Adapt new teaching methods or become irrelevant?

PSU is writing a strategic plan for information technology. In particular, we're exploring how information technology will shape the classroom in the years ahead. We hear a lot about social networking and this generation's use of tools in extraordinarily new ways. Very few, however, have truly explained what social networking technologies, a world rich with information and collaboration, mean to transforming the classroom.

This is something every college and university instructor should listen to. Grab your coffee or a glass or wine and sit back for a spell. I guarantee you will be left thinking. Also, stick around for the questions. They'll be asking some of what you might be thinking, too.

Sarah B. Robbins-Bell, issued a warning to professors that unless they adapt to new teaching methods with technology, they could become irrelevant because students can find places other than traditional universities to learn. Ms. Robbins-Bell is a doctoral student in rhetoric and composition at Ball State University.    From the Chronicle. Nov. 3, 2008 at the Educause Conference in Orlando.

We used to fish for fish. Now the phish phish for us.

They just keep coming. Innovative phishing scams, appearing to come from a legitimate email address, sometimes from our own domain, asking for us to update our account or login to fix or confirm something right away...or your account will be terminated.

This is social engineering at its best. It's like the snake oil salesmen of old. Wiley miscreants who charm us to something or, in this era, give something up. Your username and password! This is how they steal your identity. Once they get a little about you, they can find ways to get more.

Never ever ever respond to emails that ask you to give up information about your accounts, usernames, passwords or other personal information. If a legitimate organization wants your attention, they would never ask in an email. If in doubt, ask. DON'T ACT.

There is a sucker born every minute. All these scams need is one in a million to make it worth their while. Don't let it be you.

Managing your technology career; it's not an entitlement

What are you doing to manage your career?

What are your professional goals and what are you doing to make them become a reality?

How will you avoid career obsolescence?

Sometimes these questions provoke a defensive response among IT professionals. What do I mean? Are there plans to outsource us? Is this a veiled 'Dear John' message?

No, but given the rising costs of technology in an ever-changing field, I strongly suggest that you have an ongoing career plan. Just because you currently have a job, benefits and a fair amount of job security does not mean things can't happen down the road. Higher education is entering a period of much greater accountability. The cost of college is too great not to. Constituents will challenge us to prove our value, to cut our costs, to look at outsourcing and other possibilities. Computing is becoming commoditized and more and more there will be options for outsourcing. We cannot rest on laurels or succumb to a sense of entitlement. We must continually reinvent ourselves and be ready for what's coming.

Don't panic. Be realistic. There are many career strategies you can implement to keep yourself current. First, start reading the writing on the walls. Professional trade journals are ripe with trends emerging in our technology. Engage in discussions and career listservs. Become aware of and look for new opportunities to add value in your organization.

Make a plan. Set goals and start taking steps in that direction.

Consider what type of training you need. Often times technology workers tend to focus on, well, technology training. That's important. So, too, are developing some of the 'softer' skills, like writing and communication, project management and team development. We will also need leaders for tomorrow. How many of you would be willing to take a management role? MBA?

Never assume that your career plan is your employer's responsibility. While we have an interest and will do what we can, it would be a grave mistake to assume that the organization will carry you through to age 65. Leadership and management are more transient, hence you can never depend on anything over a period of time.

It's YOUR career. If you don't take charge of it, you'll end up where it takes you, for better or worse.


A book you might find useful is JobShift. It'll help you think of yourself as your own business.

Campaigns and Email

As the November election approaches, each party will be reaching out to voters via email. If history repeats itself, we will see a crescendo of email coming to the PSU mail servers in the weeks leading up to Election Day. In 2004, the Kerry campaign flooded the PSU email server. We had little choice but to block them to avoid overloading the server.

Unfortunately, mass emails tend to reflect characteristics of spam. The email server is neither Democrat or Republican. It treats all spam equally and blocks the mass mailings.

Many of us want to get these emails. Here again is a good reminder that we should all have a personal email separate from our PSU email account. We need to keep the PSU email flowing for its primary function...PSU communications and classes., and all provide free email services. If you have internet service at home, you probably have an email account from the provider. If you have questions, just ask.

The Risk of Music File Sharing

PSU received 330 copyright violation notifications from the Recording Industry last year. When you share the music on your computer with others, you are putting yourself at risk. You may lose network privileges for your computer and, potentially, be targeted for civil litigation. Thousands of higher ed students have been hit with pre-settlement fines.The more they find you sharing, the greater the fines.

If the RIAA contacts PSU, they identify specific copyrighted song files they find being shared on our networks. They provide the internet address, which is tied to the computer, which is owned by a specific student. Those notices are relayed to the student, who is then required to take the following actions:

  1. Acknowledge that they have removed the copyrighted material from future sharing
  2. Take and pass an online program and quiz on copyright within two days. If there is no response, network access for their computer is revoked until they follow through.

Unfortunately, not everyone learns on the first go-round. More than 25 of the students pegged last year received a second notice. And 6 of those received 3 notices. Here are the consequences for them:

Second RIAA notices evoke the same process as above, only your computer will be prevented from PSU network access for two weeks.
Students who receive three or more notices will lose network privileges for a month.
If you think that's harsh, try talking to students who have paid penalties to RIAA in pre-litigation settlement fees. That'll boost the cost of your education rather quickly.

Don't let it happen to you. Don't share your music files! (see Music Galore, RIAA Means Business, Students paying big bucks in penalties for sharing music files and Share the Music)

There are plenty of options for legitimate online music. ITS has created a new channel in myPlymouth under the Campus Life tab. Check it out!

Emergency Communications

Last year PSU started an emergency text messaging service. This year we installed an emergency siren. In addition to the web and PSU email, these new services help us keep pace with the need to communicate effectively with the campus community during urgent and dangerous situations.

The new siren is located in the parking lot near the HUB. Seated on top of a telephone pole, it looks like a bird hotel, although any opportunists in the flock will soon think twice. We'll be testing the system in September, an event the campus will hear about well in advance. In a real emergency, however, the siren will sound. It means 'heads up, take cover and seek information from text alerts and the PSU web pages.'

If you've not signed up for PSU Alerts (the text alert system), go to myPlymouth and click on the PSU Alert on the left sidebar. Many of you signed up last year. You can log in again and review your status and select any additional notifications you might like to receive (snow days, curtailed operations, network outages, etc).

We realize the deluge of information coming at you these days. Signing up to receive more seems runs contrary to the filters (literal and figurative) we are setting up for ourselves. However, If there is a bona fide emergency on campus, cell phone users who sign up will be the first to know. This is information you want quickly!

For more information on PSU emergency procedures, see .

Student Workers at the Help Desk

Every September, ITS hires and trains a new fleet of students to work at our Help Desk. We look for students who demonstrate good technology AND communication skills. Working with our core of professional staff in the Lamson Learning Commons, these students become familiar with our technology support call log system, the phones and the various technologies at PSU.

We throw a lot at them in the week before school starts. Give them a call if you have questions or computer issues. If they don't know the answer right away, the call will be logged and picked up by someone who does know.

Stop in and see them sometime. We're preparing the workers of tomorrow.

Dagnabbit, that Dial 5!

As a veteran of dialing 4 digit campus extensions, this new 5-digit requirement for internal calls at PSU is a bit of a pain. Every time I go to dial those well-memorized 4-digit extensions, I get the phone-tone telling me I forgot...once add a 5.


Once again, new technologies remind us all that we need to learn, re-learn and change old habits. Nothing stays the same.

Top Ten Things You Need to Know about Technology and PSU

  1. The Help Desk is always your first and best line of support if you have a computer problem or question. If they can't answer your question right away, they will find who can. Call 5-2929, email or walk on in to the Lamson Library.
  2. Increasing security measures are going to force you to change a few habits. Starting this year, you will need to change your primary PSU network password every six months.
  3. NEVER store personal, sensitive student data on your laptop or other portable media, like USB keys, CDs or whatever. If you do and it's lost, PSU (and you) will make headlines. We have a responsibility to protect our students' data and we take it seriously.
  4. PSU email is and will continue to be our primary means of communicating with students. Even the new student voicemail system, which you can call and leave a message for students, is tied to their PSU email accounts.
  5. If you want the most immediate notification of University closings, delays or emergencies, you need to sign up for PSU alerts in myPlymouth (see left side panel)
  6. Sunday mornings between 6-10 are maintenance time for network and information systems. Watch myPlymouth announcements for any that are expected to be more than a few minutes. Every effort will be made to minimize the downtime.
  7. You do not need to cancel classes on snow days or inclement weather. If you prepare in advance, and have some materials and exercises ready, when PSU closes you can go into online mode. It's a good idea to make that clear in your syllabus, too. Contact the ITS academic technology team for ideas and support.
  8. For on-campus phone calls, you need to 'dial 5' first. Every campus extension starts with 5 and is 5 digits long. And, for the most current directory information, see myPlymouth.
  9. Hundreds of thousands of spam emails are blocked from the PSU network each week. Some, particularly new and innovative ploys, get through. You have the ability to tighten your spam filters to a higher degree. Learn how by typing in ’spam filter’ in the Search box of myPlymouth
  10. The most common form of identity theft is gullibility. Phishing schemes, emails that request us to update our accounts or respond in some way with sensitive information, exist because they work. Don't bite! If in doubt, ask!

Dial 5!

As of August 15th, all internal PSU phone numbers have been converted to 5 digits in length. Simply "Dial 5" followed by the same last four digits you have always dialed to reach a PSU phone number.

For instance, to call the Helpdesk now, you dial 52929.

External callers will dial the same phone number as before the upgrade. All of the phone numbers on your PSU phone will be automatically changed during the upgrade process.

All PSU voice mailboxes have also be converted to 5 digits. Now you need to enter all 5 digits when logging into your voice mailbox.

Please visit the Telecommunications' Web page for more information about this upgrade:

"Dial 5" is the second phase of a larger project to improve the means by which the University communicates with students:

Phase One: Transition from provision of land-line to residence halls except by request. Install emergency phones on each floor. Completed July 31, 2008

Phase Two: Transition from 4-digit extension to 5-digits. Completed August 15, 2008

Phase Three: Implement a Student Unified Messaging solution: To be completed August 29, 2008

Maintaining communication with students is critical to Plymouth State.  However, maintaining accurate phone numbers for students has become problematic with the increased use of cell phones.  Students may choose not to share their cellular number, calling student cellular numbers may incur long distance charges for the institution, and cellular numbers often change.

Unified messaging is a tool that will improve communications to students.  Each student will be assigned a PSU telephone number that will stay with them for their time as matriculated undergraduate students. This virtual number will ring directly into a voice mailbox where a caller will leave a voice message.  This voice message is then forwarded to the student's PSU e-mail account with an attached sound file.  The student can listen to the message through his/her computer speaker or headphones.  Student virtual numbers will be listed in the PSU on-line and printed directories.  Students will be able to list a secondary email address (via myPlymouth) to receive a notification of new voice messages.  This secondary email address could be a cellular text messaging address which would give them an immediate text message that a new voice mail message is waiting in their email.