Get out of the BOX: Teach Hacking???

I have been teaching networking security / hacking for years.  My students and parents sign agreements that they will use their security /hacking skills for good or they will be turned over to the proper authorities.  I spend a lot of time on ethics and character development as a part of the program.  We have held workshops for church, business, and government agencies for more than four years where my students are sharing what they have learned.    I do not think one can teach “security” or “hacking” without teaching ethics as well.  Those who have gone through the network security program have gone on do some amazing things in GEt out of the BOXsecurity.

I found a recent New York Times article very interesting. :

High schools are recruiting grounds for U.S. cyberwarriors
The Department of Homeland Security is seeking to recruit high-tech experts in U.S. high schools. The agency estimates it needs about 600 hackers to help combat external threats from foreign hackers who seek American wealth and secrets or intend to do damage to infrastructure. The focus on recruiting young students for such jobs includes the launch of cybercompetitions for high-school and college students. The New York Times (tiered subscription model)

I think this is another example of how we need to be thinking outside of the box.

March 25 / 2013
Author Ernest Staats
Category Curriculum
Comments No Comments

Schools are NOT coffee shops

Schools are NOT coffee shops

By Paul Barrette,
Lately, I’ve seen an increasingly popular meme on Twitter and edtech blogs echoing the same call to action; “If Starbucks and McDonald’s have the infrastructure to offer open WiFi access, why can’t schools?” This is a surprisingly glib and uninformed stance to take by anyone who claims to have educational technology expertise or experience. While I’m a strong proponent and advocate for open WiFi access for staff and students, school environments are not the same as coffee shops and fast food restaurants and it’s disingenuous to continue to make the comparison. Frankly, it’s just not that simple and I’m concerned about the messages being sent by some some of the edtech Twitterati.

coffee-shop-business-planLet’s start with the most glaringly obvious difference between Starbucks and a K12 school; If Starbucks needs to upgrade its infrastructure or purchase new network hardware to facilitate offering WiFi access to its customers, it has the ability to raise revenue to do so. It’s a for-profit enterprise. It can add a few cents to the cost of a cup of coffee to cover costs without anyone blinking an eye. This is not the case with most public schools; they are unable (or prevented by law) from raising their own revenue. Yes, some schools are able to take advantage of Priority 2 E-Rate funds to improve their internal network infrastructure, but lots of schools do not come close enough to the poverty threshold (thank goodness) to make it even worth applying. Yes, parent and booster organizations can do some fundraising to help offset costs, but that is outside of the purview of the school. That means it’s up to the traditional yearly budget process, possibly capital improvement funds or a bond, to compete for the necessary funding for infrastructure upgrades. It’s well worth the effort to advocate for funds through this process, but it is neither as quick nor as simple as raising the prices of a frappucino.

Next, think about the amount of internet bandwidth necessary to support the users and their multiple devices utilizing the WiFi network. The typical coffee shop or fast food restaurant only needs to support a fraction of the concurrent users that a public school needs to consider (staff, students and visitors). Currently, some network vendors recommend planning for at least three connected devices per user. In a small high school of 700 students and 80 staff members, that means you need to have enough internet bandwidth to support 2,340 devices! You can look at packet and bandwidth shaping options, but these appliances tend to be very expensive and often beyond the expertise of school technology staff to install and configure. All the additional devices connected to the WiFi network also means that you need to plan for adequate internal network bandwidth. This may mean upgrading old Cat5 wiring to Cat5e/Cat6, installing or upgrading fiber optic backbones between network closets, upgrading existing switches to support PoE and gigabit speeds, and increasing switch port counts to accommodate the additional number of access points necessary to support the number of staff and student devices.

Let’s also think about the physical layout of a Starbucks or McDonald’s compared to that of a school. For the most part, the dining/seating area is fairly wide open with few (if any) walls or barriers to consider. All you need to think about is having enough access point density to support the maximum number of users. In a school, you have lots of concrete walls to consider when deploying access points, as well as possibly multiple floors and rows of metal lockers (i.e., giant WiFi signal reflectors) lining the hallways. This means that you may need to install more access points to effectively cover the physical area and provide the density to adequately support staff and students. You also need to consider that some spaces are multi-use (the infamous “cafetorinasium”) and you need to deploy enough access points in the proper density to support the maximum number of users that may use that space at any one time.

Consider also that the usage of a school network is very different than the WiFi network use at a coffee shop or restaurant. In a school, there are a wide variety of types of users that require different levels of access to resources on the network. Administrative staff members need access to student information systems, online IEP systems, financial systems, and human resource systems. Teachers need access to online gradebooks, student information system portals, and a wide array of educational resources (including YouTube). Students need to have access to all their learning resources and tools, while still being filtered according to district or school policy, even when using their own devices. All of this requires careful planning, proper network design, capable network equipment (from wireless access point, to switch, to router, to firewall, to content filter), and lots of discussion with various stakeholders about their needs and what the WiFi network should provide. As you can imagine, it can take time and lots of testing to get everything configured and working properly. Many times, the priority for schools is to get their “internal” WiFi network up and running first and then work on their open/guest/BYOD networks.

boingo-and-google-offer-free-wi-fi-in-4-000-locations-c6a9025c5bQuality of WiFi access being offered is also a key consideration in the planning process for schools. Not to be picky, but I don’t find that the quality of access that I get at a coffee shop or local restaurant to be all that great. I utilize Gmail and Google Docs quite a bit (including to write this blog post offline on a flight home from vacation) and I’m often disconnected multiple times while working at any of my favorite coffee/pastry chain locations. I also find, depending upon how many people are online at once, the effective speed of the WiFi connection to be frustratingly slow. In addition, during my aforementioned vacation, my family and I attempted to utilize the WiFi access provided to registered guests at a brand-new Disney resort. All of us were using different devices (a Chromebook, a Nexus 7 tablet, a Kindle Fire, and a Nintendo 3DS) and we all had numerous issues with the reliability and performance of the connectivity. My wife became so frustrated that she stopped trying midway into our week long stay. So, if even Disney with all its resources struggles to get this right, why can’t we cut K12 schools a little slack and be patient while the planning and design process is in the works?

Lastly, districts and schools may need to consider updating their policies prior to offering open WiFi access to staff, teachers and students. What are the district’s responsibilities and liability if there are issues with how staff and students utilize the WiFi network with their own devices? What are the district’s responsibilities and capabilities to provide support? Should the district consider implementing some sort of network access control (NAC) solution to ensure that staff and students that unknowingly bring in infected or compromised devices don’t unintentionally cause problems for other users outside the district or school network? I would surmise that Starbucks and McDonald’s have much larger legal budgets than most K12 public school districts, so they can be less concerned with a legal issue depleting a budgetary line item or diverting resources from more crucial areas.

All of this being said, I firmly believe that schools absolutely should offer open/guest/BYOD WiFi access to staff, teachers and students. Connectivity and ubiquitous access to information are becoming the norm in our society and I do not think that schools should use any of the challenges listed above as excuses to not have a plan in place. We’re in the beginning stages of that plan in my own district and have had some success, but we still have a lot of work ahead of us. Let’s all continue to make the case for the importance of open WiFi access for teachers and students to the other decision and policy makers in our districts, schools, towns and cities. Let’s work together to advocate for the necessary resources for K12 schools to offer WiFi access to all members of the school community. Let’s make the time to talk with our colleagues that may still be harboring concerns or putting up roadblocks within their own districts. Let’s also stop making it seem that schools (or their technology staff) are inept because Starbucks is able to offer enough WiFi access for their customers to check their email or do some online shopping while sipping their triple lattes.

Paul Barrette is the director of technology at Burrillville School Department in Rhode Island. This blog is cross posted at Cogitation of a Head Geek.

Re-posted from

March 18 / 2013
Author Ernest Staats
Category Curriculum
Comments No Comments

Teaching resources for teachers, by teachers

Teaching resources for teachers, by teachers

teachers-plant-seedsThe American Federation of Teachers’ new online community Share My Lesson offers teachers free access to the resources and knowledge of their peers across the country. Featured are nearly 260,000 teaching resources, a monthly resource calendar, free games and activities mapped to the Common Core and discussion forums. Teaching resources are divided by grade, subject and rating and include activities, puzzles, games, lesson plans, posters, assessments and more.

March 18 / 2013
Author Ernest Staats
Category Curriculum
Comments 1 Comment

5 Critical Mistakes Schools Make With iPads (And How To Correct Them)

This is re-post that I came across at FETC that all schools who are considering going to iPads that need to read.

Added by on 2012-09-27

Over the last few years K-12 schools and districts across the country have been investing heavily in iPads for classroom use. EdTechTeacher has been leading iPad professional development at many of these schools and we’ve seen firsthand how they approach iPad integration.

While we’ve witnessed many effective approaches to incorporating iPads successfully in the classroom, we’re struck by the common mistakes many schools are making with iPads, mistakes that are in some cases crippling the success of these initiatives. We’re sharing these common challenges with you, so your school doesn’t have to make them.

1) Focusing on content apps

The most common mistake teachers make with iPads is focusing on subject-specific apps. In doing so, many completely overlook the full range of possibilities with the iPad. I think of a Latin teacher who declared the iPad useless because he couldn’t find a good Latin app.

It simply didn’t occur to him use the VoiceThread app to record his students speaking Latin, or perhaps create a collaborative discussion of Cicero. Or use the Animoto app for a lively student presentation on Latin vocabulary, or the Socrative app for a Latin quiz, or the Explain Everything app to create a grammar tutorial. There are so, so many possibilities, yet he was oblivious to them.

At our iPads in the Classroom summer workshop at Harvard University we spend three full days with teachers actively exploring effective iPad integration tools and strategies.

And we don’t introduce a single subject app. Instead we focus on the amazing range of consumption, curation, and creativity possible across grade levels and subjects using only four general apps: an annotation app, a screencasting app, an audio creation app, and a video creation app. In our workshops conversations about pedagogy center the iPad properly as an effective learning device. The content comes from a wide range of materials available across the Web and in our classrooms, not from apps.

2) Lack of Teacher Preparation in Classroom Management of iPads

One of the obvious mistakes is failing to provide teachers with adequate professional development. Before handing students iPads, schools sometimes give teachers their own, assuming teacher use in a personal environment will translate to expertise in a work environment.

It doesn’t.

Teachers need instruction on how to incorporate the devices into the learning process, which is quite different than trying out a few apps.

Decades of research has shown that when teachers have access to new technologies, their instinct is to use new technologies to extend existing practices.

Without guidance, iPads become expensive notebooks used by students in very traditionally structured stand-and-deliver classrooms. Teachers need time for professional collaboration (and often external support) to learn to nurture reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills and to develop strategies to differentiate instruction using a range of apps and tablet-friendly Web tools.

Even the basics of workflow– sharing materials, collecting student work, making comments and grading, passing student work back–can be unfamiliar to teachers and quite complicated. The challenges of iPad workflow include understanding cloud computing environments and options, how different apps and types of files interact with each other, file format compatibility and file conversion tools, evaluating all-in-one management solutions, and translating these concepts simply and effectively to students.

Simply handing a teacher an iPad in advance won’t serve to address these challenges when the school year starts. Fortunately, many early adopters have workflow plans that address these challenges, and schools need to protect their teachers from reinventing the workflow wheel.

3) Treating the iPad as a computer and expecting it to serve as a laptop.

Focusing on iPad-versus.-laptop comparisons stifles the ability to see how the iPad facilitates student-centered learning. iPads are devices meant to compliment computers, not replace them.

So, people who seek equivalent functionality become frustrated, and fail to realize the intrinsic benefits and features of the iPad’s native design.

Instead, schools should focus their energies on what iPads do best to engender active learning. iPads enable students to kinesthetically connect with their work (especially important for young learners). These tactile elements – using fingers to zoom, rotate in, pinch close, or swipe across – as well as increasingly interactive and immersive apps, facilitate hands-on learning.

In addition, iPad mobility means that students can take pictures, record audio, and shoot video, in any number of places. They can tell multimedia stories, screencast how to solve math problems, create public service announcements, simulate virtual tours of ancient cities, and so much more. Active consumption, curation, and creativity ssuit the device. Stand-up-and-deliver teaching does not. So, put the iPads in the hands of teachers who understand that active learners learn best.

4) Treating iPads like multi-user devices

iPads were designed as a single-user device and not meant to be shared via carts. Financial constraints have forced many schools to abandon 1:1 aspirations, but sharing them separates the functionality from the user. Carts that rotate through several classrooms force teachers to take time away from learning, create a nightmare of student accounts, and often focus attention on workflow systems rather than learning.

Instead of sharing iPads across multiple classrooms, schools should be allocating them to a few select pilot classrooms for an entire year. Schools should be documenting pilot group successes and failures and begin to codify iPad integration functionality and elicit best practices to serve as a foundation for future iPad expansion. If a school cannot envision financially moving to a 1-1 iPad model, then Bring your Own Device (BYOD) models may prove much more compelling than shared iPad systems.

5) Failure to communicate a compelling answer to “Why iPads?”

Many school administrators simply fail to communicate to their constituents why they’ve purchased iPads. As a result, many initiatives face resistance from teachers, parents — and even students – who don’t understand why these devices are being introduced into their classrooms. Letting the purchase speak for itself isn’t enough – districts need to explain why they’ve invested in these devices.

While iPads are engaging, technology needs to be — above everything else — in the service of learning. Administrators who fail to articulate the connection between iPads and learning often hamper their iPad initiative.

School administrators should be explaining to their constituents that the iPad supports essential skill areas — complex communication, new media literacy, creativity, and self-directed learning. Instead of focusing on the convenience of ebooks, they should instead be emphasizing the incredibly immersive and active learning environment the iPad engenders and the unprecedented opportunities to develop personalized, student-centered learning. They should highlight some of the beneficial consumption, curation, and creativity activities the iPad facilitates — as well as the student empowerment it inspires.

School administrators should point out the improvements in teacher management of classroom time and space afforded by iPads,  as well as the incredible flexibility it provides to vary learning activities at a moment’s notice. Finally, they should remind their constituents that with iPads students have the world at their fingertips– anywhere they might be — and the only limitation to what students might do in this vast space is the vision of educators.

Increasingly a 21st century education is less about place and more about space. And the iPad has become the leading device in which students can navigate and create exciting new worlds. Yet, when this device enters classrooms its impressive immersive capabilities are often overlooked or underdeveloped.

With more schools opting for 1:1 student-to-iPad access, there exists a tremendous opportunity for a transformative shift in classrooms where students are empowered to navigate their own learning.

Yet, from our vantage point, momentum for redefining the educational map with iPads is often derailed at schools as a result of a limited vision of the device and a failure to prepare teachers effectively. Schools that share a common vision for learning, extensive support for teachers in learning to use these new devices, and a willingness to learn from the teachers around the country who have already piloted these tools are much more likely to reap the benefits of their investments in iPads.

Be sure to check out the April 10-12 EdTechTeacher iPad Summit to learn more about these issues and solutions.

January 30 / 2013
Author Ernest Staats
Category Curriculum
Comments No Comments

1to1 or BYOD

Going 1to1

Some important Thoughts from project Red:

Key Implementation Factors 

(Rank Order of Predictive Strength)

  1. Intervention classes: Technology is integrated into every intervention class period.
  2. Change management leadership by principal: Leaders provide time for teacher professional learning and collaboration at least monthly.
  3. Online collaboration: Students use technology daily for online collaboration (games/simulations and social media).
  4. Core subjects: Technology is integrated into core curriculum weekly or more frequently.
  5. Online formative assessments: Assessments are done at least weekly.
  6. Student-computer ratio: Lower ratios improve outcomes.
  7. Virtual field trips: With more frequent use, virtual trips are more powerful. The best schools do these at least monthly.
  8. Search engines: Students use daily.
  9. Principal training: Principals are trained in teacher buy-in, best practices, and technology-transformed learning.


I would really recommend you spend the time to watch the 3 videos on “The Journal” on Selecting a 1-to1 Computing Device found at


An if you really want to step out you can look at BYOD.  There is a great toolkit located at

As always look your network first make sure you have enterprise quality switches and wireless.

And always look at the security considerations…..


December 13 / 2012
Author Ernest Staats
Category Curriculum
Comments No Comments

International Connections

Back in January of 2011, Betty Bayer wrote a CAT~net article suggesting that our Adventist system of education presents a potential Global Village that current technology has made more accessible.  This is a topic that I have contemplated for some time and want to bring you up to date with some more current examples and give Canadian educators another push to expand your horizons and make some international connections.  In fact, this is one of the topics that I will be presenting as break-out session at the 2012 NAD Teachers Convention.

It is interesting that two of the most intriguing projects dealing with international connections have to do with music.  Maybe artists are more adventurous or less afraid to try something new.  The first is the Rock Our World project.  ( )This was started by Carol Anne McGuire in 2004, a Christian, non-technical teacher who created a project using Garage Band where a class will create a 30 second drum beat, then pass it on to another class in a different country.  That class then adds a new instrument, and passes it on again.  This will continue until the song has gone around the world.  While the song is evolving, the classes will meet via live video chats and discuss curriculum topics relevant to their collaboration.  From this original concept she has expanded the program to include movie making, photography challenges and collaboration on creating educational games.  What a great way to connect with other classrooms.  If music is not your preference, perhaps you could create a poem; create a paraphrase of a Bible book; create a chained Bible study with each class or student contributing one portion

Read more →

December 05 / 2012
Author Mel Wade
Category Curriculum
Comments No Comments

Free (or cheap) Options for Classroom Response Systems

Before we get into this month’s topic, I want to give a brief follow up to my last article in September on Collaborative Classroom Projects.  I presented a session at the NAD Teachers Convention on this topic, and after talking with many who attended that session, felt that there was enough interest to initiate some kind of site where Adventist educators could share and connect for these type of projects.   With the support of AVLN, using resources developed by LLU, we have now established the “AVLN Projects” community site where teachers can sign up, share their information, interest and projects they are planning and connect with others who share projects they are initiating.

Read more →

December 05 / 2012
Author Mel Wade
Comments No Comments

Polling students without special devices and Free

I came across this great polling solution I thought I would share.  For most of our schools that have only a few teachers the free or 50 dollars a year per teacher would be the best option.  What I like is it is a great way teachers can use students cellphones today to make class more interactive.  The extra features you get when you go to the paid version I feel make it the best option for learning assessment. More Info Below:

Poll Everywhere replaces expensive proprietary audience response hardware with standard web technology. It’s the easiest way to gather live responses in any venue: conferences, presentations, classrooms, radio, tv, print — anywhere. And because it works internationally with texting, web, or Twitter.


To Learn More go to :

K-12 Education Plans

No proprietary clickers. More affordable. No hidden fees.

K-12 Free
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Individual Teacher
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November 27 / 2012
Author Ernest Staats
Category Curriculum
Comments No Comments

Tech Tips for Teachers

I came across this and thought it might be useful.

1. Allotted Time. The biggest problem I find is planning the time out for using technology. When you introduce a new tool or piece of technology it will take more class time than you expect. This happens to me all the time. I find a new web tool I want to put in play, and I run ahead of myself. (I often discover it at 8am and try to use it at 9am). Take your time learning the technology, and take your time putting it into practice. Your students will be more successful if you go slow…


2. Invest In the Savvy. Kids will pick things up quicker than you. If you give them freedom, kids will explore and grow in the technology you give them. Find the kids that pick things up quickly and invest in them. They will most likely become helpers that you can send around the room to lead the lost. This saves you so much time!

3. Expect Problems. Because technology is a tool, it will have it limitations and things will fail at times. It’s like my snow shovel that has a broken handle. This is the place where most people quit. Use these times of frustration to grow as a teacher. We don’t expect our kids to quit when things get hard….

4. Focus Your Attack. Daily the amount of tools, websites, and resources grows. When you first enter the game, limit yourself to tools that are recommended. I follow FreeTech4Teachers for reviews and recommendations. Start small and use what is already working for others.

5. Pretend you are a student. One common mistake I find is that teachers create an assignment using technology, but they never view it through the eyes of the students. For example, if I am going to use a web tool like Kidblog, I always run through what it will look like for the student. Often a teacher/administrator screen will look different than the students. Create a fake student, and run through things to familiarize yourself with how things look. This is so helpful when it comes time to troubleshoot or answer questions.

Found at

November 27 / 2012
Author Ernest Staats
Category Curriculum
Comments No Comments

Free webex on BYOD network and security issues

I am presenting a webex on Mobile and BYOD network and security issues you are welcome to sign up for and hopefully find out some useful information.

Signup at

Security Considerations:
Mobile and BYOD Networks

Tuesday, November 6, 2012 @ 3:00pm EDT (US)

The shift to a mobile/BYOD education model is impacting network accessibility. We will focus on network capacity and security in implementing a mobile educational system. We will look at policies, hardware and software (both free and paid) that can help secure or prioritize network resources.

Our focus will be on granting educational resources without granting privileged network access. Resources shared will help transform a trendy idea into a practical and safe reality.

Signup at

October 26 / 2012
Author Ernest Staats
Category Curriculum
Comments No Comments
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