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Touchscreens, GPS and Tablets, From 20 Years Ago So Futuristic to Today So Routine

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WASHINGTON, February 6, 2013 – While combing the internet to wax nostalgic via old commercials from my childhood, I made my way through memories of nerf-guns and ninja turtles toys. Along the way I discovered an AT&T commercial from 1993 entitled “View of the Future.

The commercial features what were once wild-eyed and futuristic elements: “Have you ever borrowed a book from thousands of miles away? Have you ever crossed the country without stopping for directions? Have you ever sent someone a fax from the beach?”

The commercial highlights then-seemingly futurist technologies such as touch screens, tablets and GPS navigation. At the close of the commercial, AT&T promises its customers that some day, “you will.”

In 2013, tablets, GPS, touch-screens and wireless communications are foundations of how our daily life operates. Just two decades later, how did some of these innovations come to be?

Touchscreens

The dawn of the touch screen can be traced to E.A. Johnson of England’s Royal Radar Establishment. Touchscreens were used by air traffic controllers for decades. A modernized version of this technology began appearing in classrooms at the University of

Illinois in the early 1970s, in which students could answer questions via a computer.
Eleven years later, the TactaPad is invented. This device measures weight and finger impressions via a camera. In 2007 Apple released the iPhone, having perfected the touch screen technology they had begun to tinkering with in 1987.In 1987, Apple introduced the Desktop Bus, a track pad attached to a computer that would transmit touch movement onto a screen. In 1994, shortly after the release of the commercial, the Simon cellphone by IBM was released. This phone featured a mini tablet that allowed users to view electronic mail, facsimiles and receive and send phone calls.

Global Positioning Systems

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the United States Navy began to track satellites and other large devices through satellite tracking frequencies. This military technology was crucial in a ship’s ability to track submarines and incoming enemy presence.

The term Global Positioning System does not enter the lexicon until 1973. This system used by the United States military does not truly enter the domestic discourse until the early 1980s, when South Korean Air Lines Flight 007 was shot down after mistakenly passing through Soviet airspace. Though many car manufacturers dabbled with navigation systems in the 1980s and 1990s. the first proper GPS navigation system appears in the 1995 Oldsmobile under the name Guidestar.

In 2000, before leaving office, President Bill Clinton signed a directive permitting navigation software available for wide commercial use without interruption from the military.

Tablets

Tablet based technology had long been a dream of many science fiction novels and films, specifically within the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. One of the first commercially available tablets, as we know them today, came on the market in 1993. The EO (similar in design to the tablet in the commercial) was an AT&T product competing at that time against the Apple Newton MessagePad, also released in 1993.

In 2001, Microsoft developed their tablet personal computer, integrating the typical Windows software. Throughout the decade, each year saw companies continue to modify and add to the tablet. The genre didn’t fully take off unto Apple re-entered the market with its launch of the iPad in 2010, creating a new standard that quickly overtook the NetBook concept of small laptop computer.The MessagePad for Apple’s Newton platform was a battery-operated device, with software capable of taking notes, itemizing lists and calendars. This device and many other early tablets operated with a stylus. In 1999 the Intel Web Tablet successfully integrated wireless communications to the tablet world.

Education

Closing Digital Divide for Students Requires Community Involvement, Workforce Training, Event Hears

Barriers to closing the divide including awareness of programs, resources and increasing digital literacy.

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Screenshot of Ji Soo Song, broadband advisor at the U.S. Department of Education

WASHINGTON, May 24, 2022 – Experts in education technology said Monday that to close the digital divide for students, the nation must eliminate barriers at the community level, including raising awareness of programs and resources and increasing digital literacy.

“We are hearing from schools and district leaders that it’s not enough to make just broadband available and affordable, although those are critical steps,” said Ji Soo Song, broadband advisor at the U.S. Department of Education, said at an event hosted by trade group the Self-Insurance Institute of America. “We also have to make sure that we’re solving for the human barriers that often inhibit adoption.”

Song highlighted four “initial barriers” that students are facing. First, a lack of awareness and understanding of programs and resources. Second, signing up for programs is often confusing regarding eligibility requirements, application status, and installment. Third, there may be a lack of trust between communities and services. Fourth, a lack of digital literacy among students can prevent them from succeeding.

Song said he believes that with the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, states have an “incredible opportunity to address adoption barriers.”

Workforce shortages still a problem, but funding may help

Rosemary Lahasky, senior director for government affairs at Cengage, a maker of educational content, added that current data suggests that 16 million students lack access to a broadband connection. While this disparity in American homes remained, tech job posts nearly doubled in 2021, but the average number of applicants shrunk by 25 percent.

But panelists said they are hopeful that funding will address these shortages. “Almost every single agency that received funding…received either direct funding for workforce training or were given the flexibility to spend some of their money on workforce training,” said Lahasky of the IIJA, which carves out funding for workforce training.

This money is also, according to Lahasky, funding apprenticeship programs, which have been recommended by many as a solution to workforce shortages.

Student connectivity has been a long-held concern following the COVID-19 pandemic. Students themselves are stepping up to fight against the digital inequity in their schools as technology becomes increasingly essential for success. Texas students organized a panel to discuss internet access in education just last year.

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Education

FTC Approves Policy Statement on Guiding Review of Children’s Online Protection

The policy statement provides the guiding principles for which the FTC will review the collection and use of children’s data online.

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FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan

WASHINGTON, May 23, 2022 – The Federal Trade Commission last week unanimously approved a policy statement guiding how it will enforce the collection and use of children’s online data gathered by education technology companies.

The policy statement outlines four provisions in the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, including ones related to limiting the amount of data collected for children’s access to educational tools; restricting types of data collected and requiring reasons for why they are being collected; prohibiting ed tech companies from holding on to data for speculative purposes; and prohibiting the use of the data for targeted advertising purposes.

“Today’s statement underscores how the protections of the COPPA rule ensure children can do their schoolwork without having to surrender to commercial surveillance practices,” said FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan at an open meeting on Thursday.

Commissioner Rebecca Slaughter added Thursday that although COPPA provides the strongest data minimization rule in US law, it’s enforcement may not be as strong, saying that “this policy statement is timely and necessary.”

Slaughter, who was the acting FTC chairwoman before Khan was approved to lead the agency, said last year that the commission was taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to tackling privacy and data collection practices of ed tech companies, which has seen a boom in interest since the start of the pandemic.

Thursday’s statement comes after lawmakers have clamored for big technology companies to do more to prevent the unnecessary collection of children’s data online. It also comes after President Joe Biden said in his State of the Union address earlier this year that companies must be held accountable for the “national experiment they’re conducting on our children for profit.”

Lawmakers have already pushed legislation that would reform COPPA – originally published in 1998 to limit the amount of information that operators could collect from children without parental consent – to raise the age for online protections for children.

Thursday’s FTC statement also seeks to scrutinize unwarranted surveillance practices in education technology, such as geographic locating or data profiling. Khan added that though endless tracking and expansive use of data have become increasingly common practices, companies cannot extend these practices into schools.

Review is nothing new

“Today’s policy statement is nothing particularly new,” said Commissioner Noah Phillips, saying that the review started in July 2019.

Commissioner Christine Wilson, while supporting the statement, was also more withdrawn about its impact. “I am concerned that issuing policy statements gives the illusion of taking action, especially when these policy statements break no new ground.”

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Health

Digital Literacy Training Needed for Optimal Telehealth Outcomes, Healthcare Reps Say

Digital literacy should be a priority to unlock telehealth’s potential, a telehealth event heard.

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Photo of telehealth consultation from Healthcare IT News

WASHINGTON, May 18, 2022 – Digital literacy training should be a priority for providers and consumers to improve telehealth outcomes, experts said at a conference Tuesday.

Digital literacy training will unlock telehealth’s potential to improve health outcomes, according to the event’s experts, including improving treatment for chronic diseases, improving patient-doctor relationships, and providing easier medical access for those without access to transportation.

Julia Skapik of the National Association of Community Health Centers said at the National Telehealth Conference on Tuesday that both patients and clinicians need to be trained on how to use tools that allow both parties to communicate remotely.

Skapik said her association has plans to implement training for providers to utilize tech opportunities, such as patient portals to best engage patients.

Ann Mond Johnson from the American Telemedicine Association agreed that telehealth will improve health outcomes by giving proper training to utilize the technology to offer the services.

The Federal Communications Commission announced its telehealth program in April 2021, which set aside $200 million for health institutions to provide remote care for patients.

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