Gerald Haigh's regular column on leadership issues and information and communications technology (ICT) this week looks at:
Problems with passwords; 'consumerisation' of ICT; the ascent to the cloud; online 'Newsround' for primary classrooms; for love, not money – the 'BETT gurus'.
Review the password policy for your school systems
In March this year, a Hampshire school had a breach of security which, according to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) “…exposed pupils’ names, addresses, photographs and some sensitive information relating to their medical history. Personal information relating to the pupils’ parents and teachers was also compromised during the breach.”
The problem was the result of a staff member using the same password for both the school website and the management information system (MIS). A student captured the website password and was then able to use it to enter the MIS. The many published accounts of the incident all stem from the ICO’s news release. But it’s also worth reading the undertaking which the school’s head had to sign.
Computer Weekly’s account of the incident is similar to others, but includes some useful advice from David Emms of Kaspersky Lab, whose “Password Manager” provides a solution for handling multiple passwords.
The Microsoft Safety and Security Centre also has a set of useful password rules. The bottom line, though, is to take advice, follow the ICO rules and, crucially, have a way of making sure the policy is enforced and followed.
Keep up with the 'consumerisation' of ICT
But don’t be put off by the term. It's important. You’ll even hear it from former schools minister Lord Jim Knight who now does consultancy for Apple (very big on consumerisation).
Think of it as the coming together of a whole set of discussions around users (including students) bringing in their own devices, IT moving to the cloud, anytime-anywhere access and changes in procurement (witness the plight of schools ICT supplier RM). Add it all up and suddenly the world seems to have changed around us as we’ve slept, and there are huge implications for teachers, network managers, software suppliers and retailers.
One of the best quick introductions to the subject and what it means for us all is this Microsoft video, reached through a link on the Microsoft Schools Blog. Later, in the same blog, Microsoft UK education marketing manager Tim Bush comments on the huge amount of Twitter traffic generated by the consumerisation video. You can find a lot of the tweets here. Most have further interesting links.
Heads in the cloud for cost-effectiveness
There’s an interesting new white paper “How fast is the cloud?” from Computer Weekly. It describes a test in which an open source application was installed on four separate infrastructures – MS Azure, AWS, VMWare and physical servers: “Our test supplied some fascinating and surprising results for the cloud. The results for Azure and VMWare demonstrate unequivocally that the cloud can perform as well as, if not better than physical servers.”
The paper’s worth reading, too, for its general observations about costs, management and using the cloud. For example there’s a great list of “Top 10 dos and don’ts to achieve cost-effective performance in the cloud.” This one page alone should be essential reading for anyone who either doubts the whole concept on the one hand, or on the other thinks that all your problems can be solved by moving to the cloud tomorrow.
Check out the BBC’s new-look CBBC 'Newsround' website
Targeted on 6 to 12-year-olds, the Newsround site had a major facelift earlier this summer. Product manager Phil Buckley’s blog on the subject is worth the time of anyone who’s interested in how, and whether, primary children actually use CBBC online. He’s also interesting on some of the principles behind designing the new site.
Teachers looking at the new site, however, will find it fascinating but may struggle to find a way of using it in class. As with so many primary school ICT topics, though, Simon Haughton has an article about that on his blog – “Teaching Current Affairs using the BBC Newsround Website”. The comments are useful too, and include an appreciate one from the website team.
Be a 'BETT guru' – with rewards in nirvana
BETT 2012 (January 11 to 14) gets closer all the time. Make sure you register because although it’s not absolutely essential it does help at the door. The seminars schedules – usually valuable CPD, are already live and you’ll soon be able to book (there’s a fee of £15 for this).
This year, though, you have a lifetime opportunity to rise to the status of ‘guru’. EMAP, organisers of BETT, are looking for “BETT Gurus” to work the show in January. The idea, they tell me, is to find around 20 people, regular BETT attenders who know the show well and are passionate about ICT in education. They’ll be available to show people round, talk to them and generally be knowledgeable and helpful. There’s no fee, but you can get travelling expenses, lunch and refreshments.
Gerald Haigh’s 'Five Things to Think About’ column first appeared in The Times Educational Supplement and then online on the National College’s Future website. Its adoption has been made possible by support from Microsoft UK’s education team led by Tim Bush.
Artwork by Maia Terry