Why you need to change your password!

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Why you should change your password

Last month I attended a workshop about cyber safety. The presenter, Dave L. Rutz, is actually a Computer Forensic Analyst. As he enlightened us about how computer passwords are crack it really started to make me think. There are three main ways that a hacker will try to figure out your passwords. The first method is known as the Dictionary Attack. The computer will go through the dictionary one word at a time until it figures out your password. This is the easiest password to hack. You may think that you have an awesome password by using something complex like “underfunded”, if you look in the dictionary there are 113 words in the English dictionary that contain the word “fun” verses “fund” there are 56 words verses 8 words that start with “funde”… you can see how quickly the “Dictionary Attack” can work. The second, and more difficult to hack, is known as the “Brute Force Attack”. This method works by trying to figure out one letter at a time. This can take some. The final method that we talked about is a combination of both Dictionary Attack and Brute Force Attack. Again while you think that you have a strong and powerful password like “juglandaceous” there are actually 3 words in the English dictionary that start with “junl” and 41 words that start with “jug”.

Now that we know how easy it will be to hack your current passwords how can we make a strong password you might ask. First you might want to renew your current passwords if you  either haven’t changed them in a while and/or you think you current password has been compromised. Next make your password complex by having it at least 8 characters, use upper and lower case letters as well as numbers and symbols. To avoid being hacked using the dictionary attack you will want to change your password to a “passphrase”. These are more difficult to crack. A passphrase might look like this “Tp4tci2s4U2g!” = “The password for this computer is too strong for you to guess!“. Notice the uniqueness of the password/passphrase, the caps / lower case, numbers, and symbols. Finally, make your passwords/passphrases unique. DO NOT use the same password for every account and DO NOT have your passwords relate to anything personal about you, such as your children’s names, address, zip codes, birthdays, car, favorite color. Thing about it, you post that kind of personal information about yourself on your social media pages all the time. If you have a hard time coming up with a password you can use this site to help you: http://www.onlinepasswordgenerator.com.

Of course while you are taking the time to come up with strong passwords you do not want to write them down on a sticky or shared media. If you put them in a file make sure your document is password protected or use a reputable password management software. When asked NEVER use the “Save Password” option on your computer. If you want to check and see how secure your password is you might want to check out: http://howsecureismypassword.net.

Happy computing!!!

** UPDATE **

Here’s a great article about “The Big Password Mistakes That Hackers Are Hoping That You’ll Make

Another great password checker: http://blog.kaspersky.com/password-check/

Social Media: Monitoring of your brand

brandingSocial Media: Monitoring of your brand

What is branding? When it comes to branding we tend to think about the different companies. We think about what they produce, what their customer service is like, the quality of the product etc. If you think about it in the simplest terms,”Branding It is what people say about you when you’re not in the room”. The brand could be a large company, it could be a small “mom & pop” LLC, or it could be you as an individual. As a teacher I always tell my students that YOUR brand is YOU. I remind them that what they do in their professional / personal lives, both physically and virtually (such as social media) can affect your present and your future. Monitoring YOUR brand is so important now! Before people might say something about your to their friends via word of mouth but now we have social media. In a simple click, a person can share their opinion / experiences with the whole world. For example, I personally had a wonderful experience at Starbuck on afternoon. I was so impressed that I sent a tweet out to both Starbucks and Barnes and Nobles about how impressed I was with this employee. I normally don’t send out those kinds of tweets but this person blew me away with her professionalism and overall attitude. I had to share! Within minutes I had a reply from Starbucks. I felt as if I had a personally connection with the company. I also had a not very pleasant experience with a different company. I tweeted that company with my observations and again, within minutes I had not only a reply but the company started following me on Twitter. Of course, I wonder, as my concerns or kudos really being address with the higher ups or is this some sort of bot doing the replies. The answer is, I’m not sure. But as a consumer, I admit, it makes me feel good that someone seems to be paying attention to my concerns and kudos.

Now, let’s think of this as an individual (or a a teacher, in my case) instead of a large company, there are people (students / parents / etc.) out there right now who might be talking about you as a person, an employee, a teacher, a staff, your class, the school or school system that you teach at, etc. Why not see what they are saying and use that opportunity to educate, motivate, and inspire. To go back to old western movies, let’s head them off at the pass. Let’s connect with people and address their concerns and pass along those kudos. Let’s make them feel as if they are apart of the community and the solution.

To read more about “Social Media Monitoring: Your Biggest Missed Opportunity?” you should check out this article published by HootSuite: http://blog.hootsuite.com/social-media-monitoring-your-biggest-missed-opportunity/

Why are “they” so afraid of technology?

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I often find myself asking this question over and over again, “Why are people so scared of technology?” I don’t know about you all but this is a problem that I run into daily.  Don’t get me wrong, some people I know really love it and will embrace it, but others… my only guess is that they think they are going to break the computer / technology. As a high school teacher I push the topic of “emerging technologies” almost daily in class. The image above is one that I took in class of a student’s notes that they wrote out, photographed, and then imported into their Evernote account for review. The students, for the most part, seem to understand of working smarter and harder.  Some students have embraced the idea of using the technology as a tool, while other students… well, let’s just say their idea of using technology is playing games on the computers or scrolling through Twitter and other social media sites. This might be hard to believe but I have students who don’t know how to put paper in a printer. I know it sounds crazy since “all kids are into technology” but I have to tell you that is just not true. On the other side I see teachers day in and day out expect these kids to be way more advanced then they are but the teachers themselves are too scared to use the technology themselves. The other day a teacher was telling me how difficult it was getting photos from students and I mentioned the use of hashtags on Twitter. As some of you may know, high school aged kids are not using Facebook as much as you think. They have moved over to other social media sites such as Twitter and Instagram. I wanted to remind the teacher that he could just request the students to hashtag their photos and then the teacher could just grab them offline. The teacher actually placed his fingers over his ears and said “This is too much. I’m not listening!” If you are familiar with hashtags you know how easy this task would be. If you are not, do me a favor and try this one thing for me:

  1. review the following twitter page: https://twitter.com/hashtags  (you do not have to have a twitter account to view)
  2. review the following WikiHow page: http://www.wikihow.com/Use-Hashtags-With-Twitter
  3. If you have a twitter account try going to: http://www.twitterfall.com/ and doing a search on a hashtag. This is really awesome to do if you participating in something and/or watching something… For example I found it to be fun and interesting during the NBA Draft!

Back to the topic at hand. Why are people so afraid of technology? I have people ask me all the time about technology related questions. They always wonder how I know some much stuff about stuff. I’m honest with them and tell them that I searched for it on the internet. I have no idea why your computer keeps booting up in safe mode but after about two clicks and 5 minutes on the internet I found a forum and fixed your problem.

Is the answer as simple as the question? Are people afraid of technology because they are just simply afraid? Do they really think they are going to break the internet?  Do they think that one wrong click will give them the blue screen of death?

I guess for me, I like to take the Thomas A. Edison approach on things…. When asked about failing so many times when trying to invent the lightbulb he replied with…. “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  Sometimes, not all the time, failure can be an excellent learning tool. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe in “YOLO” like my students believe. I know there are consequences to our successes and failures in life. With technology, I say, go ahead, give it a try… and if something breaks… there is someone out there who might be able to fix it… hopefully that person will be you!

backchannel: using TodaysMeet.com

The big buzzword that I am hearing a lot about is something called “Backchannel”. As a presenter you know that people are talk in the background about your presentation. Why not use that power for good and embrace that is going on the dark back corners of the room. While researching this topic I found a website called “TodaysMeet”. I was introduced to this site through another favorite site of mine called “Edmodo”, maybe you have heard of it 🙂 ImageTodaysMeet allows you to quickly gather information from people in the room. Of course there are many other ways to poll and/or backchannel during a presentation or during class but TodaysMeet offers a quick, simple, and temporary way to do that. You have to option to “delete” the backchannel room after two hours, eight hours, 12 hours, one day, one week, one month, or one year. As you are presenting you can see what people are saying about your presentation. You can answer questions from someone who is either too shy to ask or if the room is too large to see a hand go up. Of course you can do this on Twitter as well but I like that it is not permanently on the web for ever! You can post a topic and have it delete after one hour. As the teacher/presenter you can always print out the transcript of the backchannel and make adjustments the next time you are presenting.

Let’s see how simple it is to create a TodaysMeet backchannel:
1) go to http://www.todaysmeet.com
2) create a “room name”, make sure the room URL has a green checkmark, copy the room URL, set the length of the room, and click “create your room”
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3) have the students / participants go to the room, then have them type their name, and click “join”
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4) Have to student / participate type in their message and/or question then click “say”. Similar to Twitter, TodaysMeet is a microblogging site that only allows the user to post their comments in 140 characters or less. It really makes you think before you post 🙂
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5) As you can see you “Talk” on the right side of the screen and “Listen” on the left side of the screen.Image

6) Finally you will notice three links at the bottom of the “Listen” side. First you will see a shorten URL to give out to your students and/or post on social media. Next you will see “Transcript” and “Projector”. These allow you to either show the results on a projector screen or allow you to archive the comments by either printing them out or copy/paste into another application.

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I hope you learn a lot from the backchannel! See you next time.

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BYOD: Bring Your Own Device

My school system has started a new thing this year called BYOD, also known as, Bring Your Own Device. I know a number of other school systems that have gone to this new way of teaching here in recent years. As you know by reading some of my other posts I love technology and with this new idea of BYOD also brings a new way of teaching. I’m currently in my 10th year teaching and a few years ago I heard someone refer to the teachers as “Edutainers”. The more I think about that and what that means I can’t agree with it more. Teachers take on a new role now especially with the BYOD in our system. As a teacher you have to give students quick bursts of information all the time and do it in a way that is not “boring” to the students. I know what you are thinking, but when we were in school we had to do what we had to do, and I agree with you but we grew up in a different time. The students we have in class now have never lived in a world without internet, email, social media, video games, etc. I like to think of it as of “oh shiny generation”. Some students will pay attention long enough until they see something else new and shiny and then they move on. I do like the way that our system went about creating the policies for students to use their devices but it is still up to the teacher in how they wan to incorporate it in class. It allows the teacher or Edutainer make up the rules about how they want to use those devices in their classrooms. The rule taken directly from the student/parent handbook states the following:

Rule 20: Articles Unrelated to School Instruction

Students shall not bring radios, CDs, CD players, MP3 players, video cartridges or games, cameras, battery-powered video games, other electronic games, sports cards or others such as Pokemon, large sums of money, or tazers/shockers, etc. The use of cell phones or personal digital devices (iPods, iPads, tablet computers, eBook reader) during the school day (first bell to last bell) is authorized only under the direction of the classroom teacher to support student instruction. The school assumes no responsibility or liability for lost or damaged cell phones or personal digital devices if brought to school. Unauthorized use of a cell phone or other digital device during the instructional day or on a school bus may result in the following: (1) first offense – device will be taken and parent called to pick up device. (2) Second offense – student will serve a day in ISS and parent will be called to pick up the device (3) third offense – student will serve a day in ISS and parent will be notified that (parent) can pick up the device at the end of the school year. Taking pictures or the recording of audio/video with cell phones or other digital device at school is prohibited unless under the express direction of a teacher as a component of instruction or a project. Students utilizing a cell phone or digital device for the capture of photographs or audio/video may be subject to additional punishment under this progressive discipline code.

A handout was issued to students/staff with additional instructions:

  • The content provided by this connectivity is filtered and activity is monitored for inappropriate content as required the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). Additionally, by connecting to this network, you agree that such connectivity is for educational and lawful use only. Any abuse of this system will result in loss of the privilege.
  • Students should only use Personal Electronic Devices (e.g. smart phones, tablets, e-book readers, iPads, iPhones, iPods, etc.) at the direction of a faculty member. Violation of this provision may lead to confiscation of the device. Please refer to the Student and Parent Handbook, Rule # 20 for additional information.
  • Bypassing or attempting to bypass the protection measures provided within the district, including the use of 3G or 4G to bypass the wireless system, will lead to disciplinary action as described in the Internet Acceptable Use Policy.
  • Hacking, or attempting to access restricted systems will also lead to disciplinary action. Individuals caught attempting to do so will lose access to district network resources and may face criminal prosecution.

All that being said, I am curious to find out your thoughts and/or what your school system is doing. Do you think that BYOD is a good thing?

Social Media in the Classroom: Introduction to Edmodo

What can I say, not only do I love Edmodo but more importantly, my students love Edmodo. This school year we decided to try something new, let’s meet the students were they live…. On the Internet through the use of social media. As most schools, websites such as Facebook, Google +, MySapce, LinkedIn, etc. are blocked in the public school setting by law. While at a conference last summer, I was introduced to the FREE for schools social media site called Edmodo. I have to admit, I wasn’t sure that high school students would really jump on the bandwagon but they did… and they LOVE it!!!! They were even excited to learn that there was even an App they can download to their phones, in which they do use, for FREE. I have a lot of students who may not have a lot of access to their home computer but they always have their smart phone or tablets on them. Now, of course, I also have students that don’t have a computer at home, not a smart phone, but I am lucky to have a computer lab as my classroom in which they have access to our class on Edmodo.

If you are a teacher and have not tried Edmodo yet, I really would like you to take a look. A few words to the wise make sure you set ground rules and keep it professional. It has made my life so much easier and I know that the students are always engaged!

Pinterest

I don’t know about you but this holiday season has been a little easier this year with the help of my new friend, PINTEREST! (www.pinterest.com). For me, as an artist I look for inspiration everywhere around me and Pinterest has made this task easier. My family loved gift ideas as well as the individual upside down pineapple cake that I made. Instead of putting cherries in the middle I like to put jam in the middle instead. I also was inspired to make “pasta pie” and calzones for a few family dinners. I think today I am going to try a peach calzone with a glaze on top. Not only has pinterest inspired me to cook different treats this holiday season but I created some amazing gifts, if I don’t say so myself, for friends and family. Speaking of family we also used Pinterest to make our Christmas lists as well as creative ways to display our “elf on the shelf”. If you have not visited Pinterest yet and you are looking for inspiration and creativity you should take some time and look it over.

NOTE: Be warned!!!! Pinterest can become very addicting!!!!