Current Event October 18, 2017
The white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA in August brought hundreds of people carrying shields, guns, and torches who marched while shouting racist chants. Many people shared photos of these marchers to publicly identify them as racists. But there was at least one person misidentified. A university professor was flooded with people threatening him online because he looked like someone who attended the rally. This event highlights the fact that most people are not experts at identification. Listen to this story to hear the consequences of being mistaken for someone else in the era of social media.
Current Event September 22, 2017
In neighborhoods in and near Houston, Texas, many people stranded by the flooding brought on by Hurricane Harvey were not able to get through to 911. That's when social media sites such as Facebook, Nextdoor and Twitter became important connectors for people to ask for help. Some think these are effective when calls to emergency personnel don’t go through, and others encourage people to stick to 911 instead of social media. Listen to this story and then debate: Social media or 911: Who do you ask for help?
Current Event September 14, 2017
The cafeteria can be a scary place when you do not have a place to sit. Natalie Hampton, an 11th grader, has created an app to help students avoid this feeling. The “Sit with Us” app helps students find “open lunches”, which are tables with students willing to have people they don’t know join them. Listen to hear about how Natalie Hampton took her lunch time struggles and created an app to save students from facing public rejection in the cafeteria.
Current Event September 7, 2017
Minecraft has become one of the largest and fastest growing games of all time. It is a game of free realm, allowing people to build whatever they please, with creativity and innovation. Unfortunately, not everyone has equal access to Minecraft as it is costly to have all the equipment. One non-profit group is helping to provide access to a wider audience of future coders. Listen to hear about how this Minecraft camp exposes young kids to a future where creativity and computer science collide.
Current Event August 18, 2017
As more police departments around the country are using body cameras, a new debate is arising about who should have control over the images that they capture. As of now, the police themselves control the video images, which some believe may lead to a potential conflict of interest. This story explores both sides of the issue, and how police departments can work to improve their relationship with the public. Listen to this story and then debate: Who should have access to police body camera footage?
Current Event June 19, 2017
Recently, Uber announced plans to use new technology to create flying cars which will be ready for demonstration by 2020. Rather than picturing a car from a science fiction story, imagine a vehicle that looks more like a helicopter. In fact, Uber is calling them “vertical takeoff and landing aircraft”. Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas were selected as the company’s first United States partner cities. Listen to an aviation engineer from Uber explain this new technology.
Current Event June 9, 2017
A new technology has been developed that could help law enforcement detect if a person has been texting while driving. Typically, in cases of auto accidents, law enforcement has to get an order from a court to look through a person’s phone records to see if they were texting at the wheel. This is a lengthy and difficult process that many believe slows the course of justice. However, the “textalyzer”, if used, would allow police to plug into a driver’s phone and quickly see their last 90 seconds of phone activity to determine if they were texting and driving. Listen to learn more about texting-while-driving bans and debate the benefits and challenges of using the textalyzer to improve safety.
Current Event May 22, 2017
A recent unprecedented global cyberattack was responsible for 75,000 different infections in more than 70 countries. The ransomware, which is a type of software that locks files and demands money to unlock them, took advantage of a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows. The worst of the attack is over, since a security researcher was able to effectively trigger a kill switch to stop the infection from spreading and Microsoft issued an emergency patch for its operating system. Listen to hear more about this cyberattack and what was learned.
Current Event May 12, 2017
The Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, is in the process of trying to repeal regulations on internet service providers, known as net neutrality rules. The basic principle of net neutrality is that internet service providers should not be allowed to block or slow access to any websites, apps or other services. And service providers such as Comcast and Verizon should not be able to charge companies for faster access. Currently, internet providers are required to treat every website equally. Listen to learn more about net neutrality and the FCC’s plans to roll back internet regulations and then debate: Should all websites be treated equally on the internet?
Current Event March 16, 2017
Studies show that teen girls are more vulnerable to depression. In fact, girls are three times more likely than boys to become depressed, due in part to social pressures such as the overemphasis on physical appearance and the prevalence of social media. Not only are girls more likely to use social media, they also appear to be more vulnerable to the emotionally damaging effects of a constant, virtual connection. Listen to learn more about trends in teenage depression and the role of social media.
Current Event March 10, 2017
It is easier today for whistleblowers to leak confidential information to the press as a result of several new high-tech tools for leaking. Using encrypted messaging apps and email services, ordinary people are now able to give anonymous tips to news outlets. The Washington Post, New York Times and ProPublica have published guides that outline different options for sending in anonymous tips. At the same time, technology is also allowing the government and law enforcement to seize the personal information and communication history of whistleblowers and journalists. Listen to learn more about these new tools and then debate: Do you believe leaks are criminal or is leaking information acceptable in some cases?
Current Event March 7, 2017
Indian Information Technology companies are concerned about changes in the United States’ H-1B visa program. The visas allow a limited number of skilled workers into the U.S. each year. President Donald Trump’s “America First” initiative is reported to include limitations on visas for foreign skilled workers because some believe they take jobs from Americans. Indian IT companies argue that Indian tech workers are only filling a void left by the lack of skilled workers in technology, engineering and mathematics in the United States. Listen to learn more about how Indian IT companies collaborate with U.S. companies and potential plans to limit H-1B visas.
Current Event February 17, 2017
Charities are beginning to use virtual reality as a way to make donors feel more empathetic to a cause and potentially increase the amount they might donate. Several charities have created virtual reality experiences designed to put ordinary people in the place of others who are suffering. The hope is that virtual reality will make these unfamiliar experiences more concrete, and therefore, make people feel more empathetic. Listen to learn more about the virtual reality experiences being developed and then debate whether you think virtual reality can make you more empathetic.
Current Event February 9, 2017
A new app is available allowing people to send anonymous compliments to one another. A twenty-five year old developer came up with the idea of creating a virtual compliment box able to impact people around the world. On the app, people can leave each other anonymous compliments, see photos of positive reactions and can choose to reveal their identity later. Listen to learn more about the origins of the app, and how the founder hopes to use it to create a kinder, more empathetic culture.
Current Event January 27, 2017
A recent study tested over 7,800 teenagers on their ability to differentiate fake from real news and sponsored ads from news articles. The results showed that 80-90 percent of high school students had a difficult time judging the credibility of news. This skill is necessary to make choices about what to believe and what to share. Listen to this story to hear more about this study and what can be done to educate people about fake news and then debate with your students, how can students become prepared to spot fake news?
Current Event January 9, 2017
This week, the Obama administration announced sanctions against Russia after saying it was confident the Russian government interfered in last year's presidential election. The purpose is to deter Russia from cyberspace hacking in the future. The United States also expelled 35 undercover intelligence agents to deter Russia from harassing U.S. diplomats in Russia. Listen to hear more about possible retaliation and what actions are legal when the U.S. is not at war.
Current Event January 4, 2017
Five centuries ago, a German monk named Martin Luther protested the practice of indulgences. Christians who hoped to go to heaven and escape purgatory could make a cash offering to buy an “indulgence” certificate. The money often supported corrupt church officials and politics. Martin Luther presented 95 “theses” against the sale of indulgences, and sparked the Protestant Reformation. These ideas were circulated widely due to the recent invention of the printing press. Listen to hear more about how this technology changed religious ideas.
Current Event December 9, 2016
Law enforcement’s use of facial recognition databases is expanding, but the technology is not as accurate as it could be. Nearly half of all American adults, more than 117 million people, have been entered into a database for use by police and FBI. In large databases, it is more likely to find people who look similar. This technology also does not work well with darker skin. Listen to hear more about this technology and debate whether law enforcement should rely on facial recognition.
Current Event November 23, 2016
Since Donald Trump's election victory, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has come out twice to address the issue of fake news. A spokesperson said Facebook is not doing business with fake news apps. These are sites that promote false and inaccurate information which then goes viral. Facebook sells ad space inside its news feed and says these outside parties are not allowed to use the ad network. However, stories make money for Facebook when they are clicked, if they happen to get posted. Google, another tech giant, said it's working on a policy to keep its ads off fake news sites. Listen to hear more about this social media controversy.