Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Security: Strong Passwords = Safer Data

Let's be honest, we have all been guilty of poor password practices at some point in time or another.  Maybe you have kept a notebook on your desk with all your passwords, used the same password for "everything", used a simple password (ex: Winter2017) or kept your password on a sticky note next to your monitor.  Unfortunately, all these practices set us up for having our passwords compromised or stolen, and in return put our data at risk.

There are many things we can do to increase our security when online, including avoiding phishing scams.  In this post, we are going to focus on what makes a strong password.

What do I need to make a strong password?
When creating a strong password, it's recommended that we...

  • Have at least 8 characters
  • Include upper and lower case letters
  • Include numbers
  • Include characters, like ~!@#$%^&*_-+=`|\(){}[]:;"'<>,.?/
  • Avoid using words found in the dictionary
  • Avoid using your username as part of your password
  • Avoid predictable passwords (ex: Winter17), your kid's name, your favorite sports team, anything that someone could easily find on social media, etc.
  • Avoid passwords that are in succession (Example: GrumpyCat1!, GrumpyCat2!, etc.)
  • Avoid using private information in your password, including your full name, date of birth, address, mother's maiden name, social security number, phone number, etc.
  • Change them at least every 6 months
In PPS, our passwords must...
  • Have at least 8 characters
  • Include 3 of these 4 character types
    • Uppercase letters
    • Lowercase letters
    • Numbers (0 through 9)
    • Characters ~!@#$%^&*_-+=`|\(){}[]:;"'<>,.?/
  • Avoid including usernames as part of your password
  • Avoid using words found in the dictionary
  • Avoid using the same password that you use for your personal accounts
  • Be changed every 90 days - avoiding passwords that have been previously used
  • Need to change your PPS password?  Follow these directions and you will be off and running.

So, let's play a game (courtesy of Common Sense Media)
I'll pretend to be Abraham Lincoln.  I need to create a password for my email account.  The first password I come up with was: HonestAbe.  Fortunately, I remembered that using a password that uses my name/nickname is not a good idea.  Lots of people would guess that.  So, I give it another try and come up with: 4score-7yrsGbA.  This password is much better.   I'll be able to remember it because Four Score and Seven Years Ago (4score-7yrs) was the beginning of my famous Gettysburg Address (GbA). Success!

Keep it Safe!
Now that you have created a strong password, protect it by not sharing it, using it in multiple locations, or keeping it in a location that is easily located.

Enjoy this Video on Creating Smart Passwords by

Monday, February 6, 2017

Chromebook Tech Tip: Help, the screen is sideways!

What’s Happening?

Your students are working away on their projects and all of a sudden, a kid brings their Chromebook up to you because they have somehow mysteriously flipped the image on the screen so it is now turned 90 or 180 degrees.  And like any good teacher, you are an expert at reading upside down (thanks to all those read alouds), but the kids haven't mastered that skill yet - unless, of course, they are trying to figure out the i-tunes password as their parents type it in.  So the question is... How do I turn the screen image back to the "normal" direction?

How do I fix it?

To turn the screen image, all you have to do is click three simple keys...
ctrl+shift+refresh button

Why does it do this?

There is a legitimate reason to flip your Chromebook screen.  For example, maybe you want to view something in portrait view so you can see the whole "sheet".  The rotate would be helpful for this, however, most of the time it is just annoying. 

Now if you really want to have some fun, click ctrl+shift+alt+refresh.  This will make your screen do a complete barrel roll.  Why, you may ask?  Because sometimes you just need to have a little fun.  Enjoy!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Gmail: Creating a Handwritten Signature for the Computer

You would think that as a technology integration specialist, I would get a lot of challenging questions about how best to integrate technology in a meaningful way in the classroom, what are the best tech tools for specific purposes, and how to keep our kids safe when they are using technology.  And you would be correct.  Paul and I frequently get really great questions about all those things, but sometimes it's the little things that really get educators a handwritten signature on email.

My auto Gmail signature contains an image file of my written signature (first name).  I feel like having the handwritten signature adds some personality and personalizes the email better than just a typed signature.  To the right is a sample of my Gmail signature.  It isn't anything over the top or special, but frequently when I am out in the buildings helping our staff, teachers will stop me and as how they can create their own signature.  Paul and I have both explored many ways to accomplish this task.  If you have a wacom style tablet or stylus, then go ahead and sign your first name and you are off and running.  For those of you that are masters of the trackpad or have beautiful handwriting on the touchscreen, open up a drawing tool like Google Drawings, sign your firs name on a transparent background, crop, resize, and download as a .png file.  For the rest of us, give this a try...

Step 1: Get a photo of your signature
  • Get out a piece of white paper.  
  • Get out a pen (usually a fine tip sharpie type pen works well) and write your first name.  
  • Take a picture of your signature using your smartphone, camera, or document camera.  
  • Upload the photo to your computer.  

Step 2: Edit the image
The picture you took of your signature will not automatically have a transparent background, and will probably be a pretty big image, so we are going to need to do a little editing to get it just right.
  • Go to:  This is an online photo editor.  The user interface isn't anything fancy, but it does the trick for this purpose.
  • Upload the photo of your signature to the site by either clicking the Browse button or the more upload options.
  • Choose the file from your computer that contains your signature and click open.
  • Go to the Adjust menu and select Adjust Light Levels
  • Drag the Contrast bar all the way to the right.  Click Apply.
  • Go to the Edit menu and select Transparent.  Click on the white background - not your written signature.  Use the slider bar to increase the transparency so that any background noise that remains will fade away.  When you have it looking good, click Apply Threshold.
  • Go to the Edit menu and select Crop Image.  This should allow you do put a box around your image to crop down the canvas to just your signature.  Draw a box around the image and click crop.
  • Go to the Edit menu and select Scale Image.  A good size for your signature line would be between 125 and 200 for width, depending on how long your name is and how large you want your signature to look when you are finished, so play around - 70 may be just the right size, or maybe 250. Click Scale Image when finished adjusting the size.  
  • Now that you are finished, go to the File menu and select  Save Image.  Choose Save Image as PNG.  This will down load the image file to your computer. 
Step 3: Add it to your Gmail Signature
Enjoy your new personalized Gmail signature!