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Space Exploration Available to Classrooms Worldwide with New Online Telescope for Teachers — THE Journal

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STEM Solutions

Space Exploration Available to Classrooms Worldwide with New Online Telescope for Teachers

Slooh, the award-winning provider of online, live telescope feeds to students, announced this week it is offering an affordable way for teachers to bring space exploration to all students with the Online Telescope for Teachers.

The Slooh platform gives users online access to its network of professional-grade telescopes, located in the Canary Islands and Chile. The online telescope solution earned Slooh a number of recent awards, including Educators Pick Best of STEM 2021 from the National Science Teaching Association, among others.

The Online Telescope solution can help teachers teach astronomy by allowing students to explore and analyze more than 1,000 real-world space objects and events, the company said in a news release.

Available for $199 per teacher/per year, along with a free seven-day trial, the Online Telescope for Teachers allows teachers to book time on a telescope for their classroom to view a specific space object or event, or teachers and their students can join other classrooms that have already reserved time to view an event. Teachers can then share the recorded event with students to foster group discussion and collaboration.

“Slooh’s innovation is that an unlimited number of teachers and students can share online telescopes in a manner that includes an exchange of ideas and opportunities to learn from each other,” said Slooh founder Michael Paolucci. “Just as kids learn to play video games by watching other people play, the sharing inherent in the platform enables students to learn from the amazing things other teachers and students do with our online telescopes.”

In addition to online telescope access, the new program for teachers provides integrated curriculum-based lesson plans for elementary through college-level students that can be used in classrooms, as well as professional development opportunities to help educators easily use the technology.

“Most schools have microscopes, yet do not have access to telescopes. We are changing that,” said Paolucci. “The Online Telescope for Teachers is a cost-effective and scalable solution that eliminates the geographic, financial, and technological barriers associated with space exploration in schools. Now, teachers across the world can help their students study space and view space phenomena in real-time just like professional astronomers, via computer interface to online telescopes.”

Slooh developed the platform with input from educators on its new teacher advisory board. One of those teachers, Christine Hirst Bernhardt, said teaching astronomy — even with in-person access to a telescope — can be challenging because observations are limited by schedules, weather, and proximity.

“When we shifted to remote learning, Slooh was the solution I had long sought after – it allowed my students to observe incredible and inspiring imagery on a far greater scale than they could while sharing an eyepiece in a parking lot,” said Bernhardt, the recipient of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific’s 2021 Thomas J. Brennan Award for excellence in teaching astronomy at the high school level. “The best part is students actively design the process and truly author their learning experience.”

She noted that the online access to Slooh’s powerful telescopes brings professional astronomy to any classroom in an unprecedented way.

“Slooh has allowed my astronomy classes to finally catch up to the field of professional astronomy,” she said. “I am so grateful to have found Slooh, and cannot imagine ever teaching astronomy without it. It has truly transformed my courses and empowered my students with invaluable skills.”

In addition to the Online Telescope for Teachers, Slooh also recently launched The Slooh Space Exploration Grant through its nonprofit, Slooh.org. The grant provides an equitable opportunity for up to 1 million students from Title I schools across the United States to experience the wonders of space. Slooh is funded in part by a National Science Foundation grant.

To learn more about the Online Telescope for Teachers or sign up for a free seven-day trial, visit www.OnlineTelescope.com.

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Inventionland Course and Contest Leads to Product License for Middle School Students — THE Journal

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STEM & STEAM

Inventionland Course and Contest Leads to Product License for Middle School Students

Two eighth-grade students in the Grove
City (PA) Middle School
have garnered a product
license for their invention following completion of Inventionland’s
K–12
Innovation Curriculum
course and winning both their
middle school and regional contests. The course, which Inventionland
describes as a “cross-discipline STEAM toolbox,” uses the same
proprietary
nine-step invention process
the company follows in its
own commercial applications.

The
Innovation Curriculum is divided into elementary, middle, and high
school sections, with age-appropriate activities for various grades.
Students work in teams to develop a new product. Upon completion,
teams can enter their inventions in local, regional, and national
contests. Inventionland also helps schools to design and reconfigure
classrooms and underutilized spaces into “innovation
labs
” that facilitate immersive learning.

In
Inventionland’s nine-step process, steps 1 to 3 focus on
discovering a problem and inventing ideas to solve it using STEAM
skills. In steps 4 to 6, students sketch and create concept models of
their invention. In steps 7 to 9, they make a working model, create
packaging, and develop a marketing presentation.

They
are then ready to enter their inventions in contests
,
starting at the local level, with winners moving on to regional and
national levels, as the Grove City students did. Inventionland’s
founder, George Davis, impressed with the two girls’ invention,
contacted a product distribution company, who offered a licensing
agreement.

Visit
this page for more background on Inventionland’s history and its
education curriculum
. See
a video about how Grove City Middle School implements the Innovation
Curriculum.

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Texas CIO Report Calls for New Law Requiring K–12 Schools to Report All Cyber Incidents — THE Journal

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Cybersecurity & Data Privacy

Texas CIO Report Calls for New Law Requiring K–12 Schools to Report All Cyber Incidents

Expansion of Digital Signatures, Regional Joint IT Operations for Local, State Agencies Also Proposed

The Texas Department of Information Resources, in its newly released Biennial Performance Report, has asked the state legislature to require Texas school districts to report cybersecurity incidents to its office within a minimum reporting timeframe.

Currently, public schools in Texas are required to notify the Texas Education Agency of cyber incidents that result in unauthorized theft, duplication, transmission, use, or viewing of student information that is “sensitive, protected, or confidential as provided by state or federal law.” And the Texas Business and Commerce Code says that includes encrypted data, too, if the threat actor has the decryption key.

But, as the Texas Association of School Board discusses at length in several website guides for districts, neither of those laws explain much beyond that — and neither law requires the TEA to publish or share any accounting of the cyber incidents that are reported by school districts. Historically, the TEA has considered such data to be exempt from Freedom of Information laws.

The BPR, released Nov. 16, also requested legislative action to expand DIR’s pilot program with Angelo State University in West Texas that established a Regional Security Operations Center to provide university students with hands-on cybersecurity experience and give boots-on-the-ground support to local taxpayer-funded agencies — including K–12 school districts — that need assistance with major cybersecurity incidents.

The BPR tracks state-funded agencies’ technology progress in fiscal years 2021 and 2022; highlights their technology accomplishments; lists areas of concern; and recommends policy and legislative changes to improve the effectiveness of IT operations at state and taxpayer-funded agencies.

“Over the past two years, state agencies in Texas showed significant progress in delivering secure, innovative technology that makes government more efficient, effective, transparent, and accountable,” said Amanda Crawford, DIR’s executive director and Texas’ Chief Information Officer, in a statement announcing the report’s release. “I applaud the hard work and effort of state agencies which, along with the support of the Texas Legislature, drive the state of Texas to lead the nation in delivering a secure, digital government through well-designed, innovative, and efficient technology solutions.”

The 2022 BPR is available on the DIR website at https://dir.texas.gov/strategic-planning-and-reporting/biennial-performance-report.

Other legislative recommendations relevant to public schools included in the new BPR:

  • Enable private sector peer-to-peer payment solutions commonly used by the public to provide additional payment methods for government services
  • Enable broader access to digital government services, streamlined processes, and digitization by expanding the use of digital signatures

In discussing the need for better, thorough incident reporting, the BPR states:

“Sharing information is essential for protecting public sector assets, personal or sensitive information, and critical infrastructure. State agencies and institutions of higher education are required to report certain types of security incidents to DIR within a minimum timeframe … suspected cybersecurity incidents, including breaches and ransomware attacks, to DIR. School districts report cybersecurity incidents to the Texas Education Agency and county election officials are required to notify the Secretary of State,” the report reads.

“Also, Texas law does not set a standard timeframe for local governments to report cyberattacks. This incongruent reporting of cybersecurity incidents may hinder Texas in tracking trends and understanding the scope and complexity of cyberattacks as well as how they may be related to another cyberattack. By requiring municipalities, school districts, and counties to report cybersecurity incidents to DIR, the state will have a more complete picture of potential threats and may be able to prevent future attacks, avoiding costly response and recovery efforts.”

About the request for funds to expand the RSOC pilot program, the report states:

The law authorizing the RSOC pilot program states the RSOC “may offer network security infrastructure that local governments can utilize and provide real-time network security monitoring; network security alerts; incident response; and cybersecurity educational services. Eligible customers of the RSOC include counties, local governments, school districts, water districts, and hospital districts,” according to the BPR summary.

“DIR’s vision for the RSOC initiative is to partner with additional public universities and establish RSOCs throughout the state to serve local entities and assist in protecting the state from cyber threats,” Crawford wrote in the report. “This vision aligns with a whole-of-state approach to cybersecurity that increases the threat protection and cyber maturity of all of Texas through collaboration and partnerships. DIR is requesting funding from the 88th Legislature to establish two additional RSOCs including one in the Rio Grande Valley and one in central Texas.”

Calls for More Digital Signatures and Blockchain Guidance

Another DIR recommendation that would impact public schools statewide, if lawmakers act, is for new legislation to enable broader access to digital government services, streamlined processes, and digitization by expanding the use of digital signatures.

“Currently, a digital signature can be used to authenticate a written electronic communication sent by an individual to a state agency or local government if the signature complies with DIR’s rules as well as rules adopted by the state agency or local government,” the BPR explained. “Allowing more digital signatures in lieu of handwritten signatures, without additional rule-making, could lead to improved administrative efficiency and reduced costs.”

A final recommendation for lawmakers spelled out in the BPR is “provide guidance for distributed ledger and blockchain technology best practices.”

Nationally, a handful of U.S. universities have piloted using blockchain technology to store and share digital credentials such as academic records; although widespread adoption of blockchain for academic records at any level isn’t seen as likely to happen anytime soon, the DIR noted that 10% of state agencies have said they’re considering adopting distributed ledger-based systems.

View or download the full 2022 BPR at https://dir.texas.gov/strategic-planning-and-reporting/biennial-performance-report.

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Smart Technologies Rolls Out Android 11 Update as Part of iQ 3.12 Release for Smart Boards — THE Journal

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Classroom Technologies

Smart Technologies Rolls Out Android 11 Update as Part of iQ 3.12 Release for Smart Boards

Interactive whiteboard maker Smart Technologies has announced its iQ 3.12 release, which includes an over-the-air upgrade to the Android 11 operating system. The company says the automatic update includes better performance, features, and security and privacy upgrades, allowing more product cycle control and convenience for users.

Smart Technologies announced in Spring 2022 it was the first manufacturer to launch interactive displays supporting Android 11, with functions that relieve users from having to purchase new panels or modules. The November 2022 over-the-air update provides:

  • Android 11 upgrades to SMART V3 interactive displays with the iQ platform;
  • Greater interoperability and support for 64-bit apps; and
  • Improved iQ platform longevity using the Android 11 support timeline for patches and security updates.

In addition, all supported iQ displays will automatically receive these features, the company said:

  • Whole-class collaborative whiteboard improved with content attribution for student contributions from their devices;
  • New pedagogically designed ready-made resources for student contribution from devices;
  • Single-question assessments such as polls;
  • ‘Shout it Out’ brainstorming templates; and
  • Exit tickets and knowledge gathering.

Visit this page to learn more about Smart interactive boards for education and see this page for a comparison of Smart board displays and specs.

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URGENT: CYBER SECURITY UPDATE