Category Archives: Parent Learning

Parent Tech Briefing – Session 6

PlatoThe final session in this course! So far we have looked at what technology is, desktop basics, search and problem solving, graphic design, website design and coding. Although a real whistle-stop tour, the aim has not to go into great depth, but rather than get a sense of a range of different ICT arenas, issues and skills. Big picture stuff.

In this final session we will look at security and what ICT technology means for our children.


Security Threats

  • Hackers vs crackers
  • Who hacks and why?
  • Social Engineering
    • Kevin Mitnick was one of the world’s most famous hackers: when he was arrested in 1995, he was top of the FBI’s Most Wanted list. Whilst technically skilled, Mitnick is best known as a “social engineer”: essentially, talking and tricking people into giving him confidential information. The following video tells some of his story:

  • Eavesdropping
    • Traditionally, eavesdropping means to listen in to a conversation. Some modern versions include:
      • Man-in-the-middle
      • Keystroke logging
      • Password watching
  • Phishing
    • Phishing is the art of tricking people into going to a fake, parallel system in order to give up some confidential information. The video explains more:

    • Phishing attacks often make use of something called subdomains:
      • The domain name of the bank HSBC is
      • HSBC can put subdomains in front of their domain, such as,
      • Only HSBC has the right to do this, as they own the domain.
      • However, there is nothing to stop me from buying (or similar), and putting hsbc infront of it as a sub domain:
      • If I use in a phishing attack, I may trick people who see hsbc, and feel safe. However, those who understand how sub domains work, understand that because it is on the left of the domain, it is not the real HSBC, and so cannot necessarily be trusted.
    • You might find the Anatomy of a Phishing Scam poster useful.
  • Identity Theft
    • Stealing and assuming someone’s identity.
    • This is often done in order to commit a crime, whilst setting someone else up to take the blame.
  • Malware
    • Includes all kinds of malicious software, such as:
      • Viruses
        • A malicious program which can replicate itself.
        • E.g. Stuxnet
      • Rootkit
        • Software which gives a user unauthorised administrator access to another system
      • Keylogging
        • Software which records the keys pressed by a user
      • Spyware/Adware/Crapware
  • Spam
    • Unsolicited, bulk emails.
    • Often spam is a nuisance, but it is also often have malware is delivered and installed.

Protecting Yourself

  • Now that you know some methods by which you can be threatened online, how can you stay safe?
  • Read through and think about these ideas, which can help keep you safe.
    • Be aware, vigilent, sensible
    • Install only “safe” software
    • Keep all software up to date (when software wants to be updated, it is often to fix security holes which crackers might exploit.
    • Create offline backups (if your data is lost, an offline backup (e.g. one that is not attached to your computer), can help you to recover).
    • Learn to recognise spam, phishing and scams.
    • Use a strong password, pin or lock pattern to secure all devices and accounts.
      • A good password should be “easy to remember, and hard to guess”.
      • Try to use at least 8 characters (10+ would be better), and combine uppercase, lowercase, numbers and punctuation.
      • XKCD provides us with a good model, which we can make more complex with some extra characters.
    • Use 2-factor authentication on your main email account(s) (if some gets into your email, they can reset all your other passwords, so email should be highly protected).
    • Always log out or lock screen before walking away from a device
    • Use anti-malware apps to scan and protect from viruses, Trojans, keyloggers, etc.
    • Be careful about what personal data you share, especially geolocation information.
      • For example, if you take a photo in your house, and your phone adds your location (aka geolocation), you should not share this photo online, as someone can use it to find where you live.

ICT & Kids

A lot of people today worry about “the kids” in relation to ICT technology. This is an age old generational game…the last generation fretting over the moral development of the next generation:

“What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?”
Plato, 4th Century BC

In fact, a lot of people worry about technology in general: also not a new thing:

“[Writing] will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves.” – Socrates, as recorded by Plato

And, with some good reason, we see a lot of fretting over our current technologies (The Twitter Trap, The Shallows, You Are Not A Gadget).

The truth is, all technology is a trade off, and we have only limited control over the technological arc in which we live (you can get rid of your smartphone, but no one else will).

So, with the aim of finding some way to guide, rear, influence and inspire our own children, let’s consider the following collection of books:


As a parent and educator I ultimately take the following approach:

  • Kids are tougher and smarter than we give them credit for.
  • Kids like it best when we are honest and open with them.
  • It is not possible to protect our children from all danger (physical, moral, etc), and neither is it desirable.
  • Rather, we need to be aware of how, where and when our children are growing up, and give them the support and nurturing needed to deal with hardship and moral challenge.
  • Failure and hardship, combined with support and nurturing, give children a chance to develop positive character traits (e.g. grit, resilience, empathy) and make healthy decisions themselves. Highly restrictive rules do no.

Finally, whilst some parents find it hard to really look at youth culture (because we are old and boring), if you really want to understand kids, look at where their culture comes from (whether they engage with these sites directly or not):

Wow….that was a lot of content and ideas.

Credits: image of plato by Ricardo André Frantz on Wikimedia shared under CC BY-SA. Book covers copyrighted by their respective owners, used under fair use.

Parent Tech Briefing – Session 5

scratchToday we are looking at programming (aka coding), which is becoming a major educational focus for governments, schools, companies and parents alike. In this session we will consider what programming is and how we can approach learning it. Most of the session will be hands on, with you attempting to learn some coding.

Hailed as “the new super power”, coding is the ability to control a computer by writing software. This allows us to make an existing computer do new things, as is the reason why computers are so popular. This is summed up in the video below:

For a more detailed look at coding, and its attendant culture, it is worth reading Paul Ford’s Bloomberg essay What Is Code?. In short, though, changing the world use to take a lot of labour and capital, but now, thanks to code and computers, it takes much less. It is almost embarrassing looking at Google’s first storage server.

Let’s now consider some of the following items and ideas:

  • Is coding for everyone?
  • Ways to code
    • Binary/assembly (see Margaret Hamilton, who practically invented software working on Apollo)
    • High-level languages (scripting)
    • Block coding
  • Coding arenas:
    • Web
    • Mobile
    • Desktop
    • Systems

So, if you want to learn to code, how do you get started. Some of the following are good first steps:

Let’s use Scratch as an example, and work together to build a simple game. After which, you can choose one of the approaches above, and have a go at crafting some code.

Parent Tech Briefing – Session 4

ParkourTonight we started off by talking about a couple of books of interest:

  • For The Win by Corey Doctorow – young adult fiction, set in the near future, investigating themes of power, politics, economics and poverty through the lens of gaming. Intensely absorbing, packing with learning and lots of fun.
  • How Children Succeed by Paul Tough – a study of the psychology, sociology and personality of success. Strongly suggests that character is more important than IQ when it comes to success, and that character can be both taught and learned.

When you arrived last week, I was watching The Internet’s Own Boy (a tragic true story I can’t recommend highly enough). Interestingly, it’s focus (Aaron Swartz) was good friends with Corey Doctorow (author of For The Win above) and Lawrence Lessig (founder of Creative Commons, which we have been using in our work).

Moving on, we used a new learning strategy, Free Learning, pioneered at my school, with the aim of increasing student motivation, freedom, passion, choice and independence. Free Learning was inspired by, amongst other things, the video below:

To start with we used ICHK’s Free Learning materials to finish up last week’s Epic Wallpaper work, before moving on to some other units, including Web Design 101 and Sell A Teacher.

The 90 minutes rushed by..but it seemed you did not want to stop learning. Please feel free to continue with your free learning projects during the week.

No classes next week, but the following week we will move onto app design on Tuesday, and then our final session on Thursday.

Free Running thumbnail image by Alexandre Ferreira on Flickr under CC BY.

Parent Tech Briefing – Session 3

Seth GodinLast week we worked through a Digital Scavenger Hunt exercise, which tested our problem solving, search and teamwork skills.

Today we are moving onto graphic design, and will use the following resources to look at the nature of creativity, and build something fun and new. Hopefully this will give you an insight into the way you and your children might use technology to be not passive consumers, but rather active media creators.


Credit: thumbnail image taken from PressPausePlay, used under assumed fair use.

Parent Tech Briefing – Session 1

MonkeyWorking in collaboration with First Code Academy, I have been working to design and deliver a series of tech-focused workshops for parents. Dubbed the Parent Tech Briefing, these sessions are aimed to help parents understand the meaning of technology, become more fluent computer users and experience some of the opportunities their kids receive in school and at FCA.

This post will be used to capture and share notes of each session, for use by the participants as well as anyone else who has interests in these areas.

Session 1

In our opening session, the aim was to answer the question Why Technology Matters and then move onto look at some desktop basics. In looking at the issue of technology we took a whistle stop tour of the history of technology, its deep and central meaning to our survival and flourishing as a species and where it might be taking us (try not to think about this too much, it can feel scary for anyone with kids).

To get started, take a look at the slide deck we used to start the session off. Through these images we looked at the importance of technology to our past, and some of the problems it poses for us as a species. This was supplemented by the video below:

With a back story established, we moved onto some practical computer basics. These might seem very basic, but the context and details usually provide something for even the most advanced user. The notes below give a little summary of this segment (they are somewhat Mac-specific, but plenty applies to Windows too):

  • Desktop metaphor – we generally think that desktops are so called because they sit on a desk. In fact, the name comes from the use of a traditional desktop as a metaphor for how the computer works: we have a space, on which we can put files, folders and various apps. We can drag and drop: a simulacrum of moving things around with our hands. The video below illustrates this quite nicely:

  • WIMP – in a desktop environment we find windows, icons, menus and pointers: the four essential elements that make up a desktop’s Graphical User Interface (GUI). This is very different from older computers that offered only a Command Line Interface (CLI). CLIs are super fast and powerful, but very time consuming to learn. Conversely, GUIs take more time (a mouse is slower to use than a keyboard), but easier to investigate and learn as you go.
  • Clicking – everyone knows how to click a mouse, but these distinctions are often lost on users:
    • Single left click – aka primary click, this is used to select things, open links, etc.
    • Double left click – this is often over used, but in fact is generally only useful to open icons (but not links, buttons, etc) and to highlight a word.
    • Right click – aka secondary click, this is used to show a context menu. This can be done with two finger click, clicking with one finger whilst holding the control key, or natively on the right side of the trackpad (if you enable it in System Preferences).
  • Mission Control – on a Mac, window management is a little tricky, until you discover Mission Control (which used to be called Expose). You can initialise Mission Control by clicking F3 or swiping up with three fingers. You can also create new virtual desktops here, spreading your windows across more space.
  • Trackpad Gestures – modern computers (both Windows and Mac) are learning from mobile devices (phones, tablets), and now support some great gesture controls via the trackpad. On a Mac, try these:
    • Scrolling – two fingers up and down.
    • Mission Control – three fingers up and down.
    • Desktop switch – three fingers left and right.
    • Show/hide desktop – “exploding claw” in and out.
  • Files & Folders – files contain data (text, images, video, music, etc), and can be renamed to make it easier to search for them. Folders can contain sub folders and files, allowing us to create a hierarchy of organised content.
  • Spotlight – this Mac search function, which we can launch using command-space on the keyboard, can be used to quickly launch applications, find and open files, define words, calculate sums…and as of El Capitan (10.11) even get exchange rates. Really helps to work faster.
  • Keyboard Shortcuts – although the pointer is powerful, it is much slower than using the keyboard. We can use special keyboard combinations to shave time off each part of our work. This really adds up over 40 years! Remember, cheat sheets can help us learn and remember these tricks.
  • Hot Corners – this Mac feature lets us assign functions to the corners of the screen, so we can (for example) put or display to sleep just by touching a screen corner. Go to > System Preferences > Mission Control > Hot Corners to enable this.
  • Dock – the Mac dock is useful, but takes up precious vertical screen real estate: try hiding it, or moving it to the side in order to get more out of your display.
  • Quitting Apps – and finally…Windows quits applications automatically once the last window in that app is closed. Mac does not, keeping them handy for quick opening in future. This is great, but having too many apps running fills your RAM, slowing down the whole computer. If you have more than (roughly) five apps open, you might start to notice performance dip. Look for the little dot beside dock icons, indicating an app is still running. Quit apps in the top menu (File > Quit), or by right clicking the dock icon or using the command-q shortcut.

This was a busy session, with lots of learning. Try and find some time during the week to practice these skills before we meet again.

Image credit: Monkey image from Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA