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  • Four “How To’s” for Building Your Ransomware Defense and Response

    Posted by Bryan Ruzenski, Director of External Technology Services & Molly Schwemler, Digital Media Specialist on 9/30/2021 1:00:00 PM

    Ransomware: the scourge of modern information technology. In the span of a few years, Ransomware attacks have gone from a fringe concern to the primary cyber threat facing organizations worldwide. Ransomware poses a particularly dangerous threat to education agencies because of the more open nature of our networks, relatively lower cybersecurity funding and legacy systems as compared to the private sector.

    How do these specific challenges impact technology professionals and those in education? It means that educators, administrators and education technology professionals bear the weight of an immense amount of responsibility. We are entrusted with the safety, both physical and emotional, of our children. In addition, we also must ensure that tax dollars are used efficiently and not wasted. In an increasingly digital society, these needs for safety and financial stewardship also include the security of our children’s information and the financial responsibility to protect digital data from malicious attackers. The safety and security of critical school district data, files and records and district systems are a top priority for all technology professionals in education. Neglecting these crucial areas can leave sensitive district and student information vulnerable to cyber threats, including malicious software attacks, intentional server or website overloads, social engineering, accidental deletion of critical records and, of course, ransomware.

    As we strive to protect the security of student information and financial resources and Ransomware attacks remain on the rise, we’re bringing back of few of our trusted “how to” strategies for ensuring the security of vital district and school data. 

    1. HOW TO PROACTIVELY DEFEND DATA

    Regularly scheduled backups of all data over a secure infrastructure are critical for avoiding data loss in the event of an attack, server failure or deletion. To save on bandwidth following an initial full backup, incremental backups can be set up so only changed data is backed up after a full backup. Our Rubrik solution uses an "incremental forever" backup model to ensure fast backup times, efficient use of storage and appropriate bandwidth usage. Ideally, you want multiple backup copies. It is best to backup data to an offsite location and replicate to a remote location so that it is securely accessible in two places.

    2. HOW TO PREVENT CORRUPTION

    Now that you’ve scheduled your backups and made multiple copies in secure locations, that must be enough to ensure your information is safe, right? Not yet. Your backups themselves could still be vulnerable. The data that you stored in an offsite and remote location needs to be encrypted and protected from changes. Creating encrypted and protected backups enhances the safety of your data as it is now immutable (unable to be changed) once in storage.

    3. HOW TO RECOGNIZE A RANSOMWARE ATTACK

    Backing up data that is already corrupted doesn’t do any good. You can develop customized actions and monitoring to help protect against Ransomware attempts. Consistent monitoring, as well as the attention of technical professionals, can detect and report potential signs of a Ransomware attack, like unusual file changes (files added, deleted, changed, encrypted). Our Rubrik solution uses machine learning over time to distinguish unusual file activity from normal file usage.

    4. HOW TO RECOVER FROM AN ATTACK

    In the unfortunate event of an attack, be prepared for the recovery process. If the previous strategies have been implemented, it will be much easier and faster for your team to recover compromised files, either to their original location or to a completely new location. With a detection system like the one included with Rubrik, you will be notified of a suspected compromise and can begin taking steps to recover right away. Your first action would be confirming if the alert is a true attack or a false-positive. If it is an attack, you would move to recovery and restore the last “known-good” backup to a standby server. Then you can resume normal operations while you work with your incident response team to investigate the attack.

    Although cyber attacks can impact our systems when we least expect it, practicing and incorporating these strategies and tips into our usual security process can help us to not only react more effectively when our cybersecurity is threatened but also to prevent issues before they occur. If you are specifically concerned about any of the cybersecurity threats or lack of existing districtwide solutions to the issues detailed in this post, you might also benefit from discussing Rubrik as a potential solution!

    If you would like to learn more about how Chesconet can help you detect and recover from a Ransomware attack, please contact Bryan Ruzenski, the Director of External Technology Services at the CCIU. Bryan can be reached at 484-237-5026 or bryanr@cciu.org.

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  • Preparing Your Teen Driver

    Posted by Kelsey Mattia, CCIU Communications on 6/22/2021

    [Estimated Read Time: 2:54 Minutes]

    Learning how to drive can be stressful for both teenagers and parents, but it doesn’t have to be! Spending time with your teenager to help them feel comfortable in the driver’s seat can make a world of a difference when they’re first learning how to drive.

    If you’re wondering where to even begin, we’ve got you covered!

    Before setting off for the first time, whether it’s on the road or in a parking lot, make sure to give your teenager a tour of the car’s interior. Explain what each control is and how to operate it. The following list of controls is a great place to start:

    • Gas pedal versus brake pedal
    • Transmission
    • Parking brake
    • How and when to adjust mirrors
    • Turning signals
    • Emergency/Hazard lights
    • Headlight controls (don’t forget the high beams!)
    • Dashboard warning lights
    • Interior lights

    Once your teenage driver feels comfortable inside of the vehicle, it’s time to begin driving! Start out in an area where there are no other drivers, such as an empty parking lot. Remember, this is a brand-new skill your teenager is learning, so it will take some time for them to get into the swing of things and feel comfortable behind the wheel. Start off slow and begin by focusing on driving in a straight line and stopping smoothly. Once this is achieved, move onto something difficult, such as driving in reverse or parking.

    Keep in mind, this will take time! If it’s frustrating for you it is probably frustrating for them as well, so allow them to learn at their own pace. Also remember to praise them for doing well and encourage them if they are struggling – which they probably will struggle, as learning something new can be challenging.

    Once they are comfortable driving in an empty location, ease them into driving on the road. Remember to take it slow and let them go at their own pace.

    Here are some things to keep in mind when your teenager is ready to drive on the road:

    Do’s:

    • Start in a residential area
    • Graduate to more congested roads at their pace
    • Advance to higher speed limit roads
    • Drive on larger, multi-lane highways last (at first, stay in the far-right lane so your teenager can get used to the highway)
    • Go over what to do in an emergency or during bad weather

    Don’t:

    • Rush your teenager into scenarios they aren’t ready for
    • Distract them (they have enough to pay attention to!)
    • Backseat drive (you may have more experience, but they are in the driver’s seat)

    Want to know more about best ways to prepare your teenage driver? The following is a list of resources you can use to learn even more about teaching your teenager to drive:

    • Young Driver (PennDOT)
      • This article from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) includes a brief explanation of PA’s graduated driver licensing law, such as requirements and rules for learner’s permits, junior licensees and unrestricted licenses. It also includes a short quiz that young drivers can take to test their road knowledge.
    • Do You Know How to Parallel Park? (PennDOT)
      • Another great resource from PennDOT that focuses on perhaps the scariest part of the driver’s license road test: parallel parking. It provides a step-by-step explanation and even includes an infographic detailing how to parallel park safely.
    • Teen Drivers (PennDOT)
      • A directory sharing multiple resources available throughout PennDOT’s website.

    Do you have other ideas or strategies for teaching your teenage driver? We would love to hear them - share a comment below!

    Additionally, if you are interested in learning more about any of our driver education services or driver’s license testing centers, visit our Driver Education & Testing website.

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  • NEW CCIU Driver Education and Testing Center Offerings

    Posted by Kelsey Mattia, CCIU Communications on 6/10/2021

    [Estimated Read Time: 1:54 Minutes]

    The CCIU’s driver education services are the key to helping you become a safe and successful licensed driver!

    Did you know that the CCIU offers Driver Education and Testing services for both high school students and community members in Chester County and beyond? Choose from Behind-the-Wheel lessons, an Online Theory course, a road test and other driving packages that will help prepare you to become a successful driver – and, we are excited to announce four brand-new Driver Education and Driver Testing Center offerings:

    • Parallel Parking Lesson
      • Overview: 15-minute Behind-the-Wheel lesson on how to parallel park. 
      • Cost: $30
    • Adult Refresher Lesson and Test
      • Overview: For drivers 18 years of age and older, receive a one-hour, Behind-the-Wheel driving refresher lesson before completing the on-the-road driver examination through the Chester County Intermediate Unit, a certified Pennsylvania Department of Transportation third-party driver testing center. 
      • Cost: $155
    •  Ready-to-Drive Package with Test During Final Lesson
      • Overview: Discounted package including six, one-hour, on-the-road driving lessons with the on-the-road driver examination completed by the CCIU Driver Testing Center during your final Behind-the-Wheel lesson. Provides students a quick refresher lesson prior to beginning their test. 
      • Cost: $600; $662 for out-of-county 
    • Prepared Driver Package with Test During Final Lesson
      • Overview: Discounted package including 30-hour Online Theory course and six, one-hour, on-the-road driving lessons with the on-the-road driver examination completed by the CCIU Driver Testing Center during your final Behind-the-Wheel lesson. Provides students a quick refresher lesson prior to beginning their test.
      • Cost: $700; $762 for out-of-county; +$45 for 40-hour course 

    Learn more about our packages and pricing!

    Additionally, we are excited to announce that we have launched a new driver services system for Driver Education students, which will streamline the process for managing and reviewing students’ driver education training.

    With this new, user-friendly system, students will be able to utilize the following features, all from a mobile device: 

    • Schedule their next driver training appointment
    • Cancel and/or reschedule an existing appointment
    • Receive text message reminders prior to their scheduled appointment
    • Keep track of their driving hours
    • Review their driver training evaluations from instructors

    We look forward to continuing to implement new and exciting Driver Education features and services so that students can continue on the road to becoming successful drivers!

    For any questions please contact Driver Education Services at 484-237-5945 or drive@cciu.org or visit our Driver Education & Testing website.

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  • 5 Tips for Creating Instructional Videos that Engage Students

    Posted by Kammas Kersch, Educational Innovation Specialist, Molly Schwemler, CCIU Communications on 3/29/2021 9:30:00 AM

     5 Tips for Creating Instructional Videos

    [Estimated Read Time: 2:30 Minutes]

    Over the last year, many educators have turned to instructional videos as a method for delivering content to students asynchronously. While our current circumstances may have increased the number of teachers using this strategy, using pre-designed video content to share important educational ideas, lessons and skills has been around for quite some time. Khan Academy has been using videos as a source of instruction since 2008, which initially began when Khan Academy founder, Salman Khan, began posting videos to YouTube to help tutor his cousin.

    To help you start implementing video content or improve the instructional videos you are creating, we have 5 key tips for creating engaging instructional videos for your students!

    1. Keep it short!
      It is more effective to record multiple short videos than a single long video, especially for younger students. A great rule of thumb is to use the grade level as the maximum number of minutes for your video (ex. 5th grade - 5-minute max video). Research from the University of Wisconsin supports shorter videos and encourages videos to be no longer than 15 minutes. If you keep the videos topical, they also become a great review resource for students when they need to focus on a particular concept.

    2. Make it topical
      One of the best parts about creating instructional videos is that your students can go back and refer to the videos any time they find themselves in need of a refresher on a particular topic. It is much more difficult for students to do this if each video attempts to cover multiple topics. When you outline the content to be covered in a particular unit, consider each piece of content as its own video. This will make it easier for you to create the videos you need and for students to utilize the videos.

    3. Plan it out
      Before pressing the record button, plan out what you want your video to include. This could mean sketching an outline, creating slides you plan to voice over or doing the calculations for practice problems you plan to cover. Some educators prefer to write out a script, others do not. How should you prepare? Consider how you would prepare to deliver this information if you were in front of your students and take a similar approach. Effective preparation will make recording much easier and faster!

    4. Be yourself
      When you teach face to face, your students enjoy the unique ways that your sense of humor and personality shine through in each lesson. The best instructional videos include your personality, too! It is a great idea to include the same puns, jokes and anecdotes that you would have if you were teaching the lesson in front of the class. Doing so will help your students remember the information and stay engaged with your instructional video.

    5. Leave room for imperfection
      When you are recording your instructional video, it is very possible that a dog barks, you misread a number or you have to rewrite a word. All of that is okay! When your students open your video to hear their very own teacher explaining a concept, they expect to hear your voice and your explanations. They are not expecting a perfectly produced Hollywood movie. You can edit and adjust your video as needed, but give yourself grace if there are imperfections.

    How can you utilize these tips to provide the best instructional experience for your students? Share your ideas in the comments!

    If you are interested in learning more about designing engaging asynchronous instruction and video content, the CCIU offers, you’re invited to participate in our STEM and Educational Innovation network.

     

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  • Leading from Afar: Strategies for Establishing Presence Even at a Distance (Part Two)

    Posted by Kylie Hand, Online Learning Coordinator and Molly Schwemler, CCIU Communications on 3/15/2021 8:00:00 AM

    Leading From Afar (Part 2)

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    [Estimated Read Time: 3 Minutes]

    As the pandemic, and most recently, the winter weather, continue to throw twists and turns regarding returning to in-person learning, principals’ commitment to steady leadership and flexibility have been paramount for providing a sense of consistency and hope in their schools. Despite the potential of additional in-person opportunities on the horizon for students, many students will continue to engage in hybrid or virtual schooling. In our first post for school leaders on leading from afar, we established the need for principals’ instructional leadership presence among students and gave some strategies for virtual visibility.

    Whether your students are mostly virtual or beginning to return to in-person instruction, it is important to continue evaluating your current strategies for connecting with students and communicating their sense of belonging within the school culture while they are at home. While we know that school principals have a vital impact on student achievement, now principals truly can be two places at once - in students' at-home learning environment and in school buildings. Consider these additional strategies for leading from afar below and let us know what has worked well for you!

    1. Plan a Virtual Talent Show to Celebrate Student (OR Teacher) Talent
    2. Facilitate a Schoolwide Service Project
      • Getting students to feel part of something bigger than themselves while helping others can go a long way for connection right now. Collaborate with your student council or parent teacher organization to develop smaller teams and find worthwhile projects.

    3. Virtually Shadow a Student for a Day or a Week
      • Get insight into the online learning experience and bond with students who may need extra encouragement by participating in class with them. Take a look at Stanford school’s Shadow a Student Toolkit for guidance.

    4. Bring School Community to Students Wherever They Are! 
      • Although this doesn’t count as an entirely “online learning” strategy, having local, personalized presence within a community or neighborhood goes a long way in helping to increase student attendance and engagement. You don’t have to organize a car parade like some schools did in the spring 2020, but consider the positive impact of delivering simple recognitions, such as certificates or yard signs, incentive prizes, school materials and books. For an example, check out what Avon Grove School District did.
      • If you and your staff are making deliveries, consider including a meaningful momento: a framed 4x6 picture with a word of encouragement, a new book or a special bag with school “swag.” You can see what the Reading School District did in August of 2020.
      • You could also plan an outdoor neighborhood pop-up bus with giveaway information, school materials, on-the-ground tech support, books and fun! 
      • Don’t forget about sending surprises in the mail to students, too!

    5. Leverage Data to Help Determine Your Reach
      • Whether informal conversations or formal analytics, revisit data to see if you can better discern which strategies are reaching students. Are you having consistent participation? Are students watching your schoolwide announcements? Are you asking students for feedback? You’ll discover what strategies are working and which ones you may not want to continue.

    Give these ideas, or those from our previous post, a try and let us know how they worked for you in the comments. We also invite you to continue sharing any of your ideas and strategies for building relationships and instilling connection at a distance – we come up with our best solutions together!

    If you would like to connect with fellow Chester County principals, consider joining a cohort of the Principal Study Council for collaborative study and discourse! The Principal Study Council may already be well underway for this year, but you can learn more or email your interest in a future cohort to council leadership by visiting our information page.  

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