Agencies must focus on culture, training and safety in a hybrid work environment – MeriTalk

Leaders from the federal and private sectors discussed how the coronavirus pandemic has changed traditional expectations in the workplace, and how agencies can maintain team culture and continue to develop their employees, when ‘a MeriTalk webinar on September 30.

Federal agencies have spent over 18 months learning how to work in a remote or hybrid work environment. During this time, agencies had to learn how to onboard new employees, continue their professional training, maintain the culture of the agency and ensure data security in a completely new working environment.

During the webinar, Clifton G. Douglas Jr., Deputy Director of the Strategic Issues Team at the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Jose M. Arvelo, Senior Director of Federal Engineering at Citrix Systems, Tony Holmes, Head of Practice for Public Sector Solutions Architects at Pluralsight, and Erin Howe, Vice President of Strategy and Global Operations at Keeper Security, shared their insights and lessons learned over the past 18 months.

Agencies need to embrace hybrid work environments

While the shift to telecommuting may have been directly caused by the pandemic, the wider trend towards remote working is unlikely to end even after the end of the public health crisis. On the contrary, Holmes said agencies need to embrace the new way of working. He said agencies are challenged to step out of their comfort zone and must view the new hybrid work environment as an opportunity for change and modernization.

Arvelo argued that the hybrid environment helps agencies attract and retain top talent. He explained that the most skilled talent may not live in the Washington, DC area, and that a telecommuting environment allows agencies to hire the best people, regardless of where they live. Agencies must agree to offer this level of flexibility to their employees, because “this is a new expectation that everyone has,” he added. So organizations should focus on providing employees with the tools they need to be successful, no matter where they connect.

When it comes to helping agencies succeed with telecommuting, Clifton said they need to make sure they have hard data to back up what they think works and what they don’t. operate in teleworking. In addition to researching hard data, agencies also need to make sure they have a reference person to lead the telework load. He explained that the contact person should be responsible for developing telecommuting policies, providing advice to employees, and ensuring that agencies and employees have the technology they need for telecommuting.

Workplace culture is essential

All of the panelists agreed that maintaining an optimal work culture is essential to helping teams continue to fulfill an agency’s mission – and that telecommuting can make it more difficult to maintain the desired culture.

The past 18 months have been “tumultuous,” explained Howe, who added that the pandemic has forced agencies to shift on employee engagement. The key to maintaining employee engagement is making sure they understand how the work they do aligns with the goals and mission of the organization – essentially making sure they know their work is important. Before the pandemic, Howe said, it was fairly easy to stop by someone’s desk and have conversations with individual employees. But in a hybrid work environment, she said, “managers need to be more diligent in these conversations.”

In addition to keeping current employees engaged, Howe stressed that during the onboarding process, managers need to ensure that new employees “really feel connected” to the organization. They “need to make sure people have a solid experience on day one, week one” by generating a high level of engagement and enthusiasm, even when onboarding is virtual.

As some workers begin to return to the office, Douglas said GAO is working with agencies to ensure performance is measured equally for in-person and remote workers. On top of that, he said agencies need to make sure they understand the impact of someone working remotely on someone working in the office, and vice versa. To that end, Douglas said GAO is currently working on a report to Congress – due for release in January 2022 – that will examine how agencies have used telecommuting before and after the pandemic, whether the agencies have policies in place. to facilitate telecommuting and how agencies responded to the challenges of telecommuting.

Adaptable, Agile training is the key

The panelists also stressed the importance of offering continuous training to employees not only to adapt to the hybrid work environment, but also to help them adopt new technologies that will lead to the agency’s mission.

Holmes specifically looked at this topic, explaining that organizations need to make sure they give employees the training they need so they can “reach out and grab what they need.” He added that leaders need to understand where their teams are now and where they need to go. Understanding the destination is easy, he said, but figuring out where a team is now is a much bigger task.

To help teams get to their destination, training needs to be flexible and agile. Holmes argued that we need to meet employees where they are and understand that organizations give people much less time to learn than in the past. On top of that, he said the speed of technology is lightning fast, which means the half-life of tech skills is decreasing. To overcome these barriers, leaders must support adaptability and creative problem solving, as well as empower people with the tools they need to fill learning gaps. “We have to make sure [employees] have the tools and leadership has the knowledge “they need,” he said.

Data security changes are needed

Part of adopting and adapting to the hybrid workplace is making sure agencies protect data. Howe said cross-agency collaboration is a critical part of adopting hybrid work. The key to this is cybersecurity so that data and files can be shared without compromising credentials.

Before the pandemic, Arvelo explained, agency IT teams had much more control over employee devices and networks. However, as employees become more mobile, the ability of agency IT teams to control everything decreases and the risk of data and device theft increases.

In response, Arvelo said agencies need to work on abstraction of agency data from physical devices. He added that agencies need to make sure they don’t put themselves in a situation where they have a stolen device and have to scramble to make sure everything is secure against data breaches.

To help secure agency information, Arvelo said agencies need to embrace secure digital workspaces. With a secure digital workspace, all data is completely independent of the physical device. By using a secure digital workspace, even if a device is lost or the network the device is on is compromised, data is not lost or compromised, he said.

Listen to the full conversation to find out more.

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State test scores show declines but not a ‘useful’ measure of student performance during pandemic, says Detroit Lakes director of education

“We’re not going to use them like we usually would,” Renee Kerzman, director of programs, education and technology for Detroit Lakes, said in an interview Wednesday. In fact, she added, the MOE even sent out a warning about using the data for comparison this year.

Besides the significant drop in student participation, Kerzman said, there are other reasons why testing is less useful than normal as a measurement tool.

“Educators and students have experienced significant and profound changes in teaching and learning, as well as in social and emotional well-being,” she said in a report to the Detroit Lakes School Board. at its September 20 meeting.

All district staff and students had to adjust to several “hubs” between in-person, fully-distance, and hybrid learning models during the 2020-21 school year, Kerzman explained during the Wednesday interview.

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“We have tried to do everything we can to ensure that our students are with their teachers, in person, as much as possible,” she said, which has led to more learning model changes. frequent rather than prolonged periods of distance learning.

While district staff went out of their way to ensure that every student had access to the technology necessary for distance learning, their home learning environment was often very different.

“There was no way to measure (or regulate) this,” Kerzman said.

Another factor to take into account is that no ACMs were administered in 2020, which means that the latest comparative data available is from 2019 – before the COVID-19 outbreak.

Also, said Kerzman, the actual classroom time spent on testing was condensed, rather than spread over a period of days as had been the case in the past.

“Our teachers had such limited teaching time,” said Kerzman, who they told the district administration, “When we have the kids here (at school), we want to work with them rather than to have them sit there and take some tests. “

This compressed testing period also likely impacted the results, she added.


The Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment Tests are based on the Academic standards K-12 for math, reading and science.

Among all students in Detroit Lakes, results from the 2021 MCA show that the number of those who were found to be proficient – that is, meeting or exceeding expectations – in math, reading and science was 44 , 1%, 49.5% and 42.4%, respectively. The 2019 rates were 55.4%, 61.1% and 68.8%.

The decline was most notable among high school students (Grades 6 to 8), whose proficiency levels in math, reading and science in 2021 were 28.8%, 41.8% and 24.2%, respectively, up from 45.8%, 58.8% and 58.3% in 2019. However, Kerzman noted, the number of students who withdrew from the tests was particularly high at the college level, which undoubtedly skewed results, although there is no way to determine whether the numbers would have been better or worse with a higher turnout.

“When a lot of your students are absent (according to the data), it’s hard to draw conclusions,” she said. “We can’t really rely on this test event to tell our data story. “

Some decline in skills was to be expected, Kerzman added, as statewide data also shows a significant decrease. She said individual student results will be sent directly to parents this fall, with many teachers choosing to make them available at parent-teacher conferences, so they can discuss them in person. Complete results for all school districts in Minnesota are available online, in the Minnesota Report Card section of the MDE Data Center at

“New enthusiasm” for in-person learning

Kerzman said the atmosphere at all University facilities in Detroit Lakes this fall has been overwhelmingly positive as students and staff are happy to come together for fully in-person learning (no distance learning options are available. offered other than E-Laker Online High School Program This year).

“There is new excitement,” Kerzman said. “We are expecting a very good year.”

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Japanese and Hong Kong academics say virtual learning falls short

While online courses have become the norm amid the COVID-19 pandemic, academics in Japan and Hong Kong believe online courses cannot really replace face-to-face learning despite the merits of technology to communicate with students.

“Learning doesn’t happen in the classroom, it happens outside the classroom, on campus where students can interact,” with each other and with teachers, said Oussouby Sacko, president of Kyoto Seika University, during a recent webinar.

The photo shows speakers from Japan and Hong Kong during a webinar on the future of education on September 22, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Pasona Group Inc.) (Kyodo)

The Future of Education webinar was hosted by the Awaji Youth Federation, an educational group in Japan, as academia grapples with the challenges of online learning.

Sacko said professors at his university in western Japan were struggling to teach, for example, art-related classes online, and students were also losing interest in attending classes.

To motivate students, Sacko, originally from Mali, has set up a hybrid system of direct interactive sessions between teachers and students once a week and online lessons on other days.

Recognizing the challenges teachers face in running virtual classrooms, he said there was a need to develop a program for teachers to train them to get used to the new style of teaching.

An online survey conducted by the National Federation of University Cooperative Associations in July showed that 44.7% of students are not finding their lives fulfilling amid the pandemic, citing the limitations of online courses as one of the factors.

Baniel Cheung, Assistant Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Business and Economics at the University of Hong Kong, shared Sacko’s feelings on the benefits of face-to-face learning, while acknowledging the benefits of speed. information and knowledge sharing through online courses.

“It’s hard to teach without seeing the faces and body language of the students, to really know what the other is thinking,” Cheung said, adding that if teaching could be “hybrid” in the post-era era. COVID, “Digital cannot replace humans.”

Representing the voice of the students, Fuka Chida, a sophomore student at Chiba University, said the pandemic had heightened the importance of learning on campus.

“University is not just about studying, but a place where I can learn about myself through interactions with others and grow,” said Chida, Japanese Ambassador for the Global Alliance for Human Rights. youth and the United Nations, a group created in partnership between United Nations agencies and civic groups. dedicated to children and young people.

Sacko said the pandemic has made it easier for students to communicate through the Line social messaging app and noted how shy students are participating in class more actively than before.

Cheung said he uses the WhatsApp messaging platform to communicate with students, having created different groups for different purposes. The tool is used to reduce what he calls “psychological distance”.

Looking ahead, he underlined the vital role of technology for future inter-university collaboration.

Cheung said online collaborations between universities have become more frequent during the pandemic and called for these efforts to continue, especially between universities in Asia.

“Students have become more competitive during the pandemic and want to acquire more skills to survive in companies, so inter-Asian exchanges should take place,” he said during the webinar of the federation, founded by the company. Japanese Recruitment Company Pasona Group Inc.

He added that he hopes Japanese universities will offer more courses in English that are popular with students in Asia, such as manga and animation.

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How a hybrid approach can optimize success

“Although AI-based patent search tools are agile and user-friendly, they can be integrated with manual searches conducted by experienced analysts for better results. “

With the expected growth in the size of the global artificial intelligence (AI) market, it is evident that AI is rapidly becoming the solution to most software and service needs. AI has even infiltrated our homes. For example, we are seeing more and more smart home systems that integrate Internet of Things (IoT) technology with an AI master virtual assistant.

Without a doubt, technology has also made room in the intellectual property-based services sector. For example, to support patent search, there are many AI-based automated patent search tools. Although many of them are still in the formative stage, these tools are likely to mature. The next question for innovators is whether to take advantage of affordable AI patent search tools or invest in outsourced manual patentability searches.

With AI-powered patent search tools available in subscription-based models at affordable prices, the dilemma mentioned above becomes even more compelling. So while AI-based patent search tools are nimble and user-friendly, they can be integrated with manual searches conducted by experienced analysts for better results. The following article compares the two options and defines scenarios in which these models can be deployed.

Manual patent search still wins overall

  1. Comprehensive research – Artificial intelligence and machine learning (ML) algorithms are still in their rudimentary stages of training and development. Therefore, they are still unable to perfectly replicate the full range of capabilities of a true human analyst while performing exhaustive research. Therefore, human intelligence can be deployed to optimize results.
  2. Opinion – Although AI-based patent search tools can give innovators a quick idea of ​​whether to innovate, they do not provide a comprehensive analysis of all the innovation white spaces in the landscape especially patents. Manual research can provide such an opinion to innovators.
  3. Improved quality – Additionally, to improve the quality of prior art claims, innovators seek patentability notices for their drafted claims. Therefore, manual searches are also needed to improve the quality of the patent application.
  4. Reduced time – From Invention Disclosure Forms (IDFs) to patent filing, manual searches take less time for drafts of independent claims. However, when it comes to speed in general, automated searches are always faster.
  5. Seamless refinement – When it comes to refining search strategies according to a particular topic, human intellectual property analysts with expertise in the respective discipline have the upper hand. The human element often adds sophistication to patent search results. However, in automated searches, we usually only get a list of results and no relevant analysis to go with it.
  6. Mother tongue research – As the AI ​​is not yet trained in several native languages, patent searches in this case are only possible with manual intervention. Translators and native speakers should be involved in these patent searches.
  7. Identification of non-patent literature – Automated searches are still not sufficiently competent to search for non-patent literature in different technological disciplines. Therefore, in this context, manual patent searches are much more complete and precise.
  8. Learn from the prosecution history – In a scenario where invalidity research is required, we must learn from the state of the art lawsuit history closest to the technology under development. Analysis of these, which must be performed by a human, can help identify unique areas of innovation that can be used further for innovative product development.

When to choose automated search

  • Quick validation: Automated searches can be used to quickly validate concepts at the ideation stage. Such AI-based automated research tools give innovators access to existing prior art so that they can build their innovations around these existing patents.
  • Prior Art for IDS Submission: When submitting the IDS, the relevant prior art must be submitted to validate the innovation. Automated searches can be used to include prior art in the IDS and to reduce the processing time for patent applications.
  • New technological fields: Inventions that are unique and groundbreaking often pose a problem for in-house Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) when searching for relevant new prior art. In such cases, the subject may not have direct prior art, but AI-based patent search tools can be used to understand and draw similarities from the latest technologies to identify prior art. existing potential.
  • Cost reduction: Since most AI-based patent search tools are relatively affordable, there is no need to maintain a budget for outsourcing patent search services. Many AI-based patent search tools use a pay-as-you-go model for patent searches.

When to choose manual search

  • Crowded patent spaces: For patent spaces that are crowded, manual searches can help differentiate between existing patents and prior art for the given invention. Since the subtle differences in this prior art give rise to patentability, it is rather advantageous to differentiate this subject matter from the available prior art.
  • Interchangeable terminologies: Likewise, these crowded patent spaces often have terminologies that overlap with those of the invention. Some areas of technology have terms that are used interchangeably. To perform a comprehensive prior art search, all of these terms must be searched manually – in a manner relevant to the given context.
  • New fields of application: Inventions which are not new in themselves, but which are new in their application, require extensive manual research of the prior art to identify any prior art similar to the given application. In doing so, the claims can be worded in such a way as to ensure a high license value in the future.
  • Contemporary research: With a constantly expanding patent market and increasing competition in patent filings, the need to understand the state of the art (SOA) in terms of validity has become quite important. Therefore, contemporary research that incorporates both novelty and SOA research is needed to understand competitor patent filings. It also allows innovators to draft their patent claims by adapting their patent filing strategy to that of competitors.
  • Avoid 103 rejections: To avoid obvious rejections under 35 USC §103, manual searches can help innovators analyze the patent lawsuit history of similar patents. This can help them learn from patent prosecution strategies that have similar combinations of technologies. Such a personalized patent search can thus ensure that the chances of obtaining a rejection 103 are reduced.

Complementary use of automated and manual searches – the hybrid model

For organizations with large research and development (R&D) teams working on many innovations simultaneously, manual research done during the initial stages of concept ideation and approval can be time consuming. AI-based tools solve this current problem by providing rapid results of prior art research so that these R&D teams can take advantage of the role of intellectual property in their processes. Even though most of these AI-based tools are still in their infancy in training and data entry, they can supplement manual patent searches in some cases. While AI-based tools are economical and fast, manual research is more reliable and relevant. Using a combination of the two can guarantee truly superior results.

Prasad Summit

Sumit Prasad is an innovation strategist by profession with over 8 years of experience as a patent expert and intellectual property consultant. He plays a key role in cultivating innovation and raising awareness of intellectual property among startups, MSMEs, GCoE R&D groups and helps them strategize for their intellectual property activities. At Sagacious, he leads the “IT for IP” initiative which allows him to leverage his experience in intellectual property to create algorithms using AI, ML, NLP, automation, and more. and develop tools / software that can help solve problems in the intellectual property sector. Sumit also helped Sagacious automate IP processes and development tools for increased efficiency and better interaction with customers.

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Missouri education commissioner explains next step after test scores drop

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The effect of the pandemic on Missouri students has resulted in lower test scores across all subjects and grade levels.

It is no surprise to the Department of Primary and Secondary Education (DESE) that the pandemic has affected student learning.

Standardized test results show that Missouri students who attended school in person last year performed better than those who were virtual. Overall, math was the most affected submission.

“I actually thought it could have been a lot worse,” DESE Commissioner Margie Vandeven told our chief Missouri Capitol Bureau reporter Emily Manley.

“I’ll tell you, we have a lot of work to do and that single data point doesn’t tell the whole story.”

From in-person learning to virtual and hybrid classrooms, the past 18 months have been anything but normal for students and teachers.

“There was a bigger impact in our first students than in high school,” Vandeven said. These are not your typical one-year results. It really is the reflection of two school years.

Schools in Missouri closed in the spring of 2020, which means standardized testing has not taken place. Some schools reopened for in-person learning in fall 2020 while others went virtual or offered blended learning.

“We always wanted to give these tests because we think we need this data to understand, but it was more about not being judgmental and making high-stakes decisions about what we need to change in the program. “said Vandeven.

Last spring, 90% of students in K-12 public schools in Missouri took the test. This percentage is lower than in previous years. Vandeven said she was prepared for the worst.

“Why we talked about not comparing is that the conditions were so different and even in our schools that went back full time in person, they had students who were in quarantine, they had teachers who were in quarantine or sick, ”Vandeven said.

Tests show that only 45% of students are fluent or advanced in English, losing four points from 2019. Students lost seven points in math, the largest drop from 42% to 35%.

And in science, 37% were found to be proficient or advanced in 2021, up from 42% in 2019. Elementary students decline the most, and the biggest drop in learning has been algebra 1.

The smallest decline was recorded in English in fourth and eighth grades and in mathematics in eighth grade.

“We must have high expectations, we must always help our children, but understand that this has been a disruptive time,” said Vandeven.

“They will catch up; they will be able to acquire these skills, it might take a little longer than what we were used to before.

Data on test results then shows that every ethnicity has felt the effects of the pandemic. Asian students consistently outperformed other ethnicities with a mastery rate of 56%, while black students struggled the most at 15%.

Vandeven said to get students back on track, parents need to consider tutoring and ask teachers what kind of help their child needs.

“Does basic learning even make more sense,” Vandeven said. “Are there ways for us to expressly explain to students how to go to the next level and then think about the skills that can be learned through the system. Really focus on what students need to know and be able to do in order to be successful.

Over the past two weeks, Vandeven said she had met with teachers across the state about the test results.

“A lot of them thought it reflected what they saw locally in terms of math and reading in particular,” Vandeven said. “But what they shared is that they can’t wait to be there, our kids are happy to be back.”

Due to the pandemic, this year’s test results have been removed from state and federal accountability systems. Vandeven said the federal government has not decided on the assessment tests for next spring.

She said schools in Missouri have received $ 2.9 billion from the US bailout, which can be used over the next three years.

“Significant investments have been made in our states and our schools to ensure that our doors can stay open, that our students are educated to the best of their ability,” said Vandeven.

“With the federal government making this kind of investment, I think it will want to see the results and see how our students are doing. “

Vandeven said all of Missouri’s public schools are back to in-person learning this year. Since the start of the school year, she said 10 districts have experienced some kind of temporary closure.

Compared to other states, Vandeven said Missouri had similar test scores with the greatest impact in math.

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Test and Measure: Keysight Steps Up Distance Learning Support

As blended work and blended learning become the new normal, Keysight Technologies this week highlighted two of its distance learning initiatives: one for professional engineers and one that allows university labs to support remote access to laboratories.

Keysight University is the company’s online interactive platform for engineers to learn about test and measurement fundamentals, engineering design advice, and best practices in their industries and generally follow the pace of technological change in a dynamic industry. Keysight said the new platform includes content on engineering challenges and digital and radio frequency precision measurement approaches, as well as industry standards, software test automation, IoT and other topics. The company said the more than 130 courses available were all developed and published under remote working conditions. As of September 2021, Keysight said, more than 32,000 engineers worldwide have enrolled at Keysight University and have enrolled in more than 81,000 courses.

“Keysight is thrilled with the growing number of clients from industry-leading companies, as well as faculty and students from global universities, leveraging the learning platform to support their professional development,” said Jeff Harris, vice president of corporate and portfolio marketing at Keysight Technologies. . “We are committed to supporting engineering education for customers, students, educators and lifelong learners for years to come. “

Additionally, Keysight also said this week that he has a new remote access lab solution designed to support distance learning at university level. “Blended learning in education is now widely accepted, creating a strong need for distance solutions to complement classroom learning,” Keysight said in a statement, adding that its solution enables students to access remotely to a lab setup and perform lab work via an Internet browser.

“Keysight’s remote access lab solution accelerates the shift from traditional in-building learning to blended learning, where virtual courses are delivered remotely on digital platforms,” said Boon Juan Tan, vice-president President and CEO of Keysight’s general electronics measurement business. “Keysight’s new solution enables our customers to take distance education and learning to the next level of digital transformation, enabling students to move from traditional teaching and simulations to a real distance learning experience.

In other test news:

PCTel To launched a new 5G network scan receiver, the Gflex, which will be available for shipment before the end of the year. The company claims that Gflex is more powerful, portable and flexible than other 5G and millimeter wave scanners already on the market and claims that its unique compact unit supports all of the 5G bands currently defined by 3GPP Rel. 17, and the first capable of measuring the entire 5G bandwidth of 100 megahertz. According to PCTel, the scanner measures up to 120 5G channels simultaneously and is capable of simultaneously testing 4G and 5G “without any degradation in performance”, and it also has an extended frequency range (10 MHz-8 GHz, 24-48 GHz).

“Gflex is a real game changer for PCTEL and our customers. It is a next-generation platform with advanced capabilities to support the complex testing requirements of 5G and legacy technologies, all in a single scanning receiver. The Gflex is also a scalable solution that will play a key role in the success of the next phase of 5G, including deployments in buildings, Open RAN architectures and IoT applications, ”said David Neumann, CEO of PCTEL. “In addition, the Gflex The platform will allow PCTEL to serve a larger segment of the government market with our test and measurement solutions.

Tektronix To released its new KTE v7.1 software for Keithley’s S530 series parametric test system for semiconductor chip manufacturing. Tek says new software improves test times by more than 10% over KTE V5.8 – a particularly valuable feature right now, as a global chip shortage means producing chips faster is a goal important.

“Emerging broadband analog (SiC and GaN) and power semiconductor technologies require parametric tests that maximize measurement performance, address a wide range of products and minimize costs,” said said Peter Griffiths, general manager of systems and software at Tektronix. “Our customers, including the world’s largest chipmakers, will benefit from the enhancements in KTE V7.1 that will allow engineers to continue to design innovations at an unprecedented rate to meet the demands of evolving markets.

Keysight Technologies says that Chinese manufacturer of electric vehicles NIO will use the test company’s 5G and cellular vehicle-to-all solutions to verify connectivity as the company develops high-end electric vehicles for the Chinese market.

Viavi Solutions has a new rugged LTE compatible radio tester, the CX300 ComXpert, aimed to test the radio and broadband network infrastructure, especially for critical private networks. Viavi said the new tool has a frequency range of up to 6 GHz and supports advanced frequency, power and modulation analysis for both analog and digital land mobile radio (LMR) protocols. and professional mobile radio (PMR), as well as private LTE networks.

Teledyne LeCroy has a new one USB exercise option available it claims to be the first 20 Gb / s USB SuperSpeed ​​exercise device to support end-to-end testing for 20 Gb / s systems and peripherals. Additionally, the company also announced this week that it is now offering availability of its PCI Express 5.0 M.2 interposer, which can be used with its PCIe 5.0 Summit protocol analyzer to capture and analyze PCIe 5.0 traffic from expansion cards or M.2 drives. Finally, Teledyne LeCroy also stated that Creed, which provides high-speed interconnection solutions for data centers, will use its SierraNet M648 network and fabric testing platform to test their designs and validate their evolving digital signal processing (DSP) devices for 50 Gb to 400 Gb Ethernet.

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Amdocs and Telkom Foundation give digital boost to three local schools

Three South African schools, namely – Khwezi Lomso High School and Ndzondelelo High School in Gqeberha (formerly known as Port Elizabeth) and Le Reng High School in Ladybrand, – will receive internet data, tablets, food packages and others COVID-19 relief items, thanks to a collaboration between Amdocs (, a leading provider of software and services for the communications and media industry, and Telkom Foundation, the stand-alone arm of social investment in South African telecommunications with 39% state-owned provider, Telkom.

The two organizations have joined forces to help learners in two of South Africa’s most disadvantaged communities where COVIDThe -19 pandemic has added another layer of disruption to student education.

The initiative aims to encourage learners to stay in school under the current difficult circumstances, which have led many of them to be between 75% and a year behind where they should be, according to an instant survey of 2021 National Income Dynamics. Study, Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey, Wave 5 and Ministry of Basic Education.

Amdocs South Africa CEO, Pikie Monaheng, says that while some children have been able to move forward with a combination of online and in-person lessons, those in disadvantaged rural and urban communities do not have the necessary access to internet connectivity, compatible devices. Internet or digital culture to keep abreast of their schoolwork.

“This disparity in digital inclusion prompted Amdocs to partner with the Telkom Foundation to provide connectivity, devices and skills to learners in two local communities.”

The initiative comes at a time when things are more difficult than ever for many South Africans. “We wanted to promote digital inclusion because we believe that distance or hybrid learning will continue for a while – in some cases becoming the norm – and we want to be part of efforts to give children and schools the tools they need to continue uninterrupted, ”he adds.

In addition to promoting digital inclusion measures, Amdocs will provide humanitarian assistance to hard-hit communities in the form of food and other basic supplies, as well as paying school fees for some of the children who lack the necessary resources. ways to do it.

The Telkom Foundation will in turn join forces with two other foundations – Zifundiseni TIC Thlali Nthlajana Foundation and Foundation – to ensure that aid reaches schools and identified learners.

This is one of many education and learner support projects that the Telkom Foundation helps facilitate in collaboration with government, the private sector and educational institutions. Other examples include the Connected Schools Program, Rally to Read, the Future of the African Daughter (FOTAD) and the Ikateleng projects.

Amdocs Vice President for Africa, George Fraser, says the initiative is part of Amdocs’ global efforts to support the communities in which it operates. “We have also instituted various programs in Kenya, India, Mexico and Israel, and we are looking to expand our efforts in Africa and other continents.

Telkom Puso Waga Monese Foundation (CSI specialist) then said that COVID-19 may not have the same implications for children’s health as it does for adults, it causes untold damage. “Not only do they have to deal with disrupted schooling and related activities, but the socio-economic impact of the pandemic – in the form that their parents fall ill or lose their jobs – can worsen poverty and lead to problems of mental health and others.

“The help we receive from organizations like Amdocs to promote digital inclusion and help vulnerable children in their formative years to learn and grow is invaluable,” he concludes.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Amdocs.

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3 Philly Nonprofits Receive Money to Help Improve the Digital Literacy Skills of the People They Serve

Digital access is still a priority for Philadelphians who navigate the pandemic impact, and for the institutions that serve them.

Three Philly nonprofits are the recipients of a total of $ 50,000 in grants from AT&T. The goal: to boost digital literacy and help Philadelphians overcome academic challenges.

AT&T is a partner of the City of philadelphia‘s Alliance for Digital Literacy, which provides grants to external projects aimed at increasing digital access for city residents. Last year, for example, the Alliance gave money to organizations that to create “Digital browser” posts it would help Philadelphians access and use technology and the Internet. (Here is an overview of the impact on the ground of these browsers.)

These $ 50,000 in grants are part of AT&T’s commitment to invest more than $ 2 billion over the next three years to bridge the digital divide in the United States. communities and those seeking medical care, drug addiction programs and housing:

  • Coded by children will receive $ 20,000 to support technological and digital education programs for its OneE Philadelphia extracurricular program.
  • The reception center, which manages the FOCUS blended learning program for underserved, low-income and immigrant populations, will receive $ 20,000.
  • Philadelphia Fight, a nonprofit healthcare organization, will receive $ 10,000 to support digital literacy training and a device library that will provide access to medical care, housing and substance use programs.

“The pandemic has increased the challenges facing millions of students and others nationwide, including here in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania,” said Joseph Divis, AT & T’s assistant vice president of external affairs, in a statement. “Our support for these organizations will help the people they serve improve their digital literacy skills, giving them a better chance for success in the classroom, at work and in life.” “

Sylvester Mobley, Founder and CEO of Coded by Kids, said the pandemic has added another layer of complexity to the organization’s vision, with more than a year of learning lost. Now, he said, black and brown students are at an even greater disadvantage in advancing math, literacy and digital literacy skills.

“That’s why we’re thrilled to have the support and commitment of the AT&T Foundation for our new 1Philadelphia After School Learning Pod, an accelerated after-school learning program for K-5 students. designed to provide comprehensive support services to counter the educational impacts of COVID-19, ultimately putting students on the path to success in technological or entrepreneurial careers, ”he said.


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Seattle local business news and data – Construction

September 30, 2021

How schools and designers can handle crises

  • Remote, Hybrid, or Outdoor: What Style of Training Has Worked Best During the Pandemic?
    Rice Fergus Miller


    The crisis demands quick and effective solutions in an ever-changing playing field. When schools started closing quickly in early 2020, no one could have predicted how they would adjust or how students would fare in the face of unprecedented challenges.

    The three commonly observed teaching methods that surfaced were: full distance distance learning, a hybrid between distance and limited classroom learning and in-person outdoor learning. We interviewed three schools that each approached education differently during the first year of the pandemic: Catalyst Public School in Bremerton, Silverwood School in Poulsbo, and Lincoln Park Elementary School in Douglass Park, Oregon. Every school, regardless of teaching method, has been successful in maintaining safety, fostering student success, and increasing enrollment the following year using timeless management and teaching techniques.


    Images courtesy of Rice Fergus Miller


    Catalyst is a non-profit, tuition-free charter school in Bremerton open to all students regardless of ability, need or zip code. Rice Fergus Miller completed the complete renovation of the 20,000 square foot building in 2019, including 12 classrooms, a cafeteria, meeting rooms and faculty accommodation.

    The cornerstone of the success of each school surveyed was community engagement. Creating early standards of communication and procedures for teachers, families, students, and buy-in from everyone, was critical to success. It included everything from how and when students would return to class, how homework would be transferred back and forth, and even how families applied home safety protocols. As each school approached this differently, the same goal emerged: clear and regular communication between teachers and families allowing for skillful adaptability as needed.

    • From a distance

    In addition to video conferencing platforms, many schools and districts have adopted communication applications to bridge communication delays and develop a network of accountability between teachers, students and parents.

    Catalyst is a community charter school located in Bremerton. He quickly selected an app called EdLight as an educational platform to facilitate communication. This app allows the school to post class-wide or school-wide critical messages to parents over a secure connection. Plus, it connects students and teachers to send and receive homework and feedback immediately.

    • Hybrid

    During the transition to blended learning, Catalyst continued to use EdLight to maintain a collection of homework and as a standard communication platform. The app allows students to take photos of their homework and immediately upload them to the platform. The instructor can digitally review and comment on assignments that are immediately accessible to students. As classes split between face-to-face learning and digital learning, a tool for seamless connection with students became invaluable.

    • In person

    Silverwood School is an independent outdoor school, located in Poulsbo. He was dedicated to maintaining in-person learning throughout the pandemic. Limited by technology, she used a different approach to engage her community. Silverwood hired a 0.5 FTE Liaison Officer who helped every teacher and staff check in with families regularly and make sure students and families had the resources they needed. The Liaison Officer provided much needed support and even delivered or picked up supplies as needed. According to Lisa Heaman, principal of the school at Silverwood, “Hiring the liaison officer from the start was one of the best decisions we made. It made everything much smoother. For the 2021-22 school year, Silverwood has adopted a digital communications platform, much like Catalyst, for teacher engagement with family.


    Classroom windows maximize natural light and add views of Sinclair Inlet.

    Have you ever draped a blanket over a window to reduce glare, or opened a door with your elbow because your hands were full? Changing your physical environment to meet immediate needs provides valuable insight into how a space may not reach its potential. During the pandemic, examining how schools altered their physical space to comply with safety protocol provided essential feedback on how to better design teaching spaces for future use.

    • From a distance

    Digital engagement can have as much of a physical impact on students, families and teachers as a school building. For distance learners, all three schools provided consistent tablets and all connected to the same video conferencing platform. For Catalyst, much of the digital space layout came from the video conferencing platform and working with the students to set up their dedicated space at home. During student orientation, Catalyst and Douglass Park provided each student and their family with a package of manipulatives (depending on the school year) that the student was responsible for and could use during class. from a distance.

    • Hybrid

    When the students returned, each school used the guidelines for social distancing, disinfection, mask wear, and ventilation upgrades, where possible. For Catalyst, it had recently moved to a new building and had enough space to accommodate all of the students in the school, while keeping classes small to maintain a 6-foot separation.

    For Catalyst, it would do two things differently: install windows that open in classrooms for natural ventilation; and provide more covered outdoor space (tents in the parking lot don’t last long in the rain).

    • In person

    With the outdoors as a classroom, air quality is usually not an issue, unless it is during wildfire season. Silverwood students spend most of their time outdoors, but when they were indoors, social distancing and safety precautions were paramount. As Heaman said: “At the beginning our mantra was: ‘Everyone’s health and safety (is) our priority’. From the start, Silverwood installed air filtration systems in every room of the school.

    In addition, it has modified its classroom spaces to offer the greatest flexibility. This meant that much of the furniture had to be removed so that 6 feet of social distancing could be maintained. Some teachers have asked students to use their own yoga mats and work on the floor and on trays, other teachers have used “surfboards,” a desk sitting on the floor that students can pick up and move. easily indoors or outdoors. When they weren’t using either, a soft seat on the grass or tree stumps worked just as well.


    Accountability has enabled each school to respect its security procedures, ensure academic rigor and promote student success. Creating a culture of accountability among staff, students and families has resulted in zero cases of COVID-19 in every school.

    • From a distance

    For distance learning, the challenge of fostering regular student participation has become one of the biggest challenges. Amanda Gardner of Catalyst said, “I noticed that students who had done a year of college before became much more passive during distance learning. Fortunately, that disappeared when (the students) returned this year and they were very happy to be back in school. During full distance learning, a positive way for schools to ensure they stay on track was to invite other instructors from the school to participate in virtual classes and to share of their comments.

    Teachers used different icebreakers and digital techniques to get students to keep their cameras on and stay engaged during live teaching sessions. The two schools that offered distance learning said that live teaching sessions were much better at engaging the student than homework sent back and forth with limited or no teaching sessions.

    For distance learners, success depended heavily on the instructor and families to stay on top of communication to ensure that students remained engaged.

    • Hybrid

    Hybrid, split-class learning has brought the benefit of smaller class sizes, but with the challenge of contact tracing and distance learning. The blended learning responsibility combined the physical challenges of security and sanitation with the pedagogical responsibility of distance learning.

    • In person

    Heaman described how creating a culture of accountability within the faculty helped maintain the rigor of the school even when everyone was feeling tired. For Silverwood, creating a culture of accountability early on for the facility, families and students is what has sustained them throughout the year without any COVID-19 cases on campus.

    In developing the safety plan for Silverwood, Heaman thought in detail about every step a student would take during their day at school. From there, they limited the amount of material that would pass from teacher to student, making it easier to track who touched what.

    Valuable information

    Three different learning methods provide valuable insight into how schools have adapted to maintain safety and academic success in the first year of the pandemic. Each school has been successful in mobilizing families, students and faculty to create a united community to keep everyone safe and help students succeed. Each school has changed its physical and digital space in various ways, adapting quickly to new scientific research and emerging data.

    Fostering a culture of accountability was essential to maintain academic rigor and health security. As we move into more uncharted territory for education, the lessons learned over this past year of school will help plan the future of education for years to come.

    Travis Hauan is an architectural designer and partner at Rice Fergus Miller. He works in the company’s housing, community and education studios.

    Other stories:

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    Securing VPNs. Threats to privacy on campus. Evasive spyware. Private vaccine passport application exposed user data.

    In one look.

    • NSA and CISA publish fact sheet on secure use of VPNs.
    • Edtech software can expose student data.
    • The evil twin of Campus Wi-Fi.
    • FinSpy becomes more evasive.
    • The private vaccination passport application exposes user data.

    Security agencies warn of VPN challenges.

    The United States National Security Agency and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency have joined forces to offer advice on securing virtual private networks, or VPNs, against attacks. VPNs are often targeted by nation-state threat actors who exploit network vulnerabilities in order to steal data or hijack corporate networks. To protect against such threats, the fact sheet recommends choosing VPN devices from the National Information Assurance Partnership (NIAP) ‘s list of well tested compliant products. The tips also include using multi-factor authentication, updating regularly to ensure all security patches have been performed, and disabling non-VPN related features.

    Educational software exposes student data.

    At the height of the pandemic, many schools became dependent on virtual education software to enable distance learning, and the 74 million reports this software offering of this type has potentially exposed the data of millions of students. After examining Netop Vision Pro Education’s monitoring software, used by 9,000 school systems and designed to allow teachers to keep tabs on student-supplied devices, McAfee researchers found four critical vulnerabilities that left communications teacher-student unencrypted and could inadvertently allow hackers to hijack student devices. McAfee explains, “The hacker could activate webcams and microphones on the target system, allowing them to physically observe your child and their surroundings. Netop has been made aware of the issues, most of which were fixed earlier this year, but the incident highlights recent security issues faced by education monitoring technology companies like ProctorU and Gaggle.

    Evil Twin Wi-Fi steals college degrees.

    Still in the world of education, WizCase researchers discovered a bug in the software of the Wi-Fi company eduroam, a free Wi-Fi provider for universities and other higher education establishments. A simple misconfiguration could allow hackers to create a malicious eduroam network, an “evil twin” that could trick users’ devices into exposing user credentials. It should be noted that the error is not strictly the fault of eduroam, but rather an issue of incorrect configuration instructions being disseminated by administrators. When informed, eduroam replied: “We are indeed sometimes informed of eduroam identity providers who do not comply with eduroam policy requirements and leave their own users unprotected. We totally agree with your opinion that this is unacceptable behavior on their part. “

    The FinSpy stealth attack dodges detection.

    Kaspersky researchers have discovered that FinSpy spyware has the ability to support a machine’s Windows UEFI boot loader in order to infect target devices. The legality of “lawful interception” spyware has already been questioned, and now Security Week reports that FinSpy’s software was able to bypass firmware security checks to replace the bootkit with a malicious loader. Additionally, updates made since 2018 allow spyware to hide behind four levels of obfuscation in order to evade security scanning. “The amount of work that goes into making FinFisher inaccessible to security researchers is particularly disturbing and somewhat impressive … It seems that developers are putting at least as much work into obfuscation and anti-scanning measures as they are into the Trojan horse itself, ”Kaspersky said. Igor Kuznetsov.

    The vaccine passport suffers a data exposure incident.

    Radio-Canada News reports that the Portpass app, a private vaccination passport widely used in Canada, experienced a data exposure incident. The CBC says data at risk of compromise includes “email addresses, names, blood groups, phone numbers, birthdays, as well as identity photos like driver’s licenses and passports.” Trevor Morgan, product manager at comforte AG, sees this kind of data neglect as its own unfortunate contribution to vaccine skepticism:

    According to the report, sensitive data, including driver’s license information, was not encrypted and could be easily viewed in plain text. Aside from political views, this type of exposure is one of the main reasons why many members of the general public are wary of mandatory digital and mobile -unless the app provider goes to great lengths to enforce data-centric security, such as encryption that preserves format or tokenization to protect sensitive data by obscuring sensitive pieces of data, situations like this will happen again and again, and people will be reluctant to adopt such tools.Whenever an organization collects and processes information on human health, it has the ultimate responsibility to protect this data and to ensure that it is never presented in a readable format to users not allowed. Situations like this are certainly not accepted! “

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