Tools for small schools: Microsoft Security Essentials

Anti-virus – it’s a given that you need it, but the market is swamped with options. So  many computers come pre-installed with heavy versions that take up a lot of space and need to be renewed for lots of money in a few months or a year. Then there’s a variety of open-source versions like Avast or AVG. But it’s the newest kid to the playground that I’ve started using on all my school’s computers: Microsoft Security Essentials

Image

It’s lightweight. It’s free. It’s a trustworthy name. It updates and scans automatically. Most importantly – it works. I use a combination of MSE and Malwarebytes for the occasional stubborn infection. 

What makes this particularly good for small schools? It works on most versions of Windows, from XP on up  – nice when you have a wide range of operating systems on various ages of machines, like we do. It also doesn’t require registration. That means I can install it on every computer and don’t need to worry about registering or updating licenses the way I did when I used Avast! on all our machines. 

Try it out! And remember, you never need more than one real-time anti-virus program running at the same time – it doesn’t give you extra protection and it slows down your machine. Click here to go download MSE.

Essential Conditions: How do I get there?

There wasn’t a technology plan or department at my school before I started working there. I don’t want to discount the work that many teachers have done there over the years and the expertise of my coworkers in the area of tech. We have hard jobs, and we have a lot on our plates without taking on tertiary responsibilities. I just mention the lack of structure as context for talking about the Essential Conditions.

This Essential Conditions list comes from the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) in relation to their NETS standards, which outline essential skills for students and teachers, much like state standards or Common Core standards do for subject areas. Here’s the list (or view it at the source):

ESSENTIAL CONDITIONS: NECESSARY CONDITIONS TO EFFECTIVELY LEVERAGE TECHNOLOGY FOR LEARNING

Shared Vision

Proactive leadership in developing a shared vision for educational technology among all education stakeholders, including teachers and support staff, school and district administrators, teacher educators, students, parents, and the community

Empowered Leaders

Stakeholders at every level empowered to be leaders in effecting change

Implementation Planning

A systematic plan aligned with a shared vision for school effectiveness and student learning through the infusion of information and communication technologies (ICT) and digital learning resources

Consistent and Adequate Funding

Ongoing funding to support technology infrastructure, personnel, digital resources, and staff development

Equitable Access

Robust and reliable access to current and emerging technologies and digital resources, with connectivity for all students, teachers, staff, and school leaders

Skilled Personnel

Educators, support staff, and other leaders skilled in the selection and effective use of  appropriate ICT resources

Ongoing Professional Learning

Technology-related professional learning plans and opportunities with dedicated time to practice and share ideas

Technical Support

Consistent and reliable assistance for maintaining, renewing, and using ICT and digital learning resources

Curriculum Framework

Content standards and related digital curriculum resources that are aligned with and support digital age learning and work

Student-Centered Learning

Planning, teaching, and assessment centered around the needs and abilities of students

Assessment and Evaluation

Continuous assessment of teaching, learning, and leadership, and evaluation of the use of ICT and digital resources

Engaged Communities

Partnerships and collaboration within communities to support and fund the use of ICT and digital resources

Support Policies

Policies, financial plans, accountability measures, and incentive structures to support the use of ICT and digital learning resources for learning and in district school operations

Supportive External Context

Policies and initiatives at the national, regional, and local levels to support schools and teacher preparation programs in effective implementation of technology for achieving curriculum and learning technology (ICT) standards

This resource makes sense to me. Before I can start holding teachers and students accountable for digital literacy, I need these conditions to be met. I need all these things to support the best learning, so that technology makes life easier and more fulfilling, rather than technology being a source of frustration or anxiety.

Without going into detail, I’ll say that these conditions are not being met right now in my school.  I would assume that’s common among most schools; you can imagine the added challenges in a small non-profit independent school. Last summer I collaborated with a couple of other teachers to look at the NETS for students and the Vermont tech standards to create a pared-down list of essential skills for our particular students. This Essential Conditions list was an afterthought in our group –  brought up with the “Oh, we should probably talk about this more” comment that rarely leads to it actually being talked about more.

I think I went about that process backwards. This summer, as I get more time for professional development and long-term planning, I think it’s time to really take apart these conditions and start advocating for what we’d need to get them met. While some of those items seem big – like the “External Context” – I need to remember that as an empowered educator, they are all within my scope of influence. I can advocate to my legislators. I can raise awareness in my community. I can network with other professionals to fill in the gaps in my own program. I just need to start.

Anyone have experience with really digging into the Essential Conditions? I’d love to hear your thoughts and perspectives.