August 16, 2021

Online Learning, A Pandemic Bandaid

I was hopeful when all of America collectively implemented online learning last year - that people who had never tried it before may come to like it and find it efficient for teaching and learning - but instead the application was poor and many students did not achieve the learning gains possible. Online learning has pretty much been badmouthed in the media - but yet here we go again, rushing to remote learning due to the new rise in more dangerous Covid variants.

Online learning is not for everyone?

Now as another in-person school year is threatened by the Covid delta variant, the same students will be rushed into an online learning system that could produce less than mediocre learning results (and probably being implemented by the same staff badmouthing online learning). It’s normal to be frustrated with technology - but I encourage you to give online learning a try with a fresh perspective and utilizing the tips below.

Through modern curriculum design methods, online learning should be successful for most learners with the proper supports, like having trained teachers (teachers properly trained to support online learners, and who are not overloaded with in-person teaching duties at the same time) and reliable learning management systems. Online learners that are successful are also typically self-motivated and strong readers (usually English is necessary but ESOL programs are available too).

Supporting online learners

To support this rushed transition to online “remote” learning with these students:

Support and structure learning for self-discipline. Use regular turn-in intervals for assignments, predictable activity schedules, mandatory in-person check-ins, a clear agenda posted for each unit, predictable assignment successions, succinct rubrics that are shared in advance of the assignment, and apply metacognitive strategies to maximize your students’ learning. 

Humanize the online environment and build authentic connections. This is really the most important tip - if you don’t build instructor-to-student support, peer-to-peer community, and learner-to-content personal connection; then prepare for your learners to check out from your lesson. Learners are motivated and build connections while learning in an online environment through these elements - these authentic, humanized connections are what we all need in the online environment. 

Create clear instructions. Try to be succinct and don’t be superfluous with your word choices. Sometimes a video is needed to explain an assignment, which is also a chance to build instructor presence. State your instructions starting with a directional verb: look at what is used in this article, telling you to “support,” “humanize,” "build," “create,” and “remember.” Have someone else proofread your instructions (if appropriate, an advanced student in the class) or at least read them aloud to yourself. You could also work in community with other instructors to provide support for each other.

Recognize that every learner is different and will need varying levels of interaction and support to grasp the lesson. The learners that already lack support to be successful in a traditional in-person classroom: these students will likely need the most instructor support on a regular basis. Are you sure that your learners have reliable access to the internet and a device capable of completing the online work? Is there district or school level technical support for teachers to help ensure this access?

One last thought that’s super important about supporting students through this online transition: as we send individual students (or groups of students) home to quarantine for two weeks at a time, are we also sending meals home with them? Hunger is endemic to the children in our school systems. I don’t think this is currently being done. This program could be run similarly to the summer breakfast/lunch pickup program already run throughout the country (through Covid too). Let’s make sure these kids are being taught effectively... and being fed!

What are your thoughts about online learning? Have you had successes or failures - share a comment below. 


August 10, 2021

Cybersecurity Basics, Revisited

Recently I’ve received more and more of those annoying and potentially unsafe texts and email phishing attempts from scammers. It seems that these criminals had nothing better to do during the pandemic lockdown except to come up with new ways to try and trick us into giving them our personal information or possibly losing money to them.

Although I work in the technology field and I’m well-versed on cybersecurity and online safety, I myself was almost tricked into clicking on a malicious link contained in a text message and had to do a double-take to stop myself. The phishing was a simple text with something about BJ’s Club membership information, and then I remembered that I didn’t even have a BJ’s Club membership, ha ha ha. This is what the text said:

There's an update to your BJ’s club order, please review the change here: bjsclub/

It was such a short simple text, related to “an order that I had made” - we’ve all been shopping more online this year and I’ve definitely been using the curbside pickup option with several stores. That little scam text almost tricked me into clicking almost automatically, without thinking, on the malicious link.

Basic cyber security tips

Scammers continue to get better at trying to steal our information. Realize that attacks may come in the form of a text, an email, through snail mail, or even by phone call. How do you protect yourself when using technology or online? Here are some basic tips to increase your personal security when interacting with technology or while online:

Be cautious when using public wi-fi, including your work network. Public networks give criminals the opportunity to intercept your encrypted transmissions - including when you’re using your “secure” mobile banking app or anything else where your personal data is being transferred over the wi-fi network. Wait until you’re home to conduct your important transactions or learn how to set up a virtual private network.

Plug your own charger directly into the wall outlet, not into another device (especially when traveling or away from home). When you plug your device's charger into another person's computer (or car), that computer can access your device's files.

Use a strong password or use a password manager. I personally choose to use strong passwords AND a password manager. A good password includes several unrelated words, some capitalization differences, some numbers and also some special characters.

Examples of strong passwords:

Use a 2-step login process. A two step log in requires you to verify twice before accessing your sensitive information or computer - many times you will enter a password and verify an image, or enter a password and receive a text message to confirm entry.

Use HTTPS when browsing the web. When you look in the address bar, you should see “https” in front of the website address, not “http.” This ensures that any information you send over the web to that website is encrypted and therefore less likely to be hacked.

Keep your software updated. Be sure that your computer, phone, or other device has the latest software and removes any holes that hackers might exploit. Companies are very fast push out patches, but it’s your responsibility to get them installed as quickly as you can. A sidenote to software updates - always verify the origin of your software update, because this is another hole that hackers like to exploit.

Think twice before clicking any link. Links may appear to be safe, but unless you were totally sure of the sender you shouldn’t click on it. The text in the link may even appear to be safe but could be hiding a malicious site within the link.

Backup your data. Store copies or backups of important files from your phones, tablets, computers, and any other devices. Consider setting up automatic backup schedules through the settings on your device.

Put a sticker on your laptop (or other devices). There are thousands of iPads or HPs or Androids (or whatever you use!) in your surrounding area - a sticker or other identifying alteration quickly makes your device visually recognizable from other peoples’ devices. You mark your luggage- so make sure you mark your laptop too!

Don’t answer or say “yes” to any unknown caller on an incoming phone call - the unknown caller might just be a computer recording your voice to be used maliciously around the internet. Realize that your voice and other human body identifiers are now being captured by scammers to fake your identity online.

I hope you find these simple tips helpful to your safe interactions with technology. Leave me a comment below to share your experiences of scam attempts!

...And if you're looking for more Cybersecurity basics, visit my first post on Cybersecurity basics - its a fun visual presentation with a short self-test. Here's page 10 of the self-test:

#amberclee #cybersecurity

August 2, 2021

Role Models

There’s been a few times in my life where I’ve needed a new direction or guidance. One of the best sources of this life guidance comes from finding role models that mirror your own personal life goals and then emulating their success to then reach your own goal success. I’m always looking for great role models, most especially female role models - - as they share the same experiences that I have, like motherhood or being a wife, and they have still built immense (and unique) success in life.

As a great financial and business leader, Warren Buffett was really my start to this role models project. His advice advocates that you model your own leadership (and goals) after the very best: find successful people to admire, then simply repeat [or improve] on their methods to success. He also strongly advocates increasing your communication skills, learning something new every day, and to stop using procrastination and excuses to hold you back. Whenever I get stuck, I go back to his basic yet powerful advice to inspire me and get my progress on track again.

Choosing role models

I’ve found that it’s helpful to choose several role models from the different areas of life that you’d like to focus your goals in. Think about the different areas of your life and for what you’d like to set goals. For me, these major life-goal areas and basic guiding questions might be:

Work: Who do you wish to model professionally?
Relationships: Who enjoys and embodies the types of relationships you seek?
Health: Who is, for you, the model of health and wellness?
Spiritual Growth: Who can serve as a model for your spiritual development?
Personal Interests: Who represents “the best” in your hobbies and areas of interest?

Lastly, remember that it’s always important to be yourself. Set goals in line with who you are and your values. As Judy Garland once said: “Always be a first-rate version of yourself instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.” The unique contributions that you can bring to the world are too precious to waste by simply being a copycat. Strive to put your own spin on projects and never give less than your best effort: You’d be cheating yourself otherwise!

Some of my female role models

I highlight female role models in the list below because it was hard for me to find a good list online when I was searching for ladies I could look up to myself.

(In no specific order)

  • Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth
Duckworth is a professor, business woman, and researcher known for her work at the intersection of resilience and passion, coined as grit.
One of her quotes: “Grit is living life like it's a marathon, not a sprint."

  • Melinda French Gates

Gates is an influential businesswoman and philanthropist.

One of her quotes: “Philanthropy is not about the money. It's about using whatever resources you have at your fingertips and applying them to improving the world."

  • Michelle Obama

Obama is a lawyer, former first lady of America, and now a style icon.

One of her quotes: “One of the lessons that I grew up with was to always stay true to yourself and never let what somebody else says distract you from your goals."

  • Simone Biles

Biles in an inspiring Olympic-level gymnast.

One of her quotes: “Do what’s never been done before”

And if you still don't think she's totally amazing, see this clip of her performance:

  • Mary Wallace Funk

Funk is an American aviator and currently the oldest astronaut (flying with Jeff Bezos in July 2021). 

One of her quotes: “You have to remember one thing. The only thing a woman needs to compete in a man’s world is ability.“

  • Kathy Ireland

Ireland is a businesswoman, model, and fashion icon.

One of her quotes: "I look at failure as education. In that respect I am so well-educated."

  • Amy Schumer

Schumer is a fun and outspoken comedian.

One of her quotes: “I know my worth. I embrace my power. I say if I'm beautiful. I say if I'm strong. You will not determine my story. I will."

  • Maya Angelou

Angelou is an amazing writer and poet.

One of her quotes: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

  • BeyoncĂ© Knowles

Knowles is a singer, dancer, and business investor (she's currently working with Peleton).

One of her quotes: “Do what you were born to do. You have to trust yourself."

  • Serena Jameka Williams

Williams is a talented world-class tennis player. 

One of her quotes: “You have to believe in yourself when no one else does."

  • JK Rowling

Rowling is the author of the Harry Potter series. 

One of her quotes: “Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged.”


  • Martha Stewart

Stewart is a business empire mogul, a queen at all matters of the home including decor and cooking; and a tv personality.

One of her quotes: “All the things I love is what my business is about."


  • Alyssa Carson

Carson is the youngest future astronaut (a Mars colony planned for 2030).

One of her quotes: “Believe in your dreams, appreciate oneness, and help others."

...and that’s just a start - what other role models do you find helpful for life guidance? Leave me a comment below.


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