App of the Week – iTunes U

 

We are continuing a series called App of the Week, wherein we recommend the best apps to support the academic experience. Please let us know what you think, and feel free to provide suggestions for apps we should review.

itunes-uYou may know and love iTunes for music, but did you know that iTunes has an app with access to free educational content from elite universities and cultural institutions worldwide? If you’ve seen it and ignored it, or looked at it long ago and didn’t see anything of interest, now’s the time to check out iTunes U.

iTunes U has been around since 2007 as an underrated resource in iTunes, with its iPad app released in 2012. Far from fading into irrelevance after years of little recognition, iTunes U’s resources and capabilities continue to grow.  According to Apple, iTunes U contains the world’s largest catalog of free education content–over 750,000 free resources (lectures, audio, video, documents) in 7,500 courses on thousands of subjects.

iTunesUCourseShelf

For current students, the iTunes U app can be an excellent supplement or tutor to your ongoing education. Having trouble understanding a particular concept in physics? Download a couple of different courses and look through their problem sets, textbooks, and other resources. Need help with your writing skills? If you can’t make it to the West Point Writing Center in time to answer your question, there’s a course for that.
PhysicsProblems

Thanks to recent upgrades, instructors who upload courses to iTunes U have more teaching tools at their disposal. Previously, instructors could use their internet browser, Apple ID, and a few choice apps to create a course (sending content from their iPad to a computer to a web browser to iTunes) and have it delivered to a student’s iPad. Now, instructors can create course content directly on the iPad, including using the built-in camera to add photos and videos. It’s one-stop course building.

More cool features:
●    Like most Apple products, easy and intuitive to use
●    Variety of course materials supported on iPad include iBooks, PDFs, audio and video lectures, etc.
●    You can take notes and highlight text in iBooks
●    You can download all of the materials over WiFi, then access them on the iPad anywhere, anytime
●    You can opt in to automatic push notifications for a course so you never miss new content

Downsides: I can’t find any on the student side – the instructor side may have some frustrating features.

Bottom line: I think I’ve described enough iTunes U perks – check it out and find a topic you want to study! As always, feel free to let us know what you think, or ask any questions you may have.

Further reading:

EdShelf Review: iTunes U

Apple iTunes U Update Lets Teachers Create Class Content On The iPad

Apple Expands iTunes U Education App for iPads

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government. No endorsement or recommendation of any specific products or services is intended or implied.

Contents contributed by Lauren Dodd Hall, Circulation Librarian

The West Point Hotel

The West Point Hotel on  Trophy Point in the mid-1800s.

The West Point Hotel on Trophy Point in the mid-1800s. (image courtesy of USMA Library Special Collections and Archives)

The need for a hotel at West Point was recognized by the USMA Board of Visitors in 1820. Over the next several years, funds for the hotel’s construction were accumulated, largely from the sale of wood cut on the military reservation. Erected on Trophy Point at a cost of $18,000, the hotel was opened in the spring of 1829 for the convenience of officers, relatives and friends of cadets, and the visiting public. It was owned by the Government but leased to private individuals to operate for profit. The lessees paid rent for use of the facilities, the receipts of which were placed in the post contingency fund by the Treasurer, USMA, and used to defray the cost of maintenance and repairs on the hotel building.

The first lessee was William B. Cozzens, who was in charge of the Cadet Mess. The Cozzens family retained the lease for many years. The hotel was usually known by the surname of the current proprietor: Cozzens, Roe, Cranston, Carney, and Logan, among others.

During the 19th century several additions were made to the hotel. In 1890, what is now known as Building 148 was built as the laundry to the West Point Hotel.

It accommodated thousands of visitors to the Academy: Government officials, parents of cadets, noted military figures, and other distinguished guests. The hotel served as a social center for cadets and their families. Until 1887, operation and leasing of the hotel was under the direct supervision of the Superintendent; after that date responsibility was vested in the Quartermaster, USMA. However, the Secretary of War had to approve major decisions regarding the property.

The U.S. Thayer Hotel shortly after opening in 1926.

The U.S. Thayer Hotel which opened in June of 1926. (image courtesy of USMA Library Special Collections and Archives)

By the 20th century the hotel was considered “obsolete and deficient in comfort” and the price of total renovation too prohibitive. An act of March 30, 1920, authorized the Superintendent to lease another part of the West Point reservation for construction and operation of a new hotel. The U.S. Hotel Thayer was subsequently built and opened in June 1926, although the original West Point Hotel continued in operation until it was torn down in 1932.

 

 

Contents contributed by Alicia Mauldin Ware, Archives Curator

 

 

USMA Coat of Arms

Original USMA Coat of Arms

Original USMA Coat of Arms

Current USMA Coat of Arms.

Current USMA Coat of Arms.

USMA Coat of Arms
An official coat of arms for the United States Military Academy was adopted on October 13, 1898. Years later, Captain George Chandler of the War Department brought it to the attention of Superintendent, Major General Fred Winchester Sladen that the eagle and helmet faced to the heraldic sinister, or left, side. In heraldry, the only viewpoint of historical relevance is that of the bearer, to whose right (dexter) the eagle and helmet should face. On July 2, 1923 the Adjutant General of the Army approved a slight revision, which turned the helmet and eagle’s head to the position that we see today.

BLAZONRY
Shield: The shield is that bearing the arms of the United States.
Crest: The crest comprises an eagle with wings, displayed and a scroll bearing the motto, “Duty, Honor, Country,” with the words, “West Point, 1802, USMA.”
Motto: “Duty, Honor, Country”
The emblem consists of the helmet of Pallas Athena, who has been used for many centuries as a symbol of Wisdom and Learning. Pallas Athena was a militant Goddess, fully armed; and since Homer, her wisdom has been associated especially with war and the arts of war. This helmet is over the Greek sword, the universal symbol of war, in its general sense. The two together typify the military and education functions of the Academy. This device, as a coat of arms has been associated with the Academy for many years, and is familiar to its graduates for more than a century. The motto of “Duty, Honor, Country” concisely expresses the character of this institution.
As you walk around the academic area you cannot help but notice the coat of arms carved onto many of the older buildings, as well as the newest academic building, Jefferson Hall, which was completed in 2008.

Contents contributed by Alicia Mauldin Ware, Archives Curator

App of the Week – MyScript Calculator

We are continuing a series called App of the Week, wherein we recommend the best apps to support the academic experience. Please let us know what you think, and feel free to provide suggestions for apps we should review.

myscriptcalculatorChances are, if you’re a USMA cadet, you’re taking at least one class per term that requires some complex calculations. This week’s app, MyScript Calculator, utilizes the iPad’s handwriting translation capabilities and ample screen space to create a powerful, complex calculator – and you can have it with you at all times.

MyScript Calculator won the Mobile App Showdown at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) 2013, and when you try it out, you’ll see how a simple calculator app can actually be pretty cool.

The app background resembles graphing paper, and you simply use your finger (or a stylus) to scribble your equation onto the screen – it then converts to digital text before your eyes. In the top right corner, you’ll see buttons to take you back to a previous calculation, or forward to the current one. A tiny trash can acts as a delete function. That’s pretty much it – though a small button in the top left corner takes you to a menu where you can see a short tutorials and edit your settings, like so:

settingsscreen

And now, you write. Your equation goes from looking like this:

handwrittenequation

to this:

convertedsolvedequation

Here are some of the functions you can perform:

supportedoperators

Helpful features:

●    You can use the “?” symbol to solve for variables, and the calculator will display the correct answer.
●    You have a choice between automatic calculation and manual calculation – if it takes you a little while to write, you may want to switch to manual so your equation doesn’t convert too early. I recommend this option.
●    This lefty loves the left-handed setting!
●    The palm rejection setting allows you to rest your hand on the screen (after you’ve begun writing) without messing up your equation.
●    It will add in elements to make the final equation more clear, like a x (times) or + symbol.

Downsides:

●    MyScript’s handwriting translation capabilities appear to be incredibly accurate, even with my sloppy iPad-handwriting, but it does get it wrong sometimes. However, this is usually pretty obvious, and you can simply go back to your last equation, scribble over the hard-to-read part (just act as if you’re crossing it out), and it disappears.
●    It doesn’t support multi-variable equations.
●    If you start writing too large for the screen, you can’t adjust the screen with pinching motions.
●    Great tool for checking your work, but it doesn’t show how it calculated the equation step-by-step – so it can’t actually teach you how to do it.

Bottom line: MyScript Calculator is a fun, extremely helpful calculator app to have around. Use it to check your next homework assignment, and let us know what you think!

Further Reading:

MyScript Calculator review: Solve math problems by writing on your screen

Education App Fix – MyScript Calculator

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government. No endorsement or recommendation of any specific products or services is intended or implied.

Contents contributed by Lauren Dodd Hall, Circulation Librarian

Buildings Repurposed — Riding Hall

Riding HallThe old riding hall was a granite structure with a wooden trussed roof, measuring 218 x 78 feet. There was a call for a new riding hall due to the increase strength of the Corps of Cadets.  With the new increase in the Corps size, the current 1855 Riding Hall was deemed inadequate.

A  Special Board of Officers  which consisted of the Professors of Drawing, Chemistry, Civil and Military Engineering, Mathematics,  the Instructor of Ordnance and Gunnery and the Adjutant of the Military Academy, as Recorder was tasked “to increase the efficiency of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, and to provide for the enlargement of buildings and for other necessary works of improvement…”

The 1902 Board of Officers “recommended that a new riding hall, 580 by 125 feet, be constructed on the site of the present hall, cavalry stables and cavalry barracks.  It will be arranged with a counterpoised partition so that it may be divided into two halls when it is desirable to train two squads at the same time.  As the general stable is to be located at the south end of the post, it will be necessary to provide also temporary accommodation for the horses and rooms for all equipments required in the hall.”

The post saw many changes in 1911: the Reveille gun was moved to Trophy Point; the Old Cadet Chapel was moved, stone by stone, to the cemetery to make room for East Academic building; the organ was installed in the New Cadet chapel; and the Riding Hall was completed.

Built within the walls of the old Riding Hall, Thayer Hall was designed by Gehron and Seltzer of New York, and named after Sylvanus Thayer (USMA 1808), Superintendent from 1817-1833.  It was completed in 1958, and originally housed administrative space for the Departments of English, Foreign Languages, Law, Mathematics, Military Art and Engineering, Military Psychology and Leadership, Ordnance and Social Sciences.  It included 98 classrooms, two 200-seat writ rooms, two 200-seat map-problem rooms, an 800-seat auditorium, and a 1,500-seat auditorium, a material testing laboratory, and space on the first and second floors for the Museum which was formerly housed in the Administration Building.  To this day the roof continues to provide parking for nearly 200 vehicles.

Contents contributed by Alicia Mauldin Ware, Archives Curator

Access to NYTimes.com Available through USMA Library

We now have a site license to NYTimes.com available for cadets, faculty, and staff with USMA email addresses. Below is information on how to set up access. You may also view a brief video tutorial on setting up an academic pass.

What is included:

  • Unlimited access to current content posted to NYTimes.com.
  • Unlimited access to archived content published prior to 1923 and after 1980.
  • Five free articles per day published between 1923-1980 (Please note that USMA Library has complete, unlimited archival full-text access to the New York Times separate from the NYTimes.com website).
  • Access to the New York Times via Smartphone app (iPhone, Blackberry 10, Windows Phone 7, Android-powered phones).
  • Access to these services for the life of the contract (until the end of September 2015). Access beyond September 2015 is subject to funding and contract renewal.

What is NOT included:

  • Tablet apps (iPad, Kindle Fire, Windows 8 Desktop and Tablet, Android-powered tablets – You may view all NYTimes.com website content while logged in through the browsers on these devices).
  • E-Reader editions.
  • Premium Crosswords or The New York Times Crosswords apps.
  • Any other premium/subscription-based New York Times apps.
  • Times Premier.
  • The ability to share your Academic Pass digital access with others.

Program eligibility:

  • Anyone with an active usma.edu email address can enroll in the program licensed through USMA Library.
  • Employees, contractors, graduates, and other affiliates without usma.edu email addresses are not eligible.
  • Family members and other dependents are not eligible.

How to enroll:

  • You need to have a valid usma.edu email address and access to that email account.
  • You must log in to or create an NYTimes.com account with your usma.edu email address. Registration FAQ.
  • You cannot claim an Academic Pass if you are already a digital access subscriber.
  • Visit the website: https://myaccount.nytimes.com/verification/edupass to enroll.

How to use the pass:

  • After activating a pass, you need to be logged in to your NYTimes.com account on the device you are using to read New York Times content. While logged in, you can access unlimited content from any network or location for the duration of your pass (late September 2015).

Please let me know if you have any questions or issues.

App of the Week – Pocket

pocketWe are continuing a series called App of the Week, wherein we recommend the best apps to support the academic experience. Please let us know what you think, and feel free to provide suggestions for apps we should review.

Do you ever browse the web or social media, spot an interesting-looking article you don’t have time to read, and wish you could save it for later? In the past, my method of choice was emailing the article to myself–it wasn’t organized, and definitely wasn’t an ideal long-term solution. I also couldn’t read the article in question on my iPad/smartphone if I happened to be somewhere without wi-fi.

Enter Pocket. Pocket used to be called “Read It Later,” which aptly described its main purpose. However, the app transformed into a general-purpose “save it for later” tool, where you can save videos, PDFs, images, and anything else you want to look at some other time. You can use a browser bookmarklet to save things to Pocket from your PC, but if you’re on your iPad or phone, Pocket can be used with 800+ apps — perfect for saving from Facebook or Twitter, RSS (i.e. Feedly), and more.

More helpful features:

●    Offline reading — not only can articles be saved for offline reading, but they can be saved to Pocket WHILE you’re offline — perfect for the moment you lose internet, but still want to pull up your website/video/content later.
●    If you have a URL copied to your clipboard, Pocket will ask if you want to save it.
●    If you’re not near your laptop/desktop, and an app you’re using doesn’t support Pocket, you can send links to add@getpocket.com to save the article — no software needed.
●    Cloud sync is excellent — you can access your saved content on your iPad, laptop (at http://getpocket.com), and smartphone of choice.
●    Simple tagging system — it’s also easy to tag new items when an app sends you a link.
●    Aesthetically pleasing — the ability to change the view to a black background and white text is easy on the eyes, especially if you’re doing a lot of screen-reading.
Pocket1
Downsides:
●    If you’re not careful it can take up lots of storage on your iPad/smartphone, but this can be changed in preferences.
●    Pocket’s existing search covers only articles’ headlines and URLs –Pocket Premium searches the full text of articles.
●    Once you archive a read article, it turns into a link with no context – so if you wanted to reference it later and the link doesn’t work, you don’t have access to the content.
●    This is a positive–but you have to pay for it. Pocket Premium solves the previous problem by saving a copy of the page forever, turning the service from “read it later” to “save forever” — capturing the website exactly as it was when you saved it.

Bottom line:
Over 12 million users are using Pocket to save online content for later, and Pocket Premium aims to be a personal archive of everything you’ve wanted to save online. You can integrate it with apps you’re already using, and ones we’ve written about previously, like Evernote. Check it out, and let us know if Pocket helps organize your digital life!
Further Reading:
Pocket lets you shelve items to read and watch when the time is right

How to Use Pocket Like a Pro to Save Everything from the Web

Pocket wants to be your permanent digital library, for a price

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government. No endorsement or recommendation of any specific products or services is intended or implied.

Contents contributed by Lauren Dodd Hall, Circulation Librarian

LibGuides Supporting Department of Social Sciences.

The USMA Library has published two new LibGuides supporting the Department of Social Sciences.

Economics

Could you guess which academic majors are consistently among the top three most popular at West Point?  They are Economics, Mechanical Engineering and Management; all three vie for the top position each year.

Economics is the study of how society manages its scarce resources.  The Economics program at West Point includes required courses on the national and international economies, the decision-making processes of firms and individuals, and the application of economic principles to national security issues.  In addition, there are courses on international trade, comparative economic systems, developing economies, principles of finance and accounting, managerial economics, and financial institutions.  Each course emphasizes the development of principles which can be applied to help resolve important public policy issues.  The USMA Library has a new LibGuide to ECONOMICS that
identifies resources supporting research in this field.

Comparative Politics

Have you ever noticed how in world politics a particular “ism” might change the fate of millions of people, whether for better or for worse – or even catastrophically?  Think federalism, monarchism, socialism, communism, fascism, Stalinism and Nazism, for example.

Comparative Politics makes a study of how the various systems of governance and social organization shape the world’s nations and peoples.  Cadets pursuing the study of Comparative Politics have the opportunity to analyze the sources of stability or instability in political regimes, and to examine the conditions that promote either democratic or authoritarian rule in a number of diverse settings, ranging from Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, to Africa, as well as the United States.  Not only do students examine political institutions and policies, but they also explore the meanings and sources of change that may spring from the ballot box or the barrel of a rifle.  The USMA Library has a new LibGuide to COMPARATIVE POLITICS that identifies resources supporting research in this field.

Both Guides were developed by the Audiovisual and Social Sciences Liaison Librarian, Michael G. Arden.

USMA Library LibGuides – New Guides Published

LibGuides is an easy to use Content Management System utilized by many thousands of libraries worldwide. Librarians use it to curate knowledge and share information by creating online Guides on any topic, subject, course, or process.  The USMA Library currently has 54 published LibGuides in 16 subject categories.  The Audiovisual and Social Sciences Liaison Librarian, Michael G. Arden, recently published two new Guides, AMERICAN POLITICS and INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS which are aimed at students of SS202 and SS307 respectively, as well as students in upper level courses.  Both Guides highlight the library’s research tools that will help cadets achieve success in their academic research work.

App of the Week – Box

boxonecloudWe are continuing a series called App of the Week, wherein we recommend the best apps to support the academic experience. Please let us know what you think, and feel free to provide suggestions for apps we should review.

You may have noticed that a couple of the apps reviewed so far focus on organizing your life–particularly, your academic life. This week’s app, Box, continues in that theme.
Why Box?
USMA may soon be offering cloud-based storage to all cadets as part of a career-encompassing “digital rucksack,” with free storage in Box as part of the package. Those details are not finalized, but with that in mind, we thought it would be appropriate to take a closer look at this app.
box1
Box is an established, easy-to-use, cloud storage and file syncing service — and the iPad app is only the tip of the iceberg. Like many of the other apps we’ve reviewed, Box is a service that starts with the web, and syncs your files with its smartphone/tablet apps. You can use Box to store and organize important documents, photos, assignments, and collaborative projects.
Most helpful features:
●    Folder collaboration — you can invite others to access your files (there are different levels of permissions, from viewing to editing), so group work is shared immediately
●    Most file types accepted for uploading and editing, including Microsoft Word and Google Docs, video and audio files
●    In-app streaming — you can watch/listen to videos and songs or other audio directly through the app, without having to download them to your device (a feature Dropbox doesn’t offer)
●    Box OneCloud — access to 800+ companion apps within the Box app; approximately 30 are official Box apps; half are free, half are paid
●    A relatively new feature, Box Notes, which is similar to Evernote — so if you want to have *everything* in one (digital) place, this is ideal
●    Fast uploading and syncing
●    In addition to its encryption features for file transfers, you can password protect files and folders
box2
Downsides: No option for instant back-up/upload for photos on your device, such as Dropbox’s automatic photo syncing – but turning on Apple’s photo stream will fix that minor issue; you can edit your documents within Box on the web, but not in the app (however, this is true of most cloud storage apps at the moment)
Bottom line: Box is being heralded as one of the best cloud-storage apps for businesses, but the app’s intuitive interface, collaborative document sharing, and bonus features (OneCloud, Notes, etc) make it another helpful tool for managing your academic life.
Do you use Box, or another cloud storage app? If so, let us know what you think!

Further reading:
Box for iOS review: Secure cloud storage with an intuitive interface

Box Review: Powerful Cloud Storage for Your Business

PC Mag: Box for iOS Review

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government. No endorsement or recommendation of any specific products or services is intended or implied.

Contents contributed by Lauren Dodd Hall, Circulation Librarian