Digital Smarts Blog

You are here


After the Marriott Breach – Protecting Your Info Online

Marriott has reported that they will begin alerting the 500 million customers believed to have been affected by a breach of its Starwood hotels database. If you stayed at a Sheraton, Westin, W Hotels, St. Regis, Four Points, Aloft, Le Méridien, Tribute, Design Hotels, Elements or Luxury Collection hotel in the last four years, you may have been affected. So how should you be protecting your information online?

  • Passwords – Regardless of what company is involved in a breach, it’s always a safe bet to change passwords for sites that contain sensitive information like financial, health or credit card data. Do not use the same password across multiple sites, and do not use your Social Security number as a username or a password. Think about using a password manager. Wirecutter, a New York Times company, provides a helpful explanation of why password managers are so essential. They also maintain an updated guide to what it considers to be the best password managers.
  • Don’t Click - Attacks are often spread through malicious email attachments and links — a practice known as phishing. So make a rule of not clicking on anything when you do not know where it will take you, even if it appears to come from someone you know.
  • Be Vigilant with Your Credit Card- Never allow a retailer or merchant to store your credit card information unnecessarily. If it is offered, use PayPal or Apple Pay for online transactions. Both are safer than most online payment methods.

Cybercrime Escalates in 2018

Because cybercriminals' activities have become increasingly sophisticated, one expert writing in Insurance Business America says that cybercrimes, and especially financial scams, have risen sharply in 2018. "Criminals are no longer just getting the email credentials of a person in a company, they are now monitoring their email and communication style in order to send a phishing email that is hard to detect as being fraudulent," says Jeremy Barnett of NAS Insurance, suggesting that companies put steps in place to prevent phishing scams. While you would think that the increase in cybersecurity issues would make people more vigilant about scams, many businesses and individuals have the feeling that it will never happen to them.


The Beginning of the End of Snow Days

A flurry of recent articles brings home yet one more way that technology is changing education: In districts across the country, snow days are becoming relics of the past. Beginning on December 1, for example, the schools around Camden, Maine, will replace two snow days per year with so-called Remote School Days, when students will complete coursework at home using internet-connected devices.


Given that many employers around the country have been implementing work from home policies in recent years, it was probably inevitable that the idea would spread to schools. And for schools, there’s the logic of the initial investment: If they’ve spent money acquiring devices for every student, as many have done, there’s a strong argument to be made that they should maximize the utility of those devices—part of the rationale for buying them is to expand students’ opportunities for learning.


Even Digital Publications are in Trouble

It is not just print newspapers in both small towns and big cities that are shutting down. Online teen publications and Millennial magazines are struggling to survive, too. Vice Media, Vox Media, Mic, and more have been beset by “layoffs, sales, and revenue misses.” Why isn’t digital publishing working? To start, many publishers primarily post on other platforms (some even skipped building a site altogether), because it allows their content to scale, but doing so loses the formation of a community base and built up advertising revenue stream. Additionally, by posting on one social media site rather than across platforms, their content is seen as the content of that site, not a distinct and separate publication. This brings up the question, where will content come from in the future, and will anyone be vetting it?


Quality of Screen Time Matters

A recent article from EdSurge states that several education-technology experts have found efforts to limit the amount of students' screen time may be less effective than focusing on how they are using their screens.  Richard Culatta, CEO of the International Society for Technology Education, says screen time is best used to collaborate and problem solve instead of clicking through a digital textbook or filling in digital worksheets.


Educational Technology Uses Varies Greatly Worldwide

While education technology is becoming more commonplace in classrooms worldwide, individual countries have unique practices, according to a report in the Cambridge International Global Education Census, which includes responses from 10,209 teachers and 9,397 students. Data show, for example, that 74% of US students use a smartphone for schoolwork -- compared with 16% of students in India.


Fewer College Recruiters Use Facebook

A survey finds that 45% of college admissions professionals believe Facebook is the top social media site for engaging prospective students, down from 62% in 2017. The data show that recruiters increasingly are turning to Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, with 45% reporting that their teams dedicated to web and digital marketing have grown since last year.


Five Year STEM Plan announced

President Donald Trump's administration recently released a five-year plan to expand science, technology, engineering and math education. The plan calls for more basic education about STEM concepts and an increase in STEM access and support for students who want to pursue careers in STEM fields. The plan also urges educators to make STEM "more meaningful and inspiring" through project-based learning, science fairs, robotics clubs, invention challenges and gaming workshops – anything that pushes students to identify and solve problems using knowledge from various disciplines. The biggest obstacle to more STEM education? The lack of STEM teachers in K-12 education.


Coded Literature

Have a kid who loves science, coding or math, but thinks that literature is a waste of time? Researcher Shuchi Grover writes in EdSurge that applying computational thinking to analyze novels, history and society can give students new insights while also helping them learn about data analysis and coding. In his commentary, Grover describes how the method has been used to examine Shakespeare's "Hamlet" and the "Harry Potter" book series, and provides examples of the kinds of diagrams used in the analysis. It seems literature analysis is all a matter of perspective.


College Admissions Officers Not Bothering with Student’s Posts

Adweek shares that only a quarter of college and university admissions officers visited the social media sites of prospective students this year, down from 40% in 2015, according to a survey from Kaplan Test Prep. More than half of officers told researchers they don't bother to check social media because more students are using sites such as Snapchat where content is posted only for a limited time and therefore make it impossible for admissions officers to search through past posts. Notably though, students agree that social media searches are acceptable: a separate Kaplan survey of over 900 high school students finds that 70 percent consider social media profiles “fair game” for admissions officers evaluating applicants — an increase from 58 percent in 2014.


Using Technology to Get Together With Friends and Family

How can you use technology to coordinate meetings of friends and family this holiday season (and all year long) when people with widely varying levels of digital literacy all rely on the same tech to get together? Brian Chen has some ideas for gathering a group, group chatting options, and even how to share pictures after your gatherings, in an article entitled Make Your Friends and Family Less Irksome This Holiday Season.


Sexual Harassment Via AirDrop

In 2014, Apple unveiled AirDrop for iPhone and iPad, a feature that lets you quickly share files wirelessly with other iPhone users near you. It wasn’t long after its release that reports began popping up of people using the feature to send strangers crude photos. Lately it has become a frequent issue on the NY Subway system and other places where people are stuck in close quarters. If you are concerned, you can turn AirDrop off or make your phone available only to those on your contacts list. Here’s How to Turn off AirDrop. If your children have their own iPhone or iPad, it is something to consider doing for their device.


Smart Thermometers Used to Track Illnesses at School

A national program called Fluency uses smart thermometers to track the spread of diseases in schools. The devices record student temperatures and symptoms and link to an app so the information can be shared anonymously with school nurses and parents. The Fluency program and smart thermometer technology were developed by Kinsa Health to detect illness in real-time, helping individuals and communities respond before it spreads.


Apple’s Tim Cook : Tech Regulation Inevitable

According to The Hill, Apple CEO Tim Cook says he believes regulations in the tech industry are inevitable, after previously stating his support for stricter laws in October. "I'm a big believer in the free market, but we have to admit when the free market is not working. And it hasn't worked here," Cook said. In October Apple began allowing customers to download copies of all the data it holds on them.  Want to find out what data Apple is keeping on you and how to delete it or manage it? Try this article on the Cnet site as a guide.


Wait Until 8th! A New Movement Advocates Waiting On Cellphones

Today recently featured a blog written by K-8 teacher Ben Conlon that advocates for a movement called Wait Until 8th –  encouraging parents to wait until students are in the eighth grade to give them cellphones in an attempt to diminish the negative effects of social media on younger users. As Conlon points out, social media has complicated the lives of today's students, who often spend the majority of their free time in front of screens. He writes, “This is their norm. They don't realize how much of their childhood is being stolen by screens. They simply have no escape. It follows them home. It follows them everywhere. The phone is always on their minds. Texts are constant, often misinterpreted, hurtful, with no visual cues. They take the place of learning how to have genuine conversations."


What Happens When Eighth Graders Give Up Technology for Two Weeks?

As reported in the San Mateo Daily Journal, eighth-graders at a California school say they have experienced positive results after accepting a 12-day challenge to give up time on social media and digitial devices. The tech-free challenge came after a school survey found 63% of students said they spent too much time on social media and cellphones. Two big revelations students had were how much more time they had for everything and how much more connected they felt to other people. Some also said that their parents had more trouble with the challenge than they did because parents forgot they could not call them.


Collaborative Projects – 10 “Rules”

Collaborative projects with classmates for school can be either really fun or a real drag. Technology can help making everyone’s contributions “appear the same” in the final presentation, but there is so much more to the experience. That’s where the “10 Rules for Students and Teachers” comes in.  The “10 Rules” were originally written by Sister Corita Kent, an influential artist and educator, and popularized by composer John Cage. Themes in the “10 Rules” revolve around making the most of your learning experiences. Self-discipline is important, as is the need to follow a leader when necessary. These rules are good to talk about with your kids before they do a collaborative project or even to pass along to their teachers.


Cyberexclusion: What Is It and How Does it Affect Kids

What is the difference between cyberbullying and cyberexclusion? Take a look at a video in which adolescent psychiatrist Jodi Gold, M.D. explains the difference and why seemingly innocent social media posts – “fun” posts from parties, playdates, and other events where other kids are “excluded”- can hurt kids’ feelings. Find out what you can do as a parent to combat cyberexclusion and help your child learn to be kind online.


Majority of US Parents Let Children View YouTube Content

A recent study reports that 81% of  parents with children age 11 or younger say they have let their child watch videos on YouTube. Of the parents surveyed, 34% say they allow their children to watch YouTube regularly, and 47% reported they allow it on occasion. Also interesting is that of these parents, 61% reported that their children have come across unsuitable content on the platform. The study comes in light of a Federal Trade Commission complaint by advocacy groups that YouTube illegally collects data from kids to target ads.


Federal Trade Commission Called on to Look Into Children’s Apps

MediaPost Communications reports that Senate Democrats are urging the Federal Trade Commission to scrutinize "manipulative marketing practices" in preschool children's apps. Advocacy groups have also made the same request following a report by University of Michigan Medical School that discovered that 95% of free Android apps designed for children under 6 featured ads. Some of the ads were camouflaged in items that appeared in the games, the study found. One game mentioned in the study, and referenced by the lawmakers, offers young players who watch a video ad the opportunity to buy “more effective medicines” to treat sick animals through the app.