Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Common Sense Media's List of Best Ed Tech 2017

Common Sense Media's Educator Portal is one of my favorite sites for exploring new tools that have been evaluated by educators. The reviews with a focus on the impact on student learning is the best feature. 

They recently published their list of 25 best apps, games, and websites. The tools are broken down by categories: Arts & Socio-emotional Learning, ELA, Math & Science, Social Studies, Teacher Tools, and Tech Skills. 

Of the 25 tools listed, many of them were new to me! I will enjoy spending time exploring them. On the top of my list with questions I want to find out include:

  • Inq-ITS virtual labs (Will they work on Chromebooks?)
  • Beyond the Bubble history assessments (How are they different from more traditional assessments?)
  • Spiral instant feedback tool (Why is it called Spiral?)
  • Itch; a tool to help teachers teach with Scratch (Can it be true? I don't find Scratch to be that intuitive)

Enjoy the list: Best EdTech of 2017. Thank you Common Sense Media! 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Meltdown and Spectre Bugs: Should You Be Worried?

I read news reports yesterday about two security vulnerabilities that worry me a bit, Meltdown and Spectre. Experts are saying that they affect nearly every processor made in the last twenty years! This includes computers, cell phones, tablets, and cloud services including music and video streaming sites. 

How it works is complicated. The best description I found was from the Intel website. "Most modern CPUs are able to predict what code they might need to run for a given process, and run it in advance so the results are ready before they are needed. This can significantly improve the overall performance and efficiency of a CPU, resulting in a faster and more capable computer or mobile device. CPUs may sometimes move data from one memory location to another for use by these processes. Although the system is operating exactly as it is designed to, in certain cases some of this data may be observable through these exploits"

Technology companies are working furiously to create patches to protect themselves and their customers. Amazon web services, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Allure immediately deployed patches against Meltdown and there is no indication that the available exploits could work against them. Spectre is more deeply rooted and will be harder to fix. (Source: the Verge

According to a Bloomberg Technology article, the vulnerability will not prevent your computer from working and so far there have not been reports of anyone's computer being attacked. This makes me feel a little bit better. 

What should one do to protect your devices? Download and install ALL UPDATES! This means Windows updates, browser updates, app updates, antivirus program updates and firmware updates on any school or personal technology.