Setting Up Privileged Hosts in pfSense

We follow a whitelisting policy on our network, only allowing hosts through certain ports on the firewall, like 80 for HTTP and 443 for HTTPS. All other ports are blocked between 7am and 3pm. This helps us cut down on unwanted traffic, especially BitTorrent.

However, there are situations where we want to allow a host on the network access to wider range of ports. For example, Skype uses random ports to communicate; it’s not possible to whitelist it (unless you get Layer7 traffic shaping to work, which last I heard was dicey). When our teachers do Mystery Skypes or our director wants to interview prospective candidates they need unrestricted access through the firewall.

To do this, we set up a special IP address that has unlimited access, and assign that IP address to the computer we want using a static DHCP lease. What follows are the steps to do it. Continue reading Setting Up Privileged Hosts in pfSense

Optimal Workflow for Digital Storytelling

Just ran another session on digital storytelling. The big takeaway is that good workflows can maximize your students’ productivity. Teachers will already know how to teach the writing process, but transforming that into a multimedia production can require a lot of time teaching tech. By breaking the process down into distinct tasks, we leave time to focus on what matters the most: the message.

From HB243: Digital Storytelling:

Continuing on our theme of visual literacy, this session focused on how you can use video to practice research and citation skills, narrative or informational storytelling, and to provide students with an alternative, media-rich way to demonstrate knowledge of content standards. The vehicle for doing these things isdigital storytelling, which strictly speaking is using a combination of images and voiceover to tell an aspect of your life story, but can be more loosely thought of as using images and audio to communicate an important message to an audience.

Get Visual

A poster created with Canva, which includes many built-in elements like the red bars and purple circle frame.

I was going to start by talking about visual literacy as a new buzzword, but the skill of representing information visually is actually a developed field. The pie chart was first developed by William Playfair in 1801, and in 1858 Florence Nightingale create the world’s first infographic to impress upon Parliament the severity of British troop mortality in the Crimea1. Most standards relate to written literacy, with good cause, but being persuasive across multiple formats can only help our students. With that in mind, two of my recent trainings addressed using digital posters, graphic design, and image editing using browser-based tools in lieu of expensive, difficult-to-manage software:

HippoBytes HB241: Intro to Image Editing

Image editing programs are an under-appreciated tool. When I wanted to join the Hilton health club in Kuwait under the married couples’ rate, I was able to use Adobe Photoshop to create a marriage certificate by altering Barack Obama’s (available online) to have my name and my fake wife’s instead, saving me hundreds of dollars. There are numerous classroom applications as well, from creating posters to propaganda to collages. In this session we learned the basic principles underlying all image-editing programs, and applied those programs using the free web app Pixlr Editor.

HippoBytes HB242: Digital Canvas

Writing is a critical skills for success. It’s also important, though, to give students the opportunity to access content and show their understanding in a variety of ways, whether to keep weak writers engaged or to work on new skills such as visual literacy. The classic poster is an assignment that can be easily updated and extended to work with digital tools.

In this session, we went through three components of creating visualizations of knowledge (my fancy word for “posters”): finding Creative Commons-licensed images, learning and applying basic graphic design principles, and using a tool appropriate to the task.