Community Learning Series will explore cybersecurity during Nov. 5 discussion

Wei-Chen Hung
Wei-Chen Hung

Despite the constant pleas to “put down those phones,” technology has become almost inescapable.

“Technology is a part of our lives, and we’re using our technology on a daily basis,” says Wei-Chen Hung, chair of the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment in the NIU College of Education. “We practically cannot get away from our technology for 24 hours, whether we’re working, driving or even sleeping.”

Lurking inside that relationship, however, and no matter the nature of the virtual connections, are hazards that can violate privacy, drain bank accounts or lead to the devastating (and sometimes fatal) consequences of cyberbullying.

And even as consumers of technology grow savvier in their awareness and suspicion of cyber scams and email phishing attempts, Hung says, most are still blissfully feeding search engines with their interests, allowing phone apps to access their information and contacts or asking questions of the voice-enabled digital assistants sitting on their kitchen countertops.

Consider this, he says. Is a smart watch measuring your pulse in the name of good health? The “cloud” is counting those heartbeats, too, and because your watch’s GPS can triangulate your location right down to the neighborhood tavern, you’re unwittingly allowing it to track how much alcohol you’re drinking.

Keep in mind, he adds, that big and recognizable names that seem completely trustworthy are at their core businesses that rely on dollars to survive. Their profitable sale of your information – your shopping habits, your driving patterns, your home address – fuels the direct marketing that clogs your Facebook feed and your email clutter and junk mail folders.

“When we start looking for information online, we always use major search engines. We use Google. Facebook. Spotify. Apple. Amazon. These are things that we interact with every day, but we forget that these companies are mainly selling our information to other companies,” Hung says.

“Using all these services feels free, but these companies are collecting your private information. There’s a security issue here,” he adds. “When you are accessing information, it goes both ways. They can start to identify your personal habits.”

Many users of technology are children and teens, of course, which gives schools and educators an important role.

“It is important for us tell the community, the parents and the students about our concerns of the negative side of the Internet,” Hung says. “These are critical issues that each of us needs to understand to try to minimize our risk. The more gadgets you have – the more related you are to technology – eventually you will become a technology. You are a piece of data. You are accepting, and distributing, information.”

Five technology professionals, all from the education arena, will provide that knowledge during the College of Education’s fall Community Learning Series on “It’s a Cyber World After All How to Protect Your Kids and Yourself Online.”

Scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 5, the free and open-to-the-public event takes place at the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center231 N. Annie Glidden Road. A reception with light refreshments begins at 5:30 p.m.

Resource tables are open from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. for audience members to find more information or ask further questions.

Top: Michael Chahino and Michael Espinos.
Middle: Joe Jaruseski and James O’Hagan.
Bottom: Jason Rhode and Olha Ketsman.

Panelists are:

  • Michael Chahino, chief information officer, Elgin Community College;
  • Michael Espinos, educational technology specialist and STEM communicator;
  • Joe Jaruseski, director of IT Infrastructure, Naperville School District 203;
  • James O’Hagan, director of Digital and Virtual Learning, Racine Unified School District; and
  • Jason Rhode, executive director of Extended Learning at NIU.

Olha Ketsman, a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment, will moderate the panel.

Hung, whose scholarly research interests including human-computer interaction, brought in the school-based experts to provide that particular perspective. “These people understand students, parents and academics.”

“We have Michael Chahino, who is in charge of an entire campus security infrastructure, and can talk about when students are using computers or mobile devices, how the college helps to them to protect their privacy and their internet browsing,” Hung says.

“Joe Jaruseski is one who recommends social media that is usable for students and parents,” he adds. “James O’Hagan has expertise in gaming and eSports.”

As a father himself, Hung expects that the insight of the panel will prove valuable.

“I have kids with technology on all day long,” he says, “and I would like to ask, ‘Based on your experience – based on your knowledge – what can I do as a parent to help my kids to browse the internet safely and to interact with people through social media safely?’ This is the most important first step. Having this awareness, you can start paying attention to everything you do.”

For more information, call (815) 753-9339 or email etra@niu.edu.

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