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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Top tips to make your network more secure

A colleague and I brainstormed a quick list of some ways (many not costly), to help make a school (or other) network more secure, and this is what we came up with.  What would you add?

Make this more secure
1. Setup a separate BYOD guest wireless network and do not allow these devices on your main network.
2. Enable wireless isolation on your wireless networks.
3. Do not allow users to install software on district computers.
4. Consider a network access control solution to secure wired network ports.
5. Consider internal firewalls for high value servers with critical data or at least find a way to restrict network access to these servers.
6. Keep servers and security appliances up to date and patched.
7. Endpoint antivirus and malware security is still critical.
8. Don't forget about educating users.  Active user education is critical.
9. Firewalls, Spam filters, and web filters.  Many of these devices are converging into next-generation combined products, but all of these can help scan for bad web sites, phishing links, viruses, malware and more.
10. Restrict ICMP traffic at the firewall, to limit hackers ability to scan your network.
11. Consider restricting USB drives, or at the very least enforcing malware and virus scanning on these devices.
12. Have good backups of shared drives and servers, as viruses and malware are likely to attack them.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Keeping Student Data Private

In a world of cloud services, mobile computing, and one click data sharing, keeping student and employee data private is becoming increasingly difficult.

Yours truly and and some great CTO's from around the United States shared their thoughts on this topic with T.H.E. Journal recently.

Read the thoughts at

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Texas Calculator Debate

Over Spring Break in Texas, the Austin American Statesman published an article about Texas school districts being upset that they were going to have to spend $100 a calculator for eighth grade students taking the state math assessment, as required by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). The gist of several districts' concerns is that they would rather spend the $100 on a more versatile device for students' learning than a calculator that will one be used only for math. And many districts already have tablet 1:1 initiatives where both Apples' App store and Google's Play store have many free or low-cost graphing calculator apps. Why should these districts have to spend $100 more per device, especially given that the state issued the calculator mandate without any funding to support it? Fast forward to March 20 and the TEA's Commissioner of Education, Michael Williams, issued a press release allowing districts to pilot students using graphing calculator apps on tablets on a pilot basis. This was a welcome move for districts not wanting to spend money on calculators when they already have multifunction tablets that already can host a calculator app. Notably missing from the announcement was allowing other devices to be used for testing, such as laptops or Chromebooks, which also have graphing calculator apps. Nonetheless, it is refreshing to see a state agency trying to help districts use their funds for tools that best match students' needs. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

How districts are feeding the mobile app beast?

I forgot to post this article on the Judson ISD Connect! mobile app that was done by Edtech magazine in October 2013.

Check out the article at:

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


I am very humbled and honored that the Texas K-12 CTO Council (the Texas state chapter of CoSN) presented me an award as the Grace Hopper Texas CTO of the Year at their Winter Meeting in February.

Without the incredible support and hard work of my amazing staff, this would not have been at all possible.  My staff is an incredibly hard working talented group of professionals that does amazing things each and every day.

The other group I need to thank are all the amazing CTOs and Technology Directors around the state who are part of the Texas K-12 CTO Council.  This group of individuals exemplifies hard work, collegiality, and is a group that makes each and every member better at being leaders.

More info at Judson ISD: 

Texas K-12 CTO of the Year

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Where is the app integration and innovation in K-12?

I came back from TCEA, underwhelmed, not by the myriad of great presenters, but by vendor product offerings.  Where were the companies transforming education and interconnecting systems so that educators can leverage multiple platforms as needed to help provide a better more integrated learning experience?  Most of what I saw was just incremental improvements of existing products.  While there were some standouts, I was not wowed.  

I came home to beautiful warm weather over the weekend and decided to
work off too many conference calories by exercising.  I thought about how technology has transformed fitness for me in the past couple of years and it struck me that other industries are embracing interconnected app and data ecosystems much faster than K-12 Education.  I use an app called MyFitnessPal to track weight, calories, exercise and more.  I chose this app mainly because of its very robust third party integration.  It integrates with Endomondo, which I use to track running, walking, and cycling. So I donned my bluetooth headset, which allowed me to play cloud streamed Spotify music, while I biked many miles be tracked by GPS on Endomondo. At the end of the ride my ride data was automagically synced from Endomondo to MyFitnessPal, allowing me a seamless experience that made working out a less taxing more enjoyable experience.  That is what is needed in education. We need products that integrate easily together and provide students and staff enjoyable and powerful educational experiences.  

We are seeing more companies do this. Products such as Google Apps for Education, Schoology, and Edmodo, just to name a few are working on app ecosystems so staff and students can easily integrate apps and data for a seamless and more productive learning experience.  We need a lot less siloed products that are hard to manage and do not share data and functions with other apps or systems.  Am I wishing for too much, or do our students deserve this?

This blog entry is cross posted with the great folks at SchoolCIO

Monday, January 20, 2014

Wearable technology: Coming to a classroom near you

Carl Hooker rightly noted that wearable and connected technologies were the standout of the Consumer Electronics Show. I don't doubt the days of my fridge knowing I'm low on milk and letting my grocery store know to put it on my order are not that far away. I’m perfectly fine with my fridge restocking itself.
The technology of connected everything is here. Proof enough is that it's such a beautiful day here in Texas that I can't be bothered to go inside and find my laptop, so I am writing this on my iPhone on 75 degree Texas January afternoon using Google Drive. We are very connected and classrooms are increasingly more so everyday.
So my question Carl Hooker correct in saying wearable technology is coming to classrooms?  My opinion is that for a while most teachers will be terrified of students wearing items like EyeTap or Google Glass. Is Billy looking up facts, recording me, or being inappropriate?  But then just a few years ago wasn't the idea of cell phones in classrooms thought to be crazy by most?  Wearable and connected technologies will certainly cause an uproar at times. Students will get in trouble. Innovators and us nerds will find great educational uses. And undoubtedly we will have to craft new policies, many of which will probably be too draconian and reactionary at the outset. What do you think the future holds for education and wearable technologies?