Tuesday, May 29, 2012

#iPad and #GoogleDocs Success - Documents to Go Premium

Source: http://www.myigadget.com/blog-en/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/309bprincess_bride_ipad_storage_capacity.jpg

When I called an old friend (Virgil Kirk) late this afternoon--I'd stayed late to catch up on emails--for advice on a hardware question, I had no idea he'd be answering a more profound one regarding iPads and GoogleDocs. As I've lamented quite often, most recently in this blog post, iPads and GoogleDocs/GoogleApps just don't play well together.


Simply, don't buy an iPad and expect it to work with GoogleApps well...UNLESS...you have Documents to Go Premium edition. 

Documents to Go Premium ($16.99 per iPad) integration with GoogleDocs. After buying it (what is the iPad but a black hole for app purchases! haha), I thought it might be a possible alternative to buying iWorks for each iPad ($30 per iPad) and running OwnCloud.

Basic Math: If you were deploying 500 iPads, imagine the cost difference between iWorks Suite ($30) and Documents to Go Premium ($16.99). Let's see: 
iWorks Suite at $30 per iPad adds up to $15,000 
Documents to Go Premium at $16.99 per iPad is $8495
The difference? $6,505

The short version? Documents to Go Premium works great with GoogleDocs, as well as cloud storage like Dropbox, Box.net, and SugarSync but NOT WebDav (or OwnCloud WebDav). What's the fly in the ointment? It's intended for a single-user and stores files locally on the iPad as well as in the cloud. That means that you better not be using the "institutional model"--where iPads are on a cart--but instead letting students "own" the apps or some variant of that where the individual iPad is checked-out to a student for the long-term.

NEAT FEATURES
Documents to Go Premium enables you to "view, edit, create, manage and synchronize MS Word, Excel and PPT files and attachments on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. In addition, you can view Adobe PDF, Apple iWork, and other files/attachments." 

I'm trying it now and it's working smooth...some quick observations:
  • It lets you save files locally on the iPad...sheesh, isn't that a dream?
  • Let's you edit files on device or your computer, merging changes/differences between documents. I was shocked at how quickly it connected to my MacAir at work.
  • Let's you work with files from Cloud service/online storage account
  • Cloud storage devices supported include:
    • GoogleDocs
    • Box.net
    • Dropbox
    • iDisk (didn't try this)
    • Public iDisk
    • SugarSync
  • Does not support webdav or OwnCloud
It works as advertised WAY better than anything else I've tried, and allows formatting, etc. Yes, that means you can REALLY take advantage of formatting (bold, italics, etc.) using Documents To Go Premium. You can even get files off your computer. It's the perfect solution if one were giving every child their own iPad to use. It's a must-have for GoogleDocs integration for staff. 

Still, due to the way we are deploying iPads, there are some problems:
  • It's intended for a single-user. That means, all the students work would be together (not good)
  • It DOES NOT allow one to interact with an OwnCloud server via WebDav.
Other than that, it's pretty sweet! I wish I hadn't spent the money ($10) on Pages (Keynote is still better than PPT, but most folks probably wouldn't care). 

Thoughts?



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Crucial Confrontations - End of Year SlideShows

Source: http://photos.demandstudios.com/20/13/fotolia_2594538_XS.jpg

How are you handling YOUR "crucial confrontations?" One of my favorite books shares an approach. Before I jump into that, I'd like to share two instances where crucial confrontations skills come in handy. They are real life.
Disclaimer: I'm not an expert at crucial confrontations, just someone trying to get better at them. Having read plenty of "leadership" books on the subject, I'm pleased to have found something that works. That's rare amidst the sea of words on the subject of confrontations.
Browsing my Facebook wall a few moments ago, I saw the following from a fellow educator:
Brilliant. They left my kid out of the sixth grade slide show - AFTER I emailed them his pics AND verified that they'd been received! WTH??????
As you may not know, my daughter just graduated as a senior from high school. She was summa cum laude, received principal's award, and other honors. But, like my colleague, even though my daughter submitted the pictures in time to the right person, verified that they were received, my daughter did NOT appear in the senior slide show. I bet this has happened to others at this time of the year.

Upset would be too mild a word to describe the reaction in my family. You can imagine the list of interrogatories someone in this situation might dump on their off-spring or a spouse might on the other, right?
  • Are you sure you sent the email with the pictures? You know we had to get after you to remember to scan the pictures.
  • Did you send them to the right person? Maybe you flubbed the email address...you tend to do that, don't you?
  • Was there a conspiracy or plot to keep you out of the slide show? Maybe one of your friend's mothers was jealous of how well you were doing.
Simply, the conspiracy theories and "stories told to oneself" can get your blood pressure racing. The idea is that "son of a gun" screwed you over on purpose. The authors of Crucial Confrontations describe this tendency in the following way:
People aren’t all that good at accurately attributing causality. We quickly jump to unflattering conclusions. The chief error we make is a simple one: We assume that people do what they do because of personality factors (mostly motivational) alone. Why did that woman steal from a co-worker? She’s dishonest. 
Human beings often employ what is known as a dispositional rather than a situational view of others. We argue that people act the way they do because of uncontrollable personality factors (their disposition) as opposed to doing what they do because of forces in their environment (the situation). We make this attribution error because when we look at others, we see their actions far more readily than we see the forces behind them. 
People often enact behaviors they take no joy in because of social pressure, lack of other options, or any of a variety of forces beyond personal pleasure. For example, the woman stole because she needed money to buy medicine for her children. Assuming that others do contrary things because it’s in their makeup or they actually enjoy doing them and then ignoring any other potential motivational forces is a mistake. Psychologists classify this mistake as an attribution error. And because it happens so consistently across people, times and places, it is called the Fundamental Attribution Error.
Is there a better way of handling this aside from committing the Fundamental Attribution Error?

One of the approaches I've been sharing with my son is known as Crucial Confrontations. It involves a 3 step process that looks like this:
  1. Describe the expectation.
  2. Describe the gap between the expectation and what actually happened.
  3. Ask the question, "What happened?"
The key in this approach is NOT starting with the story you told yourself, the same story that extrapolates from too few facts and gets your blood pressure up. How does this approach measure up to real life? In my opinion, it works quite well. 

In my family's situation, I tried that approach with the person responsible for my daughter's senior slide show. Here's a copy of the email, word for word, that I sent that person:
This past weekend at the Banquet, I expected to see my daughter represented in the slide show featuring all the seniors. The information I had suggested she had sent in all the pictures (attached with email below) before the deadline.
At the end of the slide show, I couldn't help but notice my daughter was not included in the slideshow. What happened?
As you can see, I deliberately stuck as close as I could to the formula provided by the authors of Crucial Confrontations. I could have started differently, right? I could have written the following:
What do you have against my daughter?!? Were you jealous because your daughter didn't make it? Out of all the seniors present, she was the ONLY one who did NOT have her pictures appear in the slide show! Not only is she graduating summa cum laude, but she's received all these honors and awards, and this one precious moment in time in front of her peers, her friend's parents, YOU LEFT HER OUT!!! I am going to complain to the principal, the superintendent, and tell every one of the parents what you FAILED to do right.
Ok, I've had a little fun with that version.What kind of response would I have gotten if I'd sent that email? Probably not a very good one...and, that response would have shown I'd committed the fundamental attribution error.

The response--yes, this is the actual response--from the person I contacted came later in the day, based on the first version I wrote (not the angry one):
OH MY!  I AM SOOO SORRY.  I am just shaking right now!  I got confused because Ms. [TeacherName] sent in a picture and said that she didn't bring her pictures in.  I spend about 100 + hours on this slide show and check and double check and send emails to faculty...  There is NO excuse.  I am just SICK about it, which doesn't help. 
The only thing I can offer is my sincere apologies to your family and especially Aida.  I can also add her other pictures and burn to a DVD.  I was thinking of burning DVD's and distributing to seniors.  
Since the event is over, there's no going back in time, a sincere apology from an overworked parent is sufficient. In fact, I just wanted to know What happened? and then use that information to move on. 

Since I was busy at work, and my wife received a copy of the email, she is the one who ended up speaking to the person. I asked her to share how she'd begun the conversation. Not surprisingly, my wife naturally followed what the CC authors call "sharing her path to action." 

In fact, I pointed it out to my son--he and I have been listening to this on the way to and from school; he has already used this approach on me successfully!--and he agreed.

The path to action essentially looks like this:
Source: http://www.crucialconfrontationsapp.com/pdf/Crucial_Confrontations.pdf 
As you might imagine, when we get angry, we tend to see/hear something and without giving it more thought, we jump to "tell a story" and then to "feel" and "act." The problem, of course, is that if you don't take the time to get your facts together, share what you've observed, explaining to the other person YOUR path to action, you may find yourself starting with your conclusions and judgments. This can result in unnecessary conflict that masks what really is happening. Suddenly, the issue isn't that the slide show failed to include your child but that you insulted someone who spent a lot of time on the project and made a mistake they're willing to own.

I just had to share this story and how well it aligned to the Crucial Confrontations model. Is there a confrontation in your life that you would have handled differently? I know I have a few!


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Remote Control Your Computer via Google Chrome



In a stunning announcement (ok, not so much), the the Chrome Remote Desktop Beta appeared on my Google+ timeline! Wow, what a nifty product worth exploring:
Chrome Remote Desktop BETA allows users to remotely access another computer through Chrome browser or a Chromebook. Computers can be made available on an short-term basis for scenarios such as ad hoc remote support, or on a more long-term basis for remote access to your applications and files. All connections are fully secured.
Chrome Remote Desktop BETA is fully cross-platform. Provide remote assistance to Windows, Mac and Linux users, or access your Windows (Vista and above) and Mac (OS X 10.6 and above) desktops at any time, all from the Chrome browser on virtually any device, including Chromebooks.
Pretty awesome feature! One question I have is, will it work through school district firewalls? Hmm....

I've seen several products that allow remote control, including some that require payment. I'm looking forward to seeing if this one will work easily and well.

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Sharing Documents from #iPad via WebDav @otixo



Looking for an easy way to save documents to Dropbox, Box, SugarSync from webdav friendly apps on your iPad? Then take a hard look at Otixo, which has upped it's bandwidth usage from less than 300 megs a month to 2 gigs per month! That's a tremendous improvement that should have any iPad user who uses iWorks, etc. and wants to save their documents to cloud storage solutions sitting up and paying attention!

Find out more about how Otixo works online in this blog entry where I explored it in more detail (includes a short tutorial).

You can also earn free credits for anyone who signs into Otixo at your invitation, but it's via email invitation only, which is a bit of a pain. If Otixo really wanted to spread their product, they'd provide a link like Dropbox does so you can share it via Twitter, G+, etc. How about it, Otixo?


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Monday, May 28, 2012

Cleaning Old Windows

Source: http://goo.gl/V9gqB

One of the tough considerations any school district faces is, "What do you do about those old versions of Windows running on decrepit computers?" It's a question to ponder the response to, especially when you consider the following data:
An IDC study commissioned by Microsoft discovered that supporting XP now costs companies and schools five times what it would cost them to support Windows 7...researchers discovered that on average 42% of business PCs are still running the aging OS. When Microsoft finally ends every vestige of support for XP a little under a year from now, 11% of PCs in business are likely to still be running what will then be a 13-year-old OS. 
...some core IT tasks take nearly twice the time and energy when it comes to XP than to Windows 7. Security patching required 82% more time, mitigating malware took 90% more time, and help desk calls more 84% less time. 
IDC’s projections taken to an extreme for large businesses, 230 PCs running Windows XP rather than Windows 7 essentially requires an additional full-time IT staff member. Put a slightly different way, transitioning a worker from XP to Windows 7 results in a 137% return on investment over three years.
Let those numbers sink in a bit. If you're in an environment where you are obligated to support Windows computers, the "Microsoft commissioned study" suggests that cleaning off that old Windows operating system and upgrading to Windows 7 will pay off quick in terms of staff time.
Organizations reported that they spent 82% less time managing patches on Windows 7 systems than they did on Windows XP, 90% less time mitigating malware, and 84% less help desk time. (Source: ComputerWorld)
Well worth the cost and a handy argument when you're asking for more money to upgrade, no? Of course, you could always take this route, if you're brave enough....


All in good-natured fun, right? ;-)



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Insightful #iPad Deployment Comment


"Is the hassle of managing the iPad, realizing that GoogleDocs doesn't work well with this device, worth it?" So far, the answer appears to be "Yes!" among students and teachers involved in iPad projects. 


Having seen firsthand how fascinatingly frustrating planning an iPad deployment in K-12 schools can be--the whole problem is, they weren't made to be managed--I found the following account worth reading:
Purchasing the iPads was the easy part. Managing them is another matter.  Dean Shareski says that “iPads are meant to be owned, not managed.”  I think he is correct, but managing them still needs to be done for my grade one students.  Managing them is the nuts and bolts that makes our iPad classroom run. Truthfully, the management has turned out to be more work than I imagined. Setting up email on each device (gmail worked the best), syncing apps, updates to firmware, making (and re-making) folders and keeping the devices charged has kept me busy. My IT department has been supportive, but they are clear that this is my job and not theirs.  I am not complaining–I wouldn’t trade this opportunity for anything–but it has meant a great deal of learning and planning. (Source: Managing: The Nuts and Bolts of an iPad Classroom)
After reading that account, and exploring this question in my own work, the following question suggests itself--"And, implementing iPads was supposed to make things easier?" Obviously, there are still a few bugs to work out once you get past the initial thrill of doing something with the magic iPad. 

This comment illustrates that opposing viewpoint:
 Dr. Tom Keating has left a new comment on your post "#GAFE on iPads and Other Questions": 
We have been piloting GAFE on ipads and Chromebooks in middle school classrooms this Spring. As might be expected given Google's involvement, Chromebooks work seamlessly. From an IT standpoint there is minimal need for support. Things just work.
Counterintuitively given Apple's history, iPads are extremely difficult to deploy in classroom settings. These are meant to be one-to-one consumer devices tied to a user account linked to a credit card of some sort. Many of the sharing features in Google Docs are minimally implemented. 
One student's review summed it up -- "Chromebooks are for school work and iPads are for entertainments." There should be a happy medium. We are still trying to find it. 
While Dr. Keating's point about Chromebooks may reflect his experiences, I can't help but look the Google gift-horse in the mouth and wonder, "Uh, how come we're not doing inexpensive linux netbooks in lieu of Chromebooks?" Now before iPad lovers start pounding on my door, please keep in mind I own one, have crafted a frankenstein iPad implementation guide (parts stolen from others implementations), as well as researched this. I have money down on the iPad, so to speak, and I keep wondering, "Uh, how come we're not doing netbooks?"

The reason why is that these devices ARE magical...so magical, it may be like hoping a unicorn will find its way into your stable of locomotion critters. Maybe, a pegasus--like a charter school with deep pockets, endless cheap labor--would be better company.
Students aren’t daunted by the iPad interface. They may take time to experiment and understand steps required to produce an outcome, but they will persevere. Having observed students at different stages of learning, across many subjects, it has become clear that students aren’t a barrier to learning with the iPad. If a process doesn’t work for a student they will try something different. They collaborate with peers to produce quality work and will heed advice to move forward. (Source: syded)
This realization isn't far from my remarks about it being tough for adult learners--accustomed to PCs--to switch or create a new workflow. Let's hope that the magic of the phrase "staying the course" hasn't fallen out of favor like past presidents....



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#TOR, #PDF Password Removal, #TrueCrypt --True Crack'd? Re-examining #Privacy


Skimming through my Zite articles, I found myself bored stiff with the usual fare of pseudo-edtech reform for K-12. Let's see...what could be more engaging, enthralling than reflecting on the decline of modern education?

Ah yes, the stuff of spy novels and movies! Encryption, hidden browsing and privacy! A quick search on Zite, and in no time, I found myself reading shocking information. There, I stumbled across TOR Browser Bundle:
The Tor software protects you by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world: it prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location, and it lets you access sites which are blocked.
The Tor Browser Bundle lets you use Tor on Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux without needing to install any software. It can run off a USB flash drive, comes with a pre-configured web browser to protect your anonymity, and is self-contained.
Tor Browser Bundle--it appears to work--essentially lets you download and run an application that grants you some anonymity while surfing. What's kinda interesting is that if you run Tor Browser Bundle, it makes it seem as if you are--by giving you a different IP address--from somewhere else...like the Phillipines:



Another curious item was Privatix Linux:
Free portable encrypted system on an usb flash drive or an external hard drive for safe editing and carrying along of sensitive data, for encrypted communication and anonymous web surfingNot everyone who finds privacy important while using the internet and communicating or is editing sensitive data always has their own computer with a safely set up operating system and the required tools at their disposal or want to carry it with them.
That's why we created the Privatix Live-System (based on Debian GNU/Linux). It is an easy to operate safe and portable system that can be booted from a cd-rom, an usb flash drive or an external hard drive and ensures your privacy and confidentiality while using the internet and communicating or editing and encrypting sensitive data.
Note that you can get the 631 meg XFCE version of Privatix (that means, light on resources)...it should fit nicely on my 16gig flash drive. I'll have to play with that, so more on that later. 

Another neat discovery was reading about a tool to remove Acrobat PDF passwords, Instant PDF Password Remover. I still recall one grant evaluation firm which prided itself on safeguarding it's confidential grant implementation evaluation reports with a passworded PDF...this would certainly give them pause!


Instant PDF Password Remover is the FREE tool to instantly remove Password of protected PDFdocument. It can remove both User & Owner password along with all PDF file restrictions such as Copy, Printing, Screen Reader etc.
Often we receive password protected PDF documents in the form of mobile bills, bank statements or other financial reports. It is highly inconvenient to remember or type these complex and long passwords.
'Instant PDF Password Remover' helps you to quickly remove the Password from these PDF documents. Thus preventing the need to type these complex/long password every time you open such protected PDF documents.
Since I've given up on using passworded PDFs--my confidence in Adobe was shattered quite some time ago, and to be blunt, I seldom have anything confidential to share with others that take the form of a PDF--I haven't tried out Instant PDF Password Remover. Let me know if you give it a shot, ok?

The most shocking was something called TrueCrack, reputed to be a password cracker for TrueCrypt.org, a tool I've often recommended here at ATC as one of several easy to implement solutions. After the initial shock had passed, i tried to access the original web site that had fed Zite...it was down. The plot, if there was one, thickened.

A quick google search revealed the TrueCrack web site, and I decided to give it a shot. After all, if TrueCrypt has truly been cracked, I may have to change my advice to colleagues who just implemented TrueCrypt in their organization as an inexpensive, easy to use privacy protection tool for their documents and data.
TrueCrack is a brute-force password cracker for TrueCrypt (Copyrigth) volume files. It works on Linux and it is optimized with Nvidia Cuda technology.
It works with cripted volumes with the following algorithms:
  • PBKDF2 (defined in PKCS5 v2.0) based on RIPEMD160 Key derivation function.
  • XTS block cipher mode of operation used for hard disk encryption based on AES.
TrueCrack can work in two different modes of use:
  • Dictionary attack: read the passwords from a file of words (one password for line).
  • Charset attack: generate the passwords from a charset of symbols defined by the user (for example: all possible strings of n characters from the charset "abc" ).
Unfortunately, TrueCrack wouldn't unzip or untar for me (tar xzvf true*.gz) so...that experiment ended quickly. Of course, then I read this remark about TCBrute and all my security went out the window. Even though I'm not safeguarding anything but personal records, work files that are confidential, it is a concern to think that TrueCrypt may do nothing but stop the computer illiterate from getting into your stuff...someone talented, well, c'est la vie.

For now, TrueCrypt remains safe against me...if I forget my password, I'll never get in! Haha.

In the meantime, maybe it's time to just use AESCrypt.com and ultra-long passwords.


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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Absolutely Awesome Typing Game #Ztype

Play Ztype!

If you've ever despaired of getting your children, your students, yourself to practice their typing on the QWERTY keyboard, then you have reason for hope. I've played other games back in the old Apple //e days of games that helped you type better, but this game ratches it up a notch!

Give it a try!


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Friday, May 25, 2012

The Right Question - GoogleApps #gafe

Source: http://goo.gl/QgPjA
Scenario:
"Mom," began Melissa with fear rising up in her eyes. "I shared my GoogleDoc with Uncle Mark while he was helping me with my homework, and he wrote something...." she pauses, not wanting to say it aloud."He wrote you what, Carmelita?" asked her Mom. A moment later, they stood in front of the computer."Where is what he wrote you?""I closed it, I was scared.""What is a GoogleDoc?""It's where I do my homework for class...it has this built-in place where you can write back-n-forth with other people. Uncle Mark offered to help me out and...."

Ok, maybe that's an unlikely scenario (I think it is), but another scenario could just as easily involve two or more students who have shared a GoogleDocs. Whatever the scenario, are schools obligated to log all chats that occur in the context of school-sponsored tools, like GoogleDocs and GoogleChat available via Gmail? If you grant students access to these tools, should you be worried about restricting access?


Could we avoid some of the problems if we just turned on GoogleApps for age 13 and above students and left the rest in the cyberdark about email and docs?

It's not an unusual topic, as a quick look at GoogleForums (Thanks, Calvin!) will reveal:
Edition: Education 
Affected Users: All students 
Issue Description: Chat service is turned off for students; however, students are still able to chat using the "now viewing" feature of shared documents. 
Steps to Reproduce (if applicable): Share a document with someone, then have both users access the document simultaneously. The "is viewing" button on the top right and instant message the other user(s) viewing the document. 
Additional information: Real-time chat and Instant Messaging is for students is not allowed in our school district by school board policy.  We must turn this feature off for students.  Right now, it appears we have to disable Google Docs completely in order to be in compliance. 
I am looking for a way to do this without having to disable Google Docs.  I do have the students setup in an organization and have the chat service turned off for them, but this particular chat feature appears to ignore that setting.  I also tried to turn off the sharing feature for google docs, but the only option I found let me turn it off outside the domain, but not within the domain.
Will a simple response like just adjusting your policy address the issue?
There is no issues with CIPA and google docs, or chat in general.  The only thing you need to have in place is a POLICY and PROCEDURE that your school follows regarding internet use, and protecting student from inappropriate material.  You do not have to actually log or monitor everything that is going on, but make an effort to do so within the policies and procedures you setup within your school.
If your school has a policy that says ALL electronic chats are prohibited, then you can not use Docs, because you would be violating your own policy.  Now if it says all non-school related electronic chats are prohibited, then you have some more wiggle room... You could also say all electronic chat is prohibited, except when used for document collaboration within google docs, etc...  You can be a specific or broad as you like, but it is all based on your schools policies and procedures.

What's the right question to ask? It's one I've been pondering all afternoon after a colleague--Marguerite Lowak--shared her findings on GoogleApps for Education (GAFE) domains. The fundamental question that we started with was as follows:
Should we create a different domain or organization for students so that we could have more control over features like Chat in our GoogleApps for Education implementation?
Before we could understand that question, we had to wrestle with the vocabulary of GoogleApps for Education, which means different things to folks who may be familiar with the concept of a "web site domain" (e.g. http://districtname.net).

Defining Terms - Vocabulary
  1. Organization - This is the top level of a GoogleApps site. Example: districtname
  2. Domain - This is a unit that exists below the organization. Some sample domains include districtname.net and student.districtname.net as shown in the example above. This use of the word domain should not be confused with a web subdomain. The word "domain" refers to the options you can set for a domain.
  3. Sub-Organization - This is a unit that exists below the domain

Below is the chart Marguerite--with a few modifications by me to highlight the differences and anonymize the district--made to explain everything:
View the spreadsheet in GoogleDocs
Note that in the chart, the orange items denote what can be said at the organization level. This means that if you want to prevent students from participating in a Chat or sharing GoogleDocs (which also has a chat) or restrict chat/googledocs conversations to their own domain--which is useful to keeping others out--you would have to setup your own organization. 

One of the challenges is that "chat" is now a part of GoogleDocs. Should safety be a concern if students can share a GoogleDoc with anyone?



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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure