The Salt-Box More fidgety than expected

EZProxify This

Like many libraries, Trinity College’s Information Services uses EZ Proxy, a service that provides users access to the library’s various electronic subscriptions, no matter where you are.

Joelle Thomas, our user engagement librarian, built a handy little bit of Javascript that takes any link and gives you a version that points at the EZ Proxy server. So you grab a link, paste it into her EZProxifier, and you get a version, suitable for putting in Moodle or wherever, that students can use to access things from home. It’s swell.

One of our subscriptions is The Washington Post, and unlike the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, or Financial Times, it’s dependent on EZ Proxy rather than user accounts. On campus or on my laptop, this is no big deal, but it’s a little annoying on a mobile device, which is where I read most social media stuff.

So I built a dumb little shortcut, called EZ Proxy This Link, which simplifies the process a little: When you invoke iOS’s Share Sheet for any link, you can select “EZ Proxy This Link,” which copies the URL and opens Joelle’s EZPRoxifier in Safari. You just paste the link in, and are on your way.

For maximal convenience, I’ll need to figure out a few more steps: how to have the shortcut know where to paste the URL and do so automatically^; grab my password out of my password manager, and paste it into EZ Proxy’s Shibboleth authentication. But this is a decent start!

^ I think it will probably be easier to just grab Joelle’s piece of Javascript and have the shortcut apply it directly, but we’ll see.

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How We Learned To Stop Worrying (Not Really) and Love (Well, Accept, Anyway) Online High School

Apparently all the ed tech futurists are right and eventually all education will be online.

Well, maybe not, but somewhat to my surprise we find ourselves on the cusp of enrolling the 15yo in online high school for his junior year. As someone who’s a fan of public schools, both for ideological reasons and for student loan debt reasons, this calls for some explanation.

The reasons can be summarized pretty simply:

  1. Each of the last two years, he’s been absent for over forty days. The school has been understanding about this, in part because he has the highest GPA possible for a sophomore on both the unweighted/weighted scales. The city, however, has a zero-tolerance policy about absenteeism, and so we’ve spent a day or so each year engaging with Child Services about it, which isn’t fun. The number of absences is likely to increase a little the next two years, which is a battle we weren’t looking forward to.

  2. His former high school had plenty of AP classes*, but it was remarkably difficult to assemble a schedule that let you take more than one or two. Since time isn’t real online, that’s not really a problem anymore, so he’ll have four AP classes, an honors physics class, and Latin II. He couldn’t have done that before, and he’s happier with the more aggressive schedule.

That’s pretty much it. He’s already taken 3 high school classes online, so is familiar with the routine. And since his former school pulled in students from all over the state, it’s not like he’s withdrawing from the kids/social scene he grew up with.

I’m looking forward to seeing how this works out, and to understanding more concretely what an all ed tech, all the time approach to high school looks like.

It’s already a little weird, as I can’t get a concrete answer about diversity from anyone at the school, except for some handwaving about international students. And it’s a little odd that “admissions” seems to hang entirely on “has the check cleared,” and to recognize that basically all the social stuff associated with high school isn’t going to happen, but we will remain upbeat for now!

** Let’s agree in advance that AP classes are basically nonsense as a “substitute for college classes,” but also agree that they’re a way to signal “I’m taking the most challenging schedule possible.”

Why Self-Driving Cars Won't Help Me (Yet)

As a lot of people know, my wife and I spend a lot of time driving our kid to soccer. It’s about 1’45” each way to practices and games, unless there’s traffic. And there’s often traffic.

When people first learn that fact, they tend to say, “well, he’ll be able to drive himself soon,” except of course he won’t because if he’s driving, when exactly is he supposed to do his homework?

Then, people often joke, “so I guess you’re really excited about self-driving cars, then!” And it’s true! I am, broadly speaking, excited about self-driving cars. I don’t much enjoy driving in itself, and look forward to not really having to do it all that much. One of my favorite times in higher ed was when I commuted by train to UWM for the first two years of my doctoral program, because I could sleep or study on the train–in fact, one year, my advisor and I had an independent study that met on the train! So self-driving cars can’t come fast enough. (Actually, I’m pretty stressed about what self-driving cars will do to society/employment, so that’s not wholly true.)

Like a lot of us who are intrigued by self-driving cars, but not super-knowledgeable about them, the recent Uber accident has been instructive as well as tragic. It’s been helpful reading Brad Templeton’s discussions of the accident, in part because it’s helped me realize something that probably should’ve been obvious: There’s no way a self-driving car will help with our soccer commute, at least not in the 2 years it’s still a relevant issue.

The problem is that even in a self-driving car you need the driver to pay at least some attention:

To top all this, safety drivers, if the company is not careful, are probably more likely to fatigue and look away from the road than ordinary drivers in their own cars. After all, it is actually safer to do so than it is to do in your own car. Tesla autopilot owners are also notoriously bad at this. Perversely, the lower the intervention rate, the more likely it is people will get tempted.

If he were in a self-driving car in the near future, then, our kid would either 1) not be able to get his homework done because he’d still have to monitor the road, or 2) be a terribly inattentive driver and thus a safety risk.

Too bad, because I hate to see a good joke spoiled! (I mean, we were never going to be buying a self-driving car in an early generation, anyway, thanks to debt) We’ll just have to wait until we’re to old to drive safely ourselves . . .

Pilot JStart Syllabus

Tomorrow, my great co-conspirator Erin Valentino (Twitter) and I will be teaching a new class at Trinity College, to an entirely new group of students: our first-ever January cohort. To help prepare them for starting in the spring, we’ve put together a course that introduces them to different areas of the college and the city, and prepares them to work on digital portfolios hosted on Trinity’s new Domain of One’s Own initiative. It was challenging to come up with a 2 week class that, in effect, sets up their “real” first semester, but we’re excited about this work with the students, and think they’ll be well-prepared for the spring.

Erin has done an astonishing amount of legwork in articulating a series of activities across the college, and in particular some assignment sequences connecting the Watkinson Library (our special collections & archive), the new downtown Liberal Arts Action Lab, opening in January, and the Wadsworth Atheneum. (You can’t take the art away from the art historian! I tried to hold out for a Victorian novel, but the class is only two weeks!) There’s a whole array of co-curricular activities planned for the evenings, as well (which I will post about later), so it should be an exciting orientation to college.

We’ll work with a bunch of interesting tools, and–even though it’s been a brutal January in Hartford so far–get students out and about around campus. We will also be the first class to run in our brand-new Digital Scholarship Studio, which formally opens later this month.

The syllabus is below, or, if you’d prefer, you can download it in PDF format.

COLL-120 Doing College

Instructors: Erin Valentino and Jason Jones

LITC Digital Scholarship Studio

TA: Mica Blankinship ('18)

January 2018


Course Description

You're getting ready to start your college education—but what do you really know about college? This course will give you some conceptual and practical tools for reflecting on your (academic) life, a tradition as old as Socrates and as up-to-date as Tumblr kids. We will explore the following questions: what makes a college education distinctive? What is unique about a Trinity College education? How can you make your education yours?

What You Will Be Doing

Activity or Assignment Due Dates Final Grade Points
Trinity Portfolio Sunday 1.21 by midnight 40
Power Point Presentation Friday 1.19, in class 10
3 Short Reflection Essays Sunday 1.21 by midnight 20
Photojournal Project Sunday 1.21 by midnight 20
Class Participation Ongoing 10

Although the formal due dates for these projects are all right at the end of the two weeks, we'll be working on them throughout the period.


  • The Writing Center

You are encouraged to use the Writing Center, staffed by specially trained Writing Associates, to improve your writing—no matter your skill level. The main Writing Center is in room 109 of the English House at 115 Vernon Street. For more information about hours and Writing Associates, please visit: Drop-ins are welcome. The Writing Center posts regular hours in the fall and spring semesters. You will learn more when we visit the Writing Center as part of this course.

  • Accommodation Services

Trinity College complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act. If you have a documented disability and have been approved for academic accommodations, please present your accommodations letter privately to Dr. Jones or Dr. Valentino as soon as possible. If you do not have a letter, but have a disability requiring academic accommodations, or have questions about applying for accommodations, please contact Lori Clapis, Coordinator of Student Accessibility Resources, at 860-297-4025 or at


  • Academic Honesty

We uphold the principles of the Integrity Contract signed by all undergraduate students entering Trinity College. Students should complete their own work for the course and fully credit the work of others when appropriate.

  • Cell phones and computers

For this course, please do bring your laptops and other devices to class.

  • Class Participation

The vitality of our class will depend on your preparation for class, your willingness to ask questions, and your thoughtfulness with respect to other class members. Class attendance is required. Arrive for class on time. Stay for the entire class. We will end class promptly, so that you may get to your other activities on time.

Course Schedule

Please complete readings and activities in advance of the dates for which they are listed.

MON 1.8 (10-12 in DSS) Introduction to course and orientation. Understanding your syllabus. Class discussions. "A Day in the Life of a College Student."

(1:20-2:20 in DSS) "Designing Your Trinity, Part 1," with Dr. Jennifer Baszile

(2:30-3:30 in DSS) "Knowledge, Learning, and Information: Jumping Right In!" with Research Librarians Rob Walsh, Joelle Thomas, and Jeff Liszka

TUE 1.9
(10-12 in DSS) **Getting Started with the Portfolio. Who Are You And What Are You Doing Here?


(2-3 in Watkinson Library) "Documenting your History: An Introduction to the Trinity College Archives and Watkinson Library," with Mr. Peter Rawson and Ms. Sally Dickinson.

WED 1.10

(10-11 at Office of Study Away, 66 Vernon Street) "Wander with Purpose. Study Away,"** with Ms. Jennifer Summerhays.


THU 1.11 (10-12 in DSS) "Design Your Trinity, Part 2" with Mr. Joseph Catrino and Ms. Victoria Sandoval.

(1-1:30 in DSS) "Community Learning: Courses that Connect You with Hartford," with Dr. Megan Hartline in Digital Scholarship Studio

FRI 1.12 Excursion to Hartford! Please meet at 9:30 in Mather Circle.

(10-11:50 at 10 Constitution Plaza) "Introducing the Liberal Arts Action Lab and Exploring the Development of Hartford," with Dr. Megan Brown.


  • Andrew Walsh, "Hartford: A Global History"

(12-1 at The Kitchen) Lunch

(1-2 at Hartford History Center)

(2-3 at Wadsworth) "Looking at Art," with Wadsworth Atheneum Museum docent.

(3-4 at Wadsworth) "Engaging the Collections at the Wadsworth Atheneum," with Dr. Valentino.

MON 1.15 MLK DAY. Our class does not meet.

TO READ (as long as you have done these by Tuesday that is fine):

TUE 1.16

(10-12 in DSS) Finding Your Way at Trinity in Hartford and on the Web. Turning Your Observations into Narrative.


  • Wandering the Wadsworth activity
  • Trinity College and Hartford—Traveling Through Time, Understanding Places activity

WED 1.17

(10-12 in DSS) Thinking About Ourselves Online. Trinity Domains. Photojournaling


  • Digital identity activity
  • Digital citizenship activity
  • Portfolio photoessay

(1-2 in Writing Center) "Introduction to the Writing Center," with Professor Tennyson O'Donnell.


  • Please make sure to bring the drafts of your writing exercises to this session, either in print or on your laptops, as you prefer.

THU 1.18

(10-12 in DSS) Creating a Power Point presentation. Presentation Skills. Giving and Receiving Feedback. Understanding Data Ownership.

(1-2 in Center for Educational Technology) "Introduction to the Center for Educational Technology," with Dr. Jones.

FRI 1.19

(10-12 in DSS) Pecha Kucha: A Day in the Life of YOU as A College Student. Charting Your Way Forward: Who Are You and What Are You Doing Here?

(1-1:30 in DSS) "Designing Your Trinity, Part 3," with Dr. Jennifer Baszile.

Photo credit: "Final Exams, Spring 2016" by Flickr user trincoll: