Digital Literacy

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Kids, Technology and Staying at Home

Technology is a lifeline for many during the stay at home orders of the COVID-19 outbreak. It is allowing people to work and go to school remotely, stay entertained, and instantly check in with those we care about. It is also makes it possible for scientists to look at real time data about outbreaks and model everything from best to worst case scenarios.

In addition, a vast array of technology resources for keeping kids busy at home are being offered online, but a few words of caution. While there are lots of resources coming from vetted sources, it is still important to make sure you know what your children are viewing and to check in with them on a regular basis. Check out the Common Sense Media site for free reviews and ratings of movies, TV shows, apps and games. While you may have to relax your screen time restrictions to get through your “work from home” day, it is important to keep their day as varied as possible. You can break up those screen time binges with a few minutes outside, a clean up the house project (there are lots of great ideas for making cleaning fun for kids), a craft project, cooking, baking, 15 minutes of family exercises, playing a board or card game, a walk with the dog, or anything that does not involve looking at a screen.

Now is also a great time to help your elementary and older kids use technology in a more engaging way. Instead of having screen time where they are strict consumers of content, try introducing projects where they use the technology in creative ways. For younger kids, look for printables that they can use to make things such as masks, puppets, model buildings, and so much more. There are also loads of inexpensive or free apps for phones and laptops for activities such as composing music or making and editing short movies, comic strips or stop action snippets. Some other ideas:


  • Make Your Own Game: Ask them to make up a board game on a subject of interest to them and have them find, resize and use graphics from online sources.
  • Travel Research: Have them to do some research on places to consider for your next family trip. You could even have them create their own travel brochure.
  • Make a Photo Book: Put together a family cookbook complete with pictures or create a photo album of a notable day, sports team they were on, or trip.
  • Make Something Special for Somone: Got birthdays or other special occasions coming up? Have your kids create magazine covers featuring a picture of the person being celebrated and come up with “featured” article tag lines to describe the person or what they do.
  • “Visit” Museums, Zoos or Aquariums: Start by searching for your local museum, zoo or aquarium online for lessons and supplemental materials as they may have things specific to your state’s science curriculum. On the national level, the Smithsonian has science, art history and culture activities for kids of all ages. For a cross section look at what museums all over the world feature try the link  “Cool Online Museums for Curious Kids.”
  • Virtual Art Lessons: Looking for something to break up the day? Do a search for Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems from The Kennedy Center. Or the Art for Kids Hub


In short, look for activities where kids use the technology to create and are not just being entertained by staring at a screen. In addition, here are some categories of resources, with specific examples, you may want to look at just for fun or to supplement online lessons your children are doing.


Lastly, if you are struggling to balance work and life with taking care of your kids at home, give yourself some grace and remember there is a distinction between “working from home” and continuing to do your job at home during a crisis.

Preparing Kids for Jobs That Do Not Exist

Sixty-five percent of children who entered primary school in 2017 will one day hold jobs that do not currently exist, according to a World Economic Forum report. Heather McGowan, a future work strategist, says that the key to preparing children for those jobs lies in training them to learn for themselves rather than for transferal of knowledge. It is also important to teach children how to adapt to changes as the work force and job functions will be continuously changing as new technologies are developed.

Fake Microsoft Update email Contains Ransomware

PC users who are updating to the Windows 10 operating system are being warned about fake update emails coming from an address that looks like it is Microsoft. The emails have an attachment that contains ransomware and will encrypt the user's files or lock up a computer, demanding $500 in bitcoin to unlock data. "Windows users should understand that Microsoft will never send patches via email, but rather use their internal update utility embedded in every current Windows operating system," writes Karl Sigler, threat intelligence manager at Trustwave SpiderLabs.

Toy Cars, Girls and STEM

Can a toy car teach girls about STEM? Maybe, and that’s the idea behind the “No Limits” program created by Mercedes-Benz, in partnership with Mattel and the National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP). The program’s goal is to teach girls that they can do anything and be anything, especially in fields that are predominately male-dominated. In a press release, the companies state “Through February 2020, girls across the U.S., through more than 100 organizations, will engineer toy racetracks, design cars, engage with female role models and attend STEM workshops through programs designed to expand how they see their future.” As a takeaway gift, 50,000 girls will receive a toy replica of the Mercedes-Benz 220SE that Ewy Rosqvist, a famous Swedish race car driver, used to win the Grand Prix. The toy itself was designed to remind girls of Rosqvist’s feat, and to encourage the girls that they can also forge new paths for women.

Digital Natives May Not Be Digitally Literate After All

On a scale from 100 to 700, the average score on a computer and information literacy exam given to students in 12 countries was 496, according to the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement. US students' average score was 519, but data shows that although students grow up as digital natives they may lack sophisticated digital literacy. U.S. 8th graders can use computers to gather basic information and make simple edits. They also have some awareness of security risks in the digital world, but they are less likely to understand the purpose of sponsored content on a website, use generic mapping software or know how to control color and text when creating a presentation. 

Twitter Releases a Handbook for Parents and Teachers on Media Literacy

Twitter recently released a handbook to help educators and parents teach media literacy, help adults and teens analyze information they see online, deal with cyberbullying, control one’s digital footprint, and more. The Teaching and Learning With Twitter handbook also includes tips to help teachers use the social media platform in lessons and assignments.

IBM Recruiting for “New Collar” Jobs

A critical skills gap in the tech industry has prompted IBM to develop digital badge portfolios, add apprenticeship programs and strengthen partnerships with community colleges to fill "new-collar" jobs in cloud computing, cybersecurity and other areas where college degrees aren't required. In an interview for Inside Higher Ed, Kelli Jordan, director of IBM career and skills, says it's important that tech companies focus on hiring people with valuable skills, not just people with college degrees.

Time to Ditch Algebra?

When was the last time you divided a polynomial? If you were asked to do so today, would you remember how? Stanford University professor Jo Boaler and University of Chicago professor Steven Levitt say that instead of learning algebra, high-school students should be taught how to analyze data to boost critical-thinking skills and provide them with practical tools for grappling with real-world problems. Such a change would enable students to use math to analyze real-world issues such as the environment, social media or space travel, they insist. Boaler and Levitt point out that the closest most people get to Algebra in their daily lives is working with basic analytical software like Microsoft Excel, so why not teach them how to really use it for something that is relevant to their own lives.

Some Schools Are Using AI To Grade Student’s Work – What You Should Know

Did you know that some schools are using artificial intelligence to grade student essays? An article in Vox reports that schools across the country are using algorithms to grade essays by making predictions about how a teacher would grade them. Experts say, however, that the technology can get those predictions wrong and it's possible a particular data set could be biased about certain speech and language patterns. One of the other flaws that is noted is that the grading system rewards those who use big words, yet easily be fooled by nonsensical gibberish of sophisticated words strung together.

Consumers Lack Digital Media Literacy

A recent Pew Research Center study of US adults revealed that consumers generally lack social media literacy regarding issues such who owns what apps, how social platforms make money, familiarity with private browsing, and how cookies work. The survey did find that younger tech users were savvier about terms and issues, but even that was not universal. What was clear is that consumers need to be better informed about the more technical aspects of their digital presence – it will only become more important over time.