Beware of ransomware: Here’s how to protect your district

A new, disturbing pattern has cropped back up that is reminiscent of some nasty behavior from the early days of Internet nefarious exploits: targeting schools and students and the innocent. Ransomware attacks have been making headlines in recent months—particularly as a threat to K-12. Both Roseburg (OR )Public Schools and Leominster (MA) Public Schools were two of the latest victims of cyber-abuse.

A history of hacking
21 years ago, I got a call at my first internet security startup company (Signal 9 Solutions, later acquired by McAfee) asking for help; a woman’s son had cognitive challenges and disabilities, and she thought he was the victim of hacking. She had seen a news piece about cyberhacking, and she thought this might be a case.

At the time, we focused on enterprise sales and cryptographic solutions, but we had accidentally invented the personal firewall for telecommuting, put a beta version of this new standalone personal firewall on our website, and started a forum talking about it.…Read More

Makerspace tips and advice from the front lines

Maker culture is thriving in schools and public libraries across the United States and beyond. From challenges to success stories, no two makerspaces are alike, and maker facilitators have valuable lessons to share. In their recent edWebinar, Michelle Luhtala, library department chair at New Canaan High School in Conn., Ethan Heise, director of MackinMaker, and Heather Lister, professional learning specialist, discussed their experiences with makerspaces and shared advice for those starting their maker education journey.

4 tips from those in the know

  1. Start small. When New Canaan High School started its makerspace journey, Luhtala realized they needed to start with basics like LEGO bricks, markers, and butcher-block paper to maintain a student-centered mindset. Once students began spending more time in the makerspace and expressing interest in using different kinds of materials, storage and organization—including tackle boxes, shelves, labeled bins, and photo albums with pictures displaying materials—became essential.
  2. Ask for assistance from teachers and students. Although you may be the driving force at your school, Lister did not recommend going it alone. With hundreds or even thousands of kids using the library, it doesn’t make sense to design that space without their voice. Have teachers take a level of ownership by getting their input in areas like the furniture design or adding ideas to a Pinterest board. She also added that you should not be too rigid when it comes to your plan. Save yourself stress by staying flexible when plans change, potential new equipment emerges, or old materials don’t work out.
  3. Do not be one-size-fits-all. Heise said it’s a good idea to choose themes (e.g., coding for kids) so you can assess the materials you’ll need. Be sure to check out device compatibility before purchasing any equipment. A needs assessment that encompasses factors like time, size, budget, theme, and location can help you determine how to move forward. Understanding how long different projects will take your students is key to making sure you’re getting the right products into your makerspace.
  4. Be transparent from the start. Getting teachers on board might be a challenge at first, so Lister recommended presenting your ideas at a staff meeting and asking teachers to collaborate on a project they’re already doing. That way, they’ll see that the makerspace is not something additional, but something they can work into an existing project. “You will really start to see the power and creativity that comes out of (having a makerspace) and you’re going to have so many unintended benefits, good consequences that come out of this,” said Lister.
…Read More

3 tips for jumpstarting your district’s connectivity discussion

This year’s E-rate cycle may be over, but in order to be well prepared for the next one, now is the time to start the connectivity conversation with your school district. In today’s classrooms, high-speed internet is no longer an option; it has become a necessity.

Digital learning helps students grasp concepts more fully, and not having access to the wealth of information found in online videos, apps, and curriculum puts these students at an immediate disadvantage to their connected peers. As schools increasingly turn to digital learning, all classrooms must have reliable, fast internet connections in order to prepare students sufficiently for future challenges like college and the job market.

While dramatic progress has been made in closing the connectivity gap in our public schools, there are still 6.5 million K-12 students who lack access to high-speed classroom internet, leaving them unprepared or underprepared for the world’s digital expectations.…Read More

CoSN 2018 Annual Conference and Global Symposium

For three days in March (12-15), almost 1,000 edtech leaders will descend on Washington, DC to connect, learn, network, and share solutions.

Starting with an international focus, CoSN/UNESCO Global Symposium will highlight the essential digital-citizenship skills needed by students to be successful in today’s global environment. The one-day program will feature an engaging and interactive format with panelists, keynote speakers, Passport to the World, and Global Ignite sessions seeking answers to questions like:

  • Can technology be used to improve digital citizenship?
  • To what extent is technology providing new challenges to digital citizenship?
  • How should we access information effectively and form good mechanisms to evaluate its accuracy?

CoSN 2018 Exponential Change: Exponential Change: Developing Leadership in the 4th Industrial Revolution begins in earnest on March 13th. More than 130 sessions are available to attendees on topics relating to student data privacy, digital equity, future classroom learning, the role of AI in future learning, emerging technologies and more.…Read More

There are not enough moonshots taken in education

I am extremely lucky to work in an organization that sets enormously high standards and one that accepts disequilibrium as part of the change process. I’m also well aware that this is uncommon in most school districts. Twenty-first-century challenges need 21st-century approaches; however, school leaders are often quick to adopt minor improvements to existing systems in lieu of larger changes that would upset the status quo. What is needed in the current state of education are more moonshots.

What is moonshot thinking?

Moonshot thinking is going 10x bigger or better. While most organizations try to improve by 10 percent, organizations that think outside the box and strive for 10x better tend to approach problems in drastically different ways and—more times than not—achieve 10x better results.…Read More

Blog: Technology Creates Dynamic Insights at Tampa Preparatory School

At the Tampa Preparatory School, the mission is to provide students “a preparation for life with a higher purpose than self.” Each classman must abide by an honor code and resolve to make a positive difference both in the school and outside world by being honest, respectful, trustworthy, and fair.

Conversely, the educators and staff at Tampa Prep promise to create a place where young people can Think, Create, Be Themselves, Aspire to Excellence and Go Beyond. Students are encouraged to reflect and analyze on the path to personal understanding. They are asked to celebrate the imagination in geometric proofs and formal essays, on canvas, the computer, and stage, in poetry readings and morning assemblies. They are taught to respect people’s differences. And, they are guided toward winning attitudes in academics, athletics and arts so that they may meet the challenges that exist beyond their communities and experiences.

The academy offers concentrated studies in the academic areas of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), Global Studies and Art.…Read More

10 Education Trends for 2018

From shifts in school choice to student assessments to online learning, the educational landscape is constantly evolving. This coming year, districts will continue to face many challenges and opportunities that will impact students, staff, and school systems as a whole.

Below, experts from various areas of the education industry share trends that will help shape K-12 education in 2018.

1. Strategic enrollment management
Jinal Jhaveri, Founder and CEO of SchoolMint…Read More

Incredible: Teachers are forming job-specific collaboration networks. Here’s why and how

A large percentage of public school districts across the U.S. are comprised of 15 or fewer schools; 46 percent of districts have fewer than 1,000 students and a third have fewer than two schools. While many of these smaller school districts face the same challenges as larger school systems, they often lack the infrastructure and supports of larger districts—especially in the form of peer collaboration.

Several research studies have pointed out that educators in these districts—many of which are located rural areas—often experience “professional isolation,” making it hard to gain traction with the greatest school-related influencers on student achievement: the recruitment, development, and retention of teachers, teacher leaders, and principals.

As research has clearly stated for decades, there is no greater school-related impact on student achievement than the teacher in the classroom. The second-greatest school-related impact on student achievement growth is principal effectiveness. Not surprisingly, the largest impact on teacher retention is administrative support and school culture, both of which are impacted directly by the principal.…Read More

ISTE issues Digital Citizenship Week challenge

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) will leverage Digital Citizenship Week (Oct. 16-20) to raise awareness of the importance of teaching digital citizenship to students of all ages. ISTE challenges students, educators and parents to take time each day during Digital Citizenship Week to explore what it means to be good citizens in a digital world.

“The need to teach digital citizenship skills has never been greater. These skills include concepts like how to use tech to organize around good causes, how to respectfully disagree online, and how to distinguish between true and false information. As our interactions with friends, community members and government leaders become increasingly mediated by technology, we must model and teach the behaviors we hope to see in our next generation of digital leaders,” said ISTE CEO Richard Culatta.

ISTE is providing a number of resources to support schools and families in taking the Digital Citizenship Week challenge:…Read More