Category Archives for Tech Kids

Educators learn to boost learning through laughter during Step Up’s virtual education celebration


More than a year after the pandemic shut down most of the nation, Step Up For Students and its leaders in the Student Learning & Partner Success Department knew just what educators needed: a good dose of laughter, the best medicine.

And that’s just what nearly 1,000 private school educators got May 20 virtually from longtime educator turned social media star Gerry Brooks when they logged onto computers from their schools, homes and watch parties for the virtual Step Up For Students 2021 Choice in Education Celebration: Boosting Learning Through Laughter.

Gerry Brooks and his Magic 8 Ball

Last year’s annual Step Up for Students Choice In Education Conference was one of the casualties of COVID-19. So a Step Up team created an event to not only bring some belly laughs, but also take a moment to celebrate educators in what may have been the most challenging time in their career.

Among Brooks’ eight-lesson presentation, infused with laughter and serious advice, is that educators need to remember that this challenging time will not last.

“When you are in the midst of a season, you can’t see your way out. Things are going to get better. The season is going to pass,” he said, holding a package of Peeps. The springtime seasonal candy is among his favorite sugary treats. He saves a stash in his freezer year-round.

Brooks shared with Step Up’s audience eight “object lessons” to really drive home points about educators’ personal time and culture. He held up everything from Dollar Tree reading glasses to Butterfinger candy to peanut butter and jelly.

“When they see the object that you show them then, hopefully, they will remember that lesson weeks down the road,” he said.

The objective of this virtual lesson: “My goal is to be able to encourage you as an individual and open up some doors,” he told his audience. “… I believe if you have positive personal climate and culture you can get through anything.”

In the talk that lasted more than an hour, Brooks told stories about being a kid and when the “Mr. Magic 8 Ball” could predict which kid was in love with whom. He talked about a lot of serious things, too, while still getting many laughs like he does from his viral videos. He did this while wearing a bright blue shirt saying “Erducator Strong!”

“I like misspellings,” he said, his southern accent thick.

Before he took the virtual stage, Step Up For Students Founder and Chairman John Kirtley applauded educators.

“I know I’m stating the obvious when I say that we at Step Up are grateful for the incredible efforts you have put forth during the pandemic,” Kirtley said. “It may be obvious, but it still needs saying. Here at Step Up, we know how hard it’s been for you.

“… You adapted, you worked harder than ever, and frankly, you took risks for your students. Step Up knows that, and we are very grateful.”

Paula Nelson, senior director of Student Learning & Partner Success, said after the event she couldn’t be more thrilled.

“I think this has turned out to be even better because it came at a time when we really need to have a celebration,” she said. “The message was so timely and powerful. I think there’s a chance we may do it again.”

Lisa A. Davis can be reached at

Protect Your Children from Cyber Crime

tech kidsBy Estefania “Nia”  Nunez-Brady

We’ve all heard the horrific stories about children being lured from their home at the hand of a stranger they met online. Most of us think, this would never happen in my town, or to my child. But the reality is it can happen to any child at any time from any home.

Thinking about this sends shivers up any parent’s spine. So how do we prevent the unthinkable from happening?

Keeping a child safe from harm is every good parent’s goal, but how can you keep them safe online?  A survey from LeapFrog, a company that creates tablets for children, showed that over 50 percent of kids share personal information to strangers online, including name, number, address, school and other personal information. Risks will always exist when kids are surfing the web but Step Up For Students compiled five steps parents can take to help their children navigate the Internet in a safe and responsible way.

  1. Creating a safe environment for your children online, starts with turning on basic parental control settings on Internet-enabled devices and make sure the kids know what restrictions are in place.
  1. Monitor their activity as closely as possible; password-protect all of their devices and disable features that allow them to erase their browsing history, which allows you to check which sites they are visiting. And know all of their passwords, even for social media sites. And a good rule to implement is limiting computer access to only when a parent is home.
  1. Talk to your kids about the dangers and consequences of the information they share online, once the Internet gets a hold of anything, you can never get it back. Allow them to have an open communication with you regarding their activity, if they get in trouble every time they make a mistake, chances are they will start hiding things to keep them from getting in trouble.
  1. Use old school rules. Explain to your kids that “not talking to a stranger” also means online. For example, your child gets a Facebook request from a person they have never met, but they have common friends, the request should be denied because they don’t know the person. Additionally, give them the “grandma rule.” If their grandmother would be appalled to see a picture or a post, it probably should not go online. As the saying goes, the Internet is forever. Posts can follow your kids their whole lives and prevent them from getting certain jobs or getting into schools. Lastly, the “don’t take candy from strangers.” rule applies here, too. Online, this means avoiding the temptation of strangers who offer free iPads, free money, contests and other “too good to be true” items to get personal information from your kids.
  1. Google your child. Find out what the rest of the world can find out about them, show it to them and try to remove as much personal information from the web the best you can. Having personal information can open doors to steal his/her identity or to create fake profiles with their information.

The bottom line is it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Want to learn more? For more resources on Internet safety, check out these sites:

Sources:; Leapfrog, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office









Have you seen the scholarship in action, or do you have an idea for a story?  Please contact Estefania “Nia” Nunez-Brady, marketing specialist, at