Saturday, August 25, 2012

Fun On Friday #149: Passwords

I've been thinking about passwords. In particular, how can I help eleven year-olds to choose secure passwords that they won't have forgotten a week later?

Thanks to a suggestion from Mr Jones, I was tempted to go for the xkcd approach:

Password Strength - xkcd

...but I think may be too abstract for younger children.

Mr McSwan suggested Dinopass. Child friendly and "good enough" security for now... as long as I remember to revisit password security every year as they get older and discuss how they can make them even better.

Do you have a fun password utility/site you can recommend?

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

I'm going back... back to the future

When I started work at Jordanhill twenty-one and a half years ago, I turned up on the date specified on my letter to discover the rest of the academic staff were still on holiday. I had to wait a few days until there was a staff meeting before I met my new colleagues. Except, at this meeting, one of my new colleagues was retiring. To my shame, I don't remember his name, but I do remember his retirement speech.

Last day in my old office by DavidDMuir
Last day in my old office at Jordanhill,
a photo by DavidDMuir on Flickr.
He loved film and so he talked about The Wizard Of Oz. He said that, as he looked back on his time at Jordanhill, he saw it in the glorious Technicolor of the land of Oz, but when he looked forward to retirement, he saw the dull black and white of Dorothy's Kansas. Twenty-one years ago, I thought that was more than a little sad. To be honest, I still think it's a bit sad, but, twenty-one years later, I think I can now understand the sentiment... at least in part. As I look back over my time at Jordanhill, what stands out most is not the annoyances and frustrations that go with any job but the joy and the fun. It is particular times with colleagues and students that I remember most fondly. It's Steve's gazebo at PGDE closing ceremonies. It's videos like It's Closed that were created as class projects but resonated beyond the twenty or so people in the ICT option. It's the Four Capacities song. It's Phoney and Torag go on an adventure with their chum David. It's the unfortunate news of Professor Pugh. It's Fionna's "but" [sic]. I could go on but snippets of my remembrance of times past are better shared at a social gathering than in a blog.

From time to time, over the years, I have thought about what I might say when I eventually left Jordanhill. (Is that odd? To rehearse a speech years in advance? I also plan my eight records for Desert Island Discs - surely I'm not alone in that... I am? Oh, well...) Given the chance, I'm sure some of the stories mentioned above would have found their way in to a speech but since there was no formal leaving do, there were no speeches. But ever since that first meeting where I heard The Wizard Of Oz farewell speech, I have often thought of film connections that could feature in a farewell speech. When I started the process of applying for a teaching post though, the choice of film title was obvious: it had to be Back To The Future.

Why is this obvious? Well, when I was in my final year at university, I had to start applying for jobs and I had to ask myself what I wanted to do with my Computing degree. My colleagues were getting jobs in industry and I did fill in a couple of forms to apply for those kind of jobs, but my heart wasn't in it. Then I heard from a friend that you could go to Jordanhill and train as a Computing teacher... and it was clear. That's what I would do. I knew that my colleagues were starting jobs at double the salary I could get as a teacher but once it was there as an option, teaching was the obvious choice. For example, while friends were getting summer jobs that would help them move into industry, what did I do? I got a job teaching children programming (on ZX Spectrums!) at an activity holiday centre in Eastbourne. Why? Because I realised that's what I liked doing. I enjoyed working with computers but I enjoyed working with children too (through Scripture Union, BB, Bible Class, church youth groups...). Teaching Computing was the obvious choice. Teaching was hard work and there were aspects I struggled with but I loved teaching children about Computing.

So going back. Back to the job I chose as a young graduate. Back to a job I loved. But not back to the past. Because, like the film, while I'm going back, I'm going with all the knowledge and experience I've gained over the last twenty plus years. And I'm going back at a time of change, to new qualifications that are still in development. I'm going back to new courses. Not a black and white future but a glorious chaos of colour. The future!

It is worth repeating that I have loved working at Jordanhill but I am looking forward to getting back to school.

I'm going back... back to the future!

(Check out the advert for my old job if you think it is something that would interest you but since the closing date for applications is 8 August, you might be a bit late!)