Friday, February 27, 2015

2015-02-27 Instructional Technology Newsletter

Instructional Technology  News and Useful Tips.
February 27, 2015
Contents: Instructional Technology Workshop, Spam Alerts and Zip Files, New Section: Google Apps For Education, Sending a Set of Related Documents Without Zip

A Prefatory Remark:  Those of you who have received this publication from the start have seen it evolve, both in look and in content.  This is, of course, quite natural for any new publication, but especially so for one focused on technology.  This week’s brings another change, a section devoted to Google Apps for Education.  Please note that not all sections will be included each week; sometimes there just isn’t anything to say in a certain topic area.  The current full set of sections is: Upcoming Instructional Technology Events, News From Information Services, Instructional Technology News, Google Apps for Education, Spotlight, and Question of the Week.

Upcoming Instructional Technology Events

Instructional Technology Workshop
Thursday, March 12, 2015
Two Times:  11:30 and 5:30
Library Fishbowl

The topic is not yet settled - watch this space.

News From Information Services

Spam Alerts

OIS has detected potential virus-carrying spam messages a couple of times in the last week.  While we should always be careful, if a spam generating system has gotten hold of email addresses, the computers can construct a message that looks like it is coming from someone on campus.  In such a case, even if the topic seems a bit askew from what you would expect to receive, your trust is automatically engaged.  Additionally, it can be hard to detect the spoofed origin without access to the actual email headers.  None of our standard end user email systems provides easy access to the header information.

Malicious content usually comes in the form of an attachment that needs to be opened.  Without complicity on the part of the email reading program, it is not possible for your system to be compromised by just opening the email itself to read it.  Damage occurs when the attachment is opened and a program, contained in the attachment is run, or a file is copied someplace that will cause it to run in the future.

Although it is difficult to protect yourself directly from this (other than to simply refuse to open attachments), there are strategies which you can use when sending messages that will relieve the concern by the recipients.  Please see the new section on Google Apps for Education below for one possible solution.

Google Apps for Education (GAFE)

Google Apps for Education (GAFE) is a suite of integrated tools for education provided for free by Google.  It is also a description of a focus by the company to support education both by providing technology and by organizing web resources for educators to use.  Examples of the latter focus include the Google Art Project (digital tours of great art museums around the world) and Google Earth Tours (this allows anyone to create location-based stories and essays).

Elmhurst College GAFE is the student email and online document creation and storage system.  Faculty also have access to this system and can use it to collaborate with students.  This system is not sufficiently understood by many faculty and students, and, therefore, is not being used to its full potential.  I hope that this new section of the Newsletter will help to rectify that and to increase the use of this valuable, and free, resource.

Using Google Email and Drive Sharing for Safety and Convenience
Among the GAFE features is the ability to easily share resources on Google Drive with either recipients or collaborators.  Sharing for collaboration is especially useful for student group work, fast response assessment by instructors, and committee document sharing.  However, that extensive and multifaceted subject is best covered in my workshops.  Here I want to highlight the distribution of documents to recipients that is both safer than sending and receiving Zip files, and easier to manage for both the creator and recipient.

A common way to distribute information contained in a set of related documents is to “zip” the files together into a single compressed file called a “zip” file.  Unfortunately, people attempting to propagate malware, such as viruses and trojans, depend on the fact that many people don’t think twice before opening one of these directly from an email.  Even if nothing more happens beyond that initial opening, the malicious software is now on your computer, the first step to infection.

By using shared Google Drive folders, you can avoid causing any trepidation on the part of the recipients of your emailed documents.  Here is a video showing how you can do this.

As you saw, this method works even if your recipients don’t have Google accounts, but it works even better if all recipients have them.  Here at the Elmhurst College, all faculty and students have GAFE accounts, and administrative staff can request them.  Widespread use of this facility would make sharing safer and collaboration easier.

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