Tech Salad

With Crunchy Bits and Bytes

Month: April 2012

The NRC at GHS

I am in Ms. Yearout-Patton’s class. We have a visitor from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission here via Skype. What a great way to extend the class beyond the walls if the school.

The students are asking questions about funding, oversight, the environment, and much more to supplement what they have  been learning over the past weeks regarding federal regulation.

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Funny and Informative

A friend who knows I’m traveling to Cork this summer sent me a link to a video today. The video explains the differences between England, Great Britain and the United Kingdom. She said I should watch carefully to avoid offending anyone while I was in Ireland. I did, and had a good laugh while learning things I never knew before.

The video is on a blog maintained by C.G.P. Grey, a public speaker who shares his expertise on time management. I did not link directly to the video because, well, Mr. Grey is not an educator and sprinkles his videos with acronyms that are not always safe for school. Instead, I’m sharing the video on gerrymandering, a topic I love to hate, which is safe and worth showing to students in Civics classes.

Minute Physics

How do you explain a fourth dimension? How about Einstein’s theory of relativity? Can you tell me how far one  minute is? The Minute Physics YouTube channel can help.

Check out all their videos. They are really fun and informative.

Mapping Data

Today I came across a great resource for Social Studies teachers over at Neatorama.

Derek Watkins is a graduate student who likes to blend “…research and design to tell stories about the world, largely through the medium of maps.” I love data and maps, and he has a blog where he has shared a few interesting projects combining data and maps. Great!

Neatorama had linked to the latest project, an interactive map showing population density. I liked it, but my favorite was the map of post office locations. This started as an animation, but is now an interactive project. Mr. Watkins lists several items to look for in the data. Any teacher could easily leave those out of view (if using a projector) and let students discover on their own.

What did I find in the data? Florida didn’t get a post office until 1827. I could trace the Mississippi by connecting the dots along the western edge of post offices at one point. The first post office west of the Mississippi seemed to be in Louisiana. The areas surrounding the Great Lakes seem to have the highest concentration of post offices. And, of course, post offices seem to bloom along rivers and highways. Pretty cool.

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Teachers might also be interested in the map showing the different names given to rivers and creeks across the country. They seem to point quite accurately at who the first European settlers to each area were.

An added benefit of these maps? They are not only informative but quite beautiful, too.

Brass Adventure

We had the good luck to enjoy a concert by the No BS! Brass Band yesterday at GHS. Mr. Sykes, our Band Director, arranged the visit and invited everyone to enjoy the great music.

Originally, I had planned to film the concert, but did not make it to the auditorium in time to set up the camera. I settled for taking pictures instead. Fortunately, the band gave me permission to use one of their songs in the background of the slide show I made. Here it is.

Once again, it is great to see GHS can be more than a school. It can be a center for the entire community to enjoy cultural events. Hopefully, now that the students know the band, we can plan an after-school concert so the parents can join us.

Is This a Scam?

We sometimes get emails that seem legitimate, and end up getting us in trouble. Here is an example I saw today, along with a few tips for evaluating future emails.

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It looks legit, right? Let’s break it down and examine it more carefully.

First, the header. It looks different from what you may have seen on your own screen if you received this email because the message was forwarded to me. This makes the sender’s email address, along with other recipients’ email address, visible. Apple would send individual emails to each customer, not bundle the emails together. Or, at least Apple would bundle emails by blind copying all other recipients so as not to disclose everyone’s email address to everyone else. Doing so would violate Apple’s privacy policy.

Second, it would seem quite a strange  coincidence for so many people in the same school division to reset their Apple ID passwords on the same day. The people sending the email probably just grabbed a bunch of emails off our websites.

Third, and this is something you would only know if you had been at GCPS a long time, Ms. Sutton has not been Ms. Sutton for a while. Apple would probably have updated records.

So, that is just the header and we have not looked at the email itself. Let’s do that now.

The email starts with “Dear Customer” instead of addressing you by your name. Dead giveaway, always. When you get an email from someone with whom you do business, they will know how to address you. You will have given them that information at some point. This is the equivalent of “Or current resident” in your physical mailbox.

The rest of the content looks just as it would if this were a legit email from Apple. I have reset my password and received messages that look, on the surface, exactly like this one. Still, there are clues that tell us this is a scam.

When I mouse over the email address, this is what I see:

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You can see that if I click on the link I will go to http://fmais.com.br/uXn1oR2L/index.html  instead of the Apple website. Do you see that .br in there? This is some website in Brazil. Apple does have facilities in Brazil, but they would probably route all their traffic through apple.com, right?

Every link in this message links to a non-Apple site. Why would Apple send you an email that would not link back to their own site?

Here are the most important things to keep in mind.

  1. Always check the email address (not just the name) of the sender.
  2. Remember nobody in Goochland County Public School ever calls him or herself “email system administrator” or any other title like that. We always include our names in our communications.
  3. Always look at the URL where the email is linking. The page where you land might look exactly like your Bank of America page, but if the URL looks odd, just leave the page.

Of course, when in doubt, ask someone. It is worth taking a few minutes to check it out than taking hours changing all your passwords and credit cards.

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