY generation created the toys you kids grew up with and most believe they cannot live without… the PC… the FAX… the INTERNET… (actually blame Al Gore for that one… according to him:) and then the CELL phone.

The jury is still out whether GPS has created more worry or less… but at least I know where I am on the planet earth when all the above devices are not working and the eventual day that my memory also goes ;>)

The world is counting on all you young brilliant engineer’s and CS people to reverse the havoc that our generation has created with these devices… Think about it… You could all just turn them off…

…LOL and TGIF (almost)

Hope everyone is well and at the least goes back to their “old school wired headset”

Best Regards,
Dave Vadas
VP Engineering Services & Solutions"

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cell phone on the brain

Let me preface this post with saying people who know me well often characterize me as a worry wart. Especially when it comes to health related issues…

Over the past seven years, I have heard two stories that have stuck me and caused me to regularly fret over the thought of cell phone waves penetrating into the bodies of my loved ones (I know, I know, it sounds silly to base fears on such stories):

  • A friend of mine told me her friend died of a brain tumor, and that the doctors it was likely a result of too much cell phone use

  • A guy I used to work with told me his daughter was born with some rare skin disorder and his wife swears it’s because he wore his blackberry on his belt for so many years

Those close to me normally laugh off my neurotic ranting. I swear my husband automatically tunes me out now when I remind him to use his hands free device and to never carry his phone in his pocket. And he laughed when I spoke of an article claiming sleeping with your cell phone on your nightstand messes with your sleep patterns. Just another one of Kristin’s “paranoid delusions”!

All kidding aside, today I read that the chief of the cancer institute of University of Pittsburgh sent a memo to his 3000 employees asking them to limit cell phone use, citing cancer risk. The FDA in return comments that no risk is yet confirmed and that if a risk does exist, it is probably very small.

Do what you want with the info. For now, I'm going to stick to my old-school wired hands-free set and try not to carry my cell phone close to my body.

Monday, June 30, 2008

In loving memory of a hero

Every now and then, something happens that makes you stop for a minute and realize the fragility of life. With all the negative stories broadcasted day in and out, I sometimes feel as though I’ve become desensitized. After all, the tragic stories never directly affect me… at least not until today.

I got a phone call from my dad this afternoon. My dad rarely calls me just to say hi, so in the back of my mind I instantly thought, “oh no”. Right away Dad said, “Kris, have you been watching the news lately?” My mind quickly raced through the headlines I’d glossed over in the past few days as Dad continued to talk, “did you hear about the medic helicopters crashing in Arizona?” It turns out one of the pilots in that helicopter crash was his stepbrother, Pat. I didn’t know Pat that well, as he lived on the west coast and we live on the east, but I do know that Pat was my grandfather’s only birth son. He was a seasoned pilot who has since devoted his time to piloting medical emergency helicopters. And now, he’s gone.

I called my grandpa right away. He sounded so sad. All he could say was, “I can’t believe he’s gone”. I fought to hold back tears as I thought of the helplessness my grandfather must feel. I couldn’t help but feel the pain of being so far from my own family, who lives in New York while I live in Georgia. And I also couldn’t fight the sense of guilt for stressing over what I was again reminded are frivolous decisions and worries in the grand scheme of things.

I am blessed with a wonderful life. A wonderful family, a devoted husband, my health, my faith, and good friends. Yet I spend so much of my energy stressing over career-related decisions. I put so much emphasis on being “successful”, that when I stepped back today and thought about it, I realize maybe I need to adjust my definition of success. Pat left this world doing something he loved, flying, and doing something heroic, helping others. Going forward, I hope I can stay focused on pursuing what makes me happy and what makes a positive impact on the world around me. Life is just too short…

Sunday, November 25, 2007

iPhone Typing and Alternatives to Traditional Tactile Feedback

I read an article a couple weeks ago discussing a study that found iPhone users can type as fast as users of phones with traditional keypads, but they make more mistakes. I found part of these results quite surprising. Given my own experience with the iPhone, I’d certainly agree that iPhone typing is more error prone. However, I wouldn’t have guessed that iPhone typing speeds are on par with other qwerty devices, even with disregard to errors. For me, it seems to require so much more focus and attention to type at all on the iPhone, and I am much slower at typing on the touch screen than I was on my blackberry.

In searching for information about alternative forms of tactile feedback, I stumbled across Immersion, a company that offers tactile feedback for touch screens. Their interfaces add vibration feedback to onscreen interaction: “varying the frequency, waveform, amplitude, and duration of the vibration.” They claim such feedback can decrease “glance time”. This could certainly be useful useful for interacting with interfaces while on –the-go, or multi-tasking in other situations. I'd love to try an Immersion interface out! I wonder if it would improve iPhone typing, or if typing is too granular of a task?...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Conversing with my iPhone

Let me start off my saying I’ve had my iPhone for a little over two months now, and I love it. It’s pretty, it plays music, it lets me talk to my friends… it even wakes me up in the morning. And soon, I’ll be able to develop custom applications for it, too. Cool!

With the announcement of the forthcoming iPhone SDK, I got to thinking: I wonder what the market is for iphone development. What kind of apps will people want? Will it be business related or regular use? What makes the iPhone a better tool than existing smart phones? What makes it worse?

One thing that sticks out to me is the lack of tactile feedback. No physical buttons means a slick pretty package, but at what cost to usability? Ok, so you are not supposed to text while you drive, but what about simply dialing a phone number? With my previous phones, my fingers could feel around the keypad and knowingly push the numbers I needed (thank goodness for all those hours I spent on the phone as a teenager!). I never had to look at the screen until I completed dialing. With the iPhone, I pretty much have to give full visual attention to the screen for each number or letter I type. Interacting with the iPhone definitely does not lend itself to multi-tasking.

Which leads me to one of the first things I’d like to develop for the iPhone with that shiny new sdk: an audio interface. I envision the ability to speak my emails or texts or notes or appointments or phone numbers (you get the picture) into my iPhone. In my vision, iPhone will speak back to me. It will read me my incoming texts or emails, speak to me when I have an upcoming appointment. I will be able to say, “iPhone, call my mom”, and it will ask me, “at work or at home?”.

My masters research on reading on-the-go showed promise for audio interfaces for "reading" passages for comprehension while walking. Particularly, the audio interfaces allowed people to more accurately and fluidly navigate their environments. I wonder if we would see similar results in real-life with an audio interface for the iPhone...