Digital Citizenship

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Tech Helping Schools Overcome Language Barriers

School districts across the country are using machine translation, human translation, or some combination of both to help bridge the barriers for English-language learners. Some districts are using Google's Website Translator plug-in for translations on anything from homework worksheets to school lunch menus, while others have adopted mobile apps such as TalkingPoints to translate text messages, allowing non-English speaking parents to communicate with teachers in more than 20 languages.


With tablets becoming more and more akin to sketchpads these days with the use of a stylus, it is no wonder that educators are talking more about a new method of taking illustrated notes called sketchnoting to help kids improve retention and learning. Take a look at this presentation called Sketchnoting for Beginners to see what it entails – sort of a combination of visual notetaking, diagrams, symbols, objects, arrows, dividers, bubbles, boxes, colors, and typography and much more. Ask you kids to try the method by sketchnoting a newstory on television or part of a documentary. Sketchnoting can help kids focus during lectures and adds that digital component – if done on a tablet- that may just help them focus.

Digital Dating Abuse – Gender Matters

Although both young men and women in high school are affected by digital dating abuse, researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of California Santa Barbara have found that girls suffer more issues such as being pressured to sext, receiving threatening messages, and having someone monitor their whereabouts and activities. Both girls and boys, however, also reported they respond to direct aggression by blocking communication.

Girl Scouts to Offer Cybersecurity Badges

Would you like a few strings of code with those cookies? Beginning in 2018, the Girl Scouts of the USA will offer 18 cybersecurity badges – including coding, principles of firewalls and even white hat hacking - available to girls in their programs who are in kindergarten through 12th grade. Girl Scout officials say the initiative seeks to encourage girls to pursue careers in the technology industry. The Girls Scouts currently have 1.8 million girls enrolled.

Your Cell Number – Are You Sharing It Too Freely?

Here’s a bad piece of news. Our cell phone numbers becoming a lot like Social Security numbers: they are the gateway to our identities, providing an entrance to personal data – your email address, physical address, even physical whereabouts—and all the personal information that is kept about you by nearly all corporations, financial institutions, and social media networks. Yet when we are asked for our cell numbers for whatever reason, we often give them out without even a second thought.  What can you do? Take a look at these tips and use common sense. If you are asked for your phone number, it never hurts to ask why.

Banning Smartphones for Those Under 13?

A group in Colorado called Parents Against Underage Smartphones is looking into putting a ballot initiative up that would require retailers to submit reports to the state government verifying that they had inquired about the intended user for each smartphone sold, and fine those that repeatedly sell phones to be used by young children and preteens. Many critics understand the reasoning behind the proposed law, but think it oversteps the government's role into private family life. What’s your opinion?

Apps and Diversity

Keeping in line with many popular media including books and television programs, apps for kids are also beginning to reflect diversity. Toca Boca is one of the leading children’s app developers and its goal is that "no kid should ever feel excluded by Toca Boca." In Toca Life: School, kids interact with 32 characters, representing different races, ages, backgrounds and physical abilities. The app allows kids to move the characters in and out of the five scenes to act out stories set in a school location. In each scene, players will find a wheelchair, so that any character can be placed there to tell a story. Biracial families show up in apps such as Goldilocks and Little Bear from Nosy Crow. Stereotypes as quashed in apps like Fox & Sheep's Little Farmers - Tractors, Harvesters & Farm Animals for Kids where both males and females appear driving the big machinery.

Kids Also Need Data Literacy

If you see a number or statistic included in a news story, do you find you are more likely to believe that the information is true? Librarians have found many people consider numerical data or graphics to be more compelling when reading news. Now, many libraries are advocating the teaching of data literacy – the ability to understand, generate, and use data. This skill covers everything from being able to sort through the results of a survey to being able to understand the meaning of a complicated graph or chart. It also includes the ability to critically evaluate data and visualizations.

If you want to discuss data literacy with your children, check out tools such as MentimeterSocrative, and Poll Everywhere, which allow you to collect responses on the spot and generate visualizations that represent the information graphically.

Easy-to-use infographic tools such as Infogram and Piktochart can be used for projects that involve advocating opinions or conclusions based on data and other storytelling. These tools make creating a compelling infographic straightforward through a combination of intuitive features and online tutorials. The more you know about how data is collected, illustrated and interpreted, the better prepared you and your kids will be to question data and interpretations attached to news stories and scientific presentations.

Making Kids “Internet Awesome”

Parents have a new tool from Google to help children learn about online safety and digital citizenry. Google's recently announced their "Be Internet Awesome" program that revolves around five core Internet principles. The tool includes educational resources and an online game called Interland, which features four lands through which young gamers come up against phishers, hackers, bullies, and over-sharers — those who reveal too much information about themselves online.

Google and partners also created a bunch of resources for teachers and a video series for parents, called the Be Internet Awesome Challenge, which is designed to make “talking about online safety fun and accessible”. Be Internet Awesome is the latest in a series of initiatives by Google to promote the Internet as a safe and positive place for everyone. In April, Google-owned YouTube launched Internet Citizens, a series of workshops aimed at educating teens in the United Kingdom on how to combat issues like fake news, echo chambers, and offensive speech.

Social Media Wellness

As the retraction of acceptance offers to potential Harvard students because of their online activity reminds us, there are real-life consequences for virtual actions. What can parents do? Ana Homayoun, the author of a forthcoming book called  “Social Media Wellness: Helping Teens and Tweens Thrive in an Unbalanced Digital World” in a piece in The New York Times reminds parents that they need to shift the conversation around teens’ social media use away from a fear of getting caught and more toward healthy socialization, effective self-regulation and overall safety. This could become all the more important if a bill that was just overwhelmingly passed in the House becomes law. The bill could make it a felony — punishable by 15 years in jail — if teens send consensual nude photos of themselves.