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The Age of Not Believing

Millennials are fact-checking the heck out of this election. According to SurveyMonkey, 55% of 18-24-year-olds and 47% of 25-34-year-olds visited a fact-checking site before or after—or before AND after—the first presidential debate. That’s far more than older generations: 70% of 55-64-year-olds and 75% of 65 and over did not look into the claims of candidates at all. Young voters have grown up in what some social scientists call the Age of Not Believing, with growing skepticism every day about the content with which they are presented. This skepticism has clearly impacted their trust in the candidates.   


Facebook Enters the Local Shopping Game

Facebook users will be able to search locally for items for sale with the new Marketplace "shop" icon on Facebook's app. This new feature puts Facebook up against eBay and Craigslist with local listings that include large images and the user option of adding filters for price, location and category.


An Email Time Calculator

How many hours of your life have you wasted checking work email? Check out this calculator offered by The Washington Post. A new report from Adobe says that, on average, white-collar workers in the US spend 4.1 hours checking their work email each day. That’s 20.5 hours each week, more than 1,000 hours each year, and more than 47,000 hours over a career.


Addicted to Email

While kids are texting and chatting using various apps, most adults are still emailing. In fact, if you are in the business world, you may be expected to check your emails constantly. Recent studies show that not only do office workers spend 33% of their workday reading and writing email, but science now says there is a clear link between spending time on email and stress.


What can we do to reduce the amount of our valuable time spent checking emails? Jocelyn K Glei, an advocate of mindful productivity and the author of “Unsubscribe” says we first need to admit that email is an addictive game. She writes, “Productivity is no longer about keeping up, or keeping busy, or having it all. It’s about being deliberate and being focused. It’s about spending more time deciding and less time doing. It’s about getting really clear on what matters to you and letting the rest go. With email—as with everything else in life—you must say “no” to some opportunities, in order to say “yes” to your priorities.” Her book is full of suggestions on how to do just that.


Fresh Apps for the School Year

Looking to refresh your kid’s app collection with some new learning apps? Check out 25 Terrific Back to School Apps for Kids on the TechwithKids site for a list sorted by age and content area. Included are creativity apps like Inventioneers, where kids tinker with everyday objects to create Rube Goldberg-like machines, and an introductory coding app called the Foos, featuring a set of clever characters who help kids learn to solve problems.


Digital Readiness

The Pew Research Center recently embarked on a mission to survey the digital readiness of the American population. They defined digital readiness as: 1) the digital skills people have for using and sharing content on the internet, 2) the trust people have that they will be able to determine the validity of information online and safeguard personal information, and 3) the degree to which people use digital tools in the course of carrying out online tasks. The results of the survey are eye opening and can provide insight onto how schools should and will be using digital technologies in the near and distant future.


Ugly List Scam

The “Ugly List” scam is making its way around again.  How does it work? You get an Instagram notification saying you've been tagged in a post. The catch? The post is called "Ugly List 2016," and it was a friend who tagged you. How mean! 

In the notification, there's a link to see the full post. You click on it, and it leads to a page that appears to be the Instagram log in. You need to enter your username and password before you can see the "Ugly List," but don't fall for it! The form is fake. It is a way for scammers to steal usernames and passwords. Once scammers have your account info, they will hack your Instagram and tag your followers in new "Ugly List" posts, perpetuating the con and stealing more information.


Watch Out for Spectacles

The company formerly known as Snapchat surprised the world recently by unveiling Spectacles, its first hardware product. The sunglasses, which record videos in 30-second increments, are expected to be available for sale sometime soon. Snap Inc., as the company is now called, says it will be producing the glasses in small quantities. Spectacles are wirelessly connected and record video snippets that get saved to a Snapchat Memories account. The camera, which looks like a circular logo on the front of the sunglass lens, has a 115-degree viewing radius meant to more accurately reflect how humans see. The glasses will cost $130, come in one size, and be available in three colors: black, teal, and coral. Images are transferred to a smartphone via WiFi. While the device is likely to intrigue children and other Snapchat users, it also brings some privacy concerns, as filming someone secretly– for good or bad – will just get that much easier.


Virtual Classrooms Do Not Mean Equal Classrooms

Five years ago online classes were touted as a way to give disadvantaged students equal access to a quality education, but recent research from the Pew Research Center shows that the online learning model has not lived up to the hype. As an article in The Atlantic is titled, virtual classrooms can be as unequal as real ones. Two of the biggest barriers are a lack of digital skills and the lack of confidence in one’s own ability to find trustworthy information on the internet.


And YouTube Wins…For Now

More teens are on YouTube than any other social network, according to research from the National Cyber Security Alliance and Microsoft. Their poll of 13-17-year-old internet users found that 91% say they use YouTube, compared to 66% who use Snapchat, 65% who use Instagram, and 61% who use Facebook. Their heavy use of the site is one of the reasons that YouTube stars have more influence over teen purchase intent than traditional TV and movie celebs. Interestingly, the second most-used platform was actually Gmail, with 75% of teens reporting they use the email app.


Matching Parent Skills with School and Class Needs

Perhaps your children’s teachers or school administrators have talked about wanting to increase parental involvement this school year, but might not have elaborated on how to get started. You might want to pass along a link to ClassTag, a free cloud tool designed to help teachers manage home-school communication and boost engagement with parents. Among its features, the platform lets teachers organize events, schedule meetings with parents and match parents' skills with class and school needs.


Are You a Ransomware Victim? Please Report it!

Victims of ransomware attacks should report such incidents to their local FBI office or the Internet Crime Complaint Center to allow the FBI to investigate and understand the threat, the agency wrote in a public service announcement recently. The announcement cites the reasons ransomware victims don't report incidents to law enforcement, and offers ways to reduce the risk of cyberattacks.



Are your kids too trusting of what they find online? It might be good to introduce them to the WWWDOT Framework. WWWDOT in an acronym for the factors to consider when evaluating a website as a possible source of information:

  • Who wrote it and what credentials do they have?
  • Why was it written?
  • When was it written or updated?
  • Does it help meet my needs?
  • Organization of site
  • To-do list for the future

For more information on using the framework see the article Evaluation Websites as Information Sources on the Edutopia website.


The PBS Website on the Election for Kids 6 to 8

The Presidential election could be tough to talk about with early elementary kids because much of it will probably go over their heads, but that doesn’t mean they are not interested in what is going on. PBS KIDS has launched a website called PBS KIDS YOU CHOOSE to teach kids ages 6 to 8 about the Presidential election process in an entertaining and fun way, reminding them that even though they are unable to vote, their voice still matters. The site allows kids to “Meet the candidates” and learn fun and important facts about them, as well as collect trading cards of past presidents and their spouses. There are also videos featuring favorite PBS KIDS characters and new role models discussing democracy, elections, and other government related topics.

Older children from middle and high school (and grownups too) can turn to PBS LearningMedia’s new interactive Electoral Decoder, a scrubbable timeline of Presidential elections. Kids can run different scenarios to see what states a candidate must win in order to achieve to the key number of 270 electoral votes. The best part is that it is free and accessible to all. These recent additions to the larger PBS ELECTION CENTRAL initiative gets entire families and kids of all ages to be involved in the Presidential elections.


Digital Audiobooks Gaining Traction with K-12 Readers

Audiobooks are gaining ground in education with more and more content available every day. Research shows that using audiobooks can actually help students read books above their reading level or learn new vocabulary, as well as build critical listening skills. As you look to build your own audiobook collections, check out this list of websites that offer free audiobook downloads. The Audio Publisher's Association also provides some suggestions with their 2016 Audie winners for best audiobooks, including “Echo” by Pam Muñoz Ryan for middle-grade readers, “Lair of Dreams: A Diviners Novel” by Libba Bray for Young Adults, and for children, “Little Shop of Monsters” by R.L. Stine and Marc Brown.


Finding a Seat at the Lunch Table – There’s an App for That

Is your child looking for someone to sit with during lunch? There's an IOS app for that. The Sit With Us mobile app was created by a student who spent a year eating alone and wanted to make sure everyone has someone to sit with during lunch. The app allows students to sign up as ambassadors and post open lunch tables to help reach out to other kids who have no one to sit with.


Twitter Character Limits Change

Twitter users will be able to squeeze more words into their tweets thanks to changes the social network plans launched in mid September, The Verge reported recently. The changes will exempt certain features from counting toward its 140-character limit, including media attachments such as photos, GIFs, videos and polls. To a lesser degree, the @names in tweet replies will also not be counted toward the limit.


Punishment, Bullying and Your Child

It is hard to imagine your child as a bully, but as bullying and cyberbullying rates continue to rise despite many attempts to prevent it, it is important to think about what you would do if you get the dreaded call from school or another parent that your child is involved in a bullying incident. Evidence shows there is a big difference between punishing your child for bullying (which usually doesn’t work) and coming up with an appropriate action once you figure out why your child was bullying in the first place. The best way to react, experts say, is to try to get the bully to take the perspective of the other child involved. If they trust you, they will answer questions like “How do you think he feels about coming to school tomorrow knowing he is going to see you again?'”


Teachers Are Getting Savvy About “Getting Around” Student Passwords

Using passwords to keep student data safe is important, but teachers are getting smart about helping young students by using QR codes instead coping with impossible to remember and often difficult to type nine or ten digit passwords that are needed to start up computers and other digital devices. Lots of other changes in the classroom this fall are giving teachers more ways to use apps based on their student’s needs as well, including using sites like Newsela, a program which takes news articles and rewrites them for reading levels from second grade through high school. Right now, more than 850,000 teachers and 9 million students in the U.S. use the program.


Separating Mean, Rude and Bullying

Rude Vs. Mean Vs. Bullying: Defining The Differences  is a good blog post to review this fall as school gets started and teachers and parents are once again watching out for cases of bullying and cyberbullying. As we try to protect, nurture and instruct our children, sometimes minor situations can become magnified and it is important to remember that there are sometimes other not so alarming perspectives on words and actions.