A security tip for schools with computers

Thursday, October 13th, 2011 | Tips | Comments Off

Teachers, principals and school governing bodies are proud of the resources at their schools, particularly if they have worked hard to obtain those resources.  It is understandable that they want others to know what the school has to offer.

One of the things a school may be pleased about is a computer room, particularly in areas where computers are not yet commonly used by the community.   Sadly this facility may become a target for criminals.  Securing a computer room against theft comes at great cost: burglar bars, security gates, surveillance equipment and even steel mesh or razor wire on the ceiling.

Have you considered that, inadvertently, you may be inviting burglars into your computer room?

This sign says: "Plenty of loot inside!"

Resist the temptation to put up a nice sign informing all about your technology resources.  This is particularly so if the sign is on the outside perimeter of the school, where it is visible to all passing by.

A sign that could help to protect your equipment is one informing that security measures are in place.  Such a sign acts as a deterrent and when prospective thieves see it, they may decide that it would be safer for them to take their business elsewhere.

Display this sign on the outside of the school.

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Protect your school’s computer resources with razor wire

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011 | security | 5 Comments

Any room in a school that contains computer equipment must be protected.  It is an easy target for criminals.  You can never do enough to protect your valuable technology resources.

The roof is a favourite entry point for thieves.  Where possible, select a room with a concrete ceiling (a lower floor of a multi-floor building) to house computer equipment.  If this is not possible, protect the ceiling.

This is how you do it:

An easy and inexpensive way to protect your school's computer equipment

Uncoil rolls of razor wire between the roof and the ceiling of the room where you plan to put technology.

When burglars are intent on coming through the roof to take your precious equipment away, this is an inexpensive way to prevent them from doing so … and you don’t need an expert to install this safety device!

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A few tips to secure your school’s ICT resources

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011 | security | 5 Comments

With the increase of crime in many of our communities, it is important to secure the school’s ICT resources.  Consider whether all of the following are in place in your school:

The ceiling:  a favourite entry point for criminals – if your ceiling is not made of concrete, reinforce it with steel mesh.

The walls: if not made of brick and mortar, they must be built up to enhance security.

The windows: must be secured – a minimum requirement is strong burglar bars.

The door: a steel safe door, or a steel security cage, should protect the entrance to your school’s computer room. 

An alarm system: with motion detection equipment must be installed to protect valuable ICT resources.

These thoughs were tweeted by @e4africa with the tag #ictschooltip.

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What are the ghosts of technology?

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011 | technology | 1 Comment

We have all heard about ghosts – and may even be scared of them – but few of us have seen them.  Often the things people see as ghosts later turn out to be something else, such as a pale donkey grazing in the moonlight, or a newspaper swept by the wind against a bush.  Just in case ghosts exist some folks refuse to venture near a graveyard around midnight – they are scared stiff at the mere possibility of ghosts. 

Technology has its share of ghosts as well – those horror stories we’ve heard, never experienced ourselves, but which all the same scare us and cause us to steer clear of technology.  Many of these ghosts are not real – they are something that could be explained.  In most cases it is the ignorance of people using technology that results in trouble. 

You must put these ghosts to rest if you want to progress in the use of technology.  Among the scary things you have to understand are the following:

Amidst all the good stuff on the internet is a lot of filth.  Pornography, cyber bullying and sexting are just a few of them.  The presence of these things scares many educators into not using technology at all.

Technology has made people redundant in the past – won’t it make teachers redundant too?

Computer viruses are dangerous things – what do I do when they destroy my technology?

Won’t someone take control of my computer over the internet and draw all my money from the bank?

Technology will change the way I teach – why should I do this when I am comfortable in what I’m doing?

What happens if I suddenly lose all the data on my computer?

How will I cope if technology lets me down while I’m using it to present a lesson?

Some claim technology has no positive impact on learning – won’t my technology become a white elephant

These ghosts will continue to haunt you until you confront them.  Look for the answers to these issues and you will rid yourself of unnecessary fears.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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How difficult is it to make a backup?

Sunday, December 19th, 2010 | security, technology | 2 Comments

So many people don’t make backups – and lose their valuable data when a mishap occurs – that one would think it is a complex task.  Not so!  It is possibly one of the easiest things you have to learn to do.

Since your computer or laptop acts as a hub for your classroom technology all the data is stored in its memory – the data projector, interactive whiteboard, scanner, printer and all other devices you use draw their data from the computer. That means you only have to backup the data on the computer and the functioning of all other devices will be safe.

By the way, the word backup is used both as a noun and a verb: you backup the data when you copy it and in the process you create a backup.

Different backup strategies exist, but for a classroom the simplest one suffices.  If your computer is linked to the network of the school, enquire how often backups are made, and whether the data you create will be included in the general backup.  If this is not the case, then ask your technology supplier or a technical person at the school, how to do a backup.

The backup procedure is simple – you just make a copy – and this can be done on any secondary storage device, such as a memory stick.  This stick must then be stored in a safe place – not in the same bag where you keep your computer!  For safety sake, some people make two copies and keep them in different places.

The important thing about backups is that they must be done regularly.  Some people make a backup once a week.  If you don’t do a lot of data creation, a weekly backup may be sufficient.  But bear in mind that if you should lose data, all work since the last backup will be lost.  If you decide to do a backup of your entire system once a week, but you are working on a very important document, you may want to make a special interim copy of that document so that, if the worst comes to the worst, you at least have an up to date copy of that piece of work. 

When you get into a car, putting on a safety belt is not optional.  The same is true of backups – they are mandatory.  The day you’re taking a chance may be the day you really need the protection.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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What happens if I lose all my data?

Sunday, December 19th, 2010 | security, technology | 1 Comment

Once you start working with technology in the classroom you’ll soon be accumulating lesson plans, lesson presentations, worksheets, pictures, learner score sheets and other information that you’ll use and re-use.  After a while, when you add up all the hours you’ve spent on creating these things, and allocate a monetary value to each hour spent, you’ll be surprised to find that the value of the information you created exceeds the amount you’ve paid for your hardware and software.

If you lose your equipment, you will be able to recover it by means of your insurance policy.  But what happens if you lose your data? 

“Lose my data!” you may gasp.

Yes, many things can cause you to lose your data:

When your computer is stolen you lose your data with your machine – you will be able to replace your computer but there is no way of getting the data back.

A virus attack frequently wipes out all the data on the computer, or leaves it in such a state that it is of no use to you.

An accident – dropping a computer or knocking it off a table or spilling a cup of coffee on it – may damage the hard drive of the computer to such an extent that the data on it can’t be recovered.

At times the hard disk of your computer crashes unexpectedly – though no fault of your own.  If that happens you are at risk of losing all your hard work.

A sudden power surge may corrupt all the data stored on your computer.

It makes sense to protect the investment you’ve made in your data.  The only way to do this is through a backup – this means making a copy of all the data you’ve created and accumulated.

Once you’ve made a backup your data is safe.  It doesn’t matter what happens to the computer – the loss of a computer does not mean you’ve lost your data.  You simply load the copied data onto a repaired or new computer and carry on working as before. 

A backup is your insurance policy – a very cheap one – that will protect you in case you lose your data.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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Can someone else take control of my computer over the internet?

Saturday, December 18th, 2010 | security, technology | 1 Comment

We hear horror stories about hackers who can gain control of your computer, which allows them to use it for criminal activities – even accessing your bank account and draining it.  Can his happen?  It is unlikely but it is possible, and you can do much to avoid it taking place.

A program called spyware is put on your computer to gather information about you without your knowledge or consent – this information is then relayed to unauthorised people.

Spyware could affect you in various ways.  It could:

  • secretly monitor your internet surfing habits and record the sites you visit
  • collect all sorts of personal information about you, such as passwords
  • interfere with your control of your computer settings
  • install additional software
  • redirect web accesses
  • detect credit card details when you do internet shopping. 

You will know that your computer is infected with spyware when it acts in a strange way – look out for these tell-tale signs: 

  • pop-up advertisements appear even when you are not using the internet
  • the page your browser first opens to changes by itself and you find it difficult to change it back to what it was
  • a new toolbar appears in your browser and you can’t get rid of it
  • your computer becomes sluggish
  • your computer unexpectedly freezes. 

When you surf the internet and click on options of pop-up windows, spyware may be secretly loaded onto your computer.  It may also be installed on your machine when you download material such as music or video files. 

Protect your technology by using anti-spyware, which should be a part of anti-virus software.  Of course, the best form of protection is to avoid downloading spyware programmes.  Remember a few basic rules:

Only download programs from web sites you trust; be wary of free music and movie file-sharing programmes.

Read all security warnings, license agreements, and privacy statements associated with any software you download.  Buried in a licence agreement may be a disclaimer saying that information about you will be passed on to another party.

Never click “agree” or “OK” to close a window. Instead, click the red “x” in the corner of the window to close it.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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What is the teacher’s responsibility with regards to cyber-bullying and sexting?

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010 | Learners, security | 1 Comment

The principal is responsible for establishing and enforcing policies to contend with cases of cyber-bullying and sexting in the school.  Classroom teachers have an even greater responsibility, since they are dealing more directly with learners who may be affected by these practices.

What can teachers do?

Recognize the reality of cyber-bullying and sexting in your classroom.

If it is important that the principal must recognize the prevalence of these vices in the school, it is even more important that you must accept the fact that they are more than likely being practised by some learners in your classroom.  Ignoring this reality is the same as closing your eyes to the possibility that some learners are using drugs – you may wish that this is not happening, but it does!

Understand clearly how cyber-bullying and sexting work.

How do learners use technology for these practices?  What are the various forms they take?  This implies that you must have a solid understanding of the technologies your learners are using.  Do they have cell phones?  For what do they use them?  Do they have access to computers?  Are they using social networks?  Do you understand how these tools – which you may be using for teaching – can be abused?

Let them know what you know. 

It is important that your learners know that you are aware of cyber-bullying and sexting.  You must be one step ahead of them so that you’re not caught by surprise.  Have open discussions with them in class about the matter.   You can deal with the topic during Life Orientation sessions, but it could also naturally come up during other lessons.  The innocent learners in your class – the potential victims of cyber-bullying and sexting – must be prepared: they need guidance on how to handle these abuses and must know that you are there for them if they need your help.  Similarly, the culprits (or future ones) must be deterred – they need to understand the consequences of their actions.

The one thing you must not do is to blame technology for cyber-bullying and sexting.  Banning technology will not solve the problem, and is akin to banning books because of the likelihood that they may contain pornographic material.

The safe use of technology is an important twenty-first century skill you must impart to your learners.  Teachers who accept this responsibility are indeed a blessing to their learners.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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Protect school computer facilities against criminals

Saturday, June 5th, 2010 | e-Learning pioneers | Comments Off

The e-pioneer advocates wearing both belts and braces.

A belt is used to keep your pants up. But to make sure that it will definitely not fall down, an investment in braces may be considered.

In view of the terrifying level of crime, e-pioneers encourage schools to apply the belt and braces principle to secure their investment in technology. What is the use of spending a small fortune on creating a state of the art facility, and then lose it to burglars just because the security measures are inadequate?

Protect every possible point where robbers could gain entry to the facility: windows, doors, even the roof.  Bolt down equipment.  A surveillance system must be in place to alert law-enforcement agencies of an attempted burglary.

You may not always succeed in preventing professional criminals from violating security, but at least sufficient measures should be in place to deter petty thieves.

If, in spite of all these precautions, criminals still get away with the loot, a good, paid up insurance policy will soften the blow.

The most effective protection against crime is the committed involvement of the community. When community members are actively involved in the process of creating a computer facility for the school right from the start, they are sure to assume a protective role.

E-pioneers do well to encourage the use of belts, braces, buttons, bolts and whatever bulwarks can be built to bolster the security of their precious technology facilities.

Click here for more food for thought for e-pioneers.

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How can I protect my eyes when using an interactive whiteboard?

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009 | IWBs, security | 3 Comments

An interactive whiteboard itself is not bad for your eyes – but the data projector used with the board can cause eye damage.

When you are outside a building on a bright summer day your eyes won’t hurt when you look at a tree.  How do you see the tree?  The light from the sun shines on the tree and is reflected to you so that you see the image of the tree.  But if you look directly at the sun your eyes will be damaged.  Likewise, looking at the image on an interactive whiteboard won’t hurt your eyes, but looking into the beam of the data projector will.

You can project your eyes – and those of your learners – by following a few simple guidelines:

Don’t stare directly into the beam of the data projector. 

Avoid standing in the beam – but if you have to enter into the beam, don’t look at the audience for more than a few seconds.

When writing on the board, face the board, with your back to the beam.

Switch the data projector off when not in use.  This practice saves your eyes – it also saves energy!

The effect of the beam is reduced when the data projector is installed in the ceiling.

These guidelines must be explained to learners before they interact with the whiteboard, in the same way that you would brief them about the correct way to observe a solar eclipse without damaging their eyes.

An interactive whiteboard is safe to use if you remember that you must never look directly at the strong light emanating from the data projector.  Protect your eyes – they have to serve you for a long time!

Click here for more information about interactive whiteboards.

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