Digital Smarts Blog

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12
Jun

The Changing Face of Free Speech in the Digital Age?

The Colorado Supreme Court is considering whether a teenager's tweets are considered free speech. The case stems from tweets sent between two students, in different states that did not know each other, that included threats of violence in the aftermath of the shooting that happened at Arapahoe High School in 2013. One of the students was arrested for harassment, but his conviction was overturned. Traditionally, for something to qualify as a true threat, there is usually a face-to-face confrontation where the harm would potentially be imminent. Experts now say they believe the courts might eventually need to decide whether a person's fear of harm is enough to constitute a true threat.

11
Jun

Districts Revisiting Drone Policies

Is your child interested flying drones? It is important to know if your school or district has a drone policy if your children are going to be taking their drone to school for fun or even a project – whether school is in session or not. The Sentinel reports some school districts are considering adopting policies on the use of drones near schools. One district recently changed its own policy to ban the use of drones on district property unless the drone, and where it will be flying, has been approved by the superintendent.

10
Jun

Is There Gender Bias in the Voices of Digital Assistants?

Neowin reports the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is voicing concerns about the widespread practice of making the voices of digital assistants female, which it says reinforces gender bias. UNESCO is urging corporations and governments to consider a gender-neutral persona for digital assistants and to make software development teams more evenly balanced between genders.

7
Jun

Why Middle School is so Important to the Future of Technology

Paula Grisanti, CEO of the National Stem Cell Foundation, asserts that future space travel, medical cures and other scientific breakthroughs will be made possible by the middle school students of today. In her recent article in The Courier-Journal, she explains why it is vital to attract their interest to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects at that critical age, citing the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology’s report that “the US needs approximately one million more STEM professionals than it can produce at current graduation rates”.  The National STEM Scholar Program, in which Grisanti's foundation is a partner, gives middle-school teachers training, classroom projects and other resources designed to spark a lifelong interest in STEM subjects and is something worth mentioning to your child’s teacher if your middle school is looking for ways to further integrate STEM into the classroom.

6
Jun

Should Schools Limit Virtual Reality (VR) Time?

Most schools don’t have the budget for elementary students to visit the penguins in Antarctica, but they can do it using virtual reality headsets. Teachers say by exposing students to distant people, cultures and animals, it helps boost vocabulary and content writing, but researchers are cautioning that there in not much known about the effects of this technology on young children. As more schools integrate virtual reality in the classroom, experts advise limiting VR time use to minutes at a time, not hours. Despite these concerns, proponents for the technology argue that immersive media is not just a passive experience for children and allows students to engage with content in new ways.

5
Jun

“Contract Cheating” Becoming a Serious Challenge

“Contract cheating,” the process by which students solicit and compensate others to do their work or take tests for them, is a serious threat to high school and college education, says University Business magazine online. Many schools have invested in content-tracking services, such as Turnitin, that can spot and prevent plagiarism in high school and college. Its tools reveal cheating by comparing one student’s writing with somebody else’s work. The company’s more recently released “Authorship Investigate” platform was also specially designed to identify contract cheating. Experts warn that increasing class sizes and going to more online personalized learning modules can make it difficult for teachers to find the time to give students the level of attention that counteracts academic dishonesty.

4
Jun

Is Social Media Tied to the Happiness of Teens?

In the United Kingdom, a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that time spent on social media has only a minor impact on life satisfaction (happiness) among adolescents. The authors of the study caution that although the data shows that time spent on social media may not be harming the emotional well-being of teens in the ways that experts often predict, the study only looked at the amount of time the children had spent online – not what they were doing during that time.  That is an interesting take away for parents (and experts)who seem to focus so much of their concern limiting screen time, rather than considering where their kids are spending that time.

3
Jun

Google Introduces New Privacy Tools

According to Gizmodo, Google, the world’s foremost collector of private information, has unveiled a set of tools that will give users more control over their data and make it more difficult for others to track their online activities. Google users will be allowed to navigate in "incognito mode," delete web and app activity history automatically after three months or 18 months, and find and delete information they have shared with the company. Critics called these improvements “marginal” and “privacy theater.” Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, also found the privacy measures lacking. "Unless the Federal Trade Commission is prepared to bring enforcement actions against companies, these promises to protect privacy matter very little," he said.

31
May

Avoiding Issues on LinkedIn

Writing in Forbes, Adrian Dayton discusses the seven “dumbest” things people do on social media/business recruiting site LinkedIn. The unprofessionalism Dayton outlines includes filling a bio with overblown adjectives, adding nonsensical hashtags to posts, and making romantic overtures, which is reportedly an increasing problem. Creating more than one profile confuses potential connections, and abandoning a profile signals a lack of seriousness. These are all good tips on what to avoid for both adults and high school students, as many are beginning to use the platform as part of the college application process.

30
May

Districts Need Privacy Safeguards If Using Biometrics

Many schools across the country are exploring the use of biometric technology in capacities beyond just security, such as tracking attendance or managing library loans. Whether a school has already implemented the technology or is just considering it, they should also explore ways to safeguard student privacy, says Tovah LaDier, executive director of the International Biometrics + Identity Association in an article from EdTech online. Parents should also not only be informed about what the technology is and how it is being implemented, but also about how data collected is used and stored, LaDier adds. Is your school or district considering this kind of identification technology?

29
May

Teen Slang Dictionary Online

Ever feel like your Gen Z child or student is speaking another language when you try to talk to them? A high school sociology teacher from Massachusetts created a dictionary of teen slang that will help you to decipher what the kids these days are actually talking about.

28
May

Bully a Robot and See What Happens to a Teen Brain Being Bullied

Grey New York and national nonprofit Stomp Out Bullying have partnered with clinical psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere to create an artificial intelligence robot called "Emma" that shows how teenage brains are detrimentally affected by online bullying. A short video embedded in the article shows what happens to "Emma" as she's subjected to a plethora of hateful comments. The robot is designed for teachers, parents and teenagers to use to witness what happens to a teen brain when it is constantly bullied and taunted. Says Dr. Gardere, “… if we can help teens understand what happens when bullying occurs, we can empower them to do better."

27
May

Viral Fight Videos Worry Bullying Foes

Viral videos of school fights that show up on social media can incite widespread violence and abuse, with harm coming to perpetrators as well as victims, experts say. Citing a middle school incident that proliferated over social media, licensed clinical social worker Erin Rapp reminds students, "You have to protect each other and look out for each other."

24
May

Giving Facts A Chance

Alan Miller of the nonprofit News Literacy Project writes in The Washington Post that determining what information to trust is really important when getting your news from the web. He cites the example of the current measles outbreak, which officials have said was caused largely in part by anti-vaccination messages on social media. Miller writes that his organization teaches students to apply critical thinking to information they encounter online and to consider it carefully before sharing it. Learning how to know what to believe in the digital age is empowering and should be a regular topic of conversation with your children as you help them navigate the world as digital citizens.

23
May

Chimpstagram?

A video of a chimpanzee scrolling through an Instagram feed on a smartphone has attracted more than 1.6 million views, but has also drawn criticism from animal welfare experts. Primatologist Jane Goodall said she was "very disappointed to see the inappropriate portrayal of a juvenile chimpanzee," and commented that such viral videos encourage illegal chimpanzee trading.

22
May

Using Digital Tools to Help Kids with ADHD Stay Organized

For kids with ADHD and concurrent learning and developmental disabilities like dyslexia, spectrum disorders, fine motor delays, or sensory integration issues, online tools such as learning management systems can help them stay organized and on top of their papers and assignments. Educational therapist Ezra Werb says in Edutopia online that new online tools can help students track assignments and deadlines and even follow teacher feedback on their work. For example, students with learning differences often struggle to read teachers’ handwritten comments crammed into the margins of essays on lined paper, but with a learning management system, students can submit a typed document and receive direct feedback from their teachers in comments typed on the side of the page. These comments are tied to specific phrases in the students’ text, so it’s easy to see exactly what the teacher is referring to. Students can easily access them, and better yet, they can then respond to the teacher’s comment, creating a dialogue or conversation that the student can refer back to later. Is your school using a learning management system to promote organization and communication for students with learning differences?

 

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21
May

Post First, Think Second

Keri Stephens, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, says that today’s students post first, think second. This is in contrast to older generations that are more careful about what they post. Stephens says this creates a disconnect between the generations: younger people often pop off in texts or other social media whatever they are thinking at the moment, but older generations tend to take what they read to heart since they put more thought into what they post. This can sometimes lead to issues in communication when young people are just letting off steam and older generations take it as a threat.

20
May

How to Return a Lost Phone

Losing your smartphone can feel like losing an appendage, so when you find an unattended phone on the ground, it is natural you would want to do the right thing and return it. But in the age of personal identification numbers, facial recognition and fingerprint locks, it’s hard to just call the owner and give it back. Before you turn it over to the police and hope for the best, there are a few tricks you can use to return that phone. You can check the phone physically for contact information – sometimes people put it inside the case or even on the battery cover. You can also try to talk to the phone’s voice assistant like Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, or Samsung’s Bixby even when the phone is locked. If all else fails, you should take it to the carrier or the police.

17
May

Deleting Apps

Summer is coming and there is a good chance you will be adding more apps to your phone for travel, entertainment or maybe to keep your kids busy. Before you do so, think about how you can clear up your phone by organizing and deleting apps that you and perhaps your children no longer use. Need some help getting started? Try “How to Declutter Your Phone” for tips on deleting apps, freeing up storage and disabling unnecessary notifications.

16
May

GPS Can Make Your Car an Easy Target for Hackers

According to Motherboard, hackers can use GPS trackers to gain access to a car with location tracking GPS services, and turn off its engine while it is in motion. An anonymous hacker, who operates in Asia and Africa, told that he was able to break into thousands of iTrack and ProTrack accounts using the initial default password given to customers. This is a reminder to change the password from the default one that comes with your car!  

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