Tag Archives: digital literacy

TAGGED – A cautionary tale about cyberbullying and sexting from acma

Make sure you watch this brilliant piece of film-making here from the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s Cybersmart program, and then champion for it to be shown to students in your schools. I’m sure this 18 minute film will relay the important message of protecting yourself and others online, far more effectively than any lecture from a teacher. From the acma site:

Tagged is supported by lesson plans and compelling character reflection interviews. It explores themes of personal and peer safety and responsibility that are crucial to maintaining positive online behaviours and digital reputation into adulthood.

Thanks go to acma for working so hard to ensure quality resources are available for teachers not only in Australia, but worldwide. These issues cross all continents, and a resource like this can be used in classrooms everywhere.

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Sexting, the conversation we need to have.

Often, it’s the difficult conversations that are never tackled. And yet, more often than not, they are the most important conversations we need to have. When you’re a teacher, having honest, up front conversations related to adolescent behaviour and sexual curiosity are sometimes uncomfortable for both yourself, and your students. But these conversations are necessary. Sometimes, it’s the only time a student will be offered advice from an adult concerned for their welfare.

Today, I had one of these conversations. It wasn’t one to one advice, it was an address to our Year 11 cohort, and the topic was sexting. When I told them we were going to be discussing this today, there was an uneasy rustling in their seats. I assured them that I knew they were probably feeling a tad uncomfortable about our topic, and I let them know that I wasn’t totally at ease myself, but that I thought it was important that I impart information they need to know.

I didn’t use a slideshow for this presentation. What we did was look at some recent published articles from online newspapers that made the complexities of the situation pretty clear. But first, we began with the law as it stands in Victoria today, using information from the Victoria Legal Aid site. The language used is not legal speak; it’s clear cut and simple for them to grasp. Here are the sections we looked at today.

Child pornography

You could be charged by the police with producing child pornography if:

  • you take a nude or semi-nude picture of a person under 18, even if they are your friend and consent (agree) to the picture being taken
  • you take photos or video of a person under 18 involved in sexual activity or posing in an indecent sexual manner (or who looks like they are).

You could also be charged with possessing child pornography if you go onto the internet and download pornography showing people under 18.

If you put a pornographic photo or video on the internet or your phone, print a photo, or email or text it to a friend, you could be charged with publishing or transmitting child pornography. You could be charged even if you are the same age or younger than the person in the picture or video.

People found guilty of sexual offences or child pornography are stopped from working or volunteering with children – for example, as a teacher or a sports coach – or volunteering with children.

Mobile phone pictures and the risks of ‘sexting

’‘Sexting’ or sending ’sext messages’ is where nude and/or sexual images are taken on a mobile phone, often by young people and their friends. This is a crime if the photo includes a person under 18. Sexting is already leading to young people being charged by police with child pornography offences.

Think carefully about the consequences of taking or sending pictures of your friends on your mobile phone, especially if they are not fully dressed and even if they agree. You could be charged by police for committing a criminal offence.

It may seem like harmless fun, but be careful – once you send pictures electronically they can become part of your ‘digital footprint’ and this lasts forever. It could damage your future career prospects or relationships.

Victoria Legal Aid

From the reactions of the students, it was pretty clear most of them had not much of an idea of the legal ramifications of actions detailed above, particularly the receiving and forwarding on of images via mobile phones. I let them know I shared their concern about the punitive nature of the law as it stands, and the serious impact on a person’s digital footprint and work prospects if they are charged with a child pornography offence. To illustrate its effect, I explained how a 17 year old who might want to be a teacher, would not be able to complete their degree if they had been charged, as they would be unable to obtain a working with children check. They would not be able to enter a school to complete a teaching placement.

We then looked at three recent articles, one from the New York Times, and two from The Age, one of Victoria’s daily newspapers.

A girl’s nude photo, and altered lives – New York Times article

Teen sexting: it’s illegal, but it’s in every high school – The Age

‘Sexting’ youths placed on sex offenders register – The Age

These stories were enough to cement the learning intentions of this session. I would think it fair to say that the majority of students learned a great deal today and went home with much food for thought.

Honest, up front discussions like these form part of our responsibility to create effective digital citizens out of the teenagers in our care. Are you having these conversations in your schools today? If you aren’t, perhaps use the above information as your guide.  We may not agree with the legislation, but it exists, and our young people need to be informed. We really can’t afford to have our young people unnecessarily punished due to a lack of understanding about the ramifications of their actions.

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ViewPure – your saving grace

I don’t very often find myself writing about new tools much anymore, but this one is worthy of a post, simply because it is going to make some teachers’ lives so much easier.

ViewPure promotes itself as;

“Pure video viewing – Watch YouTube videos without comments, suggestions, or the ‘other’ things.”

It does just that. Look at the following screenshot to see what it looks like in action;

Our school permits access to YouTube, and teaching secondary students about the nature of content that appears on sites like this is part of our Digital Literacy teaching in my opinion. I do know that many schools block YouTube because of the potentially controversial content that can be found there, and many Primary School teachers would probably be quite uncomfortable with the related video content that appears, some of which has seemingly no relation to the educationally appropriate video you have just watched.

This is where ViewPure will be so useful. If you are a teacher wanting to use the video, but you don’t necessarily want to download a copy, just open up ViewPure in a new tab and enter the url of the video you want purified! The site has ads on it,  and the one I’m looking at at the moment is for Russian girls looking for you! Rest assured, your purified video sits in a window by itself, and is safe for your class to view.

Pretty handy little web app in my opinion. Hope it doesn’t disappear anytime soon.

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Nurturing their Digital Footprint – lessons for Year 12

As part of our continued push to acknowledge the importance of Cybersafety instruction at my school, today I delivered a presentation to our Yr 12 students about how they can nurture their digital profile. Just a month or so ago, we delivered presentations to our Yr 10 and 11 students about much the same thing, but on this occasion, we created an entirely new presentation. There was a need to. Facebook privacy settings had changed, and this group are on the verge of adulthood. Very soon they will be moving into tertiary education or the paid workforce.

Quite a bit of material used in the presentation came from Jefferey Rosen’s excellent article in the New York Times, ‘The Web Means the End of Forgetting‘. I’d highly recommend that you take up the free subscription offer from the New York Times to gain access to this fine piece. It certainly helped to pull together a presentation that I think had meaning for the students present. In fact, I received an email 15 minutes after the presentation had ended from one of the students. Here’s what she had to say;

Hi Mrs Luca J
Just wanted to say I thought your lecture this afternoon was fantastic.
Walking out of the lecture theatre,  everyone was talking about their (sic) going straight home to change their facebook settings!
So yes, thanks for an interesting lecture,

It’s not often you get positive feedback like this. It certainly made me feel like the effort required to put the presentation together was worth it. If you’d like to view it, go to the wikispaces site I maintain.

Helping our students to understand the importance of a positive digital profile is ongoing work for us. I firmly believe that probably the best way to enable our students to appreciate its importance is to encourage them to publish their work online, so that they can be building the profile that will be of most benefit to them in the long run. As Seth Godin said;

“Everything you do now ends up in your permanent record. The best plan is to overload Google with a long tail of good stuff and to always act as if you’re on Candid Camera, because you are.”

I have my students working with new technologies and encourage them to publish the good stuff. The hard thing is convincing others that this is something we should be working towards in our schools. They deserve to know how they can make the best of the Web and themselves in the process.

(*Frustratingly, once again, the Sliderocket presentation will not embed into this post.)

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Rives responds – real life digital literacy

Recently, I posted about my daughter Cassidy’s emoticon story that she completed for an English project. It was inspired by the poet Rives, who delivered ‘A Story of Mixed Emoticons‘ at TED 2008. While I was looking at Rives’ blog, I noticed that he provided an email address where you could contact him. So contact him I did.

While I was waiting for a flight to LAX, I received an email from Rives. He was directing me to his latest post, where he had featured Cassidy’s own emoticon story. Here’s what was in his post (Cassidy’s video was embedded at the top of the post);

Hi Rives, I’m a teacher from Melbourne, Australia. We have being doing a thematic study of Romance and Relationships and have used your ‘Story of mixed emoticons’ in our classes to help with this. The students had to produce a creative task using technology in response to the theme. My daughter attends the school and her response was inspired by your mixed emoticons story. Just thought you might like to know that you are inspiring people all over the world, –J


[J is referring to the emoticon piece that I performed at TED 2008. Incidentally, my piece always ends with a hot & sexy music cue ("Laid" by the band James) which TED didn't have the rights to so...they left it out. The result is much flatter than I like and it also seems to make the deliberately ambiguous ending even more ambiguous: does the emoticon couple get together? I say they do; J's daughter, in her charming, flattering version, seems to take the other side of the dollar. Which in Australia is a coin.]

How cool is this! Please visit Rives’ blog to see for yourself.

What’s even cooler is the fact that Cass is able to see for herself the power of a connected Web. She’s watching the stats grow on her YouTube video and knows that it’s because Rives’ post is driving traffic there. Her simple, (charming!) video project has an audience and is finding its way to far more people than it would if she had kept it on her computer hard-drive and shared it with just her teacher. Cass got a ‘B’ for this project. Do you think that really matters in the scheme of things? Look at the learning that has taken place outside of the structures of school. She knows what can happen if you decide to take the plunge and share your work with the world. She knows that you can reach out and connect to the people who influence you, and sometimes they just might sit up and take notice. She knows that her positive digital footprint is growing as a result of this. She has learned skills that are important in the world we live in today.

At ISTE2010, having students establish a positive digital footprint was a theme I heard over and over again in sessions I attended. I also heard many teachers talking of school structures that prevented them from posting student content publicly and using student’s names on the Web. Hopefully, a story like this will help teachers work with their administrations to convince them that we need to assist and support our students to share their good work in public spaces.We need to help them grow their digital footprint in a positive way.

Cass is lucky. She has a mother who understands the Web and can support her with her learning. Many of the students we teach have parents who don’t understand the workings of the Web. It’s imperative that we as teachers avail ourselves of knowledge and help our students develop digital literacy understanding, in all its forms.

Thanks Rives, for taking the time to acknowledge my daughter’s work. : )

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Facebook and privacy – is your school helping students to understand privacy settings?

Facebook is the primary social network most of our students are accessing to manage their social lives. Are they going to stop using it anytime soon? No, they’re not. They’re not going to stop because it’s their communication platform- it’s where their friends are and it’s how they plan their lives.  And that’s why we have to understand how it works and ensure that we help them to understand how they use it safely. We need to be discussing Facebook’s privacy settings and how students can set them to a level that provides them with profiles they are comfortable with.

We need to put this in perspective. People of my generation were operating in social networks too. It’s just that our social networks were dependent on a single corded phone line placed in a usually busy part of the household. Our parents spent their lives bemoaning the fact that the phone line was under siege from their teenage children. Think about it; if a network like Facebook were available when you were young, would you have been there? I know I would.

Facebook have made some significant changes to their privacy settings in recent months. Matt McKeon has created ‘an evolution of Facebook’ and has used some very interesting visuals to denote these changes over time. I used them with Yr 11 students last week and they certainly took notice.

It’s a powerful representation of their default settings and the changes that have been made over time. Show these to your students and I’m pretty sure you’ll see them heading home to make some changes; changes they probably didn’t even know were necessary.

We have been taking our students through the account settings in Facebook, alerting them to changes that have been applied to their accounts. Some students know what’s happening and have ensured their settings are set to ‘only friends’, but many have no idea. Most don’t bother to check the ‘Applications and Websites’ settings, and don’t realise that Facebook has arranged to allow a user’s information to be accessible to nominated websites if a Facebook member accesses them. According to Facebook, it allows for a more integrated web experience and saves you time. According to me, it’s non-consensual use of my personal information. Facebook are overstepping the mark, and people are starting to sit up, take notice, and speak out.

The New York Times have been keeping up with what is happening and have produced a very good graphic showing the default settings and what needs to be done to manage your privacy;

Danah Boyd has written a ‘rant’ about Facebook’s lack of transparency. In it, she makes some observations that I’ve noted are common to students here in Australia too. Most are unaware of the fact that their information is accesible to friends of friends. What follows is a lengthy grab from Danah’s post, but she makes such good points they are well worth sharing (and of course, I’d encourage you to visit her blog to read the post in its entirity);

Over and over again, I find that people’s mental model of who can see what doesn’t match up with reality. People think “everyone” includes everyone who searches for them on Facebook. They never imagine that “everyone” includes every third party sucking up data for goddess only knows what purpose. They think that if they lock down everything in the settings that they see, that they’re completely locked down. They don’t get that their friends lists, interests, likes, primary photo, affiliations, and other content is publicly accessible.

If Facebook wanted radical transparency, they could communicate to users every single person and entity who can see their content. They could notify then when the content is accessed by a partner. They could show them who all is included in “friends-of-friends” (or at least a number of people). They hide behind lists because people’s abstractions allow them to share more. When people think “friends-of-friends” they don’t think about all of the types of people that their friends might link to; they think of the people that their friends would bring to a dinner party if they were to host it. When they think of everyone, they think of individual people who might have an interest in them, not 3rd party services who want to monetize or redistribute their data. Users have no sense of how their data is being used and Facebook is not radically transparent about what that data is used for. Quite the opposite. Convolution works. It keeps the press out.

The battle that is underway is not a battle over the future of privacy and publicity. It’s a battle over choice and informed consent. It’s unfolding because people are being duped, tricked, coerced, and confused into doing things where they don’t understand the consequences. Facebook keeps saying that it gives users choices, but that is completely unfair. It gives users the illusion of choice and hides the details away from them “for their own good.”

What really worries me, is that there are not enough people in our schools today who are confident enough with new technologies to understand how to help our students work these things out. This is part of the new digital divide that is starting to rear its ugly head. I have the feeling we will have students who are given an understanding of the benefits of creating positive digital profiles and they will do just that. They will understand that you don’t upload that unflattering photo or you avoid being photographed in compromising situations. You post the great things you are doing and your social resume helps you to get that job you’re looking for. You won’t be the kid on the other side of the digital divide who uploads all those photos from that party that got out of control. That same kid on the other side never created any great digital content because their teachers didn’t understand new technologies and never set any tasks that allowed them to show people what they were truly capable of. Their social resume is the one that recruiters look at, resulting in them sending their work resume (the one they’ve written) to the bottom of the pile.

Schools do have a part to play in informing our students about managing their lives in social networks. What this requires is teachers who are up to date with what is happening and with the nous to direct them to the information they need. It worries me that the only professional development our teachers are given to support them with understandings like these, come from blog posts written by other teachers who are doing it late into the night with dark bags under their eyes!

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Spreading the good word on the 7.30 Report

My colleague, Sue Miles and I, and a couple of students from Toorak College, had the opportunity to be interviewed by the ABC’s  7.30 Report last week on the issue of bullying in Australian schools. We were approached as a result of our school’s involvement in the Cybersafety and Wellbeing initiative of The Allanah and Madeline Foundation. I was very pleased to be asked, as it gave our school the opportunity to discuss our use of emerging technologies in our curriculum, and explain how exposure to sites like Ning can help teach our students how to behave safely and ethically on the Web.

I  think we managed to successfully convey that message. The interview was obviously cut down to meet the time constraints of the program, but I’m pleased that it was a balanced representation of the issues facing schools today. I really do believe that one of the most effective ways to convey to our students how to conduct themselves in Web environments, is to use the Web in classroom instruction and reinforce the behaviours that are going to keep them safe online.

Take a look and see if you think we’ve done good!

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ACER’s Digital Education Research Network launched

For quite some time, I’ve been of the opinion that those of us pushing boundaries with our use of technology in education are in need of the support of the research community. Too many of us seem to be up against school administrations who are not willing to allow teachers to push their classrooms into online spaces and use the communicative potential of the web. We share our stories and successes with one another in our networks, but they can be viewed as anecdotal and pushed aside or disregarded by those unwillingly to open their eyes to new ideas. It seems to me that administrators trust the findings of researchers, particularly an organisation like the Australian Council of Educational Research (ACER). That’s why I’m excited about the launch of the Digital Education Research Network. (DERN)

But first, full disclosure. Gerry White, Principal Research Fellow in Digital Learning for ACER, invited me last year to join a Reference Group helping to inform ACER about the establishment of this network.  I was very impressed to see ACER reaching out to a grassrooots educator who could provide some perspective of informal online networks, and the efforts educators in this area are making with new and emerging technologies for learning purposes.

The site has just been launched. Here’s what it’s about from the front page;

Digital Education Research Network (DERN) is a network of researchers interested in research about education and the use of digital technologies to improve teaching and learning. It focuses mainly on Australian research although not exclusively. DERN is looking for research evidence about good educational and learning practices. Please join us to share your insights into and knowledge of research into teaching and learning using digital technologies.

The network allows you to sign up but you will need to wait for your membership to be approved. This is a big move for ACER, an organisation that forms the basis of much of the education research coming out of this country. The site contains links to research organisations worldwide, and will be peppered with articles to support all of us in our understanding of the types of research we can draw on to support us in our  efforts to validate the work we are doing with our students. There exists the ability to contribute your ideas through discussion tabs and posting comments on blog posts.

It’s not as intuitive as a Ning site, but I’m impressed that outreach has been initiated and there is acknowledgment that teachers who have accrued knowledge are welcome;

“Users of DERN may be experts in ICT, media, pedagogy, emerging technologies and related areas and are probably well briefed in the area of elearning research, as well as scholars seeking details about what research has been done, possibly for their own research purposes.”

(DERN’s About page)

I’d encourage you to sign up and read Kathryn Moyle’sBuilding Innovation: Learning with Technologies‘. Those of us who have been talking about the need for systemic change will find this paper written for the Australian Education Review illuminating. The foreward is written by James Bosco, Professor Emeritus in Education Studies at Western Michigan University. I practically stood up and applauded when I read James’ words;

Teachers, principals, and other school personnel who have acquired new techniques, and who function within the existing structural context of schools, are often discordant elements – aberrations. If they are sufficiently motivated and persistent, they may be able to make good use of their capability, despite incompatibilities with the existing situation. But to expect them to move the school system into harmony with their preferred practice is to expect too much. Their good work may last only until they burn out or move on.

Hear, hear! Kathryn’s paper addresses how our education system can respond to emerging technologies and their value to assist the learning process. Kathryn says;

“Including technologies in teaching and learning requires a reconceptualisation of the curriculum and how it can be taught. Using technologies to simply replace blackboards with whiteboards and pens with computers and word processors does not constitute a reconceptualisation of teaching and learning, nor the nature of school education. Such an approach will not support students to ‘learn, unlearn, and relearn’.” (p.4)

Kathryn makes very interesting observations regarding proprietary software and the hold it has within our education systems;

“Almost all Australian schools provide Microsoft Office® on their computers. Individual schools and most of the Australian state and territory departments of education have signed contracts with the Microsoft® Corporation for the provision of operating systems and other software. The recurrent costs to taxpayers, for school students to simply boot-up a computer at school is, nationally, millions of dollars each year (Moyle, 2003). This widespread deployment of Microsoft® products establishes a ‘commonsense’ view (Gramsci, 1971) of the necessity for its products. At the same time the company receives legitimation and authority through the state for its products, given they are considered suitable for use in Australian schools. This acceptance of the commonsense value of particular software products over others then puts pressure on parents to have and maintain compatible software at home: the marketing strategy is circular, complete and self-sustaining.” (p.18/19)

Kathryn makes the case for a shift to open source alternatives, saving schools thousands of dollars, and potentially freeing up money that can be dedicated to the professional development of our teaching communities to enable teachers to respond to new ways of teaching and learning with emerging technologies.

In Section 4, Student’s uses of Technologies, Katherine identifies a high quality 21st Century education dependent upon;

“allowing students to discuss their learning with other students, to network and communicate with each other, to share their ideas and solutions to problems they are trying to collectively solve. Networking between students and teachers in different institutions can enrich the curricula and increase the transfer of generic and subject-related knowledge and skills between practitioners.” (p.38)

Validation for the use of a Ning environment in schools right there!

Honestly, there is so much in Kathryn’s paper you just have to read it. I couldn’t sleep the night I read it, and I think it was because I had so many ideas running through my head I was incapable of rest.

This is why a network like DERN will be worthwhile. Here we will find the research we need to read; research that will help us all to make the case for systemic change in our school systems. Change that will ultimately benefit the students in our charge and prepare them well for their future lives in a knowledge economy.

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Misconceptions

Seth Godin’s latest blog post reminds us how we can be relaying misconceptions to the students we teach.

The internet certainly presents us with possibilities. We can become creators and have our work appreciated by others. We can make a name for ourselves and reap the rewards that come from this. But we can also become part of the long tail of creators who are vying for voice and attention who don’t get noticed and don’t reap rewards.

Seth quotes a report from Charles Blow in the NY Times about the music industry;

“A study last year conducted by members of PRS for Music, a nonprofit royalty collection agency, found that of the 13 million songs for sale online last year, 10 million never got a single buyer and 80 percent of all revenue came from about 52,000 songs. That’s less than one percent of the songs.”

Pretty staggering figures really. So for every young band out there vying for an audience, the odds are pretty much not stacked in your favour.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t be encouraging our students to use this medium to be heard. What we should be doing is presenting them with the   realities of  the medium. You can’t expect that loading your latest and greatest effort onto YouTube is your entry point to worldwide noteriety. You need to face the reality that if you are going to take a crack at it you need to explore the medium to it’s full potential. You need to know how to market your online presence to full effect.

Even more reason why educators need to get up to speed. These are skills that need to be taught. The business model is changing.  It’s a new world out there.

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School’s out Friday

You have to watch this.

This is a TED Talk from Jonathon Zittrain, a social theorist who proposes in his talk that the world is not becoming less friendly. In fact, we are seeing the opposite, and this is demonstrated through the way people have made use of the internet . The way we readily share and distribute information, the way we act as nodes in a network, the way we  support others through this medium means that we are seeing morality and humanity come to the fore in our interactions with one another.

He uses some great examples. Wikipedia gets a mention. Jonathon states that we are always 45 minutes away from chaos on Wikipedia with spambots trying to embed ads and people trying to deliberately mess with pages. What saves Wikipedia are the Wikipedians; the thin geeky line who ensure it remains useable for the rest of us.  He refers to the Star Wars kid and the page on Wikipedia devoted to that ongoing episode. Wikipedians debated whether or not they should include the young boy’s name on the page and ultimately decided not to. This was due to the fact that the boy in question suffered psychologically from the exposure that video drew to him. Here is the information on the page indicating to contributors the conditions for any additions;

This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. Please help by adding reliable sources. Contentious material about living persons that is unsourced or poorly sourced must be removed immediately, especially if potentially libelous or harmful. (January 2009)

This will be a great video to use in media literacy classes. In fact, any class where you are discussing the impact of new media on our lives.

Have a great weekend. My pick for the Grand Final here in Melbourne tomorrow. St.Kilda all the way!!

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