How ChatGPT Can Help Close The Equity Gap in Education

Sydney Montgomery - Chief Executive Officer - Outline It, Inc. | LinkedIn
Sydney Montgomery

By Sydney Montgomery, CEO, Outline It. 

Before we can adequately consider the impacts of ChatGPT and generative AI on education we must first do a hard analysis of the purpose of education.

Researchers agree that attention to developing critical thinking skills in children is sorely lacking in education today. We focus and emphasize information memorization and regurgitation without realizing that we are failing to develop essential skills in our students. The main purpose of education should be to teach skills in students that are transferable and prepare them for their futures and scenarios outside of the confines of an educational setting.

Alongside critical thinking, communication and thought-processing skills should be the focus of ELA classes in primary and secondary education. However, 75% of employers say the students they employ are missing these critical thinking skills. What’s more, 89% of Black 8th grade students were not proficient in writing, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

In short, our current educational methods aren’t working.

ChatGPT is mainly an issue if we’re focused on information regurgitation, but it is in essence another way of democratizing access to education like Google or Wikipedia. Students can type, and hopefully one day speak, their questions in their own words and language and get answers and information with responsive and developed feedback. No more worrying about formulating your search engine query just right.

More importantly, utilizing GenAI in the classroom effectively could be part of closing the disparities in literacy levels between Black and Brown children and their counterparts. We can start to reduce the equity gap in education by making sure that under-resourced schools are able to leverage these technologies to reduce the burden on overworked teachers while still meeting the various needs of diverse learners.

GenAI can be a powerful tool in helping students mature the critical thinking skills needed to develop strong arguments. We take for granted the learning that can be developed from having intellectual debates with peers and being challenged by someone with more knowledge and experience on a topic than you in the room. However, this kind of scholarly and intellectual discourse doesn’t often happen at under-resourced schools where teachers are not only overworked and tasked with teaching overcrowded classrooms with a wide variety of learners, but they are also tasked with being social workers and meeting the basic needs of their students.

What ends up happening in these circumstances is that students often don’t end up getting the right kind of intellectual push. They don’t get their questions answered or their curiosity stimulated which would have opened up the ability for them to think more critically about the world around them. This is where ChatGPT and other models can come into place by being that intellectual thought partner that pushes back on their ideas, helps them see counterarguments they didn’t consider, forces them to defend their position or ultimately come to a new understanding.

Having students engage with ChatGPT or other GenAI bots also gives them the opportunity to critique AI-generated answers, forcing them to find holes in another’s argument which is strong preparation for the types of scholarly critique expected in a collegiate liberal arts setting. What will be important as we look to incorporate AI into ELA classrooms is that we are also looking at bias. Too often AI writing models are trained with a white, middle-class, suburban perspective, but it’s important to recognize that there are a variety of valid dialects and ways of speaking that need to be represented in any training models. Dialects ranging from African American Vernacular English (AVEE) to patois or creole need not be marked incorrect and invalid by AI models, but instead must be part of the learning scheme as we teach students to express themselves authentically.

There is an opportunity for ChatGPT and other generative AI models to be the bridge we need in education to further engage students in their writing process. We are at an inflection point in education and it would be a shame for us to miss this moment over fears of plagiarism or cheating. Students can become better writers, not lazier writers by incorporating AI in the classroom. AI can give us the power to create more personalized writing structures and tools that learn and adapt based on the strengths and weaknesses of the individual student, allowing teachers to more effectively teach classrooms with mixed levels and abilities. It can create more opportunities for students with IEP/504 Plans and students with executive functioning issues who struggle with motivation and writer’s block.

With threats to diversity in higher education coming from a variety of angles, it is important that we take bolder action to address the inequities in our current learning system and the gross disparities and achievement gaps of minoritized students, especially in literacy. Before our students can dream of upward mobility and achieving their goals, they must first be able to communicate.

Taking The Long View On School Governance

Al Kingsley

By Al Kingsley, CEO, NetSupport.

If you ask any group of people what they want from schools, the answer would probably be roughly the same—high-performing schools that help children reach their full potential, arming them with the knowledge to be critical thinkers who possess the skills to succeed in today’s job market.

Unfortunately, that might be where the agreement about what schools should do ends. There are so many opinions and experiments about what works best in education that I argue we are actually getting farther away from what schools should be for our children.

So, while I have my own theory about what schools should do, my plan doesn’t involve specific curricula or policies that will have to be changed the next time a batch of standardized tests shows a poor result. No, my plan is to take a step back from dictating daily classroom strategies and set up basic parameters that will allow schools to tap into the knowledge and expertise of their teachers while staying focused on making sure they are meeting the long-term needs of students.

Like a lot of people, I’ve been thinking about education and how to improve it for decades. However, unlike most people, I’ve approached this task with experience from a variety of viewpoints, not just a singular one. I’m chair of a group of schools in the East of England and have been in school governance for 20 years. I’m the CEO of an education technology company and have been listening and learning from educators for more than 30 years. I’m an author who’s written two books and numerous articles about education. But possibly most important — I’m a parent.

I’ve watched my children work their way through the school system and – while I realize U.K. education differs from the U.S.’s – we have a common lack of foresight about how school affects the type of adults our children become.

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The Ongoing Challenges of Take-Home Technology

Shannon Flynn

Shannon Flynn is a freelance blogger who covers education technologies, cybersecurity and IoT topics. You can follow Shannon on Muck Rack or Medium to read more of her articles.

In recent years, educational spaces have undergone massive changes. The pandemic led to millions of students staying home and engaging in virtual learning. As a result, there was high demand for new educational technologies, including tablets and laptops.

More school districts nationwide are leveraging remote technology services and devices to support students and their learning experiences. However, using educational technology presents challenges some school districts might not be aware of.

The Rise of Education Technology

School districts prioritize technological integration, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the pandemic forced hybrid learning upon virtually every school district and its institutions, it seems there’s no sign of tech adoption slowing anytime soon.

According to the EdWeek Research Center, around 90% of U.S. educators claimed that every middle school and high school student has at least one device and 84% of elementary school educators said the same. Take-home devices typically consist of tablets such as iPads or laptops like Chromebooks.

When thousands of students within a single school district use take-home devices, however, it can cause some problems for the district. For example, IT staff must now account for digital devices in students’ homes, which can open up the district to more cybersecurity threats. Like any educational model, there are pros and cons that come with students using take-home devices for their learning.

5 Reasons Why the Use of Technology in Education Presents Challenges

There’s no question that education technology, commonly referred to as edtech, is a boon to the education system. Leveraging new technologies to help students achieve academically and socially is a no-brainer. However, it comes with its fair share of challenges.

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How Student Digital Literacy Can Enhance Cybersecurity for K-12 School Districts 

Profile photo of Michael Webb
Michael Webb

By Michael Webb, chief technology officer, Identity Automation.

With the rise of online curriculums and virtual learning in both K-12 and higher ed institutions, there has been a notable increase in technology dependance. This dependency on digital tools has not only exposed children to challenges related to cyberbullying, plagiarism and online safety, but it has also made school districts incredibly vulnerable to increased cyberattacks.

Risk abounds year-round and according to hackers, student data is among the most valuable information in their sphere. They are aware that students are using personal and financial data for the first time, and find it easy to exploit their lack of awareness in safeguarding their digital identities.

Countering such attacks with the proper resources and tools can be especially difficult if there is little to no room in the IT budget for enhanced cybersecurity efforts. According to a recent report released by the Center for Internet Security, approximately one in five K-12 organizations dedicate less than 1% of their budget to cybersecurity.

While technology continues to create endless opportunities for learning, the seemingly alarming lack of cyber defenses compounds the allurement to sophisticated cybercriminals. As a result, the ever-growing data security challenge requires an effective approach to cybersecurity that first involves the development of responsible, appropriate and empowered use of technology through enhanced digital literacy.

Digital literacy starts with enhancing effective cyber skills through online awareness, (password safety, digital identity, phishing) and empowering students to protect their safety and privacy as much as possible. ISTE, the International Society for Technology in Education, defines digital literacy as including “the knowledge of and the ability to use digital technologies to locate, evaluate, synthesize, create, and communicate information. Being digitally literate includes having an understanding of the human and technological complexities of a digital media landscape. A student-friendly definition of digital literacy is using technology to explore, connect, create, and learn.”

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Prepping For The Holidays Means Preparing For Ransomware Attacks

Rick Vanover

By Rick Vanover, senior director of product strategy, Veeam

As the holidays approach, many schools are looking toward the upcoming fall and winter breaks. The same can be said for bad actors who capitalize on when staff and students are preoccupied with exams and preparing to return or leave the classroom to launch cyber attacks.

Often these attacks take the form of ransomware where bad actors seize files containing sensitive data, encrypt them and demand a ransom payment for returning the information. A single attack can lead to hundreds of student and staff medical records, financial histories and social security numbers in the hands of hackers.

Ransomware attacks on K-12 schools increased by 56% in the past two years. As the holidays approach, bad actors will be waiting for school IT departments to become preoccupied with last-minute staff and student demands. It is imperative that schools do their best to provide a learning environment that’s safe from all threats, including ransomware.

Schools should increase their cyber preparedness by developing a disaster recovery plan, educating their staff and students about cyber risks and practicing strong cyber hygiene across their networks as much as possible.

Developing a disaster recovery plan

A strong disaster recovery (DR) plan first requires an IT baseline. Schools should examine their entire IT infrastructure and develop a comprehensive list of all their hardware, software, device and applications in addition to details like passwords and file location.

With this in place, schools can then create a plan with all their IT components in mind. This plan should include clear, tactical steps to follow, and leaders should ensure that every employee knows their role and responsibilities before, after and during an attack.

One essential element of this plan is an organization’s backup approach. Schools should look to implement the 3-2-1-1-0 rule when it comes to their backup strategy as much as possible. In this rule, each number signifies a policy. First, a minimum of three copies of data should always be maintained — though schools are highly recommended to maintain four or five copies if possible. Next, at least two of the copies should be stored on two different types of media with one copy stored off-site and one offline to provide additional resources in case other backups are compromised. The final number, zero, signifies that there should be zero errors across the backups. If schools use this rule as a baseline for their backups, they should be able to recover their data and be confident in its reliability.

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How Educational Entities Can Benefit From ITSM

Hannah Price

By Hannah Price, head of UK consultancy, TOPdesk.

It’s no secret IT service management (ITSM) can help companies and businesses streamline efficiencies, cut down on costs, and improve customer satisfaction. But can it help schools? Today, many educational entities are embracing the use of ITSM, or the process and technology used to plan, deliver, and support IT services, at a rapid rate – and for good reason.

Take the average college or university for example. During any given year, there are thousands of students enrolled, and these students need help with everything from configuring the Wi-Fi to resetting their campus password. Along with students, there are faculty, staff, and alumni who also need assistance with things like booking rooms, renting equipment, and troubleshooting issues.

Accessing such services could mean a phone call, an email, or an in-person visit to the relevant department. Or it could be as simple as registering a ticket in an easy-to-navigate self-service portal.

But it’s not just higher education institutions embracing ITSM. Many secondary schools or multi-academy trusts are finding value in the performance, reliability and improved efficiency ITSM can help provide. Millfield School, for example, implemented ITSM to great success in improving communication across sites and between departments.

What is ITSM and how does it work?

ITSM is the process of designing, delivering, managing, and improving the IT services an organization provides to its end users. For example, instead of a student having to email or call the IT department for help with configuring the Wi-Fi or a professor making a special trip to the departmental office to rent a lecture hall, they simply log into their ITSM portal, fill out a request and go about their day.

Here are five ways ITSM can help educational institutions – from primary schools to universities:

1.    Reduced operational costs and improved efficiency

ITSM tools help streamline problem resolution. As a result, your helpdesk team will spend less time on each service request and the users will be back up and running faster. ITSM insights can also help identify which resources are not being used efficiently. For example, is there technology that isn’t being used because it’s out of date? Are there certain rooms that are constantly requested because they house the latest equipment and connectivity? A good ITSM tool can help you identify ways to streamline and update your school’s resources.

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10 Security Tips For School IT Administrators

Usman Choudhary

By Usman Choudhary, chief product officer, VIPRE Security Group

Vanishing budgets, reckless users, infected machines, unpatched software… This is what education IT admins are up against every day. How do you keep up? How do you ensure you’re meeting demands for the latest technology, while keeping students, faculty and staff productive, and your network secure – all while staying on budget?

Here are 10 security best practices to shore up your defenses:

Install Endpoint Security

Your best defense against the vast majority of malware is your endpoint security solution. Select one that performs strongly with independent tests such as AV-Comparatives. Look for advanced features that protect against prevalent threats like ransomware, and choose an endpoint security solution that offers protection at multiple attack points to defend against bad websites, phishing and spam, malicious URLs, zero-days and other online threats.

Restrict Administrator Rights

Only authorized, knowledgeable IT admins should have administrator rights to your PCs. While restricting rights may sometimes feel inconvenient, granting administrator rights to a broad user base is a major risk. To maintain the highest security standards, you must ensure that users cannot change critical settings, download and install whatever software programs they wish, or disable the security tools you’ve put in place. Fortunately, some malware is unable to execute and make malicious system changes if the user is logged in without admin rights, thus creating an additional layer of defense for users who may encounter malware.

Install and Update a Firewall

Whether it’s the Windows firewall or a third-party firewall application, be sure to install a firewall to defend against malicious network traffic. Firewalls monitor and control traffic in and out of your network. To protect users against downloading malicious content or to stop communication to harmful IP addresses, a firewall is a critical line of defense. Always keep it updated or it will start to miss threats.

Implement Patches

Don’t ignore those prompts to update popular software applications used in your organization. In many cases, prompts to update Adobe, Java, Chrome, iTunes, Skype and others are to fix newly-discovered security vulnerabilities in those products. Cybercriminals exploit vulnerabilities to open a backdoor onto your systems so they can drop malware and infect your network. Implement an automated patch management solution to address this issue, or select an endpoint security solution with patch management included.

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Colby-Sawyer College Receives $1.5 Million Federal Funding For New Nursing and Health Sciences Building

Colby-Sawyer College has received $1.5 million in federal funding to support the construction of a new home for its School of Nursing & Health Sciences.

The $1.5 million, allocated as part of the 2022 government funding bill signed into law by President Joseph Biden earlier this year, was earmarked to support the construction of a new nursing and health sciences building on campus at the request of U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. These funds bring the total amount raised for the $15.7 million project to $9.5 million.

“We are grateful to Sen. Shaheen for her continued support of the college’s commitment to preparing uniquely qualified healthcare professionals for generations to come,” Colby-Sawyer President Susan. D. Stuebner said. “This state-of-the-art facility will ensure that Colby-Sawyer is prepared to meet the latest trends in healthcare education while also serving as a space that will benefit students across all majors.”

Colby-Sawyer announced its intention to construct a new 20,500-square-foot home for its School of Nursing & Health Sciences earlier this year to help accommodate growing enrollment within its undergraduate nursing and health science programs. Construction of the facility, slated to begin this spring and be completed by fall 2024, will also allow the college to integrate state-of-the-art technology into its classrooms and laboratories.

The announcement of the building and the college’s commitment to increasing enrollment in its health science programs comes at a time when healthcare providers across the nation are struggling to fill workforce vacancies. According to a recent NH Business Review survey, more than 2,000 healthcare worker vacancies in New Hampshire were left unfilled in 2018, with experts saying they expect that number to increase in the future.

To address this shortage, Colby-Sawyer has pledged to significantly increase enrollment in its undergraduate nursing program, expand its Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program and add additional health science programs in areas of specific need. These programs include a master’s degree in social work as well as a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.

“All of us at Colby-Sawyer are grateful to Sen. Shaheen for her leadership and for her support of the college’s efforts in addressing a growing shortage of highly trained healthcare professionals,” Vice President for College Advancement Dan Parish said. “This new facility will not only provide state-of-the-art laboratory and simulation spaces for health sciences students, but it will also serve as a gathering place at the heart of the campus for our entire community.”

As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Shaheen successfully advocated for the inclusion of $62 million to support projects in New Hampshire involving infrastructure, healthcare, research, homeland security and more. The $1.5 million being allocated toward a new School of Nursing & Health Sciences building is among more than $15 million being designated toward labor and health and human services projects in the Granite State.

“I’m thrilled that Colby-Sawyer is benefitting in a big way from the congressionally directed spending process, which demonstrates why this process is so important to help smaller states like New Hampshire get their fair share,” said Shaheen, after the government funding bill was signed into law earlier this year. “I pushed for these federal dollars to be included for Colby-Sawyer’s nursing program because we know about the incredible education and training provided at the college, which is a boon to our nursing workforce in New Hampshire. As we fight our way through the pandemic, increasing our healthcare workforce — especially among nursing staff — is pivotal. Nurses are healthcare heroes and I’m thrilled to see this funding come home to New Hampshire to help train and educate the next group of these devoted professionals.”

The two-story facility will include common areas and conference spaces, as well as classrooms, faculty offices, laboratories, a simulation center and a coffee shop, among other spaces.

Prevention Is Wiser Than Reaction: Cybersecurity Awareness Training for Faculty and Staff in Higher Education

Shannon Flynn

Shannon Flynn is a freelance blogger who covers education technologies, cybersecurity and IoT topics. You can follow Shannon on Muck Rack or Medium to read more of her articles.

Cybersecurity is a top concern for most high-performing organizations regardless of size, location, or industry. The cybersecurity threat landscape is growing rapidly for a few reasons.

Effective cybersecurity awareness training is one critical element of virtually every cybersecurity program. Without this piece of the puzzle, higher education institutions and their faculty and staff cannot adequately protect themselves and their students from cyberattacks.

Continue reading to learn more about cybersecurity in higher education, why prevention is wiser than reaction, and the technologies and resources institutions can use for cybersecurity awareness training.

Why Higher Education Is a Target for Cyberattacks

The world is becoming more digital than ever, adding to the massive amount of data circulating online. Additionally, cybercriminals took advantage of the rapid shift to hybrid learning, targeting members of colleges and universities and the digital tools fostering a successful learning environment.

BEcause of expanded attack surfaces, many institutions are rethinking their cybersecurity strategies. In doing so, they are actively protecting their financial assets and reputations. Ultimately, all colleges and universities aim to maintain a strong cybersecurity posture so faculty, staff, and students can succeed in the academic environment.

Using a Proactive Approach to Cybersecurity in Higher Ed

Some college and university leaders might believe their school is not at risk of experiencing a cybersecurity incident. However, the reality is that higher ed is a prime target.

Cybercriminals attack higher ed schools for several reasons: Extracting private data, leveraging malware, forcing payments using ransomware, or causing network outages to disrupt operations.

As mentioned above, colleges and universities quickly pivoted during the pandemic to build their digital infrastructures, create an open technology environment, and encourage information sharing. Unfortunately, these benefits are double-edged swords because it makes the job of a cybercriminal that much easier.

Because higher education institutions could face an increased risk of experiencing cybersecurity incidents, they must use a proactive approach to cybersecurity instead of a reactive one. One way to be proactive is to implement effective cybersecurity awareness training for all college and university faculty and staff.

3 Benefits of Cybersecurity Awareness Training for Faculty and Staff in Higher Education

There’s a strong business case for colleges and universities to train faculty and staff in cybersecurity. Here are three primary benefits this training can offer a higher education institution:

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Chandler Unified School District Deploys Fortinet’s Security Awareness and Training Service

Fortinet, a global leader in broad, integrated and automated cybersecurity solutions, today announced that Chandler Unified School District is providing its more than 5,200 faculty and staff with Fortinet’s information Security Awareness and Training service to build cyber awareness and to further strengthen the district’s security posture.

Tied with the White House National Cyber Workforce and Education Summit in July, Fortinet announced the expansion of its existing Security Awareness and Training service to K-12 school districts across the United States free of cost. Chandler Unified School District joins other districts across the U.S. reaping the benefits of Fortinet’s free service offering, enabling them to build a cyber-aware workforce and improve their skillsets to avoid breaches at educational institutions.

Chandler Unified School District Selects Fortinet’s Cyber Awareness Training
Chandler Unified School District has seen the value of Fortinet’s service and is deploying it across the district to provide its faculty and staff with skill sets and knowledge that could prevent them from falling victim to popular cyber adversary methods, such as social engineering attempts, helping to reduce their cyber risk.

Colleen Flannery, Chief Technology Officer for Chandler Unified School District shared, “With more than 5200 staff and faculty logging in from both school and personal devices, it’s important everyone has the skills to recognize social engineering and other popular attacks. Cyber criminals don’t discriminate against the education sector, which presents a real need to ensure all our faculty and staff are cyber informed and know best practices. There’s no reason why a public school district should pass up this opportunity Fortinet is providing free of cost to use their award-winning training curriculum to instill must-have cyber skill sets. More than ever, cybersecurity is everyone’s job, and we want all our school members to practice this in their day-to-day online activities.”

Building Cyber Awareness in K-12 School Districts
Many K-12 school districts are rapidly transforming their networks to implement e-learning and other digital programs to enhance student learning across distributed campuses. As part of school districts’ digital transformation, it is critical that schools implement the right security solutions with integrated and comprehensive protection to keep the large amounts of personally identifiable information (PII) they store secure. At the same time, as the first line of defense, it is also essential for all school district employees to have a fundamental cyber awareness knowledge in order to spot any threats or cyberattacks.

To address this need, Fortinet offers its Security Awareness and Training service at no cost to all K-12 school districts in the U.S., and has updated the training for this offering to be education-focused, aligned with NIST 800-50 and NIST 800-16 guidelines. This initiative will help more than 8 million staff and faculty members across the country.

Validation as a Certified Cybersecurity Training Program
Providing further validation, local governments are recognizing Fortinet’s Security Awareness and Training service customized for school districts as a certified program, including the Texas Department of Information Resources, who added the service to its list of approved and certified cyber training options as part of the statewide employee requirement for cyber awareness training.

Rob Rashotte, VP of Global Training and Field Enablement at Fortinet said, “As the first line of defense, it is critical that school faculty and staff are able to identify and report threats to keep sensitive data and information secure. Fortinet’s Security Awareness and Training service, with customized learning content for school districts, will help develop cyber-aware culture to prevent these institutions from falling victim to cyberattacks. Making this service free to K-12 school districts in the U.S. is part of the Fortinet Training Institute’s initiative to make training more accessible to help close the cyber skills gap. We are excited to see additional validation from local governments that are making this service a certified program as part of their approved list of cyber training programs for employees.”

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