Virtual learning is poised to overthrow traditional classroom formulas within our lifetimes. What was once an institution requiring face time and seat time is transitioning to something more advanced and accommodating. Digital literacy is more important than ever. After all, we’re not training our kids to work in factories anymore; we’re training them solve social and technical problems we’re certain to face.
One of those challenges is security based. Digital crime is on the rise, and it can have a big impact on learning environments. It is therefore important that our educators and our students have the tools to combat new threats as they arise.
As with anything, it’s important to start with the basics. Until administration catches up with the curve, here are some simple tips you can use to teach students about digital security and keep you and your students safe online.
Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
While some well-funded educational institutions are already beginning to install their own VPNs, it is not universal. Yet, a VPN is an integral component to security in any online setting. VPNs encrypt internet connections and foil hackers’ attempts to steal data by intercepting packets from the net.
They also serve to make the users connected to them anonymous. Many users can simultaneously connect to a remote server and share the same IP address, making one user indistinguishable from another.
Services are generally paid, but the price is relatively low, usually between $5 to $15 per month, depending on the form of subscription and service chosen. Secure Thoughts has a good review on the different services. As the teacher, you’re the last one who should get hacked and lose private student data; set a good example and start by keeping your internet connection safe and share this knowledge with your students so they can learn how to use a VPN to protect their identity online, both at home and during class.
Install Anti-Malware Software
As obvious as it seems, anti-malware (or anti-virus) software is something everyone should have, but in spite of this common wisdom, there are plenty of users who do not maintain an active service. That is largely because anti-viral software included in most devices is a costly subscription that expires.
Rest easy—there are plenty of very good anti-malware services that are free for private use. If your educational institution doesn’t provide a corporate edition of security software, grab yourself a service such as Avast or Panda Free Anti-virus. These services automatically update, are available for multiple types of devices and are free for private use.
Encourage your students and their parents to use these services too, as malware frequently spreads from one user to another, particularly when social media is involved.
Use Password Tricks
Though many are aware that using a strong password is important for account protection, that doesn’t mean they fully understand what constitutes a good password. Too often passwords end up being “somethingsignificant1.” Maybe the requirement has a capital letter, so it becomes “Somethingsignificant1.” The problem is that said significant item is usually easy to guess with cursory research.
Passwords should be very much unrelated to a person’s family or personal interests. Nonwords are the best, and a healthy mixture of characters is always beneficial. Take the difference between this common password and a variation of the same thing:
Naturally, it’s better to use random strings of characters, but that isn’t easy to remember. If you’re going to use a weaker password, you might consider two-factor authentication instead. Have logins require a secondary password generated by another source, such as an email or text message. That way unless the person has access to both the password and the randomly generated password, there’s no access.
After sharing the importance of strong passwords with your students, quiz them by asking them what a strong password should look like or include. Ask them to provide examples, as well as why strong passwords matter. If you need some additional tips for educating your students about digital security, Edutopia.org has some great examples of how you can integrate these teachings into your classroom and help your students stay safe online.
Do you have some of your own security tips you’d like to share? Help educators do a better job by posting a comment below.
About the Author: Cassie believes in the value education can offer all of us. With a specialty in online safety, she frequently writes about ways users can better protect themselves on the internet.