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The Challenges of Remote Learning

The challenges of remote learning are taking a variety of twists and turns for school districts. One Florida district even went as far as to create an "Online Netiquette" video for parents and students to address unexpected online behavior by parents, such as advising them to be fully dressed if they will be seen on camera. The district has listed a number of struggles they have been dealing with as well, including technical difficulties that eat into teacher’s class time and prep, challenges teaching students with disabilities in a remote platform, and concerns about cheating.


What Does an Uptick in Child Screen Time Indicate?

A spike in screen time among children during the coronavirus pandemic is tied to a lack of childcare and family stress, according to a study by researchers at Boston College and the University of Maryland. Researchers also found that levels of screen time among children can serve "as an index of family distress”.


Employers Value Tech Skills, But Soft Skills Lead the Way

This is a good reminder for parents and kids. Although job descriptions may demand stellar technical skills, it is the superior soft skills that are landing more and more jobs. According to a recent study by LinkedIn, the number one skill requirement in recent job postings is communication skills.


Voice Assistants to Detect Illnesses?

Imagine a day when Siri or Alexa might be able to let you know you have a cold -- or something worse -- coming on. Researchers are working on a tool that leverages machine learning to detect irregularities in a person's voice that can be linked to certain ailments. The "diagnosis" isn't designed to be definitive, just more of a nudge to seek additional medical care. Privacy concerns abound, but a tool like this makes sense. Who/What has a better gauge on your current health? A doctor you haven't seen in months, or a virtual assistant that can track your movements, monitor your sleep and listen to your every cough and sneeze?


The History of Emojis

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words is an emoji worth? Dating back to 1995, emojis have become such a large part of our communication that approximately 5 billion are used every day -- and that's just on Facebook and Facebook Messenger! The most used emoji on Twitter and Facebook is the crying with laughter emoji, whilst the heart is the most popular on Instagram. In a fascinating piece on the World Economic Forum site, you can take a quick look at the history and growth of emojis that may or may not leave you with a "laughing face with tears of joy."


Digital Literacy Challenges Remote Learning

According to a Bridgewater State University survey of more than 700 teachers in 40 states, the lack of digital literacy skills of both students and their parents caused problems with remote learning last spring. Heather Pacheco-Guffrey, an associate professor of science education, said data showed students and parents often have the skills to consume technology but not to create with it, such as using Google Docs to collaborate and joining Zoom calls.

How can you help your kids? Ask them to create things on the computer – books, flipbooks, cartons, cards, craft projects, brochures, maps, menus and so much more. And remember, just because it comes out of the printer, doesn’t mean it has to be done “done.” Think about ways for what they create on the computer be displayed and distributed, beyond using technology or social media. You want your kids to be producers and distributors with the help of technology, not just passive recipients.


Private Student Information Published by Hacker

Private information of students in the Clark County, Nev., school district was released after the district did not pay a ransomware demand. Ransomware is a form of malware where hackers demand ransom for access to data that, in this case, a school district holds. It can have a devastating impact on businesses and individuals alike. The information included students' Social Security numbers and grades. Brett Callow, a threat analyst for cybersecurity company Emsisoft, says multiple school districts have fallen victim to similar schemes. Does your district have a plan for handling a ransomware attack?


Survey Says Most Americans Don’t Want Political Adds on Social Media

About 54% of Americans don't think any political ads should be allowed by social platforms, and 77% say it's unacceptable for their personal information to be used by social platforms to serve them political ads, says the Pew Research Center. Their recent study breaks down the findings by age, race/ethnicity and political leaning, with those ages 65 and older most likely to favor not allowing political ads on social media. Some 64% of those 65 and older say these sites should not allow any political ads on their platforms, compared with slightly over half of those ages 30 to 64 and 45% of those 18 to 29. By contrast, those in the youngest age group are more likely to favor allowing only some ads on the site, with 30% holding this view, compared with about one-in-five or fewer of those in older age groups.


Edit-a-Thons Bring More information on Black Artist to Wikipedia

artists, teachers and students to help add Wikipedia pages for Black artists and adjusting others as needed. Started by Jina Valentine and Heather Hart, the edit-a-thons have been hosted at schools, libraries and other spaces around the world and resulted in the addition of 1,200 artists and institutions to the site and changes made to countless other pages. With the continued support and success of the initiative, we may begin to see similar movements to get more people included in the online encyclopedia. It’s also a great way to discuss the various ways Wikipedia pages come into being with your kids, but to keep in mind that no matter how great the cause, all sources should be vetted.


Poll Gauges Teens Interest in Computer Science

73% of male students in 7th to 12th grades say they are confident they could learn computer science -- compared to 60% of female students, according to a survey by Gallup supported by Google. Data also shows that Black families are more likely to describe computer science education as important or very important.


Where Do Parents Stand with Technology during the Pandemic?

A recent survey from the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) reports that the the majority of parents feel the technology provides key benefits to education, including communication and learning support. The survey, conducted this summer, found that data privacy was a "mid- to low-level" concern among parents, outweighed by the quality of their children's education. Yet many parents surveyed said they are not aware of the legal rights for protecting their child’s data privacy, nor of the technology plans in place in their child’s school or district. 

“Parents see themselves as responsible for children’s privacy, even though they report feeling ill-equipped to manage it,” says Elizabeth Laird, senior fellow of student privacy for the Washington, D.C.-based CDT. However, Laird notes, the legal framework in education does not allow for any control or input from parents. Schools are the ones legally responsible for protecting student data.  Further, the more parents learn about student data privacy, the more concerned they become, the survey found. And parents of elementary school-aged children, African-American parents, Hispanic parents and those with higher incomes report higher overall concern for this issue than other parents. Interested in finding out more about what responsibility schools have for preserving students’ data privacy? Check out this primer on the key points of the Family Educational Rights And Privacy Act (FERPA).


Cybercriminals Attack School Districts

With remote learning, school districts are reporting more ransomware attacks. Brett Callow, a threat analyst for Emsisoft, says the cybercriminals are changing tactics, threatening to publish employee’s private information online and demanding amounts more than $150,000 instead of just a few thousand dollars


Consumers Trust Linked App the Most, Facebook the Least

The Insider Intelligence U.S. Digital Trust Survey found that, ranking nine social platforms, consumers have the most faith in LinkedIn when it comes to security, community, ad experience and relevance and overall legitimacy. Pinterest earned the second spot, followed respectively by Snapchat, Reddit, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and Facebook.


Will Virtual Students Be Left Behind in Hybrid Education Model?

Students who are sticking with distance learning while some of their classmates return to school may be missing out, as teachers have less time for Zoom sessions and other remote instruction activities, some parents and educators say. Parent Jessica Savage says her son, who is in special education, has struggled with reduced interaction with his class, and school board president Michelle Fullhart says that she is concerned about equity for students who remain 100% virtual.


Uptick in Social Media Use Concerns Parents

Parents are concerned about an uptick in social media use among children during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a survey done in the Spring of 2020 by Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago. More than half of the 2,900 parents surveyed said they think social media negatively affects children, for reasons inclusing bullying, hate speech and being too sexual in nature. Claire Coyne, a pediatric psychologist at the hospital, says that in spite of these concerns, social media use does teach teens how to self- regulate. Coyne reminds parents to keep the conversation going and monitor your teen’s mood. She says this is critical in helping kids develop good habits and safety when it comes to social media.


Commentary: Schools Should Partner with Partners on Cybersecurity

The pandemic has forced school cybersecurity to encompass a much wider landscape than school campuses, and education leaders should get all the help they can, security expert Evan Francen writes in a recent commentary. He recommends enlisting students’ and parents' cybersecurity help through workshops, informational resources and contests.


WebCam Requirements – Could Relaxing Them Help Some Students Learn?

Many schools are requiring that students have their webcams on for remote learning, but some kids would benefit from a relaxed policy, some educators and parents say. Students can view themselves as well as their classmates and may become self-conscious, for example, and may be better able to focus with the camera off, asserts Erika Bocknek, a Wayne State University associate professor of educational psychology. This web cam approach to learning may be keeping kids safe from getting COVID-19, but it doesn’t come without its own set of new concerns, including privacy, equity and bullying.


Why is Online Learning so Tiring?

Learning online can cause students to feel anxious, worried or tired – something being called "Zoom fatigue" -- says Brenda Wiederhold, a licensed clinical psychologist. As it turns out, live Zoom calls aren’t as live as we think they are. In an interview, Wiederhold says that our brains pick up on the fact that what is happening in a Zoom call is delayed -even if for just a millisecond – and our brains look for a way to overcome the lack of synchrony. There is also a tendency to multitask as we are always looking around the screen, searching people’s faces for cues as to how they are feeling or what they might be thinking. All these heads floating on the screen can also trigger a type of fight-or-flight response in the brain.


Cybercrooks Are Working Overtime

As if you needed any more reasons to wish 2020 was over, the cybersecurity folks have even more for you to worry about. Tens of thousands of web domains related to the coronavirus pandemic are being created daily, reports ZDNet's David Gewirtz, who gathered several more unsettling statistics. Nine in 10 of those new domains are related to scams, including the intention to distribute malware, sell fake cures for COVID-19, and pass on more misinformation about the disease and other issues in the world.


Eye Strain a Possible Concern During Virtual Instruction

Students are at risk of digital eye strain during remote instruction, says Dr. Steven Rhee of Hawaiian Eye Center. Rhee suggests that students take a screen break every 20 minutes, for at least 20 seconds. He calls it the ‘20-20-20’ rule - for every 20 minutes up close, take a 20-second break and look at an object that’s at least 20 feet away. That’s sound advice for anyone staring at a screen for hours on end -- students, teachers or parents. Frequent breaks may be a tough ask sometimes, though 20 seconds is generally enough time out. The ciliary muscle is what helps eyes focus on objects at different distances, and too much use leads to that eye strain. The good news is that pain or discomfort felt in the moment is not permanent, even with children in the virtual classroom. But it is something to add to your list of things to remember to do!