One of the things that we take very seriously is security. The safety and security of our users and data are important. This responsibility is not just for the Technology Department but is the responsibility of every user. Some times, people do what is expedient, instead of what is safe. One example that we had this year was a teacher signing into a computer and then letting a substitute use that computer. Unfortunately, the substitute made some poor decisions. (Just a reminder to NEVER share your credentials with someone else or sign into a computer and let someone else use it. This can lead to many uncomfortable situations. It’s also against federal law).
Because we take security seriously, we frequently have to ask questions and seek clarification about accounts and access. Recently, I had someone ask why I cared, and what were the possibilities of a compromise (frequently called a “hack”, but hacking is more specific than a compromise) of our data.
*Note that these are only the reported compromises.
Compromises occur due to a wide range of conditions that include, but are not limited to:
a misconfiguration on a server
an employee giving out their credentials
a contractor who copies information
malware installed by a user
ransomware installed by a user
email phishing that was successful
These compromises happen to all different sizes of districts and background. While the districts vary greatly in terms of size, socio-economic status, funding and more, the impact is similar for all.
…the impact of publicly-reported K-12 cyber incidents is significant. During 2018, such incidents resulted in the theft of millions of tax payer dollars, stolen identities, tax fraud, altered school records, website and social media defacement, and the loss of access to school technology and IT systems for weeks or longer.
Recently, several other governmental agencies have been successfully compromised. The cost of recovering from those compromises can be expensive in terms of actual dollars, time to recover and lost data.
Summertime and the living is easy, but the work is hard. Some people think that we have the summer off. Summer is actually a very busy time for us. For example, we have the following projects scheduled for summer:
– Update the district web site
– Update iLearn
– Update iBlog
– Update OTRS
– Update Student Sites
– Update DEC
– Update Pin It
– Develop and implement internal Documentation system
– Develop training on Grackle Docs
– Review/Update all Required Courses (ADA,Bloodborne Pathogens,OCR,RBB, Title IX) with generating departments/groups
– Update Non-Instructional Evaluation Process
– Implement e911 on the new phone system
– Update individual school web sites
– Update departmental web sites
– Update RBB reporting
– Update School Specific Google Accounts
– Develop/Implement Workflow Approval Process
We’re actually working on even more. We’ll have more information to follow. Have a great summer!
Newsela has been reaching out to me. Newsela is a service that provides leveled readings. A few years ago, they were all the rage. They provided free, leveled readings for students (they still do, but more about that in a minute).
Like many free services, Newsela has a free and paid version. The main point of the free version is to encourage users to move to the paid version (this is referred to as “customer acquisition”). Free works in some situations (FOSS for example), but it is important to understand why something is free. Open source is different than “customer acquisition”.
So, what’s changing in the free version of Newsela?
Beginning with the 2019-2020 school year, news content will remain available in our free version. Alignments to standards and Newsela-curated Text Sets will no longer be visible without a paid subscription.
The other 20+ standards-aligned content genres such as primary sources, reference texts, pro/con paired texts, historical documents and pre-curated Text Sets will require a subscription.
We do have a couple of schools that pay for the premium version of Newsela. We do want teachers to know about resources that are available, while being smart, informed consumers.
The web remains a fascinating place. It is exciting and ever-changing. Recently, due to security concerns, we had to make some changes to Chromebooks. Any Chromebooks that are used by students are now limited to the DPS network. That is, any and all student Chromebooks can only connect to the DPS wireless network. If those Chromebooks attempt to connect to any other network, the user will see a message that the administrator has disabled this network.
Staff Chromebooks are not limited to the DPS network. Staff Chromebooks will work on any network.
A recent ruling reminds us all of the importance of following copyright. HISD (Houston ISD from Texas) was recently ordered to pay $9.2 million dollars ($9,200,000) due to copyright infringement. (Just think about what that $9.2 million dollars could be used for).
The staff of the school took willing steps to ignore copyright. However, this is also a reminder that we must follow copyright. Generally, we don’t post material that we didn’t create or that we don’t know is licensed under Creative Commons.
This includes not only print, but audio and video as well.
Thus, it is important to remember that Dearborn Public Schools believes in following copyright.
Recently, we announced that we are limiting staff to approved Extensions (we have been limiting students to approved extensions for quite a while). Staff can request additional extensions. This may be a good time to explain the difference between an Extension and an Add-on. (As a bonus, Web Apps will also be discussed).
Extensions allow you to customize the browser experience. Extensions can add functionality, tailor browser behavior to individual preferences, or integrate another application into the browsing experience. Extensions can be found in the browser just after the Omnibox (URL box). You can also find the extensions that you’ve installed by clicking on the triple buttons | More tools… | Extensions link.
Here are just a few popular examples:
One Tab – Condense all your open windows to one web page.
Hypothes.is – Annotate and Bookmark web pages. You can join or create Groups as well.
Monosnap – Take screenshots, record video, add arrows, boxes and more. Great for creating visual directions.
Add-ons are extra tools that extend the use of Docs, Sheets, Forms, and Slides. These “add on” functionality to those programs. Add-ons are installed within each application. You would visit the Add ons Menu.
AutoCrat – Mail merge for Docs.
Grackle Docs – Make your Docs ADA compliant. (This is an exciting new feature that the district is rolling out to all users – look for more information soon).
QR Code generator – makes QR codes.
All users should be careful with Add-ons. Generally, you are granting these add-ons the ability to see and manipulate your data. Although we are not limiting Add-ons at this time, we are monitoring the landscape for these as well.
Web Apps are a third category of applications that use a browser. These are applications that run within a browser. These are “stand-alone” applications that will run within their own tab.
The world is definitely changing. Many things that we do are getting easier and easier. To quote the wonderful “Hamilton” broadway play, “how lucky we are to be alive right now”. With all the great features and powerful opportunities, we need to change and adapt to the new landscape. Unfortunately, those with bad intent are changing as well. Thus, we have to constantly monitor our safety and security.
It can be challenging to understand the differences among an Extension, Add-on, and Web App. The important part is to understand what permissions you are giving. It is really important that you understand the end effect of these applications.