Category Archives: Google Glass

IFTTT for Integrating Cloud, Mobile, Wearable, Social Media, and Internet of Things

IFTTT for iPhone - Intro Screen 01I like gadgets and discovering how I can use them beyond how they come out of the box. One of the fun part about having these gadgets is trying to figure out how to integrate them with other devices and services. This is where IFTTT (If This Then That) comes in. IFTTT is a service that through triggers and actions can enable different devices and services including cloud, mobile, wearable computing, social media, and internet of things to work together. I use these technologies including Evernote, Dropbox,  iPhone/iPad/Samsung Galaxy Note, Fitbit, Pebble watch, Google Glass, Nest Thermostat, Automatic app, and various social media platforms. I’ve experimented with some IFTTT “Recipes”, a combination of triggers and actions, just for fun and to see what I can actually use for productivity. Listed below are a few of the recipes I’ve used:

1) Fitbit activities to Google Drive. This recipe saves daily activity summaries to a spreadsheet on Google Drive.

2) Automatic/Nest Thermostat – turn on Nest with car comes home. This recipe turns on Nest thermostat when my car, which has Automatic, is detected within a certain distance from home.

3) Automatic/Nest Thermostat – turn on fan for 15 minutes when car is home. This is similar to #2 above.

4) Twitter favorite creates a note in Evernote. This recipe creates an Evernote that contains the tweet I have marked as favorite.

While this post is about IFTTT, I also want to mention an application I have used to issue commands to my Nest Thermostat using voice command from my Google Glass. As this page shows, this app called “Google Glass App for the Nest” can be used to issue different commands which include adjusting the Nest thermostat temperature to certain temperature.

Klout recently gave me a Parrot mini-drone as a “perk”. Currently, there are no IFFFT recipes published for it but just like the Google Glass App for Nest, I wonder if I can control the mini-drone with Google Glass. It seems some companies, including this one, has tried it.

It’s fun trying to integrate these technologies through IFTTT and other means. I do them mainly to explore what is possible for entertainment’ sake. Sometimes they work and sometimes they do. But, I do explore these possibilities as part of my thinking of what the future may hold. There are ethical and privacy considerations with the use of these technologies and so as I do these experiments, I think about what the implications are. As I mentioned in this blog post about why I decided to buy Google Glass, to truly understand how these technologies work and the implications behind the use of them, one must have real-world experience with them. Just like golf, there’s no substitute to actually swinging a golf club to understand how a swing works.

Going back to IFTTT, there are thousands of recipes for you to try. Check it  out and have fun with it!

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Technologies, Assessment, and the Future of Student Affairs

Technology is already a significant component in all facets of student affairs. Technology has played a role in student affairs for several decades as Kevin Guidry shares in this blog post about student affairs technology competency.  Moving forward, the new types of technologies and how quickly they evolve will pose challenges and opportunities. This blog post includes what I see as changes in the landscape of consumer technologies and how campus information system providers will need to change their approach in designing applications for devices and how end-users may interact with systems in ways they don’t do today. It will also talk about assessment, the limitations of current systems towards a complete analysis and evaluation of data from different sources, and how to potentially overcome these constraints.

The future of student affairs will include consumer technologies including mobile, data, sensors, social media, cloud, wearable computing, and location-based systems. This possibility is by no means a stretch if one is to consider what already exists outside the world of academia and follow consumer technology trends. I’ve written a couple of  blog posts about possible scenarios in the near future of student affairs using technologies I mentioned above. This blog post and this also talks about how I think wearable computing, specifically Google Glass, can be used in student affairs. The use of consumer technologies can no longer be ignored by IT and other campus service providers. For one, there are privacy, policy, and ethical considerations that must be addressed as data freely from one device to another enabled by cloud services (Dropbox, Google Drive, etc) and increasing availability of internet connectivity. In addition, the design and development of campus systems must consider how consumers of these systems expect them to work. As it is, legacy systems designed before the wide use of mobile are not mobile-friendly, and campus IT and vendors are still spending their time retro-fitting these systems to provide mobile interfaces.

As the development of enterprise campus systems like learning management systems, residential management systems, student information systems, and other administrative systems take years to complete, it’s probably wise to think ahead of what consumer technologies may  be available two or three years from now and design for them. I believe one of the major considerations when designing these systems is how users interface with the systems. Most systems available now are through graphical user interface (GUI) such as web sites. However, developers must also think about presenting systems through Conversation User Interface (CUI) which provides user interaction through voice. Apple’s Siri, Google Now, and Microsoft’s Cortana are three technologies that are now available via CUI.In addition to GUI and CUI, developers must also provide users the ability to interface with systems using gestures, which I consider to be part of the Natural User Interface (NUI) approach. Consider the fact that a user can now wink when using Google Glass to take pictures or that a user can use Leap Motion or Kinect to control objects on a screen.

Another consideration is the possibility of how data that may have been designed for a specific use today may be used differently in the future. For this reason, it’s wise to design applications to provide these data through services that can be consumed separately and in ways that may not have been thought of before. For example, one set of data that is commonly used across student systems is student demographic data. While in the past, this set of information may have only existed on the campus student information system (admissions, registrar, financial aid), increasingly, functional systems (judicial affairs, housing, etc) often provided by vendors, are now using this information for operational use as well as for assessment/reporting purposes. The older (and most likely used today) is to provide extracts of this data set, and send it to departments responsible for managing these systems via text files, which they then import. A more effective way would be to expose these data through API (application programming interface) including web service which can be used by these other systems without manual actions, given proper permissions.

One topic that has gotten more attention in student affairs and involves enterprise systems that cross campus units is assessment. The need for assessment is because of the seemingly greater need for accountability by the government in light of questions surrounding the purpose/effectiveness of higher education as well as to show the value of the work student affairs do. This is in addition towards efforts by departments to improve how they conduct their business (operational) and how effective they are towards meeting student learning outcomes. A major obstacle towards a complete campus assessment, or just within student affairs, is the fact that so many of the systems including student health, counseling, judicial affairs, disabled student programs and other student service systems are not designed to be able to seamlessly communicate and exchange data with each other. This is one of the challenges I discussed in this blog post about Higher Education and Data Liquidity. Moving forward, there has to be a way for these separate systems to be able to communicate and exchange data. At the least, there has to be a way to combine these data into a central database for analysis. One approach to solve this issue would be to have common data format that these systems can use, similar to a common eTranscript system by Parchment which enables high schools and colleges to exchange transcripts electronically. Additionally, a proposal I had recommended is to create a common markup language that can be used across all types of learning institutions. This is a learner centered approach which accounts for the fact that students are no longer receiving or completing their education from a single place, also called the student swirl.

It would also be wise for student affairs practitioners as well as IT departments providing support to student affairs units to lead the discussion when it comes to how vendors should design their systems to overcome the constraints above. As it is, there really are not too many vendors focusing on student services who are developing systems that can accommodate the needs of student affairs as whole. A company that can do this would need to have domain expertise in areas within student affairs that are so distinct (student health vs residential life) from each other to be able to develop systems that go beyond just a department or two. I think NASPA and ACPA, the two student affairs national organizations, should lead this charge as they should have a better perspective on what the general needs are across institutions. In leading this charge, they need to work with other organizations representing specific functions within student affairs to understand the specific needs within these areas. These organizations include but not limited to  AACRAO, ACUI, ACUHO-I, and NACE to name a few.

There are so many more topics and questions to discuss when it comes to the use of technology in student affairs. This post is just a small piece of that discussion, though I hope it provided readers, like you, some ideas and questions to think about when it comes to the future of student affairs.

Exploring Google Glass for Higher Ed and Student Affairs

google-glassA student saw my Google Glass the other day and asked me “Is it worth it?” It’s no secret the price of the device is $1500. My short response – “yes, I consider it an investment.” I’m not rich enough to have bought Google Glass for the purpose of showing off and just to have a new toy. Actually, I have several reasons as to why I decided to commit my money towards this device. It’s the same reason as to why I spend so much time using social media and on my mobile devices. They are integral to my work and my life-long learning. I may be mistaken but I believe wearable computing and internet of things (pervasive/ubiquitous computing) will be part of the next wave of technologies that as a higher education technology professional, I will need to be ready for. I bought Google Glass as part of my preparation and to learn more about these technologies that will become more common sooner than we think. These technologies will bring new opportunities and challenges in higher education in the way we conduct our business and how we provide support and environment towards student learning. Privacy, ethics, confidentiality issues need to be considered and policies will need to be adjusted. Frankly, I don’t know what to expect as I learn how Google Glass works. What  I do know is that part of learning involves encountering new ideas that will lead me to questions which will (re)-direct me to new topics I may not have considered before. Google Glass provides me with hands-on experience to help me in the learning process.

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My First Days with Google Glass

“Is that Google Glass? Does it recognize my face and can you see my criminal records?” These are the first questions I received on my first day wearing Google Glass as my wife and I walked towards the Monterey Bay Aquarium during our holiday break. I figured this would be a good place to wear them for the first time since picking up the device from Google’s Venice Beach office the week before.  I felt self-conscious and unsure of how folks around me would react. I was pleasantly surprised that while folks at the aquarium gave me a look of curiosity, I didn’t hear any negative remarks. From what I’ve read online and from my conversation with the Google employee who provided me hands-on training, people’s reactions vary. I also expected at some point to be called a “glasshole“. What  I didn’t expect was that I’d be called by this name from another higher ed technologist I really admire after posting a picture of my wife and I on facebook, a platform I had found to be a safe place for sharing my personal experience. The comment made me think twice about bringing the device to our family holiday party so I ended up keeping them at home. I did regret that decision just because I wasn’t able to capture much of the fun moments we had as a family throughout the night, especially during the white elephant game.

My initial experience with Google Glass is in some ways similar when I started speaking about wearable computing, mobile, social media, cloud, and even the web way back in the mid-1990′s. Some folks were excited and there were those skeptical of the new “fad//toy/useless/wasteful to business” technologies. Given how visible Google Glass is on one’s face, the potential benefits as well as potential ethical/privacy issues it represents, I think opinions on both sides will be stronger this time. In a conversation with a friend, I mentioned how Google Glass could be used for photojournalism and immediately, his response was “or voyeurism” to which I immediately agreed to this unfortunate possibility.

I bought Google Glass for professional and personal reasons. Professionally, I want to explore how this device could be used in student affairs and in higher ed. I’d like to connect with other folks who are already thinking on the applications of Google Glass in higher ed. The ability to play around with the device itself has certainly helped me think more about the possibilities. One function I’ve found useful is the ability to take photos through the wink feature while I’m on the go. It’s really convenient to take photos without having to take my iphone out of my pocket.

I also bought Google Glass for personal reasons, primarily for golf. I’m curious as to how I could use it to improve my swing at the driving range. Apparently, I have a tendency to sway and move my head a lot and this is not a good thing. Using Google Glass to record my movement while I’m swinging should help analyze these problems. Another use is for GPS on the course. Two days ago, I tried using it with the available golf glassware on the course, with not much luck. Given my limited experience with Google Glass the last two weeks, here are my initial observations:


-Easy to learn. While there’s some learning curve involved, I was quickly able to figure out the basic gestures (back, forward, down swipes, tap) and voice commands for the device to be usable. Connecting the device to my iphone (personal hotspot/bluetooth) and with my wi-fi weren’t too difficult either. There were very specific steps involved, which includes pointing the Google Glass to a QR Code to connect it to the network,  so I just made sure not to miss any steps.

- It fits comfortably and adjusting it is very easy. The frame is made with titanium and so it’s strong and malleable.

- The wink feature, just recently added, is by far my favorite and most convenient to use. That  I didn’t have to take my iphone out nor did I have to issue a voice command “OK Google take a picture” to take photos is nice.

- Social media sharing. There are two ways to share photos/videos. First option is to “Send” to an individual who is in your Google+ contact. The second option is to “Share” to twitter or facebook. I’ve been able to share a photo via twitter (tagged with #throughglass) but I’m still figuring out how to share on facebook. I suspect this is because I have two-factor authentication enabled.

- Screencasting. The guest feature, which allows a Google Glass owner to share the device to others without exposing their personal information, has been disabled with the newest version. Screencasting, a feature which allows the display of what is on the Google Glass screen on a paired mobile device on the same network, is very convenient for demos.

- Google Support. My experience with the support team have been superb since I first inquired how to be on the Explorer Program months ago. Whether through their twitter account (@googleglass), via e-mail, phone calls, and the staff at the Google office, I’ve received very timely, professional, and friendly support.


- I wear prescription glasses without them, the smaller text are hard to see as they are blurry. I will now have to use contact lenses for me to use the device. Another option, which I’ve already signed up for is to get a prescription eyeglasses for Google Glass.

- Wink feature doesn’t work with the shades on. While this should have made sense to me, I had to laugh at myself for not realizing this would not work since the camera could not detect my wink behind the shades. The problem with this is that I will most likely need the shades to see the screen better when I’m outside, like playing golf. I would like to use the wink feature, but it will not work.

- The case is a little bulky. The device doesn’t fold like a regular pair of glasses so it’s stored in a

Given my limited experience with Google Glass, I have many features to learn and I will be sharing them in the future as I use them.

As I’ve done with new technologies I’ve come across during my professional life, I look at Google Glass not only from a technologist’s perspective but from one who is curious about the sociological implications of this device. How will folks interact with me and what concerns will they bring up? I also try to look at this device from a student affairs perspective. As wearable computing becomes more prevalent, how will these devices change the way students communicate, how they build relationships, and how do they impact their identities in the way they represent themselves to others? How can we use these devices as part of our work? What ethical/legal/policy/privacy issues need to be considered?

Disrupting My Own Thinking

I don’t know about you, but I’m so busy at work just trying to keep up with what we need to build and maintain existing systems for our customers, it’s hard to see what’s coming ahead even a year ahead of us. Projects I work on take months, even a couple of years to build and I’m working on many of them at a time. I’m very busy managing. I think this is the issue posed by Clayton Christensen about disruptive innovation. Organizations miss emerging technologies/opportunities beyond their horizon because they’re too busy trying to meet the demands of their current customers. I can definitely relate to this.

If I don’t read books, blog posts, tweets, collaborate with folks outside work, I don’t think I would  even know about the larger issues and trends impacting higher education like MOOC, online learning, and student financial debt crisis. I work to satisfy the needs of our university students and our customers  but I read/communicate outside my university work to keep up with larger issues.

In a way, my interactions/experience with my personal learning network (PLN) which consists of higher education professionals and those outside higher education are what I use to disrupt my day-to-day, localized thinking. There are many ideas, programs I would like to implement at work but the reality is that I first need to satisfy what our customers demand and need. Does that mean I don’t think about new ways to meeting these demands? I absolutely think about new/improved ways, but they cannot be disruptive to a point where what I do severely impacts how they serve their customers in the process. They are incremental improvements. I believe in the idea of learning through failing, but “failures” do cost resources and money so when we implement or try new programs, we better start out with some thoughtful approach and define what we need to accomplish, we just can’t be trying new things just for the sake of experimenting. After all, our salaries and resources we use come from students and their families.

So, I go back to the idea of using my PLN and my experience outside my work to explore new ideas, to dream beyond possibilities, and to disrupt my own thinking. I was in with a twitter conversation about technology and graduate programs earlier tonight that got me thinking about the future of student affairs profession. I write this post, I am looking at my Pebble smart watch and waiting for my invite for a Google Glass. I’m thinking about buying this Estimote Beacon and combine it with Leap Motion to experiment with the idea of geo-fencing in my home. These are wearable and sensor technologies that I can’t see us using at work anytime soon (though I think they’ll be as common as smart phones the way it is now). But, it does not mean I can’t dream about what it may be like a few years from now either and imagine a campus so different from what I see now.