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Facial Recognition Software – Not Yet Up to Snuff?

Some schools are going to be testing out facial recognition software this next school year as a school security measure. Privacy experts have complained that the software does not do a good job especially with the faces of teen girls and minorities. Apparently it can also have trouble with other more familiar faces as well.  In a test of Amazon’s facial recognition software, the American Civil Liberties Union ran photos of members of Congress against a database of 25,000 mugshots. The software concluded that 28 of the lawmakers were criminals, including six members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Amazon said the software, which is being tested by police departments, was a tool and not a final authority. Just good to know if your school tries out this technology this fall.


The Myth of Multitasking

Ask any kid while they are using their cell phone if they are listening to you, chances are they will reply in the affirmative even though they will have trouble recounting what has been said. That’s what Arnold Glass, a psychology professor at Rutgers University at New Brunswick thought, but his students told him that using various digital devices in his class had no negative effect on their performance, so he decided to test it out. His study shows that digital multitasking can adversely affect students' long-term retention of material, a study you might want to tell your kids about.


Who is Tracking Your Use of Your School’s Website?

Education technology expert Douglas Levin recently revealed findings that are not sitting well with privacy advocates. A recent NY Times article cites Levin’s study in stating that most public  while you are on it you are likely being tracked. All but one public-school website out of 159 examined by Levin were found to have some type of ad tracking or online surveillance technology embedded in them (placed there by the company who sold the software to the school), meaning that based on what you look at, that information may be sold to outside third parties who will then push ads and other information your way. While this kind of tracking is considered fair game by some, others have raised concerns about data privacy including the fact that children may be being tracked illegally while on a school’s website retrieving information about mundane things such as a homework assignment.


Google Glass Help Autistic Kids

It has been a while since Google Glasses have been in the news. While they never quite made out to become the newest social trend, they are helping some children with autism better understand facial expressions, according to findings published in npj Digital Medicine. Children use a smartphone app that works with the Google Glass headset and it gives the wearer information on what emotions other people are expressing. Researchers say the social skills of study participants improved after about 10 weeks of treatment.


Wear this Device or Face a Fine

Here is one sure to get a conversation started with your kids. Students at a private school in France are being asked to wear Bluetooth-enabled tracking devices that will allow teachers to instantly take attendance and find students if they are not in class. Students who do not wear the device or forget it at home could be subject to a fine.


Facial-Recognition Tech For School Security Raises Questions

The Associated Press is reporting that some companies are offering US schools free facial-recognition software that is also used on city streets and among government agencies and businesses. At odds with this move, digital-rights advocacy groups are expressing concerns about the software's effects on privacy, and the New York Civil Liberties Union has asked the state's education officials to prevent schools' implementation of the software. Others question the technology’s cost and effectiveness, given reports like one released in February by MIT and Stanford University that found some facial recognition programs don’t work well in correctly identifying people who belong to racial minorities or women.


Dealing with an Online Scam Involving An Old Password of Yours

A recent email hack includes information including an old password you might have once, making you believe they have information on you. These sorts of online extortion schemes — which try to guilt people into paying off hackers claiming to have compromising information — are nothing new. As for the inclusion of a real password, after years of database breaches from major sites and services like Yahoo, eBay, Sony PlayStation and dozens of other companies, varying amounts of people’s data are floating around the internet, often for sale on the black market. That data is now being integrated into traditional phishing scams.

According to the Krebs on Security blog, several recipients of this particular blackmail campaign observed that the password included in the message was old, some by about a decade, and not currently in use. For those who haven’t changed their passwords in years, the ruse could appear more realistic, and the hustle itself may become fine-tuned as the perpetrators weave in fresher bits of stolen user data.  Important to keep in mind for yourself, but also for discussing with your children who may fall prey to these schemes as well. Remembering to update your passwords frequently is a good security practice. You can also report phishing incidents on the F.B.I.’s Internet Crime Complaint Center site.


A Parents Guide to Fortnite

With school out for most, digital gaming often becomes the first way kids seek to stay entertained. If you are finding that your children, like so many others, are spending inordinate amounts of time playing a game called Fortnite, you might want to look at A Non-Gamer’s Guide to Fortnite, the Game That Conquered All the Screens, from The New York Times Personal Tech page. The article does a great job of explaining the game and letting parents foresee issues that they might want to discuss with their children.


Schools in the United Kingdom Start New Program on Online Safety

Schools  in the United Kingdom are to receive new guidance on lessons in online personal safety. The lessons, focused in part on social media, are to begin as early as age 4. The authors of the new guidelines write “Today children have to learn to cope in two worlds: the virtual one and the real one – and this is giving old problems a dangerous new edge.”


Possible Link Between Screen Time and ADHD

The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that too much screen time may boost teens' risk of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms, according to a study of 2,587 10th-graders in Los Angeles. Findings show that students in the study who were high frequency users of 7 or 14 digital media platforms were more than twice as likely to develop ADHD symptoms as students who didn't have a high frequency use rate of any of the online social activities.


Flick and Tricks on an iPad

Been having trouble typing on an iPad recently with different characters than the ones you thought you pressed showing up? Apple’s current iOS 11 update for the iPad includes a new feature in the system’s built-in software keyboard called Key Flicks — which may be inadvertently disrupting your text entry. With Key Flicks enabled, most of the onscreen keys can enter different characters depending on how your fingers touch the glass.

The alternate characters for each key are shown in gray above the larger black standard letter or punctuation marks. If you tap the T key normally, you get the letter T. However, if you tap the T key and your finger happens to linger and slide down a bit, the Key Flicks software will use the alternate character for that key — which is the number 5.

Want to turn it off and return to what it was like before? Go to the iPad’s home screen and open the Settings app. Tap General, and on the General screen tap Keyboard. In the list of settings, find Enable Key Flicks and tap the button to the right of it to disable the feature and go back to using the multiple keyboard levels to insert numbers and other characters.


Cyberattacks May Increase Warn Feds

Cyberattacks against the US are on the rise and have reached a critical point,” said Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats recently. Coats identified China, Iran, North Korea and Russia as the biggest threats, saying that they target federal agencies, state and local governments, businesses and even schools every day.


Useful Apps for the Classroom (and Home)

Are you interested in finding some good educational apps for your children?  The National Public Radio site recently offered an article titled iTeach: A Guide To The Most Useful Apps for Classroom that offers an array of highly reviewed apps for classroom and learning use. The list includes a variety of tools for the classroom, such as Kahoot! a quiz game creator app, and Seesaw, a digital journal creator, and highlights what experts think are the best apps for using at home, for home-school communication, or to suggest at your school.


Khan Academy for Early Learners

Nonprofit Khan Academy has launched an educational app designed for early learners (ages 2-5) called Khan Academy Kids. The full app is available free for iOS and is in beta for Android, and includes thousands of original activities, books, videos and lessons, and combines subjects like math and reading with creative activities like drawing and storytelling.


Study Indicates Technology Use in Schools Increasing

A study profiled in the T.H.E. Journal shows the majority of kindergarten through twelfth grade students are using technology to complete assignments, with only 42% primarily using pencil and paper. The data also show that 66% of teachers say technology increases student productivity and 60% say it's intellectually stimulating for students.


Fusion Centers, School Safety and Privacy

A national network of "fusion centers" -- secret facilities that gather information to help support public safety -- are working to help stop school shootings before they occur. While this may sound like a big advancement for school safety, EdSurge reports that the work that includes culling social media and data to identify threats and predict where school shootings may happen has actually created debate among privacy experts and advocates. They worry that there is a risk of misidentifying students as threats. Experts note slang words that are not threat related often appear in texts such as ‘I killed that test’ or ‘these shoes are the bomb’. Calls to open more of these monitoring centers are increasing as the number of school shootings rises.


Snapchat’s Teen Partners

Snapchat is ramping up its partnership with Fanbytes, a London-based startup that works with teen creators. Four Fanbytes’ channels on the platform will now be featured on Discover. The channels already attract daily views of between 1.7 million and 8 million, according to CEO Timothy Armoo. In an article on Digiday, Armoo explains their appeal, saying "it's all driven by 15-, 16-year-olds who understand this audience way better than the 35-year-olds at the other corporations who don't understand the DNA of how young people engage with content."


Facebook and the Teen Age Brain

Looking at teens' social networks may reveal how their brains work, says University of Pennsylvania neuroscience researchers. In a commentary on the Scientific American blog, Emily Falk, director of the Penn Communication Neuroscience Lab, and Michael Platt, director of the Wharton Neuroscience Initiative, note that by better understanding how teens make connections they can learn more about how to engage teens. For example, teens who are “information brokers,” having a knack for connecting people who wouldn’t otherwise know each other, come up with better solutions to problems, potentially because they are exposed to more diverse perspectives.


Black Girls Code and Mattel’s Barbie Team Up

According to KPIX-TV (San Francisco), Mattel has teamed with Oakland, Calif., nonprofit Black Girls Code to develop a new black Barbie that builds robots and may inspire girls and minorities to pursue careers in science. "Black Girls Code is breaking barriers, pushing down walls and really empowering our girls to let them know they can be here," says the nonprofit's Amber Morse.


Facebook Tops Most Downloaded Apps List Of All Time

AppAnnie reports in USA Today that Facebook is most downloaded app in the nearly 10-year history of Apple's App Store. Facebook Messenger, YouTube, Instagram and WhatsApp round out the top five. Check out others that made the list here.