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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.

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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.

 

 

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