Security on the Internet

Security on the Internet is a bit like Baskin Robbins, there are 31 flavors. Only, on the Internet, there are way more than 31 flavors. One of those flavors are certificates. (This is designated by https as opposed to http.) Certificates try to make sure that you are going to the site that you think that you are going to. They do this by issuing a certificate that is installed on the web server AND registered.

Unfortunately, Symantec played a bit fast and loose with certificates. Thus, Symantec certificates are no longer “Trusted”. Any web site that uses Symantec for their certificates will now show up with the scary message that “Your connection is not private”. There will be a big button that may say “Back to safety”. (There is also an ADVANCED button (not highlighted), that will allow you to continue to the site.)

Privacy Error Message screenshot

Unfortunately, some of these are legitimate. For example, the screen shot above is from our Destiny system (Library service from RESA). This is a completely legitimate site. It is safe to visit. However, given the message above, I’m sure that most people would not go on.

We have contacted RESA to update their certificate.

Although you should not automatically trust every site that presents this message, some are OK. It is crucial to know which sites are which. Generally, if there is a concern, don’t move on.


COPPA is a federal law that impacts Dearborn Public Schools. We must follow COPPA.

COPPA imposes certain requirements on operators of websites or online services directed to children under 13 years of age, and on operators of other websites or online services that have actual knowledge that they are collecting personal information online from a child under 13 years of age.

So, how does COPPA impact us? Well, let’s take a look at a free resource that teachers might find useful with students. PowToon is used to create “awesome videos and presentations”. (Naturally, there is also a paid version).

However, we need to take a look at their Privacy Policy. They will note that they are COPPA compliant, because:

Our website, products, and services are all directed to people who are at least 13 years or older.

This means that students must be at least 13 years old in order to use this service, unless the school and the parents sign off on the creation of that account. Since the district would be responsible for tracking and monitoring that permission, we do not allow students under the age of thirteen to create accounts. (PowToon is one of just thousands of websites that have this requirement).

So, if you work with students who are under the age of thirteen, you need to make sure that any web services that you use are COPPA compliant. (The Department of Technology & Media Services regularly vets sites for compliance).

Online Safety and Security

Jim Fisher has a really nice write up about a potential scam. There are several good tips in his post. This also highlights the importance of being vigilant.

I recently received an email from Netflix which nearly caused me to add my card details to someone else’s Netflix account.

He did the right thing in checking the source of the email, but even that was legitimate.

“Odd,” I thought, “but OK, I’ll check.” The email is genuinely from, so I clicked the authenticated link to an “Update your credit or debit card” page, which is genuinely hosted on No phishing here. But hang on, the “Update” page showed my declined card as **** 2745. A card number I don’t recognize. Checking my records, I’ve never seen this card number. What’s going on?

The crux of the scam is to create an account on Netflix and hope that the “real” owner of the account doesn’t notice the billing. However, this is just one way to potentially scam folks. This kind of information could be used in a variety of ways to scam individuals.

I don’t necessarily agree with everything that he says, (Netflix really should do a better job of confirming that you actually have control of the email account), but the message is important.

Just another reminder that in today’s world, it is truly important that you understand what is happening and why.

(*By the way, although the “dot” trick will work with generic Gmail addresses, it will NOT work with our work set up).

Subscribe by email CAPTCHA

Beginning today, we’ve implemented a captcha for our subscribe by email on blogs. First of all, we realize that no one really likes captchas. So, we’ve implemented the most elegant one that we could (more about that in a minute).

As a large school district, we are constantly targeted. It is crucial that we take steps to protect our users and our identity. Thus, we need to make sure that the subscribers are real.

The captcha that we’ve implemented won’t be seen by everyone. Any user within our district network won’t be presented with a captcha (thus, it may most effective to have parents sign up while within a building). Most people appropriately signed into a Google account will not be presented with a captcha either. However, if the user is off campus (not on our network) AND not signed into a trusted Google account, that user will need to complete a picture captcha in order to complete the enrollment process.

Implementing captcha this way will help reduce the number of spammers trying to use our information. This will assist with keeping our emails properly being delivered to parents.

Flash, Games and some Videos

The web is a constantly changing landscape. It can be difficult to keep up with the latest in technology advances and changes. Even those of us who literally spend their whole day working on technology are hard pressed to keep up with everything. Some of the changes that happen can be very frustrating. We are currently seeing a change that has the potential to frustrate a lot of educators.

Flash is a web technology that is being deprecated. Flash was developed by Adobe. Flash brought video and some interactivity to the web. However, it is a poorly executed technology that is rife with security issues. The security issues are so bad at this point, that even Adobe is abandoning Flash. Adobe has announced that they will end support by 2020. However, most browsers are not waiting until then to stop supporting Flash.

Famously, Apple refused to support Flash on the iPhone. This was because of the security issues with Flash. This also led to the development of better web technologies.

The problem arises because there are lots of different educational games and websites that use Flash. These are sites that were probably created many years ago. Many of them were pet projects, personal projects or college projects. These are generally free. The authors have little incentive to update the sites. A high proportion of these sites are math related.

Currently, browsers are starting to stop running the Flash plug in. Google Chrome is switching to an “enable” structure. This means that instead of the Flash media playing, the user must click an “enable” button on the page. If the media is not embedded, the end user won’t see an “enable” button at all. Soon, Chrome will not play Flash at all. MicroSoft doesn’t support Flash in their latest browser on Windows 10 at all.

This can lead to frustration for teachers and students since sites that they may have used in the past suddenly stop working. There is very little that we can do. Flash is going away.

The good news is that the web is constantly evolving. There are lots of other sites and options available. We have a couple of Technology Coaches who can help teachers create their material (and share with the district).


We’ve been transitioning to a new experience in DEC. As such, we are moving some of the links around. If you visit the Staff Resources page of the Dearborn Public Schools web site, the DEC link will now go to the new an improved version of DEC. Since we haven’t yet redeveloped every curricular area, the curriculum committees are hard at work on that, we’ve also maintained the link to “old DEC”.

Graphic showing where to find DEC links on the Staff Resources page.


In our new age of sharing, it can be easy to forget that copyright laws still apply.

This can be especially true in schools. After all, educators are trying to help students learn.

Copyright laws impact the use of images, videos and text. Frequently, schools use text, especially great stories, to help students learn. Many of these stories are still under copyright.

Even if our intent is good, we still must follow copyright laws. Unfortunately, copyright laws can be complex. Very complex.

General Copyright Dates

So, how do you know if the story that you want to use is under copyright? Here is a quick, general overview that may prove useful.

Created 1-1-78 or after When work is fixed in tangible medium of expression Life + 70 years1(or if work of corporate authorship, the shorter of 95 years from publication, or 120 years from creation2
Published before 1923 In public domain  None
Published from 1923 – 63 When published with notice3 28 years + could be renewed for 47 years, now extended by 20 years for a total renewal of 67 years. If not so renewed, now in public domain
Published from 1964 – 77 When published with notice 28 years for first term; now automatic extension of 67 years for second term
Created before 1-1-78 but not published 1-1-78, the effective date of the 1976 Act which eliminated common law copyright Life + 70 years or 12-31-2002, whichever is greater
Created before
1-1-78 but published between then and 12-31-2002
1-1-78, the effective date of the 1976 Act which eliminated common law copyright Life + 70 years or 12-31-2047 whichever is greater

Special thanks to Lolly Gassway for creating and sharing the table above. 

*Please note that if you purchased a copy of an asset (picture, song, video, text, book, story, etc.), it does NOT mean that you can then share that with everyone. “Purchasing” something normally means purchasing the right for one individual to use that piece of material. “Buying” something does NOT mean that you can do anything that you want with it.

Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers

Anything that is purchased from Teachers Pay Teachers is purchased with a specific copyright. Normally, that purchase includes the right to use it in that classroom. Teachers may NOT post the resource on the web. Teachers may NOT share it with another teacher.

Pinterest is filled with a wide variety of copyright. There is no general guidance other than one needs to check copyright carefully.


Generally, you can freely link to items on the web. Downloading, scanning, copying or otherwise having control of the item is where you need to know about copyright.


Copyright is generally in force once an item is created. Some publishers choose to copyright their material in a way that can be reused. The most popular way for authors to do so is through Creative Commons.  There are different license types that you should be aware of:

Creators choose a set of conditions they wish to apply to their work.

Attribution Attribution (by)

All CC licenses require that others who use your work in any way must give you credit the way you request, but not in a way that suggests you endorse them or their use. If they want to use your work without giving you credit or for endorsement purposes, they must get your permission first.

ShareAlike ShareAlike (sa)

You let others copy, distribute, display, perform, and modify your work, as long as they distribute any modified work on the same terms. If they want to distribute modified works under other terms, they must get your permission first.

NonCommercial NonCommercial (nc)

You let others copy, distribute, display, perform, and (unless you have chosen NoDerivatives) modify and use your work for any purpose other than commercially unless they get your permission first.

NoDerivatives NoDerivatives (nd)

You let others copy, distribute, display and perform only original copies of your work. If they want to modify your work, they must get your permission first.

Previous Posts about Copyright

Music and Copyright



New Google Calendar

Starting today, we are making the new Google Calendar available. This is an optional update at this time. You will need to click a blue button in the top right hand side of the calendar to upgrade. The new Google Calendar brings with it some nice features:

  • Pretty. The fonts and colors have been updated and modernized.
  • Add rich formatted text to events.
  • See contact information in events.

Google has some helpful information on the new calendar:

We hope that you find the new Google Calendar even more useful.


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