Digital Smarts Blog

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2
Jan

Do We Create Our Own Misinformation?

In a world inundated with fake news, it's easy to cast blame on others for spreading misinformation. Now a study from Ohio State University gives credence to a notion that we create our own "alternative facts" to align with our biases. In this instance, the researchers showed that people misremembered accurate statistics when the facts were contrary to what they believed to be true.

1
Jan

Online Tutoring Firms Take Steps To Curb Abuse

According to a recent article from Edsurge, at least two online tutoring companies are taking steps to protect students following reports that educators have witnessed students being abused by parents or others during lessons. Qkids has launched a tool to help teachers report unsafe activity they witness during lessons, and VIPKid has added educational videos for parents and others on appropriate discipline.

31
Dec

Lateral Reading Helps Students Ferret Out Misinformation

Researchers at Stanford University are working with journalism groups to develop a news and Internet literacy curriculum designed to teach students how to sort fact from fiction. The free online curriculum, called Civic Online Reasoning, teaches skills including lateral reading, which professional fact-checkers use to evaluate the credibility of information sources. Lateral reading is a strategy for investigating who is behind an unfamiliar online source by opening a new browser tab to see what trusted websites say about the unknown source.

30
Dec

YouTube Steps Up Harassment Policy

YouTube has promised to ramp up its fight against hate and harassment. The video service recently announced changes to its harassment policy,  which include a ban on implicit threats of violence and insults that target someone for their race, gender expression or sexual orientation. Under its new harassment policy, the service aims to also take down videos that simulate violence against an individual, or that suggest that violence may happen. The post specifically added the policy will also be applied to videos posted by public officials – a distinction that could set YouTube apart from its competitors. Twitter, for instance, has long exempted public figures from its hate speech policies, to the dismay of critics who have argued that President Trump repeatedly violates those policies. Instead, Twitter said in June that it would flag tweets from public figures that were violating its policies labeling the violation as such.

27
Dec

Understanding the Implications of the New California Consumer Privacy Law

A new law in California taking effect on January 1, 2020 will give Californians the right to see, delete and stop the sale of the personal information that companies have compiled about them. The California Consumer Privacy Act applies to businesses operating in California that collect personal information for commercial purposes and meet certain condition – such as collecting the data of more than 50,000 people. This covers scores of tech companies, app developers, websites, mobile service providers, streaming TV services and even includes brick and mortar retailers like drug stores and other small businesses. The effort could have national implications as well – some companies including Microsoft have said they will honor the data rights in the California law for consumers nationwide.

26
Dec

Tik Tok Once Suppressed Videos It Deemed “Susceptible” to Cyberbullying

TikTok officials confirmed that, at one point, platform moderators were instructed to suppress videos it says were "susceptible to bullying or harassment," including those featuring people with body weight “issues,” facial disfigurement, autism, or Down syndrome, according to a report appeared in German magazine Netzpolitik. “While the intention was good, the approach was wrong and we have long since changed the earlier policy in favor of more nuanced anti-bullying policies and in-app protections," a TikTok spokesperson told Netzpolitik.

25
Dec

Watch Out for Virtual Drive-Bys

The FBI is warning that unsecured smart digital devices, such as refrigerators and baby monitors, can be used by hackers "to do a virtual drive-by of your digital life." Homeowners should consider running separate networks for smart TVs and smart home appliances ,while keeping devices that store sensitive personal information, such as a laptop, on another network.

24
Dec

Instagram Will Now Ask for Birthdates

Instagram, one of the most popular social media platforms for teenagers, has started requiring users to share their birth date when signing up -- rather than only affirming they are 13 or older. They are doing this in part to prevent passage of costly child safety and data privacy regulations, as lawmakers and family safety groups across the world criticize the app for exposing children to inappropriate material. Lisa Hinkelman of the nonprofit Ruling Our Girls and other experts say kids will find a way around such (non verified) safeguards and suggest that educators and parents focus on educating them about social media instead.

23
Dec

Girl Scout to Offer STEM Badge in Conjunction with Microsoft

Microsoft is welcoming Girl Scouts to its stores for the opportunity to earn badges in STEM subjects such as robotics, digital photography and movie making and coding. The program is intended to encourage more girls to consider careers in STEM fields.

20
Dec

Math Anxiety: Now There is an App for That

Cambridge University in the UK has done a study that shows that more than three-quarters (77%) of children with reported high math anxiety are between normal to high achievers on curriculum math tests. Math anxiety, which typically appears after the age of 6, is a factor in these students having little interest in careers in STEM fields, when in fact they would be perfectly able to perform well in STEM jobs. Two British moms have founded a start up called Funexpected to tackle this world-wide phenomenon. The app itself is a collection of 11 games located across the landscapes of Japan, Egypt and Greenland. Children tap, cut, slide, grab and move animated on-screen objects to propel the story forward, such as by feeding a monkey with the correct amount of juicy berries gathered from various branches or learning logic by catching the right type of fish with a net and filling a fish pond. Parents can use it with their kids as well. The app runs a subscription-based model of $5.25 a month or $42.00 a year. 

19
Dec

“Smart” Thermometers Help Some Schools Fight Student Illnesses

Some Missouri school districts are using "smart thermometers" (provided by the school) and the Kinsa phone app to allow parents to track students’ illnesses and receive real-time guidance from school nurses to help cut down on the spread of flu and colds in classrooms. Using Bluetooth technology to sync the thermometer with their phones, parents are able to see reported symptoms of classmates to understand what illnesses are making the rounds. More than 45 districts in the state have adopted the technology.

18
Dec

Google Earth Tools for Geography and History Projects

Does your child have a geography or history project involving maps? With Google Earth’s new tools, users can affix place markers, lines and shapes over a map template, and then attach custom text, images and videos to those locations. For school projects, the tools can also organize multiple maps or Google Earth camera shots into a narrative that can be shared and presented in class. Social studies teacher Josh Williams, who writes about using the tools with students on a migration project, says the tools help engage students in active learning rather than being passive in the classroom.

17
Dec

Twitter Offers More Ways to Get Control of Responses to Your Tweets

Annoyed by a response to one of your tweets? Twitter is rolling out a feature that enables users to hide replies. Twitter's Suzanne Xie says that during testing, users usually hid replies because they found them "irrelevant, off-topic or annoying" and also explained that the platform is exploring further ways to give users more control over conversations.

16
Dec

YouTube Trends

Trends on YouTube reflect shifting cultural outlooks and consumer behaviors, according to recent data analysis. Google's Gina Shalavi writes that the globalization of content continues with 60% of videos made by US creators now viewed by people in other countries. Entertainment and shopping have become increasingly linked with the popularity of videos showing virtual hauls or shopping sprees, and there has been a marked rise in the viewing of content focused on sustainability and environmental protection, such as videos featuring "clean beauty" in their title.

13
Dec

Study: Screen Time Jumps After First Birthday

Research indicates that once children celebrate their first birthday the time they spend in front of a digital screen increases exponentially. Average screen time increased from 52 minutes at age 12 months to over 150 minutes at age 3 years, with the greatest screen times at elementary-school age found among those in home-based child care and those born to first-time mothers, researchers reported in JAMA Pediatrics. Another study in the same journal showed that more than 79% and about 95% of Canadian youths ages 2 and 3, respectively, exceeded the one hour daily exposure to high-quality programming recommended by the World Health Organization.

12
Dec

Watch Out For “Juice Jacking”

Travelers who need to charge their smartphones while on the go might want to avoid public USB charging stations, due to the security risk known as "juice jacking." California law enforcement is warning that USB charging outlets in airports and coffee shops could be loaded with malware. The malware could lock your smartphone or forward personal information such as passwords to hackers.

11
Dec

Online Tools Used To Counter White Nationalism in Schools

Oregon high-school social studies teacher Patrick Griffin uses Western States Center's ‘Confronting White Nationalism in Schools’, an online tool kit to help counter white nationalism, offensive stereotypes and racist messages from hate groups. In an interview transcript from NPR, Lindsay Schubiner, one of the kit's co-authors, says the need for this type of material is growing, as neo-Nazi websites are targeting children as young as 11. The toolkit helps teachers discuss different scenarios and provide greater context, while helping students feel safe to engage in these conversations.

10
Dec

Parents: Don’t Count Out Snapchat

Social media apps come and go with teens, but it looks like Snapchat is making a comeback. Snapchat is projected to rebound in 2020 with a 14.2% increase in global consumer usage and is expected to generate $1.53 billion in net ad revenues, eMarketer predicts. The research firm also predicts users in the 12 to 17 and 35 to 64 age range will increase by double digits percentages, and attributes overall growth to a redesigned Android interface and filters and other new features.

9
Dec

Educational Technology Being Used in Physical Education

A middle-school physical education teacher in Illinois has adopted Otus, a data management and communication platform, to transform his physical education teaching and learning. Jon Szychlinski says students record their peers performing activities, just like professional athletes, and those recordings are uploaded to the platform. Students can then study their footage to improve their performance. The data tracking also has another practical side. It has eliminated dead time in Szychlinski’s small gym, where there’s not enough space for every student to participate at the same time. Now, even when kids are waiting to play, they can reflect on how to improve their form, their performance and ultimately, their overall health.

6
Dec

Fake Microsoft Update email Contains Ransomware

PC users who are updating to the Windows 10 operating system are being warned about fake update emails coming from an address that looks like it is Microsoft. The emails have an attachment that contains ransomware and will encrypt the user's files or lock up a computer, demanding $500 in bitcoin to unlock data. "Windows users should understand that Microsoft will never send patches via email, but rather use their internal update utility embedded in every current Windows operating system," writes Karl Sigler, threat intelligence manager at Trustwave SpiderLabs.

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