Computer Security

Computer security is the most important aspect of responsible computing and often the least executed.  There are a number of parts to security, but I’m going to discuss three areas: Backups, Passwords, and Anti-X.

Backups

This is the single most important area especially in a business environment. Your security preparations are only as strong as your most recent USABLE backup. Why do I emphasize the word usable? Because backups aren’t worth anything if they aren’t successful or if the backup includes the infected files.  It is important to have a backup rotation that gives you a week or two at least to discover a problem and restore a good file. Backups should be tested periodically by restoring a file or two and then opening those files to make sure they are readable. I have spent hours going through customer backup files only to find that they weren’t able to be restored.

Passwords

Use strong passwords! I cannot emphasize this enough. Sports teams, people’s names, animals, words with simple number replacements are all VERY easy to hack with something called a dictionary attack. A dictionary attack uses a file that contains common passwords and basic variations to try and log into someone’s account. Let’s say you love the Bengals (sorry for your delusion) and you say, hey, I’ll be clever and make the ‘e’ a 3 and the ‘a’ an @ sign giving you B3ng@ls. Don’t pat yourself on the back too quickly. This is a very common replacement scheme and one that is covered in nearly every dictionary attack.  I personally use a program called Keeper Security which can be found here. I love this program. I use a relatively complex password for this program and then I allow the program to generate really complex passwords for all my other sites. The nice thing is that I can access this from any computer via the website and I can also access it on my mobile devices via apps for Apple and Android operating systems.  There are browser plug ins for both IE and Chrome that make it easy to use Keeper on the go and save the complex passwords. I highly recommend using something like this for your passwords.

Finally, let’s look at anti-x software. This is used to include the array of anti-virus, anti-malware, anti-spam, etc. software that is available out there. In today’s world, it is imperative that you have some type of decent anti-x software installed. Microsoft, Symantec, TrendMicro, and McAfee all make high quality anti-x products that are suitable for both the home and business user. These software packages will check your device to make sure it doesn’t have any viruses on it at that moment. You can then enable some type of active monitoring that will check files, email, websites, etc. as you are working to try and prevent infection from occurring in the first place. Make sure the virus signatures are set to update at least once a day. I typically set mine to 11pm and 11am (every 12 hours). This helps make sure I’m as up to date as possible.  If you hear of a new virus variant coming out, please check one of the vendors websites mentioned here to verify if it is a real issue, or just spam email. If it is a real virus that is new (generally these are referred to as ‘zero day’ viruses the day they are publicized) be extra cautions of anything even remotely suspicious that you get until your anti-x vendor provides updated signatures to handle the zero-day virus.

I hope you find these comments useful and I look forward to hearing your feedback.

WebQuests

WebQuests

This week we looked at WebQuests. These are kind of like online treasure hunts where students are given a situation and task to complete using online resources.  I think these are great. Not only does it build content knowledge, it also teaches online searching skills which is critical in today’s society.  The WebQuest I found online that I really liked was a Small Business WebQuest at http://imet.csus.edu/imet1/peaty/webquest/

I think this WQ does an excellent job of laying out the situation and providing an interesting topic to research.  It provides examples of other small businesses and really walks students through the process.  The scoring guidelines are clear and easy to understand.  I think this could be made better by tying in to a segment of the TV show Shark Tank to show how pitching a business and understanding the business can really make a difference in getting funding.

The WebQuest that I created for this class can be found at http://zunal.com/webquest.php?w=253034

This WQ is about creating effective fliers using MS Word. There are several things that I look for the students to get out of this lesson. First off, I want them to understand what goes into making a good flier to catch people’s attention. That’s the obvious one. Next, I want them to learn some MS Word skills that they may not already have, like adjusting margins. Then, one of the most important skills, knowing how to search for information on the web and then finding that credible information. Too often I work with students and adults who have no real idea how to word their search queries to return what they are really looking for. I remember as a child going to the library so the librarian could show us how to use the library to research information. These days, so much of that has been replaced by the internet.

Zunal is a great tool for creating WebQuests. It walks you through the creation process as well as providing a really useful set of tools to embed content and make the WebQuest interface much more interesting for the students.

Online Communication Tools

1. What did I learn that was totally new to me?

This is a tough question given my depth of technology background. I’m not really sure that I learned anything totally new to me. Online communication is critical to todays education systems. Both synchronous (i.e. chat, video conference) as well as asynchronous (i.e. e-mail, blogs, YouTube) are valuable for education. Educators should not lean on only one area, but be sure to utilize both types of communication.

2. How can you use this information to inform your instructional strategies with your own students? 

I really enjoyed learning a bit more about the importance of communication tools for interacting with students. I think it will be important in the future to integrate multiple communication strategies into my instructional design.  I personally tend to shy away from direct communication styles like phone conversations. I prefer email and chat communication. One of the big reasons is that this leaves a record of what was discussed that can be referenced at a later date. I often forget parts of verbal conversations, particularly when I’m on the phone. I think this may be because the phone provides no visual linkage to what’s being said. Without some type of visual linkage, I find it difficult to recall information.  It is strange that someone who spends so much time on computers would have this type of issue, but typing words helps provide the visual link for me that is simply not there on the phone.

Presentation Programs

This weeks lesson was about presentations. I think many people misunderstand the purpose of a digital presentation. It is not meant as a set of on screen notes to be read or copied down. It is meant as a visual tool to help pull your audience into your presentation and to enhance the information. Too often I have sat through presentations where the presenter has read slides to us. This does nearly nothing to enhance the presentation or engage the audience.

I have personally created and used many digital presentations to classes. Even with my experience and knowledge, I find myself falling into this trap. After completing a presentation, It’s good to go back through it with a critical eye and ask yourself what is it adding.

I find myself doing this after nearly every presentation, just like I do after nearly every lesson. Do a quick ‘post mortem’. Ask what went well, what could have gone better, how can I improve. Figure out what students reacted well to and what seemed to leave them cold. You could even conduct a quick survey. I’m always looking for continuous improvement.

We also spent time this week looking at the TED website. I am a fan of TED and have been for quite awhile. There are LOTS of topics and information on this site that I love to contemplate. I think it can be excellent jumping off points for student lessons and projects.

 

Technology Exploration Assignment 11

ComicLife

1. Describe what you learned from exploring this resource.  Be thorough in your response.
This is a really interesting way to engage students. This site allows you to take pictures and a story to create a comic book/graphic novel for telling your story.  Seems to be really flexible and usable. Allows author to create their script and then helps walk them through creating the pages to go with the script.
2. How could you use this resource in a school setting?  It does not matter if it is in your field or level, you need to understand how the resource might be used in educational settings.
I think it would be great for students to use something like this to present their findings from a lesson. Love the creativity aspect of something much more engaging than just writing a report.
3. Would you recommend this resource to other educators? Like/Dislike; Ease of use, fee or not, and so forth.  Why or Why not?
Seems to be relatively easy to use. It does cost $29.95 and requires Windows 7 or Windows 8. It seems like a really good tool to me and I would recommend it.

 

iSpeech

1. Describe what you learned from exploring this resource.  Be thorough in your response.
This is another text to speech utility. This one seems to do a better job of sounding more natural. You can translate small text quickly or entire documents to speech. These speech files can also be connected with animated avatars. This increases the interest level for students.
2. How could you use this resource in a school setting?  It does not matter if it is in your field or level, you need to understand how the resource might be used in educational settings.
I think this could be used by both educators and students. Educators could use this for enhancing their own presentations and in creating differentiated instruction for students with special needs.
3. Would you recommend this resource to other educators? Like/Dislike; Ease of use, fee or not, and so forth.  Why or Why not?
This seems like a really interesting tool. There is a free version that provides some basic functionality and is pretty easy to use. There are paid versions that provide more features. I was not able to find pricing for these additional features and functionality.

 

Technology Exploration Assignment 12

VoiceThread

1. Describe what you learned from exploring this resource.  Be thorough in your response.

2. How could you use this resource in a school setting?  It does not matter if it is in your field or level, you need to understand how the resource might be used in educational settings.

3. Would you recommend this resource to other educators? Like/Dislike; Ease of use, fee or not, and so forth.  Why or Why not?

 

Technology Exploration Assignment 13

Storybird

1. Describe what you learned from exploring this resource.  Be thorough in your response.

2. How could you use this resource in a school setting?  It does not matter if it is in your field or level, you need to understand how the resource might be used in educational settings.

3. Would you recommend this resource to other educators? Like/Dislike; Ease of use, fee or not, and so forth.  Why or Why not?

Scribblar


1. Describe what you learned from exploring this resource.  Be thorough in your response.

2. How could you use this resource in a school setting?  It does not matter if it is in your field or level, you need to understand how the resource might be used in educational settings.

3. Would you recommend this resource to other educators? Like/Dislike; Ease of use, fee or not, and so forth.  Why or Why not?

 

Technology Exploration Assignment 14

Kidblog.org

1. Describe what you learned from exploring this resource.  Be thorough in your response.

2. How could you use this resource in a school setting?  It does not matter if it is in your field or level, you need to understand how the resource might be used in educational settings.

3. Would you recommend this resource to other educators? Like/Dislike; Ease of use, fee or not, and so forth.  Why or Why not?

Educational Technology

It has been quite a bit since I’ve posted to my IT Buki blog. Life has been pretty hectic and lots of changes have happened in my life over the past year. One of those changes is that I have started working on my Ed. D. through the University of the Cumberlands.  The class I am taking this summer is all about Educational Technology. Each week, I will be sharing my thoughts and reactions to the class through my blog here. I hope you enjoy reading about it.

Let me know what you think.

Roberto

Neatness Counts

In my time in IT I have seen many server rooms. I have been in large, white room, raised floor data centers. I have also been in closets under the stairs. No matter what type of server room it is critical to keep it clean. I bring this up because it seems to be one of the things that gets overlooked the most.

  • Primarily, it is a safety issue. Server rails, old servers and network cables left on he floor can be a serious trip hazard. More than once have I been carrying something into a server room and tripped over something. Fortunately I haven’t suffered serious injury, but if I had it would have become a workman’s compensation issue.
  • Manuals and miscellaneous stuff lying on and around server room equipment can block proper airflow which can reduce the performance and life of the equipment.
  • Cardboard shipping boxes and manuals can feed a fire should there be some type of failure that causes a spark or flame.
  • Small hardware items set on top of equipment have the potential to fall into a server during maintenance and the short circuit when power is applied.
  • Dust destroys data and reduces airflow. It will reduce the life of your equipment.
    Keep cables organized and color coded. It can save significant time and therefore significant consulting dollars while adding or replacing network equipment.
  • Keep those server rooms (closets, hobbit holes, etc.) clean and you will be doing yourself a huge favor.