Friday, October 31, 2014

Protecting PII of students

Protecting PII of students

In the last installment, I discussed personally identifiable information (PII), how it relates to you, and how you can protect your PII. This time, let's explore securing our students' PII. One of the fastest growing exploits is identity theft of student information; specifically, high school and college students (Student Identity Theft). Securing student PII requires the same diligence you would use to secure your own PII. The same pitfalls that can trip up adults trip up our students. While they may be more tech savvy than many adults, they are still children and are often too trusting. That is where we can help.

The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) was signed into law in 1974. There is much written on FERPA, but in a nutshell it requires schools that receive federal funding to obtain written permission from a parent or eligible student (a student over 18 years old) in order to release student records. This is one reason we have a section on the annual RSU #20 emergency form that allows parents to accept or decline having student information posted on the web. In 1974, the concern was not for student PII being placed on the web: The intent was to protect paper documentation associated with a student. Today, FERPA regulations have increased importance given the use of blogs and websites by staff and students. School districts and staff can be held liable for not following FERPA guidelines. For more on FERPA violations, take a look a these links:

The Title XIII-Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998, also known as COPPA, concerns collection of personal information from children under the age of 13. COPPA is directed toward commercial sites such as Facebook, Myspace, or Twitter. COPPA details what a website must have in its privacy policy, what information can be gathered, and how the site must display its privacy policy. If you read the privacy policy for Facebook, you will see a disclaimer that one must be 13 years of age or older to register. That's COPPA. 

From Facebook's privacy policy:

No information from children under age 13. If you are under age 13, please do not attempt to register for Facebook or provide any personal information about yourself to us. If we learn that we have collected personal information from a child under age 13, we will delete that information as quickly as possible. If you believe that we might have any information from a child under age 13, please contact us through this help page.

Know of any students under 13 that have a Facebook account? 

Information security education is not designed to scare you into no longer using the Internet. It is designed to raise your awareness of infosec issues. What can we do to help our students? First, become familiar with FERPA, if you aren't already. Understand what guidelines we are required to follow to protect student information. Second, practice keeping your PII safe from unnecessary exposure.  Make that part of your daily routine. This practice will help you in your daily routines with students. Third, reinforce with our students the dangers of sharing personal information, regardless of medium. 

Here are some additional sites:

Always Use Protection: A Teen's Guide to Safe Computing.  Dan Appleman.  Apress.  ISBN: 978-1-59059-326-4

Next time: the importance of password protection

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Collaborative ACTEM Post

The tech integrators from RSU #20 all made the trip to Augusta for the 2014 ACTEM conference.  Presented by the Association for Computer Technology Educators of Maine, this two day conference at the Augusta Civic Center is probably the state's largest gathering of teachers, IT staff, and even students for the purpose of discussion the role of technology in teaching and learning.  We attended some pretty great sessions, and we thought we would discuss each of our takeaways from the conference in this post.

Geoff:  I attended two sessions during ACTEM on staff professional development (pretty deep, attending professional development about professional development, right?), one session relating to models of delivering PD and the other to actually delivering it.  The clear message from both sessions was that every tech decision must be mission-driven.  Technology is useless as a tool if it is used for its own sake; there must be a larger instructional, pedagogical, district-wide or professional goal that it can tie into.  And these decisions need to be made at every level.  Teachers need to make decisions about how technology will support their classroom goals, and IT must maintain the infrastructure and to and make purchasing decisions that support those goals.  And tech integrators must navigate both worlds.  The problem that we as tech integrators face is that there are not enough of us to go around; we could probably double our staff and there still wouldn't be enough of us to serve the needs of all of you.  So, I'll be looking to alternative forms of professional development, including modules that can be accessed online and on your own time, to better serve your needs.  As integrators, we have discussed the use of Atomic Learning for that platform, and I would like to explore it further.

Finally, at Thursday's keynote, it was emphasized that the technology tool is not as important as the learning done with that tool.  So what technologies should we be utilizing?  Richard Byrne, the keynote speaker, said, "The ones that do this:"

One of the sessions I attended was Google Classroom with Kern Kelly.  From that I brought away a terrific video from a webinar showing exactly how to set up a Google Classroom with both the student view and the teacher view.  This is something that I will share with the teachers at BAHS.  The video is about 34 minutes long.  The link is

I also attended a round table session where I saw demonstrated some great applications.  I came away with four applications that would work great for BAHS, all of which need 1-1 and two need ipads.

Socrative--Student Response System, similiar to clickers.  Educators can initiate formative assessments through quizzes, quick question polls, and exit tickets all with their Socrative app. Socrative will instantly grade and provide graphs of results to help you identify opportunities for further instruction.

Baiboard -- Collaborative Whiteboard - Multi-user collaboration on PDF docs in real-time using on iPad.

Explain Everything  -- Shows some of the same features as Doceri but somewhat limited.

EduCanon-- Interactive video where you can embed questions for the students to answer within the video 

I also visited one vendor that was demonstrating 3D printers.  He is going to be around the state demonstrating this equipment to schools and when he is in our area he will notify me and some teachers that are interested in 3-D printing can attend his demonstration.  It was tremendous what the bigger machine could do.  It made working gears and adjustable wrenches while I was there. 

Apple TVs in the Elementary Classroom

When it comes to LCD projectors, one thing that I've never been a fan of is how undemocratically they are often used.  And not without good reason, either.  Projectors are for sharing, but the LCD projector is usually at the front of the room, near the projection screen, and the cord is never long enough to reach a student's laptop.  That means that students have to get up with their laptops to plug them in, which creates classroom management issues and could cause danger to the laptop given the trip hazards on every classroom floor.  After speaking to a number of teachers, I found a lot of interest in using the LCD projectors with students, and so I set out planning a project that would use Apple TVs to make that happen.

Connecting to an Apple TV from an iPad is easy!  Swipe up from the bottom of the screen, select AirPlay, then the Apple TV you want to connect to!

There is already precedent for using Apple TVs ($99) for wireless projecting.  As part of the latest Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI) deployment of devices at grades 7 and 8, schools opting to go with the iPad solution as well as the MacBook solution were outfitted with Apple TVs as a wireless solution for connecting to LCD projectors.  I opted to go with the same solution.  With the help of the parent groups at Searsport Elementary School and Ames/Weymouth, we purchased Apple TVs for every LCD projector on rolling carts in those buildings.  Moreover, for Searsport Elementary School, which has Chromebooks in addition to MacBooks, Google has it's own wireless "TV" alternative, Chromecast ($35), which we were able to purchase one of as well.  The RSU 20 IT department also invested in licenses for AirParrot software, needed on the MacBooks to connect to the Apple TV because they are a little older.

Weymouth's Apple TV and LCD projector on a rolling cart.  No "dongles" needed here!

Being able to connect wirelessly ensures that students have more opportunities to use the projectors and share what they are finding on the laptops.  As part of a pilot last year, for example, students in Mrs. Manning's second grade class loved sharing interesting facts, pictures and videos with their classmates as part of their animal research projects.

The Apple TV and the iPad, put together, also eliminate the need for other software or hardware.  For instance, by using the camera app while connected to the Apple TV, we have effectively created a document camera without having to purchase additional equipment.  If we use an app like Skitch instead, we are able to take pictures with our new-found document camera, and then annotate them with text and drawings, so students know what they are looking for.

Annotating a photo using the Skitch app (free).
We are only beginning to scratch the surface of things that are possible with an Apple TV and an iPad or laptop (and still kind of working the bugs out, too), but with some effort and professional development, we will be able to use the LCD projectors in new ways, and to make it easier for more students to use the projectors to share their work with their classmates.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Have You Started Training for the Test?

Start now! Talk to your students about the fact that they will be taking the Smarter Balanced Tests this Spring. Begin training them how to use the digital tools. You may find that the "why and when" will be something that you may need to work on throughout the year.

What do I mean? Well, for example, in the test you can highlight in an article, and yes it is different than with other programs. But, you may find that now that your students know HOW to highlight, they still may not be clear on why or when to effectively highlight in a way that will help them solve a question.

We've developed a lesson for students who will be tested in the the Spring to start today. Combining a video from SBAC with hands on practice, students will become comfortable with the digital tools they will encounter on the test. We encourage you to start preparing now and welcome you to use this checklist to accomplish the task.
The lesson had the added benefit of getting students acquainted with the Smarter Balanced Practice area and the 6 areas that are available - though for this lesson we only go to the top 2 training tests. 

Google Classroom

Classroom is a new tool created by Google to allow teachers to push assignments out to students and for students to turn those assignments back in to the teacher. 
How does classroom work?
  • It creates and collects assignments paperlessly,
  • automatically makes a copy of a Google Document for each student,
  • creates Drive folders for each assignment and for each student to help keep everyone organized, 

  • it provides for direct, real-time feedback and grading right in Classroom.
More teaching, less tech-ing

  • Wm

Why use Google Classroom
  • It saves time,
  • Improves organization,
  • Enhances communication and is
  • Easy to set up
Key Features
  • Teachers can assign a Google Doc, Presentation, Spreadsheet, Drawing, a link, a YouTube video, an attachment, OR can just give a text description. Plus, you can add multiple items to an assignment.
  • Students can attach additional items to an assignment, including other Docs and links.
  • When students turn in a Doc, editing privileges are revoked for the student. They cannot see comments until the teacher returns it.
How it Works
  • Classroom manages folders in Google Drive. It copies files to teacher and student folder
  • in Drive, a folder called Classroom is created. Individual class folders are copied into that.

Several teachers at Belfast Area High School and Searsport Middle School have started using Google Classroom and although it has some flaws at present, on the whole, it is working well.  It makes it easy to organize digital work, both for teacher and student, and it also makes it easy to use online grading tools like Doctopus and Goobric - all paperless, meaning nothing for kids or teacher to lose.  
A Google Classroom help site link is going to be put on the staff portal but until that is complete,  the help website can be accessed by following this link:  Google Classroom

MLTI Parent Online Meeting at Troy Howard Middle School

Here at THMS, our parents are required to attend a laptop take home meeting before any 7th or 8th grade student has take home privileges.  This requirement is mandated by MLTI and the MDOE and reinforces internet safety and student responsibility with the laptop.  

This year in particular, the conflicts in schedules with open houses at other district schools and sporting events gave Chris Brinn and I the opportunity to create an online meeting presentation.  The same slide show was presented to the parents as if they attended the meeting live.  At the end of the presentation, there was a link and parents were asked to sign and agree to the acknowledgement form.  This form also made sure that parents read the entire slide show.  By creating a Google Survey, we were able to automatically track the parents responses and keep a running record.  We reached many parents on their timeline, creating an opportunity for flexibility.  It was a huge success and over half of the parents used the online method to complete this requirement.  

Looking ahead to next year, Chris and I are working to make all of the forms for MLTI accessed and signed electronically.  By doing this we are creating the opportunity for students to take their laptops home in the first week of school.  Possibly even create a PayPal account for insurance payments for a great time saver and convenience!

Online Parent MLTI Presentation