TikTok settles lawsuit over COPPA compliance

Popular isn’t always safe!

TikTok is a popular app for making short video clips with effects, especially music. In some ways it resembles Snapchat.

Filed December 3rd and settled December 5th, the class action lawsuit against TikTok alleged that the app “tracked, collected, and disclosed the personally identifiable information and/or viewing data of children under the age of 13— without parental consent”. We can only surmise why the $1.1 million settlement would be reached so fast.

There is a real draw for kids to use this kind of social media app. Growing up with touchscreen devices all around them, children rarely need any directions to start using a new app, and when one of their friends is using an app, they don’t want to be out of the loop.

COPPA or the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act is a rule created in 1998 by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It puts protections in place for minors under the age of 13 that make it illegal for websites and software applications to collect sensitive information about younger visitors and users such as first and last name, home address, telephone number, or any images or other media that include the child.

The settlement serves as a reminder of how important it is that we be prudent when we choose the online platforms our children use.

The New Year, A New Beginning

The start of the 2017-2018 school year presents new and interesting challenges for Penn Manor. There were many changes in the IT department over the summer, and the reopening of Conestoga Elementary School presents it’s own challenges.

Here is a sampling of some of the projects that we’ve been working on over the summer:

  • Update Windows imaging to Windows 10 and move to new Windows deployment tools
  • Update Mac OS imaging tools and develop a new Mac image
  • Update FLDT to handle UEFI for new Lenovo 11e hardware
  • Update Password Reset tool
  • Migrate to Gmail from Exchange
  • Plan and launch 1:1 pilot at the Elementary level

All these changes and at the same time, we’re look for a Technology Specialist to fill an open position in our ranks. It has been an exciting ride, but we did it, and there is even more to come!

This year, I’ll be permanently working at three school buildings: Central Manor, LeTort and Conestoga elementary schools. For the start of the year, I’ll also be taking care of Eshleman Elementary school as well. This doesn’t mean I won’t be able to initiate some interesting projects this year once things settle down. In fact, in just a few weeks, I’ll be talking with teachers and principals at each of the four schools under my care about the following potential projects

  • Tech October (a month to promote technology around the school)
  • Tech Clubs (specifically focused on 1:1 pilot classrooms)
  • Student Projects
    • Video projects
    • Research and Development projects
    • School-wide, cross-discipline projects

The opportunity to promote the proper integration of technology into one’s life is a great honor and privilege, and I’m thrilled to be a part of the Penn Manor IT team!

Tech Club Updates – Jan 2017

The first few weeks of Tech Club have been very exciting! Students from Central Manor and LeTort elementary schools have had the chance to see inside laptops and a desktop, and learned about some of the parts of a computer.

Some students at LeTort had the chance this week to replace hard drives in some student laptops that had bad ones. This was the first time any of them had seen a ribbon cable or interacted with connectors on a motherboard. Several of them were able to replace the hard drive and watch it successfully boot up.

We’ve also started experimenting with some software that they will use to make a project. Some of them are interested in making graphics for the project, so I’m showing them Inkscape. 6th grade at LeTort will be making a webpage so they’re being introduced to HTML and CSS. Others will be working with Scratch to make their very own computer game!

Scratch is designed as a platform to teach the basics of programming. One of the teams has already made an intro screen, and the other team using scratch has worked out some of the controls for their game. Both games will focus on Mariner 2, a spacecraft that is our theme this year. They have one full month yet until the end of this cycle to work on their project. It will be interesting to see what they develop.

An Exciting Beginning!

Today was the first Tech Club meeting at LeTort. Central Manor will start tomorrow. These kids seem very enthusiastic about technology and are excited to start doing things. Each tech club member is getting a small 3d printed wrench with their name on it.

For our first day, I’m starting by showing them what a hard drive is and letting them take one apart to see the working parts inside of it. This group seems pretty interested in doing some things with video and programming, so I’ll be looking for some activities to inspire them.

Starting A New Tech Club

Starting on January 17th and 18th, a select group of students in 6th grade at Central Manor and 5th and 6th grade at LeTort will have the chance to interact more with technology in a new Tech Club over lunch recess.

This is a win-win project for student, teacher, and tech. Students will be exposed to technology in a more hands on way and will learn how computers work, and how to use different software to do various tasks.

Several students from each class might be interested, but the teachers will choose only two that will participate. They will be able to choose this based on the student’s performance, grades, attitude, and any other factors that they feel are important. Since not every student that’s interested will be able to participate, teacher’s will be able to leverage the club as motivation.

And of course, as these students will be helping to do some simple tasks, this will free me to handle things that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to. The laptop carts require repetitive care from time to time, and an ever moving inventory can be hard to keep track of.

Students have until the end of next week to fill out a Google form with their interest in the club.

The Confidence You Need

Technology can be scary. In this new digital age, we’re surrounded by new-fangled surprises of innovation that can be intimidating to approach. But we see the advantages of this new tech, and want to use it. How can we make the best of it without the headaches and the stress? I’ll attempt to answer that today in this post.

Why is it scary?computer broken

Life is usually a consistent cycle. One day rolls to the next and we build on our habits. But now and again, we have a bad day. All it takes is a little mishap, and our world comes crashing down. When we have a set of habits in an ordinary day, and one of those habits is interrupted because of a technology failure, it really breaks our momentum. As a technologist, I’m not immune to this phenomenon (as you can see in the image on the right). In fact, in order to become a technologist, it was very important for me to learn why this happens to us and what to do to overcome it.

Our fear of technology is based on the experiences we have with it. Every interaction with technology is a reinforcement of our opinion of technology, whether positive or negative. As a result, every negative experience we have feeds our distrust for this complex blob of electronics that we don’t fully understand.

What can we do about it?

The big question then is, what can we do about it? How can we overcome this labyrinth if we know there are going to be failures? There are three things that I think are key to getting past the barriers.

1• Understand the Possibilities

There is probably a reason you have this technology in front of you right now, so make yourself aware of what you plan to accomplish with it and how you can best do that. This sometimes means doing some exploration and learning about new features of software or new ways of doing things.

2• Have Patience

The second step is to maintain a positive attitude while using technology. Because the tech is just a means to an end, we often want to overlook it and ignore it. It’s easy to get impatient and begin reacting to an already overloaded computer. Take your time and allow the technology to play a part in what you’re doing. If you put a little of your own focus on technology, your audience will not notice the technology as much, because instead of being a distraction, it will move smoothly behind the scenes.

3• Plan Ahead

Before you do something “for real”, practice by walking through exactly what you plan to do. You should do this anytime before you present, or make anything live to the world. Testing is key when using tech regardless of what you’re using it for. The outcomes of a set of actions on a computer are almost always identical, so you will usually find flaws in the process the first time you do it.

Anything is Possible

A computer is a very powerful thing. The reason that I’ve given so much of my life to this world of circuits is because it opens the door to an endless supply of interesting things to learn and explore. From architecture to medicine, from science to art, everything can be made better and easier with technology, including and especially education. Not how much you know, but rather how you approach it is the biggest factor in what technology will do for you.

Gearing up for 2017

2016 has presented some unique challenges for me both personally and professionally. At the beginning of this year, I was running a helpdesk for a building products company by the name of Architectural Testing Inc., or ATI for short. ATI was undergoing a huge transition into it’s new parent company Intertek, and I was tasked with transitioning the helpdesk to the standard Intertek systems. It was quite a large undertaking, the biggest part of which was helping people within ATI understand the change and be ready and willing to make it. Essentially, it was my job to change a culture.

Upon completing the transition, it was time for me to either step into a new role there, or move on. With the open position here at Penn Manor, I could not be more excited to take this path and begin an exciting new journey in the world of IT. The new school year opened the flood gates on me, and I was bombarded with the interesting complexities that education brings to technology, and that technology brings to education.

It took me quite some time to begin to understand the ins and outs of the educational system, and the needs and goals of the teachers here. At the first faculty meetings at both Central Manor and LeTort Elementary schools, I talked about my commitment to providing the best possible support for these teachers and my attitude toward technology. Teachers should have the freedom to teach, and technology should be a powerful tool in their arsenal. Technology shouldn’t get in the way, shouldn’t break just when they need it, and shouldn’t be intimidating. It is my goal to give these teachers the confidence they need to use appropriate technology in their classrooms, and to be able to focus on teaching, not on whether some device will work or not.

This freedom and confidence is as interesting and challenging as the cultural transition I faced at ATI, or even more so. During this coming semester, I will be implementing some practical things that I believe will help to move these buildings in a good direction. It will be exhilarating to see what the staff and the students will be able to do together in the coming months with just a little support and direction.

OpenShot – Video Masters

6th grade at Letort finished a video project today. The assignment was to make a video giving a review of a particular book. This was quite a challenging exercise! In order to finish the project, students had to work as a team, crafting slides and props, developing a narrative, recording audio and video, and in some cases reaching outside the box to generate content. Here is a video one of the teams made. This is 100% student generated content!

The hardest job was the editor, who’s task it was to add all the video clips, audio, pictures and other resources to openshot and export a final cut. Some of them learned the hard way that an hour or more of work in openshot can quickly disappear with a simple misstep in where the files are saved.

Techy Talk: Our student laptops take advantage of the guest account for user access, which doesn’t allow files to be saved through reboots. We provide a “student work” folder in the image so that files can be saved there from the guest account. A project in OpenShot is simply a file with references to the locations of the files in it, which saves hard drive space and processing time. If any files are added to OpenShot from a location outside the student work folder, the project will crash when OpenShot opens, and there’s no way to recover it (that I was able to find).

Once we figured out how to work around the glitch, the projects mostly sailed calmly to completion. Finishing a project like this is always rewarding. Students gave great feedback after each video and talked about the things they learned.

This classroom is now ready to tackle a project like this again, hopefully with very little help from me, which they plan to do in late January.

Upcoming video project with 6th grade

Today I will start working with Beth Mitchell’s class at LeTort on a video project. Students will work in groups of 4 to make a video on a given topic.

Making a video can be a challenging exercise. Since each group will have 4 people, we will break up the project into 4 distinct roles to make it easier for each person. One person will use Cheese to record photos and videos, another will make slides and titles in Inkscape, and another will put it all together in OpenShot, depicted here. With all these moving parts, it will be important for each team to have a leader who will guide their project to completion.


This will be a great springboard for future projects involving elementary students at Penn Manor.

So Many Platforms

Penn Manor teachers and students interact with a wide range of online platforms and websites. These sites each have a lot of value for the kids.

Recently, I have started exploring these one at a time in a little more depth. It’s been very exciting to learn all the features of these web apps, and I’m looking forward to having better answers to questions that teachers have about them.

Here are some sites that are used on a daily basis in Penn Manor Elementary schools:

  • Google Drive
  • Moodle
  • Wordpress
  • ConnectEd (by McGraw Hill)
  • Spelling City