Saturday, September 29, 2007

Japan to Open G-Rated Virtual World

Japan's "meet-me" is a virtual world that is designed to be "orderly, pornography-free, and safe for children."

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Is User Education Pointless?

While this question sounds like it is from technology staff having a really bad day, it is actually the main question for an older article posted on C/Net. The issue is:
"Might it be so that we use the term and concept of user education as a way to cover up our failure?" he asked a crowd of security professionals. "Is it not somewhat telling them to do our job? To make them be a part of the IT organization and do the things that we are bound to do as a specialized organization?"
In Gorling's view, the answer to those questions is yes. In corporations in particular the security task belongs with IT departments, not users, he argued. Just as accounting departments deal with financial statements and expense reports, IT departments deal with computer security, he said. Users should worry about their jobs, not security..."I don't believe user education will solve problems with security because security will always be a secondary goal for users," Gorling said. "In order for security to work, it must be embedded in the process. It must be designed so that it does not conflict with the users' primary goal. It can't work if it interferes."
Security expert: User education is pointless | CNET

I can certainly agree that technology security needs to depend less on the user and more on the security process/infrastructure. But it is important to note the final point above: "It must be designed so that it does not conflict with the users' primary goal. It can't work if it interferes."

Too often IT security measures are implemented in the name of "protecting" the user from himself/herself. Unfortunately, the user many times finds the solution a hindrance to their work, primarily because it is impossible for tech staff to know the impact of their security measures on all users' needs. Often IT staff don't even know how these measures are a hindrance as there is no natural feedback loop when implementing security. An increasing number of educators complain silently because they believe tech staff are unresponsive.

Education must do more to provide a process for dialog between educators and technology staff. There is growing dissatisfaction from educators statewide, particularly over filtering and locking down (or "managing" as many IT staff wish to call it). Many practices are interfering with the users' primary goal: educating students. Tech staff need to avoid turning a deaf ear to the hindrance issues in the name of security, and educators also need to better understand the security ramifications of opening systems for their education needs.

So, back to the original question: Is user education pointless? No, rather it is a poor question; it assumes a communication flow in one direction only: tech-->user. Rather, the question should be:
"Can we develop a dialog between technology staff and users that is responsive to both security needs and education needs?"
If we do not, tech staff and educators will continually find themselves at odds rather than working on solutions together. It is in everyone's best interest to develop a better, more responsive feedback loop to the IT security process.

And soon.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Senate bill aims to address web safety

I just read a great article from eSchool News Online and was thrilled to see a new view on social networking and communication in schools. I would like to share a few exerpts from the ISTE discussion of the new legislation. Hopefully, this will generate some good discussion:
On August 7, 2007 a new Senate bill requires schools receiving federal eRate funds to educate students about internet safety and block students' access to social-networking web sites or chat rooms unless supervised.

Under the bill, schools receiving telecommunications discounts would have to educate students about appropriate online behavior, such as how to interact properly with others on social-networking sites and in chat rooms, and how to recognize and respond to cyber bullying.

"We now see a bill that asks schools to take their proper role in teaching safe and responsible use of the internet, rather than trying to block emerging communication and social-networking systems with great potential for positively engaging students and improving learning," said Don Knezek, CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education.

"One of a school's primary functions is to ensure safety and build responsible citizens, and trying to block every threatening activity that goes on in society is not a formula for effective education."

The complete story may be found at:
Marcia Torgrude

Monday, September 3, 2007

Google Earth Adds Astronomy Feature

With this new feature, users can now view heavenly objects, including stars, constellations, galaxies, planets and the Earth's moon within Google Earth (GE), based on the user's current location on earth within the software. GE also provides additional visual/text information within the Layers panel, including Constellations, Backyard Astronomy, Hubble Showcase, The Moon, The Planets, User's Guide to Galaxies, and Life of a Star.

Considering the cost (free), Google Earth is an amazingly robust educational tool--a tool that can be used with just about any content area, particularly social studies and science. Tech coordinators around South Dakota should make this tool an absolute must-install for all educational computers.

Viewing the Sky - Google Earth User Guide
It has been reported that the latest version of Google Earth has a flight simulator easter egg that is accessible by pressing Ctrl-Alt-A.

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