Monday, September 29, 2014

Data Security for Teachers - The Basics

As we put more and more data into "the cloud," keeping your data safe, secure, and away from prying eyes is more important than ever! For teachers, this is especially true. Classroom teachers are using tools like Google Apps for Education, iCloud, Moodle, Office365, Chromebooks, iPads at an ever increasing rate. All of the data created and stored in these services and devices should be protected and safeguarded.

There are [at least] three "bad things" that can happen to your personal data stored "in the cloud:"

1. You get "hacked"
The term hacking is a very broad term that basically means someone without permission has accessed your account or information without your consent. Once someone gains access to your account they can:
  • Send email through your email account (most likely scenario)
  • Delete/copy/move data
  • Search for personal information (bank accounts, passwords for other services, credit card information, etc)
  • Lock you out of your own account by changing your password. 
2. You get "locked"
If your accounts get "locked", you lose access to the data and services you rely on; bad news. An account will get locked for several reasons: 
  • Suspicious activity like sending LOTS of email or performing repetitive actions much quicker than a normal human. This typically happens if you get hacked, but sometimes accounts can be locked if you deviate from your normal activity (like when your bank cancels your CC when you travel out of state/country without notifying them). 
  • Too many failed password attempts
3. Accidental Destruction
It sounds funny, but there are ways that you can delete, corrupt, deactivate, cancel or otherwise mess up important data and information. Always good to have a backup!


Common Sense Tips to Keep your Data Safe: 


1. Choose a secure password. 

You know this, but do you actually know what "secure" means?
  • Your password should be at least 8 letters. (lots of debate on this, but I wouldn't go less than 8)
  • Your password should contain uppercase letters, lowercase letters, a number, and a symbol.
  • Avoid dictionary words
  • Avoid using personal information as your password such as your birthday, address, or phone number. 
Teacher Tip: Use the "license plate rule" to create your password. Create a password that would fit on a license plate (8 characters). Shorten words and add special characters to make your "license plate" password more secure. 
Secure Password Examples (please don't use these!!)
  • English Teacher → Eng-tcHr
  • I Love Chemistry → i<3chemm li="">
  • Math Teachers → Y=mx+bee

2. Backup Your Data Regularly

Again, common sense here, but backing up important data is a good idea. As we have moved away from data stored on our computers, we've also become less concerned with backing up our information. Many people believe that if their data is "in the cloud" they don't have to back it up.

While cloud-based products have improved the redundancy of our data, if your account is hacked, locked, or you experience accidental destruction, you will be very glad that you kept a backup of your data.

There are two ways you can "backup" your information:

"Share" your information with a secondary account. 
If you are using Google products, many of them allow you to share your documents, calendars, sites, etc with other people. A great way to safeguard your data is by sharing important information with a second email account that you own. For example, if your schools uses Google Apps for Education, share all of your Google Drive files with your personal  Gmail account. This doesn't "mix" or combine the data, it simply provides access to a second account which can be removed at any time.

Download a Copy of your Data Periodically
It's never a bad idea to download a backup copy of important information, even if it is "in the cloud." Keep in mind that in a cloud based environment, you are worried about hard-drive failure. you are worried about losing access to your account.

Saving a backup file will vary depending on the service you are using. Dropbox, Google Drive and iCloud allow you to download copies of your information.

You can also consider third party solutions such as Backupify, Spanning, or Mover to help you backup, migrate, and copy your cloud data.

Google Takeout - a FREE services
for Gmail/Google Apps users
Teacher Tip: If you are a Google Apps/Gmail user, take advantage of Google Takeout to generate a backup of your data across [most] of Google's services. With a single click you can backup your email, contacts, calendars, documents, and more!

If you've made it to this point in this post, hopefully you are thinking "wow, I knew all of that; can't believe I just read that entire article." If so, GREAT! The tips listed here are basic, common sense things that most of us don't do. 



Saturday, September 6, 2014

Get Updates on Google Education Products

Google-News-Email-Header.jpg
Staying up to date on constantly changing  Google EDU products can be challenge. The help, I have started a monthly e-newsletter that will bring the most important changes, features, new tools, and exciting events to your mailbox!

Browse the archive below to take a look at some previous editions. If you would like to sign up to receive these updates, please complete this form.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Google Classroom: Resetting Teacher Permissions

Google Classroom: Resetting Teacher Permissions
The first time a teacher visits Google Classroom they will be asked if they are a teacher or a student. If for some reason the teacher selects "student" they will find that they are unable to create classes; they can only join them. Students who select "teacher" will have the ability to created classes.

Fixing this issue is easy, but requires the assistance of someone with access to the schools Google Apps for Education control panel.

When Classroom is enabled for a domain, a Google Group called "Classroom Teachers" is automatically created. Membership in this group is what separates a student from a teacher. Direct access to this group is available here: classroom.google.com/teacher-group.

***WARNING: DO NOT DELETE YOUR "CLASSROOM TEACHER" GROUP!!!!!***** If you do, you will break Google Classroom. As of September 9, 2014, there is NO FIX for this issue. A surprising number of schools did delete their classroom teacher group and are unable to use Classroom. If this is your situation, follow this thread to be notified of a fix.

The default setting for Google Classroom is to allow anyone who is a member or pending member of this Google group to create a class. If this setting is unchanged, if a student were to say they were a teacher when they first use classroom, they will be able to create courses until they are rejected from the Classroom Teacher group.
It is recommended that schools change the access setting to "Verified Teachers Only" to avoid this potential issue. If this change is made, please ensure that all of your faculty members are a member of the "Classroom Teacher" group. If you have an organizational unit (OU) for your staff, you can easily move them into this group.

Friday, August 29, 2014

5 Google Classroom Mistakes

Google Classroom is here (read my review here)! Hurray! As teachers around the country setup their classroom, there are a few things you want to avoid in order to steer clear of future trouble.

1. Don't click student!

When a teacher visits classroom.google.com for the first time, they will be asked if they are a teacher or a student. If you select student, you will be unable to revert back to teacher mode. Your domain administrator must go into the Google Apps control panel to reset your account and give you the teacher role. Instructions on how to do this are available here

UPDATE: Teachers ARE able to join a class as a student. This means that schools have the option of using Classroom for Professional development with staff. Classroom still can not be used in a multi-domain environment (everyone must have the same email domain to join). 


2. Don't group all of your sections/hours together. 

Although it is tempting to setup a single classroom for all of your sections, don't do it! Yes, it will be nice not to have to post things multiple times, however if you group all of your students together, you will lose the ability to post messages and assignments to individually classes. This will be very important if you are unable to maintain exactly the same schedule in each class. Spend the time to setup a separate class for each of your sections.

UPDATE: there is now a "copy" option that allows you to copy an assignment between your courses!  It is worth noting that you can ONLY copy an when it is initially created. You can NOT copy an assignment you previously created.  

3. Don't chose arbitrary class names

Ideally, each school will choose a naming convention for classes. If you don't, your students are going to have a hard time sorting through all of the courses in which they are enrolled. Unfortunately at this time, students (and teachers) are unable to sort classes; they appear in the order that they were joined/created. 

The name of your class should NOT: 
  • Contain the name of the teacher (the teacher's name will be automatically displayed)
  • Include section/hour (there is a designated field for section
  • Be long (long class names will not be fully displayed)
The name of your class SHOULD:
  • Be simple (i.e. Biology 9)
  • Include the year/semester (i.e. 2014-15 or Sem 1.)

4. Don't mess around with the "Classroom" folder in Google Drive

When you create a class using Classroom, matching folders will be created in Google Drive under a top level folder called "classroom." Do not move, rename, or delete these folder. If you do, you will cause trouble for yourself and your students.

5. Don't add things directly to the Drive folders created by Classroom. 

The folders created by classroom are used for the copying and distribution of student files. They are not designed for use outside of classroom. When you create an assignment in classroom, it will move/copy files into these folders. If you manually put something into the classroom folders it will NOT be displayed in Classroom and will NOT be visible to your students. 

If you need to share documents with your students that you don't wish to assign via classroom, you might want to use the Google Drive add-on called gClass Folders which will set up a very handy folder structure for the sharing and receipt of files in Drive. 

Google Classroom is a promising tool that is in need of some refinement. Don't forget to send your comments and suggestions to Google. There is a "send feedback" button in the bottom right corner of Google Classroom. Use it to make Classroom better!


Chrome Browser Update: Multi User Sign-In

Chromebooks are quickly becoming device of choice for schools around the country. But what about schools with PC's and Macs in a shared lab or cart setting? The Chrome browser is a logical solution, however in order to take full advantage of the management capabilities of Chrome a student must sign in to Google Chrome, a process that isn't very user friendly. Signing out is even worse.
Chrome Beta improves multi-user browsing

Today the Google Chrome blog quietly announced a new beta feature that will make this process a bit easier. "Share your computer without sharing your business..." The new beta release doesn't provide too much in the way of new features, it simply provides an easier and more streamlined way to sign in to the Chrome browser.

In the beta version of Chrome, a drop down menu in the top right corner of the application indicates the person who is currently signed in. Clicking on the name displays the profile image of the user and a link to switch users (image at left).

While still lacking a few needed features (such as password authentication and a sign-out link) this update moves one step closer to a workable solution for schools that would like to use the Chrome browser to achieve the same management features and functions of ChromeOS.

To download the beta version of Chrome, click here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Setting Up Your Google Classroom

For the first time, Google has designed a product for a specific industry. Fortunately for educators, that product is for them! Google Classroom is a brand new tool designed to help ease the burden of sharing and receiving assignments from students. 

The excitement surrounding classroom has reached a fever pitch; teachers are ecstatic and can't wait to get their hands on classroom. The excitement may be contributing to inflated expectations, however. Classroom is not a complete classroom solution; it must be used alongside perennial favorites such as Edmodo, Hapara Teacher Dashboard, Moodle, etc.

Google Classroom Will:
  • Help you communicate with your students. 
  • Streamline the sharing of documents to your students.
  • Streamline the receipt of work from your students. 
  • Help you provide personal, timely feedback to individual students. 
  • Serve as a classroom hub
  • Help students manage class resources.
Classroom Will Not:
  • Replace/become your gradebook. 
  • Replace your existing learning management system. 
  • Eliminate the need to use Google Drive directly. 
Classroom Does Not [Currently]
  • Integrate with Google Calendar, Sites, or Blogger.
  • Allow students from multiple domains.
  • Allow for multiple teachers
  • Share documents in other domains. 
  • Have many assignment options (points, rubric, no due date, complete/incomplete)
Google Classroom is expected to launch in September of 2014. You can request access here

Don't have access, but eager to see what classroom has to offer? Check out this sneak peak of Google Classroom including instructions on how to setup and manage your first class! 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Organize Apps into Folders on a Chromebook

An update to ChromeOS now allows teachers and students to organize their Chrome Web Apps into folders on their Chromebook. This will make it much easier for students and teachers to keep their Chromebook content organized and easily accessible.