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Tools of the Trade: Passwords


by Rita Sorrentino

Confession. I never really get the point of the Progressive commercials. There never seems to be a correlation between the vignettes and the benefits of the product. But a recent Progressive commercial caught my attention. In trying to gain access to the insurance center HQX to compare options, Flo and Jamie make several attempts to guess the password. After some frustration with pumpernickel, staccato and triceratops to name a few, along comes a cheery employee who both greets them and gains access with “hey guys.” The simplicity of the correct password dumbfounds the pair who seemingly abandon their intent to enter. Not sure what the takeaway message was supposed to be from Flo’s perky personality. But it did give me pause to think about password.

A few weeks ago, I had a password identity recovery/reset unnerving experience. I received a notification that someone in India was trying to access my Apple ID. I was warned that my account wasn’t safe and I needed to change my password. Getting right to it, I thought it would take a few minutes and I’d have peace of mind. However, beginning with my first click, I began a time-consuming process that took up most of my morning.  By trying to verify and reset the password, I got caught in a loop, similar to a nightmare. In attempting to comply with the two-step verification process, I needed to: confirm, verify, sign in, confess (yes, I forgot), panic (my backup email was no longer active), retrieve a code from another device, restart, retry, log out of all other devices associated with the Apple ID (what about an older device I gave away?), get another code because it took me too long. Repeat.Repeat.

A call to Apple Support finally facilitated my way out of the loop. Their technicians guided me to successfully delete my inactive verification email and disassociate the donated iPad from my account. Many hours later, problem solved, somewhat. Now my other devices needed the updated two-step safety process.  Confirm, verify…repeat.

Undoubtedly, passwords are now a vital part of our daily lives. Whether or not we are annoyed with their maintenance, they are necessary to help secure our privacy and online safety. Are you three for three here?

  • Are you using a strong password with at least 8 characters?
  • Are you using a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols?
  • Are you changing your passwords regularly?

Confession time again: I scored two out of three. I was not in the habit of changing passwords at regular intervals, but I am making myself that promise to be more astute with changing and maintaining unique passwords. Here are some other tips I gleaned that are worth considering in creating and maintaining your passwords:

  • It is also good practice to logout of accounts. Do not allow accounts to remember your password, especially if you are in public places or using shared devices.
  • Keep your recovery email address up to date
  • Consider a Password Manager. With this app, you remember one password and it remembers the rest. Read a discussion here.


As we think about our own practices, let us also consider how to best guide our students, even our younger ones. Developing strong passwords is a first and necessary step for protecting their online accounts, for being responsible for their digital spaces, and for connecting with others to engage in real word issues.


ConnectSafely is a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating technology users about safety, privacy and security. Their posts include guides geared toward parents and teachers. From this link, scroll down for a 2 minute video focusing on smart passwords appropriate for students of all ages.

Common Sense Media is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to helping kids thrives in a world of connected media and technology. Click here for a lesson about

strong passwords. (Grades 3-5) Take time to explore the website for a rich array of resources for teaching and learning in the digital age.

Free Technology for Teachers At this site, Richard Byrne offers relevant tips for engaging and educating students for all things digital. Click here for a current post with embedded videos about creating strong passwords.


Netsmartz is an educational website program of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. It provides resources to teach children how to be safe on and offline. Click here for resources for discussing issues about online privacy.

Edublogger. In a post on this educational blogging platform, Sue Waters offers, “Tips for creating secure student passwords.” Of special interest, is the discussion and suggestions for Password Managers.


What strategies do you use for password maintenance and management? Please share in comments below. As for me, I am keeping an eye on my Google account in hopes that I do not have to repeat the frustrating experience of recovering and resetting my password.

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