To filter or not to filter?

There is a debate out there and it has been going on for quite some time. The debate is whether schools should filter content on student devices. This is a bit more complicated than saying yes or no. For example is the school using a BYOD approach, should schools filter content at school level but not at home should schools monitor but not filter and it can go on and on and on.

I admit, I have flip-flopped on this issue more than once. Usually experience and reflection cause these changes of thoughts, but before we get into all of that let’s talk about what I mean when I say filter.

Continue reading “To filter or not to filter?”

Episode 174 – Law & Tech

Tony and Patrick have got law questions. This means that we had to go out and get a real, honest-to-God lawyer in the form of Keith Wurzbacher. Listen to a (mostly) serious conversation regarding schools, email addresses and much more. As always be sure to subscribe to us on Apple Music or with your favorite podcasting app.

  1. World Series Predictions?
  2. Should or can schools give email to people who do not work (or have worked) or are associated with the school 
    1. Uses email for personal legal matters
    2. No expectation of privacy
    3. Email address is for school related purposes
    4. Representing the school
    5. Social media concerns
  3. Limited expectation of privacy
  4. School’s legal time in a problem
    1. Hiring PR firm
    2. Paying for lawyer/law firm
  5. Trunk-or-Treat – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trick-or-treating#Trunk-or-Treat

You can download to the episode here!

Scan Your School for Unsecured Public Documents

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By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on LinkedIn

How many documents do you have open to the public? When was the last time you checked to see what anyone with internet access could download from your school website, your PowerSchool or SIS public folder, or even your various cloud services?

Before you think I am wasting your time, here is a quick glimpse of a simple public search for budgets people have not secured:

Budget_Search

 

If the above animation is not clear, don’t worry. I will show you how to do it.

INURL and FileType

Google has some cool advanced search features. To scan your public files, the two I recommend are “inurl:” and “filetype:” .

For example when copying and pasting the following string into Google, inurl:saschina.org filetype:pdf , the results are all public PDF files that exist with any url that contains saschina.org.

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Keeping the url simple often yields more results. For example, using saschina would look at other domains. If you add the .org, then the search will be limited to the .org domain only.

When to Worry about Public Documents

First off, many documents are supposed to be public. Seeing documents in this type of search is normal and excepted. What is not usually expected are documents that contain:

  • Name associated with contact information
  • Medical information
  • Names of parents, donors, etc.
  • Special codes use to tell vendors/suppliers who has organizational authority to place orders
  • Bank information
  • Payment information
  • Usernames and Passwords
  • Etc

Documents with information similar to the above should be secured, unless required to be public for legal reasons.

I would suggest having document ID numbers in the footer that indicated a document should be public. This simple practice would allow everyone in the organization to report documents that should not be public.

The link below will take you to a page that will help you begin checking your online resources.

Want to Jump In and Start Scanning? Get Started Here

If you want more information on data security, privacy, and data auditing for your school, please contact me using the form below.

 

Google Apps for Education – Privacy vs Services

Recently I read an article in the NY Times titled How Google Took Over the Classroom by Natasha SingerIt is a good article that talks about how G Suite for Education (formerly Google Apps for Education) has risen, very quickly and to great prominence in schools in America. You should read it!

One point in the article is the concern over privacy. The article shows how parents and IT professionals in the schools feel that this is just a giant data collection machine for Google. As we know Google makes most of its on advertising. You can read this report from the BBC and check out the graphic below that I snagged from it.

While Google does not serve ads to these students, teachers or whoever has a G Suite account, it is still collecting information and data on all of these people. It claims that it does not use or sell this data but that begs the question of why collect it?

Google has written its G Suite Terms of Service in plain English. It’s not a long read, but I’ve gone ahead and clipped what data they collect as you can see below.

Whether you believe the claim that they don’t sell the data or not (we have to take their word on this), what people fear is that once the student graduates, creates their own personal Google account, Google will associate all their data from their G Suite account with their personal account. In short, Google is collecting this data to build a better profile of that person and to get a better idea of how to serve proper ads to children of that age.

Looking at G Suites for Education through this lens looks a little insidious. I can see why this would leave a bad taste in people’s mouth and make them question if schools should use this service, but before you run down to your school and start protesting (you do have the option to opt out of G Suite) – you have to look at what is being offered to the district, school and student in return for this data collection.

The District

They save money, time and ease of use. If a school wanted complete privacy, they would need to have an IT professional in every building (maybe more) keeping email up and making sure that updates to the computers, servers and infrastructure at each location are done properly. In the Times article mentioned above Natasha says that schools in Chicago have saved 1.6 million by offsetting some IT costs.

That is money that should be reinvested into the district to hire more teachers, update buildings, purchase Chromebooks, new textbooks or supplies, etc. I think you get the idea. It also puts the power of Google behind your products. Google claims that their servics (G-mail, Drive, etc.) will be up 99.9%. In real numbers that means that throughout a year, these services will be down at a maximum of 8.76 hours. That’s impressive.

Teachers

Teachers now have a reliable way to communicate with not just parents but for the first time in a long time, with their students. Whether they are using Google Classroom, G-Mail or Hangouts (or whatever they call it these days).

Teachers also have a lot more resources that they can share with students in a variety of ways. Maybe its a class website on Google Sites or Weebly! Maybe the teacher wants their students to make a collaborative blog on Blogger. Perhaps they just want them to do a presentation. The students can chose from Google Slides, SlideRocket or PowToons!

The options of services that a teacher can leverage in their class is ridiculous making for a more engaging and collaborative environment. Something that would be impossible to achieve without many paid subscriptions.

The Students

With one account, students can have access to a huge amount of services that give them loads of ways to express themselves. This is what I love about technology. It can provide new avenues for students to explore and easily express themselves. Some students may want to do a Google Slide presentation which is pretty traditional while others may want to create a YouTube video while others may want to create a mind map with Coggle.

Not only do students have great opportunities to create but there are a number of opportunities to communicate. They can email all their teachers, collaborate with other students on projects and keep up with what’s happening with their class through Google Classroom or Edmodo. More communication means more transparency and better understanding in a class. This is a good thing too.

My Thoughts

Should schools use G Suites for Education or pay and go for a more privacy conscience route?

I vote for Google.

I believe that these services are worth giving up some privacy. I can’t think of a better platform that can be leveraged so much and do such good as the G Suite for Education. I know that there are people out there who disagree and that’s fine. I am opened to a discussion on this topic and I know it may be more complicated than what I have laid out here, but at the end of the day I think these services will open up more opportunities for teachers and students to enhance their teaching and learning.

 

The BBC has no idea what Facebook, bad language, or hacking is, but they do know how to get PWND.

I posted the video separately so it would be easy for mobile users.  If you have not watched it, watch it here.

Who is Jeff Jarvis? Well he is a professor at a major university, an author, a blogger, and someone who believes that being PUBLIC is better than being PRIVATE. I know this because every week, for about 2 years, I have been listening to him on an awesome podcast called, This Week in Google.

The BBC, very stupidly, did not research Jeff. They must have Google’d him and found his name under “respected internet blogger” or something. Maybe they read that he has a book called What Would Google Do and another one called Public Parts? Who knows what they did, but whatever they did to decide to interview him was a MISTAKE. He is vocally against scare-mongering.

The BBC, like other major news outlets, only seem to report stories that reinforce techno-fear. It is clear that they have no idea how the internet works, social networks function, or people communicate. They apparently do not even know what improper language is. I have many friends from the UK, and with all due respect to them, they make my attempt at bad language sound like a Disney song. I am certain this BBC reporter, and the viewers, were in no way shocked at Jeff’s harsh words.

We call them major media outlets, or mainstream media, but the fact is they have grown all but useless. If they focused on better research, in-depth stories not motivated and controlled by advertisements, and translating true expert testimony then they would be a significant force against all the bloggers and reddit fans. Instead, the public, at least the people I interact with, seem to always confirm the NEWS by reading a blog. If they cannot confirm it on a blog, then they assume the NEWS is just wrong or on-the-take.

I read sites like Slashdot everyday, because it is timely and balanced. I it is written by amateur writers, who are professionals in other areas. Yes they have grammar issues, but who cares, their reporting is at least summarized enough so that a normal person can consider the story and do further research.

@BCC – distorting stories to scare people is only going to make them numb when something really bad happens. I believe you are being paid with public funds, so this should be considered gross negligence.

@Jeff Jarvis – Thank you for not even allowing them to proceed. You shut them down, and made them look like fools. They had no information or research, and clearly no where to go but to commercial.

Tony DePrato

www.tonydeprato.com