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EdTech Buzz

M. McGlynn / Fri , Jul 19, 2013 / 5:26 AM

Welcome to the first installment of EdTech Buzz. In this recurring column, I’ll be discussing relevant and innovative education trends from the past week.

EdTech Buzz

1. How Do Tech Tools Affect the Way Students Write?

Circulating all over the blogosphere this week are the findings of a report released by Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project that assesses how tech tools and social media are affecting the way students write. The results compiled by Katrina Schwartz at MindShift are more or less unsurprising. 

While these applications are teaching students how to collaborate with each other and share their work with audiences well beyond the scope of the classroom, teachers admit they fear that informal tone, Internet lingo and the brevity of tweets is preventing students from learning how to think critically and damaging their caliber of writing.


On the one hand, some teachers applaud social media, saying it facilitates kids to express themselves through writing more readily than ever before – but is there quality and substance to what they’re putting out there? Do a quick search for Justin Bieber on Twitter and see firsthand a throng of garbled tweets from pre-pubescent girls declaring their love for the pop star, riddled with typos and lacking any sort of clarity.

It’s obvious that social media is changing the way that Generation Z learns how to communicate, but to ensure that tomorrow’s leaders can express themselves clearly and in full sentences, the basics of how to write still need to be taught in a classroom.

2. Data Security Is a Classroom Worry, Too

Call me a troll, or maybe I’ve just seen one too many episodes of Catfish, but, I love when people assume false identities online. While this kind of activity is usually a harbinger of deceit, Tony Porterfield, a Cisco Systems Engineer from Los Altos, California, fabricated an online persona for good, instead of evil. When Porterfield learned that his sons’ school district was using Edmodo, a social learning platform (or the equivalent of Facebook for kids), he wanted to ensure that his kids and their personal information were safe. Porterfield dreamt up a covert identity for himself as a homeschool teacher, joined the site, and even went as far as creating unique profiles for all of his fictitious students. This cockamamie scheme lead to Porterfield discerning that Edmodo had made a big no-no and did not employ SSL encryption across their system. For a parent who doubles as an engineer, this raised a lot of red flags and he feared that the children in his sons’ school district could fall prey to anyone with a Wi-Fi connection and the will to intercept their information. So Porterfield did what any concerned dad would do – he called them out on their flawed security methods and demanded change. As of July 15th, Edmodo has updated their software to make the necessary SSL adjustments, guaranteeing encrypted sessions for all users.

3. Blackboard enters the MOOC fray

Are you on Team Edward or do you prefer Bram Stoker’s Dracula? Whether you’re an old school or new school vampire lover, now you can bone up on your knowledge of the genre by enrolling in a Massive Open Online Course dedicated to vampire fiction, one of the first MOOCs to be run by LMS giant, Blackboard. Denny Carter, Managing Editor of eCampusNews broke the story this past week and Twitter has been a flutter, speculating on which schools will be next to offer their courses through Blackboard. With the jury still out on whether or not MOOCs are the future of education, perhaps courses supported by an established edtech innovator will be a game changer and help get that astronomical dropout rate under wraps.

4. Iris scans are the new school IDs

The days of wearing your student ID card around your neck on a tacky lanyard are about to be over. Winthrop University in South Carolina has just unveiled that with the help of a company called Iris ID, they will be turning to eyeball scans to identify students and restrict unauthorized access on campus. While this sounds a bit like something out of a sci-fi movie and borderline creepy, this new security measure is meant to ensure the safety of students.

For K-12 aged kids, a company called Blinkspot has rolled out a similar biometric technology to be implemented on school buses. Whenever a child gets on or off a bus, parents receive a time and date stamped text message or email with a picture of their child and an attached map to their whereabouts, taking helicopter parenting to a frightening new level.

5. 11 Innovative strategies for ensuring device equality


With more and more schools turning to BYOD as a way to personalize the learning experience and cut costs, notable edtech blogger Lisa Nielsen delivers a personal account of how to guarantee that no child is left behind by ensuring every student has equal access to learning-based technology. With an array of tips that range from refurbishing computers to switching over to free software, Nielsen proves that they don’t call her the Innovative Educator for nothing.


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