Author Archives: carmelcrane

Using ARC GIS Explorer

Using ARC GIS Explorer to report Dissolved Oxygen concentrations in the Lafayette Reservoir

An interview with Steve Bachofer

Can you give a general overview of the project and what you hoped to accomplish?

My technology project was to gain some skill in generating an interactive map.  This project was directly linked to an Environmental Chemistry lab.  The lab objective was to record the dissolved oxygen as a function of depth at the Lafayette Reservoir and determine the lake’s thermocline.  To effectively communicate this data, students were directed to make a map to convey this data.

What inspired you to use technology for this process and which technology ended up being the most useful to you and students?<

I have observed more interactive maps appearing on websites giving the public information at various regional parks.  I have also heard conference presentations where individuals note that students are more vested in the laboratory experiment when the lab generated materials to inform the public.  The mapping technology used was ARC GIS Explorer which was freely available.  Students were able to access it in our labs and they could download their copies.

What was the assignment for students? What were some of the student reactions to the project?

The students were assigned to collect dissolved oxygen data from various locations on the Lafayette Reservoir. The EBMUD staff was supportive and provided us access to their paddle boats for free.  The students were given instruction on the dissolved oxygen meters and the separate GPS data loggers.  The student reactions were very positive since this lab allowed them to paddle around on the lake and collect their data as a team.  The mapping portion was not considered onerous after having a data collection lab with an element of fun.  The concept that lakes of sufficient depth exhibit a thermocline was successfully conveyed.  The student data was simplified to make the mapped information easier for EBMUD to display to patrons (typically individuals who fish at the lake).  It is known that the fish do spend more time in locations with adequate oxygen so the data is indeed applicable.

SALG on student reactions:  Using a scale ranging from 1 strongly disagree, 3 neutral, and 5 strongly agree.

Questions Mean Number of respondents
The data set was easily obtained.
You think that the data set obtained from the experiment was high quality.
The experimental site was too conducive to recreation so it therefore distracted students.
The experience of sampling in the field was educational.
The reported data will be used to make an impact on the community.

What did you learn during the process?

This mapping tool worked in an acceptable fashion for a small project.  I would need further training to more effectively use other features in the software and move the created mapped data into Goggle Earth maps.  This aspect might be a future direction since I still am unclear how data in one mapping format (*.nmf)  could be transformed into another format (*.klm).  Geotagging of the information was acceptable however a more straightforward method would be helpful.  A critical addition would be to have a formal ARC GIS Explorer account so that the results were more readily available to others.  The resulting files from the free version software required some internet access and required photos to be stored in the same file folder as the resulting data file.

How may this information impact local communities?

EBMUD staff were pleased to have us collect this data and submit in a manner that they could plan to use.  The fishing patrons are keenly interested in the dissolved oxygen content in the lake as a function of depth.  The class measured the dissolved oxygen content at eleven different locations on one afternoon and estimated the depth of their probe so obtained multiple measurements at a location.  This yielded a consistent thermocline for the lake on the date of the experiment which was 25 to 30 ft.  Furthermore the data was displayed in a map where pop up data marker so some numerical results as an individual hovers the mouse icon over the data marker.  Adding a few pictures that also appear in pop-up windows was only a limited success too.  The class was invited back again since the reservoir staff don’t get this data collected by EBMUD water samplers except once per year.

Anything else you would like to add…

I need to go back to using this tool to improve some other labs or find a better mapping tool.

Google Apps for Education

 

Enabling Google Consumer Apps

by Dennis Rice

Saint Mary’s College has an agreement with Google that provides the College with certain apps in the Google suite, such as G-mail, Calendar, Drive, Groups and Sites. Google makes it possible for the community members of Higher Ed institutions to use these applications and store email and documents, whether they contain confidential or private information or not, securely in the Google cloud. Google does this by protecting the data using industry accepted security measures, and by contractually accepting the same level of guardianship of this data as is required of the College by Federal law. However, these “Core” Google Apps for Education are not the complete suite of applications that Google offers. There are others, many of which offer great value as tools used in teaching and learning, such as Google+, Google Maps, Blogger and YouTube. Unfortunately, Google excludes all of these “Consumer” apps from the data protections that are afforded by the Google Apps for Education contract. Furthermore, the terms associated with the Education contract specifically put the responsibility for compliance with all laws that protect private and sensitive information, including FERPA, with the institution. In other words, in the event some piece of important confidential information was revealed to an unauthorized person via the use or abuse of these apps, the consequences would fall on the College and the individual user, but not on Google.

A few years ago, Google would not take responsibility for legal compliance with confidentiality laws for any of their applications, and their unwillingness to do so prevented many Higher Ed institutions, including Saint Mary’s, from utilizing their services. The risks were considered too great. In order to make these “Consumer” apps available to the community, we would have to agree to essentially the same terms that prevented our participation in the Google Education program a few years ago. However if the value of these applications to teaching and learning outweigh the level of risk, or if that risk can be reduced to an acceptable level by certain measures or precautions (controls), then it would be sensible to make them available to the community. IT Services is asking for help from interested faculty in the process of evaluating whether one or more of these “Consumer” applications can be made available to the College community, and if so, what the value of a particular app is as a teaching tool versus the risk of making that application available without the full confidentiality protections.  The decision to make any or none of these apps available will ultimately lie with the Technology Planning and Policy Committee (TPPC), and all the information we gather and what actions we recommend will be made to that group at their December 2013 meeting. The implementation of any decision to offer these apps will be targeted for the beginning of the Spring Term. IT Services believes that some of these applications are valuable tools for teaching and learning and should be made available. Some, however, pose more risk than others, and it is around  these apps that the discussion should focus.

One of the early steps we took in this evaluation was to look at what peer Higher Ed institutions who participate in the Google Apps for Education program are doing with the “Consumer” Apps. We looked for institutions that had specific Google Apps web pages, and found 30 good examples. Of those we found that 18, or roughly 2/3rds, do not offer any apps beyond the “Core” apps that have the contractual protections of confidential data. In this group are UC Berkeley, Fresno State, Reed College, Michigan State, Harvard, Yale and Vassar. Here are a few examples of these sites: http://huit.harvard.edu/services/web-collaboration/collaboration-services/google-apps-harvard, http://googleapps.msu.edu/. One university in this group, USC, recommended to their users who wished to use any Google apps beyond the Core offering that they should use their personal G-mail account. There are also institutions who do offer the “Consumer” Apps within their Google Apps for Education offering, but limit the number available and only one institution offered all the apps that are available. A few, such as Brown, Wellesley, Oregon State and RIT, offer a group of the “Consumer”Apps to their communities without any warning of the risks and responsibilities of using the apps (example: http://oregonstate.edu/main/online-services/google-apps-for-osu, http://google.ncsu.edu/); others permit access to a group of  “Consumer” apps, but also post information about the risks and what precautions to take (example: http://googleapps.simmons.edu/core-and-consumer-apps); one, Brandeis (https://sites.google.com/a/brandeis.edu/googleapps/consumer-applications) permits access to the “Consumer” Apps, but only after an opt-in process where each user who wishes to use the apps agrees to a statement of their responsibility to protect confidential and private information. A record is made of that agreement.

This latter method is what is called a “control” that reduces risk. Both IT Services and College Counsel favor this approach if it is decided to make some of these “Consumer” Google apps available to the Saint Mary’s Community. We have been in touch with members of the Brandeis IT department, discovered how this process works, and we can implement such a control here.

In preparation for the discussion about the issues around making Google “Consumer” apps available to the College community, the TLT group went through the full palate of “Consumer” apps that Google offers us, and have come up with a list of possible apps that make sense to offer, and give them a rough rating as to risk and value. It should be noted that there are many in the suite that are targeted at groups other than education (such as advertising and marketing), and are not obviously very relevant to teaching and learning.

Preliminary list of low-risk Google Consumer Apps recommended by the TLT group to be opened to the SMC community:

3D Warehouse
Google Bookmarks
Google Chrome Sync
Google Finance
Google in Your Language
Google Map Maker
Google Maps
Google News
Google Public Data

 

Consumer Apps that the group thinks should  be turned on, but are higher risk or have other issues and further investigation is needed:

APP Risk Value Control Possible? Note
Blogger Med/High Med/High Yes 1
Google Wallet Very High Low No 2
Google + High High Yes 3
Picassa Medium Medium Yes 4
You Tube Med/ High High Yes 5

 

 

 

Notes:

  1. Risk can be lowered if it is limited to the SMC domain. We know it is possible for the blogger to enter a ACL.
    1. Information needed: Can all blogs be limited to the SMC domain
  2. Transaction information – user enters credit card info which may be saved – a user name/password breech can expose this information
    1. Information needed: Can these expansion charges be paid another way
  3. Risk can be lowered if it is limited to the SMC domain
    1. Information needed: Can the extent of this app and sharing etc. be limited to the SMC domain
  4. Risk can be lowered if it is limited to the SMC domain.
    1. Information needed: Can the extent of this app and sharing etc. be limited to the SMC domain
  5. Risk can be lowered if the viewing of any material uploaded is limited to the SMC domain. Otherwise, non-SMC accounts should be used for uploading.
    1. Information needed: Can videos uploaded within the SMC Google domain be restricted for viewing to members of the community only.

 

 

What’s New in Moodle 2?

 This summer IT Services is working hard behind the scenes to make sure all our campus systems are running well. Part of our necessary maintenance is upgrading our Learning Management System, Moodle to increase security and add functionality. We will be upgrading the entire SMC campus to Moodle 2  this coming February 2014, so please make sure to stop by one of our Fall and Jan Term training sessions in the Keck Lab (located in Sichel and the Department of Communications. A list of classes and course descriptions will be advertised after the first two weeks of class, Fall 2013.

We will be upgrading hosting a “Moodle 2” Faculty Tech Camp for the first two weeks of Jan Term, 2014. Be sure to mark your calendars if you would like to join us for any of the trainings . Please note, you are also welcome to request a Moodle 2 sandbox site in advance of the February 2014 transition to Moodle 2 in order to get a feel for the new system and see how your materials will look.  If you are interested in a sandbox site, please let us know and we will be happy to accommodate you. In the meantime, here is a brief list of the main NEW features of Moodle 2. We hope you will find this update useful and more user-friendly than our current version, Moodle 1.9.

New Features in Moodle 2 for faculty:

  • Interface
  • Docking tabs on the side of the page
  • Navigation

New Features in Moodle 2 for students:

  • How to upload a file to a post or within the assignments area of the course
  • Advanced Discussion Forums 
  • “Files” vs. “Personal Files”

The first thing you will notice about the upgrade to Moodle 2 next February are the docking panels that host the “administration” and “settings” blocks. You can unhide the blocks so they appear to the left side of your screen, or you can keep them open in the docking area. Docking these blocks is convenient if you would like more space to view the content of your course.

The second major change is the way data is stored. You may recall that in Moodle 1.9 all files associated with a course are located in the “administration” block > “file”s area. When we upgrade to Moodle 2 and import your course materials to a new course site, you will see that the content transferred over are called “legacy files”. If you plan to do an “import” of the content from your previous class, you will see that the files from your previous course still appear, however, if you start building your Moodle 2 course site entirely from scratch, you will notice that your (resource) files no longer appear in the same area. Moodle 2 stores resource files behind the scenes. This makes navigating the system faster, and more, user-friendly. Moodle 2 also has a new, “personal files” area where you can upload any files you would like to have associated with a course but do not need in the main content area of your course site. This area is a great place to store handouts you will present during class or notes regarding student participation.

The last major change worthy of your attention at this time is the addition of “advanced forums.”  Advanced forums have increased ability to mark posts, allowing instructors to signify posts they consider “substantive” The feature is especially welcome for members of hybrid courses or professional programs that rely on discussion outside of class as a feature to engage student’s with course content outside of class.