Minicoders, a startup co-founded by the venture builder, Nuclio, emerged as the first educational platform that aims to teach kids the basic notions of computer programming through video games set in the metaverse, using a play-to-learn model. The platform is developed to guarantee the safety of children, allowing parents to supervise their activity.
Minicoders aims to encourage learning of computer programming for children between the ages of 6 to 12 years by converting the screen time into both productive and entertaining hours. For this reason, Minicoders.com makes available: 1) Minicoders Kids, an educational app with videos and a virtual assistant to introduce informative concepts, and 2) Roblox gaming experience where children can practice the concepts learned.
According to a study performed by the company, school children are using a device with a screen and Internet connection between two and three hours a day. Moreover, 68% of parents are showing concerns for the amount of non-productive hours spent by their children on these devices.
In the beginning of last July, Minicoders.com launched Magic School, its first gaming experience developed in the Roblox metaverse, that has surpassed 20,000 players in a month. Inspired by the famous story of Magic Universes, in which players step into the shoes of a true apprentice of magic to explore a metaverse filled with different types of experiences.
To access all the magic powers and enjoy the gaming experience, players will have to solve challenges in the form of computer programming blocks from which they gain knowledge on the basic notions of this subject. Parents can follow up on the progress of their children through parental control and safety.
By Mike Bianco, director of information security, Skyward.
Schools face plenty of dangers and threats, from pandemics to budget cuts, but ransomware may be one of the most pernicious, transcendent, and frightening – and it’s not going away.
Ransomware is big business for crooks, and schools are seen as easy pickings. CBS News reports that cyberattacks and ransomware targeting K-12 schools hit record highs last year, with ransoms ranging from $10,000 to $1.4 million and a total cost to districts of more than $123 million, according to IBM.
Because so much of what a school system does, from teaching to storing records, takes place online, the threat of a ransomware attack effectively stopping those processes dead in their tracks and wiping out the supporting data is enough to keep administrators up at night.
Add to that the threat of students’ sensitive data stolen and dumped or sold to bad actors after ransomware attacks (NBC News reports that in 2021, ransomware gangs published data from more than 1,200 American K-12 schools), and it’s a miracle administrators get any sleep at all.
And in case a district admin was thinking of sneaking in a catnap, they should consider that 30% of educational outlets consider themselves unprepared to face a cyberattack resulting in their data being held for ransom. Why do so many ransomware attacks target schools? Several reasons:
Schools are vulnerable
Whether it’s students, parents, teachers, or back-office staff, the fact that so many different personas with so many different ideas about internet security are using the system makes it easy for hackers to exploit weaknesses.
Schools lack resources
Districts may not be able to afford the most robust ransomware-prevention tools, or the personnel needed to monitor them.
Data is centralized …
School districts tend to keep their data in one central repository, which is attractive to hackers. Think of it this way: If you’re a bank robber, do you want to rob one bank with $5 million in deposits, or five banks with $1 million in deposits each? Educational data is the $5 million bank.
And it’s valuable …
Student data is pure gold. It can be used in a variety of ways, to establish false identities, to apply for credit, and to make large purchases.
Producing additional blackmail opportunities
Suppose a hacker acquires the report cards and other data of high-school seniors. They could threaten to release the information to prospective employers if the student or their parents don’t pay a ransom.
(This is generally thought of as small potatoes by hackers, but it’s not out of the question.)
How districts can protect themselves
Given that schools are and will continue to be ransomware targets, what can districts do to prevent themselves?
First, districts need to realize they’re not Susan Storm, and they can’t put a force field around their data. There is no magic shield; there are only multiple layers of protection they can employ to deter hackers.
Second, they need to understand that protective measures may only make their district a less attractive target, and not a non-target. After the low-hanging fruit is harvested, their district may still be seen as ripe for the picking.
Third, districts have to accept the fact that protection against ransomware is ongoing and evolving. It is absolutely not a one-and-done.
About 15% of 10 to 19 year olds face a mental health challenge. Depression, anxiety and other disorders are striking kids at alarming rates – and staying with them into adulthood. A new partnership between LUCID and MNDYRR is working to solve these issues with a new app.
LUCID’s digital therapeutics platform offers personalized, AI-curated playlists that help people alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, burnout and more. These science-backed music therapies are 20 percent more effective than a run of the mill relaxation playlist you can find on a streaming service.
Now, MNDYRR is leveraging this technology and incorporating LUCID’s music therapy into their teletherapy and social network platform.
“Many use music to manage their moods already,” McMahon said. “Using our service you can access entirely unique and personalized playlists, curated by data-driven AI, that will help you reach your desired mood. It’s simple, it’s accessible and it’s effective – all things that are important when it comes to the mental wellness of a child.”
When a child or caregiver first accesses the app, an AI therapy chatbot will run a quick assessment to get an initial diagnosis. From there, kids will be directed to a digital therapy suite that will help to address their needs.
“There’s an urgent need for new and innovative mental health therapies,” MNDYRR’s founder and CEO Adam Starks explained. “At the extreme end of the mental health crisis for youth, suicide is the second leading cause of death in youth aged 15 to 24. Being able to offer interim solutions is going to help get kids off of the proverbial ledge.”
MNDYRR’s goal is to become a central hub of mental health care for young people. The mental health industry is incredibly fragmented – LUCID and MNDYRR want to bring quality, robust care all under one umbrella. “In order to reach that hub position, we need to be able to offer solutions for a host of mental health struggles,” said Starks. “Anxiety, depression, burnout – everything. LUCID’s music therapy is absolutely integral to that vision.”
“This partnership is key to what we want to do as a medtech company,” continued McMahon. “We’re excited to play a role in bringing about a solution to this ongoing systemic issue.”
As educators face a new generation of technology needs for teaching and learning STEM, science, and coding, companies are rising to the challenge by deeply understanding educators’ evolving needs. The 2022 Best of STEM Award provides EdTech companies with a fresh twist—an awards program judged by STEM educators for STEM educators: “The Educators Pick Best of STEM Awards.”
“Three years ago, we created the awards program EdTech was missing—Educators Pick Best of STEM,” said Daylene Long, CEO and founder of Catapult X. “The needs of educators are rapidly transforming as new teachers enter the field, administrators address learning loss, and educators search for modern solutions to engage students born as digital natives. This program is truly about creating connections between EdTech and the teachers they serve.”
“Our educator judging team this year was particularly strong,” said Lead Judge Annie Galvin Teich. “With a larger team, we were able to match science and STEM technology to specific science and STEM expertise, such as high school physics and emerging technologies. These experienced STEM educators offered unique insights and feedback to the award entries.”
The 2022 Educators Pick Best of STEM awards go to:
BibliU, provider of a learning enablement platform, today announced details of its Series B funding. The company has raised the first tranche of $15M led by its current investors with participation from new investors. The funds are targeted for expansion in the U.S. market, including new product development, additional publisher partnerships and further investments in sales and marketing.
All existing institutional Series A investors – Stonehage Fleming, Oxford Science Enterprises, Guinness Ventures, and Nesta Impact Investments – participated in the round. Richard Hill, Head of Direct Investments at Stonehage Fleming, joins the BibliU board of directors in a newly created position.
“Since our initial investment in 2020, BibliU has experienced tremendous growth – both in the U.K. market, where half of the nation’s higher education students now have access to content through the BibliU platform, and in the U.S. market, where universities and colleges are replacing legacy bookstore models with BibliU’s digital-first solution for content,” said Richard Hill, Head of Direct Investments, Stonehage Fleming. “We’re excited to increase our investment in BibliU, and by the growth opportunity BibliU has created. We also believe BibliU is delivering significant impact not only through substantially reducing the costs of textbooks and course materials but also by increasing student engagement and improving learning outcomes for students. This is an important aspect for our investors.”
BibliU addresses long-standing pain points in higher education that directly impact student success. Even those students with full financial aid packages that cover tuition, room and board, do not anticipate hidden costs such as textbooks and course materials. These expenses can derail a college education. Sixty-five percent of students in the U.S. admit to not buying their course content due to cost, while similar research from BibliU found that 70 percent of students in the U.K. have skipped buying their textbooks and learning materials.
The BibliU study also found that more than a third of students (35 percent) said they could not afford to buy their textbooks. Since digital content equalizes socio-economic disparities and students gain access to the required learning materials from day one, BibliU is helping colleges and universities promote diversity, equity and inclusion.
CentralReach, the leading provider of Autism and IDD Care Software, announces the acquisition of LiftEd, a cloud-based software that helps therapists, educators and paraprofessionals in PreK-12 public, private, and charter schools measurably improve teaching and learning outcomes for students diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and related intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
As part of the acquisition, LiftEd founders, Joanne Hill Powell, Ph.D., BCBA-D and Andrew Hill, will join CentralReach serving in strategic positions within the company’s special education software division.
LiftEd empowers Individualized Education Program or Plan (IEP) teams to seamlessly manage Applied Behavior Analysis-based (ABA) curriculum, record data, and access information about student progress, thereby providing critical real-time insights to drive instructional decisions and behavioral interventions for students. LiftEd will be integrated into CentralReach’s Autism and IDD Care Platform for Special Education.
“The challenge for teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators and therapists today is demonstrating, in a data-driven way, that the decisions and programs used in the classroom are positively impacting each student’s progress on IEP goals. The legacy solutions that are trying to solve this problem today are expensive, hard to use, and require professionals to manually connect the assessment data, IEP goals and ABA programming via multiple, non-integrated point solutions, creating workflow headaches and limiting outcomes for students,” said CentralReach CEO, Chris Sullens.
“LiftEd’s purpose-built product, in combination with CentralReach’s assessment and digital curricula solutions, enables educators to solve this challenge in a holistic, intuitive, and affordable way by pulling IEP goals directly into its application, aligning all curricula and data collection to those goals, attributing performance back to the goals, and finally, updating progress against those goals in the school’s existing IEP system. With LiftEd, educators have a powerful tool that enables them to more easily comply with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and create reports and customizable graphs to visualize student progress and guide discussions with parents.”
Shannon Flynn is a freelance blogger who covers education technologies, cybersecurity and IoT topics. You can follow Shannon on Muck Rack or Medium to read more of her articles.
With the right technology-driven approach, educators can enhance learning for all students. Over recent years, educators all over the world have tried countless ways of integrating technology in the classroom. Some strategies work better than others, but the key to finding what works best may come down to starting with the right pedagogical approach.
Ask “How”, Not “What”
When educators approach using technology in the classroom, there can be a tendency to dive right into what technology or devices in particular will be used. However, when the goal is to truly enhance pedagogy, this may not be the best way to approach things. Experts suggest that the question educators need to be asking is “how should I integrate technology in the classroom?” rather than “what technology should I use?”
The key to designing a technology-driven approach to pedagogy is focusing on needs in the classroom or needs of students that can be met using technology. Concentrating on the tech first can pull the focus off of the concrete benefits that students will experience. Instead, by identifying specific needs first, educators can design a tech-driven approach with clear goals.
For example, a history teacher may be having consistent trouble getting students interested in learning about the past. Virtual reality would be a great tool for addressing this challenge by allowing students to experience history and historical places from an immersive, first-person perspective. Experts have stressed the importance of embracing change and imagination in education in order for schools to grow through challenges. Trying out new technologies, such as VR, with clear goals in mind is an excellent way to accomplish that.
Engagement and Communication
There are some specific challenges and aspects of pedagogy that technology is particularly useful for improving. While technology can’t solve every problem a teacher may face in the classroom, it can be the perfect tool for addressing certain things. Some prime examples include engagement, interactivity, communication, visibility, and goal setting. These specific areas of education are well suited to the benefits that technology can offer.
By Bob Turner, field CISO for education, Fortinet.
Education technology leaders are continuing to fight the cybersecurity battles. Microsoft reports that education accounted for over 80% of enterprise malware encounters since late February 2022. Sophos ranks education No. 3 in ransomware, with close to 500 attacks occurring in 2021.
While many universities are joining consortiums that provide security operations services, those institutions that have an active Security Operations Center (SOC), are reporting benefits including quick and effective response, decreased costs of breaches and operations, active threat prevention, improved communication and coordination, and availability of security expertise when they need it.
While there is forward motion aimed at providing safe and secure internet experiences for students and faculty, more can be done. With the cost of cybersecurity tools and talent, many programs are “best effort” and usually performed by IT staff who are not full-time security professionals.
Forward-leaning colleges and universities may have managed security services or have invested in a small team of security-focused staff. Others join with partner institutions or state level security operation centers and receive early warning information, allowing them to focus efforts when threats are reported. The rest are still struggling to rationalize the cost for any dedicated security operation.
Data breaches, ransomware attacks and other cyber incidents carry the potential for significant financial damage, among other problems, so colleges and universities have been investing for over a decade in improved talent, cutting edge cybersecurity tools, and continual testing of security controls. They’re also grappling with the need to protect research information and research budgets while also meeting increased compliance requirements that come with sponsored research.
Federal guidelines for protection of sensitive research and administrative data such as the National Institute for Standards and Technology 800-171, the Capability Maturity Model Certification (CMMC), and healthcare information protection laws are major motivators for improved cybersecurity given that personal and regulated data gathered under research projects must be protected.
Let’s be honest: Two-factor authentication (2FA) can feel like a pain. Now, security experts are pushing for districts to adopt multi-factor authentication (MFA)–multi-factor, as in more than two factors?
You may already hear the chorus of complaints. Do we really need this?
But here’s the thing: With malware attacks rising, authentication systems using two or more factors are the best way for districts to keep accounts from being hacked, and there are ways to make the process less painful.
While MFA and 2FA will always be seen as a pain by significant segments of your constituency, the good news is the process can be fairly painless (especially since often, MFA only needs to happen every once in awhile to ensure the user is who they claim to be). Beyond that, the goal is to have them see and understand it as a very important pain.
And thankfully, there are ways to do that.
What is MFA (and by extension, 2FA)?
MFA is a process that uses multiple sources to verify someone’s identity, usually online, usually so that person can access an organization’s platforms, tools, or email or data servers.
Only 21% of continuing, workforce and online education leaders say their divisions have the staff needed to execute on their critical work. However, more than half of leaders also report that their division’s roles have increased since the pandemic. This is according to the Modern CampusState of Continuing Education 2022 report, conducted in partnership with The EvoLLLution and the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA).
The study explores the opportunities and challenges facing leaders of professional, continuing and workforce education divisions at colleges and universities across North America. These divisions are often responsible for both making the expertise of the institution more accessible to the community and delivering critical upskilling and reskilling programming that help people find great jobs in sustainable careers.
Moreover, while two-thirds of survey respondents said they had support from senior executives to scale and grow, more than half pointed to administrative burden as their greatest obstacle to scale. In fact, an overwhelming majority of respondents indicate that they don’t have access to numbers as basic as real-time enrollment data—while being increasingly relied on to drive revenue and enrollment growth for the institution.
“The future of higher education is lifelong learning—we at Modern Campus know that. Engaging learners beyond traditional two- and four-year programs is the best way for colleges and universities to thrive,” said Brian Kibby, chief executive officer at Modern Campus. “This year’s State of Continuing Education research—along with nearly every conversation I have with presidents and provosts—confirms it. To support our communities, though, we need to better serve the CE and workforce development administrators who made it clear in this survey they don’t have the resources they need.”
While there’s little wide-ranging research available on the continuing, professional and workforce market, these units tend to be at the forefront of transformation and innovation in the higher education industry. Understanding the trends in CE provides a high-level view into where the rest of the postsecondary industry is moving.
“The results of this year’s State of Continuing Education study highlight what UPCEA members already know – that online and professional continuing education leaders often lack both the data and resources needed to achieve the institutional goals set out for their unit,” said Bob Hansen, chief executive officer at UPCEA. “This is a time of unparalleled opportunity for online and professional continuing education units to improve the broader higher education field, and the data in this study is a key tool as they advocate for institutional change.”