Monday, February 13, 2017

Social Engineering Bytes

Green is for go! Green is good, right? Not always. Big green download buttons are making their presence felt in EWG, manifesting as browser hijacks, home page redirects, and probably other, more insidious malware.
Beware big, green
download buttons!

A lot of the services and tools we use as educators are of the free variety. And the majority are excellent and respectful of privacy - yours and your students. But not all. Remember, free does not mean without cost. People and companies don't build web sites and services just to dispense excess altruism. The profit motive is always near the surface.

Advertising makes up a sizable portion of income for providers of 'free' services. Getting a click through (getting someone to click on something) on an advertisement adds even greater value to the advertiser and the owners of the service on which the advertisement is displayed. That is one reason why social engineers work so diligently - and craftily - to get you to click on something.

Here's the kicker. Not all advertisements are from companies that offer a service in which you might be interested. Some simply want to mine you for personal information because your information is worth money. So look carefully at what you are about to click. Be skeptical. Question everything, and watch out for big green download buttons.

The video below shows two examples of the big green download button.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

I know what I'm going to do when I get home...

Sue Millar starting investigating Skype in the Classroom last fall. Skype in the Classroom contains a pile of resources to bring experts into your classroom, take students on virtual field trips, and engage kids in geography rich Mystery
Video conference with Margo Sorenson and
Mrs. Millar's students
Skypes, among other activities through which a classroom might be reinvented.

Getting started can tax one's courage reserves. As Sue pointed out, "I scheduled a number of Mystery Skypes which, for one reason or another, never materialized."  "I got stood up a few times." she added. It is probable that teachers got busy, fire drills happened, or assessments won out. I thought she had given up, and was surprised to hear that she connected to a second grade classroom from Michigan for a Mystery Skype, a park ranger from Yellowstone who spoke in front of Old Faithful as it geysered, and author Anika Denise.

Learning that Sue and her students had just read Ambrose and the Cathedral Dream by Margo Sorenson, I invited myself to observe the upcoming conversation with author Sorenson. Here are some takeaways.

  • The tech worked well. Really. Everything just worked - without a nerd's intervention.
  • Our district's bandwidth rocks. While it was snowing outside Wawaloam, author Sorenson conferenced with us from sunny California. Her voice and video feed were of high quality and without buffering issues. She may as well have been seated at the front of the classroom.
  • Practice made perfect as evidenced by Sue's comfort with and mastery of the tech used for the video conference. 
  • The format was excellent. Author Sorenson gave a brief overview, showed students the original manuscript (including scribbled notes), and opened the floor for about 20 minutes of Q&A. Students asked all sorts of questions about her books, writing habits, favorite stories, and much more.
  • Writing was the core theme. Students had to write their questions prior to the video conference, and also had to write about what they learned as a result of the conference.
  • Her students are in to writing in a big way. After an earlier author conference, Sue remarked that, "My kids want to write all the time now." I mused, "That luster will fade." but learned that weeks after the first author conference, her students want to keep writing.
  • The early morning PD, learning Skype, figuring out a new tech and developing new classroom activities did not happen with finger snapping expediency. Students' enthusiasm for writing has proven the effort worthwhile, though.
  • The fire to write has staying power. After author Sorenson's Skype session, one student exclaimed, "I know what I'm going to do when I get home." "Write a book!"
If you would like help connecting through Skype in the Classroom or something like Connected Classrooms on G+, or can imagine reinventing your classroom with tech in way that goes beyond what you could normally expect to do with your students, let me know. I would be happy to help.