School’s out Friday

I’ve seen some Facebook in real life videos before, but this one tickles my funny bone. (Excuse some of the language within it – I try to steer away from videos that contain course language, but a couple of words are contained within this one). It makes you think a bit, doesn’t it? Why are some people comfortable sharing some pretty personal details with an audience of hundreds (sometimes thousands or more!) in an online space like Facebook, but baulk at the idea of revealing any details to people in face to face settings? Interesting facet of human nature, and no doubt one we’ll be analysing more as we see social media become mainstream.

I had a lovely day today at Ringwood Secondary College. They hosted the Vitta Mobile Technologies conference, and it was an opportunity to catch up with Clare Rafferty, Tania Sheko, Jo McLeay, Jenny Ashby and John Pearce. I even got to meet Roland Gesthuizen for the first time, although I’ve ‘known’ him on twitter for quite some time. Lots of talk today about iPads and their use as 1:1 devices, something I’m not sure that I’m sold on. I think that should form the basis of a blog post, given the feedback generated through twitter when I posted that thought this morning.

Time to trundle off to long awaited sleep now. I’m finding the weekends are just too short at the moment. No sooner has it been Friday night and then I find myself confronted with Monday morning!

I hope your weekend lasts an age. Whatever you’re doing, enjoy it.

(And just to make sure you do, take a read of this post, written by a woman who worked in palliative care situations. I bet it makes you think.)

 

10 minutes well spent

If you ever find yourself a spare ten minutes or so, you should do yourself a favour and check out the TED: Ideas worth spreading site. I do so on a regular basis, most often when I’m in bed browsing on my iPad before I head off to sleep. Last night I watched two very different stories being told, both of which led me to think, to contemplate, to reassess.

Watch both of them. They’re worth the investment. The first is the story of two very remarkable women, both marred by the tragedy of 9/11. They come from what some would see as opposing backgrounds, but they share the common thread of motherhood. Both have suffered, and both find comfort from the other. Their story is a lesson in tolerance, forgiveness and empathy for us all, and is one we should be sharing with the students we teach.

The other is a world apart, but it deals with something not apparent to all, but something that will definitely affect us all. Eli Pariser is the author of “The Filter Bubble,” and in this talk he explains how personalized search might be narrowing our worldview. Eli explains how web services that know what we like and direct results to us that meet our likes, are allowing us to get trapped in a “filter bubble.” The filter bubble prevents us from exposure to information that could challenge or broaden our worldview. Here’s another lesson for not just the adults in the room, our students need this kind of understanding if they are to become architects of their digital lives. After watching this, it’s apparent that personalised search, where organisations are making decisions about what we view, is dangerous territory indeed. Dangerous territory that can lead to lack of tolerance, an inability to forgive, and a decided lack of empathy. There’s the link you need to make these two talks some of the best learning that could take place in a classroom this week.

TED: Ideas worth spreading. Never a truer phrase was uttered. Spread away.

Teenagers, Legal Risks and Social Networking Sites

On Friday, I attended the launch of a final report from the Learning with New Media research group who are from Monash University’s Faculty of Education. Their report is the title of this post, and it includes some important recommendations that should be heeded in school communities today. I have replicated their key findings and recommendations below, and hope the authors feel that this is appropriate dissemination of their work. I am particularly pleased that they have identified the need for schools to “equip(ping) children and young people with the skills required to be effective digital citizens, and not focus(sed) on rare or hypothetical fears.” For too long, many of us have been trying to do just this using new media tools like Ning networks in our curriculum, and now we have some solid research based recommendations supporting their use.

I have not yet finished reading the report in its entirety, but intend to do so. I encourage you to download it from the following link;

Teenagers, Legal Risks and Social Networking Sites

The authors (Melissa de Zwart, David Lindsay, Michael Henderson and Michael Phillips) have also produced an educational resource for teachers and parents that can also be downloaded. Access it at the following link;

Will u friend me? Legal Risks and Social Networking Sites

What follows are the key findings and recommendations from research conducted, using data collected from seventeen Victorian Secondary Schools from State, Catholic and Independent systems in both rural and metropolitan locations.

Key findings:

The findings confirm that SNS usage has become integrated into the everyday social lives of most Victorian middle school students. The findings also indicate that there is a general awareness of risks in using SNS by middle school students, although concerns about risks differ markedly between parents and teachers, on the one hand, and students, on the other. However, there is very little clear understanding by students, parents and teachers alike, of the precise nature of the legal risks that may arise from everyday SNS use.
1.    The overwhelming majority (94.9%) of middle school students (years 7 to 10) have used SNS.

2.    Facebook is the most popular SNS, with 93.4% of students using it, followed by MySpace, with 26.6% of surveyed students using it. Many students use more than one SNS.
3.    The majority of surveyed students update information on their SNS at least every day, and over a quarter update their SNS profile several times a day.
4.    The surveyed students use SNS primarily to maintain current social networks, while making new friends and flirting were relatively low in students’ reported practices.
5.    The majority of parents (80.4%) indicated that they had seen their child’s SNS profile at least once.
6.    The most common content reported as posted to SNS by surveyed students is photographs of themselves (60.9%), closely followed by photographs of their friends (52.6%). Nevertheless, posting of third party content, including music, video and photos of celebrities, is still significant. The proportion of students posting videos to SNS increases with age.
7.    A significant proportion of students (45.6%) reported that their photos had been posted on their friends’ SNS. The majority of students were not concerned with this practice.
8.    The most highly valued feature of SNS was the ability to stay in touch with friends and family. SNS are also perceived to be less expensive than other forms of communication.
9.    Surveyed students felt that SNS were safer than did their teachers and parents. Thus, while 48.8% of students recognised that there was some element of risk in using SNS, more than one quarter (28.3%) thought that SNS were safe. Moreover, 19.6% of students were ambivalent about risk, essentially reporting that the degree of risk was irrelevant to them as it is “just what everyone does”.
10.    Students from years 7 to 10 are increasingly more selective in who can see their profile. The survey results suggest that year 7 students not only have more visible profiles, but are more likely to perceive SNS as safe or only a little bit risky.
11.    A majority of surveyed students (72.4%) indicated that they had had unwanted or unpleasant contact by strangers via their social networking profile.
12.    A minority of students (13.8%) were concerned about security risks, such as identity theft. A small group of student respondents (3.2%) identified concerns relating to privacy or unwelcome disclosure of data.
13.    Parents and teachers were particularly concerned with issues of cyber-bullying, and grooming or stalking, with a lesser number expressing concerns about identity theft and disclosure.
14.    Despite the acknowledged risks of students using SNS, there is surprisingly little ongoing conversation about SNS use between parents and their children, on the one hand, or teachers and their students, on the other. In this respect, almost half of the surveyed students (46.1%) reported that they did not talk with their parents about SNS use, while almost three quarters of the students (74.6%) reported that they did not talk with their teachers about SNS use.
15.    Surveyed students reported an awareness of a variety of strategies for avoiding risks or problems associated with SNS use, including ignoring ‘friendship’ requests from strangers, blocking or deleting unpleasant or unwanted friends, setting their profile to ‘private’, not disclosing personal details, frequently changing their password, threatening people who wished to be added to the student’s SNS and self-censorship. Only 1% of respondents reported asking for guidance or help from adults as a viable strategy.
16.    The majority of teachers have not used SNS in an educational context. However, a significant minority (36.1%) of the teachers who were asked this question indicated that they had used SNS for educational purposes, including communicating with their students about schoolwork.
17.    The majority of teachers who were surveyed on the issue indicated that they were generally aware of risks, including legal risks, of teachers using SNS. However it is also clear that teachers had a variety of understandings about the specific nature of this risk.

…the key recommendations arising from this project are as follows:
1.    In order to enhance the benefits of SNS use, and minimise the disadvantages, it is important for children and young people to be equipped with the necessary information to empower them to effectively manage risks associated with the everyday use of SNS. The best way to do this is through specifically tailored educational activities. As children and young people must be primarily responsible for managing their own risks, it is essential that educational activities focus on providing clear and accurate information about all risks associated with SNS use, including legal risks. These educational activities should be aimed primarily at equipping children and young people with the skills required to be effective digital citizens, and not focussed on rare or hypothetical fears.

2.    Education about the full range of legal risks potentially encountered by the use of SNS should be part of a fully integrated cybersafety school curricula. This means that attention that is properly given to more dramatic issues, such as cyber-bullying and ‘sexting’, should be balanced with attention to other potential areas of legal liability. This strategy should also assist in promoting awareness of, and debates about, the Australian legal system as it applies to online activities. While acknowledging the crowded nature of school curricula, the importance of SNS in the lives of students, and the potential significance of social media for future digital citizenship, suggests that room should be found for these issues to be directly addressed.
3.    The best way to approach the teaching of legal literacy in the digital environment, is by the use of practical examples drawn from real life case studies. With this objective in view, one of the outcomes of this project is the Education Resource Book, which includes a series of classroom exercises aimed at promoting understanding and discussion of specific legal issues. The researchers for this project encourage the production and use of this and similar resource material for the use of teachers of middle school students.
4.    The reported prevalence of posting of photographs of students to SNS, suggests that the legal and ethical issues involved with the posting of photographs – which include privacy, confidentiality, defamation and copyright – merit specific attention in any cybersafety curriculum. The significance of understanding these issues is emphasised by the incidents involving a Melbourne teenager posting naked photos of AFL footballers to her Facebook site.
5.    The potential disparities in the approaches to, and understandings of, legal risks associated with SNS use between parents, teachers and students, as well as the reported paucity of communication on SNS use between students and parents and teachers, suggests that there is some need for education and training of teachers and parents, as well as students. Much can be gained by the community from greater informed discussion of the implications of SNS use, including legal implications, among parents, teachers and students.
6.    Consideration should be given by Commonwealth, State and Territory authorities to encourage and guide SNS service providers operating in Australia to enter into a self- regulatory agreement similar to the Safer Social Networking Principles for the EU. This would provide baseline commitments against which practices of SNS service providers in their dealings with young people could be periodically assessed.
7.    Given the concerns expressed by teachers interviewed for this project, there appears to be an identified need for further guidance to be provided to teachers about the use of SNS, especially in the pedagogical context. In particular, there is a pressing need for research and policy work to be undertaken in determining the extent of the ‘duty of care’ owed by teachers in any interactions with students via SNS. In this respect, it is important that the salient differences between interactions via SNS, and interactions offline, including the different legal implications, are fully taken into account.
8.    There is a need to promote holistic policy responses to the full range of risks associated with the use of SNS by young people. Any responses should be coordinated so as to minimize the risk of fragmented, inconsistent, and potentially contradictory, policy initiatives at the Commonwealth, State and Territory levels. If, following the forthcoming report by the Commonwealth Joint Select Committee on Cyber-Safety, it is decided to establish an Online Ombudsman, the Ombudsman’s portfolio should extend to promoting education about the full range of legal risks associated with the use of SNS. In doing so, the Ombudsman should coordinate with Commonwealth, State and Territory Privacy Commissioners.
As the discussion of the project above indicates, this was a preliminary study, which, as well as highlighting the issues analysed above, also indicated the need for further work to be done in this area. There is a need for further research directed at understanding young people’s use of SNS and how they can better be empowered to be confident and safer digital citizens. There is also a significant need to further work to be done to assist teachers to be better equipped to understand their rights and responsibilities in the digital communication environment.

Research findings like these will support our use of new technologies in classrooms. What is evident from their recommendations is that further teacher professional development is required to ensure that we have teachers with the skill set to produce the ‘effective digital citizens’ we need in society today. The authors acknowledged on Friday that further research into how schools effectively do this is required. Let’s hope this happens sooner rather than later.

Revisiting the Digital Footprint message

Today, I delivered a presentation to our Year 11 students about how they conduct themselves in online spaces, to ensure their safety and to cultivate a positive digital footprint. I delivered a similar presentation to this same cohort in May last year, and I thought I might be flogging a dead horse. I was wrong.

They listened intently, asked serious and thoughtful questions, and even provided examples themselves of people who had had reputations damaged due to poor understanding of the magnification of information shared in social networks today. I thought I’d fall short with information and have to fill time, but I was struggling to get through what I wanted to cover.

One of the things I wanted to cover was Facebook’s places feature. My guess would be that the majority of them weren’t using it, and had no idea that their friends could check them into locations unless they disabled the feature in their privacy settings. I used the following lifehacker video to demonstrate what they needed to do in Facebook to opt out of the feature. It helped me too. I lead a very transparent life, but I don’t want to use the places feature and I don’t want to be checked into places by friends in my network. It’s not a straightforward process. You have to find the customise button and find the page where the settings need changing. The lifehacker video explained it very clearly and I followed those instructions to meet my requirements. The students watched it intently, and it’s my guess a number of them will be looking at their privacy settings tonight.

It was nice to receive words of thanks and a round of applause at the end of the session. It’s made it very clear to me that these messages need repeating and reinforcement in our teaching practices.

Updated visual representation of Online Communities from xkcd

In the Northern Spring of 2007, Randall Munroe from xkcd created the following map to represent the real estate value of online communities;

Interestingly, they created a new one in October of this year that looks like this;

You can see the incredible demise of MySpace and the rise of Facebook, Farmville and Twitter in the recent incarnation. I don’t even know what Happy Farm is!! Visit The Green Eyed Monster’s blog where you can click on the same image and use the magnifier to look at it closely. It’s very interesting, and something to use with our students. It’s something they will be able to relate to I’m sure.

School’s out Friday

Both of this week’s videos were sourced by my Year 9 students today. Some were completing an assessment task, so I set the remaining few (we had a lot of students out today as our yearly camp program begins) to the task of honing their visual literacy skills to find a YouTube video clip that met the criteria of being both funny and clever. The first one is more clever than funny, but the second fulfills both criteria (IMO). I think Facebook vs Real life would be interesting as the basis for a class discussion, maybe even the prompt for a writing exercise or debate. They loved the task; they beavered away with their headphones on, erupting in laughter as they came across videos that appealed to their sense of humour.

Right now, I’m experiencing mixed emotions after I fare-welled my daughter, who left this evening on a two week UK trip with school. There were tears (from me!) as I kissed her goodbye, but smiles and laughter too as I waved at the bus leaving and contemplated the wonderful adventure she is about to embark on. Sure beats my school camp to Glenmaggie when I was a teenager!

Have a great weekend. I will, because it’s an extended one due to the Melbourne Cup holiday this coming Tuesday. You gotta love a horse race that stops a nation, and gives Victorians a public holiday!

What’s in a name?

The name of a man is a numbing blow from which he never recovers.

Marshall McLuhan

Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, recently made a some very interesting comments while being interviewed by Holman W Jenkins from the Wall Street Journal;

“I don’t believe society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time,” he says. He predicts, apparently seriously, that every young person one day will be entitled automatically to change his or her name on reaching adulthood in order to disown youthful hijinks stored on their friends’ social media sites.

Danah Boyd’s response to this is equally interesting, if not moreso;

This is ludicrous on many accounts. First, it completely contradicts historical legal trajectories where name changes have become increasingly more difficult. Second, it fails to account for the tensions between positive and negative reputation. Third, it would be so exceedingly ineffective as to be just outright absurd.

Surprisingly, I spend quite a bit of time discussing things like this with prospective parents at my school. Our school registrar tours with them and visits me often. I talk about the vision of our new library under construction, the work we are doing at Year 9 using Ning as a virtual learning community and our efforts with Cybersafety. Parents are really interested in this last point, and I see many nodding heads when I discuss the need for our students to establish a positive digital footprint for themselves. Plenty of them realise their kids use sites like Facebook as their communication platform, but they do want them to do so with some understanding of how they conduct themselves responsibly to protect their own reputation, and the reputation of others.

Jonathan Zittrain discusses a similar idea to that raised by Eric Schmidt, but he calls it ‘Reputation Bankruptcy’. It’s the idea that you will be able to wipe your digital identity slate clean and start over. Who knows, one day it just might be possible, but what if you have a good deal of positive web content that you don’t want erased? Will we be able to be selective about what stays and what goes?

Danah makes another very good point in her post responding to Eric Schmidt’s comments;

All it takes is for someone who’s motivated to make a link between the two and any attempt to walk away from your past vanishes in an instant. Search definitely makes a mess out of people’s name-based reputation but a name change doesn’t fix it if someone’s intent on connecting the two.

So, what’s in a name?  Will we need to grapple with our digital identities, identities that can be forged by our friends (or enemies!) as much as they are forged by our own hand? Once again, we need to take this on board as educators. We need to help our students understand that they can create the long tail of good searchable content that will make their name a blessing, not a burden.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)