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Cybersecurity is Actually About People

Cybersecurity is About People

We used to believe that schools were immune to the cyberattacks that plagued the rest of the world because our missions was honorable and our resources were seen as less valuable. I think we can all agree those days are behind us. Schools worldwide are equally as vulnerable to online attacks and being targeted just as much as other industries.

In my work, cybersecurity has become one of the largest areas of concern and risk for schools worldwide. Schools are reliant on technology for academics and operations yet tend to be under prepared for cybersecurity. This often manifests in under informed staffs, insufficient funding, inadequate security, and lack of imperative amongst school leadership.

That is until an incident occurs. Once a school experiences a cyberattack they are often quick to action. Security is tightened, time is freed up for IT staff to address the crisis, consultants are hired, equipment is purchased, reports are written, and training is given. The money, time, and stress allocated is often far more than if the school had a more robust plan in place.

So, why don’t school focus on preventative cybersecurity? This is because schools view cybersecurity like flossing. A daily flossing routine will ensure healthy teeth and gums, which sound very important from a logical perspective, but doesn’t offer much observable impact in the near term. Many people take healthy teeth for granted and don’t want to be bothered maintaining them without an immediate benefit or consequence. However, when that first cavity springs up, those same people feel quite strongly that they should have been flossing the whole time.

woman smile with tooth floss; Shutterstock ID 646610392; Purchase Order: GSK02122019

And just like flossing, cybersecurity can be tedious. A good cybersecurity program will include penetration testing of the physical and logical security of the network, backup and recovery systems, data protection procedures, policies for access and security, regularly informed leadership, and, most importantly, training for all users. Since the benefits to teaching and learning of cybersecurity are so indirect, it can become quite difficult to maintain interest and compliance in cybersecurity from users at the school.

Non-compliance from users is actually the largest issue in the cybersecurity challenge for schools. Research has shown that users, typically employees or students with network access, provide the largest security hole for schools. This comes in the form of unsafe devices, weak passwords, and lack of knowledge about what should and should not be clicked. Cybersecurity experts will tell you that their best efforts are only as good as a mobile phone in the hands of their most dangerous employee.

As an example, I worked with a school that had two significant cybersecurity issues in the span of one week. The first came when a teacher left his computer open in a classroom. The teacher had not changed his password from the default password given him and a student accessed an exams repository. The second came when an office employee with access to vital parts of the network clicked on a link that downloaded ransomware that locked out the entire file system.

These incidents are illustrations that people are at the heart of cybersecurity.

Of course, we can view this from deficit approach by saying that people are not taking up their flossing responsibilities to follow strong cybersecurity practices. That is true and should be viewed as the primary area of focus for cybersecurity enhancement. Teachers, staff, students, and parents should learn about best practices for protecting their devices and their data. They should be taught how to spot phishing, use strong passwords, and how to avoid viruses and malware. They should know what can happen when a breech occurs.

And it is this last piece where we can flip the script from a lack of interest or negativity to one of affective impact and personal responsibility. Again, we must focus on the people aspect of cybersecurity.


To begin, let’s think about what happens when a cyberattack occurs. Hackers and crackers gain access to a school’s network, devices, and data. They can cause damage or steal information for their own purposes. On the surface this sounds bad, but not catastrophic. Yet it can be catastrophic for people in the school.

Let’s reframe this to impact on a student. What happens if her device and the school network are damaged at a time when she need access to learning materials to study for an IB exam? What happens if a student needs to contact a counsellor about a bullying issue, but the communications system has been hacked? What happens if a student’s data, including personally identifiable information and medical history, are used by crackers for extortion purposes?

Cyberattacks don’t simply affect systems; they affect the most important people in our school communities. By framing our cybersecurity in the light of protecting children the way we would from child abuse or other maleficence, users will take on their responsibilities more seriously. They will view changing passwords and closing computers the same way parents look at putting away knifes in the kitchen.

The best approach to closing “the people gap” and improving best practices is to begin with the people that will be protected and then moving on to the hows, whens, and wheres of cybersafety. This will develop a culture of cybersecurity amongst all stakeholders that goes beyond compliance to stewardship and responsibility for others.

Now, getting them also to floss, well that’s a different challenge.

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Teachers, Please Give Actionable Feedback

We are still in the middle of the COVID19 crisis, but home learning seems to be going well. Teachers are doing a great job of connecting with students while managing their own crazy lives. In this vlog post, I recommend that reachers avoid “Good Job” or “Well Done” when giving feedback to students. Instead giving them actionable and specific feedback to encourage them, be constructively critical, and give them items to work on with a timeline for review.

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Flip Your Online Learning

During COVID19, we have lost the opportunity to engage in flipped learning because we aren’t meeting students face to face. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t engage in this valuable approach to teaching and learning. In this vlog entry, I suggest you flip your online learning by combining office hours style video conferencing and basic pre-recorded sessions to give students better engagement and feedback on their work.

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You’re Doing Great – EdTech in the Time in COVID19

You're Doing Great During #COVID19

A restart of The EdTech Vlog in the middle of the COVID19 crisis. I am currently doing work as a consultant, a parent, business owner, EdTech support, PE coordinator, and at home learning coordinator. It’s tough…yet I see others having greater difficulty and still doing amazing things. I just wanted to say, YOU’RE DOING GREAT!

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How Do Leaders Support EdTech Initiatives?

How Do Leaders Support EdTech

Whenever I go into a school and they ask me what is needed to create a successful educational technology program, I tell them you need three things: resources, engaged teachers, and supportive leadership. These three items are the fertile ground in which a school can plant the strategy, IT infrastructure, learning outcomes, instructional activities, and measures of impact needed to build success with technology for learning.

Resources are vital because EdTech is tool- and system-reliant. This doesn’t mean that schools need to focus on quantities of technology or ubiquitous access to be successful. In fact, I have seen impactful programs in schools with limited budgets using only the technology at hand with the students. What sets these programs apart is that they have clearly identified the resources available and they have learned how to leverage their learning potential.

Engaged teachers are equally important as the teachers are where the rubber hits the road in technology for learning. Their engagement in professional learning, planning, and instructional activities will determine the impact on students and realized value of computers in the classroom. Without engaged and supported teachers, no amount of resources or leadership planning will gain traction in the learning experiences of the students.

These two critical factors – resources and engaged teachers – are heavily influenced by supportive leadership. Supportive leadership will find, organize, and grow the technology resources available for a school. Supportive leadership will provide clarity of purpose and vision for success which often results in greater engagement from teachers who understand the direction they are being asked to go. Supportive leadership is what initiates EdTech programs, gets them off the ground, and keeps them running after the initial phases. Supportive leadership is explicit in its backing of the efforts of the teachers and students.

Of course, this begs the question: how does leadership show its support of EdTech in school? The most effective ways come through offering resources, time, language and recognition.


The staff and school community know that school leadership use resources to enhance specific aspects of the school’s program. By allotting resources towards the access to technology and professional learning for teachers, leadership will show its tacit and lived support for educational technology. Teachers will be able to use these resources, with the implied call to action, to build technology rich lessons that enhance learning for all students. However, resource-based support can be quite dangerous if done without strategy or sustainability. Supportive leadership must develop a clear and transparent strategy for the allocation and usage of resources for them to be used effectively for learning. Further, by following the common mistake of only allotting resources at the beginning of a program rather than on a perpetual timeline, support will be viewed as fleeting or non-committal when it comes time to renew or refresh.

Of course, a key form of resource-based support comes through budgeting. Professional learning, access to technology, sustainability, and proper assessment of the impact of educational technology on the school should be found easily within the school’s budget. Regular line items that reflect the ongoing learning and operational needs should be in the expense budget and the capital budget should contain regular technology purchases for expansion or refresh. And supportive leadership will always show financial commitment to technology by fully funding its depreciation.


The resource most valuable way to demonstrate support for EdTech initiatives is time. Leadership has the ability reserve, find, and even make time for teachers to focus on the teaching and learning aspects of educational technology. The most supportive leaders of EdTech will carve out formal and informal time for teachers to learn and collaborate. In formal sessions, teachers will develop new technology or pedagogic skills or author technology-enhanced curriculum. During informal sessions, teachers will collaborate to share and collaborate on best practices in their classrooms. By providing this time separate from required staff meetings and administrative tasks, leadership will demonstrate its academic and operational priority of teachers using technology effectively.


However, school leadership is not simply a planning or resource allocation activity. It is one of outward demonstration of vision and priorities within a school. Good leaders, beyond technology, will embed what is important to the school in every conversation and school communication. The same applies to supporting EdTech. Supportive leaders will talk about the value of technology for learning and the school’s plans for implementing it effectively when talking inwardly and outwardly. They will use proper terminology when talking about technology-based instruction and be able to identify the key leverage points for EdTech in the school. By using words to show support, the community will see the value of technology for learning embedded in the school ethos and they will begin to look for, and expect to find, it in the actions taken by teachers and students.


Finally, leadership can use their language to give specific and powerful support to their engaged teachers. Those who have worked in schools know that financial incentives have little effect on the engagement or impact of teachers. Instead, what motivates teachers to do the best is the belief they are doing work of value. Leadership can honor and support this value through formal recognition. Recognition in the context of EdTech can come in a number of ways; highlighting a successful project, celebrating a certification attained by a group of teachers, publicizing conference presentations by staff, or giving certain teachers additional roles and responsibilities within the EdTech program. And given these are technology-based recognitions, they can be done through school communications, Twitter feeds, or during staff meetings.

By showing implicit and explicit support of teachers and EdTech in the school, leaders are the tipping point for immediate and sustained success for technology in a school.

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Does the Printer Even Work?

Does the printer even work?

A few years ago, my wife had the pleasure of attending a leadership workshop at Disneyland. She and her team got to learn about the management protocols, leadership styles, and data analytics that Disney uses to maximize guests’ experience in its parks.

One tidbit stood out to me when she described her time there (and it wasn’t that she saw Johnnie Depp dressed as Jack Sparrow running around the park). She mentioned that Disney had done an extensive study on littering. Through data analysis from multiple source and long-term observation they had determined that guests will walk no more than 27 paces before throwing trash on the ground. As a result, they had strategically placed their trash cans no more than 27 apart throughout the park.

This story grabbed me because it has application in schools. Instead of trash cans and litter, it fits quite nicely with printers. And despite what you think or feel about printing, printers play a vital role in our schools.

Now, let me clarify something: I hate printing. I hate the fact that our schools are so reliant on printers to share information and display student work. I hate that we use printed materials when our collaborative technology tools offer so much more in terms of flexibility and interaction. I hate the amount of money wasted on papers, materials and machines. I hate the environmental impact of printing. I hate the fact we pay through the nose for ink after we sign up for such a great deal on our printers. I hate that despite the prevalence of technology in our schools we have actually increased our printing. And most of all, I hate the fact that I know just how vital printing and printers are to the success of our educational technology endeavors.

A colleague of mine recently confirmed a suspicion many of us in EdTech have had for years: printers are the glue that keep tech programs together. Through research into teacher attitudes towards technology, he was able to correlate a teacher’s perception about the reliability of his or her nearest printer with his or her willingness to engage in new educational technology programs. This means that if a teacher feels his or her printer is not in good working order he or she will not engage in the school’s educational technology program. In short, regardless of the planning, strategy, resources, or support a school puts into it technology, if the printer doesn’t print the way the teacher needs it to, those effort will have no effect.

This puts immense pressure on our school in the care and feeding of their printers.

However, printing is not a simple “works vs. doesn’t work” binary. Instead it is a complex aspect in a school that encompasses variables such as “color vs. black and white,” speed and print quality, downtime, location, “personalized vs. shared devices”, print centers, and ease of use.

My recommendation for every school is to take a deep look into their printing. They need to understand how the aforementioned variables play out in their settings and how to adjust them for the best experience by teachers and to meet the needs of the organization.

Let’s talk about the machines themselves. Does each teacher or group of classes need a single printer? More often than not, the answer is no. These individual devices, though very personal to a teacher, are costly and unreliable. Most teachers realize that a personal printer is a luxury that isn’t in the best interest of the school. Instead, schools should look into Multi-Function Devices (MFDs). MFDs are the latest iteration of the copiers of old. Now they copy, scan, store documents, and print all from a teacher’s individual computer. These devices, when places strategically (think about Disney’s 27 pace rule) meet the needs of teachers while being cost effective and reliable. They also allow a teacher to print wherever they are on campus, not just to the personal printer in their classroom. Though word to wise, never buy an MFD. Always lease them with a guaranteed service and replacement contract.

What about volume and quotas? This is a common discussion point in schools as we hope to move more content to online platforms. Should a school place printing quotas on its teachers? As long as quotas are fair and transparent, teachers will see their value in mitigating costs and protecting the environment.

‘I think I can solve our budget problem with the color scanner, color laser printer and this twenty-dollar bill!’

Last, we need to talk about color. Experience shows the teachers love having color printing at their fingertips, especially in primary schools. Is color printing necessary though? I have found there is no simple answer to this question. Some schools make great us of color to plaster the walls with evidence of student learning and progress. Whereas others waste money, paper, and time by over-relying on color copies. This is a decision that a school has to make on its own.

Regardless, printing and the printers are items of the IT remit that need robust measurement and tracking. Schools that are most successful have a clear budget for devices and consumables that is reviewed regularly to identify the value for teaching and learning while mitigating cost and the environmental effect. These schools also use print data to maximize efficiency and to improve the reliability of the devices. And experience has shown that most of these schools also have teachers with greater trust in technology overall which results in some interesting enhancements to student learning.

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Use Technology to Make Global Classroom Connections

Global Classroom Connections
Global Classroom Connections

As I look into my crystal ball, I foresee that when historians look back at the late 20th century and early 21st century they will marvel at the advances we made in two areas: transportation of goods and people globally and the exchange of information. As international educators, we are quite familiar with transportation of people around the world as we move from country to country (whether to work or for those generous holidays). The transportation of goods might feel a bit less impressive for us though as we wait yet another week for our shipping to arrive.

In the classroom, we have been most impacted by the readiness and exchange of information. Our students are connected to a wealth of knowledge, people, and resources the likes of which education has never experienced. It has become an expectation that we prepare students for this globalized information exchange while also meeting the requirements of exams and university admissions. This can be a challenge, but also a huge opportunity. Imagine breaking down the walls of the classroom to share global connections that build their 21st century learning knowledge through hands-on experiences. This is best done with learning activities that connect students across geographies where they engage in authentic exchanges. And there are a number of ways to do this using technology.

So, I thought I would offer some practical ideas for educators to open those global connections to their classrooms:

Traveling Tales

Traveling Tales is a program where classes collaborate to create a shared book. Five classes sign up to create a story and each class develops a portion of the story. The program is designed to fit into exist language and literacy lessons, rather than being used as an add-on. The stories are done with visuals and text delivered through an interactive video format. Traveling Tales books are being written all the time amongst schools around the world. The power of this type of collaboration is that it does not require any alignment of time zones for shared work.

Learn more: http://bit.ly/travelingtales

The Global Read Aloud

Every year, starting in October for a 6 weeks period, classes will read the same the book aloud with or to their classes. Thousands of schools participate at varying levels of involvement with the simple goal of making as many global connections as possible. Schools share their read-alouds and connections on a variety of platforms including Twitter, Skype, Padlet, Flipgrid, and other similar avenues. Again, this is powerful form of collaboration because it does not require time zone alignment, but synchronous discussions can be used to create a more meaningful experience for the students.

Learn more: https://edtch.co/globalreadaloud

Global Math Task Twitter Challenge

This Twitter-based mathematics challenge connects classrooms through tasks and problem solving. Each week a group of “Task Tweeters” will share grade specific math problems over Twitter and classes around the world will post solutions to Twitter using the hashtag #GMTTC. The experience connects classes completing similar problems and it opens dialogue for students around mathematics and problem-solving.

Learn More: https://edtch.co/gmttc


Empatico is a free tool that connects classrooms around the world. Their mission is to create empathy between students and schools by putting them together through collaborations and share experiences. Empatico will make a virtual introduction between two classrooms using tools to connect via video, share files, partner, and share tasks. Empatico is one of the largest networks of global connections in the world with representation in nearly every country worldwide.

Learn More: https://edtch.co/empatico

Mystery Skype

Mystery Skype is a program where classes connect with other schools, experts, and individuals around the world using Skype. Though listed as a “Mystery,” there is very little mystery about it. Participants volunteer to join the online collaborative and they make themselves available via Skype during specific times. Classes that connect with them know in advance what they have to offer and what they will discuss. These connections can last 10 minutes or be repeated for months.

Learn More: https://edtch.co/mysteryskype


iEARN is an NGO that works to connect students around the world through shared learning activities. Designed to create authentic experiences, iEARN facilitates connections between schools and students through a global community-based approach. They facilitate connections, offer resources, and run programs for global collaboration. At present iEARN is being used in 140 countries with over 2,000,000 students.

Learn More: https://edtch.co/iearn Regardless which of these tools educators find useful, the biggest challenge is always the first connection. I recommend that teachers select a tool and just jump in to make a connection. The avenues for learning that will come into their classrooms will be boundless.

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Am I a Tech-Savvy Teacher?

Developing a Framework for EdTech Support

Of course, the short answer to this question is that there is no short answer. Technology tools differ in every school and the needs of students vary based on age and curriculum used. There is no clear bifurcation between those who are and are not tech-savvy teachers. Instead, tech-savvy teaching encompasses a spectrum of skills across a range of categories.

At present, there are resources available online that document this spectrum. The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standards for Educators and the UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers outline characteristics of a tech-savvy teacher. Other resources describe teaching practices, including the Florida Center for Instructional Technology’s Technology Integration Matrix (TIM) and iNACOL’s National Standards for Quality Online Teaching. Theoretical frameworks of technology infused instruction are also available, such as the SAMR model, TPACK, and the PICRAT Matrix. For a full list of EdTech resources visit http://edtch.co/EdTechStandards.

As you can see, this combination of knowledge is all encompassing, but far too complicated. And while they provide all the materials needed to describe a tech-savvy teacher they fail to provide direct application. On the whole, these resources do not provide means to identify those key characteristics a teacher possesses in their day-to-day work or measureable areas of improvement.

When I worked at the British School Jakarta, my learning technology team took on the task of filling this void. We studied the available online resources unified them to create an actionable rubric for tech-savvy teaching.

Over the course of months, we built the Framework for Learning Technology Support for Educators that will, when completed, offer a resource for teachers, coaches, and school leadership to measure what makes a teacher tech-savvy. This framework will be a guide for the attitudes, behaviors, and practices of educators in using technology for learning. It will be a tool for self-assessment and continued learning for individual teachers and a roadmap for Educational Technology coaches offering support. School leadership will be able to use it learn about tech-savvy teaching, to evaluate incoming teachers, and to gain insight about the skills and competencies of their teaching faculties on the whole.

Drawing upon the aforementioned resources, we developed the categories and subcategories of the framework that encompass tech-savvy teaching. We then shared them with educators and school leadership worldwide for review. Through their advice, we revised the framework to include these seven categories:

Learning – Educators build their own skills in Learning Technology and develop attitudes that support continued growth.

Leading – Educators demonstrate attitudes and behaviors that lead others in the effective use of Learning Technology.

Operating – Educators possess skills and attitudes for the effective use of digital tools.

Collaborating – Educators collaborate within the school and beyond to improve learning.

Citizenship – Educators demonstrate positive code and conduct in all online interactions.

Designing – Educators design and develop activities that utilize technology to meet the needs of learners.

Teaching – Educators deliver experiences that leverage technology to enhance learning for students.

You’ll notice these categories describe the pedagogic uses of technology more than the technologies themselves. While teachers need to be technology literate, as outlined in the Operating category, their uses for personal learning, collaboration, and teaching are the true indicators of being tech-savvy. Further, these pedagogic approaches are not tied to specific curricula or national school systems. Instead, they draw upon internationally recognized approaches to contemporary teaching and learning.

Below each category, we have developed 3-4 subcategories to further outline characteristics of the tech-savvy teacher. For example, the subcategories for “Learning” include:

Approaches – Utilize a variety of resources and strategies to support their development in Learning Technology.

Innovation – Actively explores the possibilities technology has to offer for learning.

Reflecting on Impact – Thoughtfully assess the impact of what has been learned to make decisions on next steps.

Tools – Continually develop knowledge of digital tools and resources.

For each subcategory, we are developing evidence based indicators to help teachers identify where they lie along a rubric. The rubric is organized into a progression of four performance areas: Emerging, Expected, Exceeding, and Exemplary. The model for this rubric is for tech-savvy teachers to build upon internal competencies, whether internal to their classrooms or them individually, and grow externally. For example, a teacher who is emerging in Approaches would review online resources whereas an exemplary teacher author and deliver online trainings outside of the school. This rubric will help teachers document their current practices, understand the scope of tech-savvy teaching, and help them plan for growth.

After we finalize the rubric, we plan to share it with a small group of educational technology experts for a deep analysis. Once we incorporate their improvements, we will publish the framework for use by all schools globally.

Hopefully, through this work schools will better support their teachers along the EdTech journey thereby systemizing the professional development and coaching needs for successful Educational Technology program. Coaches will document their support of teachers to develop learning plans and to identify faculty-wide learning needs within a school. Individually, teachers will be able to systematically improve their skills in leveraging technology to enhance student learning using a globally recognized rubric.

The Learning Technology Framework will be available in early 2020.

If you would like to learn more about our work, contribute to the development framework, or stay informed as it is completed please contact me.

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Blended Learning: What You Need To Know – EduTechAsia 2019

Blended Learning - What You Should Know - EduTechAsia19 - Matt Harris, Ed.D
Blended Learning - What You Should Know - EduTechAsia19 - Matt Harris, Ed.D

[PDF] EduTechAsia19 – Blended Learning – What You Need to Know

In this session, I explore the key aspects of Blended Learning from benefits and challenges to learning theory, logistics, and planning. Presented at the EduTechAsia Conference, Singapore, 2019.

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Building a Data Ecology for Data Informed Decision Making – ECIS 2019

Building a Data Ecology for Data Informed Decision Making - ECIS 2019
Building a Data Ecology for Data Informed Decision Making - ECIS 2019

[PDF] ECIS 19 – Building a Data Ecology for Data Informed Decision Making

In this session, we explore the definition and value of school data, then talk about it uses in data based decision making, data analysis, and business intelligence. The session concludes with a discussion about data system design and workflows. Presented at the ECIS Leadership Conference in Lisbon, Portugal, 2019.

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