Archive for the ‘tech talk’ Category

Outsourcing Technology – Fears in Higher Ed

Administrators and faculty make the best decision possible for their institution, right?

I offer that is a Yes and No answer.

Items that may get in the way include: fear of the unknown, change, ego, finances, staffing, local, state & federal laws, etc.

A quote that stood out to me in an article over on eCampus News about this topic resonated with me.

“If outsourcing frees us up to focus on the core business of educating without risking the quality of service (and peoples livelihoods), then it is a good thing,”
Source: http://www.ecampusnews.com/research/higher-education-proves-resistant-to-outsourcing-technology/print/

That *should* be the goal of a school but it’s not always that simple. After all, higher ed institutions are in the business of providing an education not building networks or buildings or roads. That said, all of those things provide a means to an education. Finding the balance through open dialog and research is where we’ll all find the sweet spot.

The past 5 years (or so) have allowed more and more people to understand what options are available for each of the systems needed by a higher ed institution. In fact more and more schools are moving their email systems off-campus. By the fall I expect that more schools will have their email off-campus than on-campus.

Will these outsourced systems because as regularly used as electricity is? In the early days of electricity was like our IT world of today. Each company built and ran their own systems until there was a cheaper way – outsourcing.

Maintaining privacy for key data is going to be at the top of everyone’s list when discussing any form of upgrade or migration. How many schools would then bring in an outside consultant with little or no emotional or political attachment to the existing infrastructure to decide what a best decision would be? Due to the cost, the answer is likely “None.”

Questions for you

  • Is there a system that is off limits at your institution?
  • Where does email fit into the discussion?
  • Are students and faculty involved in these types of discussions?
  • Does your administration play it safe or are they boldly leading the charge?
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Cheating Turnitin.com

Thanks fo the recent article from eCampus News titled “The top 10 ways college students plagiarize” I am now in the loop on cheating.

Cheating happens but with the advent of so many new types of software and sources of information determining if something is original or a copy isn’t the easiest of things to do. Turnitin.com aims to resolve that issue for schools.

Students on the other hand have people from all around the world trying to make Turnitin.com into nothing but a blip in the radar.

Following instructions in text can sometimes be confusing so countless videos have been posted to sites like YouTube and metacafe instructing anyone how to get around Turnitin.com’s algorithms. Of course it is all presented as information only. I should say the posters who think ahead include that brief note. 😉

One video I watched had over 11k views. Does the method still work? It’s possible though Turnitin.com will continue to improve their software and those trying to get around the algorithm will find other ways to win.

This was something new for me because of the unique projects that Sarah Lawrence has taking place in the classroom. Very few projects are copyable which means students have to do research for their papers.

Questions for you

Have you seen anyone get or try to get around Turnitin.com or other software like it?

What software is used at your school?

The 7 Best Open Government Sites

At Sarah Lawrence the last 3 weeks of school students are filling their conference papers with large amounts of data. These websites might be helpful now… Or in the future for other conference papers.

Beyond SLC, the list created by RWW will simply make your life easier.

We’ve already established that members of Congress are pretty bad at informing the public via their websites. The good news is that you can find a number of excellent sites for keeping an eye on the U.S. government. Not surprisingly, most of these are provided by third parties, rather than the government itself. To help ReadWriteWeb readers as the election season approaches, we’ve pulled together a list of the best sites for seeing just how the sausage is made. Just remember: What’s been seen can’t be unseen.

The 7 Best Open Government Sites.

Return on the 3rd

I will be out of the office until May 3rd.

What questions or ideas would you like me to write about?

Goodbye Campus Network Storage?

With a one-two-three the need for network storage may have just become a thing of the past.

  • Dropbox, the market mindshare leader, released and announced a series of updates.
  • Microsoft sneakily beat Google to the punch by announcing an update to their Skydrive.
  • And lastly, Google finally announced their fabled G: Drive.

Here is the quick

  • Dropbox now makes it easier than ever to use their website and to share files with anyone. Their free limit is still 2 GB though .edu email addresses provide 500 MB of free storage for each referral.
  • Microsoft’s Skydrive provides 7 GB of storage space and is incorporated into Office which means it’s easier than ever to have access to your documents. But take note, their Skydrive app is only available on OS X 10.7.
  • Google Drive provides 5 GB of storage space for free and syncs with a Google Account. A quick thought, .edu’s using Google Apps, this is for you.

The Questions

How much network storage is needed on-campus, especially at small colleges/universities, when products that provide more and more storage for free?

Of course, this approach puts data off-site but isn’t most of it already not on a campus network drive when it comes to students and faculty?

Students have trouble when a machine dies because their work is on their personal computer and faculty often has trouble when a laptop, that has been provided to them by the school, dies. Faculty using desktops in their office often don’t use the network drive and lose their data because it’s not on the network.

Would it be easier for support staff on the client side and the network side to say, “Install this and save all your documents in X folder. If anything goes wrong with the computer or if you work on another computer, tablet, or smartphone you will have access to the most recent version of your files.”

Schools cannot compete with the development cycle of large companies like Dropbox, Microsoft, and Google and yet the people they need to support are using tools built by these companies more and more.

Bandwidth? It is mostly eaten up by video not documents so there should be little issue there.

Your Take

  • Has your school moved to an off-site solution for document storage for a small/medium/large school?
  • Which service(s) were considered?
  • What reasons would keep your institution from moving to this type of model?

Historical Map Images on the Web and in Google Earth

Have you ever had a faculty member or a student ask you how they could see what something looked like in the past in a certain part of the world?

There are many resources on the web to see how things use to be. Some are limited, some are expansive. Here are a few that I’ve found and used in the classroom.

One that stands out to me is Google Earth’s historical map data.

Embedded in the Google Earth app is global imagery and even contains balloon images taken by the Joe on the street. There is information on how you can make your own balloon with little expense to you or your institution. Source: http://google-latlong.blogspot.com/2012/04/balloon-and-kite-imagery-in-google.html

Here is a brief Google Early how-to video to view historical maps.

Other resources

What map sites or resources do you use in the classroom or recommend to students and faculty?

Knowing Vs. Perceiving the Needs of Students

I’d like to open up the topic of knowing versus perceiving.

What would you say if I were I to ask you:

Do students use a laptop, tablet, or smartphone more?

It’s a bit of a tricky question because there is no context, though there are many in decision making positions at edu’s that have to rely on personal awareness, experience, observation, anticipated needs, and any number of other concerns before deciding to embark on a change of the infrastructure.

For the past 4 years a technology survey has been conducted here at SLC and we’ve learned some surprising things.

  • Wireless was not only a technology of interest, it was imperative that it be in place everywhere.
  • Students like ebooks but aren’t interested in ereaders/tablets.
  • The scale of tech needed is not as dynammic or vast as a techy deciding what to purchase might think it to be.
  • Students are thrilled by Google Apps as their email and they use it as a backup for their work.
  • We now have a very accurate number of computers and other handheld tech that is brought to campus by students.

While we could have taken feedback from a number of students regarding wireless and extrapolated the needs, having the data provided decision makers on the tech and financial front what should take priority.

Other pieces of information were less obvious, especially the ebook interest, until it was discussed with students. Students need access to multiple books/documents in a classroom and ereaders limit their ability to flip to and from the key sections of text that they need when they need it in class. Books are still very popular because of this.

I wonder…

  • What mechanisms are you using to gauge technical desire and/or needs?
  • How involved are students, faculty and staff in new technology decisions?
  • What mistakes were made because there was no data or interest in a technology acquisition?

I welcome any thoughts on the idea of knowing vs. perceiving the needs of students at an edu.