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.

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.

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.

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.

Music galore, and Legit!

There are so many options for listening and acquiring music online. While the old business model withers and the RIAA sues it own customers, new business models are emerging that allow you to listen in bulk or buy by the song. But you need to take a look at how they work and what you want to do with your music.

If you live on campus or in an apartment, use your iTunes and set your preferences to share on the local network. Then, when you play your music in iTunes, you'll join those around you in sharing your collection. People from outside the local network cannot see your music and no one can take it. If you want to take it to the iPod, the music file needs to reside on your computer. Either buy it for a buck (if you can find it on iTunes) or ask a friend to burn you a CD.

iTunes, with its requirement to store music files on your computer, is designed to work with their ubiquitous iPod. But there are many other online music models to explore. Many stream their music to your computer. If you want a copy, you can buy most songs for less than a buck. With streaming, however, you don't have to store it; you simply access theirs. And more and more, these services have deepening stores of some pretty good music.

I like Rhapsody. They are getting a lot of traction in the music industry, giving iTunes a run for it's money. If portability is paramount, this may not be for you, although you can buy songs at 89 cents each. But at your computer with speakers, this is a simple, music-rich service is hard to beat. It's set up as a monthly subscription of $14.95, but you can try it free for a two week trial period. You don't own the music, you rent it. Wherever you have internet broadband, you have music.

Ruckus is also an option. Like Rhapsody, this is an online service that requires a download of their software onto your computer. Only this service is free. Once there you can access their music and movie collections for streaming. What they offer for free they compensate with ads. Their target market is college and university campuses, so you may appreciate what they pitch you. Still, they have a fair amount of music and also a cache of movies. If watching movies on your computer works for you, you can pay by the download and have the move streamed right to your laptop.

Both Rhapsody and Ruckus allow you to customize your screens to fit your musical tastes.

Good ole CDs are still available, too. Most artists continue create CDs in addition to providing downloadable files. There is also a considerable generation's worth of CDs in people's collections. Grab some of those or buy 'em cheap through eBay, burn 'em on to your computers and take them where you want.

You can also find excellent buys online and in the stores. The Eagles, a popular group from the 80's, has a new CD offered exclusively through Wal-Mart. This two-CD set is less than $12! In the old days, that same CD set might cost upwards of $30.

There are many other music services. Check them out yourselves. What's nice is you don't have to limit yourself. Try several, see what you like best.

These are legitimate music delivery models. Sure, maybe you pay a little, maybe not. But it beats being harassed, leveraged hefty fines and settlement offers from the music industry as they continue to patrol peer-to-peer file sharing users for their copyrighted material.