This and That

The students are back! Ok, we knew that. I have a pretty good view out of my office window and get to witness a variety of it’s-a-new-semester behaviors. There are the freshman who are clearly still figuring out the neighborhood interspersed with “old timers” sauntering about. The occasional sprinter flits past, in a hurry to somewhere. Some students travel in gaggles while others stroll past in pairs or alone. Most are bedecked with some variety of gadgets and bags. Most seem either comfortable or, perhaps, expectant, or some blending between.

But lest you think I do nothing but stare out the window, I have put together a somewhat diverse list of resources (hence the “This and That”) for starting off the semester.

Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips
If grammar is your thing, both the web site and the accompanying podcast are made for you (or your students). The podcasts are brief and to the point and have written transcripts for each topic. Recent offerings have tackled the “serial comma kerfuffle” and “Portmanteaus.” Visit Grammar Girls’ website or download the audio podcast directly from iTunes.  (This one’s a regular on my iPod.)

Better Googling
Think you know all there is about search strategies? This ProfHacker post might surprise you. Also find links to Google resources on how to use little known features, as well as, lessons to adapt for students.

62 things you can do with Dropbox
If you’re a Dropbox fan or just considering it, you might want to skim over this article by MacWorld. Not sure what Dropbox is? Check out this video created by Commoncraft.

Using a Blog in an Independent Study
Whether you’ve been using blogs for a while or are new to them, this ProfHacker post offers useful tips on using blogs with students.

Learning Through Digital Media—Experiments in Technology and Pedagogy
If you’ve ever given even a passing thought about the hows and whys of using a social media tool like Twitter with your students, read David Parry”s article describing why he chose to use Twitter, it’s benefits and limitations, and how he uses it with his students.

Seven free iOS apps to help you out in the lab      iPad Photo
If you are inclined to include phrases such as restriction enzymes or molarity calculations in your conversation,  or if you have need of a PCR mastermix calculator you’ll definitely want to have a look at these apps.

Ins and Outs of Using Gadgetry
Want to know what the “half-press trick” is for your point-and-shoot camera, or the quickest ways to select text in Word? This article by tech writer David Pogue has answers to an assortment of basic tech-related questions.

InTech Loaner Equipment 
Need to borrow a camcorder for a class project? Check out the list of loaner equipment available from for Faculty, Staff, and students.

Know Your Copy Rights
Go here for a downloadable brochure that highlights “What You CAN Do” when it comes to using copyrighted materials in your class. Visit the InTech web pages for more copyright resources, including links for royalty-free images and video. Feel free to share this information with your students.

What do you share?

Rocket Launch SignJudging from the headlines (Facebook Apps Sharing Info, Twitter Mouseover Security Flaw and  Facebook Glitch Brings New Privacy Worries)  social networking and cyber security are an oxymoronic pairing at best. Really? Should you quit Facebook now? Will you avoid YouTube and blog sites (except this one, of course) and keep your tweets to yourself? Don’t click the comment button for that online journal article or write an Amazon review. And no more Hulu for you! What?? Wait! That’s not all part of social networking, is it? Well, think about it. If you favorite, friend, tweet, post, link, thumbs up, thumbs down, comment or pose a question to the community, information about you is out there in the cloud. The rocket has launched and it’s not turning back. (Sorry.)

So, aside from moving into a cave, what are you supposed to do?

For every article or site that puts you in mind of the apocalypse, and some have good reason to frighten you, there are those that focus on what every user should or can do to safeguard personal information as much as is possible in an open access world. Scott Fendley of the ISC (Internet Storm Center) recently posted Protecting and Managing Your Digital Identity on Social Media Sites. While much of it should be review for most of us, there might be a couple of points that surprise you. I’ll repeat the main points here:

  1. Review and use privacy settings.
  2. Don’t share information that can help people steal your identity or locate you.
  3. Limit who can see photos or video tagged with your name.
  4. Restrict delivery of [tweets, a Facebook status update] to your circle of friends only.
  5. Online interactions between coaches and potential student athletes must be managed cautiously.
  6. Be especially careful of malicious links sent via social media accounts.
  7. Protect social media accounts from being hijacked.
  8. Think twice before posting or even clicking on a post. (Think embarrassing moments.)

Navigating privacy settings are admittedly a headache. Facebook privacy settings, ever changing as they seem to be, can be more convoluted than most. The well-known security company Sophos has a fairly comprehensive guide to Facebook security that takes you through each of the options, offering both a brief explanation of the setting and recommendations on the safest choices. Twitter has far fewer settings to contend with and their privacy policy tells you right up front that “What you say on Twitter may be viewed all around the world instantly.” You can follow or unfollow at will. Likewise, you can be followed or unfollowed by anyone else. You can also choose to block someone should you feel it is necessary. If you have an account on YouTube (see their Safety Center), Flickr (see their Privacy FAQ) or some other online service you can usually control whether your information is open to anyone or to a select group. The same goes if you use a blogging service such as WordPress or Blogger. Sometimes finding a how-to for security settings is as simple as a google search. If that doesn’t turn up something helpful go to the main site (ex: wordpress.com) and search within the support pages. As Fendley states in his explanation for point #1 above, “You need to decide how visible you want your contact and profile information, videos, photos, and other posts to be, and take the time to set the appropriate controls within the media site in question.”

More resources

OnGuard Online—find information about internet fraud, protecting your personal information, teaching kids to stay safe online and more
U.S. Cert—choose from a long list of categories including mobile devices and privacy
How to Return Facebook’s Privacy Settings to What You Signed Up For—article at lifehacker.com
Creating Secure Passwords—article at About.com

It’s a wrap

I’ll end with this take on cyber security from staysafeonline.org. It’s well worth the 2 1/2 minutes of your time. Trust me.

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[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPR131wMKEo]

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Cyber Security Awareness Month – Day 12 – Protecting and Managing Your Digital Identity On Social Media Sites
Published: 2010-10-12, Last Updated: 2010-10-12 20:45:08 UTC
http://isc.sans.edu/diary.html?storyid=9733
by Scott Fendley (Version: 2)
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

Rocket launch sign image by sshepherd at istockphoto.com