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EdTech Update





E-Mail to staff on spam

Sent this morning after getting about a dozen "is this spam?" e-mails from teachers and administrators. My deleted comments are in italics...


To all school district staff with measurable brain activity:

The district has been hit with another goddam round of spam coming from with the subject “letersSecurStar SecuryTeam Order #176857” or similar. This is just plain spam that our filter does not recognize as such. (It fits none of the “rules” the filter uses to determine whether something is spam.) Never ask a machine to do your thinking for you.

Please, please, please just delete these e-mails without replying. If you reply, you will only get MORE spam. Which you would richly deserve.

Most of us by now have enough experience with e-mail and spam after 10 years or so to determine what is legitimate e-mail and what is not. I am guessing most 4th graders can. For the 10th time,  It is spam if:

  1. You don’t recognize the sender. (The spam below came from “Enlightening A Stump.” I know no Mr/Ms Stump nor do I want to.)
  2. It comes from a non-US address. (The spam sender’s e-mail address ended in .uk. Ever since Princess Diana died, I don’t get any e-mail from the UK.)
  3. There is a financial angle. (The spam below referred to an order for something I know nothing about, let alone ordered. There is the opportunity to go to a website where you may very well be asked to divulge some personal or financial information. Although you probably will despite how often you are warned not to.  NEVER, NEVER, NEVER do this. If you think there really may be a problem with a company you do business with, use the telephone. It's that thing that sits on your desk with a keypad into which you enter as series of numbers and allows a real-time, two-way exchange of information in an audio format. )
  4. You get several e-mails with identical messages from different senders. (Still none of whom you recognize.)
  5. Replace your written e-mail address on webpages with something that looks like gullible(at) Human eyes and brains will still be able to determine your address, but Internet searching "bots" that collect e-mail address will not. No, I'm not going to explain what a "bot" is. Trust me, you don't want to know.

This is quite serious business if you respond to e-mails that ask you to verify, repair or maintain your "account" via e-mail. This is how identity theft happens. And don't you already have enough financial problems trying to live on a teacher's salary?  Again, if the e-mail is from a source with which you have never done business, simply delete it. You do this by highlighting the message and clicking on the trashcan icon or pressing the delete key. We will have a 3-hour inservice on Thursday after school if  you are still confused. If it looks like it comes from a business that you DO do business with, telephone (see description in #3 above) the company. There are many "fake" websites disguised to look like legitimate businesses designed to fool people just like you..

And finally, count yourself lucky if you receive fewer than a dozen spam messages a week. These things are rampant and unavoidable even with spam filters in place. Think of them as the mosquitos of the Internet. Even tech directors, as powerful and intelligent as they are, can't control all pests.

All the best,


Subject: letersSecurStar SecuryTeam Order #176857 will be processed manually
by our staff
Thank you for your order (#176857).
We will manually process your order and contact you soon by phone or email
Below you can find the summary of the order:
KEZAAM! Software distribution service
746 Comalli Street, Laguna Niguel
CA 92677, USA
Purchased at
Order id:     #176857
Order date:   1.11.2005 03:21
Order status: Q
Payment method:  Credit Card
Subtotal:        EUR 164.95
Discount:        EUR 0.00
Coupon saving:   EUR 0.00
Shipping cost:   EUR 0.00
Tax:             EUR 0.00
Total:           EUR 164.95 |  (USD 199.59)
Thank you for your interest in our products.
Best regards, SecuryTeam!


So am I getting too old and cranky for my job or what? 


PDF of Tech Skill Assessments

I've combined the five separate entries of technology skill assessments for incoming HS freshmen into a single .pdf document. Comments are always welcome.

See original post if this makes no sense.



Appreciation for technology cynics

I read with considerable amusement the following letter to editor in this month’s Eutopia magazine last night:
I read with considerable amusement your editor's note claiming that the latest rounds of technology are going to change human beings, and that the upcoming generation will "amaze us" (October 2005). This kind of nonsense has been claimed since time immemorial. Previously, it was claimed or hoped that the printing press, universal literacy, radio, television, the computer, ad nausea would transform us human beings in ways that would "amaze us."
But what is the evidence? Do human beings behave with more love, compassion, humanity, kindness, decency, etc., than before? Are we better, more moral or ethical people than our ancestors? Not if we honestly evaluate ourselves.
Please tell us which of our new gizmos will make us more loving, caring, and decent human beings who will treasure, respect, honor, and cherish our humanity. So we will change, and everything will remain the same. Thus it has been throughout recorded human history.
I am not going to champion any assertion that any technology has made us more humane, although, my understanding was that  being “humane” was the reason given by Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin for suggesting the invention of the technology that bears his name to the French Revolutionary National Assembly in the 18th century. I also would argue that whoever invented indoor plumbing had a very decent streak – especially toward those of us who live in colder climes. Not having to walk into the cold several times a day has made Minnesotans much happier and probably more civil to each other.

Having overly-high expectations of technology (improvement of the nature of humanity) makes it easy to be cynical about all technologies. But quite frankly, I rather enjoy technology cynics. Wired Magazine now has its own: Tony Long whose first column, The Dark Underbelly of Technology, is a good read.

I’ve been known to be a tad suspicious of technology myself in columns and articles:
If I remember, there was some old Greek (Aristotle, Socrates?) who defined technology simply as an extension or amplification of humans’ natural abilities. This make a great deal of sense to me. The telescope - an extension of the eye. The telephone - an extension of the ear. The automobile - an extension of the leg. The computer – an extension of the brain.

Doesn’t it then make sense that technology would naturally amplify both humanitiy’s best and worst tendencies?

Can we use technology to improve human nature? Do unreasonably-high expectations create cynics?