Friday, December 31, 2010

Episode 115 - To the Cloud

It’s Friday, December 31st, 2010 and welcome to episode 115 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. It’s the last day of the year and the last day of the first decade of the 21st Century. We have heard a lot about the 21st Century education over the past decade and now perhaps we can finally put to bed the rhetoric of what skills a 21st Century educator should possess.

Right Click Here to Download MP3
(16 minutes 22 seconds)

Looking back over the past ten years has proven to be just as exciting as the decade of the 1990’s when the public Internet was born. The 1990’s witnessed a blistering pace of innovation as the .com boom got into full swing. The 2000’s have enjoyed an equal dose of innovation and I am sure we will see similar growth and innovations over the coming decade.

Plain and simple, the number one skill a person needs to have in this day and age is the ability to adapt to change because change is guaranteed to happen. In order to adapt we need to know how to learn, un-learn and re-learn while holding onto our values and what we deem important so we educators still have a lot of work ahead of us.

The past ten years have witnessed a plethora of next generation Internet services known as Web 2.0 and many have become household names. Maybe you can recognize a few them from this list; Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Skype, YouTube, Flickr, Wikipedia, WordPress, and Delicious to name just a few. How many did you recognize? Every single one of these services did not exist at the beginning of this past decade. Today many of us take for granted iPods, iTunes, mobile phones with apps and Internet access, podcasts like this one, and many of the free Web 2.0 services that did not exist a decade ago.

Like many tech savvy educators I use Twitter and Delicious nearly every day as I find them very valuable to have as part of my professional toolkit and best of all both services are free. Twitter is growing and now has nearly 200 million users and is still going strong. Delicious on the other hand has a questionable future as Yahoo announced this month that Delicious was on the list of sites that the company was considering shutting down and/or selling.

The Twitter business model is still evolving but it is safe to say that Twitter like many other Web 2.0 companies need a revenue model to succeed in the long term, otherwise they too may find themselves in the predicament that Delicious now finds itself in. There is no such thing as a free lunch and many free Web 2.0 services have come and gone over the past decade. Many are supported by advertising dollars and some like Ning have moved to a paid model in order to survive.

Yahoo purchased Delicious in 2005 and I have been using this social bookmarking service since its inception. The fate of Delicious is still unclear at this time but many users of the service have begun the move to a similar social bookmarking service called Diigo. I have provided a link in the show notes to an article that describes the process of moving your bookmarks from Delicious to Diigo if you are a Delicious user and find yourself in this current state of uncertainty.

I love Delicious for its drop dead simplicity as well as the ability to subscribe to bookmark tags and share with others. I have already exported my bookmarks to my local computer and will be transferring them to Diigo in the coming days but I have not given up hope that Delicious may be reincarnated by another company that will buy Delicious and continue the service, hello Google are you listening?

Google is one of those companies that has flourished this past decade. Google began as a research project by Sergey Brin and Larry Page in 1996 while PhD students at Stanford University. While no one can doubt the success Google has enjoyed as the search engine of choice that most of the world uses the company has not been content to rest on its laurels. Here are just a few of the additions Google has made over the past decade.

Blogger – 2003
Gmail - 2004
Google Earth -2005
Google Docs - 2006
YouTube – 2006
Android Open Handset Alliance - 2007
Google Chrome Browser - 2008

Google Chrome OS – 2009

Google CR-48 Notebook - 2010

Not a bad decade of innovation for Google and they are poised to go head to head with Apple and the iDevices portfolio of products and services in the coming decade.

Speaking of Apple this decade has witnessed a revitalization of Apples product line and services and Apple has also racked up an impressive portfolio of innovations. Apple introduced the first generation of the iPod and OS X in 2001, created the iTunes service in 2003, introduced the iPhone in 2007, created the App Store in 2008, and introduced the iPad this year in 2010. Apple has relied upon a closed system approach that has proven very successful and has set the stage for the coming decade to witness many battles between the open model of Google versus the proprietary model of Apple.

Don’t forget there is another horse in this race to the future, Microsoft. Before you get to feeling too sorry for Microsoft remember that the older desktop/laptop model is still doing fine. Even with the recent recession the computer industry is set to sell one million PC’s each and every DAY this year and Microsoft still has a world-wide market share of over 90 percent.

Microsoft’s search engine Bing is also growing and while late to market Bing has a US market share of nearly 12 percent.

Microsoft also has a strong and burgeoning software as a service model that fits in nicely with cloud computing. This year Microsoft has bolstered their Office Web Apps product that provides a more attractive interface than their Google Apps competitor and has partnered with FaceBook and created the service with access to more than 500 million FaceBook users. Microsoft is also innovating with its new Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system and is taking a very different approach than Apples iPhone and Googles Android phones.

There is also a dark horse in this race that I think we educators need to take a closer look at for the upcoming decade, open source. Open source alternatives have the potential to save schools and universities millions of dollars. Google is basing a lot of their innovations on open source products like Android that is based upon an open source Linux kernel. Apple’s OSX is even based upon BSD Unix which is an open source operating system that Apple adapted for their own needs. If Google and Apple can adapt open source software for corporate use I think we educators can adapt many open source resources to benefit our needs at little to no cost. The coming decade will provide educators with just such an opportunity as many of the pieces are now in place to become more independent including open source software, broadband delivery networks, ebooks, audio and video podcasts, and creative commons resources and content that are constantly being developed for the common good.

As we head into this next decade ask yourself, what am I doing to contribute to society to make this world a better place? Never before have so many people had the opportunity to create and share their passions with the world. This model is very different from corporate America but the tools and infrastructure now exist for one person to change the world. The economies of scale are eliminating many business models and we are ending up with larger and larger companies as industries consolidate. But this consolidation has also opened opportunities for individuals and small groups to contribute to society in ways that were previously very difficult to scale. We are living in a time when bits and bytes are becoming the currency of consumption and broadband access will increasingly become more important to the quality of services offered. What is offered and consumed is up to us.

The past decade has been a march to the cloud and has culminated with the CR-48 notebook that Google announced earlier this month as part of their vision for the future. The CR-48 notebook uses the new Google Chrome operating system which basically is a streamlined browser where you do all of your work on a low-cost laptop. Obviously you must be connected to the Internet to use the CR-48 notebook since you are using the browser to access your work. All your programs and files are accessed and stored in the cloud. If you have an always-on and reliable Internet access this model has a lot of promise, however at this moment connectivity is still the weak link for this model as coverage areas are still spotty and connectivity costs remain too high for widespread adoption bhy the masses… but it is a step in the right direction.

Google CR-48 Pilot Program

The current PC model is getting long in the tooth and the constant updates and patches require a lot of overhead and maintenance. This is true for both PCs and Macs as new updates occur on a weekly basis on both platforms. If you have iTunes loaded on your computer you know what I mean. As we move to having multiple devices per person such as a desktop PC, a laptop, a slate device, and a mobile phone managing and securing multiple devices will become even more onerous. That is why I think the CR-48 is a step in the right direction but it will also need to have a more robust offline capability for those times where Internet access is either slow or non-existent. But, as soon as you add the offline ability you are going back to the PC model and adding complexity to the operating system so there will be some growing pains as the CR-48 project evolves.

The computer industry has witnessed several paradigm changes as innovations have offered new possibilities. Computers began as mainframes in the 1940’s and 50’s requiring huge rooms to operate, next came mini-computers in the 1960’s, Personal Computers in the 1970’s, Servers and Local Area Networks in the 1980’s, the Internet in the 1990’s, and Web 2.0 in the 2000’s. The 2010’s are poised for the continuing the move to cloud computing as miniaturization continues. Increased processing power in smaller packages and broadband connectivity now make it possible for mobile devices to become full-fledged computers in their own right.

This all is not without risks as putting all your eggs in one basket has never been a good idea in computing. One reason the PC took off was that it gave users the freedom and independence to be off the mainframe computer, when the mainframe went down so too did all the work and productivity. We now appear to be heading back to a more mainframe type environment in the cloud. There will be problems and outages in the future so we need to prepare ourselves in the event of such outages. The Cardinal Rule of computing is to always have a backup of your data and in the brave new world of cloud computing you will also need to be prepared if something happens in the cloud, just as you are today if something happens to your PC. Having a Plan B is always required when it comes to technology. It remains to be seen if the wireless broadband infrastructure can become ubiquitous, reliable, secure, and affordable enough for ALL people to move to the cloud. The next decade is going to be interesting.

Technology Pick of the Week

My Technology Pick of the Week this week is a new service from Google called Google ebooks. The competition for digital resources is fierce as Google is now taking on Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, and other brick and mortar bookstores directly with their newly announced ebookstore. A link is available in the show notes to the Google ebookstore along with a short video segment introducing the new service.

Google ebookstore

It’s time to set your reading free (video)

You may remember that Google was a key player in Project Gutenberg as Google digitized millions of pages of older books that were out of copyright. Now Google is making deals with publishers as well as having access to over 3 million titles thanks to resources like Project Gutenberg. Believe it or not ebooks were invented in 1971 by Michael Hart, founder of Project Gutenberg.

Project Gutenberg

About Project Gutenberg

Google is entering a crowded space and is facing major competition from some pretty big players that have a head start on Google.

Amazon is banking on their Kindle platform to deliver ebooks to consumers and is supporting a wide variety of devices including their own Kindle ebook reader device, Kindle for PC, Kindle for Mac, Kindle for iPhone/iPad, Kindle for Android, Kindle for Blackberry, Kindle for Windows Phone 7, and Amazon recently announced the beta version of Kindle for the Web that frees you from having to have specific devices to read your ebooks. Amazon announced this month that the Kindle device has become the #1 best seller of all time for the company. Amazon also quietly announced that you can now lend ebooks to your friends for a period of up to two weeks. The people you lend to do not have to have a Kindle and the owner of the ebook does not have access to the ebook while it is on loan. A link is in the shownotes for more information about lending Kindle ebooks.

Kindle ebook Lending

Not to be out done by Amazon Barnes and Noble announced this week that their ebook reader “the Nook” became their best selling item in the company’s 40 year history. The Nook already featured a way to lend books to your friends so the Kindle is playing catch up in this area.

Apple is banking on the iTunes App Store and the iBooks model as their deployment platform of choice. You can read ebooks on your iPod, iPhone, and iPad with ebook apps and purchase books directly from the Apple iBookstore.

Apple iBookstore

There are many issues as we make this transition to ebooks. In researching the notes for todays show I ran across an article from 2005 from Library Issues that provides an overview of the then Google Digitization project and some of the issues libraries are facing in moving to ebooks. As you probably know copyrights remain a big sticking point with making copyrighted works available in an electronic format.

Google's Digitization Project — What Difference Will it Make?

The current state of ebooks is a microcosm of what the next decade will have in store for us. Goliath companies like Google, Apple, Amazon, and others are in a gold rush for obtaining access and rights to content so that it may be digitized and monetized in the spirit of capitalism. The content, the devices, and the bits and bytes required for delivery all have monetary value and companies will make money in each of these three major areas.

Other smaller David-like organizations like Project Gutenberg rely upon volunteers and have in their mission to provide content to the masses in as free and low-cost manner as possible. The truth will most likely fall somewhere in the middle as these things sort themselves out over the coming decade. The good news for educators is that we have the opportunity to build and share this content and distribute it in the methods of our choosing and this is a good thing.

That wraps it up for episode 115 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at To leave a comment or suggestion, please send an email to or leave a comment on the Tech Talk for Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom. Have a Happy New Year and most of all keep on learning…

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Episode 114 - Outside the Education Bubble

It’s Tuesday, November 30th, 2010 and welcome to episode 114 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. We are back from a week long Thanksgiving break where I was lucky enough to take a technology holiday and managed to have a solid week of no online activities for the first time since I can remember. I hope those of you in the U.S. also had an enjoyable Thanksgiving break and found some time to reflect on all the blessings we have as Americans. One of those blessings for me is a great public education.

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(10 minutes 11 seconds)

It has been a very busy November here in our college as we are ¾ of the way through the fall semester. We also had our NCATE Accreditation site visit this month that involved all teacher education faculty, staff, and students and we are now awaiting the official report. Accreditation is very important for teacher education programs as it provides mechanisms for measuring and assuring quality programs that benefit our students. As the technology person in our college I was extremely involved in the preparation for the site visit including webmaster duties and committee work over multiple years. After such a busy month I was ready for a bit of a break.

I had some home remodeling work to do last week so I was occupied the entire time with a lot of hard physical work. I made it a point NOT to go online but rather take a break from all the high-tech I experience daily. I come back to work refreshed and with a new perspective along with some aching muscles that I forgot that I had until they reminded me. Those of us in the education field, especially those of us involved with educational technologies, have a tendency to see things through the filter of our own work and often live in the moment of now. We can’t wait for the next greatest thing to come along and tell the world about and how this changes everything. Too often we live in the bubble of our career choice and forget that others may not share our excitement for the next greatest thing that comes along.

Sometimes other technologies catch my eye that are not directly related to education but their underpinnings have great educational potential if harvested and directed in a focused and purposeful manner. Computer gaming is one of those areas that often leads in technological innovation but may take a while to find appropriate uses in the classroom.

Before I left for Thanksgiving break I came across this stat about the xBox 360 game, Call of Duty - Black Ops that sold $360 million dollars in the first 24 hours of going on sale. This is quite an impressive feat for a computer game title. Even more impressive is that it kept up the momentum and reached had $650 million in sales by the end of the first week. I would say this is an unqualified success and I would wager that few educators paid any attention to this news at all as it is typically outside their bubble of concern. Today the computer gaming industry rivals the movie industry and each release is a high-stakes gamble to see if new titles will find success in the market.

So, what does this little side trip have to do with TechTalk4Teachers? First, computer gaming has always had a role in education and often pushes the technological envelope for action and engagement. Games provide for immediate and formative feedback that allows the player to continually improve their skill levels as they reach new levels of the game. Games, when well constructed, follow sound instructional design principles. While Call of Duty Black Ops is rated as a mature game and not appropriate for children the creators have found a balance of storyline, amazing graphics, and a multiplayer mode that immerses the player in the action.
What got me thinking about this over break was the movie, “Waiting for Superman” that caused quite a stir in educational circles back in September and October. On Twitter the tweets were flying around the Waiting for Superman movie and what it meant for public education.

Waiting for Superman website

Waiting for Superman was produced by award winning documentary film maker Davis Guggenheim who also directed An Inconvenient Truth, the documentary about Al Gore’s message on global warming. The movie Waiting for Superman focuses on the failing public education system and the charter school movement.

Back in late September NBC hosted a “special” week devoted to education and how public schools are failing. The NBC education week showcased the movie Waiting for Superman for the entire week using it as a center piece for town hall style meetings regarding the woes of current state of public education in the U.S. It was unfortunate that the scope of the conversation was focused around the movie and obviously served as free PR at the expense of many other voices in public education that have a great story to tell. Public education is an easy amorphous target that gets beat up regularly in the media. Public education is also a shining light that has the noble goal of educating ALL children regardless of race, creed, disability, or socioeconomic status.

So, if you are an educator did you hear about the Waiting for Superman movie? Did you watch it? Maybe I am living inside the education bubble but I know many colleagues have. Now, next question, did you hear about the new Call of Duty – Black Ops game released this month? Chances are you did not. I did not see any TV advertisements or any week-long series on major TV networks promoting the game either.

So given the obvious importance of public education for the nation you would think that a documentary movie about public education that has consequences for generations to come and has been hyped by all the major television networks, Oprah, and magazine coverage in Time and the New Yorker; you would surely think the movie would garner enough interest to be a major financial success at the theatres, right?

It depends in which bubble you are living in and your definition of success. As far as dollar sales goes it is no contest, Call of Duty wins by a landslide. Want to guess how many millions in sales Waiting for Superman has sold to date? Remember, Call of Duty – Black Ops raked in $650 million in sales the first week. So what is your guess for total box office sales for Waiting for Superman? According to Waiting for Superman has sold 6.2 million dollars in tickets to date in a little over 2 months. It just amazes me that there is that much difference after a massive PR campaign to get the word out about the movie.

So we have a First Person Shooter (FPS) game rated for mature audiences that has a 100 fold advantage in sales over a documentary movie on public education that may have important implications for public education policy. That in a nutshell is what educators are up against in trying to have meaningful dialogue about the state of public education, we are often drowned out by what is occurring in other “bubbles”.

I felt that there needed to be a little more balance to NBC’s education week coverage but unfortunately discussing the important and deeper implications of improving public education apparently does not make for good TV. Public education is however critical to the success of our nation. I have included a link in the show notes to an article that Diane Ravitch recently published entitled The Myth of Charter Schools that I believe deserves equal promotion to the documentary movie Waiting for Superman. Her conclusion, as is mine, is that no child should have to wait and win a lottery for a top-quality educational experience. Superman should not sell lottery tickets.

The Myth of Charter Schools by Diane Ravitch

Technology Pick of the Week
My Technology Pick of the Week this week also has to do with computer gaming and is the new xBox360 Kinect Gaming system that features a sensor that responds to your presence in the room. You essentially become the controller. This technology is in its infancy but already people are hacking the Kinect system and coming up with some interesting applications that I am sure Microsoft did not envision.

I have provided a link in the show notes to an article from PCMag that has embedded videos showing some of the Kinect hacks from YouTube.

Video: Five Coolest Kinect Hacks,2817,2373505,00.asp

I know this is an audio podcast but I encourage you to visit the show notes and go to the provided links about Kinect. The first two videos listed are my favorites. In the first video is labeled Super Mario Kinect where the Kinect is hacked to put you in a Mario game where your actions are replicated on the screen. You can run, jump, lean, and shuffle your way up the various levels of the game as your Mario character mimics your moves. If this technology becomes perfected it may just be the cure for the video game culture of being a couch potato and not exercising because this game can wear you out in a hurry.

The second video labeled Star Wars Kinect shows how the creator of the hack moves a broom handle around the room and it magically appears as a Star Wars light saber on the screen. Imagine the gaming possibilities that you could do with this hack. The Kinect interface is bridging the virtual and real world in a way that we have not seen to date. If you have some time take a look at the YouTube videos and I think you will be impressed with the possibilities.

Speaking of YouTube I have one more shameless plug to share with you as my Technology Pick of the Week. I recently posted a series of four videos on the ITC YouTube Channel about the Basics of Using the Smart Notebook Version 10.6 with a Smart Board. You can visit the ITC YouTube Channel at I have also provided a links to the Smart Board how-to videos on the ITC YouTube Channel in the show notes, if you use a Smart Board be sure to check them out.

ITC Youtube Channel

That wraps it up for episode 114 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at To leave a comment or suggestion, please send an email to or leave a comment on the Tech Talk for Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom. Keep on learning…

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Episode 113 - Gone Phishing

It’s Thursday October 28th, 2010 and welcome to episode 113 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom and I’m Adam Dodge. With me today in the studio is Adam Dodge who is here to talk more about Information Technology security. Back in August we invited Adam to talk about the importance of userids and strong passwords. Since October is Cyber Security Awareness month I thought we would invite Adam back for more information about protecting all of the IT resources we all come to rely upon daily.

Right Click Here to Download MP3
(25 minutes 11 seconds)

Links mentioned in this episode:

Antiphishing Working Group -

OnGuardOnline -

National Cyber Security Alliance -

Facebook Security -

Campus Downloading -

Technology Pick of the Week

For my Technology Pick of the Week this week I am recommending that you take a look at a new feature in Google Docs, in particular Google spreadsheets that is called Chart Editor that was announced earlier this week. A link is a available in the show notes to the Google Docs blog that features a video of what the new Chart Editor can do. Please give it a watch to see all the new features this tool offers.
Most exciting to the visual learner is a feature called motion chart that allows you to visualize data over time by creating a mini-movie of the chart. When I first watched the video overview it reminded me a lot of another presentation I watched way back in 2006 from the TED Talks series by Hans Rosling entitled “Hans Rosling shows you the best stats you’ve ever seen”. I also highly recommend you watch this TED video and even though it is approaching 4 years old, the data lovers of us will smile at his presentation. It is one thing to see data in the common boring tabular data style of columns and rows and another thing to see the data come alive and move overtime. This allows you to see trends you never knew were there, a pretty powerful learning tool. The new chart editor is not as sophisticated as the Hans Rosling presentation but it is the first time I have seen the chart motion feature in a freely available Web 2.0 tool like Google Docs. A link is provided in the show notes to the Hans Rosling video.

TED Video: Hans Rosling shows you the best stats you’ve ever seen

That wraps it up for episode 113 of Tech Talk for Teachers. I want to thank Adam Dodge of our ITS department here at EIU for taking the time to talk to us about the importance of cybersecurity along with some other tips on how to be more secure and safe online. Show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at To leave a comment or suggestion, please send an email to or leave a comment on the Tech Talk for Teachers blog. Until next time, change those passwords, this is Tom Grissom. Keep on learning…

Tom Grissom, Ph.D.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Episode 112 - Podcasting, Yes You Can

It's Thursday, September 30, 2010 and welcome to episode 112 of TechTalk4Teachers, I'm Tom Grissom and I'm Loren Lindgren. Welcome Loren. We have a guest today in the studio.

Right Click Here to Download MP3
(18 minutes 14 seconds)

Tom: Loren is a graduate student here at the ITC. So, I wanted to invite Loren in and talk a little bit about podcasting. He had expressed in interest in podcasting so I thought well, let’s just do a live show here. I also have my undergrad class, what we call our Teaching and Learning with Technologies in Classrooms class and we’re doing some podcasting in there as well. So, I thought I would just introduce some of the equipment and just bounce some of the questions, because I believe this is your first experience with podcasting.

Tom: Okay. And I’m setup probably a little bit differently. I’m certainly setup differently than whenever I started this, three or four years ago. Back when I started this, I was literally just using a regular computer and I was recording off the hard drive of the computer using a program called Audacity. I used just a very cheap, ten-dollar microphone and just plugged it into the computer, hit record on Audacity, and recorded directly to the hard drive. And that’s very easy to do. Any teacher can do that. Audacity’s a free open source program. It’s available for Mac, Windows, and Linux,so, it’s cross-platform and even today, I still use Audacity for the post-production to edit things. So that works very well. In today’s setup, however, I have introduced a mixer because I’m starting to do some interviews and I’m trying to take this to the next level. So, it did require me to get a mixer. I can bring in phone calls, Skype calls, with something called a mix-minus on my mixer. But, just for very simple two way interviews, my setup just consists of a basic mixer and I'll post some pictures out on the show notes if you would like to see the setup I am using here. We have two microphones. I have a microphone in front of me, Loren as a microphone in front of him and then both microphones are fed back into my mixer and then out of my mixer, I have a cable that plugs into a digital audio recorder. So if I've taken the computer out of the equation at this point, I'm just using a digital audio recorder that records to an SD card and that saves it essentially as a.wave file.

Loren: Okay.

Tom: So, whenever we finish with this, I'll take you through the post-production side using Audacity, but all I'm going to do is essentially pop that SD card out, pop it in my computer, and open it just like a regular file and import it into the Audacity program and we'll be able to edit sound. And then we'll do a few things on post-production, I'll add the music on that. But, that's the basic setup on doing this. Prior to this, I believe you have listened to some podcasts before though, haven't you?

Loren: Yes.

Tom: Okay. And do you have an Ipod or listen through ITunes, or how do you do that?

Loren: No, I don't. I've listened to them mostly off the Web.

Tom: Just listen off the computer, okay. In all of my research that I have done, I have done multiple studies with students and well over 80% of the students, they just go to a website like our TechTalk For Teachers, you click that little play button and you're there. I use a Zune which is very similar to an Ipod and I really like the software that comes with the Zune and it also allows me to be more portable, so that's a nice thing with an Ipod or a Zune or any other MP3 player. I also really like the creative Zune stones which are like $40-$50 devices. I've worked with some schools, like 3rd and 4th graders. You know, I don't want to hand them a $200 Ipod. I feel comfortable with a $30-$40 MP3 player. But just for that portability and we setup some learning centers, we've done a lot with our Project WOW. Any other questions as far as setup and things on doing that?

Loren: Well I guess the one thing that struck me was I don't know a lot of devices that I've used so far that use an SD card. Is that something that most of the listeners are going to be familiar with?

Tom: Well, the digital recorders, there's always different levels you know, whenever you go through. Whenever I started, I went to RadioShack, and actually my daughter when she was in school, she used it to record notes and things. She's an auditory learner, so that's how she made her study notes and then she would listen back to that. That was just a little $50-$60 audio recorder at RadioShack, which you use a solid state device to record the sound to. In that particular model, you pop off the end and it turned into a USB stick and you just plugged it in, so it was all self-contained. The SD cards that I'm talking about are exactly like, if you have a digital camera that uses the SD card, it's the same card, it's just a storage device. Now, whenever I buy all of the computers for our labs, for example, everyone of the computers in the ITC lab has the SD card readers. And like everything else, there are different flavors of cards, different sizes. We standardized on SD and they're about the size of a postage stamp. I'm holding one up here, I'll have a
picture in the show notes for that. But, it's exactly like what's in your digital cameras out there.

Loren: About how much can they hold?

Tom: You can get them in various sizes. Today typically, anywhere from a gigabyte, 2 gigabytes, 4 gigabytes, 8 gigabytes. Of course, the price is going up as I go up there on the scale. I use a 4 gigabyte, that holds a tremendous amount of audio. It really doesn't take that much room. Again, another reason I favor audio podcasts over video podcasts, because of the size. And because I'm consuming these, you do have to download. So at home, I have a very slow internet connection that takes a long time, but an audio file is very manageable. And schools will also find that. You know, they have limited bandwidth out there, especially when you have a hundred people on it at one time sharing the same pipe out there. I typically record on the 4 gigabyte and I don't know, it will hold hours.

Loren: Okay.

Tom: Longer than our podcast is going to last here. Just like pictures on a digital camera, you do have to clear it off every now and then. But the way, the workflow that I have setup, is we'll do this recording here, we'll stop the recording, I will pop it into the computer, copy the file and import it into Audacity and then we'll go through there. Now, this coming week for my undergrad class, we're actually going to get into some of the editing with Audacity and I'll show you that here as soon as we finish. You know, it's one of those things, I've done it for so long and have helped so many people, it's always nice to have a fresh perspective. We just had this discussion in class last week. I'm giving my students a lot of freedom as far as what type of project. Prior to my assignment, I had a WebCT discussion where I required them to listen to at least three podcasts, fifteen minutes or longer and then comment on somebody else's review of those podcasts. So, I was trying to get them into the podcast genre and one of the comments was, well some of these are really long and it's a little bit boring, it's like how do you make this a little more exciting? Well, the nice thing about podcasts is it's voluntary. You pick the subject area that you listen to, something you're hopefully interested in. And now then, the challenge in my class is, okay now that we've had those comments, how are you going to not make yours?

Loren: Right.

Tom: So, shoes on the other foot there. So, I'm looking forward to some of those. I've given them options, anything from, I said, we'll you can do a 30 second public service announcement. I've had other students do that in the past. And there eyes kind of like, wow, thirty seconds and I'm done. So, they'll be experiencing the post-production edit, as you will here in a minute. We'll record this for, you know, ten-fifteen minutes and it's probably going to take another hour on top of that to do the production, to get it the way you want. Some people do a lot of editing. I tend to not edit as much as I probably should because it's very time consuming. But, with the setup that we have here with you and I recording going into the mixer, we're recording live to hard drive as they say here. Or in this case the digital audio recorder. Do you have any other questions?

Loren: Yeah. I am sort of curious as far as what the next step is. What makes podcasting different than just making a recording of yourself on your computer? How do you distribute it?

Tom: Okay. Without getting too technical, there's something called RSS feeds. And the real technical definition of a podcast is, we'll use audio for example since this is an audio podcast. It's an audio file on the internet that can be subscribed to through something called RSS. It stands for Really Simple Syndication. And that's getting way more technical than most teachers ever want to know or the average person wants to know. But, the advantage to that is, instead of you going out to a website, as you said you listen to them on a website. But instead of you going out there next week, is there anything new? Is there anything new? The RSS feeds will agrugate those feeds and send them to you. And the most common one is the iTunes program.

Loren: Okay.

Tom: So you go out to iTunes and it's actually, I don't know on the new version 10, but on the older versions, it was underneath the advanced tab, second or third choice down it says subscribe to podcast. And if you go there and if you know the RSS feed and if you're visiting these websites, you'll probably see an orange symbol with like little waves coming out, which is the universal symbol for RSS. So, if you click on that it will say here is the web address for the RSS feed. You just need to copy that into subscribe to podcast in ITunes and then click okay and you're subscribed.

Loren: And so then every time, as long as you have live internet connection?

Tom: Exactly. Every time you open up iTunes or as I said, I use Zune. It's even simpler in Zune. You open up the Zune software and they've got a link across the top that says podcast and then a button in the lower left corner that says subscribe to podcast and you either type out that RSS feed or just copy and paste it into that. And everytime I open up the ZOON software in my case, the podcast is automatically downloaded. I subscribe to both audio and video podcasts and the video ones can be very large. You know, the advantage here at the University, is we have a huge internet connection so it's really nice. Once again, at home, my internet connection is much slower and it takes a long time to download the video. That's why I usually stick strictly to audio.

Loren: Okay. Where are most of these posted? The internet is a very big place. So, do you just browse until you find them or are there any central location for podcasters?

Tom: Yeah, several different ways. iTunes has its own catalog. Here at the University we have Eastern Illinois University iTunes U, so that's available. We have an actual site, I believe. We'll put a link in the show notes for that. As far as hosting, the files actually reside locally wherever the podcaster chooses and if you're a hobbyist podcaster there's a company called Libsyn which is very popular for like six bucks a month or something, you can host your files out there and they provide the bandwidth and everything to do that. Here the University we have our servers locally so the MP3 files are stored here. All iTunes is and all the Zune marketplace is, is just a catalog that points to those files. It's a missed number and people think we just upload it and it's out on iTunes server somewhere. It's not. It's local, it's just a pointer. That's good for iTunes because they don't have any storage costs distributed every different place. So, that's a way, we call those podcatchers, the way that they work.

Loren: Okay. I forget the name of the company you mentioned, Libsyn?

Tom: Yeah. L-I-B-S-Y-N.

Loren: Okay.

Tom: With the popularity of all the Smart Phones and everything or 3G services, the wireless world, and we need to be careful here to differenciate. In the 3G phone company world, they have their own build-out network. And in my case, I have Verizon, and I have a cap that I can't download more than 5 gigabytes worth of data a month or they charge me a quarter a megabyte for every megabyte I go over or whatever. So, I watch that very carefully. Which again is another reason for the audio versus the video. I cannot watch very many YouTube videos over my 3G connection or I'll go over my cap very, very quickly. And again, I don't think the average consumer understands that. But, if you're using 802-11, what we call B, G, or N, those are like Starbucks. You know, you go in there and setup your laptop. That's an 802-11 service, so you're not capped with that. And it's much faster speeds than what you get over 3G. Now, the latest with Verizon, they're coming out with 4G and then what they call LTE, which is even a higher speed network. So you're going to see things explode. I mean what's holding us back right now is the bandwidth, the availability for this. On my Droid phone, I subscribe to podcasts, I use the Listen service. Again, I just go out there. It says what is the RSS feed? I type it in there and then every new episode will be downloaded to me automatically, I never have to check again. Every time I turn on my Droid, it goes out and checks. Do you have anything new for me? Yes. Download it? No. Skip go onto the next one. But these subscriptions really make it nice, because I essentially have a catalog of different things. And again, another reason I like the audio format is, you can be driving down the road listening to it or doing the dishes, laundry, or whatever at home, exercising, whatever it might be so you're multitasking. And in my world of EdTech, I have to, to keep up. Every week I subscribe to several different tech projects and listen to those just to keep up with all the changes in the world. For the person starting out, I say, you know, just forget about that because 80-90% of the people just go to a website and click. If you want to take it to the portability level and either download it to an Ipod, a Zune. or creative Zune, or whatever MP3 player you choose, that gives you that freedom to move around. So, right now we're in farming season, I can be out there on the tractor, doing the harvest and things and catching up on the latest in EdTech.

Loren: Very efficient!

Tom: Yes. There's only so many hours a day, so you've got to work it in there where you can. Okay, anything else Loren?

Loren: You already mentioned the different variaties of podcasts are limited as the number of people that want to podcast. So it seems like a pretty broad, diverse...

Tom: It's very diverse. The simplest definition for a podcast, it's like a radio show with a pause button. It's on demand. So, those are two big pluses for podcasting. And for education, to be able to listen to something, hit pause, hit rewind, it's like while I didn't quite understand that point. Let me rewind that and listen to that again and again. That repetition, coming back, which we don't have when we're in the classroom doing a lecture. I'm guilty of it myself. I will go through some things and just skip over some things and then you start seeing some glazed eyes or some questions and it's like, somebody didn't catch what I said. So, that's where the student needs to raise their hand and say, hey you through out a term there that I don't even know what that means." So, they're sitting there trying to figure it out, yet you're going on down the road. So, the advantage to be able to pause is great. Okay, now we'll go ahead and wrap it up here. We've got a lot of work to do. So I'll show you all of the magic on the post-production side here.

Loren: Exciting!

Tom: Yeah. And we'll get out of here. The other thing that many of the listeners may not know is it does take quite a bit of work. If I wanted to, I could just go out and publish this without some of the oohs and ahhs and some of the other mistakes that we may make here along the way. But, I also add the music and then I provide what we call ID3 tags, which with an MP3 file, it's like meda-data. So, I'll put my show number, the name and the title of the show and all of that. So, if you do use and Ipod or even like Windows Media Player, or Quicktime, whatever you will see the show title, the author, all those tags you see on the portable players. So, those are done in post-productions.

Loren: So will it show up as Unknown artist, Track 1 of 1?

Tom: Exactly. And I've got a lot of those too. It's like poulporie, what are we going to get here today? Okay, well. Thank you very much and as we go through the semester I wanted to introduce you to this, so hopefully we'll get you started here. There are all kinds of applications.

Loren: Yeah. Sounds very exciting.

Tom: Okay. Thank you.

Loren: You're welcome.

EIU iTunesU

Technology Pick of the Week

My technology Pick of the Week this week is Kindle for the Web.
Kindle for the Web

Tom: My technology pick of the week this week is a new beta version of Kindle for the Web. Listeners of TechTalk for Teachers will know that I am a big fan of the Kindle reader and E-books and this week, Kindle announced a new Web version. Now the advantage of this version, is that you will be able to read a book sample from without leaving your browser. You do not have to download any software. Share book examples with your friends via email or social networks. So Amazon is building out their infrastructure so that you can easily look at samples and if you so choose, click on the bye button and in less than a minute, you will have that book delivered to you. You can embed a personal book sample in your personal blog or website and there is a website out there specifically related to Kindle for the Web and I will provide that in the show notes.

That wraps it up for episode 112 of Tech Talk for Teachers. I want to thank Loren Lindgren our Graduate Assistant this year in the ITC at EIU for taking the time to talk with us about podcasting. To leave a comment or suggestion, please send an email to or leave a comment on the Tech Talk for Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom.
Keep on learning…

Tom Grissom, Ph.D.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Episode 111 - Keys to the Kingdom

It’s Tuesday August 31st, 2010 and welcome to episode 111 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. We’re Back! It is back-to-school time here at EIU and we have survived the first full week. Schools across America are going through the annual ritual of back-to-school activities as students once again enter classrooms. Faculty are going over their syllabi with students. Whether you are at a K-12 school or at a college or university you are most likely faced with another ritual of obtaining userid(s) and password(s) for the new school year.

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(30 minutes 23 seconds)

Userids and passwords are literally the keys to the kingdom when it comes to accessing electronic resources. Your userid and password is the only thing that stands between you and the often sensitive and confidential information available electronically. It seems like one of the simplest of things to deal with but because of the importance of userids and passwords I thought it would be valuable to have a discussion on TechTalk4Teachers of how important they have become to the everyday business and operations of schools.

It was just six years ago that the term Web 2.0 gained popularity at the O’Reilly Media Web Conference in 2004. Web 2.0 represents a fundamental change to cloud based computing resources where users can share information, not on locally based servers but rather servers on the Internet. In the early days of the Internet network engineers drew a picture of a cloud to represent resources on the Internet and thus the name cloud computing.

Today we have userids for everything from our cable company to our bank account. Of course one has to have a way to authenticate ones identity on a server whether it be local or “out in the cloud”. The ancient userid and password system is still here as a solution.

One major problem has occurred as Web 2.0 technologies have proliferated and that is that each Web 2.0 service requires its own userid and password. Your Facebook userid may or may not be the same userid as your Google gmail account. Even if you have the same userid on Facebook and Google changing your password in Facebook will not change your password in Google unless you use some type of federated userid system like OAuth.

I hope I did not lose you there as this is an extremely important point. Back in the wild, wild, west days of Web 2.0 I was routinely signing up for new Web 2.0 services and easily had over 100 different accounts as I was experimenting with new services. As a new startup Web 2.0 service went online I would often setup an account to try out the service. Since these were startups most of them were free so monetary costs was not a barrier.

It did create a conundrum for me as I had dozens and dozens of accounts to deal with. I developed a system that kept my Web 2.0 accounts separate from my personal and work related accounts but it was very messy, … and still is.

If you are a 21st Century educator you probably have your fair share of Web 2.0 accounts. Everything from Twitter, Google Docs, Skydrive, Voice Thread, and Skype not to mention all your various email accounts for work and home. Given all of these accounts how do you best protect yourself against unauthorized access? The best way is to have what we call “strong” passwords that are not easy to guess or to hack into.

To help me explore this important topic further I have with me today Adam Dodge who is our chief security officer here at Eastern Illinois University. Adam is an expert in security and knows first-hand the importance of userids with strong passwords. Welcome Adam.

(Links mentioned in this Interview),2817,2368484,00.asp

(Interview Transcript)

Tom: Welcome Adam.

Adam: Thanks for having me, pleasure to be here.

Tom: Sure. I wanted to invite you in this afternoon and talk a little bit about our user ID’s and passwords and how important strong passwords are in particular. The TechTalk for Teacher’s audience ranges from K-12 teachers all the way through university professors and things here on campus. So I just wondered if you could just give a few tips and hints and a little overview of how important the user ID and password system is.

Adam: Sure. As you mentioned earlier, passwords really are the keys to the kingdom. It’s what authenticates you and identifies you on most of the systems that you’re using within either your higher-ed environments or your K-12 environment or even online in a lot of these newer Web 2.0 services that are offered. So protecting your user ID and protecting your password particularly, are what is important to protecting the information that you deal with, protecting the service, making sure that you are the only one using that service under the account that’s assigned to you. By protecting your password, you’re protecting the information that you have access to. When somebody gets into your account, not only can they get access to the information that you have on these different services, they can copy that information, they can take that information, or they can masquerade, as you, which happens quite a bit in email accounts. Of course, in most of higher-ed, we are no strangers to phishing attacks, people that are trying to get a hold of our email accounts. Why they do that is they try to get a hold of them to then flood out other spam.

Tom: And phishing accounts with a P-H. Some people may hear that word and they think F-I-S-H. No, it’s P-H-I-S-H.

Adam: Yeah, phishing accounts. Actually 2010, the first six months of it, higher-ed actually saw a dramatic increase in the amount of phishing attacks that were coming into these emails servers and of course it’s an embarrassment for you. It actually causes problems for the organization your with, especially if you’re using your school or university or college account. Because what happens is they start to get blocked. So much spam gets sent out, all of a sudden nobody can send to say Hotmail because they’re blocking you.

Tom: And one of the great things that we have and a great service ITS provides, is that whenever they are aware of those, they can block the spam filters and things and being proactive on that helps tremendously.

Adam: Yeah. It’s one of the things we actually have daily reports looking at every morning when I come in. The email administrators have alerts setup so if one account is all of a sudden sending a lot of email over a normal threshold, they start getting alerts for that. We’ve tried to be a little bit more proactive.

Tom: Yeah. And we should backup and maybe just explain basically what a phishing attack is. That’s where somebody would send you an email and masquerade, as you said, as somebody else, and say ‘Hey, I’m your IT Department. We’re having system problems. Would you please send me an email, your user ID and password. We need to check something out’. And that’s the classic phishing attack out there. And if you’re not savvy enough to know differently, a lot of people do fall for that and that’s where your systems are compromised no matter how strong of user ID and password system you have because at that point, the bad guys--the hackers, have it at that point.

Adam: Absolutely, absolutely. We are here to talk about strong passwords, and those are very important. But, I don’t want to get too far ahead of, that’s not fair. But, a strong password alone is not enough to fully protect you online with these systems. You do really have to be careful about what information you’re sharing, how you’re sharing it, to make sure that all of that information is secure. But, that being said, a strong password really can do a lot to protect you. A lot of times, people think of passwords as just kind of, well I know I need it but I have 200 accounts. I don’t know how to keep track of all of these. I’m going to just put in, you know, my daughter’s first name or my dog’s name or my husband’s birthday. They’re going to put something in there that’s familiar with them. The problem is a lot of this information, especially with the popularity of social networking, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, all of these other ones, is a lot of that information that normal people base their passwords on is now publicly available to anybody on the internet. What I like to tell people, is there’s a couple of different things you can do. One, generally speaking, the longer the password, the better. I like to go 8 characters minimum. Some of my other ones are a little bit stronger, little bit longer, little bit more complex and I’ll get into those topics in a second. The second thing you want to do is make sure you aren’t just using lowercase letters.

Tom: Mix cases.

Adam: Mix case. You want to make sure you have uppercase and lowercase. What this does is add to the complexity and it adds to what’s called the entropy of the password, the randomness of it. It’s not just a simple one lowercase. Because if you’re password is made-up of all lowercase, basically you’ve got thirty-two characters that it could be, and that’s it. It’s not going to be anything else. It’s going to be one of those thirty-two characters. Well, if you add uppercase into it, now anyone of those characters in your password could be one of sixty-four. Same thing if you add numbers into it as well as, you go ahead and you add special characters into it on top of that. All of those add to the complexity, make it more difficult. Some of the things I like to tell people, one of the things you can do, look around your office. Look for things that are there that can serve as reminders for what your password is. But don’t use whole words if you’re going to do that. If you’re picking something off of a calendar, one of the ones I used to use was off of a phonebook that I had sitting on my home office desk. It was parts of the word, so it was maybe the first three characters of this word, maybe these numbers, and then the last three characters of this word. It helped me because anytime I was in there, I could just look at that phonebook and I’d know exactly what my password was. But nobody sitting down there, at least I hope, would be able to pick that out. Other things you can use are kind of gaining in popularity, are called passphrases. These are actually whole sentences. You can use punctuation, you can use spaces, you can use apostrophes, hyphens, however you want to do it to try to make sure that your password not only is long enough, because like we said you want it to be complex. Thirty-two lowercase a’s is going to be very easy for somebody to break then say fifteen mixed-case full password. We could use, for example, Hello. My name is Adam! Because I’m really excited about who I am. That could be my password. You know full spaces within there. These kinds of things are going to help people. Help you protect your password from most likely brute force attempts. This is very common. Passwords have been around since computers have been around for the most part. Brute force programs, which there are several freely available, what they do is they just try your password, one after the next.

Tom: And sometimes you hear of dictionary attacks.

Adam: Dictionary attacks, yes, yes. Computationally, all it has to do is match. So, it’s very, very quick. Especially with more modern computers to do this kind of attack. Now, unfortunately, with some of the advent of graphics cards, with their own dedicated processors…

Tom: Yeah, I’ve been reading some articles on that.

Adam: Yeah, the GPU’s. It’s wonderful. In a lot of scientific endeavors are actually using these instead of having to build these massive cluster systems where you have, you know, fifteen, twenty, a hundred, machines all working together, they’ll have a few machines with several of these graphics cards and dedicate these specific processors to these highly complex, computational tasks which has been really nice. Especially for within the academia for people to, for not as much money, be able to get some more computing power for some of the research which is excellent. The problem is the bad guys have learned this too and so they can use these to brute force your passwords. So when you have multiple processors, you have multiple systems all being able to just do highly complex.

Tom: In prepping for today’s show, I have several links that I’ll throw out in our show notes. But one that particularly caught my eye since you’re talking about some of the computational power is an article out there Life Hacker and I’ll provide this in the show notes. But, they have a table out there talking about these brute force attacks and they have an example here that says if your password length is only three characters, you would only take .86 seconds to crack. And if it was only lowercase it would take .022, two-hundredths of a second to do that. If it were four characters it would be 1.36 minutes. If it were eight characters, it takes you up to 2.1 centuries. So that’s the importance of the length there along with that randomness out there. But, back to your point, eight characters 2.1 centuries if you only use lowercase it takes you to 2.42 days. So that’s dramatic right there and the number of permutations that algorithm goes through in those brute force attacks. So, I mean, we can’t stress it enough. The length is extremely important and then a little bit earlier in the article they gave the top ten most common passwords and the name of this article is How I’d Hack Your Weak Passwords, so that link will be in the show notes. They list the ten most common and then the sentence after that statistically speaking that probably should cover about 20% of you.

Adam: Yeah. And that’s the scary part I think of that list. If you look at that article, which is a great article, it really is, the fact that the top ten most common passwords that they have there, the fact that 20% or one in five people statistically will nab with one of these passwords is worry some for somebody like me who’s trying to keep all this information in these systems protected and safe. Yeah, it is very interesting in fact, there’s this great video that was put together by some college students.

Tom: I think down in Texas. Is that the one that’s on the ITS page?

Adam: Yeah, I think it was Texas. It was actually part of the edu-cause, they do a national cyber-security, video, and poster campaign.
Tom: We’ll put a link in the notes for that as well.

Adam: Absolutely. I use those all the time because I think they’re great resources. Freely available for everybody to use in higher education or I would assume in the K-12 space, by all means, go ahead and use those as well. But they’re really nice, because they are kind of…

Tom: Kind of plain language type.

Adam: Yeah. They’re plain language but they’re fun to watch too. Usually the winners. You know they’re not just these dull, boring. I’ll put myself into that category sometimes when I’m talking to people about passwords or talking about security. It’s not the most exciting topic, often and I’ll get glazed eyes.

Tom: But it’s so extremely important.

Adam: But these videos are really well done and yeah, we’ll have a link to that because it’s really nice talking about commonly used passwords. If you see one of yours on there, you need to change it right away.

Tom: Yeah. Number four on the list, you would think this would be common sense not to use, but password is password. And you know, 20% of that group of ten, that’s an extremely common one. Philosophically, on the strength and the randomness and things, people are people, but we’re human so I know that you get the reactions like ‘Oh I have to do at least 8 characters and it has to have a number and a special character, uppercase and lowercase. It’s like how am I ever going to remember it?’ But, please remember that you’re protecting yourself against that. Another layer of that security is, I know on some of our systems here, if you try a password and it’s incorrect three times, it locks you out for a period. And so that’s another protection measure. But also for, just the everyday user, please do not write your passwords on Post-It notes, although you see that from time to time. That just completely defeats the whole purpose of things. Like I said, I have a system without giving away all of the trade secrets of what you and I do.

Adam: Yeah. They’re out there and one of the big problems with that are the character substitutions. That was a very big thing for awhile. ‘Hey instead of the letter O, let’s use 0. Instead of I use 1.’ The problem is, those are very formulaic and if they’re very formulaic it’s very easy to program one of these password correcting programs into okay, well just try this letter with regular letters and let’s start substituting the numbers for the letters. So, you have to be careful about that and make sure you’re not tricking yourself into a false sense of security through that.

Tom: Yeah. And then I ran across another article today I think from PC magazine that just was very recent, but it just kind of had some of the common sense things out there. Just kind of to remember things, one of their statements was treat your password like your underwear, change it often. That’s another thing that I don’t think people probably do enough. Here at EIU, we have some systems that automatically expire after so many days that you must change your password. And that’s what it’s for, to protect and make sure that no accounts have been compromised and you choose something new.

Adam: Absolutely, absolutely. Because if you are say using a password that would take, we’ll say for instance, you have a password that the strength on average, it will be broken once every 12 months. Well, if you’re changing your password every six months or fewer, what you’re basically doing, not in all the cases, but you have some pretty good assurance there that you’re always staying ahead of them being able to crack your password. So, that’s a benefit to that. Make sure you do change your passwords, especially on your sensitive and work related files.

Tom: And like I said, I have different systems. This is philosophically, everybody has their own philosophy on how to do this. But because I do have so many Web 2.0, I use a completely different system. Other options for doing that, and I’ve used some of these in the past, biometrics, some laptops have had the fingerprint scanners. I’ve had a couple of HP’s around here like that. The worry there is, you need that backup plan just in case, knock on wood, that I’d lose a finger. But, the scanner itself could go bad and then you actually setup a strong password in that sequence to do that as well as, you know, this has been around for a long time, but I particularly remember the SunRay system where you had a card and you swiped your card. But then, once again just like a password, that’s only as good as you have that on your person and that’s easy enough to lose. And again, those keys to the kingdom are out there.

Adam: Right. Usually what those do, or what a lot of the newer systems are doing, for example I know PayPal you can actually get a token. It will go ahead and it will generate based off of some really complex algorhytms that they have. You will basically have this token that will spit out a string of digits. You go ahead and you enter those numbers in as long as you pair it with your account and then you will also need to know your password. So really what this does, is this is called two factor authentication. You have two factors generally, it’s either something you know, something you have, or something you are. You have to use two of those three categories. A lot of places, it’s not as common anymore, but a few years ago a lot of places were trying to taught two factor authentication. But really it was just ‘oh yeah, you just need to know your password, username, and a pin’. Well, that’s actually just three things you know. There’s no second factor in there. Hopefully, we start to see that become more common. The problem then becomes, as you were saying before earlier in the program, well am I really going to need to carry around fifteen of these little fobs and then ‘oh, which one was it for this account, which one was it for that?’ Same thing with the password. What do you do when you have one-hundred different accounts on different systems. What I like to tell people is generally one, what I do personally I’ll let you guys know. My work, because of the type of work I do, it’s always unique. I never mix my work password, it’s not even close to any of my other passwords. Generally, the other one that’s unique, my email account has a unique password I don’t use anywhere else.

Tom: We should also mention there that that’s extremely important, because the first thing that they ask you on a Web 2.0 service is, what is your email account? Because they send you back an authorization or a confirmation email to essentially activate that account and if you’re email account is compromised, once again that’s a backdoor way into some of those other accounts.

Adam: Absolutely. I would rather my Twitter account and my Facebook account and all those get compromised and my Web account or my email account stay protected then have them all using the same or similar password. Financial banking stuff I also use unique separate passwords for. A lot of my, I shouldn’t really be saying this…

Tom: You don’t need to give away all the trade secrets.

Adam: I will say that I do have some accounts, I’ll be the first to admit it, some of my accounts have horribly easy passwords. But I am not concerned about those accounts. You know, somebody gets into my Pandora on my radio account, they might delete some of the channels I have setup, I’m really not that concerned. So that is a very, in the terms of actual security, a very insecure password but there’s no risk to me where that’s involved. So those kinds of things. Actually, my NetFlix account too, if anybody wants to…I’m not going to tell you what my password is, but it doesn’t really affect me that much if you jump into my NetFlix account and start removing stuff from my watch instantly quo. So those kinds of things, I’m fine with telling people. Obviously don’t just have it be space or the letter ‘a’ and hit enter. Those do have some complexities, and some of those have complexity requirements.

Tom: But I will say, because there are many educators, twenty-first century educators, that are real progressive about using the Web 2.0 technologies. Anything as benign as Facebook or Twitter compromised and that can be extremely embarrassing because somebody could overtake your identity and start putting out status updates or posts or tweets or whatever it may be.

Adam: Absolutely.

Tom: You know, you feel very vulnerable if that’s ever happened to you. I mean, you feel violated.

Adam: Sure. And a great way to kind of overcome the different accounts for different ones or trying to remember really complex passwords, especially for websites and Web 2.0. Well, there’s a couple of ways. One, Google, Facebook, I’m not sure about MySpace, I haven’t really been on that in a couple of years, they are actually starting their own kind of federated ID where we’re kind of in the first stages of that. I don’t really know where this is going. Is Google going to come out on top?

Tom: Facebook looks to be in the early lead of that because 500,000 (corrected 500,000,000) half a billion users are out there. But even that, again philosophically out there, putting all your eggs in one basket, then if we do go ahead and go that route then you know we certainly need to make sure that’s secure because then you have a conglomeration of accounts using all of the same.

Adam: Absolutely, yeah. If you start using those federated ID’s, you want to make sure that account, say if you’re using Facebook Connect, you want to make sure that Facebook account is unbelievably complex.

Tom: So, it’s a balance out there of doing those. I know here at EIU, we have single sign-on for a lot of that, which has tremendously simplified that and tied systems and things together. But along with that, we do routinely, periodically, change. And that’s a required change and you can’t use, you know there’s different rules, where you can’t use the twelve previous passwords. Again, just to change one letter or something out there.

Adam: We have some complexity requirements and history requirements. We do have of course the routine password changes because we do have so many systems that are now using that same sign-on. We wanted to take some steps to make sure we were doing what we could to protect those systems. If you listeners are worried about how I’m going to remember all of these different passwords, another very viable option is use a password safe. A password safe or password vault are these programs, there’s a bunch of different ones from paid, to free, to open source that are available for all operating systems that you possibly use. Some even have apps for the iPhones and the iPads. What these allow you to do, is save your passwords into a program that actually incryptes them and you then have that one master password. And what you can do, is when you want to go to the website or need the password for that website, you just sign into your password vault and you can then copy that password out and paste it into the application. Very nice, but again, that’s another thing. Make sure that master password is sufficiently complex enough to protect all of your other passwords. But I do recommend those for people, especially those that have multiple accounts and want to use, like I recommend, different accounts for different systems.

Tom: I was just looking through the two or three articles I had bookmarked in my Delicious account and there’s one out here from CNN called How To Create A Super Password, so once again we’ll put those in the show notes. Let’s go ahead and summarize here the big things for just the average user out there to remember.

Adam: Okay. What you want to remember of course is pick a password that is not only sufficiently long enough, so let’s say minimum eight characters. You want to make sure you are including complexity in there as well, so that means make sure you have lowercase and uppercase letters, you’re using numbers, and at least one special character. That’s going to help make your passwords nice and complex to avoid people from brute forcing it. Other things that you want to do, make sure that you change it regularly, especially your work account. I always recommend that, financial accounts absolutely. Basically, if it’s protecting sensitive information or it’s protecting information that you don’t want exposed to other people make sure you are changing it regularly. Other things, watch out how you’re sharing accounts or passwords between accounts. Make sure you separate that. Again, no complex passwords. For simple things, might not be necessary, but you don’t want to share say your banking password with a social media site with your email or with your work account. Keep those all separate and on their own. Things you can try to do to kind of help reduce this complexity is use password vaults, federated ID, is hopefully going to be here soon, we’ll get a clear in that space, might be a good option. But, when you use those, make sure you’re setting your master password or that federated ID password, that’s need to be what that CNN article says is super password. You want to make sure that password is ultra secure.

Tom: Okay, well thank you very much for coming in today. And, hopefully our listeners have learned a few things and can protect their accounts a little but more securely.

Adam: Absolutely.

Tom: Alright, thank you.

Adam: Thank you.

Technology Pick of the Week

For my Technology Pick of the Week this week you get two for the price of one. It is just the first week of school and the ITC lost and found is already amassing a pile of USB Flash Drives. These small flash drives are wonderful for storing all of your data but you must also remember to safely remove your flash drive and take it with you when you finish using the ITC Lab computers. With 500 to 1000 students in and out of the ITC each day it is important that you remember to take your flash drive with you.

Losing a flash drive can be tragic if you have all of your homework files stored on it so it is also a good idea to get into the practice of routinely backing up your flash drive to your home computer so you have a least one copy of your work somewhere else. Flash drives do get lost, sometimes even get run through the washing machine so having a backup is a necessity for important files.

If you have an Internet connection you may want to sign-up for a free Microsoft Hot Mail or email account as you also get some other services that you may find helpful. I have talked about Skydrive before on TechTalk4Teachers and if you so choose you can use SkyDrive just like you would a USB Flash Drive. Your files are stored in the cloud for you to access anywhere in the world with a computer that has Internet access. SkyDrive gives you 25GB of FREE storage and I find this very valuable to be able to access chosen files online. The downside to this, along with most cloud-based services is that if you do not have an Internet connection or if your Internet connection is down for some reason you have no way of accessing your files.

Microsoft Skydrive - 25GB of free online storage in the cloud

The other advantage of signing-up for a hotmail or email account is that Microsoft has added a lite version of Microsoft Office in the cloud called Microsoft Web Apps. This was announced earlier this summer and web apps give you the ability to access lite versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. This is not the full-blown version of these office products however they are quite polished and offer the familiar ribbon-interface. The advantage is that you do not have to install Office on your computer but rather use Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or OneNote from your Internet browser! This of course seems to be the Microsoft answer to Google Docs where your office applications are in the cloud. For the heavy duty lifting I still recommend the full version of Office especially for academic papers that require the use of APA or MLE formats. The advantage is that you now have an online alternative in the cloud available along with online storage if you so choose.

Microsoft Web Apps

That wraps it up for episode 111 of Tech Talk for Teachers. I want to thank Adam Dodge of our ITS department here at EIU for taking the time to talk to us about the importance of strong passwords along with some other tips on how to be more secure online. Show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at To leave a comment or suggestion, please send an email to or leave a comment on the Tech Talk for Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom.
Keep on learning…

Tom Grissom, Ph.D.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Episode 110 – Summer Crunch Time and 15 Minutes of Fame

It’s Friday July, 30th, 2010 and welcome to episode 110 of Tech Talk 4 Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. Summertime is rapidly coming to a close. Teachers and school support staff are beginning to think about all that needs to be finished in order to have a successful launch to a new school year.

Right Click Here to Download MP3
(7 minutes 56 seconds)

For many educators having a computer with Internet access has become the norm. I cannot imagine teaching today without the assistance of technology. There are just too many benefits for teaching and learning with technology. Our students today expect a technology-enriched learning experience as they have grown up in a world saturated with technologies.

We have become so reliant upon technology that we often take it for granted. Many do not realize all the hard work that goes into creating and maintaining a reliable and vibrant technology-enhanced environment.

It is now crunch time as we are beginning to run out of summer. Summertime is the best time for technology upgrades and updates as many faculty and staff are on vacations and staffing is at a reduced level. This is the least disruptive time of year for major upgrades and changes that need to be accomplished. There is never a time that will not be an inconvenience for someone so IT personnel do their best to schedule maintenance at the least busy times which is often at night or on weekends.

Thousands of technical support personnel are now working very hard to complete summer work that includes new computer installations, re-installations, and updates to existing computers. Tech staff are also building new and improved networking infrastructures including wireless access. In addition servers are being updated with the latest applications and patches to insure that equipment is in optimal working order. Yes indeed, there is a great deal of work that goes on over the summer time.

Here at the ITC I am faced with working on both the instructional and technical sides of things. If the technology is not in good working order faculty and students will not be able to use it for instructional purposes. We have about 160 general purpose lab computers in our college that are currently undergoing a complete makeover as we get ready for the fall semester. As of now only about 30 computers have had the necessary updates so we have a lot of work to do in the next three weeks. No matter how much you plan it seems like there is never enough time to get everything accomplished that you want.

In addition several college-level websites have been updated including the NCATE accreditation website for our fall site visit. New computers are in the process of being installed for new faculty and there have also been several office moves. ITS personnel are upgrading our email system. It has been one busy and productive summer here at the ITC.

Why do we go to so much effort? Simple, it is for our students. Our college is charged with educating the next generation of teachers and I firmly believe that we must provide a solid foundation so that students are familiar and adept with using technology in the teaching and learning process. Without a reliable technology infrastructure our students would not be able to benefit from all that is available. New technologies will come and go throughout ones teaching career and teachers should be constantly looking for new tools and methods that will make them a better teacher. The learning never ends.

In more general technology news this month Facebook hits the 500 million user mark. One-half billion people are using Facebook. Another Facebook news item this month is in regards to a security researcher that recently wrote a script that captured the public profiles of over 100 million Facebook users. Many college students use Facebook regularly and this is yet again another example of information being collected and shared in a way that a typical Facebook user might not be aware of. Links to a couple of articles related to this story are provided in the show notes.

Public data snatched from 170 million Facebook profiles

"Leaked" data of 100M Facebook users came from public info

Even though this information was collected from information made public by Facebook users I do not think the average user understands the intricacies of privacy settings. This particular example collected usernames and public profile data that could be used in the future for brute-force login attacks. Keep in mind that your account is only protected by your username and password, if your account is hacked all your information is available to the hacker(s). If you are a Facebook user be careful with your account settings and what you share with others as privacy concerns continue at Facebook. User data is being harvested and mined for information by other companies and future attempts may be made to link information about friends on Facebook.

In YouTube news, YouTube has just announced that it will be increasing the time limit of videos posted to the service from 10 minutes to 15 minutes. So now everyone has a shot at their 15 minutes of fame. A link is provided in the show notes to this announcement:

YouTube extends time limit to 15 minutes

YouTube has been working on their Content ID system and now have in place a system that can identify copyrighted material as it is posted on YouTube. With over 24 hours of video being posted to YouTube EACH MINUTE of everyday this is a huge undertaking. This Content ID system allows YouTube to take material down that violates copyright in a proactive manner. I have also provided a link in the show notes to a recent TED Talk about how YouTube thinks about copyrighted material and it is worth a watch if you are interested in intellectual property rights and how YouTube is fighting copyright violations.

Margaret Stewart: How YouTube thinks about copyright

Technology Pick of the Week
My Technology Pick of the Week this week is another YouTube related pick. Sal Kahn created the Kahn Academy that provides free instructional videos on a variety of topics on YouTube. Links to the Kahn Academy are provided in the show notes.

Khan Academy website (scroll down to see the subject categories):

Khan Academy YouTube Channel:

Sal got his start on the academy four years ago by helping his cousins with math. He uses a PC and tablet device to record screencasts that he posts to YouTube. Sal works through problems by drawing on the screen while explaining the steps involved.

Currently the Khan Academy has over 1400 YouTube videos on a variety of subjects and all are provided free of charge. If you visit the Khan Academy website be sure to scroll down the page to see the list of videos by subject area. This can be great supplemental material for students to learn more about a given subject area or to fill in knowledge gaps about a particular subject. Subjects include Math, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, History, Finance, SAT and GMAT preparation and many more.

YouTube seems to really be stepping it up with improvements in supporting HD content, increasing the time limit to 15 minutes per video posted, and the support of closed captioning. As an educator I am excited by what YouTube is doing and it is great to see beneficial uses of the technology flourishing. Technology itself is neutral, I would like to see more educational uses of YouTube in the future and instill upon our students that they have the choice of what content to watch, so choose wisely. Do not fill your brain with the junk food of the Internet as there is also plenty of worthy educational material to consume. If you have not heard of the Khan Academy before be sure to check it out. I highly recommend it as it is a great example of leveraging technology to benefit learners.

That wraps it up for episode 110 of Tech Talk for Teachers. Show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at To leave a comment or suggestion, please send an email to or leave a comment on the Tech Talk for Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom. Keep on learning…