IET eNewsOctober 2011

eDisk Enhanced

Enhancements to the College's system for electronic document storage and information exchange

The Sites folders on eDisk for groups and individuals have been enhanced to provide secure sharing of documents via a web browser. The two changes are:

  1. New folders that restrict web access to certain College groups
  2. Directory listing for folders within the eDisk Sites Folder

Restricted Web Access
The enhanced Sites folder structure contains three new folders that restrict web access to certain groups within the College community. A person accessing these restricted folders must enter their F&M NetID and password.

The folder Sites/fandm is restricted to members of the College community (i.e. FPS and students). The folder Sites/fandm/fps is restricted to faculty, professional staff and the eDisk group that owns the folder. The folder Sites/fandm/faculty is restricted to faculty and the eDisk group that owns the folder.

Using a Sites folder to distribute a file makes it easier to email a URL link for the file. The recipient can simply click a URL in an email to open the file directly. The URL is compatible with Macs, PCs, iPhones, and other devices. Being able to restrict file access to certain groups within the College community greatly enhances this capability.

Directory Listing
If a URL specifies a group folder on eDisk, but not a specific file, the eDisk web server looks for a file named index.html within the specified folder. If an index.html file is found, the web content of the file is returned to the browser. If it is not found, the web server generates a directory listing.

eDisk - Directory Listing

Directory listing makes it easy to have a web-based distribution folder without writing html or editing web pages. To distribute a file via the web, a person simply has to copy the file to the appropriate Sites folder and it will automatically be included in the directory listing for the folder.

These new features simplify sharing documents like PDFs with the F&M community, with FPS only, with faculty only, or with the entire “world” (anyone who has the URL path) by sharing a web URL rather than an eDisk path to follow.


"How do I connect to eDisk?" is one of the most frequently asked questions to the ITS Help Desk at the beginning of every semester.

Because there is a bewildering number of combinations of web browsers and operating systems in use on campus, we recommend one reliable connection method for each of the two major platforms (Mac and Windows).

Quickstart instructions for connecting to eDisk are available online at


If you would like to learn more about eDisk, please contact an IET Instructional Technologist.

NOTE: This article originally appeared in the August 23, 2011 issue of ITS TechTips.

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Faculty Showcase

Tim Sipe

Tim SipeTim Sipe, Biology, is using technology to provide more effective, personal feedback to his students by digitally recording voice comments on written assignments. "The benefits of providing audio comments seem to be numerous and that's why I've stayed with this idea for many years now." More...

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In 500 Billion Words, New Window on Culture

Culturomics: the application of massive scale data collection and analysis to the study of human culture

The Google Labs N-gram Viewer is the first tool of its kind, capable of precisely and rapidly quantifying cultural trends based on massive quantities of data. According to its designers, it is a gateway to culturomics. The tool is designed to enable one to examine the frequency of words (banana) or phrases ('United States of America') in books over time. The tool searches through over 5.2 million books: ~4% of all books ever published.

Type in a word or phrase in one of seven languages (English, French, German, Spanish, Hebrew, Russian, Chinese) and see how its usage frequency has been changing throughout the past few centuries.

For example, search on the words "women" and "men" and the graph shows that “women,” in comparison with “men,” is rarely mentioned until the early 1970s, when feminism gained a foothold. The lines eventually cross paths about 1986.

nGram of women and men
nGram: women,men from between 1800 and 2008 in English
Click on the graph for a larger view.

The words "men" and "women" are 1-grams or unigrams. "Ben Franklin" is a 2-gram or bigram, and so on.

The intended audience is scholarly, but the simple online tool allows anyone with a computer to plug in a string of up to five words and see a graph that charts the phrase’s use over time. The tool allows one to search different collections of books (called 'corpora'). The designers emphasized that culturomics simply provided information. Interpretation remains essential. Some effects are due to changes in the language we use to describe things ('The Great War' vs. 'World War I'). Others are due to actual changes in what interests us ( 'slavery' peaks during the Civil War and during the Civil Rights movement.)

The designers published the results of their work in the December 16 2010 issue of the journal Science. In an unusual move for the publication, Science is making the paper available online to non subscribers. The New York TImes published an article about the study on the same day that said this new tool "offers a tantalizing taste of the rich buffet of research opportunities now open to literature, history and other liberal arts professors who may have previously avoided quantitative analysis."

The Designers discuss their project on TED Talks.
The designers discuss their project on TED Talks.
Click on the image to watch the video.

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Focus on Social Media in Education


NOTE: This is the second in a series of articles focusing on social media and how it may be used in teaching and learning. This issue will focus on Twitter.

TwitterTwitter describes itself as “a real-time information network that connects you to the latest information about what you find interesting.” It can also be described as a platform in which users can post and read short messages of 140 characters or less (aka “tweets”).

Twitter can serve as a guide to what people are finding interesting in the moment. Generally, Twitter presents information as a real time stream of posts from everyone you have chosen to follow. It is also searchable, however, making it a valuable tool for those seeking news, information and perspectives beyond what is available on mainstream media or for those seeking to connect with potential primary sources for research or journalism.

As F&M President Daniel Porterfield mentioned during his comments at Common Hour, Twitter may serve as a valuable tool for “sensing the pulse” of a community by following what members of a particular community are posting. This can be accomplished by setting up “lists”, or streams of tweets from specific groups of Twitter users.

Setting up lists and choosing thoughtfully which users to follow can make Twitter a more focused tool. Associate Professor of Communications at Quinnipiac University, Alex Halavais,
notes that although he often follows people he knows, he chooses people more on the basis of their ability to make him aware of interesting things and less out of a desire to keep up with them as friends.

At its heart, Twitter is a communication tool. Twitter can help connect users to others in their field, help them discover interesting projects and perspectives, and allow them to crowdsource questions and technical problems. The more users contribute, the more valuable it becomes.

Setting up a Twitter account is free. If you would like to learn more about using Twitter, please contact an IET Instructional Technologist.

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Around the WebBlackboard logo

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Projections of Education Statistics Through 2020
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Goldilocks – A New Series, Filmed on an iPhone, Distributed Through an App
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Streaming Video in Medical Education
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In this issue
eDisk Enhanced
Faculty Showcase
Focus on the Social Media
Around the Web
  Think Green Tech Tip
Fast Facts

CAT Faculty Equipment Loan Pool

Favorite iApps
Tech Tips
7 Things You Should Kwow About...
Using the eLearning Lab
Software Spotlight
Tech Tips