January 2019 Technology Newsletter

By: Michael Kealy

Happy New Year!

The Technology Department wishes everyone a happy and healthy New Year! The department is anticipating 2019-2020 to be another exciting year in the Beacon City School District as we hope to expand the district's 1:1 Chromebook and Interactive Board initiatives to Beacon High School, while at the same time bringing our elementary schools closer to becoming 1:1 as well.

Cybersecurity and Safety

Password Changes Coming

It seems Cybersecurity and Safety continue to be at the forefront of everyone's minds including NYSED. After sharing with you that I met with the FBI last month the Technology Dept. and I also met to discuss best practices in determining how we could better protect the districts users. As a result the department will be adjusting our current I.T. policies in the coming months to prohibit users from using the same password over and over again while adding password complexity requirements.

While we understand that this may be frustrating to some, it is one of the easiest ways to ensure the districts data remains secure. In many reported circumstances users have not even realized that their user credentials and/or password(s) have been compromised until it is too late. By keeping our scheduled password resets, prohibiting users from reusing passwords, and requiring more complex passwords we can better prevent unauthorized access to district data.

Google Chrome Extensions

Google Chrome Extensions are not created by "Google", but rather independent 3rd parties. As a result some of these extensions have been designed for malicious purposes such as stealing data and information from the people that use them. In order to better protect personally identifiable information as well as the district's IT data and infrastructure the Technology Department is going to require teachers to submit an IT request when they would like to download and install Google Chrome Extension(s) either for individual or classroom use with students. This will give the Technology Team time to vet the extension in an effort to better prevent a harmful program from being installed while simultaneously ensuring that the extension complies with student data privacy regulations.

BEWARE: Students Being Blackmailed On Social Media

Several upstate New York school districts have recently reported that their students are being blackmailed on social media. The scam involves a perpetrator who creates a social media account, friends students, and then blackmails them for private information or photo's.

Please try to embed digital citizenship into your lessons that utilize technology by teaching students to carefully select what they post/share publicly, who they interact with on the internet, and to utilize the privacy settings that are available on many social media sites.

Google: Did You Know?

Accessibility Features

The ABC’s of Chromebook accessibility

Accessibility settings are built into all Chromebooks, and more are available through Chrome extensions and apps. No need to change settings when you switch devices because they sync to each student by default. Here are a few useful accessibility settings to get you started:

  • Visual aids: Increase the size of browser content by pressing Ctrl + Plus to increase, Ctrl + Minus to decrease, Ctrl + 0 to reset. The rest of the desktop is unaffected. You can enable high contrast mode by pressing Ctrl + Search button + H on the Chromebook keyboard. Adjust your font face and size, and install Chrome extensions for custom color support.

  • Mono Audio: For users who have limited hearing in one ear, there's a Mono Audio option to play the same sound through both speakers. Turn this feature on in Accessibility settings.

  • Spoken feedback: For users who need synthesized speech on occasion, we offer Select-to-speak. When enabled, press and hold the Search key, then click or drag to select content to be read aloud, and press Ctrl to silence. Change the word-by-word highlight color in Select-to-speak settings. We also have the ChromeVox screen reader that reads all text aloud, a free, browser-based screen reader that users can access from any device and built directly for ChromeOS.

  • Acapela text-to-speech voices: Now you can purchase and use more than 100 Acapela voices to read aloud text in 30+ languages on Chromebooks, including a variety of childrens’ voices.

The 123’s of G Suite Accessibility

G Suite is a set of tools that help students and teachers collaborate in real time and give personalized feedback. It’s also paperless and accessible from anywhere. Built into our G Suite tools are many accessibility features:

  • Slides: Turn on closed captions in Slides to support students who are deaf, hard-of-hearing or ENL. Simply use Ctrl + Shift + c in ChromeOS/Windows or ⌘ + Shift + c in Mac.

  • Voice typing, editing and formatting: Use the mic and enable the feature to use voice typing in Docs and Slides to write and edit without a keyboard.

  • Visual aids: Enable high contrast themes in Gmail and browsing, and use powerful keyboard shortcuts for those who can’t or don’t want to use a mouse.

  • Collaboration: G Suite works on all different platforms including Windows, Android, iOS devices and even multiple devices at one time. You can all be on different devices and still collaborate in real time.

  • Braille: Use a Braille display to read and edit Docs, Sheets, Slides and Drawings.

  • Screen reader & magnifier: Turn on the features in accessibility settings to zoom in or use the screen reader in Docs, Calendar, Sites, Classroom and even in other browsers.

Reminder: You Asked! We Listened... TEQ Online Professional Development Has Returned

Just before the holidays I shared that the district had renewed TEQ Online Professional Development.

A reminder, Teq is an approved NYS CTLE PD Provider, so any qualified courses that you complete can be used towards your state-mandated professional learning hours. Just be sure to take the quiz after completing a course to receive your certificate of completion!

Accessing the platform is easy! We have enabled Google Single Sign On so you don't have to remember any passwords. A welcome email was recently sent to all teachers. You can access the program by logging in (http://opd.teq.com/) and selecting “Login with your Google Account”.

Attention Elementary Teachers! Have You Checked Out Reflex Math?

On January 9th I emailed all elementary teachers logon credentials for Reflex Math a system for mastering basic math facts in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division on behalf of Mr. Wright. Several teachers have reported that the activation link I sent in my initial email has expired. If you need a new activation link please submit a technology help ticket and we will send you a new link.

Want to learn more about Reflex Math? Check out the introductory video below or Click Here to take a tour of the program.


Discovery Education Streaming Podcast

A few reminders about Discovery Education Streaming Plus:

Did you know...

  • Discovery Ed has a built in professional development tool for teachers

  • Discovery Ed is more than just a video streaming service

  • Discovery Ed has a library of still images to use in lessons

  • Discovery Ed has lesson plans and activities

  • Teachers can search lesson plans, activites, and videos by topics or standards

CLICK HERE to check out my podcast.