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Adrift in the Fake News Era

National Public Radio recently interviewed the founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, about his thoughts on fake news online. It is interesting to remember that Wikipedia used to be the sole subject of so many teachers’ ire because students often used information from the site in their reports without vetting it, but now that seems almost quaint in the face of other fake news scandals.

Wales feels we all need to be skeptical of the sources of things we share online. He said many times people will find a story that confirms what they already believe about a particular subject, so they go ahead and share it. But the truth is, anyone could have written that article, and without a quick google search to vet the sources, you could just be perpetuating the problem.

 

Social Media and College Admissions – The Latest Take

How much is social media considered in college admissions? About 68% of admissions officers say they reserve the right to check a prospective student's social media presence, but only 29% reported doing so, according to a series of surveys by Kaplan Test Prep. That’s actually down from the 35% last year who admitted checking an applicant’s social media presence. The data also shows that 20% of schools have set policies around checking students' social media, with just a third of those forbidding the practice.

Alexa for Kids: Manners Count

Amazon is listening to the concerns of many parents who were worried about their kids using Alexa devices, whether it be for privacy or moral reasons such as worrying their children would have no sense of etiquette after being able to order Alexa to do something without a “please” or “thank you”.  Now Amazon is offering a new line of kid friendly and pro-etiquette products that encourage children to be polite. It turns out that kids are some of the biggest fans of voice assistants, with some learning to talk to Alexa, Apple's Siri or Google's Assistant before they can form full sentences. The new products are in the Echo Dot series and will have durable candy colored cases. Amazon is also adding parental controls to the Echo, Echo Dot and Echo Plus to help limit when a child can interact with their technology.

Text Messages Encourage Teens to Go to College

A platform called Siembra -- Spanish for sowing seeds – provides communication tools for school admissions professionals and high school guidance counselors. The tools utilize student data analytics to target under-served and under-represented students for efforts encouraging them to go to college, including the ability to send text messages to low-income, first-generation, and racial and ethnic minority high-schoolers. Less than 20% of US students whose parents do not have college degrees go on to earn a degree themselves, according to data from the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation.

Truth Measure Implemented in Facebook Advertising

Facebook has announced that it's implementing a new authorization process for advertisers that want to place ads on its platform related to political issues and for those that manage accounts with large follower numbers, requiring them to disclose their locations and identities. Election advertising on the platform will include a "Political Ad" label, as well as disclosures about who paid for the advertising. Be sure to point this out to your kids in your discussion of digital misinformation and the importance of vetting sources.

So What Does Facebook Have on File on You?

Digging through your Facebook files is an exercise you may want to undertake if you care about how your personal information is stored and used. To get started, Facebook has a tool for downloading your data that allows you to see and take out SOME OF the information you’ve put up on Facebook. So what kinds of things can’t be deleted?

Most basic information, like your birthday, can’t be deleted. More important, the pieces of data, like the record of people you have unfriended, can’t be removed from Facebook, either. And what happens to what you can delete? Beth Gautier, a Facebook spokeswoman, recently put it this way: “When you delete something, we remove it so it’s not visible or accessible on Facebook.” She added: “You can also delete your account whenever you want. It may take up to 90 days to delete all backups of data on our servers.”

Want to know more about how to delete information on your Facebook account without deleting your account? See these tips on the Tech Crunch page.

To Facebook or Delete? Not an Easy Question for Some Students

Concerns about how Facebook has used its users' data have some users pledging to delete their accounts. However it may not be that easy, as schools, teachers, and even parent teacher organizations use Facebook pages to deliver news about what is going on at school or to highlight activities. Some high school teachers also use Facebook as a way to communicate with class members, answer student questions after hours and even enhance instruction. While many schools and teachers have moved on to other apps and learning management systems, it still raises the question of whether or not it is necessary to have a Facebook account.

The Push for Digital Magazines

Apple's recent purchase of Texture, a subscription service for over 200 titles, proves that they see a future in digital magazines. Called the “Netflix of Magazine Publishing,” the service combines articles from across publications into a single format, like in Apple’s Newsstand app. Apple’s interest in Texture shows they think it could be a way for young consumers and magazines to reconnect.

Girls’ Confidence Can Drop From Social Media Exposure

Technology and social media are contributing to self-doubt, isolation and vulnerability among female students, according to The Girls' Index, a survey of 10,000 5th- to 12th-grade girls conducted by the nonprofit Ruling Our Experiences. The report found 46% of girls entering high school say they don't believe they are smart enough for their dream careers, while students' confidence rate drops between fifth and ninth grades. Other takeaways from the survey include:

  • 30% of the respondents reported having been bullied or made fun of on social media. 19% said they have made fun of someone else on those forums.
  • Many of the girls who were the heaviest social media users struggle in making connections with peers, and they tend to have fewer outside interests
  • Girls who spent the most time using technology are 5 times more likely to say they are sad or depressed nearly every day. Girls who engaged with technology the most were also the least likely to be involved in activities such as clubs, sports, band, music, and theater.
  • Girls who spent the most time on technology are the least likely to say they have supportive friends and supportive adults to talk to about serious issues.
  • 75% of the 12th grade girls who took the survey said  “most students their age send sexually explicit photos.” And more than half of 8th grade girls surveyed had been asked to send a sexually explicit photo.

Parkland Survivors Navigate Twitter

Survivors of the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting are using their voices on Twitter to advocate for gun-control measures -- a move that has garnered some negative attention and criticism, including threats. In a recent interview in The Washington Post, the students share how they are coping with the spotlight and fighting back against "trolls." The interview is an interesting view into what your kids can come up against when online.

Curious About How Conspiracy Theories Get Spread Online?

The latest online attacks against the teen survivors of the Parkland shooting is a good case study on how this happens and how quickly it occurs. An article in The Washington Post entitled We studied thousands of anonymous posts about the Parkland attack – and found a conspiracy in the making outlines the part that anonymous social media forums play in the process. It’s a primer on how misinformation is created on purpose, endures endlessly, and the havoc that it plays in lives of those who are targeted.

Acquiring Job Skills to Survive Automation

Three-quarters of K-12 and higher-education instructors say careers that emphasize creative thinking and problem-solving will be less affected in the future by automation, according to an Adobe survey. However in the same survey, 69% of the educators say such skills are not emphasized in primary and secondary curricula because students lack time to use technology to create projects, have limited access to software and other technology at school and at home to stimulate creative thinking and most educators do not have the right kind of training to assist them.

Do Phones Make Kids More Safe or Less Safe During a School Emergency?

Usually the debate about smartphones at school is about whether they are a distraction or a tool for learning, but the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida  has sparked some debate about whether students are made more -- or less -- safe by carrying cellphones at school. Some say students with the devices can alert others that they are safe when getting to and from school or during an emergency, but others argue that phones can make students less safe during a crisis by distracting them from following directions by teachers or first responders, giving away their location to an assailant, or jamming up communications interfering with those coming to help them.

YouTube to Clamp Down on Creators of Violent and Cruel Videos

YouTube has formally announced new punishments that go beyond just their existing community, and copyright policies for those who post violent videos or videos that promote cruelty or bullying. In an announcement titled "Preventing Harm to the Broader YouTube Community," YouTube details the new disciplinary actions which span from stopping payment to those who have channels who promote these kinds of content and being barred from the site's trending video feature.

Although no specific creators were singled out, the policies target creators who "[conduct] a heinous prank where people are traumatized, [promote] violence or hate toward a group, [demonstrate] cruelty, or [sensationalize] the pain of others in an attempt to gain views or subscribers." YouTube currently has a three strike policy under which creators' channels can be terminated following copyright or community guidelines violations, however, this announcement explained the need for "a broader set of tools...that can be used more quickly and more effectively" to bar content. It will be interesting to see how they enforce this new policy.

Wonder Where All that Cellular Data Goes?

Curious about how all that data consumed by sharing and streaming photos, audio and video on your cell phone adds up? You might be interested in getting a quick estimate from a data calculator like the ones on the AT&T or Verizon Wireless sites. Your cellular provider may have it’s own sample measures. 

Interested in some simple ideas for reducing your data consumption? Take a look at Measuring and Managing your Cellular Data Use on The New York Times site.

The Greying of Facebook

It appears that those rumors about teens departing Facebook are finally true. Facebook continues to add older users, but younger ones are in decline, according to eMarketer. Many teens are turning to Facebook-owned Instagram, but a growing number are using Snapchat instead. But Snapchat is going through a design process that is making it easier to use, which might make it more attractive to older users, thereby detracting from its “coolness” appeal.

Is Their Mind Wandering?

As schools move more to personalize learning through the use of digital devices and software, researchers are working to pinpoint when students' minds wander as they use software programs. A study of students' eye movements found that they may "zone out" 20% to 25% of the time when using such programs. But what should that mean for this kind of instruction? One idea is let the computer stop and repeat what is being shown, or change the subject to get the student’s attention back. Another is to use this research to evaluate instructional software pointing out when it is boring students and figuring out what is better done with a human teacher or in a group setting.

Either way it is important that we don’t do away with daydreaming. Some mathematicians purposely turn their attention to something irrelevant when they’re stuck on a problem and then the solution magically pops into their heads.

Daydreaming is also associated with some of the biggest breakthroughs in science and technology and the link to creativity is well established. Certainly something to think about as schools move to more tech driven personalized learning for your kids.

Stop Phubbing and Be a Better Friend with Tech

Sometimes a video can say more about a subject,  that you have subtly been trying to bring up with your kids, than an actual discussion of the topic. Take “Phubbing” for instance. “Phubbing” is the practice of snubbing others in favor of our mobile phones. We’ve all been there, as either victim or perpetrator. We may no longer even notice when we’ve been phubbed (or are phubbing). However, research is revealing the profound impact this sort of snubbing can have on our relationships and well being.

So here is a short and light hearted video on the subject, which takes a look at phubbing and offers seven tips for how to be a better friend, using technology. It also discusses the issue of “FOMO’ (Fear of Missing Out) that drives us to look at our devices instead of our friends.  Other discussions include the subtle art of knowing when it is better to communicate in person or on the phone when there is a crisis that needs intervention or something special in someone’s life that needs celebrating by more than just sending an emoji.

Identity Theft for Minors a Growing Problem

Does your toddler already have a credit issue? With so many credit bureaus using nothing but social security numbers as the way to verify a person’s identity, they could. Now many young people are finding out the hard way that they have a credit problem, because often someone in their own family used their identity to open credit card and other accounts. This form of identity theft is often not malicious. Sometimes, it’s being done in a pinch by desperate parents who are trying to make an emergency repair or get the lights turned back on. Estranged family members and hackers have also been known to use this means to gain access to credit in another person’s name.

Should Tech Industry Speak Out About Overuse of Tech By Kids?

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) recently released the results of a survey it conducted of nearly 200 attendees who work in the tech sector at the 2018 International Computer Electronics Show earlier this month. The ASHA survey results show 88% of those that think it is important, that more prominent industry figures speak out about tech overuse. The survey also showed that respondents appear to be strict about their own and their children’s tech use. Almost 67% said children should not be allowed to have their own personal tech devices until age 10 or older—this amid a societal environment where new tablets, smartwatches, and other devices are being heavily promoted for even the youngest children. Almost a third (30%) said children shouldn’t even use devices until age 10 or older.

 

ASHA has previously been a watchdog on the tech industry and has published numerous works on how parents need to be mindful of hearing loss in children who are listening to devices at too-loud volumes, particularly with earbuds or headphones. The organization has also been very vocal about concerns that technology may be interfering with speech and language development in young children, especially when parents use the devices as a substitute for verbal interactions, such as reading and talking, with adults.

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