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Privacy, Student Data and Your School District

Privacy is certainly the watchword of the day, but how much is your school district is working to protect the privacy of your children and your family? Before talking to your school or district about the issue you may want to educate yourself by reading 10 Steps That Protect the Privacy of Student Data. Parents should be involved in the development of privacy policies and standards, and districts should take the time to make sure parents understand the efforts educators are taking to protect the privacy of students.


Social Media Netiquette for New College Students

Do you have a recent high school grad on their way to college? As college student Leah Polakoff points out, the way college students use social media is quite different than the way they may have used it in High School. Polakoff provides some unique advice for new college students, such as not friending everyone in your graduating class Facebook group, or waiting until after a course is over before connecting with your teaching assistant.


Taking Digital Notes

School is still a way off but it is never too early to figure out what technologies can help kids succeed. Some recent developments in tablet technology are now making it easier to take notes digitally, either directly on the tablet or by using a smartpen like the Livescribe 3 and special paper that allows what you write to show up directly on your tablet or phone. These new technologies can even turn hand written notes into text and allow them to be indexed and searched.



Can’t get the family to put their gadgets down long enough to have a quiet meal together? Try DinnerTime (free on iOS and Android). The app is designed to be installed on both parents' and kids' smartphones. When Mom or Dad have the evening meal ready, all they have to do is activate the DinnerTime app and the youngsters' gadgets will not only tell them dinner is ready, but will activate a lockdown timer so smartphone distractions are eliminated during mealtime. As an added bonus, the app has bedtime and "take a break" features that keep phones quiet during sleep hours and whenever you feel like your kids are experiencing screen time overload.


Divorce in the Digital Age

If you are involved in any kind of legal action, it is not uncommon for lawyers and private investigators to look at your social media posts and social networking pages for insights on your behavior and your actions. Many people who become involved in a break up or divorce go online to rant about an ex-partner or spouse but don’t think about the consequences of those actions. The post never goes away and can be shared with anyone. With our digital lives so entwined these days, there are even more considerations to be concerned with when going through a breakup, including changing your passwords, getting rid of shared services like Amazon or iTunes accounts and thinking about what to do with shared online bank accounts (ask your lawyer on that one). You should also consider wiping shared tablets or computers of any kind of personal data including passwords, credit card info, tax returns, browsing history and other things you may want to keep private. On social media, you will need to decide whether to stay friends online with your ex, remembering if you stay friends they will be able to see everything you post. Also keep in mind that if your kids have access to your social networking postings, your ex could and check your account through their devices.


Parenting, Guilt and Smartphones

Parenting in the era of the smartphone poses a wide spread series of debates. Arguing that having a smartphone can actually help you spend more time with your children, an article in The New York Times Bits blog entitled You Don’t Have to Feel Very Guilty About Using Your Smartphone While Parenting looks at a week in which a parent was able to balance working and being there for a preschooler off from a week of school. The comments on the blog post reflect a large range of opinions about smart phones and parenting – from those who feel devices should be completely turned off when kids are around, to those who feel they still have the ability to be there for their children while not focusing exclusively on them. What is clear is that every parent, child and individual situation is different. Like so much of parenting, making a conscious effort to model the right behavior is key, but especially so as we go deeper into the age of constant communication and connection. Bottom line: some kind of consistent restraint when it comes to technology in the part of all family members seems to be the best solution.


Digital Tools For Managing Your Kid’s Tech Use

Common Sense Media has compiled a list of digital tools for managing your kids’ tech use. Some of these ideas include taking advantage of the safety mode in YouTube, how to keep kids focused on one app at a time (and away from your email and private files), and fine-tuning what cookies get added to your browser. The list also reminds you that you can use the FindMyPhone App for iOS or Android to locate your child (as long as their phone is on and with them). The list provides a good mix of simple straightforward ideas along with some apps and services you may not have heard of.


Makerspaces Lure Kids Away From Tablets and Game Consoles

In an effort to bring back creative thinking and problem solving into the lives of young students, makerspaces are cropping up all over the United States. A blend of old shop classes and new technology, the maker movement hopes to bring hands-on exploration back into schools and simultaneously inspire kids to tinker on their own by luring them away from more passive technology. Interested in finding a makerspace near you where your kids can explore their world in a hands-on fashion, or starting your own space? Visit


Magda and Mo: Two New eBooks Help Kids Learn About Online Safety

Two new free eBooks for kids - Animishmash and the Cyber Bullfrog (for ages 7 and up) and The Pirate's Donut (for ages 3 and up) – deal with the subjects of cyberbullying and safe online searching, respectively. Both books pose situations for kids to ponder, and offer choices about what they should do. You will need to read the books out loud to non-readers, but both books can be used as discussion starters on issues of digital safety.


Do Parents Rely Too Much on Teachers for Lessons on Internet Safety?

Whose job is it to instruct kids on how to safe online? In a worldwide survey of 1800 teachers done by AVG, a security company, four out of five teachers think parents are relying too much on schools to teach internet safety. The survey also found that 38 percent of teachers said they believe parents don't know enough about online safety to be able to teach their own kids. Nearly three-quarters of teachers in the United States reported that they have never had formal Internet safety training themselves, even though 86 percent use Web content in the classroom and 40 percent assign online homework assignments. Who do you think should be teaching kids about digital safety?


The ”Right To Be Forgotten” Law Faces Many Hurdles

This spring, European courts upheld a law forcing Google Spain to remove links to personal information from its site that compromised the privacy of an individual. The search company responded with a digital request form, giving web users an opportunity to erase links to web pages that they feel invade their privacy, but the process has sparked some opposition. Opponents of the new law -predominantly journalists and media outlets — argue that allowing individuals and companies to take down unflattering articles is akin to censorship, and that removing informative articles from web searches is an infringement on free speech. While so far this only applies to Europe, the definition of the “right to be forgotten” bears watching as it is sure to spill over into the privacy debates here in the states as well.


Newsletters Are Staging a Comeback

Experts are predicting that newsletters are making a comeback in email form.  With an endless stream of information available on the internet, newsletters offered on a subscription basis can offer some kind of order amid the chaos of wrong or outdated articles. Many see newsletters as a “vetted” source that can keep you up to date on specific information.  Interested in seeing a list of newsletters that fits this description? Take a look at Newsletters You Might Actually Be Happy to Find in Your Inbox.


100 Quality Apps

Microsoft has shared a list of 100 mobile applications that make the grade for students and teachers including CK12, which uses various interactive tools to improve math and science instruction, and Didlr, an art and design application that allows kids to create their own artwork. This is great for summer learning, as well.


What Happens When Schools Try to Filter the Internet

As some schools continue to roll out one-to-one device programs, they also are stepping up their Internet filters to ensure students have restricted access to some sites and inappropriate content. Parents are often the ones driving this movement. In some cases, students are able to quickly get around the filters. Of course, the converse is that teachers say the restrictions are too rigid for sites they'd like to use in class and school librarians have an annual Banned Websites Awareness Day.


Why Are Kids So Tech-Savvy?

After more than 35 years in the educational technology field, the answer to the question of why kids are so tech-savvy became obvious to me fairly early in the game. The lack of fear kids have about technology has always struck me as so refreshing and, back when I was very involved in reviewing kid’s software products, it was always important to have a child try to use software that was up for review because then, you really found out what it could and couldn’t do. A recent study really confirms those observations. The study found that preschoolers are better at operating gadgets than college students -- findings attributed to the way young children approach problem solving. Exploratory learning, characterized by a tendency to test unusual theories, comes naturally to young children, researchers say.


Cut, Paste and Collate – Not a New Obsession

Cutting, pasting, and collating – those aren’t new tools in the arsenal of human beings’ efforts to keep up with information overload. A fascinating article in the most recent Smithsonian magazine online discusses how, even in the 19th century, people used scrapbooking in a very similar way to try to cope with the radical case of information overload. 


Lab Rats for Facebook

Have a Facebook account? Well, welcome to lab rathood. That’s because it was recently revealed that Facebook has allowed researchers, both inside and outside the company, to manipulate users' news feeds to hide good news or bad news to see whether it affected the emotions of those users themselves. In other words, if they hid the parts of Facebook where people share joy with you, where they tell you about happy things, where the griping and grousing is balanced with baby pictures and bright sides, could they make you feel worse? And, guess what? It turned out that is exactly what it did to the aggregate of us. Facebook researchers have apologized, but the revelation has set off a storm of controversy centering on a violation of long-held rules protecting people from becoming test subjects without providing informed consent. But, on a positive side, as social media grows as a means for us to communicate, it will be important to study how media can provide insights into some of the deepest mysteries of human behavior.