This week our IT department was battling some network issues that appear to have been caused by people unknowingly infecting their work computers by opening a document they really should not have. So it got me thinking about security, my digital life and just how fantastically easy it can be to gain access to a computer or computer network by exploiting the weakest piece of that system, the user. This oddly enough led me back to my M.Ed. studies and I started thinking about all of the digital tools we recommend to our students, colleagues and friends in an effort to make learning simpler. But my real concern comes back to digital citizenship and essentially how to stay alive in a very scary digital world. Analyzing digital tools for good security is fine, but if the end user will pick up a USB that is just laying there in the parking lot and plug it into their laptop to see what’s on it, well that is equivalent to that same person walking through a forest and eating whatever they may find growing on the ground without any knowledge of what they are putting in their bodies. All that being said, I am extremely diligent about my online security, but one stressful day where I am not paying close attention to what I am doing and click a spoofed email with a nasty link in it and the next thing I know I’m spending my evening formatting my hard drive and reinstalling all my software.
Fisher and Baird (2006) state “In order to educate and train students to become highly competent lifelong members of a learning community, we need to provide an environment that aids retention and development of high quality thinking and reflection” (p. 5). I could easily take the preceding quote and talk about any number of topics from Chan’s (2011) list for evaluating digital tools, but security is on my mind so that’s the tangent I’m taking. Rarely has my fascination with digital security and my passion for teaching and learning collided, so when I came across this Fisher and Baird quote I started to think about all the conversations I have had with my friends who teach in the k-12 system. Many of these conversations have been about cyberbullying and digital citizenship, but rarely have they evolved into any type of real discussion about digital security lessons for students at a young age. Which seems odd to me, I remember the secret password my family used if a friend of the family was going to be unexpectedly picking my brother and I up from school due to an emergency. I remember “STRANGER DANGER” which made me suspicious of pretty much everyone I didn’t know. But with the increasing amount of devices and digital tools being used in the classroom and at home I don’t see a young generation filled with security knowledge, but rather a large portion of the population who seem to know how to log into Google or Facebook and that’s about it, I was in Best Buy recently and overheard one of their employees telling a young couple that Mac is the way to go because you don’t have to worry about viruses. Sigh, I guess critical thinking skills really are lost on some people.
Smith and MacGregor (1992) argued “traditional classroom methods have failed to teach students what they most require–a critical stance towards authority and the ability to cooperate to solve problems of social concern–and therefore we need to restructure both education and society to promote these values” (p. 2). Again, any educator could take this and run with it in a myriad of different directions, but I will maintain my focus on digital citizenship and security. For those of you with children, how many have their own tablets, phones, laptops etc…? Do any of those have your credit card associated or saved on them? Would you feel safe giving your credit card so your child could buy a game they wanted online? I know I wouldn’t, I don’t even trust myself with a credit carded stored online or associated with my gaming console, phone or tablet. I realize I’m not the norm in terms of digital citizenship but I have seen friends of mine be stunned with a sizeable Visa bill with charges to some company named SuperCell (creators of Clash of Clans) in the hundreds of dollars and unfortunately, they didn’t have a child to blame it on. Our digital lives have been bombarded with flashy marketing gimmicks and a seemingly infinite amount of ways to make it easier to spend money online, without a little bit of metacognition about our online lives it’s only a matter of time before we realize we just dropped $50 last month on an online game, or left our credit card number dangling out in plain text on some insecure website. Perhaps it is time to seriously look at our curriculum? If we are going to give students as young as five or six years old digital tools to learn and be connected to the web constantly, maybe we should squeeze some time in for educating them on how to stay safe in a digital world.
I’ll leave you with this video I came across earlier this week, the social engineering part is the scariest in my opinion.
Chan, S. (2011, April 4). Checklist for evaluating tech tools, apps, software, and hardware. [Web log comment]. Retrieved February 24, 2016, from http://techpudding.com/2011/04/04/checklist-for-evaluating-technology-software-and-applications/
Fisher, M., & Baird, D. E. (2006). Making mLearning work: Utilizing mobile technology for active exploration, collaboration, assessment, and reflection in higher education. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 35(1), 3-30.
Smith, B. L., & MacGregor, J. T. (1992). What is collaborative learning.