Digital Smarts Blog

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8
Apr

District Uses Scanners to Track Students on Buses

WBAY-TV in Green Bay, Wisconsin  reports that one Wisconsin school district is installing scanners on school buses to track students as they ride to and from school. The technology will use identification cards to track students and allow parents to use an app to see where their buses are, and even receive notifications about when their children enter or leave the bus, district officials say.

5
Apr

What Schools are Doing About Protecting Student Data and Privacy

Curious about what schools are doing to protect student data and maintain student privacy? Check out this article in Education Week about a survey that was conducted for the Consortium for School Networking of school district tech leaders who, overall, say that student-data privacy and security is a somewhat or much more of an important priority this year compared with last year. One interesting fact that emerged is that schools in urban areas are more concerned about cybersecurity and privacy than their rural peers, but that may be that because rural schools are simply just more concerned about getting access to broadband service.

4
Apr

US Schools Vulnerable to Cyber Attacks Says Homeland Security

According to an article in The Hill, despite investing billions of dollars in cybersecurity, the US is woefully unprepared for attacks from foreign adversaries, especially in the private sector. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen states that companies, schools and other public entities are at a growing risk, "and until now our government has done far too little to back them up."

3
Apr

Dyslexia and Technology – Some Resources for Middle and High School

Middle and high school students with dyslexia who crave independence in their learning, especially reading, can find support with new tech tools. A list of resources in the recent article “How to support middle, high-school students with dyslexia “ includes tools to help kids with dyslexia and other struggling readers, including text to speech support and an app that allows users to take a picture of text to have it read back to them.

2
Apr

Google Docs Being Used to Skirt Social Media Bans and Cyberbully

Lifehacker reports that some students are using Google Docs to bypass social media bans at school and, increasingly, to engage in bullying. Google Docs, a seemingly innocuous (and approved by most schools) tool for writing and sharing work and photos is being hijacked for popularity polls, memes and much worse, and most parents have no idea that this school approved app could be used this way.  The parental-control mobile app, Bark, reports more than 60,000 cases of bullying via Google Docs.

1
Apr

Colleges Unite for Technology in the Public Interest

From the The New York Times , twenty-one universities have formed the Public Interest Technology University Network to better teach students to develop, manage and utilize technology for the public good. Public interest technology meshes the academic fields of computer science, sociology and law. As technology becomes increasingly pervasive and intrusive in American life, this network seeks to devise ways to teach students how to grapple with the consequences on society.

29
Mar

A Free Speech Library for Social Media Troubles

According to National Public Radio/Michigan, Michigan State University has launched the McLellan Online Free Speech Library at https://mclellanlib.com to help support students who may be facing disciplinary action from schools for their online speech, including in social media posts and videos. Among other things, the online library will offer students resources, case studies and other documents that may help them better understand their rights. This is a good resource to know about if you find yourself in a situation, whether your child is the one accused or a victim of online abuse.

28
Mar

Bullying Prevention at School – Six Rules

Is your children’s school struggling with what to about bullying and cyberbullying? No single practice stops cruelty, but a combination of proven strategies used by committed staff trained in anti-bullying can help. Read Dr. Michele Borba’s six rules that can help defeat the culture of bullying and replace it with the power of character and then pass it along to your school. 

27
Mar

Entering the Google Doodle Contest

Every year Google holds a special contest for kids in grades K - 12 that invites them to draw what they hope to see in the future- in the form of a doodle. The contest is called the Doodle for Google and the doodles can be about anything that the kids can dream of. The contest has a tagline that states "If you can dream it, you can draw it."

26
Mar

Screen Time Breakdown

Curious about how much time you or your children are spending looking at a phone screen every day? Worried about digital addiction? Google and Apple have tools that can help you manage your screen time on their devices. You can use these features to see how much time you're actually spending on your mobile device and which applications you use most often.

Apple's "Screen Time" feature on its iPhones can be found under "Settings." It breaks down in simple charts how long you spent on your phone that day or over the past week, and tells you which types of apps sucked up most of your time.

Google has built a native "Digital Wellbeing" app into its Pixel phones that provides similar data. It also includes an option to set limitations on usage. For other Android devices, there are a number of apps in the Google Play store that users can download to monitor their mobile device usage.

25
Mar

Digital Photography Helps Kids Visualize Future Success

As reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a sixth-grade teacher’s class project has gone viral after he shared digital photographs his students created of themselves graphically imposed onto the covers of books written by influential African-Americans. The project was designed to teach African-American students at the Wisconsin school about representation and success.

22
Mar

What is Digital Citizenship?

How do you or your children’s school define “digital citizenship”?  According to  Richard Culatta, CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education, speaking recently at the South by Southwest Conference, digital citizenship goes beyond the scope of online safety. He says that positive digital citizenship is about making better communities online that include proactive actions to affect public policy, increased civility and the skills need to ferret out valid information.

21
Mar

Colleges Tap Gaming as an Engagement Strategy

According Education Dive, some colleges and universities, and even businesses, are using gamification - the use of game-like features such as point-scoring, earning badges and leaderboards - to help engage members of Generation Z and other digital natives. At California State University at Dominguez Hills, students earn prizes for certain on-campus behaviors, such as joining a student group or accessing mental health services. Colleges are hoping to use these tactics as a way to encourage student success, both in and out of the classroom.

20
Mar

Keeping User Data Private

Apple and Facebook are among a coalition of civic society groups, trade associations and technology companies that are fighting globally to mandate encryption rules and keep user data private. Tech companies are concerned about the misuse of data access for spying or for being exploited by hackers, while governments want data access to track possible threats and solve crimes. Legislation regarding encryption could force tech companies to add a “backdoor” to their devices and sites that would give governments (and potentially hackers) easy access to user information.

19
Mar

New Study: Violent Video Games Not Tied to Violent Behavior

Teenagers who spent more time playing violent video games do not have greater odds of engaging in aggressive behaviors compared with their peers, according to a new study by UK researchers at Oxford University published in Royal Society Open Science and reported in The Independent . The findings were based on data involving 1,000 British youths ages 14 and 15. One of the researchers did comment that games could provoke angry outbursts while playing online, however it doesn’t necessarily translate to real-world aggression. 

18
Mar

Digital Play Benefits Student Learning

Digital play benefits students' learning, according to Jordan Shapiro, an author and senior fellow for the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop in an article on Edutopia online. In the piece, Shapiro shares how teachers and parents can embrace game-based learning and digital play and encourage kids to use digital tools as a means of self-expression. He also points out that adults must model the behaviors they expect and not issue mixed messages. For example, many parents harp on their children for constantly being on their phones, but do not manage their own screen time- something their children can clearly pick up on.

15
Mar

Online Students More Prone to Multitasking

College students who are already inclined to multitasking, such as texting and web surfing, are more likely to do it during online courses than in physical classrooms, according to a new study. Researchers recommend online course developers create strategies to increase student focus and discourage multitasking. While this study was done with college students, other similar research on K-12 students often points to the same issues. In a related study in eCampus News, students in Generation Z -- those between ages 14 and 23 -- say they prefer learning via video, while only 26% prefer online classes.

14
Mar

Districts Use Online Program to Replace Teachers

A growing number of school districts are turning to online programs such as Edgenuity as they struggle to recruit enough certified teachers. The programs deliver online lessons while an in-person facilitator (often someone with no expertise in the subject being studied) oversees the classroom, but the lack of a content area teacher who can answer student questions on the topics being studied often leads to student frustration, boredom and cheating. If your district is thinking of offering online instruction provided by outside vendors as a solution for teacher shortages, you may want to research the pros and cons.

13
Mar

A Lesson on Fake News Goes Too Far

A student at a Texas high school near Houston is being accused of taking an assignment on fake news too far by posting on social media an untrue story about an arrest of a school administrator. The post, which went viral, led school district officials to speak out against the story in a letter to parents. "This is a teachable moment for all of us, and it's a conversation we should all be having," according to the statement. "Families can use this to start the conversation about the power of social media -- and the damage fake news can create."

12
Mar

How School Can Protect Networks From Student Hackers

Student hackers are an increasing threat when it comes to infiltrating K-12 school networks, says John Mullen of SonicWall. In a recent article in EdTech online, he writes, “While external cybercriminals seek Social Security numbers and financial information using ransomware, student hackers commit inside jobs with the hope of changing grades, stealing passwords, infecting computers with malware, accessing or hijacking secure school or district websites or even posting inappropriate image”. He also shares several steps that schools can take to help protect their networks from student hackers, including compliance with the Children's Internet Protection Act.

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