Archives for category: Technology, Computers

 

As more and more schools adopt computer-based digital learning, the risk of cyberattacks on schools grows.

Recently a school in Avon, Connecticut, was targeted by hackers.

AVON, Conn. — Over six weeks, the vandals kept coming, knocking the school system’s network offline several times a day.

There was no breach of sensitive data files, but the attacks in which somebody deliberately overwhelmed the Avon Public Schools system in Connecticut still proved costly. Classroom lesson plans built around access to the internet had come to a halt.

“The first time I called the FBI, their first question was, ‘Well, what did it cost you?’” said Robert Vojtek, the district’s technology director. “It’s like, ‘Well, we were down for three-quarters of a day, we have 4,000 students, we have almost 500 adults, and teaching and learning stopped for an entire day.’ So how do you put a price tag on that?”

The kind of attacks more commonly reserved for banks and other institutions holding sensitive data are increasingly targeting school systems around the country. The widespread adoption of education technology, which generates data that officials say can make schools more of a target for hackers, also worsens an attack’s effects when instructional tools are rendered useless by internet outages.

Schools are attractive targets because they hold sensitive data and provide critical public services, according to the FBI, which said in a written statement that perpetrators include criminals motivated by profit, juvenile pranksters and possibly foreign governments. Attacks against schools have become common, the FBI said, but it is impossible to know how frequently they occur because many go unreported to law enforcement when data is not compromised.

Attacks often have forced districts to pull the plug on smart boards, student laptops and other internet-powered tools.

Schools in the Florida Keys took themselves offline for several days last September after a district employee discovered a malware attack. Monroe County schools Superintendent Mark Porter said teachers had to do things differently but adapted quickly…

The 2,000-student Coventry Local School District in Ohio had to close schools in May as staff worked to fight a virus of that had infected the network. The FBI helped to guide the district through the recovery and offered assistance on best practices…

In North Dakota, where a third of schools statewide were hit with a malware attack last year, it was traced to North Korea, although it’s unclear if that country was the origin of the attack or just the location of a device that was used as a stepping stone, according to Sean Wiese, the state’s chief information security officer.

Ed Johnson lives in Atlanta and fights daily against the malignant competition and punishment inflicted on the children of Atlanta by the school board and superintendent. He shares the philosophy of W. Edwards Deming, who taught the importance of collaboration and teamwork.

He wrote this post and sent it to the school board:

 

Cyberattacks and competition
I have been under cyberattack for nearly a year, now.
First, it was attempted blackmail to “expose” me by making public an old username and password I used once to visit an “unsavory” website some 25 years ago.  I hear this blackmail tactic is quite common, and successful.
 
Well, blackmail didn’t work on me, so then came invading my computer and encrypting all personal files and holding the encrypted files hostage pending my paying the one bitcoin (~680 USD) ransom demand before I would be given the decryption key.
 
Well, holding my personal files hostage for ransom didn’t work on me, so then on 18 Dec 2018, there suddenly came a great flood of email notifications from subscription and online services all over the globe thanking me for having signed up.  Fraudulent signups continue to occur at the rate of around six or so per day.  The aim of the bountiful fraudulent signups seems to be the gamble that, in the fog of hurriedly unsubscribing the many services, one is bound to click on a Trojan Horse disguised as an “Unsubscribe” link.
 
Well, fraudulent subscriptions haven’t worked on me, so two days ago, this happened: My receiving notifications of Diane Ravitch blog posts had been blocked at wordpress.com, for crying out loud!
 
For the first time, I felt panicky.  No Diane Ravitch blog posts?!!  No, that can’t be!
 
But in the end that didn’t work on me, either.  Not for long, anyway.
 
So I remain a happy camper.
 
Even so, I guess we will always have some folk who have been taught and deeply conditioned to compete “by any means necessary” to win at the expense of others.
 
Atlanta Public Schools Leadership (APSL; school board and superintendent) are pretty good at teaching and conditioning people, even young children, to win at the expense of others, when winning and losing is not at all necessary, as with their Race2Read competition, for example.
 
Just think, the many children innocently and trustingly pour themselves into reading, wanting to do their best, to be helpful, to contribute, only to have the APSL adults turn on them and declare ten reading winner kids (“Top Student Readers”) and to tell the thousands of other children they are the reading loser kids, even if that is not the reality, at all.  Because they show they utterly fail to understand variation, the APSL adults create reading winners and reading losers out of the children, arbitrarily and capriciously, and ignorantly.
 
The currently serving APSL have always shown that everybody cooperating to achieve a common goal is an extremely foreign concept to them.  As their Race2Read competition exemplifies, the APSL would rather have children, students, schools, parents and community members, and even school bus drivers, competing than cooperating and collaborating.
 
How unfortunate, here in the twenty-first century, some among the APSL keep practicing the regressive belief that competition motivates people and boosts morale and improves quality, as does, for example, school board member Cynthia Briscoe Brown opining in a school board meeting here (at 1:22:30 thru 1:24:56) that the new “Elite Bus Driver” program is a way of “boosting morale” among school bus drivers.
 
Now, tell me, what parents would want an inferior, second-rate school bus driver at the wheel of the school bus transporting their children?  Or an inferior, second-rate mechanic having worked on the school bus?  What might parents think or do if they knew the majority of both school bus drivers and school bus mechanics have been told, and have come to believe, they are the inferior, second-rate ones?
 
Intentions hold no water, here.  Again, we are in the twenty-first century and the APSL should be progressing into it, not regressing back out of it, by way of behaviorism and Taylorism.
 
One dimension along which the APSL should have already progressed further into this century is that of recognizing the unethical and immoral nature of arbitrary and capricious competition—such as the Race2Read competition and the Elite Bus Driver program—and simply not do it.
 
So, how many children made Race2Read competition losers will grow up to transfer, unconsciously, their learned reading loser position in life into a selfish coding and hacking practice of “winning” by cyberattacking others?
 
What?  Did someone just say such a matter can’t be measured so therefore can’t happen?
 
Really?

 
Ed Johnson
Advocate for Quality in Public Education
Atlanta GA | (404) 505-8176 | edwjohnson@aol.com
 

 

Justin Parmenter, NBCT in North Carolina, writes here about the educational malpractice inflicted on the state’s youngest readers by order of State Superintendent Mark Johnson. A TFA alum, Johnson overruled the recommendations of expert professionals in the state and decided to assess and diagnose children’s reading skill with technology instead of a teacher.

As the 2019-20 school year wound down and teachers began their well-earned summer breaks, Superintendent Mark Johnson dropped an unexpected bombshell: North Carolina schools would be scrapping the mClass reading assessment system and replacing it with the computer-based Istation program.

North Carolina schools have used mClass as the diagnostic reading assessment tool in grades K-3 since the Read to Achieve legislative initiative was implemented in 2013.

Johnson’s announcement of the change referred with no apparent irony to “an unprecedented level of external stakeholder engagement and input” which had gone into making the decision.  He neglected to mention that he had completely ignored the recommendations of those stakeholders.

When the Request for Purchase (RFP) for a Read to Achieve diagnostic reading assessment first went out in the fall of 2018, a statewide committee of experts in curriculum and reading instruction was assembled largely under the direction of Dr. Amy Jablonski, then-Division Director of Integrated Academic and Behavior Services at the Department of Public Instruction, to inform the process.

This team included specialists in general education, special education, and English language learner services, school psychologists, representatives of Institutions for Higher Education, dyslexia experts, and school and district leaders. They reviewed the four vendors that were passed through to the team, including mClass and Istation, working extensively through detailed demonstrations with all four products before determining which would best serve the needs of North Carolina’s children.

The committee presented its recommendation to Superintendent Mark Johnson in December of 2018.  They noted that students and teachers needed a tool which could accurately assess risk in all domains of reading.  They noted the crucial importance of having a teacher actually listen to a child read and sound out words. They noted the legislative requirement of an effective dyslexia screener.  And they recommended that schools continue using the mClass diagnostic tool, which they believed best accomplished all of those things.

Six months later, Superintendent Johnson completely disregarded the recommendations of those professional educators in announcing his unilateral selection of the computer-based Istation diagnostic tool.  

Parmenter goes on to explain why this was a terrible decision.

Superintendent Johnson has all the earmarks of TFA. Uninformed, inexperienced, sure of himself.

Here is hoping he gets tossed out of office and replaced by someone who respects professionalism.

 

An investigation of the meltdown in the Tennessee computerized testing this past spring determined that there was no cyberattack, as the state education department originally claimed. Instead, the vendor made errors.

Questar’s unauthorized change of an online testing tool — not a possible cyber attack, as earlier reported by the company — was responsible for shutting down Tennessee’s computerized exams on their second day this spring, the state’s chief investigator reported Wednesday.

An independent probe determined that “there was no cyber attack,” nor was any student data compromised, when thousands of students could not log onto the online exam known as TNReady on April 17.

Instead, investigators said, Questar was mostly responsible for this year’s testing miscues. The main culprit was a combination of “bugs in the software” and the slowness of a computerized tool designed to let students turn text into speech if they need audible instructions.

Comptroller Justin P. Wilson reviewed early findings of his office’s internal review and the external investigation by a company hired by the Education Department during a legislative hearing in Nashville.

Education Commissioner Candice McQueen also told lawmakers that Tennessee is docking Questar about $2.5 million this year out of its $30 million contract because of the online problems that plagued many students and schools during the three-week testing window.

Payments being withheld are punitive, as well as to cover the state’s costs to address the problems, she said, adding that other discounts could follow.

Last week, McQueen announced that the state plans to launch a new search this fall for one or more testing companies to take over TNReady beginning in the 2019-20 school year. She said a track record of successful online testing is a must.

Will states ever figure out that online testing is less reliable than paper-and-pencil testing, and that teacher-made tests are more valuable than any standardized tests?

There are two ways to go wrong in scoring student essays. One is to have them graded by computers. The other is to have them graded by the low-wage slackers hired by testing corporations.

There is only one way to go right in scoring student essays. That is to have them read by teachers in the building or district where the student is enrolled.

Massachusetts is pondering turning over the grading of student essays to computers. Les Perelman, a retired professor of writing at MIT, has demonstrated how dumb the computers are when it comes to understanding what students have written. The computers like long sentences; big words; and long essays. But the computers have a serious defect: They can’t tell truth from falsehood. He told a New York Times writer, Michael Winerip, that a computer would not care if a student wrote that the War of 1812 began in 1945. Computers are not fact-checkers. That is why they can score thousands of essays in less than a minute. If you happen to think that knowledge matters, don’t have essays scored by computers.

If you think that it is better to ask Pearson or ETS or any of the other testing companies to have essays graded by humans, think again. Read Todd Farley’s book “Making the Grades: My Misadventures in the Standardized Testing Industry,” where he describes himself as a scorer who was in it for the hourly wage, surrounded by others with little or no interest in the quality of writing or the fate of students. In recent years, we have heard of ads placed on Craigslist, seeking essay readers at $11 an hour, no experience needed. Read the last paragraph of Farley’s book to know why mass-grading of student writing doesn’t work, why parents should fight it with every fibre of their being.

Who should read and assess student work? Teachers who work in the building or the district. At least then one can be certain that teachers are doing the grading, not unemployed and inexperienced college graduates who are expected to read and grade 100 essays an hour or more.

A Tennessee court might rule on whether a student has a right to a teacher, and whether computers count as teachers. The district wants the case dismissed.

Do the rights of Tennessee students to a public education extend into the right to have a teacher, and if so, does a computer program count?

Those questions were posed to a state appeals court Tuesday during oral arguments in a case involving a Nashville student, Toni Jones, that could set a statewide framework defining school districts’ obligations to their students.

Jones was a freshman at Pearl-Cohn High School who was pulled out of an algebra class before an end-of-course test and placed into a computer-based credit recovery program, Jones’ lawyer, Gary Blackburn, said. He said the student was struggling in the algebra class but had a passing grade.

The appeal stems from a lawsuit Blackburn filed in 2015, alleging the district was padding test scores by moving Jones and others to the other program. Several teachers who spoke out about the testing practices are suing the district in a separate case, saying they were inappropriately reprimanded by the district.

He said precedent set in Tennessee court cases entitled Jones to a teacher, and that due process protections were violated when she was moved into the other class without notice to Jones or her family.

“The slippery slope so to speak is that if a teacher is not essential, then a school system can be offered entirely by computers,” he said. “Students can be placed in a gymnasium and put a computer on a desk, and say, here is your teacher. And we’re going to have a hall monitor to keep you from acting up. That is basically what happened to Toni Jones. That’s not teaching.”

Does a computer count as a teacher? Is a corporation a person? What do you think?

Peter Greene explains the hoax at the heart of “personalized learning.”

The appeal is that it is customized just for you. The reality is that it is a standardized algorithm that adjusts to your responses but doesn’t you from Adam or Eve.

The Brand X that we’re supposed to be escaping, the view of education that Personalized Learning is supposed to alter, the toxin for which Personalized Learning is the alleged antidote is an education model in which all students get on the same car of the same train and ride the same tracks to the same destination at the same time. That’s not what’s actually going on in public schools these days, but let’s set that aside for the moment.

Real personalized learning would tear up the tracks, park the train, offer every student a good pair of hiking shoes or maybe a four-wheeler, maybe even a hoverboard, plus a map of the territory (probably in the form of an actual teacher), then let the student pick a destination and a path and manner of traveling.

But techno-personalized learning keeps the track and the train. In the most basic version, we keep one train and one track and the “personalization” is that students get on at different station. Maybe they occasionally get to catch a helicopter that zips them ahead a couple of stops.

But personalized? No.

Arne Duncan used to boast about the rising high school graduation rate, but he never talked about one cause of the increase: online credit recovery.

Slate has run a multi-part series on the online credit recovery racket. Imagine a student failing a one-year course, then earning full credit in less than one week. It has its benefits: superintendents get praised for the steady increase in the graduation rate; students get the credits they need to graduate.

But what they don’t get is an education.

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/schooled/2017/05/what_class_is_like_for_high_schoolers_taking_their_courses_online.html

This segment begins:

“After she failed English her junior year at Riverbend High School in Spotsylvania, Virginia, 17-year-old Amelia Kreck had to retake the class. It took her two days.

“In the classroom, Amelia had struggled with essay writing. But the online course her school directed her to take as a replacement had no essays. Nor did Amelia have to read any books in their entirety. Unsurprisingly, she says, she never had to think very hard. That’s because she skipped out of most units through a series of “pretests” at the start, which she says contained basic grammar questions as well as some short readings followed by multiple-choice sections.

“Amelia says she enjoyed some of the readings in the online version of the class, created by for-profit education company Edgenuity, including excerpts from Freakonomics and the writings of the theoretical physicist Michio Kaku. She also appreciated the flexibility to work from home—until after midnight on one of the two days it took here to recover her credit. But “there was a big component of the original class that was missing from credit recovery,” she says. “Most of it was on the shallow side.” She finished so quickly, she says, that “I didn’t improve in the areas that needed improvement.”

Edward F. Berger, retired educator now living in Arizona and fighting the good fight against the forces of reaction, writes here about screen addiction. Having reviewed the research, he questions whether addition to screens damages frontal lobe development.

Actually, the link will take you to his podcast, which is gaining international recognition.

Kelvin Smythe is an educator and blogger in New Zealand who left the education system when the ideas of the New Right took over. He has since been a critic and an activist.

A friend Down Under sent me one of his recent writings, in which Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet and Christopher Robin go searching for a 21st Century Education.

But first a bit about Smythe. He wrote this about his views:

Kelvin Smythe makes a plea for teachers to see behind the commodification of education, the managerialism, the data gathering, the claims of new knowledge, the fads, the array of electronics to what teaching is really about – key interactions between teacher, child, and what is being learnt. He knows that many of his concerns about education, his aspirations for education, his style of writing about them will be dismissed as out-of-date. His claim, though, is that these key interactions are the essence of what teaching should be, and are timeless.

In the story he tells about Pooh and friends, there is this beginning:

Just as they came to the Six Pine Trees, Pooh looked around to see that nobody else was listening, and said in a very solemn voice: ‘Piglet, I have decided something.’

‘What have you decided Pooh?’

‘I have decided to catch a 21st Century Education.’

Piglet asked, ‘But what does a 21st Century Education look like? Then continued thoughtfully: ‘Before looking for something, it is wise to ask someone what you are looking for before you begin looking for it.’

Smith then observes:

We are, it seems, getting ourselves tied in knots about something called 21st century education – before looking for it, as Piglet suggests, it might be wise to find out what we are looking for.

This could be done in respect to how it might differ from what went before, how it might be the same as what went before, how it might be worse than went before, who is supposed to benefit from it, who is calling for it, does it exist, should it exist, what are its aims and, being education, how much is career- or self-serving bollocks.

I intend this posting to be a search for something called a 21st century education.

As part of that I declare my prior understandings about the concept – a concept because there has never been any discussion about something called 20th century education, it was never conceptualised in that way, so why for 21st century education?

The formation and high usage of the concept label suggests powerful forces at work – forces, I suggest, taking control of the present to control the future.

Those active in promoting the concept of 21stcentury education are mostly from political, technology, and business groupings, also some academics: the immediate future they envisage as an extension and intensification of their perception of society and education as they see it now. And in the immediate future, as well as the longer term one, they see computers at the heart of 21st century education, which is fair enough as long as the role of computers is kept in proportion as befits a tool, a gargantuanly important one, but still a tool….

Smythe goes on to write about the dominant philosophy behind the 21st century education hullaballoo.

School education is being pressured to inappropriate purposes by groups who claim a hold on the future and from that hold generate techno-panic to gain advantage in the present.

Another prior understanding is that the inappropriate use of computers for learning has contributed to the decline in primary school education (though well behind the contribution of national standards and the terrible education
autocracy of the education review office).

For all the talk of personalising learning, of building learning around the child, of individualising learning, the mandating question for 21st century education seems to be: how can we build the digital into learning instead of how can we best do the learning? And even further: how can we build schools for digital learning instead of what is best for children’s learning environment? Large open spaces are not the best environment for children’s learning, meaning that in combination with the heavy use of computers to make large open spaces ‘work’, a distinct problem is developing. Computers and large open spaces are being promoted by 21st century advocates as the two key ideas to carry us forward to the education for the 21st century.

I think you will find this an interesting read and will spot the commonalities that we face, in the U.S., Australia, Great Britain, and New Zealand. It is the phenomenon that Finnish educator Pasi Sahlberg calls GERM (the Global Education Reform Movement). Its proponents say that it is sweeping the world, and that the train has left the station. But please notice that educators and children are not on the train. They are on the tracks.