I’m Twittering Now

February 10, 2008 by Josh · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Tech, higher education 

I joined Twitter last week and I am still experimenting to see how useful it is.  I was spurred to join by an article regarding the use of Twitter in Academia on academhack.  I am excited by the aspect of using this as a tool for either academia or for linking constituents back to a cause or institution.  I hope to explore using Twitter this fall when I teach a course at Bluffton University and I’d like to find a method of using Twitter to connect with donors.  Connecting with donors may be trickier but my initial thought is that a donor or supporter can follow an organization on Twitter without divulging their personal information and get the information how they want it using Twitter preferences.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter or look for updates on the left sidebar and be assured I will share my thoughts on using Twitter at a non profit here in the event of any breakthroughs.

How to Handle Your Student Loans

November 7, 2007 by Josh · Leave a Comment
Filed under: How To, higher education 

I just covered how to have fewer student loans, and student loans are not a new topic on Imjosh.com but good advice on student loans is always welcome. Sjeans from Stacking Pennies, guest writes on Get Rich Slowly about how to repay your school loans.

The article covers a multitude of topics which should be required reading for anyone attending college.

Key Points

  • Differing types of loans and their specifics.
  • I have these loans, what do I do? consolidation etc.
  • What to do if you can’t afford your payments?
  • What to do if you CAN afford to make your payments?
  • More points on private loans.

This is an amazing resource and should get you up to speed on what you need to start doing. Remember financial advice doesn’t always work out the same for everyone, but you cannot simply ignore education debt.

Start making a plan, start making payments, start making sacrifices, stop accumulating debt.

A Rough Guide to Repaying Student Loans - Get Rich Slowly

How To Have Fewer Student Loans!

November 6, 2007 by Josh · Leave a Comment
Filed under: How To, higher education 

Ramit from I will Teach You to be Rich, shares an email he recently sent to a friend detailing tips and hints for getting scholarships. The advice is great and for those of you getting your children prepped for school or the high school junior/senior wondering how to pay for an education. For those of you already paying back education loans this will likely inspire a, “doh. Why didn’t I think of that?” moment. Have no fear because your advice is coming shortly.

Ramit writes:

Don’t bother with Fastweb.com. It’s online so there are 2358234 billion people using it, and nobody wins anything from it. Also, don’t ever pay to enter a scholarship.

What I found were a few keys to getting scholarships: Nobody applies, so you have a good chance if you just apply; write a really good essay and have lots of people proofread it (I’m happy to help if you want); know that you can control how good your recommendations are by giving them material and making it easier for them; and interviewing well (more on that once you get the interviews, which I’m sure you will).

Ramit’s best advice is to apply for all the relevant scholarships because even the small dollar ones add up. He recommends many useful resources as well as a game plan for getting started. Getting started Ramit argues is the most important aspect and I agree. In school I applied to 5 or 6 scholarships and walked away with two. If I could go back I would have multiplied that number by 10 to greatly decrease the amount of money I borrowed.

Do you have any scholarship advice? If you could go back to your high school junior self, what would you tell yourself?

Being a College Student Shouldn’t Be This Dangerous

April 17, 2007 by Josh · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Misc., higher education 

I’d like to echo The Snay’s sentiment that today we are all V-tech, “Well, today, we’re all part of the Virginia Tech community — not because this happened at VTech, but rather, because it could happen anywhere.”

This shooting at Virginia Tech is absolutely horrific, and it is greatly disturbing that someone could do this to thier fellow students.  IT is not supposed to be this dangerous to be a college student. College students should be worried about thier Finals, whether they should go to class or nap, or when deferment on their student loans wears off. They shouldn’t have to worry about being shot with an automatic weapon, dieing in a bus crash, or a car crash.

Our thoughts and prayers are with you!

Cutting Edge Technology in Higher Education

April 3, 2007 by Josh · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Bluffton, MBA, Tech, higher education 

This paper will address two different technologies which when applied correctly in any place of higher education could result in a better experience for the students as well as an improved efficiency for the administration of a institute of higher education.  The first technology which could provide a radically better experience for students is RFID or radio frequency identification tags, which could replace the plethora of IDs, cards and keys which universities currently unload on incoming first year students.  The second piece of technology has already proven itself useful in numerous areas and we can expect it to be used in teaching and administrating in higher education in the near future.  The use of wikis have become a part of everyday life for many people who turn to Wikipedia on a daily or weekly basis to find out anything from how long it takes an eyelash to grow back to Mark Twain’s real name.  The software which powers Wikipedia is called a wiki and it is an easily edited web document, making it the perfect candidate for a policies and procedures manual.  This ever changing representation of the day to day functions of a department or job title reflects the current position much better than a static three ring binder tucked away in a bookshelf does.

In order to convey the improvements RFID technology will bring to the life of students I have created a short video, which showcases life at Bluffton University after I get my RIFD chip.  See it Below.

YouTube Preview Image


The benefits to students will also provide additional efficiency to college administration.  By consolidating keys, ID cards and network logins to one RFID tag the administration time and energy will be cut down enabling the university to better serve students.  The tracking ability of RFID tags will enable the university to track traffic patterns on campus to determine popular areas and plan accordingly for campus utilization and expansion.  RFID technology has already been used to save time by taking attendance in California, though it was cancelled due to privacy concerns (Greenfield, 2006 p. 56).   In order to allay some of these concerns, Bluffton University would provide students the ability to turn on and off certain features which would interfere with privacy as well as anonomizing usage statistics to further protect the privacy of it’s students.  Finally the ease of use and cutting edge technology could draw more students to Bluffton University (pg 56).

Another piece of technology which Bluffton University and higher education institutes could put to good use is a piece of software called a wiki.  A wiki can easily replace the out of date policies and procedures manual of the organization as well as providing a way for departments and positions to track how reports are run and on what schedule certain tasks need completed.  At Bluffton University I have started a wiki for the advancement services department which will be tracking how I do my job so that I can better track who requires what reports at what times.  The wiki will also account for special handling instructions and tracking which had previously been relegated to the back of employee minds and worn sticky notes.  Wikis can be easy to use and many free services exist which are easy to start and roll out for even the most technophobic employee amongst us.  The many benefits of this dynamic format clearly showcase the need for organizations to roll out wikis in day to day business and as a policies and procedures manual for the organization with certain users who have the ability to edit it.

These new technologies can improve the efficiency of the university and save money as well.  These savings and enhanced experiences will allow Bluffton University to remain competitive in the experience it offers students and the price of education.  As Bluffton University has made classroom technology part of the student experience, RFID and wikis are the next step in providing a revolutionary and affordable college experience.

Utilizing RFID and Web 2.0 Services in Higher Education: A First Look

March 20, 2007 by Josh · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Bluffton, Lifehacks, MBA, Tech, higher education 

The new influx of cheap and revolutionary information technology into the business world has the chance of greatly changing even businesses with the most stringent budget. The beauty of the ideas behind the web 2.0 movement is that the barriers to entry are small which results in often free or very cheap services that even the ivory tower of education can take advantage of. Another implementation which can be undertaken and in some ways led by higher education is the use of RFID tags and ubiquitous computing. This paper will discuss the additions which could be made to Bluffton University in order to fully leverage ubiquitous computing and the many new social networking features and web 2.0 services. I will focus on two main areas, the student experience and the advancement division which impacts alumni as well.

The use of RFID tags at Bluffton could drastically change the way students interact with the entire environment. These RFID tags could be used to monitor their class attendance and could be used as an identifier when checking grades or scheduling classes. This is similar to an initiative which started in California to monitor classroom attendance in order to cut down on teacher administrative time (Greenfield, 2006 p. 56). The program did not succeed due to privacy concerns, which raises an important point. Privacy is an important part of our everyday lives however if the information stored on the RFID chip is protected adequately and it is a unique identifier but not one that can be used to access other student information in the primary campus system by an individual then some fears can be put down. For example each student has an RFID tag which ties to the campus system, however the access to the system is only allowed when a trusted reader reads an RFID tag. The RFID tag would not contain the student’s ID or the student’s Social Security Number. Other additional steps would be taken to safeguard the individual’s information. The other concern is that students could be tracked across campus (pg 56). This is a harder problem to solve, in that to fully utilize the RFID solution it would be not only linked to classroom attendance but to student meal plans, their door locks, and campus vending machines. This would blanket the campus in RFID readers raising privacy concerns. This is loss of privacy as we currently know it is also discussed in Everyware by Adam Greenfield (2). The question is, whether we will give up this privacy and whether an institution should ask its employees and students to do so. Overall the benefits far outweigh the negatives in this instance form my experience as a student, this relies greatly on the trust one has in the system using an RFID system though, and could not easily be transferred from Bluffton to a random organizational body and retain the same level of trust. An added bonus to implementing such a system is that RFID’s use in the University setting at this early stage is that manufacturers and backers of RFID could be convinced to cover implementation costs in order to study the system and use it as a showcase of RFID on a campus.

This is my personal vision of how RFID tags could change the university experience.

When you arrive for your freshman year at Bluffton you are handed your ID card which is equipped with an RFID tag, you are also given the option of implanting one on yourself. This tag is linked securely to a central serer and it can perform many functions. First off it is how you get into your dorm, and how you get into your dorm room(no more lost keys), after your first week the dorm room has gathered a significant amount of metadata on your in interactions with the “smart” in room technology form the phone to the wall mounted television, the server even knows not to auto on the lights when your roommate is fast asleep and you just got back from all you can eat Pizza at Luke’s. Now when you are in a friends room your tag tells the room phone you can be reached there and the switchboard automatically routes your calls with a personalized ringer to that room. This can happen on any campus phone, though you have the option of disabling certain phones or blocks of phones from having your calls routed to them.

Its lunchtime now and you and your newfound friends head over to Marbeck to get something to eat, you are really thirsty so you stop in the lobby and use your tag to purchase a bottle of water with your “Beaver Bucks”. Once you get to Marbeck you are “swiped in” by simply walking through line, your RFID chip did all the work, and soon you are on your way to enjoying some “fresh” pizza.

After lunch you head to Bob’s Place the student union on campus to get a Edy’s Ice cream sundae with your RFID tag once again and sit down at one of the computers. Your are automatically loged into the network with a mirror image of your desktop, this is available on any campus computer with your info being stored on the network. You check out your classmates for Intro to C, and realize you better get to class, with the RFID tags being used for attendance even your busy professor knows who is late.

These are just a few of the conveniences I could think up off the top of my head relating the use of an RFID tag or similar ubiquitous computing solution on a University Campus.

Paul Rademacher made housingmaps.com by merging two freely available sets of data and Google Maps’ API to create a simple interface for browsing craigslist home listings on a map for ease in finding a home you want, in a location you want (Tapscott, 2006 p. 184). Bluffton University could leverage the open API of Google Maps to show alumni where they can find other alumni in order to meet new people in an area they recently moved to or to reconnect. This would need to be done on an opt-in basis for alumni to respect privacy wishes. Bluffton could also use Flickr’s open API to create a photo sharing site for alumni and students of Bluffton. This would be a low cost way of providing a popular service to our constituency. The low cost of this option makes it even more attractive.

Bluffton could also make use of a internal wiki as a policies and procedures manual. This wiki would allow for several super users to edit the main content but would allow any faculty staff to add to the page in order to transfer knowledge regarding specific situations and or procedures. This practice is similar to the eureka database developed at Xerox to share information. Departments can also use wikis to document the set up their own policies and procedures manual to track tasks which require a specific set of actions in order to be accomplished correctly. I plan to begin using a wiki to document how certain mailings and activities are performed, not only for myself but for others who do similar work and for someone who will eventually do my job.

These are only a few of the ideas Bluffton can initiate and benefit from. The ideas range from easily implemented and cheap to pricier and more involved editions. In any case Bluffton should pursue the use of open APIs to create better services for the students and alumni it serves.


Greenfield, Adam Everyware, The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing, New Riders Press, 2006

Tapscott, Don, Wikinomics, Portfolio (Penguin Press), New York 2006

These ideas are currently only at Bluffton University in my head, we don’t plan on implanting students with RFID tags or attaching them to ID cards, though I think that under the right circumstances they could drastically improve the college experience.