525 – Student Privacy

Rachel Feld guest hosts this week’s WELSTech as we take a deep dive into student privacy and FERPA. There are concerts and Apple/Microsoft news and rolling robots along with a good dose of common sense in this week’s episode as well. Plus we learn about “Mobiles in Ministry” from the One Latin America mission field.

The discussion:

Protecting Students – As our month-long focus on digital security wraps up, Martin Luther College Professor and WELSTech semi-regular classroom technology correspondent Rachel Feld shares information on the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and its impact on schools.

WELS now:

News in tech:

Picks of the week:

Ministry resources:

Common Sense Education

Community feedback:

Featured video:

Learn about Student Privacy 101: FERPA for Parents and Students on the WELSTech Presentation/Teaching Videos playlist.

 Coming up on WELSTech:

Episode 526 – Tune in as Martin and Sallie talk about planning for the new year using awesome tech tools. Release date: Wednesday, December 6.

Get involved:

Common Sense Education

WELSTech-ers may recall a past Ministry Resource post on Common Sense Media, a site which features reviews and recommendations on all types of media which is directed at children including movies, books, TV, games, apps, and websites. It’s a great resource to share with parents, and can be very useful at this time of year especially as they shop for appropriate media-centric gifts for their children.

Education reviews

Common Sense Education is another site which is produced by the same organization and geared specifically toward educators. Once again, they provide ratings and reviews of children’s media, but this time the focus is on edtech websites and apps that are organized by grade level and subject matter. Search criteria can even be narrowed by price, so the frugal educator can easily identify free resources. For each tool listed, the Common Sense ranking as well as teacher submitted ranking is displayed. Each tool includes a description and overview of what it teaches as well as suggested lessons and activities plus standards supported.

Digital Citizenship Curriculum

Digital citizenship curriculum

Another offering from Common Sense Education is their K-12 digital citizenship curriculum. The curriculum covers the following topics:

  • Internet Safety
  • Privacy & Security
  • Relationships & Communication
  • Cyberbullying & Digital Drama
  • Digital Footprint & Reputation
  • Self-Image & Identity
  • Information Literacy
  • Creative Credit & Copyright

As demonstrated in this sample lesson, each lesson includes a downloadable lesson guide as well as student activities and a family tip sheet. There are also downloadable videos and video discussion guides. And if that isn’t enough, there are student games and interactives, student badges, classroom posters, toolkits, and more!

Professional development

Common Sense Education also offers a variety of professional development to assist teachers.

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524 – Phishing Minnesota Style

This week on WELSTech we are joined by Martin Luther College Network Services members Jim Rathje and Ken Jones to understand how they help faculty, staff and students stay safe from the growing threat of phishing attacks. There is also a lot of “browser” talk. Which do you use and why?

The interview and discussion:

Security superheroes – Martin Luther College Network Services Director Jim Rathje and PC guru Ken Jones share their best security advice with Martin and Sallie – “Don’t click that link!!!” Listen for how they’ve reduced phishing risk among faculty and staff with a very unique training method.

WELS now:

Sophos Phish Threat offer from ShopWELS

  • $4.80 per user – 5 user minimum
  • Contact WELSTech for more details

News in tech:

Twitter 280 Characters!

Picks of the week:

Ministry resources:

How to Pick a Browser

Featured video:

James Veitch’s More adventures in replying to SPAM TED talk is an entertaining look at SPAMers, with a free toaster thrown in for good measure.

This three-minute Google for Education video, Stay Safe from Phishing and Scams, is a great first step to avoiding phishing traps. You’ll find both videos on the WELSTech Presentation/Teaching Videos playlist.

 Coming up on WELSTech:

Episode 525 – Security month wraps up with a discussion featuring Prof. Rachel Feld on student security and privacy. Release date: Wednesday, November 29.

Get involved:

How To Pick A Browser

When it comes to internet browsers it’s not like the old days where you just used whatever came installed on your machine. Even if you have a basic Windows machine today Microsoft gives you more than one! Will you use Internet Explorer or Edge? But neither of those is even the most popular. You have Google’s Chrome, which has over 50% market share. There is Safari on the Mac. And Firefox just released a new version as well. Does it matter? Won’t any browser do? To answer that, ask yourself how much of your computing life do you spend in your browser? I’m guessing it might be more than perhaps all the other applications on your computer combined, right? So there might be some thought you’d want to put into this choice. Hopefully I can provide a little guidance, as they aren’t all created equal, and depending on your needs, there may be a clear cut choice.

Five Considerations

I think there are basically five considerations when choosing a browser: 1) Security, 2) Convenience, 3) Performance, 4) Bookmarking, and 5) Extensibility.

Security

All browsers boast about security, but they all provide different ways to protect you. Some do them automatically, others require setting changes, and still others need add-ons. A great article entitled Which Web Browser is Best for Security written by Claire Broadley has in-depth comparison charts of all the major players, and a beautiful infographic that gives us a nice view of the entire browser marketplace. Be sure to give it a read. In my opinion it’s a fairly even horse race, however Google Chrome edges out the competition because they have the fewest days on average between updates. That means they are more frequently applying patches to guard against new security flaws and threats. On the other hand, since they are the most popular browser, they are more frequently targeted as well. If you are on a Mac, I’d recommend Safari since it seems to be less a target than any other.

Convenience

All browsers are chock full of features that make them convenient to use, however my favorite feature is syncing. Syncing allows the same brand browser sync things like bookmarks, passwords, browsing history, and cookies between computers, tablets and smart phones. This is very handy if you compute from more than one device. Again, most browsers do this, but usually in different ways and to varying degrees of success. My favorites for this are Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. I’d give Chrome the edge here again however since their smart phone browser is better in general than the one from Firefox. As I mentioned there are many other convenience features to consider, so you should determine what is most important to you and then rate them based on that. Some features to think about are 1) saving pages for offline or later viewing, 2) tab management, 3) Incognito or Private Browsing, and 4) customization of the address and search bars.

Performance

Performance is basically an “arms race” when it comes to browsers. They all try to claim they are the fastest. In reality they are pretty equal. When I gauge performance I usually prefer to see how many system resources the browser uses. There are tools to measure this. For windows, just hit the Windows Key and type in Task Manager and look at the Processes tab. Find your browser and note memory and CPU usage. Then compare that to other browsers. Chrome has traditionally fared poorly in this regard. The latest version of Firefox claims a very small performance footprint. In my experience I’d recommend either Firefox or Edge. They both behave themselves pretty well and aren’t going to cause your computer fan to kick in or slow other applications to a crawl. Your mileage will vary of course, but something to consider and keep an eye on.

I shouldn’t leave the topic without one other very important consideration — does the browser you are using work well with the sites and applications you use? Some sites work better or specific browser, and if the sites you visit don’t play well with your browser, time to try another browser.

Bookmarking

As much of what you do in today’s computing environment is web-based you likely have a ton of bookmarks to get you back to frequently used sites. That makes the bookmarking experience very important. It should be easy to tag and manage those bookmarks or favorites, and a trivial process to rename, move or even share them. If you find yourself confused by or struggling with your browsers bookmarking function, take some time to learn it, or determine that it doesn’t think the way you do, and try another browsers approach. The good news is that all modern browsers allow you to export and import bookmarks, so it’s fairly easy to bring them along as you kick the tires on other browsers. Some browsers even automate that for you and when setting them up will ask you if you’d like to import from some competing browser. Cool. I don’t know if there is a clear cut winner here. I like the way Firefox, Chrome and Safari handle this task. I will say that if this is at the top of your list stay away from Edge. Since it’s so new there are some very basic bookmarking features that it still lacks.

Extensibility

That may not be a word you are familiar with, but it basically means that your browser support add-ons or extensions that can give you new capabilities that the base browser didn’t come with. Firefox has had these capabilities forever, but Chrome has taken them to a new level. This is mostly because Chrome has to BE the application on things like Chromebooks, so it needs to be ultra flexible and act like a “swiss army knife” to meet many needs.

There are add-ons and extensions for almost everything. Some very specific to applications and websites, and others that work across all sites. Some of the most popular are password managers like LastPass and 1Password, or ad blockers like AdBlock. One of the first things I do when setting up a new browser is to load a few of those “must have” extensions. My list includes: LastPass, OneNote Clipper, Shareaholic, Authy, Draft, and Pinboard (all links go to Chrome Store). These are available on Chrome and Firefox for the most part. It gets a little sketchy on Edge, Internet Explorer and Safari. Clear cut winner here is Chrome.

Conclusion

So which browser to choose. All provide some advantage and disadvantages. My advice would be to try them all. Live with each for a month and then make a decision. It will impact your productivity and online stewardship. Which one do I use you may ask? That depends. Primarily Chrome for many of the reasons mentioned above, but I have to say I have been tempted by the recent promises of improved performance and usability by Firefox. But again, it really doesn’t matter what I use. It’s a personal preference, and maybe even sometimes it’s the little things not even mentioned above, perhaps you just like the logo, or the “back button.”

I hope this at least has given you pause to consider the options you have and some of the considerations. Browsers can truly save you time, make you a little more productive, and improve the general enjoyment of your computer and the internet.

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523 – Fortified Networks

This week on WELSTech, we bring in the network security experts from our own WELS Technology team for an overview of the why, what, and how of network security, cloud security, firewalls, and VPNs. There’s also an exciting conference announcement, royalty-free Christmas images and videos, and a mobile app that’s really great at social media marketing.

The interview and discussion:

Networks – Networks are everywhere. Chances are you have one at home and work. How safe is it? How about your information that lives in it? We are joined by two synod employees whose job it is to keep bad guys out and help users practice safe computing. Dan Rebers and Rob Benson help us all think smartly about fortifying our networks.

News in tech:

iPhone X is here

WELS now:

  • Mark your calendars! WELS EdTechLead19, (our next WELSTech + Education & Leadership conference) is scheduled for June 25-27, 2019 at Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells, WI
  • Visit WELS Campus Ministry (wels.net/campus-ministry) to connect college students with WELS congregations and resources

Picks of the week:

Ministry resources:

Ripl – A Marketing Team in Your Pocket

Community feedback:

Reach out to local media with tech in ministry topics – Shepherd of the Lakes, Fairmont, MN

Featured video:

Check out new daily video devotions from Your Time of Grace. The current series is title “Joy in Hard Places.” Watch Joy in Humility.

Coming up on WELSTech:

Episode 524 – Security month continues as we discuss phishing and virus defense with Martin Luther College Network Services personnel. Release date: Wednesday, November 22.

Wartburg image attribution: By Ingersoll – Self-photographed, Public Domain, Link

Get involved:

522 – Pa33w0rds!

A new month of WELSTech brings a new topic…this one both timely and critical…security! How safe is your data? Who knows your password? How about your social security number? What can you do to protect yourself and your organization? We’ll talk passwords, encryption, private networks, and everything else security to help you figure out how best to protect all your stuff and yourself!

The discussion:

Let me in – Martin and Sallie discuss all things password – from managing passwords to two-factor-authentication to strong passwords and phrases. It’s the most important topic we all dread!

News in tech:

WELS now:

The current Interactive Faith online Bible Study, Luther’s Lasting Impact, led by Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Prof. Joel Otto, will wrap up on November 8 at 6 pm and 8 pm (central).

Picks of the week:

Ministry resources:

Writing a Password Policy

Community feedback:

Featured video:

Read PC Magazine’s recently updated Best Password Managers of 2017 article and watch the embedded “How Your Password Was Stolen” video, fully of geeky goodness, Lego-style.

Following up on last week’s video selection, visit the CELC’s page on 95 Theses for the 21st Century for text versions of the statements.

Coming up on WELSTech:

Episode 523 – The security discussion turns to networks, virtual private networks (VPNs), and tunnels with WELS Technology team members Dan Rebers and Rob Benson. Release date: Wednesday, November 15.

Get involved:

Writing a Password Policy

Passwords have been around for as long as the internet has, and if you count your ATM pin codes, even longer. They were used in Roman times and were critically important in the Battle of Normandy…a battle my father fought in. Here is an interesting snippet from Wikipedia.

Passwords in military use evolved to include not just a password, but a password and a counterpassword; for example in the opening days of the Battle of Normandy, paratroopers of the U.S. 101st Airborne Division used a password—flash—which was presented as a challenge, and answered with the correct response—thunder. The challenge and response were changed every three days. American paratroopers also famously used a device known as a “cricket” on D-Day in place of a password system as a temporarily unique method of identification; one metallic click given by the device in lieu of a password was to be met by two clicks in reply. (click for full article)

We use passwords for our home alarm systems, to get into our bank accounts, and to retrieve email. They secure our 401K’s, tax returns and photo libraries. They are important. And increasingly so as we personally, and as non-profit organizations are under constant attack by those who’d love to get into our stuff. But how many of us know how to write a strong password security policy? If you are responsible for your organizations security, you need to know.

Password Policy Template

I ran across an excellent blog post over the weekend that should help your thinking when crafting a good password policy for your ministry team or faculty. It was called Password Policy Template, but it offered more than just that. Some of the key takeaways include:

  • Password Creation
    • A password should be unique, with meaning only to the employee who chooses it.
    • Employees must choose unique passwords for all of their company accounts, and may not use a password that they are already using for a personal account.
    • All passwords must be changed regularly, with the frequency varying based on the sensitivity of the account in question.
  • Protecting Passwords
    • Employees may never share their passwords with anyone else, period!
    • Employees must refrain from writing passwords down and keeping them at their workstations.

There were other nice tips there as well. Read the article for more.

Related resources

Complex Password Generators:
Good Articles:

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