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Tag: mobile

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 fun part about having these gadgets is figuring 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 the internet of things, to work together. I use 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 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 the car. This recipe turns on the Nest thermostat when my car, which has Automatic, is detected within a certain distance from home.

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

4) Twitter favorite creates a note in Evernote. This recipe creates an Evernote containing the tweet I marked as a 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 commands 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 a 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, have 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’s 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 these technologies, and so as I do these experiments, I think about the implications. 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 their use of them, one must have real-world experience with them. Just like golf, there’s no substitute for 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!

Photo credit:

Resistance to Social Media Amongst Student Affairs Professionals

I worry when I hear other student affairs colleagues I come across online and face-to-face say they don’t believe in social media because they’re a fad and/or they don’t see the value in these tools. I worry when I hear comments like “I don’t use Facebook, I don’t see why others are using it” or “I don’t see the value of social media in how we do business in student affairs. They don’t provide any additional value.” My concern is that some of the resistance to social media seems to come from the perspective of “what’s in it for me” instead of considering these tools from student perspectives. This is the type of selfish perspective that worries me. I consider this selfish because folks who think this way think of their needs and place their value systems first instead of those they serve. There are those whose minds cannot be changed regardless of countless pieces of evidence about the impact and use of social media amongst the student population. Social media are more than about technology. To appreciate social media, one must consider how these tools impact communication, relationships, community building, engagement, learning, identity, and personal/career development. As student affairs professionals and educators, aren’t these the same issues, we must consider when serving the needs/wants of our students?

Before I continue, some of those reading this will argue that not every student uses social media and not every student uses mobile devices. That is true; just walk around campuses, and you’ll observe many students using these technologies. Pew Research and ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2013 also confirm our students’ high use of social media, mobile, and other technologies.

I hear this type of thinking too many times, what I call “legacy thinking,” wherein folks reminisce and try to impose/apply them today. This is not only limited to how they approach social media but to other technologies and how students live their lives today. But at some point, we must adopt the attitude of “it’s not about me; it’s about the students.” Do I expect everyone to become experts and accept every technology blindly? Of course not. I personally examine technology with cautious optimism. But, if we are not open to examining the potential benefits and pitfalls of social media, how can we educate and model to our students how to take advantage and conduct themselves appropriately using these tools? As student affairs professionals, regardless of our personal beliefs and biases against social media, we should probably try to understand what social media means in terms of our professional responsibilities and consider them from students’ perspectives.

If there’s a message I would like to tell these folks, it would be to learn a little bit about social media, if not for themselves, but for the sake of the students they serve.

Using Social Media And Mobile for New Student Orientation

Summer orientation programs for many universities have either started or about to start. These orientation programs introduce incoming students and their families to the university through a series of events and activities.  Universities can take advantage of mobile and social media to enhance the orientation experience of these new students. [pullquote]According to a study released in April 2012 on mobile internet use by Pew Research, 46% of American adults (18+) own a smartphone.[/pullquote] The research organization comScore estimates that 30% of mobile users, with almost 40 million in the US, access social networking sites daily on their mobile phones. Orientation programs can also benefit by using these technologies to gather attendee feedback as well as for their staff to document their experience.

Listed below are a few ideas to start with and I would love to hear your ideas as well.

Customer Support

  • “Listen” to conversations on social networks related to your program. Use Google Alerts to be notified either via email or to an rss reader when keywords you define appear on the web. Another site to use is SocialMention.
  • Answer questions on a facebook page or create an account/ hashtag on twitter for attendees to follow and use.
  • Provide real-time information such as change of venues/schedules.
  • Provide guides to attendees such as schedules and map for mobile devices. An example is Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) use of  Guidebook.


Community Building

  • Use groups or facebook apps like Inigral Schools App to provide attendees the forum to connect based on interests and demographics. Providing new students the opportunity to connect even before they attend orientation makes their experience more comfortable as they already know other students.
  • Software like OrgSync provide universities  to build communities amongst incoming students as well. In addition, orientation staff can communicate with the students via email and text messages as well as collect feedback from orientation leaders and students alike.
  • Utilizing student leaders as social media ambassadors is a good way to welcome and introduce incoming students to the campus.

Event Coverage

  • Staff and attendees can use twitter backchannels to ask/share additional information related to the topic discussed at the events. Through the backchannels, Orientation staff can also get some feedback on how the attendees perceived the events.

Document Events/Experience

  • Orientation staff (including students) can document their experience, lessons learned for assessments and future staff using blogs and wikis.
  • Curate attendees’ comments/feedback/experience provided on various social networks using Storify. Christopher Conzen (@clconzen) uses Storify to document his NASPA Region II MidManager’s Institute experience.

General Campus Info/Other Uses

  • Provide campus mobile websites to campus services, maps, academic information (schedule of classes, course catalog) so attendees can browse while they are waiting for events and while they are registering for courses. Browse through a higher ed mobile directory by Dave Olsen (@dmolsen) to get an idea of how universities are using mobile.
  • Provide staff with mobile devices and mobile applications to conduct business away from their desks. These could include: check-in/check-out, access student information, communicate with other staff (via text, email, twitter, etc), access to schedules and other program info.

Orientation programs are where new students get introduced to their upcoming  university lives and academic careers.  Campuses should use this opportunity to educate the students with the concept of digital identity and how their activities online can have both negative and positive impacts on their careers, rather than waiting until they are about to graduate from their universities. Eric Stoller (@ericstoller) introduces this idea on his blog post  Digital Identity Development: Orientation and Career Services.

While I offer some suggestions on using social media and mobile for Orientation use, I am cognizant of the fact that not all students have access nor the resources and familiarity to utilize these technologies. Orientation programs should use these technologies appropriately and not severely disadvantage some students by not providing the essential services to all.

What other ideas can you suggest?

New School Year, New Opportunities – Exciting Times Ahead!

School year just started and I am excited, really excited and optimistic about the prospect of what my team and my organization can accomplish this year. We’re going through perhaps the biggest project our department has ever undertaken, the conversion of our mainframe-based student information system to .net environment.  This project is in addition to multiple enterprise projects throughout the entire Student Affairs division. With the decreasing budget and changing demands and expectations of our customers, technology have become more central to the operations of the departments. Personally for me, I am excited with the challenge and opportunities of  merging consumer technologies (social media, cloud computing, mobile) with enterprise IT. I think the last time I saw this much shift at work is back in the mid-1990’s with the advent of the web.  There were paranoia about security, employees wasting time on the web, or if web was of even any value to  our organization. But just as I am seeing the same fears and concerns, I also see the same curiosity,  grassroots adoptions and even some level of  formal institutional adoptions of these  consumer technologies. The reality is that the demographics of those we serve in student affairs have changed and along with these changes are the expectations of more agile, more open systems.The students we serve are far different from those in the 1990’s. Our students grew up with technologies that we did not even envision back then. The rise of social media as we know it now, arguably, could be traced back to when friendster came to existence in 2002.  The creation of facebook in 2004 and twitter in 2006 further changed the social media landscape. With the increased and more robust wireless infrastructure and cheaper mobile devices, the way our society communicate is far different.

I wrote a blog post a few months ago that for social media to thrive in our institution, it has to be formally adopted.  Since then, our organization has created a formal position to coordinate divisional efforts to advance the adoption of consumer technologies.  Just as I had suggested in the same blog post, our organization has created a productivity/security group composed of individuals representing different perspectives to properly assess the integration of these technologies for business use and to address the challenges of accommodating the needs of individual users for flexibility with the needs of the enterprise.

In addition to social media, my team has begun to explore and develop mobile web sites. Using the UCLA Mobile Framework, we are exploring how we can use it within our existing content management system. Personally, I have learned a lot the last few months on the principles of mobile web development.  I truly believe mobile devices has begun and will continue to significantly alter how universities do business.  By taking advantage of the features of mobile devices such as geolocation, multiple inputs (QR Codes, NFR, location, gestures) and the fact that they are widely available even in the poorest sections of the world, in my opinion, more and more business transactions will be conducted via mobile devices.

Just as it was in the mid 1990’s for me when I woke up with a book about web development in my hand and go to sleep with it, going to sleep at 4 am, spending every night learning about how to develop web applications, I find myself in the same situation now. I wake up every morning to find some new knowledge via social media, new ideas I want to research, new applications I want to build. I go to sleep with ideas in my mind on what technologies mean to me, to my work.  It truly is an exciting time and I’m just enjoying the ride!


My Social Learning Network + Entertainment Using Social Media, Cloud, Mobile

Update: I presented on the topic of Alternative Professional Development to the UCSB NASPA Undergrad Fellowship Program (NUFP) on April 6, 2012 which included the materials below. Presentation on slideshare.

I wrote about the benefits I have gotten from social media here,  Powered by Twitter: Social Media Experience of a Student Affairs Techie. These benefits include meeting colleagues in student affairs and technology professionals from all over the United States and Canada as well as learning from others via blogs, twitter, facebook and now google+. Below is a diagram how I access and manage contents I come across from different social media platforms as part of my personal learning network and for entertainment. Image below links to the pdf diagram.


What of these social media sites do you use? How are you using social media as a personal learning tool? Any other sites you could recommend for me to use?

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