Local Students Conclude Tech Trailblazers Mini-Camp

For many students, increased access to technology and training can provide a real sense of empowerment. Last week, eleven Tech Trailblazers participants learned the skills necessary to put together their own computer to take home.

At the conclusion of camp, one local 9th grader reflected on how he planned to use his computer and his favorite parts of the program.

Kramden’s Tech Trailblazers program offers students in grades 6-9 hands-on experience working with computer hardware, software, and networking. Students learn IT skills and explore technology careers as they work in Kramden’s refurbishing warehouse to build their own computer.

Visit https://kramden.org/education/ to learn more about Kramden’s classes and camps.


Kramden Partners with STEM West

Partnerships with organizations across the state allow Kramden to expand its impact beyond the Triangle. This spring, Kramden Institute teamed up with STEM West to distribute 240 computers to deserving students in Caldwell and Alexander Counties.

Computers ready for distribution at
Granite Falls Middle School in Caldwell County

STEM West was created in 2013 to “have a positive influence on STEM education and ultimately the workforce and economic development of western NC.” STEM West’s mission is to advocate and support the alignment of educational and occupational objectives through the regional workforce and community partnerships.

Each school district in Caldwell and Alexander county set aside a day last month to train students and their families and distribute desktop computers. Along with a demonstration of the computer’s many preinstalled programs, families were also provided information on how to access more affordable internet.

I wanted to thank you for the desktop. It has already been of great help to me, I know that the school could have used these for the new school and instead you gave them to students who don’t have a computer so they can work on projects at home. I think that is so generous and have never heard of a school caring about their students to do this.

Email excerpt from Granite Falls Middle School student

Kramden plans to continue its partnership with STEM West to expand its reach to more students in the western part of the state. To read more about STEM West, visit http://www.wpcog.org/stem-west.

Durham Residents Complete Computer Training and Receive Desktops

Recent Kramden Digital Literacy graduate and Durham Housing Authority resident Theresa was looking for a way to “jump-start a new chapter in her life” when she signed up for computer classes at McDougald Terrace’s TA Grady Center this April. She said she hoped to brush up on her skills and get a computer to use for school.

Kramden’s basic computer classes explore a variety of topics from simply learning the fundamentals of using a mouse and keyboard, to creating and editing documents, and navigating social media sites.  Upon completion, class participants receive a computer system for home use. To date, nearly 2,000 individuals have participated in Kramden’s Digital Literacy program since 2014.

Class participants follow along as instructor Bill Koeb discusses Office programs.

For Theresa, finishing the class meant not only acquiring a computer to practice her recently acquired skills, but also a boost in self-confidence.

“I’m so thankful to be completing this class. It helped me to believe in myself again. I’m going to register for classes at Durham Tech this summer, and because of this class, I now have the equipment and the self-confidence I need.”

Theresa W, Digital Literacy Class Participant

Last week, at the conclusion of the fourth course, Theresa and 17 other Durham Housing residents received their desktop computers to take home. The computers, along with eight hours of free computer training, were provided by Kramden Institute and made possible with grant funding received from Google Fiber.

The Homework Gap in North Carolina


Many students find themselves unable to complete routine homework assignments because of their lack of technology access. As a leading digital inclusion organization in NC, Kramden helped to gather data for a pilot study to better understand the homework gap in the state. Earlier this month the NC DIT’s Broadband Infrastructure Office released the report.

State Broadband Office publishes Homework Gap Report

Maggie Bizzell, MPA, MSC
Read original here.


Raleigh, N.C. – Eric Boyette, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Information Technology (DIT) and State Chief Information Officer, announced today the release of the “The Homework Gap in North Carolina,” a report that provides communities with strategies to bridge the homework gap that occurs when students are assigned homework that requires internet access but lack an internet connection at home.

N.C. DIT’s Broadband Infrastructure Office developed the homework gap report in partnership with The William & Ida Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at North Carolina State University. This report contributes to a growing body of research and strategic policy recommendations designed to equip state and local policymakers, educators, and other key stakeholders with information to understand the homework gap and strategies to address it.

“We know we have many children in our state that are victims of this digital divide,” Secretary Boyette said. “Understanding the nature and scope of this problem is key to closing the homework gap.”

Governor Roy Cooper’s budget proposal makes closing the homework gap a significant priority. Governor Cooper proposes a $5 million fund to support schools that need internet hot spots for students and Wi-Fi technology for school buses. 

“Too often I hear of students doing homework in the parking lots of fast food restaurants or driving long distances to use free Wi-Fi at churches and friends’ homes,” Governor Cooper said. “This is unacceptable in this day and age and it creates inequity in our educational system.” 

Governor Cooper also signed Executive Order 91, which establishes a new Governor’s Task Force on Connecting North Carolina and directs state government leaders to identify and remove barriers to facilitate private-sector deployment of last-mile infrastructure, eliminate the homework gap, and support the adoption of affordable, high-speed internet access.

N.C. DIT has already begun implementing the report’s recommendations, including the BIO’s continued effort to gather more and better data through surveys such as the Speak Up survey. Speak Up is an annual research project and a free service to all schools and was the first online research tool designed to help parents share their ideas directly with schools and national policymakers. BIO partnered with the N.C. Department of Public Instruction to include homework gap specific questions in the 2018-2019 Speak Up survey. 

One way the state is currently working to combat the homework gap is through the State Library of North Carolina and N.C. DIT’s pilot program with the Robeson County Public Library and Public Schools of Robeson County. The pilot program is funded by a $250,000 two-year grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and will provide Robeson County Public Library with 35 Wi-Fi hotspot devices for up to 35 K-12 households.

To access the report, please visit The Homework Gap in North Carolina on the Broadband Infrastructure Office website. To take the Speak Up survey, please visit http://speakup.tomorrow.org.  

Volunteer Spotlight: The Goodnight Scholars

Take a peek into Kramden’s warehouse on any given day and you will find it bustling with volunteers of all ages and backgrounds. Kramden relies on volunteers daily to join in our mission to bridge the digital divide. Offering their experience, skills, and enthusiasm for working with technology, volunteers are one of Kramden’s most valuable assets.

Last fall, a group of NCSU students reached out with a special request. As part of the Goodnight Scholars Program’s mantra to “pay it forward,” the Goodnight Scholars Class of 2019 wanted to support a charitable organization as part of their senior class gift by both volunteering their time and raising funds for Kramden.

Founded in 2008 with a gift from Dr. Jim and Ann Goodnight, the Goodnight Scholars program was established with the goal of helping North Carolina students from low- and middle-income families become leaders in the STEM and educational fields.

The Goodnight Scholars have joined Kramden several times this school year to put their technical skills to work, troubleshooting newly refurbished computers and preparing them to be distributed to students. Visit https://goodnight.ncsu.edu/ to learn more about the program.

“Serving at Kramden was a blast! We loved taking apart the machines together and learned a lot about fixing computers in the process. Volunteers do not always see the end results of their labor, so I was excited to watch the finished computers leave the assembly ready to be distributed. My favorite part about volunteering here, however, was the direct impact of our assembled machines in making learning more enjoyable for North Carolina students, the future of STEM.”

Timothy Chen, Mechanical Engineering Student and Goodnight Scholar

Kramden is always looking for volunteers with a passion for our mission and willingness to help. We currently have a particular need for daytime volunteers on Monday and Tuesday afternoons, and Thursday and Friday mornings. Register for an upcoming volunteer event here.

Program Impact

Kramden’s Community Education & Access program provides participants with eight hours of basic computer training and a computer upon completion. In the first 6 months of 2018, 230 participants completed the program. Recently, Kramden surveyed these participants to see how their newfound computer knowledge and device has impacted their lives. Results are shown below.

 

Laptops and Tablets Awarded in Ciudad Sandino, Nicaragua

This February, Kramden Institute, in partnership with the East Chapel Hill Rotary Club, GCF Global, and the Center for Development in Central America awarded 42 laptops and 70 tablets to the students of Ciudad Sandino in Nicaragua.

 

Volunteer Stephanie Schenck, a PHD student in Literacy Language and Culture at Clemson, and Rotary Peace Fellow, Moh Eid, aided in the distribution and training of the educators on how to use the technology in the classroom.

Devices went to two primary schools and one secondary school in the area. Included with the devices were power conditioners and backup batteries to combat the poor electrical grid. 6 laptops were also provided for the dental clinic at Jubilee House to be used for analyzing x-rays and charting.

This was Kramden’s third year partnering with the East Chapel Hill Rotary Club to bring computers to Central America.

Take Control of Your Passwords

Our passwords are the keys to our lives in the 21st century. We use them to access our email accounts, online banking, fantasy football, and much more. With passwords piling up for so many sites and each site having slightly different requirements, it gets tough to remember them all.

So what do most of us do? We use the same password for multiple websites, maybe adding a number or changing a letter here or there. And that basic password often is pretty simple, like the name of a pet or favorite sports team.

This creates two problems. First, short or simple passwords are very easy for hackers to guess. Hackers use automated programs that quickly guess millions of common English words, phrases, and generic passwords like ‘abcd1234’.  Second, if you use the same password on multiple sites, a hacker you also make it easy for them to break into multiple sites once they break into one.

So how do you make your passwords better?  Start by creating a unique password for every site. Then make sure those passwords are all complex (*_23nMK03t5#) and/or very long (mydeskchairisbigandred). This nerdy comic from the website xkcd.com does a great job of explaining why long passwords are a good idea.

So stronger, unique passwords increase your security significantly. But now there’s a new wrinkle – how do you remember them all? There are three simple ways to get around this conundrum.

  • Write all of your passwords down on paper and keep them in a safe place. This is a good option if you don’t use many websites and usually log in from home. It’s not as convenient if you browse on mobile devices – or, if you’re like me, you have terrible handwriting and can’t tell if that last character is a zero or a capital O.
  • Store all of your passwords in a password-protected document on your computer or phone. This works only if you the file with you. If your hard drive dies without a backup, or if your device is stolen, you lose all of your passwords.
  • Use a password manager like LastPass or Dashlane. This is the best way to go if you have a lot of passwords and connect from many devices.

What is a password manager?

A password manager is an app that stores your passwords in a secure file and retrieves them automatically. It will even type them for you. All you need to do is enter your username and master password. That’s right – all you have to do is remember one password. They also have tools that help generate strong passwords for you whenever you set up a new account. If you have a weak or duplicate password, they will let you know.

Another nice thing about password managers is that you can securely store all sorts of sensitive information beyond passwords. Everything from answers to security questions to banking information and more.

What are the drawbacks of a password manager?

Like anything involving computers and the Internet, there are some tradeoffs, though they are pretty small in this case. If someone finds out your master password, they can access all of your other passwords. For this reason, most password managers employ multi-factor authentication such as texting a code or scanning your fingerprint. The other risk is that a hacker will breach the password manager’s central system. The most popular services are very good about encrypting all user data.

You’ve convinced me. Now what?

Great! It’s now time to choose a password manager. There are a ton of different services out there, each with its own pros and cons. For me, it ultimately comes down to a balance of features and cost. Several offer great free versions. CNET has put together this great list of their favorite password managers to help you compare them. I encourage you to read it before making a decision. LastPass (free with a $24 paid version) and Dashlane ($39.99) are two that are frequently recommended and work on all sorts of devices.

Want even more information? This article from Consumer Reports has tons of information about password managers, their security, the risks, how to choose a service, and how to set them up.

Tech Support Scam

A common “tech support” internet scam is on the rise, and educating yourself may be the best defense against it.

Say you’re browsing the internet. Suddenly, you get an unexpected pop-up, call, or other urgent message about a problem or virus on your computer. The urgent message or suspicious website also locks up your browser so you can’t leave the webpage.

Pause for a moment. Remember you’re still in control. No one has stolen your information yet. These attackers sometimes claim to be “tech support” from well-known companies like Microsoft or Apple, but they are trying to steal your information, infect your computer, or take your money.

Most frequently, these scams begin when you visit a malicious website whose code locks up your web browser. A popup then appears that says you have a virus, please call Microsoft at this number: ###-###-####. If you were to call the number, the people on the other end may ask to connect to your computer. They may call it screen sharing, remote access, or remote control. Or they may ask you to follow their instructions to send them information or make changes to your software. Eventually, they’ll diagnose a non-existent problem, find a “fix,” and ask you to pay for unnecessary, even harmful, software services.

So how do you beat these scammers? Don’t click any links, call unknown numbers, or give people from the website or popup remote control of your computer.

The important thing to know is that you can close these popups and exit the webpage without ever calling the number listed on your screen. First, click the Back button (arrow pointing left) several times quickly. If that doesn’t work, try to close the browser with the X button in the corner.

Stick stuck? Windows Task Manager allows you to override these popups and webpages with minimal risk.

To access Task Manager press the keys Ctrl+Alt+Delete simultaneously. (Mac users, press Command+Option+Esc keys simultaneously to access the Force Quit Applications dialog.)

This opens a new screen where you can choose to open Task Manager or shutdown and restart your computer. Opening Task Manager will allow you to select the program(s) you wish to force closed. From the list of currently running programs, select those you suspect are connected to the popup attack and click end task. This should cripple the attackers’ efforts.

If you frequently encounter these “tech support alert” popups, asking you to call a support number to fix your device, it may be a sign that you have a potentially unwanted program installed on your computer. Close all open programs and run a virus and/or malware scan on your computer.

If you are concerned that your computer or personal information may have been compromised, contact a tech support or virus defense agency that you trust.

For further reading, check out the Federal Trade Commission’s webpage on Tech Support Scams.

AFTRR Member 2016 Report

 

 

Kramden is proud to be a member of the The Alliance for Technology Refurbishing and Reuse (AFTRR). AFTRR is made up of nonprofit technology refurbishers across the United States working together to raise awareness of the digital divide and the work of nonprofit computer refurbishers to address it.

AFTRR is also a venue through which organizations can share information on best practices for computer refurbishing and serving students and adults that have been left on the wrong side of the digital divide. As part of this process, AFTRR collects data on the number of computers its member organizations work on each year. Here is a snapshot of the data for 2016 (78% of AFTRR members reporting):