Google’s Policies Change Tomorrow? Do you care?

If you haven’t heard, Google announced a few weeks back that it would have a new privacy policy that goes into effect on March 1, 2012.

In a nutshell, instead of separating all of your profiles on each of its tools (like search, YouTube, G+, and so on), Google will now combine all of that information into one single profile. This may or may not appeal to you.

If you decide it is fine. Go ahead like nothing has changed!

If you are bothered by that, here are some tips:

  • Don’t sign in to the sites to use them. If you are not signed in via your Google or Gmail account, then  they cannot track your history and assign it to you.
  • If you want or need to be signed in, you can change what Google has in your history and stop them from gathering information by going to your Web History and “pausing” it and deleting it. This doesn’t prevent it from totally gathering the information and it can still be given up to law enforcement, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, but it cause it to be partially anonymized after 18 months. Here’s how to remove your web history (from EFF)
  • You can delete your viewing history on YouTube in a similar manner:
    • Go to YouTube (after signing into Google)
    • Under your profile in the top right, go to Video Manager.
    • Click “History” on the left of the page and then “Clear Viewing History”
    • Refresh the page and then click “Pause Viewing History”
    • Do the same for your search history by clicking on  “Clear Search History” and doing the same steps.

For more information on Google’s announcements and some explanations and responses, here are a few resources:

Overview of Policies and Principles (Google)

Google’s New Online Privacy Policy: Internet Lawyer Explains In Plain English (Kelley Law Firm)

Privacy Group Petitions FTC Over Google’s New Privacy Policy: Pressure mounting on FTC (AdWeek)

How to Prepare for Google’s Privacy Changes” (CNN)

What Actually Changed in Google’s Privacy Policy” (Electronic Frontier Foundation)


Open Educational Resources – a free workshop

OER wordleLast week, I participated in a global workshop on open content licensing for educators. The objectives for the workshop, which was a collaborative development between volunteers from the: WikiEducator community, OpenCourseWare Consortium and Creative Commons with funding support from the UNESCO Office for the Pacific states. Over 1000 participants from 81 countries took part! The discussion took place both within Moodle and on microblog sites like Twitter, and Moodle. The organizers asked us to use hashtags in our posts so they could pull all comments together.
From their site:

The Open content licensing for educators is a free online workshop designed for educators who want to learn more about open education resources, copyright, and creative commons licenses. This workshop will:

Reflect on the practice of sharing knowledge in education and the permissions educators consider fair and reasonable;
Define what constitutes an open education resource (OER);
Explain how international copyright functions in a digital world;
Introduce the Creative Commons suite of licenses and explain how they support open education approaches;
Connect with educators around the world to share thoughts and experiences in relation to copyright, OER and Creative Commons.


The graphic above is a Wordle – a word cloud built by entering all of the comments made during the workshop and feeding them into a program that analyzes how much they are used and then the cloud is created making the highly repeated words larger. We have talked about word clouds before.

If you are interested in learning more about OER and Creative Commons and fair use and more… check out the course. All of their materials are licensed as OERs so you can use them as you want!


100 Things to Watch in 2012

Cover of the presentation, 100 Things to Watch in 2012While not all 100 of these items from JWTIntelligence, a marketing company, are related to teaching or technology, it is always fascinating to see what they identify each year.

Some items of interest include:

BYOD – (bring your own device). This is actually a phrase I have been using for a while so I was happy to see it as a trend. Smartphones and tablet devices are really the true “personal” computer and more folks will be bringing them everywhere, including into classrooms. How can we be ready for them and how can we use them effectively in our teaching/learning process?

Crowdsourced Learning – An interesting idea for personal education. Sites that allow learners and teachers to find each other and create custom courses. I wonder how this idea can be incorporated into the “traditional” means of higher education to provide more personalization within the academic rigor required for degrees.

Flipped Classrooms – this concept is growing in the edublogger sphere and beyone. The concept is that students are asked to watch the lectures before class and then spend the in-class time working with each other and the instructor on homework, projects, discussion and other activities that frequently are done outside of the traditional “lecture” time.

Gen Z – Those folks born after 2000, who truly are the digital natives, if you want to use that term still. We will be seeing these students in the next 5–7 years and they bring a very different perspective with them.

Mobile Security (and Cloud Security) – with the advent of the cloud-based, access from anywhere, there is also a growing need for providing real security for your data as you interact with it in the cloud and on mobile devices.

Check the entire presentation out!

Reinventing Mobile Media for Distance Education

image of cell phone on desktop of a computerAudrey presented at the Tennessee Alliance for Continuing Higher Education on November 10, 2011. Here are notes to support that talk.

Modern Mixtape: QR Code created by Kaywa linking to playlist in Spotify


Voice (beyond just phone to phone calling)


Video as Communication

Video as Content: Universal Design and Accessibility

Providing players with HTML 5 and Flash fall back (which YouTube and Vimeo provide)


  • dotSUB (for translations and subtitles – crowdsourced option)
  • 3Play (pay service for transcriptions and subtitle files)


Interactive and Location-based Media


Layer Demo Video:


Image: ‘Technology – “Future Vision”
Technology - "Future Vision"

Decisions, Decisions: D2L email

The feedback provided by students during the SpeakOut sessions last academic year included concerns with having two different email systems for communication. Along with upcoming changes announced within the D2L email configuration options for the newer versions being released this fall, ETS began to gather information and explore options for simplifying email for everyone. We presented some options during the Fall UnConference in August 2011.

Thumbnail of the presentation start screen

Watch the presentation.





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D2L Quick Tip: Replace Strings

Replace strings allow you to insert a variable in course email, widgets, news items, etc. whose value is dynamically set when a user access a page. It may sound complicated, but it is actually incredibly easy to setup!

Say, for example, you wanted to include an introductory news item greeting each student to your course. You would start out as normal by create the news item and typing your message.

News Item Without Replace Strings

Then, replace the student’s first name with the {FirstName} replace string (all replace strings will have the brackets around the name). When a student views the page, the {FirstName} string will be replaced with the student’s actual first name! If you’re interested, there is also a {LastName} variable you can use as well.

You could take it a step further and use the {OrgUnitName} to replace the name for your course. The variable will get replaced by the name of the current course, so you could now copy this news item to your course next semester and you won’t have to change anything to make it work!

News Item After Replace Screen

As you can see, replace strings can be quite useful. You can learn more about them by visiting this excellent post at the University of Wisconsin website.


QR + AR = ??

See that code to the right of this post? Yes, that funny black and white image. It’s called a QR code (QR = quick response)

If you have a mobile phone with a camera and a QR code reader (like Barcode Reader on an Android phone or QR Reader for iPhone or the Kaywa Reader for just about every other phone), then you take a picture of the code and the reader decodes the information that is embedded in the code.

Most QR codes take you to web sites that have additional information. However, some can also embed information like photos, documents and other media. We mentioned QR codes way back in 2007 as something to watch but they have been slow to pick up in the US. However, I am starting to see more and more codes in magazines and other media.

There is also AR (augmented reality). Augmented Reality also uses a camera on a phone or iPad 2 to view the world around you and then place additional information over the image so the reality is “augmented” with data. Some examples include:

The Layar Browser that can show you locations of stores, rental property, restrooms and more.

The Rayban Virtual Mirror let’s you see yourself in Ray-Ban sunglasses. Although, ahem, they need a Mac version of this as everybody cool wears Ray-Ban AND uses a Mac 🙂 You use Java and your webcam to “try on” various styles of Rayban sunglasses – and of course you can buy them right there as well!

Daqri is a new player on the market that mixes the QR code with Augmented Reality so you can have the interactive experience of AR with the ease of a QR code. Check out their demo reel:

I am in the beta for Daqri and will let you know how it goes during our experimentation. In fact, Brandon and I are thinking of using Daqri for our poster session at the upcoming FUSION 2011 D2L Users Conference. Could be a whole different take on handouts.

Do you think you can find ways to implement QR or AR in your teaching? Your everyday life? Have you? Let us know in the comments.