Archive for the ‘education’ Category

College contact-tracing app readily leaked personal data, report finds

August 20th, 2020
A surveillance camera mounted on a wall on a sunny day.

Enlarge / A surveillance camera mounted on a wall on a sunny day. (credit: Thomas Winz / Getty)

In an attempt to mitigate the potential spread of COVID-19, one Michigan college is requiring all students to install an app that will track their live locations at all times Unfortunately, researchers have already found two major vulnerabilities in the app that can expose students' personal and health data.

Albion College informed students two weeks before the start of the fall term that they would be required to install and run the contact tracing app, called Aura.

Exposure notification apps being deployed by states, based on the iOS and Android framework Apple and Google announced earlier this year, are designed to minimize harms to privacy. That framework basically uses a phone's Bluetooth capabilities as a proximity sensor, to see if the phone it's installed on has been near a phone of someone who reports having tested positive for COVID-19.

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Posted in college, COVID-19, data privacy, education, higher education, location data, Policy, Privacy, student privacy, student rights, surveillance | Comments (0)

CDC delays new school-reopening guidance prompted by flak from Trump

July 17th, 2020
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 08: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing at the U.S. Department of Education July 8, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Enlarge / WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 08: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing at the U.S. Department of Education July 8, 2020 in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty | Alex Wong)

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will not release new guidance documents on school reopening this week, contrary to recent comments from officials in the Trump Administration.

A CDC spokesperson told NPR in an exclusive that new documents would instead be published sometime before the end of the month. The delay comes amid fierce nationwide debate about schools reopening and how it can be done safely.

President Mike Pence announced July 8 that the agency would release new documents this week that would better guide schools in their efforts to safely reopen classrooms shuttered by the COVID-19 pandemic—which is still engulfing much of the US. That announcement came just hours after President Trump blasted the CDC’s current recommendations in a series of tweets, calling them “very tough & expensive.” He also threatened to cut funding from schools that do not open before the November election.

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Posted in CDC, children, COVID-19, education, Infectious disease, pence, public health, redfield, SARS-CoV-2, school reopening, schools, science, trump administration | Comments (0)

It’s modular, it’s cheap, it runs Windows—it’s the $300 Kano tablet PC

July 14th, 2020

Last June, educational software and hardware vendor Kano announced an ambitious new project: a build-your-own computer kit based on x86 hardware and Windows 10. This replaces similar products Kano has offered for years, based on the Raspberry Pi. The finished product, designed in partnership with Microsoft, launched launched today.

The Kano PC, retailing for $299, is an 11.6" touchscreen two-in-one design, usable as either tablet or laptop—although it's a Windows system, it most strongly resembles an extremely chunky Android tablet in a folding case with a built-in keyboard. The case includes a built-in stand to prop the screen up at a landscape viewing angle, as well as the integrated keyboard and touchpad.

The Kano PC ships with Windows 10 Home in S Mode and is powered by an Intel Celeron N4000 CPU, 4GB of DDR3L RAM, and 64GB eMMC storage. It's also got a Micro SD card slot for adding storage later. Wi-Fi connectivity is included, but it's not stellar—the specs describe it as dual-band b/g/n, with Bluetooth 5.0. Resolution on the touchscreen is 1366x768, and video can be pushed to an external display via an HDMI port. The system also offers two USB 3.0 ports, one USB-C port, and three audio jacks (two out, one in).

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Posted in Celeron, chromebooks, ChromeOS, education, kano, Laptops, s mode, tablet, Tech, Windows 10 | Comments (0)

Schools already struggled with cybersecurity. Then came COVID-19

July 3rd, 2020
A mother and child daughter look at a laptop together.

Enlarge / "School" is probably going to look something like this for a whole lot of families in the coming weeks. (credit: Rafael Ben-Ari | Getty Images)

This time last year, Jaggar Henry was enjoying the summer like so many other teens. The 17-year-old had a job, was hanging out with friends on the weekends, and was just generally spending a lot of time online. But then, at the end of July, Henry combed his hair, donned a slightly oversized Oxford shirt, and appeared before his school district's board in Polk County, Florida—one of the larger school districts in the United States—to outline a slew of security flaws he had found in its digital systems. His presentation was the culmination of months of work and focused on software used by more than 100,000 students.

Those vulnerabilities have been fixed, but Henry, who now works full time on education technology, says that his experience illustrates the challenges facing school districts across the United States—and a problem that's grown more acute in the wake of COVID-19.

The coronavirus pandemic has had major cybersecurity implications around the world. Tailored phishing attacks and contact-tracing scams prey on fear and uncertainty. Fraudsters are targeting economic relief and unemployment payments. The stakes are higher than ever for ransomware attacks that target health care providers and other critical infrastructure. For businesses, the transition to remote work has created new exposures and magnified existing ones.

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Posted in education, Policy, schools, wired | Comments (0)

Real learning in a virtual classroom is difficult

March 28th, 2020

“Remote teaching sucks. It’s yucky and it is not the future of education.”

Thus spake my wife, a high school English teacher with many years of experience. And she’s right. I teach at a university, and we have also moved to virtual lessons in the face of COVID-19. Even before the current crisis, I already made extensive use of digital tools in the classroom. However, virtual lessons are a poor substitute for actual in-person lessons. Let me take you on a tour of a future that we all should be trying to avoid. (It isn't all doom and gloom, though; we’ve discovered some hidden treasures as well.)

The problem is that teaching is an intimate activity: students give up a certain degree of control to the teacher and trust that person to help them master some new topic. It doesn’t matter how big the class, that intimacy is unchanged for the teacher. Teaching is personal. Yes, from the student’s perspective, a one-on-one lesson is more personal than a lecture delivered to 500 students. But the anonymity and safety in large classes does not mean that teachers are not seeing and modifying their approach via instantaneous feedback from their classes.

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Posted in education, Gaming & Culture, online learning, Staff, virtual classroom | Comments (0)

Student privacy laws still apply if coronavirus just closed your school

March 12th, 2020
A mother and child daughter look at a laptop together.

Enlarge / "School" is probably going to look something like this for a whole lot of families in the coming weeks. (credit: Rafael Ben-Ari | Getty Images)

Hundreds of colleges and universities are suddenly shutting their doors and making a rapid switch to distance learning in an effort to slow the spread of novel coronavirus disease. Likewise, hundreds of K-12 districts nationwide have either already followed suit or are likely to in the coming days.

Online education comes with a whole host of challenges of its own, though, especially when everyone's doing the best they can to pull together ad hoc solutions at the last minute. Many of the logistical questions are daunting in their own right: does everyone have a device to use? Does everyone have an Internet connection to use it on? What software tools do we already have that we can use for this? How on earth do we adapt intensive hands-on classroom curriculum, like lab work, for home viewing?

Even when all of the immediate logistical and technical needs have been triaged and handled, though, there remains another complicating factor. While the United States doesn't have all that much in the way of privacy legislation, we do, in fact, have a law protecting some student educational data. It's called the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA.

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Posted in coronavirus, COVID-19, education, family educational rights and privacy act, FERPA, Policy, Privacy | Comments (0)

Google faces state lawsuit alleging misuse of schoolkids’ private data

February 21st, 2020
Students use Google Suite apps on computers in a classroom in Groton, Mass. on May 11, 2016.

Enlarge / Students use Google Suite apps on computers in a classroom in Groton, Mass. on May 11, 2016. (credit: David L. Ryan | The Boston Globe | Getty Images)

Adults who use Google products and services tend to know, at least on some background level, that the cost for access to "free" tools is paid in data. Google also provides low- and no-cost hardware and software tools to students and educators in school districts nationwide, and one state now says that children are also paying that privacy price, in violation of the law.

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas filed a lawsuit (PDF) alleging Google's collection and use of data from schoolchildren in his state is in violation violation of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act and New Mexico's Unfair Practices Act.

COPPA, one of the few US federal laws protecting data privacy, imposes certain restrictions on the collection and use of personal data associated with children under age 13. Under the law, websites, apps, and digital platforms that collect data from young users are required to post a privacy policy and have parents consent to it, to give parents the option to opt out of having their children's information shared with third parties, to let parents review their children's data, and to follow sound data storage and retention policies. The suit accuses Google of deliberately deceiving school districts and parents with regards to its data policies. A platform explicitly designed for use in elementary and middle schools, by schoolchildren, is by definition going to be associated with children under age 13.

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Posted in Alphabet, children, Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, COPPA, education, google, google education, New Mexico, Policy | Comments (0)

Advocates ask colleges to avoid facial recognition as surveillance grows

January 14th, 2020
Exterior photograph of college campus.

Enlarge / Students from George Washington University in DC are among those calling for a resolution against the use of facial recognition at their school. (credit: Toni L. Sandys | The Washington Post | Getty Images)

Ah, college: that time in a young adult's life for encountering new friends, new areas of study, ill-advised time management and beverage consumption decisions, and a pervasive surveillance network to track it all.

Sophisticated systems for tracking people have sprung up everywhere as we march through the 21st century, and institutions of higher education are no exception. To that end, digital rights advocacy group Fight for the Future today launched a campaign to get facial recognition off of college campuses. The campaign is partnering with student advocacy groups at The George Washington University in Washington, DC, and DePaul University in Chicago.

"Facial-recognition surveillance spreading to college campuses would put students, faculty, and community members at risk. This type of invasive technology poses a profound threat to our basic liberties, civil rights, and academic freedom," Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, said in a written statement. Greer added that, while facial recognition is not yet widely seen on college campuses, she and the members of the campaign hope to keep it that way.

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Posted in education, facial recognition, Policy, Privacy, student privacy, surveillance | Comments (0)

Apple updates entry-level MacBook Air and Pro, discontinues MacBook

July 9th, 2019
The 2018 MacBook Air sitting on a white table.

Enlarge / The 2018 MacBook Air is 10% thinner than the old MacBook Air and weighs 2.75lbs. (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Today, Apple refreshed much of its entry-level laptop lineup in time for a "Back to School" push that includes slashed prices for educators and students as well as other perks, like a free pair of Beats headphones with certain Mac and iPad purchases. Additionally, the company discontinued the 12-inch MacBook and significantly cut prices of solid-state storage upgrade options across the Mac lineup, including in high-end models like the MacBook Pro and iMac Pro.

13-inch MacBook Pro updates

Previously, the 13-inch MacBook Pro lineup was divided into two categories: low-end, Touch Bar-free models, and higher-end models with Touch Bars. Now, every unit in the lineup is equipped with a Touch Bar, which brings into question some speculation by onlookers that Apple doesn't want to further invest in the Touch Bar.

In today's refreshes, only the entry-level, non-Touch Bar models have been replaced. The higher-performance models that start with a 2.4GHz eighth-generation Intel CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a 256MB SSD—previously, "the Touch Bar models"—are unchanged, apart from pricing on storage upgrades, which we'll dive into shortly.

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Posted in apple, education, Macbook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Tech, Touch Bar | Comments (0)

US computer science grads outperforming those in other key nations

March 23rd, 2019
A chocolate cake is decorated by the plastic figurine of a celebratory graduate, complete with diploma and mortarboard.

Enlarge (credit: David Goehring / Flickr)

There's a steady flow of reports regarding the failures of the US education system. Read the right things and you'll come away convinced that early grades fail to teach basic skills, later grades fail to prepare students for college, and colleges students fail so much that they can't cope with the world outside the campus walls. But this week brought a bit of good news for one particular area: college-level computer science programs appear to be graduating some very competitive students.

This comes despite the fact that US students enter colleges behind their peers in other countries.

The work, done by an international team of researchers, compares US college seniors to those of three countries where US companies have outsourced some of their work: China, India, and Russia. All of these countries have a reputation for first-rate computing talent, with India and China developing large internal markets as well. Many students from these countries also come to study in the US, while Russia and China have been involved in cyber attacks against the United States and/or companies based here.

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Posted in Computer science, education, science | Comments (0)