Thursday, November 20, 2014

Using Google Drive without Google Apps

I think Google Apps for Education is a great tool; especially Google Drive. There are a myriad of ways that Drive can be used to engage students.

While Drive is great, not every school is a Google Apps for Education school, which makes using Google Drive and other Google services a bit more challenging for a classroom teacher. I know; this was my situation for three years.

Here are four possible situations:
  1. Students have no email access
  2. Students have non-gmail access (provided by the school or via a personal account- Yahoo, AOL, Outlook, etc)
  3. Student have personal Gmail accounts
  4. Students have Google Apps for Education account provided by their school.
Google Drive CAN be used in each of these situations although your features and options will differ. Check out the infographic below for an overview of what will and will not be available:

Using Drive without email
Click to view the original
Ultimately, it is best if your school adopts Google Apps for Education so that you can take full advantage of the rich collaboration and creation tools that are provided. In the meantime, you can still use Google Drive with your students to some extent. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Data Security for Teachers: Know Your Data!

The first step in protecting your data and privacy is to know what data has been collected and is know about you. Most **good** data companies will give you full access to the data and information they have collected about you; that you are storing with them.

Google does a nice job of giving you access to the data it has gathered about you and that you have connected to your Gmail or Google Apps account.

To view your Google data, click on your profile picture in the top right corner of a Google service (Gmail works well) and select "account."

There is a wealth of information here, including all of the personal information that is connected to your account. Here you can change your display name, contact information, profile picture and more.

In the "security" tab you can change your password and view account permissions. I highly recommend that you take a few minutes to go through the "secure your account" section which will:

  • Display your account recovery email address and phone number. 
  • Display your login activity by location to ensure that only you are accessing your account. 
  • Display apps and devices that are connected to your account. It is a good idea to remove any devices or services you are no longer using. 
Once you have completed this security audit, I recommend that you click on the "data tools" tab and select "view account data". This page displays all of the data associated with your Google account by product. You can see how many emails you've sent, appointments are on your calendar, etc. Sign up for a monthly summary of this data by clicking the check box at the top of the screen. Each monthly, quickly review the email to ensure that no unauthorized devices or services are accessing your account and that there is no suspicious activity going on. 

The final step is to periodically (monthly) create a backup of your Google account data. Just find the "download your data" box and create a new archive (note: this is the Google Takeout service). You can leave it on the web, or download a copy to your computer (it may be large depending on how much you use your Google Account! My backup was 20gb!)

Once you know the data, devices, and services that are connected to your account, you can monitor, clean up, and manage that data to minimize the risk of unwanted intrusion or misuse of your information. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Data Security for Teachers - Setting Up Chrome Profiles

Google Chrome has become the browser of choice for the majority of computers users. Chrome is a great browser. One of the best features is the ability to "sign-in" to the browser and sync your settings, bookmarks, apps, extensions, and more across all of your devices that are running the Chrome browser. Here are all of the things that you can sync through Chrome:
Chrome Sync Settings: Chrome Menu --> Settings --> Advanced Sync Settings
Chrome Sync is incredibly useful, but also has the potential to cause a few issues.

If you log in to Chrome using your school provided Google Apps for Education account, all of your data will be connected to this managed account. Need to check your bank account during your planning period? Your bank username/password is now saved to your school account. Casually browsing the web in the evening on your laptop? Your "off the clock" browsing history is now saved to your school account. 

First of all, just because your bank password or personal browsing history is saved into your school GAFE account doesn't mean that your administrator or IT Director is sitting around sifting through your data. It is very safe and secure. The only way someone would be able to access this data would be to log into YOUR account by obtaining your password or resetting your existing password. 

The bigger issue/concern about your private/personal information ending up in your school account would be a FOIA (freedom of information request) that would force your school to search for information on a person or topic. 

To avoid this risk, you should setup multiple profiles in Chrome to keep your personal and professional data separate. This is also a good idea to do for each member of your family (if you have a shared computer).  With multiple profiles. each person can have their own bookmarks, settings, apps, and extensions. 

Watch the video below for instructions on setting up multiple Chrome profiles. The steps are the same regardless of whether you are using a Mac or PC. 

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

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:

***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 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!