Common Core Standards – and the blend of technology

Common Core Standards (CCS) are developing across America. Common Core Standards are coupled with a new generation of assessments and putting an end to the practice of establishing 50 different state measurement tools.

In March 2009, President Obama called on the nation’s governors “to develop standards and assessments that don’t simply measure whether students can fill in a bubble on a test, but whether they possess 21st century skills like problem-solving , critical thinking, entrepreneurship and creativity.”

Almost every state has already chosen to adopt the CCS in math and English which will be required for the 2014-15 school year.

So, how does technology blend in with the CCS? From what I’ve read about the new standards, technology would be a way to execute them within a K-12 college or career-based program that ties into real-life applications.  This is important since the standards are career, professional, and college-based, all incorporating various technologies.

At the classroom level there is lots of technology going on in teaching, learning, assignments, and reports.  For example, creating small group presentations on rocks and minerals might include a variety of media options for classes or cluster groups.  The menu of technology integration can include:

  • A video presentation through www.DiscoveryEducation.com    
  • Creating a www.voki.com with a character communicating a message
  • Cartoon creation sites such as: www.toondo.com and http://www.pixton.com
  • Videoconference with a Museum, Zoo or friend anywhere in the world with Skype or a more
  • robust system like Polycom, Tandberg or Life Size that can view entire classrooms
  • Utilizing an Interactive White Board to demonstrate content, possibly incorporating an avatar such as www.xtranormal.com, www.storybird.com or www.wordle.net
  • Digital story telling using www.animoto.com or other digital software
  • Incorporating pictures and videos into Power Point presentations helping students to communicate their research, messages, concepts, and essays.

Many schools are incorporating these and other technologies within their daily classrooms to reinforce and support the Common Core Standards.  These standards incorporate resources that are online and very interactive with students.  Students can collaborate on projects utilizing a variety of free Internet applications such as Google Apps or other collaborating software.  More teachers are learning about Web 2.0 resources and benefit from hands-on training or through on-line classes.

Teachers are incorporating new and engaging technologies that also support higher order reasoning and writing skills, showing what students know through creative presentations. Technology ties together a variety of standards including science, English Language Arts (reading, writing, communication) and literacy through the synthesizing of information while collaborating with other students.  Technology enhances cross-curricular instruction and encourages collaboration among students. It becomes a useful tool to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of all learners in the classroom.

Through my work with teachers at both public and private schools, I understand their hunger to learn technologies that can support differentiated instruction.  Overcoming obstacles such as booked computer labs, or restrictive filtering system can be a challenge but is not insurmountable.

Arnie Duncan, Secretary of Education stated “This new generation of assessments combined with the unprecedented development of common college and career-ready standards is a game-changer in K-12 education.”  The move to a more rigorous education across the nation must include technology integration to enhance instructional effectiveness.  Incorporating a variety of technologies will help drive student achievement when weaved into these Common Core Standards:

  • An articulated curriculum
  • Emphasis from fiction to nonfiction in reading and writing.
  • Emphasis on reasoning and problem solving skills.
  • Focus on teaching content through the standards for mathematical practice.
  • Compare what is taught in high school and what colleges expect.

Teachers need support, resources, tools and time to make adjustments in their instructional strategies to  assess student growth and progress.  Every school district must make a commitment by providing the necessary professional development for teachers in areas such as: Web 2.0, Interactive White Boards, Google Apps, Streaming Video and Videoconferencing.  Technology continues to be implemented to:

  • Utilize student data to identify student growth
  • Revise curriculum and standards
  • Review reward and remuneration structures
  • Build technical skills of teachers and principals
  • Assess student learning
  • Establish policy documents
  • Link e-courses to Common Core Standards

In closing, technology is a tool of Common Core Standards and will allow a student in Ohio to be measured against the same standard of success as a child in Arizona.  It allows parents to review and maintain contact with teachers through school intranets and more on-line communications with school leaders. Most importantly, it will lead to growth in student learning through differentiated and integrated uses of voice, video and kinesthetic teaching methods; appealing to various learning modalities of students.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Teaching and Learning Paradigm Shifts

Teachers guide and facilitate learning based on their knowledge of both the content area and the craft of teaching. Within the classroom, they create meaningful learning experiences and they encourage students to take responsibility for their own learning. Teacher professionalism is the sum of what teachers do – both inside and outside the classroom to orchestrate student learning, contribute to the art and craft of teaching, and influence educational policymaking.

Videoconferencing, steaming video, podcasting, weblogs, e learning and multi-media integration enhances teacher professionalism to overcome the barriers of time and distance to collaborate on professional issues. Teachers can retrieve information from local and on-line databases to plan lessons and use computer-based multimedia to make more stimulating classroom presentations. Skepticism is not new to education. Emerging technologies are often viewed with fear and resistance. Just look at some of the history surrounding educational change.

Skepticism is not new to education. Emerging technologies are often viewed with fear and resistance. Just look at some of the history surrounding educational change.

“Students today can’t prepare bark to calculate their problems. They depend upon their slates, which are more expensive. What will they do when the slate is dropped and it breaks? They will be unable to write.”
– Teachers Conference, 1703

“Students today depend upon paper too much. They don’t know how to write on a slate without getting chalk dust all over themselves. They can’t clean a slate properly. What will they do when they run out of paper?”

– Teachers Association, 1815

“Students today depend upon store-bought ink. They don’t know how to make their own. When they run out of ink, they will be unable to write words or cipher until the next trip to the settlement. This is a sad commentary on modern times.”
– Rural American Teacher, 1929

“Ballpoint pens will be the ruin of education in our country. Students use these devices and then throw them away! The American virtues of thrift and frugality are being discarded. Business and banks will never allow such expensive luxuries.”
– Federated Teacher, 1959

You can usually look at a group of students and their teacher and know when the educational process is working. The atmosphere’s just right — and that’s because good learning environments often have certain key elements in common.

Modes of Learning

These learning elements, alone and in combination, can be enhanced by technology. In some cases, technology even makes them happen as in developing interactive distance learning. weblogs, podcasting and e learning opportunities.

Active learning is a strategy for education in which the students take personal responsibility for how and what they learn.

When students are active learners, they become involved in learning rather than being audiences for instruction. Active learners create and produce as they learn. They’re engaged in work, try out new ideas, and gain understanding by constructing their knowledge from the world around them rather than acquiring it through memorization.

Teachers create an active learning situation by assigning a complex topic and helping the students to identify the resources they need to investigate it. Then the students, rather than the teacher, explore and organize the information to be learned. As the students work with the information and identify and interpret the main ideas, the teacher facilitates their learning. As one teacher stated, “I’m more like the guide on the side than the sage on the stage.”

Cooperative learning is a strategy for education in which students work in groups to achieve shared goals.

Teachers create cooperative learning environments by establishing groups, helping students to determine group goals and teaching students cooperative learning skills. Principles of cooperative learning include distributed leadership, heterogeneous interdependence and group autonomy.

Interdisciplinary learning is a strategy for tying together traditionally separated school subjects.

Teachers often work together to create the environment for interdisciplinary learning. At the high school level, teachers from different departments may collaborate on interdisciplinary projects or classes. For example, History and English teachers, or Science and Mathematics teachers, may team-teach courses. At the elementary level, teachers may take a thematic approach, which is inherently interdisciplinary. Individual classes, groups of classes or the entire school may do projects based on specific themes, and at any level, teachers may make instruction interdisciplinary by focusing two or more traditional subject areas on a real-world problem.

Individualized learning is a strategy for meeting the diverse needs and learning styles of students.

Students learn in different ways, at different speeds and at different times. Some students learn easily by reading, some by listening and watching, and some by hands-on experience. Some students may be visual learners in one area and auditory learners in another. In addition, developmental issues and preferences affect how – and how well – students learn.

Multi-Media Integration

The incorporation of multi-media into teaching and learning has become one of the most practical ways to emphasize the lessons that are being conveyed and for students to be able to actualize and process information. Multimedia utilizes equipment such as: videoconferencing, digital cameras, digital videocameras, scanners, laser printers, laptops, whiteboards, streaming video, document cameras, audio podcasts and web sites.

Often times, multiple screens or monitors are used in multi-media learning studios. Students can incorporate a video clip into a power point presentation or stream that same video to the desktop or classroom monitor. A student can put any text on the document camera to emphasize his or her concept and then return to the class or instructor camera seamlessly, making the technology appear invisible.

Summary

In the past, schools have been places where people in authority decided what would be taught, at what age, and in what sequence. The new technologies provide students access to information that was once under the control of teachers. Interactive Distance Learning instills an excitement and enthusiasm to engage learners in sharing knowledge and experiences while at the same time encompassing unique content and guest lecturers into classrooms and for the professional development of educators.

For learning to be optimally effective, it should not be hindered by the often artificial barriers that have been created around it. Media plays an important role in breaking down such barriers. The development of information and communication technologies, particularly interactive distance learning, streaming video, and podcasting are some of the conditioning factors of the emergence of the knowledge society. Education in this 21st century means maintaining high standards, integrating technology into curriculum, alternative forms of assessment and better professional preparation.

Protect You and your Kids on Facebook

Facebook is the premier social network being utilized by individuals on a regular basis. It is not only being utilized by children but adults are getting into the act as well. It is being used to promote relationships, discussing parties, friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, and even to play games. Photos are posted, and often there are unintended consequences and risks that could endanger you, and children. These risks include identity theft, hurting college prospects, job prospects and even overspending.

Facebook is a tremendous resource for identity thieves who search pages for data they can use to apply for loans and credit cards. Scammers try to get personal details by sending quizzes or games with keystrokes collecting malware attached. If your child is using your computer, your data is also at risk.

  • Make sure you, children or students do not post their full birth date or address.
  • Set your privacy settings to “friends only” and not “friends of friends” which increases the number of individuals that can view a page
  • Keep your PC’s anti-malware software up to date

About 25% of schools polled by the national Association for College Admission Counseling stated they utilize social networking sites to research applicants. Also, 45% of employers now use sites like Facebook to research candidates and find content that can dismiss a prospect.
Make sure you let students and your children know what will make a bad impression such as photos, postings related to sex, drinking or disparaging comments.
Review your child’s Facbook page periodically, with his/her permission and urge them to remove inappropriate posts and “untag” him/her in unseemly pics.

Approximately 43% of teens using social networks spend money on the sites, often to buy virtual items or advance in a game. For example, a Facebook credit could cost 10 cents but with many transactions, you don’t notice how much is being spent. Kids can charge credits to a mobile phone number or to a Pay Pal account if they know the password.

  • Scrutinize your bills, and never store your PayPal password.
  • Remind your kids they need to have your permission to bill purchases to you.

How We Communicate in the Electronic World

Quote bubbles

Which combination of communications helps you function best in your day-to-day work and personal life? Which communications are easy, accurate and which ones are you most likely to both use and respond?

Today, most people utilize three or four forms of communication in their daily lives. Some people arrive at their places of employment and spend several hours sifting through and responding to e-mail. Others may be playing back phone mail messages while some may be reviewing their paged messages. Do you go to your in-box to check your U.S. mail and what has been faxed to you? What do you check first; e-mail, voice mail, U.S. mail and what purposes do each of these modes of communication serve throughout your daily lives?

For many of us, it has to do with our comfort level of talking on the phone, our busy schedules, and the quality of the electronics we have. For example, if I know that I will be on the phone with someone who will extend a three-minute conversation into a dissertation, then I would generally try to establish an e-mail relationship. On the other hand, if someone is not explicit or detailed enough in their e-mail communications, then I would prefer speaking with them on the phone. Of course, if I need to get important documents signed or if I want to personalize a thank you note then the U.S. mail would be the choice of communication.

Today, we must carefully determine the correct mode of communication for the relationships that we have and are trying to begin or enhance. Why? Because impulsively choosing a certain way to communicate can lead to disastrous personal relationships and loss of business, as well. For business relationships, I will ask people how frequently they utilize and check their e-mail. If it is less than every day, I would be concerned about communicating important information in that way. We can never assume that others check their e-mail several times a day when it turns out they check it once a week. And those assumptions must extend beyond our borders. France is not into email and they may only check it every few weeks. Don’t dare to pull an Italian or Spanish citizen away from a cell phone. And many businesses, especially banks, still make the fax as the primary source of business arrangements.

Email lost in cyberspace is especially at risk. I constantly have to check my spam and bulk filters to make sure an important email response did not land in the trash. And if someone does not reply, those emails may not bounce back as “undeliverable” – they can just vanish. So one must follow up by phone or fax if a second sent email again has no response.

The same holds true for voice mail. We need to determine how frequently individuals check for their messages. Is your message on your voice mail accurate? Do you update it if you expect to be out of the office for significant periods of time? Is it reliable? Can you receive inter-office communications on your voice mail and is that utilized effectively within your work environment?

If you possess a pager and give that number out for others to contact you, are you responsive in a timely manner? If you call back an hour or two later on pages that you receive is that ok or might it negatively reflect on your credibility? Would a cellular phone be more appropriate?

Cellular phones come in all shapes, sizes, digital, analog, and voice activation. When do you have it on? Will it record all messages when it is turned off? Do you keep it off during important meetings, jury duty, funerals, movies or must you be accessible all of the time? Can you check you cellular voice mail in a timely manner as well as messages at your home or office site?

For those of us that have the technology, videoconferencing is another form of communication. I utilize this for meetings with distant locations so that I won’t have to fly to see them, yet we can talk face-to-face in real time to conduct the business that we would otherwise have to travel significant distances.

The following questions need to be asked when choosing your form of communications and what combination you will utilize with others:

  1. What does the other person like to use?
  2. How often do other check their messages?
  3. How do others prefer to communicate?
  4. What frequency do others like to talk with you?
  5. Are other more verbal or auditory communicators?
  6. How quick do you need to get feedback on issues or information?
  7. Do you need to have an actual physical presence?
  8. How technical or non-technical are those that you are communicating with?
  9. Do you or your remote contant have videoconfrencing capabilities?

These are just some of the issues in the use of today’s communication devices. Whichever mode you use, it is important to be clear in your message and for you to be sensitive of the comfort level of others. Make no assumptions on the frequency that others check their messages and always be sure to be responsive to their communication devices.

Also, make sure that your business cards reflect all of your numbers including your regular phone number, cellular phone number, pager, e-mail address and web site.

Courtesy and politeness are essential and often forgotten. Being too abrupt could be offensive and being vague lends itself to confusion. Some people will feel infringed upon when they are engulfed in a project or a time sensitive task. We must remember that the person we are seeking to communicate with is always more important than ourselves and our immediate needs.

Many wish to go back to the slow food movement rather than fast food. The fast pace of conducting business as quickly as possible keeps the soul lagging behind. When was the last time you leisurely talked to a friend on the phone without making an appointment to speak together within a certain start and stop time frame? When was the last time you wrote a real letter with handwriting and fountain pen ink? At the end of the day, what do people remember, the last e mail, a hug or a friend’s warm voice? Beware lest this highly technological world steal the soul.

How to Get your Grant Proposal Approved

School Classroom

Grant writing is an important responsibility – if you don’t do it well, you’ll lose out on much-needed dollars from government, foundation, and corporate funding sources.  Michael. Bloom has successfully written grants for non-profit, education and health care, organizations on a variety of initiatives including areas of: telemedicine, school improvement, technology integration, at-risk youth, and capital improvements.  He’s offered to share some of the secrets to his success in generating more than $12,000,000 in new funding initiatives.School Classroom

Most submitted proposals end up on one of two piles – Fund or Don’t Fund.  What sets them apart has a lot to do with how the reader of the proposal is engaged in reviewing the executive summary and the methodology.  The proposal will “rest in peace” if you use boring words, sentences and lengthy paragraphs.  It will also reach the gravesite by using incorrect language, grammar, spelling and verbiage that is confusing or annoying to the reader.

To keep your proposal in play you must compose it keeping in mind the reviewer’s perspective and what they need to know.  Emphasis must be placed on the actions you plan to perform or provide and the benefits to the population you plan on targeting.  You must maintain a positive, friendly and professional tone and most certainly, respect their intelligence by not telling them how to feel and not talking down to them.

You will keep their attention by utilizing specific and articulate language, simple sentences, correct grammar and spelling, varied sentence structure, active verbs, active voice and integrated research.  Take the “We” out of the narrative and reference the organization, staff professionals, teachers, students or clients in order to make an instant connection, identifying the population you intend to impact.

Try to avoid trite phrases and clichés and be careful with generic language that sounds like the same old and reused descriptors that have been repeated in the past.  If you use bullets use no more than four.  Remember the reader may be reviewing as many as 10 to 15 proposals so you will need to connect them with the outcomes as soon as possible.  Make sure you are specific and utilize visual language.

Additional steps in developing your proposal should include the following:

  1. Develop a strong list of funders.  Get lists from everywhere.  First, look at the funders you have worked with in the past.  Then look at other possibilities such as state departments of education, local foundations, governmentgrants.orgfoundationcenter.org, and other resources found through Internet searches.
  2. Target specific areas of interest   Narrow the potential funder list and focus on specific areas that you wish to develop – maybe its literacy, child abuse, technology, or supplemental support services..  Find sources to match the specific areas of interest.
  3. Find out what programs grantors want to fund    Try to make plenty of personal contacts—either on the phone or in person.  Ask for brochures and information on what grantors want to fund.  It’s important to find the flavor of programs they like.  For example, do they like at-risk youth or school improvement initiatives?  Do they grant to schools or libraries?  Do they only fund certain geographical regions?  This will give you a clear direction of where to go with your grant proposal.

When putting pen to paper or rather, fingers to keyboard, do the following:

  1. Be Clear on goals and measurable objectives   First make sure that each objective has a relationship to the number of individuals proposed to serve, what is expected to be accomplished and what time frame for achieving the objective.  This is very important since the project will be evaluated back to these measurable criteria.
  2. Don’t puff up your projections   This is a trap many people fall into. Don’t say you’ll be 95% successful when its actually a 65% success rate.  Its better to put down the more realistic figure – grantors appreciate realism.
  3. Include timelines   Set up timelines to include program activities, completion dates, and individuals responsible for related tasks.  Grantors know who’s accountable for everything this way and that you have a way to measure your success.  The grantor will see that you have thought the project through and that it’s feasible.
  4. Be clear on your budget and budget justification   As you articulate your budget line items make sure they tie back to the objectives and your methodology.  For example, if you identify any needed equipment, it must relate to the measurable objectives of why you need it and how it will allow the program to be successful.Also, make sure you calculate the correct salaries, fringe benefits, travel, supplies, operations,equipment, space costs, consultants, conferences, and program evaluation costs.
  5. Get letters of support   Try to get two kinds of letters.  The first are written by important community/educational leaders or organizations.  Other letters I try to get are from people who will benefit from the program.  These letters are usually handwritten which adds an important personal touch.
  6. Create an internal review process   Establish a review group or committee of employees, board members, and even members of the community to grade my proposal based on the criteria used to evaluate them by the specific grantor.  Although there are strict time lines on submitting the grant by the due date, try to give yourself time for this process to occur.  If you get less than an eight out of ten rating on any of the written components then rework that section of the proposal.  At this point, everything needs to be clear and precise.

Remember, you need to have your proposal shine above the competition to render the proper attention.  So relax, be creative, concise and talk to the grant officers of your targeted grantors.

Internet & Online Safety

Issues and preventative measures we can take

We all know about the open access that the Internet allows in finding anything or practically anyone. Most people believe the world has become smaller by being able to visit lands of great distances at the touch of a keypad or a simple search on Google for some of the most ambiguous topics or ideas. This freedom of access also allows those that are deviant to lure the unsuspecting, lonely, curious, and adventurous individual to places or people that appear legitimate in cyberspace.

Increasingly, the Internet has become a haven for predators and when it comes to our children we all must ensure that we are teaching them safety. The alternative that some parents are beginning to administer is to keep the child offline or monitor them exceptionally close. To avoid this drastic step, we must get back to basics with our children about cautioning them in talking with strangers whether it is face to face, on the Internet at school, library or a friend’s house. And, by the way, this includes instant messaging to those you don’t even know.

Hmm… so what does a parent, teacher, employee, student or child need to be aware of and what types of preventative measures must we be prepared to take?

  • Become Informed — Make sure that you know how to use the Internet yourself. Inquire as to the safeguards used by the school, library and friends’ homes. Understand that the “Starwars” chat room may actually be a 40 year old sexual predator. If you have small children they should use only kid-friendly search engines such as www.yahooligans.com or Ask Jeeves at: www.ajkids.com. If you suspect online “stalking” or sexual exploitation, report it to the police. Consider installing blocking software or a filter to limit the sites your children can visit. Set rules about where your kids can visit online and what to do if they happen to find inappropriate sites. A good site for a family internet policy can be found at: www.safekids.com. You can also visit the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s website at: www.missingkids.com.
  • Be Smart — Rules should be set for Internet use such as when and how long children can go on-line. Go to: www.getnetwise.com for information on time-limiting software that prevents kids from going online when you are not around. Always have them use a code name and try to change passwords frequently. Set up Internet accounts in your name and be the guardian of the password. Always maintain access to your child’s on-line accounts and regularly and randomly check the e-mail messages. Position the computer in a high traffic area where you can monitor some of the activity. Never give out your name, address, telephone number or other pertinent information that might help a predator locate you. Also, be careful never to discuss family vacation plans since this can result in house burglaries or car theft. Prohibit or monitor your children’s use of chat functions. Preview the chat rooms they use, and make sure their screen names do not identify them as children.
  • Stay Alert — Watch for changes in behavior such as withdrawal from conversation, attempting to be secretive and use of inappropriate language for the child’s age group. Be aware of questions pertaining to scanning, use of web cams and downloading digital pictures. Also, look for hidden photos of children and adults having sex which are often used to break down a child’s inhibitions. Be cautious if a child has none or a minimal amount of friends, seems unusually preoccupied in chat rooms, receives questionable mail, e-mail, gifts or packages or receives excessive telephone calls from adults or friends not known. Be sensitive to how your child is dressing especially if they dress to look older and more seductive.
  • Indentity Theft — Identity theft, also known as identity fraud, refers to a variety of crimes where someone wrongfully obtains and uses personal information for financial gain or some type of deception. Personal data such as your social security number, bank account, credit card or telephone calling card can be used by the wrong persons to personally benefit at your expense. Never give out the following information online to strangers:
    • Address of your house or apartment
    • Home telephone number
    • Genealogical information – your mother’s maiden name is often used as a kind of password by banks and credit card companies
    • A schedule of when you will be out of town
  • Name Exposure — As children begin to exchange e-mail addresses with friends they will start to receive forwarded messages using the CC field and exposing the e-mail addresses to more and more strangers. Spammers pick up those names form chain e-mails enabling them to clog inboxes with unwanted e-mails including pornographic and hate spam. Spammers can obtain personal information if the e-mail address is attached to traceable identifying information through an Internet Service Provider (ISP). Name exposure can lead to two other areas known as “bullying” or “cyber stalking”. Bullying beyond the school yard becomes harassment by persistent e-mails and makes threats a child would not make in person. A cyber stalker is someone who attempts to gain intimate personal knowledge of another person through online communications without their consent or after being told to cease. Stalkers are found in chat rooms, news groups, bulletin boards and e mail and their objective is to create fear and get some type of reaction. Although most victims are usually adult women, children are not immune. An excellent site that covers information on Internet Safety, Chat rooms, SPAM, viruses, child safety, cyber stalking, internet addition, and fraud is: www.safetyed.org.

Everyone needs to become vigilant and smarter when it comes to the Internet. According to a 2001 Time/CNN poll, 43 percent of teenagers polled say their parents don’t have rules regarding Internet use and another 26 percent said their parents have rules but they don’t always follow them. A report on the Nation’s Youth by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for children between the ages of 10 and 17 revealed:

  • 1 in 5 received a sexual solicitation
  • 1 in 33 were aggressively solicited. In these cases a solicitor asked to meet them, called them, or sent mail or gifts
  • 1 in 4 had unwanted exposure to pictures of naked people or sexual activity and
  • 1 in 17 were threatened or harassed.

So, stay informed, be smart and stay alert to the dangers of the Internet and cyberspace. Parents must take greater control and when it comes to the safety of our children, a child’s privacy on the computer is secondary.

On the following page is a good example of Online Safety Rules put out by the Canada Safety Council. It would be good idea for children as well as adults to adhere to these rules and have your child sign and date it after reading and understanding each rule.

Online Safety Rules

  • I will not give out any personal information online without my parents’ permission. This includes my name, phone number, address, e-mail location of my school, my parents’ work address/telephone numbers and credit card numbers, and my picture. This goes for anywhere on the Internet, including e-mail, chat rooms, newsgroups, even Web sites that promise me free stuff or prizes, or on Web pages that I make myself.
  • When using the Internet, I will always use a pretend name or nickname that doesn’t reveal whether I’m a boy or a girl.
  • When creating a password, I will make one up that is hard to guess but easy for me to remember. To avoid having it stolen, I will never reveal it to anyone (except my parents) – not even my best friend.
  • I will not respond to any message that makes me uncomfortable. I will show an adult right away.
  • I will arrange to meet a friend I have made on the Internet ONLY if one of my parents has been informed and will be present.
  • I will not send an insulting or rude message to anyone online. This is called “flaming” and it is not good Netiquette.
  • I will not disable any filtering software my parents have put on the computer.
  • I will not open e-mail, files, links, pictures or games from people that I don’t know or trust. I will always ask an adult first.
  • I will not take words, pictures or sounds from someone else’s Web site without their permission.
  • I will not believe everything I read on the Internet. I will always check the source of the information.

Don’t Be Bullied by Computer Threats

With the escalating use of computers, internet and social networks so are the number of threats that can affect your personal information and critical documents. Email viruses, Trojans, internet worms, spyware and keystroke loggers have appeared and continue to spread worldwide. Many of these threats are low profile but well-targeted and are more about making money than creating havoc. Malware is unlikely to delete a hard drive or corrupt one of the Microsoft applications like a word document or spreadsheet, but the new cyber-vandalism will exploit financial gain opportunities. In fact, some files are being encrypted and others are launching service denials, preventing individuals from accessing websites.

One of the most concerning items are viruses that silently install a keystroke logger, which waits until the victim visits a financial website and then records the user’s account details and passwords. The hacker who receives this information can clone credit cards and dive into bank accounts. Once the virus has done the job it deletes itself to avoid detection.

Another malware activity is turning your computer into a remote-controlled “zombie” to relay millions of profit-making scams on unsuspecting computer users. And, let’s not forget the social networks like Twitter and Facebook where cybercriminals are finding new ways of infecting computers and stealing identities.

Phishing continues on a large scale by sending out mass mail messages but now there is something called spear phishing. This type of phishing focuses on a small number of people within an organization. The mail appears to come from colleagues in trusted departments and the attack is more likely to succeed because the victim thinks that the message is from a trusted source. It is a new method to infringe on security.

There is a litany of computer threats out there so here is a summary of what else you need to be aware of:

  • Adware – software that displays advertisement on your computers
  • Autorun worms – Malicious program that take advantage of the Windows AutoRun feature that execute automatically when they are plugged into a computer
  • Backdoor Trojans – Allows someone to take control of another user’s computer via the Internet without their permission
  • Boot sector malware – Spreads by modifying the program that enables your computer to start up
  • Browser hijackers – Changes the default home and search pages in your internet browser without your permission
  • Chain letters – An email that urges you to forward copies to other people
  • Cookies – Files placed on your computer that enable websites to remember details
  • Data theft – The deliberate theft of information, rather than its accidental loss
  • Denial-of-service attack – Prevents the users from accessing a computer or website
  • Document malware – Takes advantage of embedded script or macro content in document files
  • Drive-by download – The infection of a computer with malware when a user visits a malicious website
  • Email malware – malware or viruses distributed by e mail through attachments like Netsky and SoBig. Be very careful not to bring up attachments from unreliable sources.
  • Fake anti-virus malware – Reports non-existent threats in order to scare the user into paying for unnecessary product registration and cleanup
  • Hoaxes – Reports of non-existent viruses or threats
  • Internet worms – Create copies of themselves across the internet. The Conficker worm is one that infects machines over the network, spreading rapidly.
  • Keylogging – When keystrokes are surreptitiously recorded by an unauthorized third party
  • Malware – A term for malicious software including viruses, worms, Trojan horses and spyware
  • Parasitic viruses – Also known as file viruses, they spread by attaching themselves to programs
  • Phishing – The process of tricking people into sharing sensitive information with an unknown third party
  • Ransomware – Software that denies you access to your files until you pay a ransom
  • Social networking – Websites allowing you to communicate and share information but can also be used to spread malware and to steal personal information
  • Spam – Unsolicited commercial email, that is equivalent to junk mail that comes to your mailbox
  • Spear phishing – The use of spoof emails to persuade people within a company to reveal sensitive information or credentials
  • Spyware – Software that enables advertisers to hackers to gather sensitive information without your permission
  • Trojan Horses – Programs that pretend to be legitimate software but actually carry out hidden and harmful functions.
  • Viruses – Computer programs that can spread by making copies of themselves
  • Zombies – An infected computer that is remotely controlled by a hacker. Often part of a botnet which is a network of many zombies or bot computers

Now that you know about some of the major threats, what can you do to avoid viruses, worms, spyware, Trojans and other destructive items?

For starters, try to block files that often carry malware especially those with more than one file-type extension. Also, make sure you use anti-virus endpoint security software and it helps if you subscribe to an email alert service. Remember to use a firewall and back up your data regularly.

You should also stay up to date with software patches, disable autorun functionality and introduce a computer security policy that is distributed to all staff.

You should always choose secure passwords, avoid spam and never respond to emails that request personal financial information. If you do online banking, type the address into the address bar instead of following links embedded in an unsolicited email.

Don’t forget to buy online safely. Purchasing from a secure computer or device running the latest anti-virus software, firewalls and security patches will significantly decrease your chances of becoming a victim and never follow links from unsolicited online communications such as e mail Twitter or Facebook. Finally, only share sensitive information when you are fully satisfied with the legitimacy of the company. Only purchase through websites using encryption and those are URLs that start with https:// instead of http:// (the s stands for secure).