Local company stresses computer literacy ahead of school year

Published in the Spruce Grove Examiner
By Keenan Sorokan, Spruce Grove Examiner/Stony Plain Reporter
Friday, August 25, 2017 11:23:25 MDT AM

As schools in Alberta embrace technology more and more, parents are being left in the dust when it comes to how their children use personal devices.

ISP Computers has teamed up with a former criminal analyst to hold educational workshops that attempt to bridge the technological gap between child and parent.

The workshops have arrived after ISP partnered with Evergreen Catholic Separate Regional Division No. 2 (ECSRD) to become a trusted partner for parents to purchase devices, such as chromebooks for students.

The school board’s partnership comes from an overarching plan from school boards within the province to embrace technology at all age levels. A bring-your-own-device initiative has been underway in Parkland County for a number of years now.

They encourage students in grade four and up to bring devices to the classroom so students can collaboratively work on assignments and learn the benefits of technology, something that owner of ISP Computers, Jodi Fulford called “techno-proficiency.”

“With that, we are seeing parents say, ‘why do I need to buy a laptop for my kid? They are only in Grade four,’” said Fulford.

These workshops began as an education tool to answer questions like that and help parents understand how school boards are embracing technology and how both the student and parents can safeguard themselves in their online activity.

“We want to make sure we are speaking directly to the parents that are buying in this demographic. We are big on offering and working with people within our community,” said Fulford.

The workshops detail the dangers online and encourage parents not to spy on their children, but to collaborate with them and help them avoid victimization and vulnerability online.

“It’s to empower the parents, to help them navigate digital technology so that they are being safe and recognizing what social media platforms their kids are on, or what to stay away from. This is information that we feel people should be learning,” she siad.

Alisa Taylor worked in law enforcement for 15 years, first as an RCMP officer in the forensic lab and then transferred over to Edmonton Police Services for nine years as a criminal intelligence analyst. She has since started up her own online business called The Lotus Page in an effort to educate and empower people in digital landscapes.

“I think when it comes to kids being online, parents do think it’s scary and overwhelming,” Taylor said of people’s digital habits. “It seems nowadays kids are better able at operating this technology more so than their parents are. They have to realize that kids still need their parents for mentoring and for their experience and to help guide and navigate the digital world.”

In Taylor’s extensive past covering online crimes, certain vulnerabilities perpetually came to her attention. Explicit content, child luring, identity theft and cyber bulling were the more apparent ones that Taylor noted.

“I think you have to be aware that these vulnerabilities exist and can be aware of some of the tools that you can equip yourself with to help navigate through them,” she said.

The workshop details these vulnerabilities, how a person can unknowingly add to these issues and how to combat these problems.

Fulford recalls an example that Taylor has given in a previous workshop where she logs into an app with a fake identity and finds out what she can uncover about a person online.

She found a six-year-old boy on Snapchat and quickly uncovered his hockey schedule, parent’s address and relative’s social media accounts.

“It’s kind of behind the scenes we want people to know more about,” said Fulford. “Yes social media is fun, yes social media is happy and whether we agree with it or not, kids are on there, so let’s just be aware with what happens behind the curtain, as it were.”

Sept. 12 and Sept. 26 are the next two dates the course will be offered.

Prospective attendees are encouraged to visit http://www.ispcomputers.ca/events-workshops for more information.