Thursday, March 30, 2006

Why Phishing works

A recent study published by Rachna Dhamija of Harvard University, and J. D. Tygar and Marti Hearst of UC Berkeley addressed the question of why phishing works.

For the uninformed, phishing attempts to direct unsuspecting individuals to fraudulent websites in hopes of getting them to divulge personal information such as passwords, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, drivers license numbers, or social security numbers. Typically an email informs a potential victim that they have to update their information, or that someone has attempted to make unauthorized charges on a credit card. A sense of urgency is created by the scammers telling the intended victim that an immediate response is required to prevent further fraudulent charges. A hyperlink in the email directs the victim to a bogus website set up to look like a legitimate bank or business.

Here are a couple of sample phishing scams documented by

According to the published paper:

Data suggest that some phishing attacks have convinced
up to 5% of their recipients to provide sensitive information
to spoofed websites. About two million users gave information to
spoofed websites resulting in direct losses of $1.2 billion for U.S. banks and card issuers in 2003.

The authors recently conducted a study involving 22 subjects who each viewed 20 websites and had to determine if the websites were authentic or fraudulent. The “best” phishing websites fooled 90% of the participants, and on average the group of subjects was fooled 40% of the time!

I have received many such emails, and the best ones really do look legit! How can you tell the difference?

My strategy is to search . Type in the name of the business or bank in the search box, and watch what happens. Often times you’ll find the exact text of the email you received cited on the Snopes website along with an explanation of why it's a hoax.

A relatively new resource, the Anti-Phishing Working Group has posted a list of common phishing scams on their website at:

The Federal Trade Commission has some very helpful information on phishing and other online commerce topics at:

The Christian Science Monitor has a very informative article about phishing here.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Take me out to the ballgame!

My absolute favorite thing (outside of family and work of course) is BASEBALL! And with opening day just a few days away, I wanted to share with you a very long list of lesson plan ideas on Education World that have something to do with the greatest sport in the world.

NOTE: I found this error in the list (maybe there are others?): the link for the "Bat-o-matic Fantasy Baseball" should be:

You'll find lesson suggestions for Science, Math, Language Arts, Social Studies... you get the idea.

As a former band director, I used baseball team names to help teach sixteenth note rhythms to my sixth graders. I would have students chant the team names rhythmically to a steady beat, then figure out the underlying rhythmic notation. And with the FREE Finale NotePad software, students could even use the computer to notate and listen to the rhythms.

Work smarter, not harder!

My wife recently heard this story, and after sharing it with me I had to track it down on the Internet. What would I do without Google???

Working Smarter, Not Harder? A Story told by Dale Carnegie . . . (from

Once upon a time, two men were chopping wood.
One man worked all day, took no breaks, and stopped for lunch only briefly.
The other man took numerous breaks throughout the day, and even enjoyed a nap after lunch.
At day's end, the fellow who had taken no breaks was upset to find that the "break-taker" had chopped far more wood than he had.
"I simply don't understand it," said the first guy. "Every time I looked up, there you were, sitting down."
The other fellow replied, "Well, I guess you didn't notice -- every time I took a break to sit down, I sharpened my ax."

"What does this have to do with technology?" you might ask. Well, it seems like 90% of the teachers I come in contact with have NO TIME to learn about and/or use technology in the classroom. Believe me, I totally understand how demanding the teaching profession is! I was one for 20 years, my wife still is, and her parents are both retired teachers. But here's my point: if these teachers would invest some time now, it would pay HUGE dividends in the future! I believe their teaching (and consequently their classroom) would be ENERGIZED, and they could accomplish more than ever before.

OK, I'll get off my soapbox now. Thanks for allowing me to vent.

Streaming video- Total eclipse of the sun, March 29, 2006

The Exploratorium has a website devoted to the solar eclipse at:

There's lots of information about eclipses, and links to archived streaming video of the actual eclipse. You can view the webcast with narration here (Windows media format):

If you'd prefer to see the telescope images only click here:

FYI: The New York Times has a great article about the Exploratorium on their website.

Visit to see incredible computer animation

I saw part of an amazing DVD called Animusic today-- unbelievably complex and gorgeous computer animation of musical instruments set to spectacular music! Truly state of the art! Click the Odeo player below to listen to a short excerpt that can be downloaded from the Animusic website

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

More Dynamic Images

Three more fun sites for creating dynamic images (and no problem allowing students to access these).

Create FREE dynamic images

There are some really fun websites for teachers that will allow you to create dynamic images like these at (Caution: I wouldn't recommend sending your students there because others have saved some rather "adult" captions on the website)

I didn't know you could do that with Hello

You can capture a snapshot of a web page (like this one) using the "Share in Hello" icon found on the Internet Explorer toolbar. Click the picture above to enlarge it to full screen and the icon will be easier to see. Then you can send the screenshot to your Blogger blog instantly with the "BloggerBot." You can even add a caption.

You'll need the free Picasa software (which I blogged about here) and hello software from the good folks at Google. creates a podcast from blog posts!

Do you see the little podcast icon at the bottom of every blog post? (It looks like this )

Clicking the link next to it will automatically create and then play a recording of a female voice reading the words in the post.

Thanks (again) to Vicki A. Davis and her Cool Cat Teacher Blog, I learned about, the free website that makes this possible. Vicki has a great Talkr "how-to" article posted on her blog here.

Even more amazing, is that Talkr will generate a "feed" that will enable users to download each audio blog post to their iPod!

The computer generated voice is no replacement for a real live human, but it's not bad! The text-to-speech synthesis has improved tremendously in the past few years. (Check out this demo at the AT&T Labs)

I'll be spending more time at the Talkr website to see what else I can learn about this cool new resource.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Logitech Video Effects--- ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!

While perusing my Bloglines feeds this morning, I came across this "viral video" of a girl who recently went through a breakup. She recorded the video using a Logitech webcam, and used some amazing animated effects that were generated with the Logitech Video Effects software. I had to go to Logitech's website to check it out for myself. What I saw blew me away!

Here's another demo from the viral video girl that shows the capabilities of the software.

I swear a little animated light bulb immediately appeared over my head! Students can create a story, and then videotape themselves as the actual character in the story! There are dozens of avatars and "face accessories" that can be added to videos recorded with the compatible Logitech webcams. The software is free, and so are the avatars and face accessories-- with a webcam that sells for under a hundred bucks!

We placed an order for one today. Watch for a sample video on this blog soon!

A Podcast About Podcasting

I had an absolute BLAST putting together this 5 minute podcast about podcasting! First of all, full disclosure: there is no podcasting studio at the Monroe County ISD! But it sure sounds impressive, doesn't it??? And the listener might just imagine me sitting in a recording studio rather than in my cubicle!

The teacher I interviewed really has recorded some podcasts with her class, but she recorded her answers to my questions at her school and emailed them to me as attachments. I just imported them into Audacity and moved them to the right location in the timeline. You can listen to her 5th graders' podcasts by clicking here.

Now then, about those links to FREE online podcasting resources:

Check out Gary Stager's long list of Podcasting Resources for Educators & Students.

The software I used to create my podcast was Audacity. It's fairly intuitive, but not without a learning curve. It may be free software, but it's very impressive! If you want to export your podcast as an mp3 file (and you will) you will also need to download the LAME mp3 encoder. You'll see a link on the Audacity download page. Audacity is available in both Windows and OSX formats.

There are a number of free music resources to use in your podcast. I found some great music in a wide variety of styles at Their motto is "we are not evil." Check out their podcasting terms of use here.

Another music site to visit is Incompetech. Their motto is "ugly website, brilliant content."

You can also create your own music using GarageBand (if you're a mac user), or the free version of Sony's Acid Music Studio (see a previous blog post here). The CTC Music Mixer is a free online site that will allow you to create and save a 1 minute mp3 music file.

OK, your podcast has been recorded, NOW WHAT?! This is the most difficult part of the process for most people.

In my case, I exported my completed podcast as an mp3 file in Audacity, then uploaded the file to Odeo ( Then I cut and paste the HTML code Odeo automatically generates to my blog. This results in the embedded Odeo player you used above.

I use a Plantronics DSP-100 USB headset microphone. It's about $50-$60 online. I was not satisfied with the sound quality of a standard computer microphone, but you may find it acceptable for your students' use.

I hope you found this information helpful, and that you'll be motivated to try podcasting in your classroom.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Create a Podcast with Odeo

Thanks to the Cool Cat Teacher Blog I learned about Odeo. This FREE service will host your audio recordings! Classrooms who wish to record podcasts now have a repository for their creations. You can use the free online tool from Odeo to make your recording, record over the phone, or upload a recording. Odeo even provides you with the HTML coding to add to your website so that you can play your recordings using an embedded flash player, like this one:

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Civil Rights Photos- Unseen. Unforgotten.

The Birmingham News has an outstanding collection of never before published photos of the civil rights era on their website entitled Unseen. Unforgotten.

Five thousand photos dating from 1950-1965 were discovered in an equipment closet in November 2004 by Alexander Cohn, a former intern at the Birmingham News. In February 2006 the paper published a special eight page section with dozens of the newly discovered photos.

The website features many more photos, along with recordings of interviews with the original photographers, witnesses to the events, and participants in the civil rights movement. There are sections devoted to desegregating the schools, the freedom riders, civil disobedience, challenging segregation, and voting rights.

The study of Black History should not end on February 28! Check out this very moving website with its never before seen photos of the civil rights movement.