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Schools Working to Make Tech Accessible to All

Schools are increasingly focused on ensuring that educational technologies are available to all students, including those with disabilities. To help with this mission, schools and other organizations are inviting software engineers to visit their classrooms to see first hand how the programs are used and how they can be improved to ensure accessibility. For example, they may discover that programs full of unlabeled pictures are totally useless to blind users who have no idea they’re there. It may sound like common sense, but often that is the missing link in the creation of affordable and effective educational software that is useful to all students.


Contract to End Internet Abuse

World Wide Web creator Tim Berners-Lee is initiating a campaign called #ForTheWeb, aimed at advocating principles that protect users from threats such as false news, discrimination and hate speech, among others. The campaign, based on a "Contract for the Web", has received support from Facebook and more than 60 other organizations.


Boomerang Study: Kids, Cartoons and Schedules

A recent study by Boomerang aimed to examine the importance of downtime and humor for children. The study comes on the heels of recent research from The LEGO Group finding that 88% of families who play together for five hours or more a week claim to be happy, despite playtime getting squeezed due to hectic schedules. Boomerang found that nearly half of the parents surveyed reported that their children spend 4-7 hours each week at extracurricular activities. A quarter of respondents say their kids often have more commitments and busier social lives than they do, and don’t get enough downtime or relaxation. The parents taking the survey had children between the ages of 4 and 7 and were from France, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Russia, South Africa and Turkey.  


Lego Urges Teens and Adults to Find “Brick Zen”

Lego has unveiled an Instagram campaign that encourages teens and millennial adults to find inner peace and an escape from technology through creativity with its bricks. One spot shows a young woman becoming frustrated with yoga and turning to Lego instead and the brand says, "It's zen, in the shape of a brick."


Photo Project Helps Capture the “Real” Life of Generation Z

Generation Z is often accused of having their noses in their phones 24/7, so it was an eye opener when more than 2,000 teenagers answered a call by The New York Times to show photos of their lives to help capture the "complete" lifestyle of Generation Z. The images -- including a teen mother cradling her infant and a student-athlete waiting for word about college -- aim to help counter stereotypes of Generation Z.


Amazon Offers Help to Future Engineers

The Associated Press recently reported the launch of the Amazon Future Engineer Program, started by Amazon to expand access to science, technology, engineering and math lessons for students from low-income and underrepresented communities. The program will invest in summer camps, online courses, AP computer science classes and college scholarships, with the larger goal of teaching coding to about 10 million students per year. Schools, teachers and parents will be able to apply through


Facebook Developing VideoStory For Users with Disabilities

Facebook has created a dataset called VideoStory designed to train systems to learn how to automatically describe what happens in videos that have been posted to the social networking website, according to an article from VentureBeat . Researchers say this development can aid in allowing people with disabilities or poor internet connections to engage with videos on the platform. While not a perfect system, this development is especially important as videos and other visual media become more and more dominant on the Internet.


Screen Time and Sleep – Minimal Impact?

An Oxford study in the Journal of Pediatrics associated every hour of digital screen time to 3 - 8 minutes of shorter nightly sleep among children and teens, with screen time accounting for less than 1.9% of observed sleep outcome variability. The findings, based on 2016 National Survey of Children's Health data involving 50,212 youths ages 6 months to 17 years, "suggest that the relationship between sleep and screen use in children is extremely modest," said researcher Andrew Przybylski. A previous study showed that between 50 percent and 90 percent of school-age children might not be getting enough quality sleep, but researchers say their new findings suggest screen time is not the only culprit affecting sleep time.


Pinterest Finding Many Uses

Nearly 25% of Americans will use Pinterest this year, and while the majority of users are female, the platform is looking to expand to appeal to more men, eMarketer reports. The platform's focus on developing distinctive tools for discovery is succeeding in making Pinterest a go-to source for that purpose across a wide range of demographics, and many parents and teachers are using the platform to collect ideas for school research projects. How does your family use Pinterest?


Mobile Educational Apps Falling Short Study Says

Researchers at the University of California at Irvine have found that some mobile apps claiming to help young children learn may not be designed to teach them in the ways they need, according to a study that reviewed 171 math and literacy apps. Josh Golin, executive director of the nonprofit Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, says many apps are marketed as educational even though their claims lack evidence. This is a reminder to research apps before downloading or purchasing for your young kids.


Millennials Favor More Human Teachers

Most millennials say the best way to fix problems in the US educational system is to pay teachers more, give additional funding to public education, and invest in local schools and technology, according to an ongoing GenForward survey. Younger Americans also support charter schools and vouchers for low-income students, University of Chicago researcher Cathy Cohen, says in a Q&A on the Marketplace site.


Screen Time Caution Urged by Silicon Valley

Some tech-savvy parents in Silicon Valley are fighting back against the widespread use of screens, saying children have the potential to become addicted to their phones, tablets, televisions and other technology. Athena Chavarria, a former executive assistant at Facebook who works at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, said, "I am convinced the devil lives in our phones and is wreaking havoc on our children." Others feel the jury is still out on what children’s exposure to technology will bring, but almost everyone stresses some limits. Where does your family stand on potential tech addiction?


Kids Apps Laced with Manipulative Advertising

A new study done by the University of Michigan and the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor analyzed 135 popular children’s apps and found that many “routinely lure young children to make purchases and watch ads”. The researchers found that these apps are riddled with problematic advertising methods, including manipulation and shaming when children did not make “in game” purchases offered to “enhance” gameplay. Others have raised this alarm in the past, but the University of Michigan study is the first to look at exactly how many ads make their way into kids’ games, and what their advertising strategies are.


Teachers Want Technology But Gaps Remain

While 64% of teachers say schools should emphasize teaching technology, only 32% say students are actively using technology to create things or perform data analysis, according to a survey of 2000 K-12 teachers from PwC and the Business-Higher Education Forum, eSchool News reports. Student access to technology is one key bottleneck, and about half of teachers note that their students lack either a device or internet access at home.


What and How Will Kids Be Learning in 2030

2030 is only 12 years away, but in this age of rapid change what are technology advocates saying that kids should be learning now to prepare for their futures? According to an article in The Irish Times , preparing children for a future workforce where menial tasks will be done by technology means that higher-level cognitive skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity are going to be even more prized. Students will need to be able to create, analyze and interpret complex data patterns. As one expert from Microsoft puts it, “I do think that everyone should get the opportunity to code in primary school. Everyone should be exposed to computational thinking to a reasonable degree, and then some will say ‘this is for me’ and some won’t. The bigger point is the notion of how we will tackle big complex problems in the future; everyone will need these skills because I think that’s the way the world of work is going to go.”


The Gender Gap in Cybersecurity Needs to Close

According to Cybersecurity Ventures, there will be up to 3.5 million job openings in cybersecurity by 2021, but experts say there is a serious shortage of those trained to fill those spots. Furthermore, only 20% of cybersecurity workers currently are women, which can limit perspective when it comes to solving cyberthreats. "The wider variety of people and experience we have defending our networks, the better our chances of success," says Priscilla Moriuchi, director of strategic threat development at Recorded Future according to Forbes. Got a daughter interested in this field? Take a look at the tips for women entering cybersecurity in the article.


Technology and Empathy – One Can Inform the Other

There is more to technology than playing games and entertaining, and sometimes parents and teachers need to be reminded of the power it gives kids to look at the world in different ways. A recent opinion piece on PBS News Hour discussed how technology can promote empathy and focus on social impact, even helping students to come up with solutions to real world problems.  Interested in more? PBS ‘s lessons on inventions that will change the world teaches students how to turn an idea into reality through the steps of the invention process and how to pitch their invention to key stakeholders, even giving instructions on how to apply for a U.S. patent or enter contests such as the Congressional App Challenge.


Instagram and Snapchat Go Head to Head in Popularity with Teens

A recent report by Mashable found that about 85% of teenagers use Instagram at least once a month, in comparison to 84% who use Snapchat the same amount.  The research survey polled about 8,600 teenagers across the U.S. with an average age of 16. While the usage is neck in neck, 46% say Snapchat is their preferred social platform compared to 32% who favor Instagram.

Other findings from the survey show that Amazon was the most preferred teen’s shopping website (47%), with Nike coming in at a not-so-close second (5%), and that Netflix is the number one streaming service. Teens spend 38 percent of their time each day watching Netflix, "well ahead" of YouTube at 33 percent, Piper Jaffray said. Apple grew its share of the wristwatch market among teens to 17 percent, with the Apple Watch ranking as teenagers' second most popular watch.


Google Partnership To Teach About Online Behavior

Google is helping to educate children about good online behavior as part of a new partnership with the National Parent Teacher Association and the nonprofit Schools that adopt the program, "Be Internet Awesome," will receive resources and training about digital safety, among other things.


iCivics Games Teaches Kids About Government

Looking for some alternatives to the usual commercial video games? Try the  iCivics, a site created to link youth passion for online gaming and apps with civic participation. Founded by retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, iCivics has developed a variety of games that seek to inspire civic engagement and understanding of how local government works. The site has 19 games, which allow players to try their hand at solving international crises, arguing a case before the Supreme Court, running a public interest campaign, sitting on a jury, and more.