S1 discuss what makes a great password

The pupils arrived today; The decoration stopped and the teaching started. I’m actually really happy with what I’ve managed to create in a few days – it’s by no means finished but the space is there for pupil work. The opening lessons, as always, are to remind pupils of expectations and to outline good account security before they get to log in for the first time. The difference between today’s lesson and my previous experience is the level of thought most of these pupils put into their answers. In the end I had gathered possibly the best ideas I’ve had from S1 pupils ever – a great start if we want to have these pupils leaving Higher Education with what Professor Alan Bundy suggests is a more positive qualification for computer science degrees. I’ve included the pupil quotes below each image to show how deeply they were thinking about this.

With regard to Curriculum for Excellence, outcome TCH02-08a is on the money although a little basic for the age group. HWB3-16a is suitable as the class were discussing ways to keep their account safe from unauthorised access, reducing the risk of their personal information being misused or stolen.

not password, it’s too easy

it could be the first thing that comes into your head

i like using a wacky word and then adding something like 1,2,3 to it… why? because numbers on the end of the word make a password more secure

you could have a normal word but with capital letters at random in the word

i sometimes use a word – like “password” but then have the word again – only backwards… so it would be like “passworddrowssap”

you should use something personal… some personal words or numbers… which only you would know was important

you could take the initial from each word in a sentence… like “what makes a great password?”… yes, and that would be wmagp.

you could use numbers that mean something to you… how many numbers do you think would be secure?… eh, about 4… at least 4… like a PIN number?… yes. that would be good.

you could take a normal word and move your keys to a different point on the keyboard… but still make the same shape as the original word… do you mean something like a cypher?… YES! like the code wheel where you change the letters…

you could have a collection of letters and numbers… quite a few…the more you have the harder to guess

i might take two words and jumble the letters up to make my password… wouldn’t that be difficult to remember?… not if you had one letter from the first word then one letter from the second word…

it should be easy to remember

… yes, but also difficult for friends to guess.

I then told them about a scenario where I had many different accounts that needed passwords and that I had found a great password to use so used the same one for all the different accounts. We then talked about how I could adapt those passwords to make them more secure but also just as easy to remember…

you should put numbers at the end of the password… 1,2,3,4… then they’ll all be different… how do you know which account should have which password?… hmm… (another pupil jumps in)… you could use abbreviations of the site you are logging into like “fb” for facebook, “yt” for youtube and just put that at the end of your password…

you could change letters in the word to a number…. like an O to a zero…

what about punctuation in the password?

The next class discussed alternative ideas such as keyboard shapes (they didn’t like QWERTYUIOP though, especially when I admitted that my work password 10 years ago was 1qaz2wsx!), visual prompts such as a password inspired by a sticker on a screen or a poster near to the desk they use or a colour, and we got into a discussion about how long a great password should be. The consensus was that a number of no more than 6 to 8 digits would be acceptable, but more characters if words were used.

Finally we did a quite straw poll of the length of each pupil’s password. Average was 10-11 characters but one pupil told us his was 46 characters long… AND THEN TOLD US WHAT IT WAS! Oops.

Does any educator have some suggestions to add to this list?

This Is My Classroom – August 2011

When I first took photographs of my classroom at Inverurie Academy in May it was meant as a way of recording how the displays changed each year and to help me reflect on how pupils could be better catered for. I had just finished a month long project with two S3 classes looking at classroom design and what would, in their opinion, make them happy and more enthusiastic about learning and the great dialogue my classes had with me and educators outside of the school gave me impetus to at least look further into some of their ideas – as well as ideas of my own – and to make a few changes.

Well, just before taking those photos I had sent off an application form and CV for a Teacher of Computing vacancy with a private school in Aberdeen. Within two weeks of taking those photos, I had accepted the job and handed in my resignation. It was pretty amazing how quickly everything moved and, at the end of June, I began to pack my old classroom away.

Today I began my new post and as I have been lucky enough to have been allocated my own room took a few photos to help me as I plan how best to use the space.

The new classroom is bigger but again the furniture is fixed in place. There is storage space above some of the computers which can double as displays. There is a lot of natural light – which I like – but also a lot more screen glare – which I don’t like.

The seating in the middle of the classroom is very nice with plenty of space for each pupil but promotes individual not than group work. The ceilings are very high which may allow for “washing lines” of work or something similar to be put in place well underneath the lights, appeasing the gods of health and safety. All in all, a very promising space to work in.

It does need a little bit of colour to cheer it up though! Think I’ll start with that back wall and the cupboards!

My next blog post on this topic will concentrate on some of the ideas I intend to try out to make my classroom as good a learning environment as possible. If you are in the process of creating, or have completed a great learning space for your pupils or workers please post a link to your blog / photos below as I’d love to see examples of other teacher’s work!

Augmented Reality using a webcam and laptop

I’ve long been jealous of those mobile smartphone types with their fancy embedded cameras and their Junaio, Layar and Aurasma apps. With my iPod Touch 2G I can get the apps but not the content and the closest I can get to mobile augmented reality is to watch cool videos on YouTube as I walk, or stick post-its to my headphones and play pretend…

I set myself a summer holiday target to find out more about Augmented Reality and to try and get it working on a laptop. I knew it was possible but Google searches tended to get bogged down with iOS or Android apps. However this evening I stumbled upon a web-based service called EZFlar. This site allows you to link an image, 3D model, movie, text or hyperlink to one of five fixed marker images extremely quickly (not too sure how it handles recalling the generated AR projects though – here’s a link to what should be an image of Bloom’s Taxonomy…), however this blog briefly discusses how to extend this by downloading the EZFlar program to your own machine and indulging in a bit of Flash ActionScript coding. Definitely something I’m going to try out!

I also put a tweet out asking for help in finding laptop-friendly AR applications. I had two responses, both suggesting http://www.arsights.com which uses Google Earth 3D models and a fixed marker image. It was really quick and easy to get started and I can see this being used with classes for quick and easy demonstrations of Augmented Reality. There’s a suggestion that you can use Google Sketchup to create your own 3D models and then submit links to the ARSights warehouse but I haven’t investigated it as I haven’t used Sketchup before.

So what could these applications be used for in my classroom?

  • a multimedia treasure hunt using EZFlar to store videos / clues to keep the game going
  • a fun way to display pupil work by pinning printed AR markers on the walls rather than a black and white print out of their graphic work / animation / movie
  • a method of allowing pupils to explore digital representations of computer hardware which is too expensive to buy or too fragile to hand out
  • a fantastic way of starting group tasks by using embedded audio / video on an AR-ready placemat in the middle of the group. Scanned by a webcam or mobile device, this could engage all types of learners as well as offering differentiation in the ability to replay these movies on demand (or offer extra AR markers if required)
I want to finish this blog post with a few videos I saw on YouTube. 110 Stories is an augmented reality app proposal currently attempting to get Kickstarter funding. I thought it was a great use of AR – I hope you do too.