Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Teachers and Social Networking

Do you have a social networking page on Facebook, MySpace or another social network? Do you think that educators should use social networking? I read very interesting article from the Washington Post about a number of D.C. area educators and their social network pages. The reporter observed a number of photographs and comments that could be deemed inappropriate. Read the article to get the details.

One of the messages that we have tried to convey to students is to be careful of what you post. There are consequences to what you make available online for the entire world to see. Is this something we also also should reiterate to educators as well? Is it anyone's business what a teacher puts on their social networking site, should they be disciplined if it is deemed "inappropriate"? I certainly do not have the answers to these questions, I just thought I would throw it there out for discussion. Also, it is important to note that the reporter did write that the many of the educator's personal pages he read were of constructive use. Last spring, the Boston Globe published an article about this issue that included the comments from some BPS educators.

Are there any educators out there that have a personal social networking page? Is it private or public? Are you worried about students or administrators looking at it?

Are there any educators out there that use social networking for educational use? If so, how do you use it?

Please share your comments with us!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

What is a Botnet Anyway?

The National Cyber Security Alliance released a study earlier this month that states 88% of the participants surveyed do not know what a “botnet” is and that 71% had never heard of the term “botnet” before. Why is this important? Well, according to some security experts, botnets may be the biggest security threat online right now. A botnet refers to a a large network of computers that have been compromised by malicious software and are controlled by a cyber criminal. A botnet can consist of hundreds of thousands of computers that are used to send spam to mail servers or launch denial of service attacks on web severs. The owners of the infected computers, also called zombies, will often times be unaware that their computer has been infected with a malicious program such as a trojan horse and therefore do not know that their computer’s resources are being used in criminal acts. In the video below Ron Teixeira, executive director of the National Cybersecurity Alliance talks about how there needs to be a mixture of education and technology to defeat the botnet threat.

One very important thing you can do to make sure you do not have any malicious software on your computer that may contribute to a botnet is to run updated antivirus, firewall and spyware prevention programs on your computer. The best protection is a multilayer of security that is up to date and always running. You should also run a virus scan on your computer at least once a week. If you are not sure which type of software you should have, here are two articles that may assist you. The first comes from PC Magazine which published a review of different internet security programs on the market. The second is a slideshow of some free security applications that you may want to install on your computer. Remember, you may not even know that someone has even infected your computer and made it part of their botnet!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Internet Safety Tips for Families

There are a few resources that I would like to share today that give cybersafety tips and advice for families and other caregivers of children. The first is a video from an organization called Common Sense Media and is entitled, "A Common Sense Approach to Internet Safety". It is a seven minute long video that gives tips on keeping your children safe online while still trying to give them a full internet experience. The video focuses on setting rules for your kids, communicating safely online, as well as touching upon media literacy and copyright infringement. Common Sense Media is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to give families "trustworthy information to help manage their kid's media lives." The video was made in conjunction with Google and includes tips on how to set privacy features and content filtering on many of Google's products such as Blogger and Google chat.

Another resource that is worth sharing with parents is NetSmartz 411. It is an internet safety help desk designed to answer the questions of parents and guardians about internet safety. is a premier internet safety resource with sections that are dedicated to teaching cybersafety to parents, educators, law enforcement, kids and teens. NetSmartz 411 internet safety help desk is a place where anyone can go and seek the answers to questions about anything involving the online world. Parents can search for questions that have already been answered or post a new question (in English or Spanish) that will be answered by an internet safety expert.

Both of these resources I have described in the above paragraphs were brought to my attention from one of my favorite sources of internet safety education, Net Family News. Net Family News is a weekly electronic news service to inform and educate parents, families and caregivers of children who spend time online. The blog is maintained by Ann Collier, who was featured in the PBS Frontline Special, Growing Up Online. The site features up to date internet safety articles and information from around the world, you can even subscribe to their weekly email newsletter. The site also includes a number of links and resources for families. I would recommend this site 100% for people who would like to stay updated on internet safety issues that effect children and families.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Virginia Mandates Internet Safety Education

The state of Virginia announced that they have passed legislation that requires internet safety education for all grade levels in their public schools. More detailed information about the law can be read in this article published by The News Virginian. While other states have passed internet safety legislation, Virginia is the first to require internet safety education for all grades. This bill looks like it was first passed by the Virginia legislature in 2006. The Virginia Department of Educational Technology website has a section dedicated to this bill. The page includes guidelines and resources for internet safety, powerpoint presentations for integrating internet safety and even a booklet with ideas for integrating internet safety into the curriculum.

The Massachusetts Department of Education have recently been revising their technology literacy standards. The March 2008 draft includes standards for ethics, society, health and safety for grade K-12. The standards cover a variety of internet safety issues including cybersecurity, cyberbullying, and online personal safety.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

CyberSafety Resource Spotlight - OnGuard Online

OnGuard Online is a website provided by the federal government that provides practical tips to prevent internet fraud, secure your computer, and protect your personal information. One of the helpful resources the website offers is a video and tutorials section. Here is an example of one of the videos that are on the website that help to explain what phishing is.

Another really neat resource that this site offers are some interactive quiz games that you can take online. The identity theft quiz offers really good tips and links about identity theft and personal data protection. There are also quizzes about shopping safely online and laptop security. There is a section on the site that explains to users how and where to file a complaint if they are a victim of an internet crime. You can also view the site in Spanish.

There are many more resources and features on this site, it is definitely worth a little exploration.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Joyce Kilmer School Students Learn About CyberSafety

Elaine McCabe, technology teacher at the Joyce Kilmer School, sent in pictures of some of the cybersafety activities her students are working on. She started her cybersafety unit for grades 1 to 3 with a short survey. From this survey she learned that 19 out of her 20 first grade students use the internet at home without any adult supervision. She said, “I then thought it would be a good idea to start grades 1 to 3 with safety on the internet.” Elaine used iSAFE activities for some of her lessons. The first grade students learned about traveling safely through cyberspace and listened to some cybersafety songs created by iSAFE. The second grade students created products in Kidspiration software after viewing an iSAFE webcast. They learned about not sharing personal information online, not talking with strangers online, and about downloading safety.

The fifth graders focused on cyberbullying and discussed the ramifications of negative things that are said in chat rooms and while instant messaging. Cyberbullying is a problem that continues to gain attention. More and more studies are showing that cyberbullying tends to occur most in the middle school grades, so fifth grade is definitely a good year to educate students about what to do if they are cyberbullied. It is also important to try and teach children about the effects cyberbullying can have on others and the consequences they could face if they are cyberbullying other students.

All in all, the lessons seemed to be successful as Elaine told us, “I think all of the classes understood that the internet can be dangerous and that they need to be careful about what they write.”