Thursday, September 1, 2016

Let's Talk About Passwords . . .

We use them all the time... everywhere. They are so ubiquitous in our lives that most of us actually neglect their true purpose - keep our information secure.  Add to that, the ever present struggle of having to come up with new passwords all the time! No wonder most of us use bad passwords.
Need more depressing news? Today's computing power is great, but it also enables criminals to have bigger and better chances at cracking your passwords.
What to do?
 The United States National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) has new guidelines (currently a draft) for passwords to be used by the public sector of the government. Section 5 of the Draft SP800-63B has some good advice to organizations and users like us.

In a nutshell:

For the users. 
* Passwords should be at least 8 characters and preferably not a dictionary word, or
* Use passphrases. Passphrases are easier to remember (Spots is my 5yr old Labrador) and harder to crack. * Complex passwords (i.e. L@bra0r) are not as secure as they use to be because hackers can find hundreds of combinations of words that may fit your hint question (What race is you dog?)  and it will take them just minutes.
For organizations. The number of suggestions is a lot longer and it clearly shifts the burden of responsibility from the user to the organization. Here are some guidelines provided on the draft.
* Make password policies user friendly and put the burden on the verifier.
* Allow for long passwords (at least 64 characters) and allow for a wider range of special characters.
* Crosscheck selected passwords against lists of known-bad passwords
* No more composition rules forcing to use particular characters or combinations
* No password hits
* No "security" questions (What is your best friend's name?)
* No more expiration date. Passwords should be reset only if they have been compromised.
* No more use of SMS as a two-factor authentication

As pointed out earlier, this is just a draft of suggestions, but the ideas are a big departure from what we are used to do. I personally will start using passphrases instead of one-word passwords... sounds more fun and easier to remember. What is your take?

GEG Chicagoland Student Film Fest


GEG Chicagoland is pleased to present our first annual Student Film Festival! This film competition is a chance for K-12 students get empowered and flex their creative muscles. 

Students interested in participating are challenged to dream up and create 3-minute film responding to the following question: "What’s Your Superpower? Tell us how you can change the world for the better." 

Winning entries will be screened at Google Chicago for the live film festival on Friday, February 24th. These student filmmakers will be invited with their classes and/or families to visit the offices and be honored at this event. For guidelines and more info, visit the site:

Infinite Campus Messenger

Open House and Progress Reports are just around the corner!

Send emails to parents and/or students using Infinite Campus Messenger. Stop by your local PDC for assistance.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Digital Literacy Program

Over 30% of the Freshmen class has completed the Digital Literacy Program to date. 347 of 1084 students enrolled in the program, offered during Freshman Study Halls, have either tested out or demonstrated proficiency.
Student Progress Over the Last Three Years
The program is self paced, blended, and competency based, providing multiple pathways for students to demonstrate mastery of the content.

Pathways to Competency

Additional information about the Digital Literacy Program is available here.

News from the AAL Helpdesk

Logo TL.png


Please remind students, as we do every year, that electronic devices, especially Chromebooks, are not allowed in the PE Locker rooms. Students should be using their main hallway lockers to store their devices.  


On that note, if students have misplaced their device, please have them see security to file a report.  Of course, we recommend checking the last place they remember having it and also asking their teachers. If possible, they should file a report the same day.  They should not wait a week to see if it turns up.  It only delays security's chance of finding it for them.

As always, we highly recommend that everyone with a school-issued device buy insurance.  The policy covers theft and will give you peace of mind.  More information can be found here.  

Congrats to all the incoming freshman that are officially D219 Certified Digital Literate.

DLP Logo.pngAgain, please encourage students who have begun the program early to visit the coaches or student help desk for assistance in completing the program. Use the Digital Literacy Program guide on our site for help.  More information can be found here.

Fall Tech 1 and Tech 2 Dates

Tech 1 and Tech 2 will begin September 12 at Niles West.

Each course is offered as a blended class, meeting three times face to face - once on the first day of class (Sept 12th) and then the last two meetings for capstone presentations (Nov. 7 & 8th). Participants receive three hours of non-transferable lane advancement or 7.5 CEUs.

Registration and additional information may be found in Eduphoria (direct links below).

Monday, August 1, 2016

News from the AAL Helpdesk

Logo TL.png

2016-07-11 14.04.24.jpg

It is our fourth year of deploying Chromebooks for our 1:1 program.  Close to 1116 incoming freshman will be issued a new device to use anywhere, anytime.  The Chromebook III is not only a nice upgrade to the sturdy Chromebook II model but its price of $191 makes it much more cost effective for our students.

As with our other models, the Chromebook III is available for purchase from the Student Help Desk.  If you are still carrying around an old netbook, it is probably a good time to purchase an upgrade.  You pay what we pay.  

Insurance Application Form.png

The Student Help Desk has many Tech Leaders to help with problems that may occur with student devices. While we can repair many types of damage with little or no cost to students and their families, we highly recommend to anyone with a school-issued device, to buy insurance.  The policy covers up to $200 with a $0 deductible for $32.60 for the year.
More information can be found here.  

DLP Pathways.png

Incoming freshman will be working with their digital literacy coaches during study halls to reach our Board goal of engaging students, increasing their digital literacy skills, and helping them become digitally literate 21st-century citizens.   If you have students that are not assigned to a freshman study hall, please encourage them to start the program early and visit the coaches or student help desk for assistance in completing the program.  There is a nice Digital Literacy Program guide on our site for help.  More information can be found here.

2016: The Year of Ransomware

1 billion dollars is a lot of money to lose to Ransomware attacks.The infographic included here communicates the impact of these attacks in 2016 and why we should all be paying attention.
Viruses that destroy data and Malware that steal our data are familiar and have been around a long time but what is Ransomware? Ransomware holds your data hostage with the usual goal of extorting a ransom payment for its release. In the same way that viruses and malware find their way onto your computer, hackers use malicious code to encrypt your data and delete or destroy your backups.

We can mitigate the threat by using the common methods used to prevent viruses and malware with antivirus software, firewalls, and regular system updates.  It is also important as a community that we be careful with our online activities.  As we hear on the news the most prepared entities can still fall prey to cyber attacks. The second thing that must be done is preparation for potential data loss. Here at District 219 we have the Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) which documents the necessary steps needed to recover from a disaster, including comprehensive backups onsite and offsite. This plan and other IT related district policies are regularly reviewed and updated to keep us ready and prepared.


Infinite Campus Updates

TEACHERS: Check out Campus Instruction’s Custom Links and Reports for various resources and district-developed tools!

Several items (that were previously accessed via the D219 Employee Portal)  have been moved here:
  • Chaperone Sign-Up
  • Student Data Export (pdf and .csv formats)
  • Standardized Test Scores
  • (For Physical Welfare teachers only)
    • Fitness Testing
    • PE Chart Admin

Watch this blog for more information about changes and improvements to the Infinite Campus system for the new school year!  

District's MS Windows 10 and MS Office 2016 Deployment Plan

It is no news to you that Microsoft released Windows 10 and Office 2016 over a year ago. However, you may be puzzled as to why District is still running older versions. As an update, we have started working on the future deployment of Windows 10. Deployment is a long process encompassing the creation of a master image (an image is a package that includes all the standard software that gets installed on your PC), bench testing, and field testing finalized by the final deployment. Additionally, we need to get your computer and you the user, ready for the changes. We are currently working on building the master image for testing. In conjunction, we are also testing other software and hardware that gets used by our faculty, staff, and students.This fall, we will work with beta testers to collect their data and feedback as they "kick the tires" of the new image. At the same time, we will also work with our Professional Development Centers to create training materials to introduce the new operating system to you. Next summer (2017), if everything satisfies all checks, we will be ready to deploy Windows 10 and Office 2016.

Project Details:

  • Our first task, currently in progress, is the creation of the master image. This takes into consideration not only driver and hardware compatibility (for the more than 10 computer models currently supported) but also other areas such as licensing, active directory integration, group policies, printing, virus protection etc. There is a lot to learn and we are going through this learning curve knowing that it is a prerequisite for us before we can start offering support to our users.
  • The second task will be testing. This will allow us to work the obvious bugs out of the system and allow us to refine integration into our current environment. This is where we will figure how ready we are for the new Operating System. For instance, by the end of this summer, only a little more than half of our desktops will have 4GB of memory, but by next summer, once we get more of the Dells 790 out of circulation, we should be better poised to run Win10. There are always new issues arising and we just keep on working on them as they pop up.  This fall, our plan is to include some end-users to help us do further testing and their feedback should validate our prep work and also help us refine the end product even more.
We are aiming to make this transition as seamless as possible, so we will work with the PDC's to disseminate the help and information that you may need. In the interim, we will keep you posted and we ask you to please stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

First-Ever Student Technology Leadership Summit

The next generation of technology leaders will assemble on April 16, as Maine East High School hosts the first ever Student Technology Leadership Summit. Jaime Casap, Google’s Chief Education Evangelist, will present the keynote address. Mr. Casap works with schools and educational organizations to bring technological innovations into educational settings. He has worked with hundreds of school districts and built partnerships across the country.
For the remainder of the day, student technology leaders will take center stage. Making a series of presentations in 50-minute breakout sessions will be students who work technology help desks at their schools. All the sessions have been coordinated and planned by the students from Maine East, South and West High Schools, Evanston High School, Leyden High School and Niles North and West High Schools. Drawing from more than 30 schools, more than 130 students will be presenting sessions.
Our students will be presenting these sessions:
Creating an informative yet entertaining Orientation videoAnthony Lohan
(Niles West HS)
Making Android Apps with Android StudioJay Monga
(Niles West HS)
Video Tech Leading: To position your cameras to get the footage that everybody wantsJaime Gonzalez Vicker
(Niles North HS)
Garageband/Electronic Instrumental ProgramingThomas Novak
(Niles North HS)
Android Modding 101Mariusz Symkow
(Niles North HS)
3D Printing Printing: Where We’ve Come From, Where We’re GoingChristopher Scheithauer & Jaime Gonzalez Vicker
(Niles North HS)

For a complete listing of all the sessions follow this link. Google and CDW are Executive Sponsors of the event and will provide T-shirts and lunch for attendees. Other sponsors for the event include Follett and Hapara.