Thursday, October 19, 2017

Stranger Pings

Ahh, October! It really is the coziest month, isn’t it? At the mere thought of October you can almost smell the fresh, crisp autumn air, feel the warmth of a soft woolen sweater, taste a hot spiced drink, and hear the crunch of leaves underfoot. These comfy feelings are the perfect contrast to Halloween, when we embrace our fears and delight in spooky stories and images of ghosts, ghouls, witches, and werewolves.

I have a scary tale to tell, one of a danger that hides in plain sight and threatens to catch you unaware and seize your very existence. This predator is more alive than a zombie, and easier to fall victim to than a murderous clown.  So, let us now embody both the hygge and horror of October. Put on some fuzzy socks, grab your pumpkin spice latte, and cuddle up in a blanket while I unnerve you with the evils of a fiend called ...dunh, dunh dunh!!! ...the phisher.

The first reports of a phisher began around 1995. The phisher’s attacks, called phishing, became more frequent in 2003 and have continually increased in number and evolved in danger. Phishers will attack you where you work and live. A phisher could be a member of an organized crime ring attacking you from overseas, or an individual operating alone from a local coffee shop. The phisher’s enormous power has ruined lives and destroyed corporations. In the connected world we live in, we are all targets for phishers. No one is safe.

Fortunately, It’s not all doom and gloom. By understanding why phishers phish and recognizing their tactics we can avoid falling prey to their attacks. In simplest terms, phishers want to trick you into giving them your password, social security number, credit card number, or other important information and use it for their gain.

The top guidelines to avoid phishing scams and keep your identity safe include:

  1. Have a strong password. Passwords should be long and complex, regularly change passwords, don’t reuse passwords, and never share passwords. 
  2. Think before you click. Don’t open attachments or click on links in emails if you weren’t expecting to receive them. Don’t fill out forms with confidential information, like passwords, unless you are on a trusted site. 
  3. Keep informed. New phishing scams and techniques are being developed all the time. 
Do you know how to recognize a trusted website or a spoofed email sender? Do you know how to select a strong password? You may be surprised to find out Greenpigeats14tacos! is a much more secure password than Tj3$*f1@ (and it’s easier to type and remember!). Its vital, not just for your own safety, but for the security of BPS that you understand these concepts and feel confident in your cyber security skills. 

Ongoing security awareness training is highly recommended to keep employees informed and ensure security is top of mind. BPS is rolling out BPS Cyber Security forums in Learnbps that will provide a venue for BPS users to interact with each other and share information on new phishing scams or security risks that they encounter. In addition, we will provide you with the tips and tricks you need to identify phishing emails and learn why Greenpigeats14tacos! is a good password (or it WAS, before I shared it online with the world).

BPS Cyber Security Forums will feature three different forums:

  1. Announcements - New threats and scams circulating on the internet or affecting BPS will be posted here 
  2. Cyber Security Discussion - This is a place to post your questions or notify others of potential dangers by sharing a phishing email or scam that you received 
  3. Cyber Security Awareness and Training - We will post tips, tricks, and offer general knowledge training pieces to help you become a cyber security super hero! 
There are a lot of exciting things coming our way in the next couple of weeks, like Halloween and the return of Stranger Things on Netflix, but don’t forget to watch for your invitation to the BPS Cyber Security forum in Learnbps. Enjoy the rest of your October, which coincidentally is National Cyber Safety Awareness Month!

Join us on Tuesday, October 24th for the #learnbps Twitter discussion!

  1. What is your biggest cyber fear?
  2. What is a cyber security risk you see others take that makes you cringe?
  3. Are you worried about forgetting your password? Why or why not?
  4. What are the steps you take when you are uncertain of a potential risk?
  5. Do you have cyber security questions, or your own advice? BPS employees - share it in the Cyber Security Discussion forum!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Ready for Anything?

It has been a beautiful fall, hasn’t it? One of my favorite ways to enjoy any season is to hop on my bicycle and get as far away from pavement as possible. As any experienced mountainbiker will tell you, whether you’re heading out for a quick 45 minute spin or a multi-day epic, being ready for anything is key to a successful experience. One must be properly equipped for weather, trail conditions, unexpected mechanical issues, eating and hydration, potential injuries, wildlife encounters and, most of all, have an open mindset to whatever the experience will bring. In short, be ready for anything.

 All of this means that critical thinking and anticipatory problem solving are essential skills when gathering together the kit that is both light enough to carry, and flexible enough to be useful in multiple situations - not to mention the experiential knowledge of when and how to use each item in your pack. So how does one acquire all of this? Well, by having experiences, of course! That means lots of walks home after a flat without a pump, a broken chain without a chain tool, or a soggy jersey without a raincoat. Each time, both tools and experience are added to one’s pack to ensure a better experience on the next outing. In short, continue to become more ready for anything.
I happen to know just where this trail leads, but I've no idea what might happen each time I head out.  Every ride, just like every student, requires one to be ready.

 At BPS, we are committed to develop and graduate students who are “career, college and community ready” (ready for anything), it is incumbent upon us to continually work on the collection of tools and resources that will allow us to be ready for the “anything” that we might encounter with each student on his/her journey (personalized learning). One essential set of tools and skills for both students and teachers to develop is the ability to leverage the 24/7 access to support and resources that online blended environments provide. As BPS teachers, we are lucky to have a selection of flexible and useful tools like Learnbps, Google apps for Education, WeVideo, and Voicethread (to name just a few) already available.

Just having a tool in your bag, however, doesn’t ensure that you’ll know what to do with it when the time comes. After all, what good is a patch kit if you don’t have it or don’t know how to use it after running over that unseen cactus? This is where we need to employ critical thinking and anticipatory problem solving, as well as the intrepid spirit that it takes to head out in a direction and just see what happens.
Ready for anything...even zombies!  These HMS students know that stopping a zombie virus--and mastering concepts of geography (SST-06.5) requires creative and collaborative use of 24/7 blended environments.

Don’t feel like you’re ready? Here’s where heading out on a group adventure increases the fun factor! We have lots of adventure partners in the form of colleagues and students (and don’t forget your BPS technology department and library media specialists) who may have experiences and tools that we can borrow and build from. The ride isn’t fun for everyone if one member of the pack is lagging behind with a flat! The really cool thing about this is that sharing an already developed online activity isn’t like sacrificing your own hydration to give your buddy the water that he left behind. When we share what we’ve developed, we don’t lose it, we just increase the number of teachers and students who have access to resources that help them on their personal journeys. We also improve our own tool kits in the process.

Your blended learning adventure pack might be full, or you might still be wondering what to bring along to get you, your colleagues, and your students to the end of the trail with smiles of accomplishment.  Regardless, try to remember these rules of the trail:

  1. Pack what you have and head out--the only way to get there is to get started! 
  2. Ask for help if you need it, and stop to help wherever you can. 
  3. Be ready to encounter something you weren’t ready for. (In which case, go back to rule 1 and start over...) 
So gather what you’ve got, and give your BPS tech department, or LMS a call. We’re always up for an adventure! (But don’t wait too long, because this beautiful fall won’t last forever....)

Join the #learnbps conversation on Twitter Tuesday!

  1. How do you use blended tools to increase both S & T efficiency? 
  2. How do you use blended tools to differentiate and personalize learning? 
  3. How does 24/7 access to blended tools change the way you plan and implement curriculum? 
  4. What are your next steps for your blended teaching practice? or What blended skills would you like help developing? 
  5. Share (links appreciated) a blended activity or resource that might help other Ts & Ss.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Transforming Student Learning Through Empowerment

Empowerment ~ Collaboration ~ Innovation ~ Impact
These buzzwords in education keep flying at us, we hear them from multiple sources.  What do they mean and where do you begin to implement them into an already busy school day?

Creating a student centered classroom where students are empowered to take control of their own learning can be very intimidating for a teacher.  We were trained to teach, to follow the chapter, give assignments, administer tests, assign grades, and repeat.  However, today’s students demand more!

“If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed, the vision pulls you.”  ~Steve Jobs

There are two small and powerful ways to start.  Our district has empowered teachers with Project Based Learning.  PBL, when done well, empowers students to solve authentic problems through collaboration and critical thinking to arrive at a learning goal.  The role of the teacher is to create learning opportunities based on content standards and concepts, further the inquiry through questioning and provide inspiration, not answers.  The teacher is the guide allowing the student to take charge of the process of learning.  The teacher assists students in finding the best  audience to share their learning.

PBL is step one, but is there more?

 Once PBL is embedded into the culture of your classroom the next step is to empower students with the ability to choose their own learning.  Commonly called, Genius Hour or Passion Projects, this is the highest form of student empowered learning.  Students are given time during the school day to follow something they are passionate about.  They are given permission to be innovative and create something new.  The student owns the process from beginning to end.  They choose the topic, they choose the path, they choose the product.  It’s all up to them, the learning, the struggle, the failure, the success!  The best part, as the teacher, you get to experience this amazing journey with your students.  You get to support them, encourage them, fail with them, celebrate with them, and in the end reflect with them.

If you are looking for something different, something more, give it a try!  Why wait?  If you’d like  help getting started, moving forward, or revamping what you are already doing, contact me.  I would love to have a conversation with you!

Join us, Tuesday, October 10,  8:30-9:00 for the #learnbps Twitter chat as we dig deeper into the concept of student empowered learning!

Chat questions:
How do you build a community of learners in your classroom?
What ways have you created opportunities for student empowered learning?
What are some challenges you face when moving  students from engagement to empowerment?
How can student centered learning spaces aid in student centered learning?
Being innovative is a mindset, not a skillset, how do you model this shift in mindset for your classroom?
How can being reflective help us to be innovative?

Andrea Weikum
Library Media Specialist

Sunrise Elementary