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Cybersecurity a must in curriculum in increasingly digital classrooms

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Knowing how to responsibly navigate the threats of the online world is as critical as the life skills taught in home economics — and educators must learn, too.

As the ed tech coordinator and mobile integration specialist of Eanes Independent School District in Austin, Texas, cybersecurity is very much top of mind for Brianna Hodges. While topics including cyber safety and student privacy have always played roles in the district, the technology students now use regularly in the 1:1 district has changed.

That’s why Hodges believe it’s crucial students are taught to think more about how they’re engaging with technology in their lives. And she knows that requires more than just giving children a quick lesson once a year.

“We understand that the conversation needs to be part of the curriculum,” she told Education Dive. “There isn’t an off-the-shelf curriculum that we can use.”

Cyber-security a must in curriculum in increasingly digital classrooms

Before you click 'yes' or flip the switch

Most students in the U.S. now have access to computers in their homes — up to 94% of children ages 3 to 18 as of 2015 do, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, which also notes 61% of this population has online access as well. This makes knowing how to safely navigate the internet even more crucial.

Hodges said even adults can make mistakes when they quickly jump onto their devices, download an app, and agree to the terms and conditions without going through the fine print and knowing what they’ve consented to follow.

That’s exactly what she hopes to encourage teachers to think about, as well as what she expects they’ll teach their students when Eanes ISD launches its new cybersecurity program during the 2019-20 school year. Some of the lessons are already at play, such as what middle school kids are taught during a robotics class at West Ridge Middle School, where Jason Spodick encourages them to think about privacy and drone laws, Hodges said.

Bringing a quadcopter into the classroom, Spodick presses his students to consider camera drones in particular. While they may be fun to play within a backyard, a neighbour may have a different opinion if one flies across the fence and peers into their home.

“[These lessons] have been really powerful,” Hodges said.

Home economics updated

Making cybersecurity lessons stick — like the way middle school students are learning about privacy and drones — is crucial, said Kelvin Coleman, the newly-tapped executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), based in Washington, D.C. The organization runs a website called Stay Safe Online that's loaded with suggestions, such as a downloadable Digital New Year’s Resolution Tip Sheet.

To Coleman, the days when people could leave technology know-how in the hands of so-called experts are in the past. Instead, he said, knowing how to stay secure online is as necessary as knowing how to make a phone call, tie a shoe or boil water.

“We need to be looking at cybersecurity like how people once looked at home [economics],” Coleman told Education Dive. “It’s one of these essential skills that you need to get through today’s life.”

Coleman, who took the helm at the NCSA in December 2018, is adamant that high school is too late for students to get their first lesson on how to keep their smartphones, laptops and other connected devices safe. Instead, he encourages administrators and curriculum designers to start looking at how to weave these lessons into elementary school classes, as “that’s where a lot of kids are starting that technology journey,” he said.

To start, Coleman admits that while young children may not understand malware, they certainly can comprehend the idea of getting sick. Just as students learn how to wash their hands to keep from spreading germs, they can certainly grasp that they need to keep their technology clean so as not to spread viruses to other devices.

For older students — and administrators, too — pushing to create a strong password is always a good starting point. While many students may have smartphones and laptops that open with biometric triggers such as fingerprints, there’s almost always a need for written passwords to unlock apps. If someone has a harder password to crack, a “bad actor is likely to move on to an easier one,” he said.

Finally, Coleman encourages people to adopt the phrase, "When in doubt, throw it out." Practising what he preaches, Coleman recently got an email with a link from colleagues that looked a bit odd to him. He made a quick call to his staff, and they assured him the email was normal.

"That took all of 10 seconds to ask, 'Is this really something I can trust?'" he said.

Savvy students

In some cases, University of Dayton Associate Provost and CIO Thomas Skill notes, it may be difficult to get through to students — particularly those born after 1995, which is certainly anyone who would be attending a K-12 school today. These students colloquially referred to as Generation Z, are considered "digital natives," having never known a time when they couldn’t connect to the internet.

This fluency with the connected world gives them a high comfort level with the technology, but there are areas where they are still naive, said Skill, also a professor in the university's communications department. They may have strong gaming and social media skills, but that doesn’t mean that they understand the risks that populate the online world.

"I would say kids today are kind of an interesting contradiction that, in one sense, they’re very savvy about some things, and yet very naive about others," Skill told Education Dive. "They’re not savvy about risks."

At the University of Dayton, Skill launched a marketing campaign in 2016 dubbed "A Year of Safe Computing." People developed newsletters and blogs, wrapping them with humour and cartoons to transform cybersecurity from something to fear into a conversation. That approach is easily translatable into lessons for K-12 students, certainly, those in their high school years — and perhaps something elementary and middle schools must do as well.

“We need to be teaching them how to be sufficiently cautious, being too horrific so they can’t be online, by building a computer savviness,” he said. “I think we have a responsibility to augment all these experiences they have.”

posted Jan 10 by Chankrisna

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What are the top trends in ed tech?

Dive brief:

  • The use of big data or cloud computing and the expansive and unpredictable inroads made by online learning were among the most important changes in higher education brought on by technology, according to a review of trends by Educause as it celebrated its 20-year anniversary. 

  • According to a report from EdTech, Educause asked IT experts about “the most significant moments of the past, the most promising trends of the future and everything in between.”

  • The experts said data analytics were being used in very different ways at institutions, and that it had become critical in many aspects of college operations, including recruitment, measuring student success and fundraising. Cloud computing has also dramatically changed how colleges operate, they said, and willingness to make IT a key part of operations has had a significant impact.


Dive Insight:

Experts have noted that colleges acquire abundant data, as the Educause report suggests, but should coordinate the compilation and use of it better. They are, however, finding new uses for it, including in admissions recruitment and monitoring student activity to predict dropouts.

With regard to cloud computing, while Educause notes it has benefited higher education institutions, some are concerned that it may be more costly than expected.

The effect of online courses is regularly reported and seen as both an opportunity and challenge to higher education, and survey respondents say institutions are making a mistake if they don’t become involved.

Other experts surveyed felt technology allowed students the tools they need to succeed in a technically savvy workplace, even providing training opportunities through virtual and augmented reality that they wouldn’t have otherwise.

A common theme, according to EdTech, was the need for higher education to find ways to adapt to the changes that technology brings.

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Augmented data analysis, blended digital tools and connected networks will reign among technology innovations in the coming year, according to IT analyst group Gartner’s top 10 tech trends of 2019

“The top ten digital technology trends are all about building the intelligent digital mesh,” says David W. Cearley, distinguished vice president and analyst for Gartner. “It’s the convergence of all of this and using it to support a continuous innovation process.”

School districts have already seen some of these tools enter the educational space, with innovations such as AI-enabled teaching assistant programs and advanced data collection and analysis to improve student assessments.

As K–12 schools continue their E-rate processes for 2019, districts should be considering what tools are worth investing in to provide their students with the best outcomes in the coming year. 

Artificial Intelligence Will Augment Data-Driven Initiatives

Analysts expect machine learning to play an important role in 2019, offering support for tasks that may require more time, energy and training than teachers and administrators have at their disposal.

  • Autonomous Machines: Gartner predicts AI-enabled machines will be more common in 2019 as the technology advances and becomes commercially available. While autonomous school buses may be far down the road, companies like RobotLAB are already designing interactive learning experiences that incorporate autonomous machines to teach programming.
  • Augmented Analytics: Teachers rely on data analysis to improve their relationship with students, especially as personalized learning programs become more widely adopted. Data collection and analysis has to lead to innovations in student assessment design, helping educators pinpoint where students are struggling and adjusting coursework to supplement those areas. Augmented analytics will help take some of the burdens off teachers who may not be trained in data analytics by using AI to take the brunt of the work instead.

New Tools Blend the Digital and Physical Worlds

Digital transformation in schools is already happening at a rapid rate, and there seems to be no sign of slowing down. Analysts predict the line between the real and digital worlds will continue to blur as current technologies advance and new tools are developed.

  • Digital Twins: This concept is not new. Members of the online community maintain multiple versions of themselves through social media sites, online profiles and other means. Systems such as power plants have digital copies, mirroring the real thing, to monitor daily functions. This technology could be used in conjunction with tools like digital backpacks — longitudinal, interoperable student records — to analyze how individual students learn and to create more effective personalized learning curricula.
  • Empowered Edge: Edge computing takes information processing and brings it closer to the source by using edge devices instead of sending information directly to and from a centralized cloud. The next iteration, empowered edge, will use AI to diversify the kinds of devices able to act as edge endpoints, such as displays or smartphones. This could prove crucial for K–12 schools that require more computing power as they integrate new tools like augmented and virtual reality headsets or connected classroom devices.
  • Immersive Technologies: Speaking of AR and VR, the use of immersive technology is expected to rise as hardware and software continue to improve. According to Gartner, by 2022, 70 percent of organizations will experiment with immersive technology. With 5G on the horizon promising lower latency and more robust connectivity, the quality of these tools will continue to grow, expanding their potential to supplement K–12 education.

Improvements in Mesh Mean a Focus on How Users Engage with Tech

Schools are swiftly replacing older equipment with their next-generation versions. Previously, chalkboards were a natural part of most classrooms; today, interactive whiteboards reign. As this transition continues, K–12 schools will need to be mindful of how they design their learning environments.

  • Smart Spaces: Educators are investigating connected classrooms and modern learning environments as the latest innovation in teaching, and Gartner analysts agree that smart spaces will be a major focus for 2019. Combined with other emerging techs such as AI and the empowered edge, the future of the connected classroom is guaranteed.
  • Digital Ethics and Privacy: The technology on Gartner’s list has the potential broaden how we incorporate technology into our lives, which means proper digital citizenship will be essential. For example, digital twins have great potential for improving learning, but such tools also require giving up valuable data and privacy to the digital universe. This means schools will need to improve curricula addressing responsible technology use and online presence. 

While educators have to wait to see what’s in store for 2019, the technology on Gartner’s list has obvious potential to change the way K–12 schools approach education.


1. Autonomous Things
2. Augmented Analytics
3. AI-Driven Development
4. Digital Twins
5. Empowered Edge
6. Immersive Technologies
7. Blockchain
8. Smart Spaces
9. Digital Ethics and Privacy
10. Quantum Computing

in K12
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According to a Northeastern University/Gallup poll, most Americans are optimistic about artificial intelligence’s (AI) impact on their futures while, at the same time, expecting the net effect of AI to be an overall reduction in jobs. If we manage AI effectively, I believe it can be a net benefit to both society and the economy.

Is AI (Artificial Intelligence) a game-changer for higher Education?

The question is: How will higher education manage AI?

Unfortunately, higher education does not have a reputation for managing change effectively. Our experience is much more one of coming late to the party—and not of our own accord. We cannot and should not do this with AI.

First, much of the expertise to develop AI is coming from university laboratories, with AI hot spots in university centres such as Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, and the Research Triangle of North Carolina. If we can develop AI for businesses at home and abroad, why can’t we do the same for ourselves?

Second, many creative applications of AI have already been developed to solve problems within the university. Certainly, enrollment-management processes, as well as today’s learning management systems, look nothing like those of 20 years ago. These changes are clear applications of AI. At the end of the day, however, the application of AI within the university is quite limited.

Where are the higher-ed AI opportunities?

To find opportunities for AI growth within the university, we need to distinguish between activities that are uniquely human as opposed to those that can be computerized. Individuals excel at defining problems, distinguishing between “good” and “bad,” at idiosyncratic tasks such as detecting false positives, and in developing novel combinations not anticipated by previous experience. Computers excel at tasks that involve well-understood rules and procedures.

Furthermore, human decision making is enhanced when it occurs in groups. Social facilitation, cooperation, division of labour and the collecting of different perspectives, knowledge, and experience all combine to enhance decision making by groups.

Of course, neither individuals nor groups are without their problems. Individuals can be slow and inefficient in their decision making, to say nothing of the limits a single individual’s knowledge and experience. Likewise, groups can be guilty of premature closure, becoming too risky or too conservative because of preconceived expectations and groupthink. Much of the work of organizational psychology has focused on how to manage individual and group decision making so as to keep the good and minimize the bad.

Thus, if AI is seen not as a way to replace the individual but as a way to make individuals and groups more effective, both the impact of AI and its acceptance will be greatly improved. Today, augmented reality has greater potential for changing how we do things in higher education. Interesting examples of this concept can be found in the business world, where AI is used to facilitate human fraud detectors for banks and human translators and editors in publishing.

How can this distinction yield applications within higher education?

While MOOCs have not yielded the disruptions that many expected, they have had a significant impact on the way we deliver course materials. Lectures on most introductory topics are readily available on the web and the push for flipped classrooms is ubiquitous. These applications facilitate what individual instructors do.

Where AI can make its mark

The real impact on learning can come through learning management systems (LMSs). We have known for quite a while that we can use technology to manage classroom participation. There is much research, including my own, that shows that anonymous input systems, when added to regular or online classrooms, increase the participation of individuals who would normally shy away from raising their hands or volunteering comments.

Applications are being developed to use AI to track student questions asked in a class and direct them to answers and to other students with the same questions. The Minerva Project is so convinced of the power of such technology that class discussions occur only online—despite students living together in the same building.

Furthermore, the massive amount of data generated by LMSs has the potential to increase the effectiveness of learning. Researchers at a school where I previously worked used data on students’ online participation to identify within the first two weeks of a class which students were likely to perform poorly. They were then able to change these students’ participation patterns and thus their outcomes.

Getting faculty buy-in
The question, however, is whether such applications will be embraced by the faculty members who fear that change will result in their demise. And at their core, many faculty members believe that learning is a uniquely individual process. Until professors see AI as a means of enhancing their effectiveness, resistance will continue.

Disruptors are on the horizon. The entrance of Arizona State and Purdue into the online marketplace is significant. MBA programs are ripe for disruption; most business school deans expect the part-time MBA market to shift to online delivery in the next five years. These online platforms will accelerate the shift to AI-managed learning.

The future for AI within the university is bright. Applications will proliferate and finally disrupt the teaching paradigm. The danger is for institutions that come late to the party and not of their own accord.

in EdTech