March 6, 2012, 11:00 am
For myself personally, I don’t know that it’s going to make a great deal of difference in my daily work. As far as I can…
November 30, 2011, 8:00 am
Back in November, Georgia Tech took down their wikis, claiming that they constituted a FERPA violation. This stirred up quite a discussion on Twitter, as well as on blogs and podcasts (see, for instance this and this).
Decisions such as the one taken by Georgia Tech are troubling, and undermine the kinds of work many readers of this blog do with their students. Nonetheless, student control of their work is important—especially when that work is (or may be) made public. Certainly there are ways (such as allowing students to use pseudonyms or to restrict access to their work, without taking it down) to meet legitimate student concerns, though, without backing away from having students present some of their work online, in public spaces.
So let’s hear from you, readers—what do you do to address students’ reasonable privacy concerns while continuing to ask them to work in…
November 23, 2011, 8:00 am
The recent changes to Google Reader, which prompted last week’s post, call for more than a search for a new RSS reader. They’re a good occasion for us to think about “our” data, who controls it, and whether we’ll be able to maintain our own access to it.
Jason pointed us to a fine post in last week’s Weekend Reading: Steven Poole’s “Whatever Made You Think It Was Your Data Anyway?” Seriously, if you haven’t read it yet, have a look. Then go peruse Boone Gorges’ Project Reclaim, particularly his inaugural post.
To be sure, not everyone will be able or willing to take many of the measures that Boone’s implementing for himself. Still, we’d all do well to remember what Steven Poole points out in the post mentioned above: “If you’re not paying for something, you have no reason to expect it to be there tomorrow” (he calls it the “iron law of ‘free’ internet services”).
With that in…
August 25, 2011, 11:00 am
July 28, 2011, 8:00 am
Cookies are small text files that websites store in your browser. Most of this is to facilitate things like shopping carts, or personalized settings for a site–for example, to identify subscribers to a news site, or commenters on a blog.
They are also routinely used to track what pages people visit, and in what order. Here’s Wikipedia’s explanation of how this works:
1. If the user requests a page of the site, but the request contains no cookie, the server presumes that this is the first page visited by the user; the server creates a random string and sends it as a cookie back to the browser together with the requested page;
2. From this point on, the cookie will be automatically sent by the browser to the server every time a new page from the site is requested; the server sends the page as usual, but also stores the URL of …
June 27, 2011, 11:00 am
The writers at ProfHacker have often recommended Dropbox as dead simple way to backup and share documents across multiple devices and users.
Recently, however, Dropbox has suffered from some privacy issues, most recently a programming bug that left every user’s Dropbox completely unlocked for a four hour period. Combine this security lapse with Dropbox’s default encryption system, which, as Dave Parry argues, makes it possible for your files to be accessed by a third party via a backdoor, and some of us ProfHackers have begun considering more secure alternatives to Dropbox.
At the head of the list is SpiderOak.
Like Dropbox, SpiderOak automatically backs up files to the cloud, and those files can be accessed from many other devices. Like Dropbox, SpiderOak works on multiple platforms—Windows, Mac, and Linux, as well as Android and iOS. Like Dropbox, SpiderOak offers a free…
May 2, 2011, 11:00 am
The thing is, whenever we write about one of these topics, someone in the comments always brings up the possible drawbacks of having your work–especially student-related work–in the cloud. So let this be our blanket statement advising you about using commercial cloud computing services.
Your data is not backed up unless it’s stored in at least two different places simultaneously. If all of your photos are stored in Flickr and nowhere else, if …
April 20, 2011, 8:00 am
Whenever my students are doing in-class presentations, I take notes using my laptop about how they are doing. Later, I’ll use those notes to grade their performance and to provide them with some written feedback. Usually I’m sitting next to or in front of other students, though, and I’d rather not have those students looking over my thoughts about the presentation.
I’ve tried to make sure that I sit in such a way that others cannot see what I’m typing, but that’s not always possible. Fortunately, I recently saw a colleague using a laptop privacy screen: the person using the laptop can see what’s on the screen, but for anyone sitting to the left or the right the screen will appear black. Perfect. Such screens are more expensive than I would have predicted–$60 to cover a 15-inch screen–but if your budget allows, this is a great tool for keeping prying eyes off your work.
How about …