Where technology meets the liberal arts

Changes to Google Maps Engine (Pro is free!)

December 4th, 2014 | Posted by jcm in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Changes to Google Maps Engine (Pro is free!))

In a post from last May, I wrote a little bit about the awesome that is Google Maps Engine.  Back then it had two license levels: Lite and Pro.  Lite was free for everyone, Pro cost $60/year to subscribe to.  But the differences were relatively small and annoying, since it wasn’t always obvious that you could do something in Pro and you couldn’t in Lite, and really, there wasn’t enough additional functionality in Pro to justify the money.  This was also especially frustrating when, say, an instructor had Pro, and their students only had Lite, and people were trying to share work and do group projects.

Evidently Google agreed that this was a dichotomy not worth keeping.  They’ve made two major changes.  The first is that Google Maps Engine is out of beta, and has taken the place of the old My Maps service– GME has been renamed My Maps (but it still answers to Google Maps Engine for now). The second, and far more cool, is this– Google has incorporated all Pro functions into MyMaps, and stopped charging for them.


What does this mean for us?  The big one is up to 10 layers can be added to each map.  You can now import spreadsheets with up to 2,000 locations, have up to 25,000 map views, and have access to a measuring tool that works.  Got questions about My Maps or anything else mappy?  Drop Jason Menard, the Geospatial Instructional Technologist a line (he answers to Map Guy as well).

Map on, Oles!

St. Olaf Extra: Opting In & Opting Out

November 14th, 2014 | Posted by aarsvoln in IT News | Tech Tips - (Comments Off on St. Olaf Extra: Opting In & Opting Out)

newspaper-extraMost Oles are familiar with stolaf-extra, where goods, services and rides are bought, sold and swapped.  We’ve even seen hedgehogs find new homes on Extra.  What people are sometimes not as familiar with is how to get on and off Extra,

Students must opt in to receive Extra– they are not automatically on the list.  Faculty and Staff members are automatically added to Extra when their accounts are created.

How both groups of users deal with subscriptions to Extra, however, is the same – Account Services.  At St Olaf, Account Services is your one-stop stop to change your password, work with your email aliases, and change your Extra subscription.  To get there, go to the St Olaf home page, and click either Current Students or Faculty and Staff.  On both pages, you will see a number of links under Computing.  Account Services should be the first link under Computing.

Click on it, then use your St Olaf username and password to log in.  You have a number of options, but the important one here is on the lower-left of the window under Mailing Lists.  You’ll see that stolaf-extra has its very own opt-in/out-out link in this section.  You can toggle yourself in and out of the list as you please, and Account Services will always tell you your Extra status– if you’re subscribed to Extra or not.

Any questions or problem? Call us at x3830, or send us email: helpdesk@stolaf.edu. Follow us on Twitter @StOlafIT.

Jason Menard, Geospatial Instructional Technologist

Making a Short Film for the Halloworst Film Festival

November 7th, 2014 | Posted by Paige in Technology Tools - (Comments Off on Making a Short Film for the Halloworst Film Festival)

final cut

Over the weekend (10/18/14 & 10/19/14), I filmed and edited a short film for the 2014 St. Olaf Halloworst Film Festival (embedded below). The films are expected to be horrible, but I still wanted to put an effort into mine; I figured, “If I’m going to take the time to make a short film, why not make it good?”. With that in mind, I decided to use some film equipment that was more advanced than what I had been accustomed to. I was able to accomplish that by renting out equipment from the Media Lab, where I’m an intern (I happen to work there, but anyone is able to check out equipment once they’ve taken a short instruction session on how to use it). I was able to check out a Canon XA10 video camera, wireless lavalier microphone, tripod, and reflector kit; I also checked out a handheld stabilizer, but I ended up not using it. The media lab is a great resource for borrowing film equipment free of charge and for editing your creations. With access to it, I was able to make Siren a quality short film.


Unfortunately, like all budding filmmakers, I had a few limitations. Seeing as I was making a film on such short notice, I was unable to find others to help me with it. I was responsible for every aspect of this film: the acting, filming, editing, and everything in between. With that in mind, I wrote a script that only required one person.  In one scene, however, I required two characters, but I only needed one actor to portray them. The power of editing is truly something (the software I use is called Final Cut Pro X, and I highly recommend it). Not only was I limited in actors, but also in crew members. Instead of having people hold the various equipment, I used a tripod, some books, and a beanbag chair. On the second day of shooting (the outdoor scenes), my friend Limi graciously offered to hold up a reflector in front of the sun so I wasn’t too lit. I know, they are normally used to do the opposite, but it was quite bright out that day, and I wanted it look like it was at least past midday. I did, however, use the reflector for its correct purpose on the first day of shooting (the indoor scenes), but without someone there to hold it up and angle it, the scenes turned out darker than I expected, but still brighter than they would have been without it.


The editing of my short film, Siren, was my favorite stage of production. I want to be a film editor, so it was right up my alley. I actually started editing before I even began filming; I inserted music and sound effects into a new project in Final Cut to create a background for my scenes, and I ended up acting in accordance to the layers of sound, making sound a more prominent element (in my opinion) than the images in the film. Through editing, I also managed to make the outdoor scenes a bit darker and the indoor scenes more consistently colored. Final Cut also allowed me to put effects on both the videos and the sounds in my short film, making the end result much better. The final product was also strengthened by the scene in which I appear to have a twin/clone. It was very simple to accomplish the effect; I just made sure not to move the camera as I filmed from each character’s perspective, making the background remain consistent. Then in Final Cut Pro, I layered one shot over the other and cropped it until the character in the other shot could be seen completely. If the eye-lines didn’t match up during parts of the conversation, I would crop the shot of a character talking to a medium close up / close up and have it take up the entire frame. It’s safe to say that without editing, my short film would have been disastrous.



Telling Your Story Through Maps: Storymap JS versus Google TourBuilder

November 7th, 2014 | Posted by Heather Millikan in Digital Humanities | Technology Tools - (Comments Off on Telling Your Story Through Maps: Storymap JS versus Google TourBuilder)


One of the best ways to represent or to help interpret a large collection of information is through visualizing it in some way. In some cases, a good way may be to represent data on a map, allowing you to see the relationship between points or just to show where things are. In order to get familiar with some new ones, I was given the task of experimenting with two different programs: StoryMap JS and Google TourBuilder. Both of these put the story told by your information on a map, whether it be to represent a sequence of events over time, to examine where a point is in relation to other points, or simply to be a nice way to present information. In working with both of them, I discovered that each has a distinct set of strengths and weaknesses that make them each uniquely suited to different goals. Below are my thoughts and experiences with each of the two programs. For a quick side by side comparison, see the inset chart below.

StoryMap JS

StoryMap JS is a gorgeous, simple program with some limitations on the amount of information you can present and little customization. That being said, it is the best option for creative projects that may involve an alternative map (like this one based on the world of Game of Thrones that I think is really cool and really shows off what this program is capable of). You can upload any image you want to use as the base of your map and there are options for the style of map you want it to use (topographical, sketch, watercolor, etc.), which allows for a really nice level of style customization since each type changes the tone and feel of the StoryMap. The program is designed to incorporate lots of types of media, from photos to videos to tweets. The focus is to bring all of the Internet artifacts into one place. This can be helpful in certain situations. For me, it wasn’t used because in my project I was only using photos. The biggest issue I had with StoryMap JS came from the map itself. The only way to change how much of the map is seen and at what angle at any given time is by going in and changing the physical coding of the StoryMap. The other major limitation is on the amount of content per point. As you can see in all of these examples and in comparing my own two, StoryMap allows for one picture or internet artifact per point on the map. This means that you’re limited to selecting the most pertinent photo or tweet about an event or place when multiple might be better. In addition, there isn’t as much space for text. However, if the presentation you’re looking to create is going to have minimal text and you can pick out one piece of media per point, this is by far and away the more professional and better looking of the two, in my opinion.

Examples of Projects Using StoryMap JS:

Journey to Nowhere: Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 10.16.23 AM









Hockey, Hip-Hop, and Other Green Line Highlights

Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 10.20.09 AM


Google TourBuilder

Google TourBuilder has a lot more customization options while still being a simple, easy to use program. While it limits input to photos and videos, the number of attachments allowed is much greater per point on the map (up to twenty-five instead of just one) than StoryMap JS. TourBuilder focuses its attention on the customization of appearance and a longer story. In the area of customization, almost anything can be changed; the marker for points on the map, the types of lines connecting the story, and the zoom/angle at each point is completely customizable. My one warning about this is to be conscious of the physical scope and the different angles that are included because if a viewer moves too fast through the points on the map, sometimes GoogleMaps can’t keep up and the image can get disoriented. To double check, flip through your presentation as if you’re a casual reader and make some adjustments for angles that seem to make things choppy. The other major strength of Google TourBuilder is its ability to tell a long range story. Here, time can become a factor–though it does not have to be–with dates added. This can be a time frame within one day, or across years. There’s more room for text, so more information about each point can be given and the multiple pictures and videos that can be included allow for more aspects to be captured, which is especially important if it’s a longer term story where a single point accounts for multiple days or even years. However, as in the Kanza example below, you can use TourBuilder simply to build a collection of points to give perspective. The presentation does not have to be connected by lines as if it was representing spatial movement like in TimeLine JS. This makes TourBuilder perfect for more in depth research display and to tell a longer term story with lots of details.

Examples of Projects using Google TourBuilder

(these are best viewed in Chrome, due to the required Google Earth Plugin)

The Beginning of Team Rubicon

The Beginning of Team Rubicon Introduction Slide



Kanza Language and Landscape-The Kansas River

Kanza Language and Landscape Introduction Slide



Both of these programs are useful in their own way. They both look good and are simple to use, being that they’re both based in Google Slides. But which should you use? As I showed above, that depends on how you want to use it. If the map is just a hook, a brief glimpse into the story you’re trying to tell, or you have lots of diverse media from the internet, then use StoryMap JS. It looks nicer, is a greater joy to flip through as a viewer, and gives a good taste of what’s to come. If the map is supposed to tell the entire story or at least be a bigger part of it, or you’re looking for greater control over the project, then use Google TourBuilder. Below is a quick sum up of what I discovered to be the five major features/highlights of each program.

StoryMap JS

Google TourBuilder

Aesthetically pleasing Allows for multiple photos or videos
Allows use of diverse internet artifacts Provides options for customization of map tags, connections, and view of map
Makes the artifact a major focal point Makes the map the major focal point
Allows for creative projects like alternative maps Allows for a large amount of text per point
Allows for customization of the look of the map  Optional integration of time into the story told on the map

Below I’ve included almost the exact same project built in both programs. You can see that I’ve taken advantage of having extra photo space in TourBuilder and customized the markers to differentiate days of my trip. You can also really see the difference in how much text each is designed to handle. The project was originally created in StoryMap JS before being moved to and expanded upon in TourBuilder, so the amount of text included on each slide is designed to fit well in StoryMap JS, but seems to short for TourBuilder. Though each had their frustrations, I enjoyed working with both programs and I think either one would be a great tool to show the results of research or the activities of a program.

How the same project looks in both programs:

San Francisco via StoryMap JS

San Francisco 2012 Introduction Slide

San Francisco via Google TourBuilder

San Francisco 2012 Intro Slide










Exploring Nordic Songs

October 17th, 2014 | Posted by pauljn in Library News - (Comments Off on Exploring Nordic Songs)


Most people familiar with vocal music probably recognize the name Edvard Grieg, but what about Agathe Backer-Grøndahl, Halfdan Kjerulf, or Eyvind Alnæs?  During the past fifteen years, Dan Dressen, Associate Provost and Professor of Music, has worked in partnership with the libraries to create one of the country’s largest collections of solo song from all five of the Nordic countries–Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.  Working with librarians, music information centers, and antiquarian dealers in Nordic countries, Dan has located and purchased printed music of solo “art” song for our library collection.  We have begun to digitize the music, and Dan hopes to create a webpage complete with pronunciation guides and more–all to encourage the performance of this little-known repertoire.

Interested in seeing some of what we have?  Music cataloger Kathy Blough has made these resources available by doing the search “Nordic Solo Song Collection” in Bridge.  Most of the collection is available for browsing on the music library shelves and can be checked out.  Why not take some time to get to know some new repertoire as we celebrate our Nordic heritage?  You’ll be glad you did!

–Beth Christensen, Music Librarian  

Lynda and Illustrator

October 16th, 2014 | Posted by Elijah Verdoorn in Digital Humanities | Technology Tools - (Comments Off on Lynda and Illustrator)

elijah logo croppedMy most recent task as a DH Intern this semester has been learning to use Adobe Illustrator and demonstrating my knowledge by making a logo to represent myself. There are numerous ways that I could have gone about starting to learn the program, but I chose to use lynda.com because St. Olaf provides all students with free access. The tutorials can be watched in sequence and used as a sort of lecture, or I found them to be most useful as a means of solving problems I was having and finding the answer to questions as I went. I began with some Photoshop knowledge, so the design environment was not completely foreign to me, allowing me the freedom to play with ideas and attempt to recreate images found in daily life, using Lynda as a reference whenever I did not understand how to get the desired effect. Once I got my bearings and was able to effectively using the interface, I browsed assorted image galleries to get inspiration, looking at trends in logos today. Inspired by the over-the-top nature of comic book logos, I settled on a shield type logo, much like the ones seen here:

The shield logo, I later learned, has been making a resurgence in modern advertising; most designers cite the whimsical feeling that the shape provides as the primary reason for its use, along with its inherent versatility and ease of creation. For my logo project, I used Lynda to learn how to get the binary background effect and how to take an image and have Illustrator trace it for me so that I can use it as a part of my vector graphic. Vector graphics are images that are made of many points and lines, and can be scaled to any size without loosing image quality, making them ideal for designing a set of graphics that are able to be used in a variety of situations, and even across media types such as web and print media. This differs from the other, more popular image type, called raster images. Raster graphics are pixel based, with the computer only being able to scale an image to a certain size before it becomes fuzzy and unclear what the image is a depiction of.

To get an idea of the design process, I also have shared a few screenshots highlighting the interface and the process (click to enlarge):

logo design process 2

This image shows the layers that are used to make a logo like mine, where each layer is a different element of the final product. The tools at the left are ones that I use most often, but others are available and can be found by hovering over the icons that you see.

logo design process 1

The Color selection panels at the right make it very easy to choose a color for various parts of the design, and Illustrator will even suggest color combinations and variations that you may want to use. Also visible is the tracing panel, which I used to cut out the image of the man in the center and turn it into a vector image rather than a raster image, increasing the scalability of the logo as a whole.

Family History Learning Communities

September 17th, 2014 | Posted by pauljn in Library News - (Comments Off on Family History Learning Communities)

Two groups of intrepid up-and-coming genealogists have begun meeting to explore their family histories using the Libraries’ subscription to Ancestry.com. These sessions are open to staff, faculty, emeriti, and students, as well as interested spouses and teens of St. Olaf families. Join Kris MacPherson (Libraries) and Jackie Henry (NAHA) to explore the U.S. Census, vital records, obituaries, published family histories, church and military records, and much more. Interested? Check out our Guide to Family History Research; and email Kris MacPherson (macphers@stolaf.edu) if you’d like to join us. It’s not too late to start! The next session, on vital records, will be held on October 21 or 22, 4:00-5:00 pm in RML 115. -Kris MacPherson

Lynda.com and why you should be using it (according to the DH/IT interns)

June 11th, 2014 | Posted by nelsons in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Lynda.com and why you should be using it (according to the DH/IT interns))

Have you ever wanted to learn how to use a new software program, digital film/audio equipment, or even how make your gmail account more organized? Lynda can help!

UnknownIt’s the DH and IT interns again and this time we want to talk about a great new digital tool that’s available for everyone on campus to use. IIT recently invested in a campus subscription to the online tutorial website, lynda.com. We’re pretty excited about this website in IIT because it has so many helpful software tutorials and training courses. If you just want to learn to edit images in photoshop, lynda.com tutorials can help, but they can also teach you basic and advanced fundamentals. Lynda.com doesn’t just have software tutorials, there are also courses covering business skills, networking, educational software, and even accounting basics.

We hope everyone will take advantage of Lynda’s educational possibilities, but in case you’re still wondering what you can learn with this site, here are some ideas:

  • Learn Adobe design software like Photoshop and InDesign
  • Get caught up with Stats homework with tutorials on R
  • Filter St. Olaf extra emails by learning how to create labels in Gmail
  • Make more engaging presentations with PowerPoint, Prezi and Keynote tutorials
  • Practice graphic design and typography skills by making a Victorian advertisement
  • Learn how to code and customize your websites with CSS
  • Learn how to create 3D models in Blender to be printed with our new 3D printer
  • Create course lessons in iBooks
  • Save money and learn how to photograph your own family portraits
  • Take your pages.stolaf.edu site to the next level with tutorials on WordPress

That’s just a sampling of some of Lynda’s offerings. Click here to log in with the St. Olaf account and start exploring for yourself!

Check out Divi: A Fabulous New WordPress Theme

June 10th, 2014 | Posted by rosem in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Check out Divi: A Fabulous New WordPress Theme)

Hi, we are Lauren, Maddy, and Sonja and we’re all working as Digital Humanities interns this summer. We’ve been exploring WordPress and its possibilities as we develop our own pages.stolaf.edu wordpress sites, and we wanted to share our findings! St. Olaf has recently acquired new WordPress theme options from Elegant Themes. This company offers a wide variety of professional-looking themes, but the Divi theme in particular has become a favorite among the interns as we build our own websites.

Here’s what we like so much about the Divi theme:

  • it’s very user-friendly and includes a built-in “page builder” that allows you to load templates and insert your content and media easily
  • it’s highly customizable- from uploading your own logo to changing color schemes, gallery formats, menu layout, even header position
  • it’s one of their “responsive themes,” meaning the website adapts its layout depending on the device, making it easy to view on tablet or smart phones
  • it’s easy to embed a variety of content- we’ve had fun experimenting with embedding YouTube videos, vimeo videos, and soundcloud clips directly into posts and pages
  • the theme comes with built-in social media icons and it’s easy to link your site with your facebook, twitter, and google + accounts

We’ve all used Divi to build our personal websites, but each has a unique look and feel. Check out examples from our sites of Divi’s theme capabilities:

On the page below, you can see the options for both a main menu and sidebar menu.  Using WordPress, creating menus and dropdowns is as easy as drag and drop.

Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 3.40.32 PMSidebars can be customized to include additional menus, as seen in the “Additional Resources” section of the sidebar.  You also have the option to include any number of widgets in this space. Sonja’s page above demonstrates the ‘calendar’ widget on the bottom of the sidebar and the ‘Recent Posts’ widget in the middle which displays your most recent blog posts.

On Maddy’s media page, she demonstrates the possibilities of the gallery feature in Divi.  The grid format seen below is just one layout option, but offers viewers a broad view of all her images at once.  While the gallery function only displays small thumbnail images, each picture can be enlarged with just a click.


Another Divi feature we like is the ability to display and hide information in a visually-appealing way. For example, on the DHH website designed by the spring interns, tabs allow information to be condensed or expanded for a neat look:

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 4.09.02 PM

These are just a few of the features we like about the Divi theme and if you’d like to learn more or design your own pages.stolaf.edu website with Divi, drop by IT’s open lab from 3:30-4:30 Monday through Thursday.

Your DH interns,

Lauren, Maddy and Sonja



Summer Fun in the Library

May 28th, 2014 | Posted by pauljn in Library News - (Comments Off on Summer Fun in the Library)

Research and Instruction Librarians recently hosted a “Summer Fun” workshop for the St. Olaf community. Are you planning to research your family history? Try out the college’s Ancestry.com subscription. Or do want to find summer reading to download to your mobile device? Why not watch a Puccini opera through Met Opera on Demand or a Ken Burns documentary through Films on Demand? To learn about these resources and more, take a look at our Summer Fun guide!