Category Archives: TechNotes

Be Android Safe on the Web

Wondering how to secure Android phone communications? You’ll want to read this blog entry!

Be sure to visit the TCEA TechNotes blog to read this entry.


“Did you know 15.2M text messages are sent every minute?” I asked my wife at evening meal. “That’s almost as many emails as our dear daughter sent the weekend after she got a smartphone!” As we laughed to ourselves, the niggling question of who sees those communications tugged at me. How easy is it to hack SMS/text messages? I often worry someone will grab my smartphone and send text messages/emails that are inappropriate. In a previous blog entry, Safeguard Your Android, I shared how to rely on a virtual private network (VPN) to protect communications. Increasingly, you must secure your communications (e.g. email, text messages, voice calls, where you go online). In this blog entry, we will explore how to better achieve security.

Did You Know?At the bottom of this blog entry, you’ll find a nifty infographic showing what sorts of data 3.7M people put online every minute. 103M spam emails are sent every minute. 527K photos are shared via Snapchat.

Why Do I need to Secure My Communications?

“If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear,” goes the saying. That isn’t exactly true. Consider this scenario:

You send an accidental text or email, announcing that you will be at the beach this weekend. Perhaps you go to the beach, and post pictures on social media. When you return to your home, you realize you’ve been robbed.

Tracking your movements need not result in theft. Instead, you may be the target of advertising.

There are numerous ways you can be tracked on the internet. Whenever you browse the net, you are being tracked by the use of browser cookies.
Cookies are the reason why, after you check out a new iPhone case on Amazon, you are repeatedly hit with website ads for phone cases wherever you go. Ad networks save cookies to your computer’s hard drive and then display ads based on the items you have browsed in online stores or searched for on Google. (Source: Pixel Privacy)
Whether you wish to or not, securing your communications is critical to digital citizenship. More importantly, protecting your sensitive data (and that of your students) can prevent problems before they arise.

https://youtu.be/17rykTIX_HY

Tip #1 – Two-Factor Authentication

secureWhen I first began using two-factor authentication, it was a pain. I just couldn’t pick up my phone, login to Facebook or Gmail on my computer. Instead, I had to start up my Authentication app. Now, two years later, I am grateful for the added security. About six months ago, someone tried to break into my Gmail account. Without two-factor authentication, I fear I would have been hacked. If you use Google Suites, Twitter, Facebook, Dropbox, you may find it worthwhile to protect yourself with the Google Authenticator app.

Did You Know?You can use a site like Have I Been Pwnd? to find out if a login (your email address) has been hacked. You can also double-check to see if a password you use is up a brute force attack with the How Secure is Your Password? website.

You may also want to take an extra step. What if your phone is stolen or lost? If someone is able to make it pass your fingerprint authentication, they can use the Authenticator app to login to your various services. On Android, it’s possible to assign a pass code to apps you choose. Even if someone has your phone unlocked in their hand, they will have to work hard to get past your pass code for individual apps. People often ask to look at my Android phone. Before, I was a little nervous about letting them look at it. Now, I can hand it over and know people will be unable to get into sensitive apps by accident. You can use BitDefender Mobile’s App Lock to assign a pass code to each app (shown above). Apps:

Tip #2 – Minimize Your Internet Tracks

Everything we do online is tracked. Forget that at your peril. While it’s one thing to have the government looking over your shoulder (not really), a more immediate threat includes hackers and vendors trying to seize your information. Use a virtual private network (VPN), and one of the browsers below to achieve some measure of anonymity (it may foil online retailers and hackers but not necessarily the FBI): Apps:

  • Firefox Focus: This app works well to block cookies and advertisements. You aren’t anonymous while using it, but it works great to block ads and keep your mobile browser light. Use it with a VPN.
  • Duck Duck Go: This search app doesn’t track your searches on the web. Use it with a VPN.
  • Orbot: This app has a built in The Onion Router (TOR) browser, and will work to keep your internet travels anonymous as possible. Use it with a VPN to achieve higher level of protection.

Tip #3 – Protect Your Text Messages

“What’s the username and password to Netflix?” asked my daughter a few weeks ago. Since my text messages enjoy end to end encryption, I have no problem sharing confidential, sensitive information via text message. However, I would never dream of doing this using the standard SMS/Text message app on any device. Instead, take advantage of one of the apps below. The best one right now is Signal. On Android, you can use Signal for both encrypted and unsecured text messaging. Your friends who use Signal will connect securely with you, while others who are not using it will not. No matter what tool you use for text encryption, consider using the Secure Space Encryptor (SSE) app or website to encrypt text messages (and email). This will protect your messages with AES-256 level of encryption. Apps:

  1. End to end text and audio encryption with Signal, WhatsApp, or Voxer
  2. Encrypt your text messages using SSE or web encryption

Tip #4 – Guard Your Email

“With over 200 billion emails sent and received by almost 3 billion people throughout the world each day, accessible anywhere at any time by almost anyone, email inboxes present a big target,” says JJ Rosen. You should be encrypting your email whenever possible, whether you are on your computer or your Android device. You don’t have to be a professional cryptographer to use tools like SecureGmail (Watch video), Virtru Email Encryption (Watch video) or the Paranoia Text Encryptor website. Another approach you can take is to rely on a tool like ProtonMail (based in Switzerland) or Tutanota (based in Germany). Both offer secure apps that allow you to send encrypted emails to others. For example, Protonmail comes with a pass code login. This protects strangers from accessing your email app. When composing an email, you can set a password to encrypt messages for non-ProtonMail users. You can then share the encryption password with the email recipient through a phone call or text message (not email though). When they receive the email, they use the password to decrypt your email message. What a relief to know your confidential emails are encrypted while sitting in a friend’s inbox. Another neat feature is you can set message expiration to a number of hours or days. That’s pretty amazing! Apps:

Conclusion

Some may see these efforts to secure communications as so much cloak-n-dagger games for grownups. Let’s not forget that identity theft costs $16 billion dollars affecting 15.4 million people. I urge you to take every precaution possible. Only after taking proper precautions will you truly have nothing to fear. Once you have done all you can, you have nothing to fear.


Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Q&A with a CTO: Striving for Balance

A few weeks ago, I received a Twitter DM from a colleague in another state. After going back-n-forth in Twitter DMs, I decided to explore the topic as a full blown blog entry. Here’s the lead for the TCEA Technotes blog entry that just came out earlier this week:

Dear TCEA Responds:

I am a new CTO/Tech Director and love this article at TCEA’s Technotes blog (First Things First). I need to better understand how my staff works. A part of that involves tracking their work to better understand the organization as you recommend. We have the break fix tracking software. I’m thinking more of something project oriented and time tracking. My concern is my coaches are spending too much time on fixing broken equipment and not enough on curriculum support. My network and hardware specialists may be spending too much time waiting for things to go down, if that makes sense. Do you have any software recommendations for doing that?
Thanks, Mike

Dear Mike:

Thanks for the wonderful feedback about the First Things First blog entry. Now, on to your question, What’s the best way to track your staff’s work?  Several approaches can work. Before we jump into those, it’s worth asking the question, “What will you do with the data you gather about your staff’s work tasks?”

If you want to read the rest of my response, you’ll want to read the complete blog entry.


Dear TCEA Responds:

I am a new CTO/Tech Director and love this article at TCEA’s Technotes blog (First Things First). I need to better understand how my staff works. A part of that involves tracking their work to better understand the organization as you recommend. We have the break fix tracking software. I’m thinking more of something project oriented and time tracking. My concern is my coaches are spending too much time on fixing broken equipment and not enough on curriculum support. My network and hardware specialists may be spending too much time waiting for things to go down, if that makes sense. Do you have any software recommendations for doing that? Thanks, Mike

Dear Mike:

Thanks for the wonderful feedback about the First Things First blog entry. Now, on to your question, What’s the best way to track your staff’s work? Several approaches can work. Before we jump into those, it’s worth asking the question, “What will you do with the data you gather about your staff’s work tasks?” You need to ask that question. You can’t tell your end users (e.g. teachers, principals, central office staff) that your team needs to focus only on completing work orders. That would send the wrong message about your department’s customer service. You can provide valuable data and information to your stakeholders. Valuable information about their own practices can help them make connections about their own needs. It will also make it easier for your to provide informed customer service.

Providing the Best Customer Service

As a new CTO, put the following strategies in place. The strategies may better address the needs of those you serve. These strategies are multi-faceted and can help you overcome the challenges of a beginning CTO.

Strategy #1 – Implement a Single Point of Contact

tcea respondsEstablishing a single point of contact, such as an online system, eliminates the confusion that results from incoming phone calls or in-the-hallway interruptions. The main benefit is that it ensures prompt access for the end user, anytime and anywhere. This solution should meet the following criteria:

  • Work on a variety of devices, including iOS/Android devices
  • Allow for the end user to check the status of their problem
  • Email-to-ticket conversion
  • Active Directory and LDAP authentication
  • Auto ticket routing
  • Parent/child ticket mapping
  • Balancing/re-assigning tickets
  • Graphs and reporting
  • Ability to rank the importance of incoming calls
  • Make it easy to set up types or categories of work orders that are understandable to end users

A few possible solutions widely used in Texas school districts include:

Of course, you can also take advantage of free solutions, such as Google Forms and/or Microsoft Forms.

Strategy #2 – Differentiate Between Jobs

If your instructional technologists, a.k.a. digital coaches, are performing technical support, why are technicians needed? Or if technicians are serving as digital coaches impacting instruction, the district is wasting critical funding. While it’s nice to have a jack-of-all trades staff member, you need to remember that the more specialized your team members are, the better it is for your district. Instructional technologists and technicians should train together, learn new technologies, and be able to solve problems. When you do this, you are growing future CTOs. But if a significant amount of time is spent with crossover duties, then you are under or over paying someone. Here is one example document aligned to Texas objectives: tcea responds Below is another example from Beaverton Public Schools (Oregon-based): tcea responds These charts establish a clear separation of the work to be done and better define the job roles. Communicate this information to all stakeholders. Sharing this information on social media, at superintendent’s cabinet and principals’ meetings, can speed this process.

Strategy #3 – Clarify Expectations for Response Times

Defining job roles is insufficient. In addition, you need to set up a service level agreement (SLA). This agreement lets everyone know what is critical and what is not. Without an SLA in place, you will have technicians running from one campus to district office, then back again. Is a computer lab top priority at the high school or is the superintendent’s locked iPad top priority? tcea responds

Final Thoughts

As you plan, remember the cardinal principle of your work: relationships matter. Move forward with care, building and deepening relationships as you go. Cut loose those on your team who refuse to embrace better customer service for those you serve. Be transparent about what you do, and revisit those SLAs. Be fearless in holding yourself accountable and make it safe for your team to hold themselves accountable.  


Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

My GoogleEDU and MicrosoftEDU Blog Entry Roundup

Over at TCEA TechNotes blog this year, I’ve written quite a few blog entries. Are any of you reading them?

A BEE’S PERSPECTIVE
My total blog entries at TCEA are at 232 (although that will change since I have a third part in my series on When Disaster Strikes pending review and scheduling for publication). I wrote 134 of those 232 during 2017. I had hoped to write 365, but webinars, F2F workshops kept me having fun in different ways. Oh well. That will be my 2018 New Year’s Resolution (prob not).

For fun, I thought I’d take a look back and list all the 2017 blog entries I’ve written relevant to Google and Microsoft.

LET THE WAR of ROSES BEGIN
Alas, it is a war replete with the sweet aroma of constant growth. Both Google and Microsoft distinguished themselves in adding new features in response to educator demand. Neither suite of tools is perfect, though some will argue the point.

Now, before you claim I’m partisan to one over the other, remember that I am both a Google Certified Trainer and a Microsoft Certified Master Trainer. As such, I get to see the best (and worst) of both ecosystems. Both Google and Microsoft are working hard to ensure school districts have the very best they can offer in tools and skills.

More important than the efforts of profit-earning organizations, are the communities of educators who work tirelessly to make all this technology usable in the classroom. I salute my fellow GCTs, MIEs, MIEEs, and others.

In the spirit of recapping my 2017 year, here is a list of all my TCEA blog entries that address Google and Microsoft. Ok, coming back to write this sentence after listing all the blog entries. Wow, I wrote 72 blog entries featuring Google and Microsoft. That’s a chunk of the total blog entries (134) that I wrote all year. That’s 54% of my blog entries were about Google and Microsoft.

Disclaimer: Hey, before you whip out a calculator, this is “evening math” at the end of a long work day. Some blog entries were counted twice since they featured both Google and Microsoft content. No big deal, but that means some of my percents may be off. Oh well. I don’t really care if I’m off a few points. I know, terrible attitude. Call me a curmudgeon.

WHAT IS THE COUNT?

In case you’re curious (I know I was), here’s the total count:

  •  Google: Regarding Google Suites for Education, I wrote 26 of the 50 Google-centric blog entries published at TCEA. That’s 19% of the total blog entries I wrote or roughly half of all blog entries written this year (134) that were included in the 2017 Google Blog Roundup.
  • Microsoft: For Microsoft, I wrote 46 total for the 2017 school year. That’s 34% of total blog entries written.

Ok, I’m not a math whiz. I hope I got the percentages right. Still, I’m amazed at the quantity and diversity of these. For example, I’d predict that my favorite Microsoft blog entries were about OneDrive, Minecraft, and OneNote. Yes, these three are my top favorite tools.

If I had time, I’d organize these for you more prettily, but for that, you’ll just have to visit the TCEA TechNotes blog and check out the 2017 Blog Roundup for Google and Microsoft. Those will be due out by the end of the year. In the meantime, I hope you find something interesting to read below. I can honestly say that my colleagues wrote better Google related blog entries than I.

Note: I’ve highlighted my favorite blog entries. Special thanks to TCEA for giving me a platform to share my insights and takeaways.

Microsoft Blog Entries (46)

  1. Fantastic Voyage: Minecraft Lesson Planning
  2. Five Steps to Game-based Learning
  3. Open Resources for Math and Science
  4. Minecraftian Strategies with Marzano
  5. Improved Teaching with Microsoft
  6. Forms Smackdown: Google vs Microsoft
  7. Ten Ways to Customize Microsoft Classroom 
  8. Using OneDrive to Backup Your iOS Camera 
  9. Engaging Learners with MS Forms 
  10. Five OneDrive Tips You Can’t Live Without 
  11. Designing Minecraft Spaces 
  12. Multimedia ELL Assessment 
  13. Minecraft: Education Edition Tutorial Videos 
  14. Visualizing Our Understanding with Graphic Organizers 
  15. Seven Keys to Blended Learning 
  16. Gamifying OneNote Learning 
  17. Podcasting with Microsoft Sway
  18. Shifting the Conversation: Basic Tech Skills 
  19. No More Death by Powerpoint 
  20. Transform Learning with Text to Speech
  21. Get Organized: Productivity Tips for OneNote 
  22. Creating Worlds of Tomorrow 
  23.  It’s Microsoft Morphing Time
  24. Moviemaker is Dead; Long Live Story Remix
  25. Windows 10 Tips & Tricks
  26. Enhancing Parental Access with OneNote Class Notebook
  27. Remix the 5E Model with PBL and Technology 
  28. Farewell Docs.com, Hello Enhanced OneNote, Forms, etc.
  29. Microsoft Classroom Assignments 
  30. Virtual Space Construction Workers 
  31. Saving High School Seniors’ Work  
  32. Collaborative Projects in PBL
  33. Securing Data in Cloud Storage
  34. Tablet Trek: Tablets in the Classroom
  35. New Powerpoint Translator Makes Captioning Possible 
  36. Get Current on Tech Learning  
  37. Teaching Digital Media
  38. Checklists: Scaffolding Metacognitive Awareness 
  39. HyperNotes? Use Hyperdocs with OneNote
  40. Creative Commons: Make OER Simple 
  41. TCEA’s New Minecraft Certification Course (Level 1)
  42. Windows 10 Fall Creators Update: Moviemaker Lives 
  43. Creating Six-Word Memoirs 
  44. MS Office Goes Chrome, er, Android 
  45. Twitter Takeaways: OneNote Class Notebook — Scheduled for publication 12/12/17
  46. Our 2017 Microsoft Resource Roundup — Scheduled for publication 12/27/17

Google (26)

  1. New Chromebook Features
  2. Free G Suite Curriculum 
  3. Forms Smackdown: Google vs Microsoft
  4.  Beautify and Protect Your Virtual Home: Google Chrome
  5. Transform Learning with Text to Speech
  6. Phishing Attack: Evil Google Email
  7. Connect with Google Certified Administrators 
  8. Podcasting Resources
  9. Saving High School Seniors’ Work   
  10. Managing All Your Email
  11. New Google Sites ePortfolios 
  12.  Securing Data in Cloud Storage
  13. Tablet Trek: Tablets in the Classroom
  14. Get Current on Tech Learning 
  15. Research Tools for Young Learners  
  16. Teaching Digital Media 
  17. Empower Learners with Hyperdocs 
  18. Checklists: Scaffolding Metacognitive Awareness
  19. Hyperdrawings with Joli Boucher 
  20. Creative Commons: Make OER Simple 
  21. Math Tools for Chrome 
  22. Digital Whiteboard Solutions 
  23. Provide Custom Email Updates for Parent Communications 
  24. Three Tips for Google Suites Updates
  25. Twitter Takeaways: Five Google Tips 
  26. Animated GIFs: Education in Motion

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

AL DíA: Eight Second Storytelling

Today, you often have only about eight seconds to tell a story, or one second less than a goldfish.
 Here are some tips for creating short content:

Some ideas suggested or adapted via 15 Brilliant Examples of Visual Storytelling on Instagram include:

  • Combine words and images to tell a compelling story about a historical event
  • Ask your students and/or community to share compelling pictures that provide insight (e.g. academic achievement, sports tale, a digital book jacket retelling a story in students’ own words)
  • How your students/staff have helped others at school, at work, or in the community
  • A visual story of an upcoming or current event from a student perspective
  • A collection of images that captures different perspectives of the same situation

To make the point, check out the @StatisticBrain twitter account…here’s one example. Look for videos that aim for the 8-second ride.

…studies have shown that eight seconds is the precise attention span for uninterrupted video viewing. “Videos shorter than 10 seconds are a distinct class from those that are longer….” (Source: Variety)

 


Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Apple TV Grumblings

When I first bought my Apple TV (approx $100), I remember being excited about the possibilities. It was the same kind of feeling I had when I bought a Chromecast for small portion of the price. Although the excitement hope-filled, it soon gave way to disillusionment. I’m not sure where my Apple TV ended up (maybe I took it to work and lost it there in the obsolescence bin), but I don’t use it.

In fact, the Roku device I have is probably my best investment for home entertainment. I know others have been successful, but Roku was the easiest. Way to go, Roku!

Read my latest TCEA Responds

Still, in spite of this experience and others in trying to support Apple TV, I was pleased to write a response to a question sent in. My favorite part of the blog entry, in addition to the list of examples for uses with links, is the alternatives section:

If your school or district has not yet invested in an Apple TV, you might consider a software solution instead. Here are three software alternatives that cost less money than an Apple TV:

As you can see, I still have trouble recommending spending so much money on hardware when software will do the trick.


Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

My Dear Abby Column

Earlier this year, I had a brainstorm. Usually, they don’t amount to much but this one has been so rewarding to write. I wondered if I could create a “Dear Abby” column but for educators, not for the love-lorn or relationship challenged (although one for CTOs might be a winner).

Image Source

To that end, I started writing “TCEA Responds:” usually fictionalizing the author (to protect their identity) blog series. Do a quick search on “TCEA RESPONDS” and you will get immediately get relevant hits on a wide variety of topics.

Pretty fantastic, huh? Here is a list of titles…you may find something interesting!
  1. Grants and Tech Planning
  2. Google Certified Admins
  3. Recording Speakers
  4. Podcasting
  5. Membership Renewal
  6. MS Classroom
  7. Saving High School Seniors’ Digital Work
  8. Digital Fax Solutions
  9. Securing Data in Cloud
  10. Video Surveillance
  11. Future Ready Library resources
  12. TechApps TEKS
  13. Get Current on Tech Learning
  14. New Google Sites ePortfolios
  15. Teaching Dgital Media
  16. Apple TV in the Classroom


Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Using Hashtags to Save the World

There are a gazillion hashtags out there, right? Earlier this month, I wrote a blog entry that was just published entitled, Hashtag Heroism: Rise Against the Wind. Here’s the lead from the blog entry:

Are you ready to save the world, one hashtag at a time? Why not engage in hashtag heroism? This is an attempt to save the world with hashtags that show unity and respect. It is life-affirming to engage in hashtag heroism, and I invite you to share your positive story. 

Be unafraid to show how you, or perhaps others who have have helped you, have risen against the wind…the winds of adversity, oppression, and personal obstacles. Of course, how is this relevant in the classroom? Empowering children to speak up and to find their voices can be one of the most important actions adults model for younger learners.

It’s probably obvious what motivated me to write about this topic. Today, our children are naturally caught up in hashtag heroism, often without knowing how to engage properly or well. It’s not enough to just jump in, but to do so with an awareness of potential consequences…and a willingness to make things better. This is especially true as we move toward visual storytelling efforts that rely on social media tools like Instagram, Twitter, and other other outlets.

Social justice is really the capacity to organize with others to accomplish ends that benefit the whole community. If people are to live free of state control, they must possess this new virtue of cooperation and association. This is one of the great skills of Americans and, ultimately, the best defense against statism. (Source)

That’s why I love the example I cite towards the end of the blog entry. It involves the work of teachers who are taking advantage of hashtag heroism to educate students, helping them seize the power of hashtags for their own positive work.


Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure