Digital Savvy

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How to Clean Your Laptop

Have you ever thought about how dirty your laptop can be? A most practical article in The New York Times Tech Section entitled How to Clean Your Filthy, Disgusting Laptop starts out with helping you figure what supplies you need all the way to getting rid of stinky smells that sometimes attach themselves to a keyboard.

YouTube Monthly User Base Hits 1.9 Billion

YouTube's monthly user base has increased to 1.9 billion, up from 1.5 billion at the same time in 2017, Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan announced in USA Today. "We have creators with viewership that's higher than many cable channels," he said, adding that the platform has been working on brand safety issues especially since some renegade producers have been posting videos that many find in bad taste or even illegal.

Looking for a Guide to Parental Controls?

Screen time is becoming more and more of a family issue and many tech companies are attempting to help parents by providing tools such as Apple’s Screen Time, Disney’s Circle and Amazon’s Freetime. How do you make sense of all the different options out there and figure out which one will fit your needs? National Public Radio recently released a great starting point called A Guide To Parental Controls For Kids' Tech Use that asks you questions that help you zero in on the help you may be needing.

Maker Spaces May Have a Gender Bias

Makerspaces, also called hackerspaces, hackspaces, and fablabs, are collaborative spaces where young people gather to get creative with DIY projects, invent new ones, and share ideas. They are popping up school campuses, at local museums and libraries and in other non-traditional education spaces in support of STEM. Many offer community resources like 3D printers, software, electronics, craft and hardware supplies, and more.

Despite the exciting potential these spaces bring, a lack of focus around culture and gender inclusiveness is stunting the movement’s true promise, a new report out of Drexel University reports. Researchers found a widespread gender bias, reporting there may be a tendency in makerspaces to view male students as more tech-savvy and that male students were more than twice as likely to have leadership roles and direct projects. This possible bias is definitely something to be aware of if your child- male or female – is participating in one of these projects.

The Fallout From Outdated Screen Time Recommendations

In a new commentary on the EdSurge site, Nikki Schafer, a technology integration specialist in a Nebraska school district, points out that outdated screen time recommendations from various medical organizations and in the media has increased parental angst to the point that parents can’t differentiate between screen time for entertainment and screen time for learning. This lack of clarification for over a decade has left many parents with anxiety about device use in general and caused a backlash to the use of technology in the schools. In turn, this has put pressure on schools and districts to carefully explain and prove why adoption of digital tools is not only beneficial, but necessary. In Schafer’s district, she explains, they work to help parents understand that not all screen time is created equal. Sometimes screens entertain, sometimes they distract and in many cases they can support a lot of the skills and characteristics teachers and parents have always known to be critical to growth and development.

People Spend Nearly 8 Hours a Day with Media

The average global consumer will invest almost eight hours a day, or precisely 479 minutes, with media in 2018 - an increase of 12% since 2011, Zenith reports in MediaPost Communications. 24% of that time will be spent consuming media on mobile. The report also notes that while print and linear TV consumption have declined over the past several years, most also have digital content online, so they may not be the dying media outlets as they are often portrayed to be.

App to Keep Students Safe Abroad

Marquette University has adopted a mobile app called AlertTraveler, to help keep students safe while they are traveling outside of the US. About 50 other colleges, including the University of Kansas and the University of Georgia, are already using the app, which was first released in the fall of 2017. AlertTraveler centralizes the communication and risk-awareness efforts that study-abroad offices previously conducted by phone or email. For example, study aboard administrators can use the app to automatically notify students of life-threatening or high-risk situations in their geographic location — such as an active shooter, a natural disaster or seriously political instability — through push notifications, email or text messages, all of which the app supports. The app is also available for use by general travelers as well.

New Apps Help Kids Unplug From Phones

New mobile applications from Apple and Google allow consumers and parents to limit how long their children use apps, including Netflix and social media. The Apple’s Screen Time app, for example, can restrict access to some apps and websites. From Google, an app called Family Link allows parents to see how often kids use certain apps, approve or block app downloads, set screen time limits, and even lock devices remotely.

Social Media Part of Texas School Safety Program

Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced several proposals recently aimed at keeping students safe in schools. Among the ideas were stricter policies for gun ownership and social media assessment programs. Abbott noted that social media often gives clues about the intentions of those who want to do fellow students harm and wants to expand a program led by Texas Tech to use telemedicine mental health screenings to identify students at risk of committing violence.


eSports Leagues For a New Generation of Athletes

Some US high schools are developing eSports leagues – organizations for playing video games competitively  - and have seen increases in engagement and academic performance from students who are otherwise withdrawn at school. The positive outcomes have moved some educators in California to develop a curriculum around eSports that includes reading books like Ready Player One, and when approved, will satisfy high-school English credits.

Dumb Phone Versus Smart Phone

There is a resurgence of interest in "dumb" phones as many are believing that smartphones are causing both kids and adults to miss out on aspects of family life. From pared-down flip phones that offer a limited array of apps and services to truly basic (but stylish) new devices that allow only calling, texting and a few other basic functions, consumers have options if they want to take a break from smartphones. One such phone is the Light Phone, a stripped down cell phone that offers calling, texting, an alarm clock and driving directions. Look for other phones on the horizon. Also asking your kids what they think about a pared down phone can start a conversation about phubbing and being addicted to a smartphone.

How to Videos – A Time Saver for Parents and Teachers?

Here’s an interesting digital idea for teachers, and maybe even something parents and students can help teachers with: creating "how-to" videos. High school teacher Jason Muniz writes in a blog post that creating and showing videos of instructions as part of his lessons allows him to spend more time engaging students and boosting their learning.  In his post, he shares the process and tools he uses to create the videos and addresses some of the challenges he has faced.

No Cheating: You Tube Pulls EduBirdie Videos

YouTube has pulled videos from more than 250 channels that contained paid promotions for EduBirdie, a service that allows students to pay for ghostwritten essays. Although the service isn't illegal, YouTube's policies forbid advertising for "academic aids." EduBirdie's own channel on YouTube has also been severely reduced. Where once there were dozens of videos, there is now just one left, a guide to how to write an introduction to an essay.

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.