Coding, The New Literacy

Coding, The New Literacy

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

“Every era demands, and rewards different skills of that generation”….Samantha Jonas-Rongo

All of us, including our children are connected to technology unlike when we were kids. It’s now part of our lives and our young ones are born into it. Teaching them to code is like playing with LEGOS, which itself is a great introduction to the concept. They want to make things and making a Lego house and building an app or a game is about the same concepts.

In earlier generations, including today, parents including stepmoms such as myself, teach their children how to grow plants, cook meals, separate laundry correctly, iron clothes, wash dishes, take care of animals and plants, make their bed and take vitamins daily, brush and floss their teeth at least twice a day, wash hands, speak proper and respectfully, use manners, do their homework, study hard, enjoy reading read, write a story, shoot hoops, ride a bike, the list goes on and on.

Our world has morphed and so many of the things we once did with elements such as fire and iron, or tools such as pencil and paper, are now wrought in code. We are teaching coding to help our kids craft their future. Isn’t it amazing to see a baby or a toddler handle a tablet or a smart phone? They know how technology works vaguely already.

Kids absorb information so fast. Languages, spoken or coded, can be learned in a matter of months. Recently, there has been a surge of importance and poplularity emerging about teaching kids to code.

Programming is viewed as a strict logical stream only available to the brainiest. In fact, coding is within the grasp of everyone. It teaches creativity, strategy, solving puzzles, and even cooperation. I want to expose not only my stepson to coding, but hope that  other parents understand the importance of programming because it’s a great skill and a powerful way of thinking.

As much as kids spend enough time playing Angry Birds and Cut the Rope on a smart phone, I figure they should get a peek behind the curtain at how the programming works. In fact, developing the codes that tell computers and devices what to do is now a vital mainstream skill. With that being said, everyone should learn to code in my opinion, but something’s getting lost in translation between technologists and parents of students around the country.

Let’s get this out of the way: Not everyone needs to learn how to code. Coding is just one part of the constantly evolving technological landscape. It produces all computer programs, from games to social media sites and online calculators. Some experts call it “the new literacy” and say that to survive in tomorrow’s society, young people must learn to code.

There’s a big difference between learning how to code and having a fundamental understanding of how technology and software operate. Of the two, the latter is way more important for some people including myself, while many in the U.S. don’t understand the tools and software they’re using and are settling for just knowing how to function the program.

“The cloud” is still one of those misunderstood technical terms that gets thrown around far too often, and yet people don’t understand what it means. Even CNN couldn’t educate their viewers appropriately about where and how data is stored in cloud services like iCloud.

I believe that offering programming electives for students who want to learn Python or scripting won’t solve the underlying problem of digital illiteracy alone. In order to teach all students to code, schools will first need to introduce computer-science concepts that help students learn how to stack the building blocks themselves.

Also, digital literacy won’t be a part of a students’ required curriculum until parents acknowledge it’s presence, understand its meaning and importance, and thus demand, that their children be taught it. Parents need to realize that this is an intellectual gap in the elementary school curriculum that’s going to be useful no matter what their kids are going to do in the future.

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They don’t need to learn how to build the next Dropbox or Facebook, but they should understand how the cloud works at least. Instead of just knowing “its a storage space on the web for your stuff”, or something related to that, they should know the fundamentals and meaning behind it. For students with access to more advanced technology, dovetailing computer science concepts with courses that students are already studying can benefit both subjects.

Bootstrap, for instance, teaches students programming concepts by using algebra and geometry to create a video game. The materials are open source, and math teachers of students aged 8 to 13 can download and introduce Bootstrap to the classroom, but finding and enabling qualified instructors to teach concepts of technology and computer science can be difficult.

The “learn to code,” movement has almost as many skeptics as supporters—in part because coding, and understanding how coding works, are two very different things.  When you understand how things work, it changes your perception of the world, and the Internet is not this thing that’s separate from you any more. You can be part of it.

 A growing list of educational startups are teaching programming languages such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to people without technical backgrounds. Universities, colleges, and continuing education programs are getting into the act, too. I support and understand the value of it’s success, because you have to stay on top of the technology of the present that is the beginning of the future. You have to stay on top of the technology, because it’s very competitive in the job market.

Coding, that’s the future. Many creative professionals are going to need to know how to do the technical stuff. Even if you or your child are not planning to become a programmer or developer, knowing and understanding computer code can enhance resumes and help careers.

Programming really is literacy for the 21st century. Which computer languages that should be learned depends on the goals. As a general rule of thumb, learn HTML and CSS for the Web; JavaScript for games or apps; and Ruby or Python if you want to process data or explore databases. For the college graduate, having the ability to put HTML and CSS on a resume is a real perk.

So how do you, yourself become code literate? Learning computer languages has been compared to studying foreign languages, so a lot depends on your style of learning. Some people prefer working independently at their own speed, so online programs such as Codecademy, Codagogy, or Code Avengers work best. Others may learn better in traditional classroom settings. An array of meetup groups can also help newbies get coding.

As a parent with the knowledge and understanding of coding and having the capability to code, helping teach your child learn those same skills and matters is much easier. If our children can learn how to abbreviate their text, text with emoticon, they can learn the fundamentals behind their device and its programming.

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

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Children and Social Networks

Children and Social Networks

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

Social media, the world where the socialites and others alike, along with those non socially active can be whomever they like, meet, greet, chat and even build relationships and/or friendships. It is the nesting ground for friends, family and even predators. As a parent and an educator, this topic is near and dear to my heart. Every week that passes, the social media landscape changes, and keeping up with it can be a nightmare.

If you’re a parent or guardian of any child or teenager, you have to keep up with it. You have to be savvy enough to know what social networks your kids are using. You can’t use the excuse: “I don’t understand this stuff!”, for example: Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Vine, Google+, Facebook etc. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s time to start doing some research. You don’t have to be an expert, but you should know how these networks operate. These are the platforms your teenagers, or soon to be teenagers are probably using right now or are interested in doing so.

What if your child asks you if they can get a Facebook, Twitter, Google, Instagram, etc… account?

Don’t start with NO! You want to start this journey with them knowing you’re there for them. That doesn’t mean you have to say yes either but hear them out first. Start with questions like these:

  1. Why do you want a Facebook account? They’ll probably answer with something like “Because ALL my friends have one”.
  1. Which of your friends are on Facebook and are allowed by their parents? Hopefully they tell you. If not, maybe they’re not ready to be on social media.
  1. Are these the only people you would be friends with on Facebook? This might be a good time to talk about only interacting with people they know in real life.
  1. What do you know about Facebook? They may say something like “You talk to friends and share photos”.
  1. What kind of photos would you be sharing? My guess is they’ll say something like “I don’t know. Me and my friends.” This is a great time to talk about what types of photos are appropriate to share online and why.

social media tips for law firms

After you’ve had this conversation with your child you need to make a decision as to whether they’re ready for social media or not. If you’re on the fence about letting them you can always say “Yes, but under one condition. You have to share your password with me. If you’re being honest about why you want to be on Facebook then you have nothing to hide from me”. You can also tell them you’ll only use the password if you feel like they’re hiding something from you or not using the network responsibly. A written agreement between you and your teen might serve as a reminder of rules that are not to be broken and consequences that will happen if they are. Refer back to it often and review the rules when appropriate.

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Here is some advice to get you started on educating yourself and your children on how to use social media safely:

  • Teach your child about respect. Respecting themselves and respecting others. If you stop them from being on Twitter or Facebook, they’ll just move to WhatsApp or Instagram or SnapChat or Google+ or … you get the point. Give them the skills to make good decisions first and foremost.
  • Teach your child that whatever they put online is permanent, this includes Emailing! Private is not always private. The photo or video they post online is not owned by them anymore. It’s owned by Facebook, Instagram, Google, etc…whatever site they posted on, and they can do what they want with it. Not only are certin things crimes, they can be persecuted not only by their peers, but even the law if it is reported. Certain photos even make them easy targets for bullies and predators as well.

SocialMediaPostRemorse

  • Some day your kids may apply to a high school or college, or submit a resume for a job, and I can assure you they will most likely be researched online. An employer, or school may still conduct a background check, but it is very common that a simple Google, and then social network search is part of the process. Ask yourself, what will their impression of my child be when their done? Therefore, teach them to also share their accomplishments like academic awards, sports awards, volunteering, community events, school club activities etc. online when they are involved in them and keep the negative outlook off of the web.
  • Tell your child to never take seductive photos and text them to her “boyfriend”. It’s incredibly risky and foolish because at some point her boyfriend probably won’t be the only person to see those photos. The same is true for girlfriends. They share pictures of ‘hot guys’ around as well. ‘Sexting’ should be a subject discussed before any smartphone is purchased. All this applies to pictures of under-age drinking, doing drugs, or any other illegal activity due to the negative outlook on their personality and being, your parenting, as well as their future job and school inquiries.
  • Explain to your child that communicating verbally is completely different than communicating online. If you happen to say something verbally that you later regret you can fix this over time. If you happen to post something online that you later regret, that content may never disappear and you may never be able to fix it. It is easy to press delete, but let’s be real, the internet does not erase, and everything sticks to the IP address. With technology allowing screen shots and downloads to occur, it may be deleted on your end, but still exist on another. So besides it still available on the IP address, the other party still has the physical evidence available at hand.
  • Trust goes as far as they trust their friends! ‘Private’ or “Protected’ accounts give teens a false sense of security, since those ‘trusted friends’ might post pictures of you, tag you, or leave accounts open and accessible to parents or worse, peers. This is where ‘Don’t say ANYTHING you wouldn’t say out loud’ applies most!

  • Make sure your child knows to come to you with a problem right when it occurs, so you can help fix it. Things can get out of hand quickly online, as pictures, texts and posts can go viral within hours! Whether something is happening on their accounts, or an a friends’ account they need to know to report it to you. Let them know coming to you is their only option and that you will always listen.
  • Be present and aware of what your children are doing online. Don’t give a laptop/iPad/iPod etc and let them go to their room for the night if you don’t plan on keeping an eye on them. Know what apps they have. Know their password to these devices. You have to find a balance between trusting your child and parenting. If you don’t give them some space they’ll never learn to make good decisions (even if that means making a mistake here and there) and if you’re completely oblivious to their online activities you’re making it far too easy for them to potentially make an unrepairable mistake as well as making it difficult for them to open up and share their online world with you. You are their parent/guardian, not their friend…some things just shouldn’t be tolerted not accepted.
  • Review the privacy settings of each app with your child. You’ll probably want to make sure that they’re not sharing their current location due to the potential ifs of bullies and/or predetor.

 Location matters Spatial standards for the Internet of Things

  • Teach your child not to interact/follow people they don’t know in person, tech them that having many friend on social network doesn’t mean that everyone is their friend in real life. Now a days, following a celecrity can even be a risk dur to the scam artist protrying to be them.
  • Start this journey into social media by making your teenager responsible for their hardware as well. Paying for their own smartphone and monthly bill will quickly teach a teen responsibility and accountability. No work, no money, no phone. It’s how the real world works. As a parent, I have a $10 pay-as-you-go phone as a back-up in case my stepson hasn’t paid his bill. He’s too young to work but allowance is given and that is his source of income. If your child is in the same predicament and your child is using your device, I will give you the same advice I have shared with many of my closest friends: “A parent’s device means all time-limits, usage rules, passwords are completely dictation by the parent”.

My favorite tip is lead by example. Practice what you preach if you want them to navigate their digital life safely.

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

Why A Case and Screen Protector Are Not Enough

Why A Case and Screen Protector Are Not Enough

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

Protecting the data icon Royalty Free Stock PhotoNo matter if it’s a new Microsoft Surface Pro, Windows laptop, traditional desktop computer or the latest IPhone, your device needs to have protection. More than often, we are more focused on protecting the outside of our device by plastering screen protectors and spending more than enough money for a single case. We tend to ignore what really matters which is it’s processing and the protection of our personal data.

We live in a time of age where there’s almost an APP for everything, but what you’re really installing can be something vicious. In 2014 alone, there have been millions of hacks and viruses floating through the air waves. There are a few steps in which you need to do in order to have protection of not just the operation of your device, but your personal information.

It is important to update your antimalware program for one. The last thing you want to do is infect your computer with malware. Don’t know what malware is?

“Malware” is a broad term that covers a host of malicious software. It is, but not limited to viruses, spyware, worms, adware, cookies and Trojans. At its simplest, malware is software that’s been designed to harm networks and range from an act of simple annoyance, network crashes, to identity theft. People often use the term “virus” to mean “malware”, because viruses were really the first kind of malware. Once downloaded, certain malware allows cyber criminals to attempt, and gain access of your personal information by scanning, and monitoring your device’s activities, and log your key strokes to access passwords, etc.

Any device can even be controlled to visit random websites or perform other actions such as running the camera of your device and even record without the owner’s knowledge. Scary!

Another suggestion to save your device from further destruction is to not only have antimalware, but also an antivirus and keep the program updated. An antimalware which consist of protection for specific malware, may not locate all of the viruses that are in motion since viruses are only one section under the large malware umbrella.

Due to there being over 74,000 new viruses every year, good antivirus companies continuously update their software throughout the year, but need permission from the user to do so on their device. It is very important not to ignore or decline the software to update, because it gives you the up-to-date protection as the threats are being created. Adobe Flash, Java, Microsoft Windows and your internet browser are often updated and will send notification when there is an update available.

However, it is best to set them to update automatically. In case you receive a pop up requesting for you to update something you are unfamiliar of, contact your IT and ask what is being updated and its purpose, because it could cause potential harm if in case it is malware.

Sometimes the “free” antiviruses are actually a source of viruses and/or other malware. They can be concealing themselves as a professional free service so there is a higher possibility for them to be downloaded. It is best to purchase known antivirus software from their legitimate retail sources. Normally when you register, you have protection for a year and have to renew your subscription, but it is well worth it to have up-to-date protection at all times. Due to the annual cost, majority of companies will offer their members discounts when renewing subscriptions.

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Another precaution is not opening email attachments or downloaded files without first scanning them with your antivirus/malware programs. Email is the majority way that viruses are delivered to devices. The emails are normally called spam which is why it is important to have your spam protection on.

firewall protection for your networkIf you use a computer or any other device at home on your home network, the most effective and important first step you can take to help protect your computer is to enable a firewall. When in an office or home setting, the firewall, which is the first line of defense, scans all traffic before it allows the traffic through the network. If you have more than one computer or device connected at home, or if you have a small-office network, it is important to protect every computer and device.

You should have a hardware firewall (such as a router) to protect your network, but you should also use a software firewall on each computer and device to help prevent the spread of a virus in your network if one of the devices becomes infected.

Your Router's Role

When in a “shared network”, remember that the keyword is “share”, so therefore your information is vulnerable to those on the same network such as an open Wi-Fi or public hotspot. It’s upsetting to know that someone sitting nearby in a public area drinking coffee, eating a fast food burger, or studying at the campus library, who is connected to its open network, could be stealing valuable information right in front of you.

Not only do you have to protect your devices while using other networks, but also protecting your network from others it. It is nice to share, but share your network with only those you trust. When you have internet and Wi-Fi at home or, as a hotspot, lock it and only give the key to those you trust to use it. With an open network, anyone within the area can use up your available data usage through your internet provider, and/or infect your devices with malware to later infect and maybe gain access of your personal information.

If in fact your device’s hard drive crashes, it can be a big loss to lose important data, photos, etc. There are easy solutions to back up your system and while some may cost, it is well worth it. Depending on the network’s provider, you may be offered a certain amount of free storage, but depending on how much data you need to store, will differentiate the cost.

So the next time you purchase that new stylish case, accessorize for convenience or to express fashion,  think about how you can protect your device’s productivity and personal information.

Samantha Jonas-Rongo