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 act...buy 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.

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.

Gmail.com, hotmail.com and yahoo.com 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.

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 www.plymouth.edu/emergency .

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 helpdesk@plymouth.edu 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: www.plymouth.edu/telecom.

"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.

PSU rolls out unified messaging to students

Telecom Services, a unit of ITS, rolled out a new unified messaging service to matriculated undergrads this year. In place of landline phones in the residence halls, this system assigns a virtual 5-digit number to students that will stay with them for their time at PSU. Here's how it works.

Look up a student in myPlymouth or in the Print Directory (due out in November). Or dial 5-3333 and speak their name. You will be connected to that student's voice mailbox. Leave a message. A voice file will be forwarded to the student's email address. Additionally, if they sign up for it, a message will be texted to their cell phone indicating a message is waiting for them in email.

This is part of a larger effort to improve communications to students using the tools they are most familiar with.

Cell phones, the pros and cons

The cell phone is ubiquitous among students. Most of us have them now, too. It has become our primary and most immediate means of communication.

The fact that nearly all students have cell phones is an advantage. We can alert students to urgent situations, like campus dangers, snow days, etc. Students can maintain contact with their family members like no generation before them. Text messaging allows them to network and stay in touch with their friends. Cell phones are the quickest and most direct method of communicating to students.

Cell phones also require management in the classroom. There are simple rules of etiquette expected of students. It is entirely appropriate to put in your syllabus and to make clear to them early on that cell phone ringers should be turned off when in class.

This goes for us, too. Turn 'em to vibrate in meetings and social settings. There's nothing more embarrassing or distracting than when YOUR phone goes off, especially with hokey songs or melodies at full blast. Make it a habit to turn those ringers off.

For more on cell phone guidelines, see What is Cell Phone Etiquette.

Web 2.0, Social Networking and the Classroom

You’ve most likely heard of Web 2.0 tools. And, if you’re like most, you’re somewhat befuddled as to what it all means. Did we miss Web 1.0? When was the upgrade to 2.0?

The key concept to understand is this: Web 1.0 was/is dissemination of information on the web. It was not dynamic, but plentiful pages of static information. Web 2.0 implies interaction. What you find on the web you can interact with. For instance, a blog, or web log. You can write and publish, like the one you are reading now, and comment. You can agree, disagree, or simply add to the discussion.

Web 2.0 is also about information systems that are embedded within page structures. Look at myPlymouth as an example. This is a ‘portal’ of information connected to various other systems hosted at PSU and elsewhere.

To take it a step further, there are Wiki’s. Wiki's are the underlying foundation of Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia written and developed by, well, everyone. While some may derail it as less than the venerable Encyclopedia Brittanica, it is a participatory endeavor that is a collection of knowledge that has fared well in comparison. Wiki tools are available for all of us for group writing and editing. If you want to see how they work, see Wikis in Plain English (on YouTube). And, if you haven’t been to Wikipeda, you should. Your students do!

You also have tools available in Blackboard to engage students in online discussions. Use them. Seed some provocative questions about your course materials and post them as questions. Require them to engage, to not only respond to your questions but to interact and play off postings from one another. This is a good contingency plan for snow days and weather cancellations. You don't need to miss entire classes. If you plan to do this, make it clear in your syllabi.

FaceBook and mySpace are other examples of Web 2.0. Students come in our door fully networked with friends in mySpace or Facebook. Many of us think we should meet them there, have our own FaceBook pages. But most of us are stuck in Web 1.0 mentality. We sign up for FaceBook and create a page that becomes static (Web 1.0). They, on the other hand, are using it constantly, communicating back and forth and keeping friends current. It's also important to know that this is a social space for them, an area where they don't necessarily want us. In fact, many will block our ability to view their pages.

However, the transformation that occurs over four years of college should see those social networks turn to professional networks. An e-portfolio is a compilation of a student’s finer work products, their career goals and their resume. Instead of sending potential employers a resume, they will be forwarding links to their electronic portfolios. It will be a grown up and responsible FaceBook.

And then there is the networking. All of us can interact and garner the collective resources and knowledge of those with interests and expertise similar to ours. We can tap that vast resource to improve what we know and bring to the classroom.

What does all this mean to you in the classroom? Maybe nothing, maybe something new and exciting. It depends. But it is important to know about these tools. Look at the learning objectives of your course. You don't need to require the use of these tools, but you can allow and encourage students to use them to accomplish those learning objectives. You will see how they work and the students will be using collaboration tools that are gaining footholds in many areas of our economy.

More weathuh, less class time

If classes are delayed or canceled, do you have contingency plans using Blackboard or any online tools? Do you compensate ‘seat time’ with online engagement? My guess is that a few of you are, but most of us aren’t.

What have we learned about our preparedness and our response to environmental extremes? How would we hold classes if there was, say, an avian flu outbreak? How would you conduct your courses? Could you?

I ask not to provoke but to think. Many of us in administrative roles spend a lot of time preparing for a wide range of emergencies. We do many ‘what if’ scenarios. Emergency and disaster planning are now core to what we do.

What is your classroom 'what if?'.

This year, I’m afraid all we did was cancel classes. If I was a PSU student or parent, I might be asking for more. They’re paying for it and we have the tools.

Changes in Communications, Changes in Habits

Change often means changing habits. So it is with how you get your University news and information.


Over the past year, we've been reviewing our overall communication strategy for the campus and in particular, internal communications. The question: How do we communicate effectively with so many people with so many diverse needs and via so many communication tools?

Things used to be simple. We had allemp and allstudent email lists. Those tried and true communication means got the news to everyone. But things have changed. Last year allemp was retired. As the University has grown and our employees have expanded statewide, and as email has become a firehose of information and services (and digital crud) blasting all the news to all employees at will outgrew its effectiveness. Also, emergency notifications were intertwined with pottery sales and surplus equipment. We needed to step up our game.

So allemp went away and PSU-Announce was initiated. Public Relations sent out daily update compilations. For most, this system worked, but something was lost. Internal, combustible conversation. Healthy campus dialogue. The ability of one to send out thoughts to many.

Meanwhile, students are evolving right past us. They use email, but they communicate much more immediately and integrally with cell phones and FaceBook. They are on those communication tools all day long. They might check their email once or twice a day, but it is not their preferred mode.

Concurrent to our growth as a University, communication tools have evolved significantly. We now have a full-fledged campus web portal. We can post news and all sorts of information there. We have blogs, which are simply interactive web pages, technology that is now used to list campus events. We still have email listservs for faculty, OS and PAT groups.

Our problem wasn't that we didn't communicate. Rather, we weren't communicating effectively. We began disseminating news in multiple formats, yet it was flying by many people. Many employees bemoaned the loss of allemp (any employee with the ability send any email to all employees!). Students complained of the University spamming them. We had a bona fide communication gap.

We needed to simplify. We needed to get smarter and more consistent with our communications.

OPR just launched a new myNews tab in myPlymouth. One tab, all news and information for the University. Announcements, Plymouth Week, PSU Athletics, This Week@PSU, the Plymouth Magazine and more.

They also created an 'opt-in' email distribution list called fyi@plymouth.edu (subscribe to PSU FYI at: http://toto.plymouth.edu/mailman/listinfo/fyi) for those that want the daily announcements in their email.

For important and urgent news, all employees and students will still see information pushed to them in email.


Here is where a change of habit might be beneficial. If you want complete news and information of everything going on at PSU, look to the myPlymouth myNews tab. It's all right there. If you want this news delivered to your email, ask for it.

It's no longer the case that the news and information is not there. It's up to you to decide on how you want to get it.