Education’s Biggest Cyber Security Threats of 2016

Going to school is one of those portals virtually everyone in the industrialized world will pass through. In the age of the internet and proliferation of personal computer technology, this means billion digital trails throughout millions of educational systems – and counting. In short, it adds up to vast amounts of data and sensitive information; just the sort of thing that appeals to cyber criminals.

With the latter half of this decade well underway, the major cyber security threats facing educators and students are as follows:

Data Breach

The classic data breach designed to seize digital files in bulk remains the single greatest threat to academic cyber security. The importance of business grade network security in school systems has never been greater. Virtually everything needed to know about a person is likely to be found within the files of a school district – age, address, social security number, contact information, relatives, et cetera. It’s critical for school systems to opt for network protection enabling a continuous monitoring of web traffic, as this is the primary avenue of attack.

Audio/Video Breach

Cameras have long been installed in school hallways and perimeters to improve security. Nowadays cameras are everywhere – on smartphones first and foremost. The ones on walls and ceilings for surveillance are also tethered to the web via remote streaming and cloud storage. In short, these tools used for safety and convenience can be turned around and used against us via backdoor attacks online. School campuses, like other places where hundreds of people congregate daily, are optimal targets for such malicious activity, especially audio collection. Not to mention, kids are more likely to download the sorts of apps and programs likely to harbor these kinds of malware.

Discount Gadgetry

Classroom budgets in most cases are severely limited if not downright nonexistent. In an age where technology is tied with education, this means educators are turning to discount gadgets and devices when making purchases for student use. Though well intentioned, this can create a hole in school network security. Far too often these online “bargains” for flash drives, laptops, and tablets are because the seemingly brand name products are indeed counterfeit. Increasingly, these knock off items are being pre-infested with bugs designed to track users and mine for data.

IoT Breach

The Age of the internet is swiftly turning into the Age of the internet of things – or IoT for short. In the classroom of tomorrow (closer to today than you think), everything from chairs to windows may be directly connected to networks for data analysis purposes. Simply put, the amount of data revealing human patterns will increase, allowing for greater convenience but equally creating a more tempting target for online criminals to pursue. Schools will, of course, be high on the list of opportune places for cyber criminals to focus their attention. Network protection will need to integrate the internet of things into the game plan.

The U.S. Department of Education is also there to help. The DOE guidelines for safeguarding student privacy offer extensive advice and recommendations for preventing the aforementioned security breaches and cyber attacks from happening on school systems across the country.

Every year, millions of students pass from one grade to the next in the pursuit of education. This generates countless digital files and records containing sensitive information about students and staff. Care must be taken to not only prevent the traditional forms of cyber attacks but prepare for the ways in which these attacks will be performed in the near future.

Consideration was received for the editing and publishing of this article

About the Author: Jenna B.

Jenna is a freelance writer who got into blogging in college and copywriting upon graduation. Jenna has usually written about topics that mean a lot to her such as health and medicine when applied to family and loved ones. Jenna is an avid runner as long as it’s not a marathon distance jog! She’s on twitter (she still hasn’t fallen in love with and doesn’t use often) @JennaFromDaBlog!

My Opportunity as a Webinar Panelist

On June 2nd, I had the chance to present during a webinar hosted by Susan Oxnevad. I was part of an Edu-awesome group including, Kathy Schrock, Jodie Johnston, Laura Moore, and Christi Collins. Each of us presented a 360°/VR ThingLink Image we created and discussed how it was used, what it could be used for, or what is embedded in the image.  The YouTube archive is below (my segment starts at the 37:40 mark, but make sure to watch all of it!) and you can view the Slides presentation.

Can You ‘Escape the Classroom’?

Can You 'Escape the Classroom'?Recently, the teacher resource specialists for technology team, which I am a part of, used one of our days off to go and take the challenge of an escape room. If you haven’t had the chance to try it yet, you must! We chose a themed room of a bank heist. We had a blast, with eight minutes to spare (of an hour) we figured out the last puzzle and escaped the vault with the diamond in hand. [picture of our victory below]

A couple days after escaping, I went through my blog feed and read a post from Mr. Kaegi, ‘How to Get Out of Our Room‘. Let me tell you, in addition to a great description of what the students did in his classroom (w/ C.C. Standards listed), he also includes video from the perspectives of the students. He has a rigging system which straps a camera to the head of a student so you see what they see, pretty cool.


left to right, Stacey Lindes, Laura Agnella, me, Melissa Morris-Inoa, Kim Lowden, and Jaime Cook


This had me thinking… ThingLink released a new feature, 360°/VR. This allows a beta-tester to upload a 360° photo and then tag it up. Why not create a virtual escape room at school? I used an app 360 Panorama to take a photo of a classroom. This was uploaded to ThingLink and then tagged. I used Google Forms with data validation and an add-on, formMule, for Sheets to act as locks. The submission response from the Form as well as the add-on (sends out emails) with more clues to the next lock and even the final lock. As clues for each mini puzzle, I included images, websites, videos, etc. A Google Doc is also included for taking notes/typing useful information. Background music also adds a sense of urgency. This was just an initial design, I would love to figure out how to have a countdown timer embedded on the image that displays how much time is remaining.

Take a look and try to ‘Escape the Classroom’! I would love feedback, so let me know your ideas/suggestions in the comments below.


Tomorrow’s Classrooms Today

Last Saturday (05.21.16), I attended and facilitated a session at Tomorrow’s Classrooms Today on the campus of Rider University. It was a great opportunity to spend the day with some wonderful, like-minded educators (gratuitous name dropping begins in 5… 4… 3… 2… 1…) fellow colleagues Stacey Lindes and Melissa Morris-Inoa with Twitter friends Chris Nesi, Dan Whalen, Dani Kennis, Adam SchoenbartAJ Bianco, Sandra PaulKim Mattina and many others.

The conference kicked off with a powerful keynote from Will Richardson who spoke on the need to modernize our educational system to match our beliefs. Now, I completely agree, it’s just this is a message I have heard several times from other speakers. This setting is almost like preaching to the choir. I find it hard to keep sitting through speeches like this when we don’t have the actual power to change the current practices. State and federal testing must occur. We have to teach the approved curriculum. Wait, this isn’t a soapbox rant post, so I digress.

The sessions I selected to attend were: ‘Flip the Faculty/PLC Meeting’, ‘Make Feedback Better & Easier with Google Forms & Sheets Add-ons’, and ‘Creating a Cross-curricular Student Broadcast’. Each had their own takeaways and tidbits of information that I never knew about. During the third session, I led ‘Students as Creators’ (embedded below). Lunch was a nice amount of time with a delicious spread. It gave us all a chance to either visit the makerspace, meet with vendors, or just talk with other educators. All in all a nice day and something I will be on the lookout for next year.

I’ve heard back from some of the attendees on how they have tried what I showed, as well as here are the Tweets that relate to my session. I embedded the Tweets below.

You Need a Challenge Every Now & Then

The other day I received just that, a challenge.


Basically, our Kindergarten program is half-day; the teachers have an AM & PM class. They wanted a Form to collect information but depending on a selected answer, they wanted the information to go into one sheet versus another.

At first, I thought this was simple. Input an “IF” function to designate whether the information in a particular row should go to an AM or PM sheet. The problem with this course of action, data which doesn’t meet the “IF” condition would leave a row blank. Example for an AM sheet:

Timestamp AM or PM? Name: Score: Notes:
05/26/16 08:13 AM Tommy 21 Vowel-Consonant-Vowel trouble
05/27/16 09:12 AM Timmy 14 Decoding issues

So I had to search and search and search. I went to a variety of Google Forms forums, YouTube tutorials, and the Google spreadsheets function list. After a little while and no definitive answer, I started to try things out on my own. Eventually, I discovered a solution!

=QUERY(IMPORTRANGE(“Google sheet ID“,”Google tab name!column letter:column letter),”Select * Where Col# = ‘text‘”)

Below are some resources (Tutorial video, embedded Form, and Sheet)

What is a challenge you recently overcame? Please reply in the comments below.

Edcamp Garden State

About a month ago (April 30th 2016) I attended Edcamp Garden State, which was a first for me. Now if you have read my blog, you would hopefully know that this wasn’t the first Edcamp I’ve ever attended. But this was, in fact, my first Edcamp which I co-organized.

Back in December of 2015, during the ‘10 days of Edcamp‘ I made a promise:

I wanted to be part of a planning team and take part in designing a day of learning. I joined Dan Whalen and the rest of his Collingswood crew in organizing Edcamp Garden State.

We used Slack to start conversations on what we needed to do, who was going to be responsible for what, keeping track of the swag we collected, etc. I volunteered to take care of the tech side of things, mainly the digital session board w/ Google Docs for each room, the fourth session Google Form to vote on the last topics of the day, and the exit survey which pushed out a participation certificate.

The session board is embedded below. Thank you goes out to Allan Johnson for assisting me with a Script he designed to create all the Google Docs for each room. Also, I have to send a shout out to Stacey Lindes for assisting me with the sign-ups on the board the morning of Edcamp GS.

As for the Google Forms, they were something I was quite familiar with creating. The fourth session Form was straight forward, a single checkbox question listing all of the previous topics from the board. It was set with data validation so ‘up to three’ choices could be submitted. I then used the Summary of Responses to see which topics people selected. Thankfully it worked out nicely with ten topics having the most votes (no ties). The exit survey, asked a variety of questions like:

  • How did you hear about EdcampGS?
  • How likely are you to attend another one?
  • Did you add a topic to the session board?
  • Would you add one next time?
  • What did you like most?
  • What would you change?

Then on the Google Sheet of responses I set up the autoCrat add-on to use the information collected from the Form (i.e. name, email, etc.) and populate a .pdf of the Google Doc below. This was then emailed out to the attendees after they submitted the Form. For the most part, this worked great, just a couple of times I had to go back in and make an adjustment for a mistyped email address.

The day went great! Other than some cold pizza (they delivered early), everyone left buzzing about what they shared/learned/discovered/conversed about. I’m already on board for planning the next one and we have some ideas on ways to improve/change it up. Will we see you at Edcamp Garden State 2017?

Have you ever organized a conference? Please respond in the comment section below.