Thursday, December 20, 2007

Teens Top Online Creators

Just another set of facts to indicate higher education better get it's shared space, social networking act together -

A new study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project shows that the next generation is switched on and producing content.
59% of all (U.S.) teenagers engage in at least one form of online content creation. Of those 35% of all teen girls blog, compared with 20% of online boys, and 54% of girls post photos online compared with 40% of online boys. Boys however like their video, with 19% of boys posting video online vs. 10% of girls.
39% of online teens share their own artistic creations online, such as artwork, photos, stories, or videos
33% create or work on webpages or blogs for others, including those for groups they belong to, friends, or school assignments
28% have created their own online journal or blog, up from 19% in 2004.
27% maintain their own personal webpage
26% remix content they find online into their own creations

Students will want to be active learners, dealing with authentic, relevant content, and dynamically collaborating in the development of new content. And they will want personalizable learning spaces where they have access control.

Old world copyright does not compute

Fair Use Vs. Free Speech in the Internet Age: The Lane Hartwell Problem

Item: non-profit music group Richter Scales create mash up video to present with their new song "The Bubble" - a parody on making it in the next big net bubble

Problem: after a million views on YouTube, video taken down because photographer Lane Hartwell objected to the unauthorized use of one of her photos in the video, then put up again with the offending photo replaced and a list of credits at the end for all the images used.

Real problem: the norms of the offline world and the emerging norms of the Internet are in conflict. People communicate on the web by sharing - reshaping images, audio - if you make it available expect it to be used. If you want to be part of a community - expect to share.

Solution - Payback: think of other forms than buying rights - maybe licensing - maybe trackbacks, leading to paid work

P.S. I just mashed techcrunch text - even stole straight lines. Copyright issue?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hosting communities and trust

Further to Stephen Downe's discussion on trust and communities. Eduspaces, a free elgg powered community space managed and hosted by two entrepreneurs (Ben and Dave), fostered an active environment of educators discussing the use of and demonstrating the use of educational technologies. Eduspaces is being used by faculty, individuals and institutions for a variety of purposes - learning delivery, research space and respository, personal blogging, community creation, resource sharing, touchstone for learning, community of practice.

Now, seemingly out of the blue, the site is going down in mid January and folks are being advised to port their data elsewhere. Understandably, criticism has followed the surprise of this announcemnt. It is untimely. It is abrupt. It is unexpected. But is it a callous disregard for those who have invested data and time into developing their own spaces in Eduspaces? Have Ben and Dave, as Graham Attwell suggests, broken a bond of trust - a necessary component for community building - and impacted on the future acceptance and adoption of social software environments?

But it is always risky to have your activities housed on an external host. Eduspaces was a free service, hosted and moderated (without compensation) by two individuals interested in the advancement of free, open source software for use by the educational community, we should be a little thankful.

Many schools and faculty are making use of proprietary web services - like Facebook. If it should shut down I doubt there would be much chance of retrieving data. Were Dave and Ben great communicators? That's debatable. Were they funded and supported by those who benefitied from the use of Elgg and eduspaces? Hmm? No. And Elgg isn't suffering as an environment simply because Eduspaces is shutting down. Heck, even if Elgg shuts down we will continue to use the elgg installations we have on our server, and we will continue to add functions as required. Dave and Ben have established a platform, and made it available for personal customization. They have also left a legacy by contributing to the demise of proprietary learning and content mgmt systems and adding social components to authentic, reflective learning, and the creation and development of learning communities that thrive within and without and beyond the confines of program length and institutional membership. Lifelong, lifewide learning and the integration of formal and informal learning is now a true possibility thanks to advances like Elgg.

I agree that their actions are rushed, and they didn't 'discuss" with the community. And the optics aren't good - especially since eduspaces was a demonstration site of Elgg - Elgg may suffer as a result.

But the real question, as Graham rightly points out is that there was no organization to the comunity. We talk about organic development of free and open learning space like elgg, (eg. eduspaces) yet we often don't put an organizational framework around it (not management framework). What are the roles and responsibilities of site managment, moderation and of community members?

What the actions of Dave and Ben have demonstrated is that organic growth should not mean a hands off laissez-faire approach to community development. Organic Communities need cultivation. Trust must be earned , but it cannot be assumed. We trusted that Eduspaces would always be there for us, even if we as part of that community never contributed to its management. perhaps dave and Ben never saw eduspaces as their community - it was ours. maybe we are the ones who never established trust. Inevitably, all things come to an end. Even free, open, organic spaces.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

When I Die who mourns my cyberlife?

NITROREV: Virtual Wake As I see Eduspaces - a social network I am part of - about to die and untimely death - I was wondering how to mourn the loss of those connections I made through this network. Then I encountered Stephen Taylor's blog entry where he muses about an actual incident of cyber friendship loss. It caused me a moment of thought. When I physically die, my cyber identityt continues on. The data remnants of my cyber activity exists - how will those I never met physically, yet socialized with electronically express condolences and grief? What happens to me cyber properties - do they revert to my heirs who have no interest in maintaining my blog entries and other data? Are they parsed out to my cyber friends? Further to this discussion I have a number of social software sites I maintain for educational institutions. Students post comments, reflections, artefacts and compile eportfolios. If a student does die, what is to be done with their entries? Do we just arbitrarily delete their account or maintain it in a condolences area? The expressions of grief, condolences and maintenance of cyber properties upon one's earthly death - these are issues we are yet to grapple with.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Cormier's Top ten Ed Stories 2007

Dave’s Educational Blog Dave Cormier lists his top ten tech ed stories of 2007 - number 10 is connectivism, number 1 is the action of one hacker to remove filtering software - what permeates all selections is openness and freedom and the need for effective education on the safe and efficient use of that openneness and freedom - kudos to Dave - always insightful

Thursday, November 22, 2007

New MA program in Online Communities at USC

New MA program in Online Communities at USCUSC's pioneering Charles Annenberg Weingarten Program on Online Communities (APOC) is the first master’s program in the world to recognize that online communities are the future of our economic, political, and social lives. They are the most successful application of “Web 2.0” concepts, and are increasingly popular as well as critical to the success of a wide array of industries. APOC students learn, gain firsthand experience, and then create an online community, attaining a master’s degree in just a single year.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Social netowrk play and chat

Techcrunch tells the story -social software and social gaming - social network site Meebo opened their platform last month to third party developers and is now open to game startups.

Twenty games launched so far - from chess and checkers to Texas Hold ‘em. Launch Meebo chat, click on a friend and start a game.
Invite friend, play together and chat together real-time. Synchronous, real time events within your social network.

Wisdom of the Fans

From Virtual to Real: online football fans buy up a team and get real

"Found this via our good friend David Cushman's blog Faster Future. There is an online football (soccer) community called My Football Club in the UK. They have collected together some very seriously fanatical football fans and joined together to buy a real football club. For just 35 UK Pounds (50 Euros, 70 US Dollars) any fan can join and become part-owner.The fans then decide how to run the team, ie which players to buy and sell, etc. Its the virtual "fantasy league" football enthusiast idea jumping from virtual to real. And sure enough, now My Football Club has collected enough money and have done negotiations with the English professional football club Ebbsfleet United FC, and are buying the club. This is in the lower tiers of the English system, in the "Conference" and ranked 9th within its peers, but a team that now might get a chance to improve as the new owners bring in new money and will start to use collective wisdom of the fans to run the team. "

Can fans be better owners, make informed decisions? Here's an example of how social software is not truly allowing everyone to be part of the game.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Trust test: Blogs or Websites?

I have repetitive stress injury, and need to investigate a new mouse and keyboard that can help with my condition. I went to Google, searched on ergonomic keyboards and received a number of hits - websites, mostly corporate or trade journals with reviews (paid for? promotions?) - extremely limited and not very helpful. So, I decide to search on blogs - and my first hit is a real Hit - Amy Hengst who maintains a blog devoted to home treatment for RSI . And lo and behold she has a comprehensive, informative list (and up to date) on ergonomic keyboards.

So here is my opinion drawn from this search experience. Websites are primarily corporate, designed to deliver a message leading to a sale, and often dated. The weblog - personal ones - can be corporate and sales driven but then there are also gems like Amy's where the message is up to date and more important than the sale. She as a blogger wants to share information and experience, not generate a sale. So for this trust test I side with the weblog.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Open Thinking & Digital Pedagogy » LiveScribe - Smart Pen

Open Thinking & Digital Pedagogy » LiveScribe - Smart Pen

The Livescribe paper-based computing platform – a smartpen, paper, software applications, and development tools – will be available online beginning in Q1 2008. The smartpen will be less than $200. Additional dot paper will be available at prices comparable to standard paper products. As Alec Couros cites (where I found out about this) a smart pen combined with special (but inexpensive) paper that allows non-linear access to the sounds recorded when the notes were taken.”

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

View blogging photos as they are posted - Susan Sedder at Adventures in Educational Blogging introduces Blogger Play - an application that displays the photos being posted to Blogger accounts in real time, in a slide show format. It is a little voyeuristic - you're observing personal, professional, intimate and odd photos that bloggers are posting to share. there is no orer, no categorization - just random displays of photos as they are being posted to various blogs that have been developed for a myriad of reasons. It's like being given license to enter other people's living space and observe their everyday activities.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Social network aggregation - Now where you are on the web isn’t as important as what you are doing.

Sign up for FriendFeed, list the social networks/peer sites you belong to, and it tracks what you are doing on those networks, aggregates it all and provides you and your friends with a personalized feed of the data. That feed can be accessed on the FriendFeed site, or embedded via a widget into another website. (like Elgg)

While FriendFeed will probably become a social network itself, this is a great tool for those niche social networks - like elgg - so Facebook and the other giants don’t have to be everything to everyone!
This is great news - we have been having students arguing with us to "come to their network (facebook)" and not implement Elgg (they having to come to ours). Now they can be everywhere wherever they are - and we can create our elgg social network for continued learning - they can be here, or there and still be apprised of what is going on.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

NSBA survey touts social networking for students. The National School Board Association and Grunwald Associates have released a report Connecting and Creating: Research andGuidelines on Online Social - and Educational - Networking.

The study was comprised of three surveys: an online survey of1,277 nine- to 17-year-old students, an online survey of 1,039 parents and telephone interviews with 250 school district leaders who make decisions on Internet policy."

The report recommends that school districts may want to 'explore ways in which they could use social networking for educational purposes' — and reconsider some of their fears. "Many schools initially banned or restricted Internet use, only to ease up when the educational value of the Internet became clear. The same is likely to be the case with social networking."

Social networking technologies have significant educational potential. However social/commercial social networking sites - eg. Friendster, MySpace should not be the focus. It is the functionalities of these sites that are important, not the commercialization - and other non-commercial tools are available - see elgg for example.

Young people must safely gain the ability to use these social networking technologies just as they must learn how to effectiveley "network" in real life - getting together with friends, physical activities and athletics, arts and music, social service.

Educators and educational insitututions must learn to do their own honest risk assessments - and refrain from demonizing all social internet activities and trying to block students from social networking technology. If we model and teach the safe, effective use of these technologies, we wouldn't resort to knee jerk censorship.
NoSo - No social.
Tired of networking? Don’t want to be linked to possible friends? Don’t want to share and contact? Want to disconnect, in silence? Now, there is a void for you on the web and off line. Artists Christina Ray and Kurt Bigenho, and web developer Gilbert Guerrero, have created NoSo (short for No Social Networking)

No So is an anti-flash mob - a non-experience. A network that is there but also is not there at the same time… “a real-world platform for temporary disengagement from your social networking environment. The NoSo experience allows you to create No connections, by scheduling No events, with No friends. When you're not podcasting, you're Skyping, texting, IM-ing, dating, trading, sharing, subscribing, downloading, updating, linking, approving, adding, checking, sending... Sometimes, you need a break. Sometimes, you need NoSo.”

When you attend a NoSo event, you are treated to a group of people sharing a cone of silence. Much like standing in an elevator with strangers - yet people have chosen to come to the NoSo event to sit together, in silence, in respect of each others desire not to socialize.

Next will be NoSho – the anti-social networking phenomenon for those who don’t want to gather together.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

I Have My Own Tools Thanks

I had an interesting dichotomy erupt during a conference presentation -attended by faculty and sessionals (grad students). When speaking about the use of social technology (OK people are social not technology but still labels are useful), anyway, a student stood up and asked "Why don't we use the tools we already use? Why not Facebook and IM or SMS chat or Ipodcasts?' To which an instructor responded (first year instructor) and said "Why should we have to use their tools - why don't they have to use ours (eg. Blackboard, Elluminate) if they attend our schools?" The discussion that ensued covered a lot of ground - from privacy to control issues, to autonomy, to freedom, to opportunity, to technology burdening to copyright issues and learning ownership.

I also had a slight mutiny in a course I TA'ed. (I spoke of this before) I established an internal installation of Elgg for the students to use as for personal reflection, project planing, collaboration and resource maintenance. Howeverthe day I demostrated and registered them to the Elgg environment our server sucked big time and it was slow and painful. By the next day all students had exited to the tools they know - Facebook, SMS and IM. Of course I blustered and countered with a posting about Facebook security and copyright issues, and of the CIA involvement - but it fell on deaf ears.

So another question to ponder. Do we build and support a series of loosely connected tools (eg. Elgg environment? Are we just creating another LMS? Should students use their own tools and networks? Why shouldn't their space be a learning space? Mind you I'm not sure the students really want their private world (Facebook) merged with their academic world.
Knocking down the LMS Walls

Institutionalized education has erected a series of walls around what was supposed to be an exercise in flexible and open learning accesss - that is the use of web based interactive communications technology to deliver distance learning. The predominant tool used to date has been the Learning Management System which primarily just recreates the controlled, enclosed learning environment called the lecture hall. Consider the terminology -LMS is a learning management tool designed for the institution not the learner. It is a confined space where learning events occur, assessments are submitted and grades assigned.
The learning events have no "life" beyond the box of the LMS. It serves a closed audience - students interact with a few other students, and a teacher and a few TAs and a limited amount of prescribed content. There is no linking to the world wide web, no connections to the world beyond the instruction in question. There is no continuation of learning. You register for a course, you get access to the LMS, you exit the course. No artefacts leave with you, no connections made are maintained, no history of learning is preserved, no eportfolio. Informal and nonformal learning, workplace experience, internships, cooperatives are not accommodated.
We are at the juncture where the promise of continuous learning, learner directed learning can be met. But not with an LMS, nor any other closed environment designed to aid the university in confining and controlling learning.

The virtual learning environment or personal learning environment is the next phase. How that environment is configured and presented is open to question. There will be greater autonomy. less instructor control, less institutional control. There will be continuity and persistence in learning. One example of this approach is the Elgg tool (see or

Elgg is a persistent user controlled personal learning environment that can be linked into WebCT or Moodle but can also exists by itself, beyond the course, beyond the program, beyond the institution. It's an environment with a set of tools and a a file repository designed to meet a students' needs as they move from course to course, to instituion to institution, to workplace to workplace, to community to community, etc.

I'm researching a number of applications of this tool - as a course delivery system that will morph into a community of learners; as a community of practice for in service teachers; as a community of reseachers for reserach activity; as a virtual home for 3rd age learners to share, connect and communicate. I see a lot of promise here that requires us to really reevaluate how we teach and how students learn - and this time we have to recognize that we are not in the business of confining learners, nor are we the owners of their learning experiences - it is our dutyto be stewards of the process and to free them up to explore the world with us and without us.

Sample apps of Elgg platform:

the primary educational application of Elgg platform; feel free to join and experience!

Emerge is the support project for the UK Joint Information Systems Committee

Rucku is Rugby's first dedicated Social Networking platform.

Myrichmondva - the concept behind the system is to develop a fully customizable community landscape.

emeraldinsight is a personal web space and hosting service that supports learning, networking and collaboration.
Noone came to the Community

The Elgg environment that I have been making extensive use of is essentailly a buffet of technology - with personal profiling, blogs, wikis, group creation, access restrictions, folksonomy tagging, notification, eportfolio and soon openID - I'm trying to model it as a course tool that morphs into a community as required and dips into formal and informal situations like a spaceship docking at a space station, taking on connections and resources and readying for the learning flight to the next waystation but carrying its own connections and resourcese throught the connectosphere.

I have three projects going on now - as a collaborative/group work course tool for a distance course, which hopefully will evolve into a cohort community, then a community of practice as the students graduate and continue/go back/begin worklife and can then dip back into formal or informal learning; as a community of practice for career teachers working grades 9-12; and a lifelong learning community for 3rd age learners taking educational vacations.

But you know of course that if you build it, they may not come, or they may go elsewhere. My Elgg install was slow, so of coure my students flocked over to facebook - a social netwrok thay are already on and are familiar with. Of course privacy issues, content ownership and who's watching your entries (CIA, etc)didn't deter them. For the career teachers I've held workshops at their conference, even had a list of teachers supplied by the faculty of Education and had workshops and pizza ready to go - total show of 4 people over all 3 workshops. And this is just to get the people familiar enough with the toolset to join in and become a seed group.

Bent but not broken I continue on. Issues still keep plaguing me beyond actual membership (even if no one shows up I need a plan). I'm still grappling with a number of pedagogical issues - control vs. autonomy, organic growth or planned growth?, user experience vs. user autonomy, stewardship vs facilitation/moderationx, am I creating communities of practice or "communities for practice" as Christopher Sessums describes. More questions - when time allows I'll expound on these.

I am looking to incubate a web-based community of practice where educators share a common identity, shared and reflected ideas, feedback, models, and concepts that leads to a "becoming" - of enhanced individual and collective learning.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Control and Autonomy

Control and autonomy seems to be the issue all around - both for those of us who would like to implement change and use "unsanctioned" technologies and for the student who wants to be in a position to make their own decisions -
How we can support use of social software to allow community cohesion without our presence creating the Hawthorne Effect? My use of Elgg is winning more acceptance within our Masters in Communications technology program - but I'm struggling to identify the degree of required intervention that is necessary to position students to connect and share, and having to constrain myself from being too involved in both the design and the delivery of the learning experience.While a self organizing environment is not necessarily an effective learning environment, the opposite can also be stated.
I grapple with the unknowns- can an independent, commited community of learners evolve from an instructor controlled learning experience? does learning continue without the direct intervention or even guiding hand of the instructor? can an instructor be just one of the learners at any point in the learning continuum? can we impose our technology on a users experience?
I think social software has great potential to not only allow us to advance a degree of cosntructivism but to allow the evolution of learning from an instructor led institutional experience into a learner directed journey. Too much of what we do now is built around confinement - I want to see what learning can be like when it is truly a freebase journey, where students dip into and out of formal learning experiences, meld it with their own informal and nonformal experiences, worklife and social life and maintain a record of reflections, connections and artefact development over the time of their lifelong continuous learning. But then having taught high school I know we don't create independent learners -we stifle them - and then I foolishly think they want freedom in higher education. In a society predicated on credentialism, most students just want what they need to know to get success and money. But those are just the environmental challenges we face.
As a learning designer I often speak about how I represent the interests of the learner in the face of institutional and professorial expectations. But until the advent of social software, and the unbundling of learning management systems I've never been able to actually act on my ideals. Now I can - to a degree - and it is daunting and challenging at the same time.
The MET School: Connections and Friendships
Ewan McKintosh introduces an example of the school walls expanding - the MET School - innovative, small-school environment, where non more than 120-150 kids are led in groups of 12-17 students by advisors. No 'teachers' in sight. You msut visit his site and view Leala's video - an ex drop out high school student who thanks to this MET is now univerity bound and working as an intern in an area of her interest (not what the shool decided was her interest) - I love the comment she makes that through this she became a learner and a teacher!

The MET school is an initiative of The Big Picture Company - a nonprofit company that believes that schools must be personalized, educating every student equally, ONE STUDENT AT A TIME. Each student’s learning plan should grow out of his or her unique needs, interests, and passions...students and families are active participants in the design and authentic assessment of each child’s learning. Schools must be small enough to encourage the development of a community of learners, and to allow for each child to be known well by at least one adult. School staff and leaders must be visionaries and life-long learners. Schools must connect students, and the school, to the community - both by sending students out to learn from mentors in the real world, and by allowing the school itself to serve as an asset to the local community and its needs. Finally, schools must allow for admission to, and success in, college to be a reality for every student, and work closely with students, families, and colleges throughout – and beyond - the application process.
Artichoke: Edubloggers as “Prisoners of the nation state.”

Some phrase just resonate - for example this one from Artichoke at edubloggers - "We have been seduced by our inability to imagine ourselves as superfluous to student learning."
We talk about the freedom and autonomy afforded by social software and web 2.0, the democratization of the learning experience - and we have been talking for years about student centered learning and constructivism - but ultimately we have been doing no more than peering outside the box we are in because "We have been seduced by our inability to imagine ourselves as superfluous to student learning."

As Stephen Downes has stated before we are still talking about learning as if it is just a retrofit of what came before "to promote a view of learning that is traditionalist, rather than oriented to the future, one that seeks to preserve the existing trappings of education, most notably, schools. But with the advent of web 2.0 we should be looking at changing the definition of learning - to get rid of our mindset and "to use technologies to leverage our ability to personalize learning, facilitate students' learning while taking part as full citizens in the wider community.

Artichoke reaches into the past to quote Ivan Illich and show us how our thinking has fossilized -

"A good education system should have three purposes: it should provide all who want to learn with access to available resources at any time in their lives; empower all who want to share what they know to find those who want to learn it from them; and finally furnish all who want to present an issue to the public with the opportunity to make their challenge known.” - Ivan Illich 1971

Does this description require a classroom? A school? A teacher? An instructional designer? A subject matter expert? A single web site? A learning management system? Does it require a set of controls? Prescribed subjects and established content? Ulitmately the only constant should be the learner.

Friday, July 06, 2007

How are people making use of the web?

Look at the strength of the creators - ages 12-26. This is the group that academic institutions aim at - are we ready to accomodate their idea of learning, their independence and their individualized creating and connecting? And look at the size of the inactives ages 41-60+. These folks are prime for social media - having them connect online and being part of a continuous learning strategy can open more markets for academic institutions.
Faculty Use of Social Networks

Thomson Releases Survey on Faculty and Use of Social Networks

A preliminary look at a survey found nearly 50 percent of faculty respondents familiar with social networking technologies, including blogs, MySpace, and Facebook, say such technologies "have or will change the way students learn." Curiously, however, about two-thirds of faculty respondents also said they do not feel social networking will have an effect on how they teach—or are at least uncertain if it will. The survey, conducted for Academic publisher Thomson Learning, reflects "a lack of awareness and understanding" of these emerging technologies, suggest administrators.

The Thomson Learning survey, was conducted over a five-week period and included 677 professors, most of whom have been "teaching for more than ten years at four- or two-year colleges and universities on the subjects of humanities/social sciences or business/economics." ...survey also found, however, that that there is significant room for growth in faculty members' use of technology: 59 percent do not have their own web sites; 82 percent have yet to make a podcast, and only ten percent have their own blogs. ...key findings indicate "a large opportunity for faculty introduction, education, and integration of social networking and media tools, for both professional and personal use."

A large opportunity indeed. Faculty has not yet opened their eyes to a big wake up call - social networking technologies will change the way students learn and the way teachers teach. The whole dynamic of pedagogy will change - the chart I posted after this entry shows that those aged 18-21 are the Creators - those who publish web pages, write blogs, upload videos - these are individuals used to working without boundaries, connecting with whom they please, mashing and creating anew - independently - and they will want their input recognized, appreciated and used. Active, constructivist learning apporoaches will be demanded. Students will want more freedom, more control of resources, learning strategies - and this will impact on our structured approach to educational programming - we will have to refine our idea of teaching "episodes" (course, program) we need to "fragment" learning into connected learning scenarios, within modifiable and open learning environments that persist and stay within the control of the learner after they leave our relationship. Ownership and control of learning will shift to the student. We have to change. Wakey, wakey - there's a tsunami of change approaching...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

POT 2.0. fear,and long arms of schools

Taken from story by Marsha Rosenbaum Alternet - The long-awaited sequel to the notorious 1936 film, Reefer Madness has arrived. It's called The Purple Brain, and just like its unintentionally campy predecessor, its purpose is to frighten. And we, the millions of parents who may have, without incident, experimented with marijuana in the 1970s, are the target.

The plot is as follows: Sure, the pot you and your 40-something peers once enjoyed may have been innocuous, but that's only because it bears no resemblance to the super-potent weed of today -- strains with such foreboding names as "Train wreck," "AK-47," and "The Purple." As proclaimed by Drug Czar John Walters recently, "[W]e are no longer talking about the drug of the 1960s and 1970s -- this is [in computer parlance] Pot 2.0."

To top off this frightening message, unsubstantiated claims of "brain damage" resulting from the use of this super-pot are new buzzwords in today's Prevention circles. Yes, marijuana is an intoxicant that should be avoided until and unless an individual has reached an age of mental and physical maturity, and this might be well into his or her twenties.

But exaggerated campaigns like "The Purple Brain" do little more than create skepticism about anything adults say about drugs, not to mention fueling their natural curiosity.

And let's add to this fearmongering our puritanical, political attack on student rights - Supreme Court Rules Against Student in Bong Hits 4 Jesus Case -
In the first major Supreme Court decision on student free speech in almost a generation, the Court ruled against a student who was suspended for displaying a banner with drug-related messaging just off the school campus. What does the ruling mean for students punished for online activities that take place off-campus? Andy Carvin analyzes the verdict, observing that:
"a 'school sanctioned' website might in the future be ruled to be like 'being in school' and thus subject to school rules. Can student online activities from home be deemed “school-sanctioned”? The irony is that the answer might be yes - for those schools that decide to use social networking sites in the classroom. Many schools, of course, filter out social networks, deeming them uneducational and inappropriate for classroom access. For those students attending schools where social networks are filtered, they could probably argue in an ensuing legal case that their online activities, even if drug-related, can’t be considered school sanctioned, since the school refuses to condone social network access on campus. On the other hand, if a school allows access to certain social networks and a student hypothetically posted drug-related content on his or her personal online profile, the school might argue that using the social network is indeed school-sanctioned and thus open to disciplinary action, even if the content is posted off-campus."

So schools beware of over extending your boundaries - students be aware of your rights and prepare to respond to those who would attack free speech - and educators, respect students, teach them their rights, advise them when they step out of bounds and make sure everyone learns from these experiences rather than suffers from them.

Plumber $90, child care worker $10. Wha?!!

Why Do We Pay Our Plumbers More Than Our Caregivers?

Surely leaky pipes aren't more important than our children? Author Riane Eisler shows how our economic system, rooted in gender inequality, is failing us.

"Professions that don't involve caring, like plumbing or engineering, are uniformly higher paid in the market than professions that do involve caring, like child care or elementary school teaching -- both highly skilled, highly important professions. We have this bizarre situation where people pay $50 to $90 to the plumber, to whom we entrust our pipes. But according to the U.S. Department of Labor, the child care worker, to whom we entrust our children, averages $10 an hour, no benefits.

And, of course, we insist the plumber be trained. How could we entrust our pipes to somebody who isn't? But we don't insist all child care workers be trained. This is not logical, it's pathological. And we have to look at why we have such a distorted system of values driving our economic system?"
Facebook v MySpace - a class divide?

The media has latched onto Danah Boyd's preliminary conjectures about a possible class divide between Facebook and MySpace users...
" Ms Boyd said typical Facebook users "tend to come from families who emphasise education and going to college. They are primarily white, but not exclusively". MySpace, meanwhile, "is still home for Latino and Hispanic teens, immigrant teens" as well as "other kids who didn't play into the dominant high school popularity paradigm".
Ms Boyd also conjectures that the US military's recent decision to ban personnel from using sites including MySpace is evidence of social fissures in the armed forces. "A month ago, the military banned MySpace but not Facebook. This was a very interesting move because there's a division, even in the military. Soldiers are on MySpace; officers are on Facebook." (Now that is interesting - is this to say the military fears that less educated soldiers are more subversive than more educated officers? that officers can be controlled?).

MySpace, owned by Rupert Murdoch, has enjoyed massive success - particularly among young music fans - and recently became the most visited site on the web. But Facebook, started by Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg, has been gaining ground. Until last year membership was limited to university students and individuals with an email address from an academic institution. This, said Ms Boyd, has given the site higher value among aspirational teens. ( network envy is a short lived experience)

There is always movement between different social networking tools, and certain groups using one tool and a different group using the other. is this a reflection og the toolset, how people use the tool, or a flash mob phenomena (me too!) And there always has been and always will be age divides, generational divides, social divides, social groupings, which change and grow, are inclusive to some, and exclusive to others. (I'm waiting for the upper crust version of Second Life - I know there will be some virtual island that just won't let me set foot in it!)

While a holistic approach to online communities and communication is something I would like to see, there will be those who want the "us and them" divide. It'll be interesting to see if legal action is taken against a social network that makes it a policy (or creates an environment designed for exclusion - can that happen?* ) to exclude certain types of people. * maybe demoinstrated by the fact that I can't buy the "best" virtual clothes for my avatar in Second Life and thereby exclude myself from communication with other, better dressed avatars?

EduSite: Scott Wilson: Using student-owned technologies in educational ict

Who owns my learning space? Me!

I should be the one in control of my learning, of the space where I document and experience that learning, and I should be free to roam as my interest takes me ensconced with my learning environment.

In this article on PLEs Scott Wilson touches on concerns I have encountered just this week. (Also quoted in tallblogs on JISC based Isthmus project). I have been pushing the use of Elgg in course work, seeking to expand it to a cohort community, then a course/cohort/alumnae community - in essence to become the learning space of the learner - and to extend the life of institutional learning and connections into a student's future above and beyond the course/institution/formal learning environment. In this pursuit I am being conflicted - by students and administration. Administration doesn't say no to Elgg, but they are already licenesed tight with Blackboard and are pushing the new virtues of Vista 4 - blogging, eportfolio (like putting incomplete doors and windows on a time based walled garden). Alas, the students, discouraged by the slowness of our initial Elgg install, encamped to Facebook, their social network of choice (ignoring the fact that facebook owns their content, may not be around in the future, and that security of personal data is a big unknown). What to do? I think students would be better served by the university, or some hands off entity, offering a learning space service for student/alumnae artefacts - to escape the confines of licensing and the insecurities and vagaries of commercial social networks (like facebook) - as Scot expounds:

“On a more basic level, the use of commercial third-party services has risks, such as a change in charging, or even services disappearing completely, and so there could be a role for universities in offering a free secure archiving service to that students would never lose access to things they have published. It is also increasingly on the agenda of universities to make access to basic administrative processes and information available through multiple channels and devices, such as using mobile phones, iPod, and RSS feeds.”

I've proposed in the past that if jurisdictions are serious about lifelong learning, then we need tools, in control of non-profit educational entities, that support such activity. For example Elgg, sponsored and maintained by such an entity is made available to a learner throughout their life, allowing them to dip in and out of informal, nonformal and formal learning experiences and to maintain connections to the communities they encounter and associate with diverse communities. Elgg's recent modifications - OpenID and Explode (allowing a user to link to friends in other social networked communities) bode well for this being a central space.
Out with the old school

Graham Atwell has posted about a school system - Knowsley Council in Merseyside, England - that has abolished the use of the word school to describe secondary education. It will close all of its eleven existing secondary schools by 2009 and reopen as seven state-of-the-art, round-the-clock, learning centres with the aid of Microsoft (technology directing learning?).

The new centres will open from 7am until 10pm in both term-time and what used to be known as the school holidays. At weekends, they will open from 9am to 8pm.
No formal classes, no rigid timetable; the 21,000 students will work online at their own speeds on programmes that are tailor-made to match their interests - including subjects like haircare, beauty therapy, leisure and tourism, and engineering as well as the more traditional academic subjects.
They will be given their day's assignments in groups of 120 in the morning before dispersing to internet cafe-style zones in the learning centres to carry them out; will also be able to access their learning programmes from home.
Students may find themselves working beside adults - possibly even their parents - who can enlist for courses to update their skills.
Knowsley has acknowledged the need for private sector involvement in the running of schools - with Microsoft, RM (a supplier of information and communications technology to schools) and Jaguar (the local car plant) all backing the scheme.

Why are they doing this?
"Let's stop right now building new old schools," said Nick Page, who is in charge of transforming children's services in Knowsley. "We're building for the next 25 to 50 years and 25 years is a hell of a long period if we get it wrong."
Only 19 per cent of youngsters in Knowsley obtained five A* to C grade passes at GCSE in 1995 compared with 43 per cent in the rest of the country. The figure went up to up to 48 per cent last year but that is still 10 per centage points behind the national average.
"The lack of progress, catastrophically high levels of pupil absenteeism, stubbornly high levels of youth unemployment and the rapidly changing nature of the labour market drew a political response both locally and nationally," says a council document outlining the reasons for the changes.

What's the problem with this approach?
As usual it has to do with how it is done, who's involved/not involved and the blame game -

Mr. Read - a teacher and blogger with more in depth knowledge of this situation critiques:
at the heart of the ‘Knowsley Experiment’ is an over-reliance on computers and ICT.
Knowsley have been keen to jump into bed with Microsoft, the organisation that has made a fortune from education. The danger is that schools have become techno-junkies, reliant on the next fix from Microsoft. There are much cheaper alternatives like Open Source.
Poverty cannot be ignored as having an impact on student progress; some children have complex educational and social needs. You can’t always replicate a school with well-motivated children and supportive parents in another setting.
The ‘Knowsley Experiment’ is an example of how not to do it. First of all you start with the blame game. There’s that marvellous sentence, “Too many in secondary schooling expected little or nothing of local children and this had to be addressed.” Great you dedicate your life to teaching, struggling away with difficult classes, but you are the problem. Secondly, you give all the teachers P45s and make them re-apply for their own jobs. One of the council officials actually said that ‘insecurity and risk’ was an essential part of change. Lastly, when you do try to sell your programme to teachers organise ‘lectures’ where time for questions is limited and any dissenters are belittled as a Luddites or heretics.

Mr. Read goes on to make suggestions as to how it should be done:
  • Work with teachers and the community instead of imposing change by outside consultants with minimal knowledge of the local context
  • Integrate social services in schools, so nurses, youth workers and social services can work with children· Improve children’s basic skills through early intervention programmes like Reading Recovery
  • Invest in well-funded nursery education with qualified staff
  • Train teachers with professional development courses that treat them as pedagogues rather than ignorant technicians
  • Put in more funding streams like Excellence in Cities

While it is great to see a different approach to learning and a recognition that the industrial model doesn't cut it, is this approach doomed? Is this experiment doomed because it doesn't have teacher buy in and a larger social scope in its approach? Is it being directed and informed by ICT? Should private enterprise - like Microsoft -have such involvement? Is it just to teach for employment (Jaguar factory)? How will student progress be assessed? Will accredited schools accept graduates from this initiative?

Time will tell if this is seen as just another unfortunate blip in learning design or a harbinger of things to come.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Going Mobile? Take out a mortgage

Want wireless broadband internet access without thew need for a hotspot? Insert an EVDO card into your laptop and you are your own hotspot. EVDO (Evolution data Only/Evolution data Optimized) - currently avail in most U.S. cities via Verizon and Sprint - hmm what would it cost in Canada?

Bell Canada’s rates for EVDO wireless data transfer? EVDO has a maximum advertised speed of 700kbs (downstream). Per ThomasPurves..."this is 700bits/8bits perByte, 1024kBytes/MB or 0.0854 MB/s. and there are 3600seconds in an hour. So bell “recommends” that you get the 100/month plan with EVDO. What you get for $100/month? Say you want to download a large file (gasp) or (god forbid) watch some streaming video or something. At maximum speed your 250MB monthly allowance would last you exactly less than 49 minutes*. And after that, at 3/MB, Bell will let you surf the Internet for the low low incremental price of only $923/hour (or $15/minute).

So what's the cost of mobile access?
Thomas Purves suggests that Canada is a 3rd world country when it comes to Mobile ICT, except you can clearly see from this chart that even *Rwanda* has orders of magnitude better Mobile Data service than Canada. Point taken.

Friday, June 22, 2007

University of Alberta

University of Alberta
Originally uploaded by mastermaq

Always under construction - the University of Alberta, in Edmonton, continues to grow - as does our need to seek alternative means of designing and delivering learning. The University sees itself as primariliy a research institute, and to differentiate from the University of Athabasca just north of here - (Canada's "open univerisity" - don't get me started on the definition of that moniker!) - the U of A likes to see itself as a proponent of "blended" learning, not distance learning.

I suggest that we could also see ourselves as the "lifelong learning" institute, where research informs learning, and learning is activity based, flexible and open. And we build "learning and research communities" rather than cohorts, and establish learning connections that link into and out of public life, worklife and distant academia.

This is my reason to push the agenda on social software - a lonely calling at times.

Just completing my spotty attendance at the Canadian E-Learning Conference here in Edmonton. I gave a pre-conference workshop on Creating Virtual Communities and Connections using the Elgg environment. Aside from 30 minutes of network crash time the event went very well. I rather wished I had opened the floor up for more discussion, but my nerves and enthusiasm got in the way. Good grist for a reveiew of my presentation style. But I do believe the reception was positive, and may have actually generated some work for our unit from the Family Medical service here at the University. There is definite interest in creating and maintaining online communities - having a space like Elgg where those who are geographically dispersed can gather and connect.

Speaking of connecting this conference was also fertile for the face to face connections I made. I met Brian Lamb from BC, D'Arcy Norman from Calgary, and Peter Tittenberger from U of Manitoba. (Aside from Saskatchewan we had the Western provinces tippling at the same table) Thanks to Peter, who hired George Siemens as a Research Associate, we now have George steadily employed and able to get his message out to the worldwide audience. Peter and George have also brought us some excellent virtual conferences on ed tech.

Brian and D'Arcy entertained the conference with a compilation of video clips that generated guffaws, groans and laughter from the crowd. See D'Arcy's post on the presentation (and his visible appreciation of the WesteEd mall). Highlight of the movie entrails was the mash up of the nature documentary on spiders/crack spiders, the drift of Pooh into Apocalypse Now and the Sir Ken Robinson's TED talk that so pleasantly speared us for our continued dismissal and destruction of the innate desire in all children to be creative. His talk is particularly pertinent to us today because we have the tools through social software to bring creativity and connectiveness back to the forefront of learning. Maybe. At least Brian and D"Arcy brought some moments of creativity to the conference.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

One Week Job

One Week Job

Sean Aiken has taken his own path - a path with many stops - on his way not to finding a job, or a career, but something to do that he is passionate about.

His website states his mission - "My name is Sean Aiken, and like many others in my generation, I can't tell you what it is that I want to do with my life. Help me figure it out by offering me a 'One Week Job.' I am traveling week to week throughout the country working different jobs offered to me with all my wages donated to the Make Poverty History campaign."

Sean's journey is one that we should all be able to take - through formal and informal means, explore the world a bit at a time and revel in the moment as we experience it. Instead we stay with one position, or a similar series of, waiting for an upward move when so much movement is lateral or down. And we suffer, often faslling into depression or erupting in anger. I remember my father judging his worth by the job he held and how he broke when the company he was with for 24 years laid him off. None of us should see a job as an answer, a career as an affirmation of self, even a hobby or sport as a statement of our worth. We need to enjoy life, and hopefully find those things that make life enjoyable for us. I commend Sean in his serach and welcome the opportunity that the web affords him to document his experiences and take us along with him - close to real time, as it happens.
U.S Military wants high school student data

Student rights continue to be eroded - now in support of military action - In 2001 the federal No Child Left Behind law passed - it requires school districts to hand over personal contact information for all juniors and seniors to military recruiters. The law also allows students to opt out.

Berkeley High remains the only high school in the nation that has failed to comply with the military's request for students' data, a Department of Defense spokesman said.

The Berkeley Unified School District board has a strict policy against releasing students' personal information. Instead of adopting an opt out policy, it used an "opt in" procedure in which students and parents could sign a form only if they wanted their information released to the military. A month ago, the school - under pressure from the government to release the data or lose funding - changed its policy that blocked the release of students' personal information. The new policy allows students and parents who do not wish to be contacted by military recruiters to opt out by signing a form.

But the school did not immediately release the data to the government. Instead, a group of parents have been on a campaign to ask each and every student whether they want to opt out.
Thus far, 90 percent of the students at Berkeley High have refused to have their names released to miliary recruiters. Berkeley High risked losing $10 million in federal funding, and possibly faced legal action, if it did not change its policy regarding military recruitment.

Time will only tell when Canada's actions in Afghanistan start to breed similar erosions of civil rights here in Canada.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Be irrepressible
"Chat rooms monitored. Blogs deleted. Websites blocked. Search engines restricted. People imprisoned for simply posting and sharing information. The Internet is a new frontier in the struggle for human rights. Governments – with the help of some of the biggest IT companies in the world – are cracking down on freedom of expression ...get your own feed and post to your blog"

Monday, June 11, 2007

School to Prison Pipeline

The U.S schools system is becoming a fast track to prison. Can ours be fra behind? What happens in the U.S. often insidiously finds it's way into our system at some point. It's all a reaction to the fear that has been pervading our atmosphers since 9/11. Everything is a risk, everyone is suspect. And the fist of punishment precedes the hand of help.

But this is beyond the pale - student behavior that in my time would have resulted in a trip to the principal's office is now resulting in a trip to the police station.

Exhibit A.: a 6-year-old girl in Florida who was handcuffed by the police and taken off to the county jail after she threw a tantrum in her kindergarten class.

Exhibit B: Police in Brooklyn recently arrested more than 30 young people, ages 13 to 22, as they walked toward a subway station, on their way to a wake for a teenage friend who had been murdered. No evidence of misbehaviour, no drugs or weapons. They were accused of gathering unlawfully and of disorderly conduct.

Exhibit C: Police in Baltimore handcuffed a 7-year-old boy and took him into custody for riding a dirt bike on the sidewalk.

Exhibit D: a middle school student in Palm Beach County who was caught throwing rocks at a soda can was arrested and charged with a felony - hurling a "deadly missile."

Exhibit E: a 14-year-old high school freshman in Paris, Tex. was arrested for shoving a hall monitor, convicted of "assault on a public servant" and sentenced to 7 year prison term.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Future of Education Conference 07

George Siemens and his compatriots at the U of Mnitoba are doing an excellent job in running another virtual conference - The Future of Education includes a number of insightful presenters (via elluminate) and the ongoing discussion among the attendees on the sessions Moodle site and a link to all resources through a Pageflakes Portal I've missed most of the live sessions but have been taking part in much of the discussions (because the presentations are available via the podcast feed I can bone up pretty fast) . George has done a great job.... some thoughts: suggestions:

1. You would think that on-line conferences can be more easily accessed than face to face BUT only if you allot your time and close your door (if you have one) otherwise work demands seep in...
2. interesting how the text dialogue in Elluminate sometimes takes a different series of routes than the actual presentation being made. Listening in and taking part in the text chat is a great study in multiple modalities - more of the continuous partial attention
3. Moodle is a nice tool, but it is an LMS - I'd like to see Elgg used
4. Elluminate recordings - force you on a path through the whole recorded presentation - I like to speed up, slow down, pick a slide - no can do. Give me the freedom...

Commenst aside this was another great educational experience - another opportunity to share perceptions and experience and move towards change...

Pageflakes - Get it Together

Pageflakes - Get it Together

Get it together? My life is like a locust storm and here comes the opportunity to minimize the chaos. Instead of jumping all over the web I can feed all my favourite areas into one personal web page - bringing it all to me rather than me to the all - I can see this becoming a very big thing - or err set of things -anyway pageflakes is your personalized startpage on the Internet. Your address book, local weather information, to-do-list, news, blogs and much more – all on one page that you can access from anywhere.

Dave Cormier demonstrated this aggergator use at the Future of Education Conference sponsored by the U of Manitoba. Dave suggests that this is something we will be integrating into education 5 years from now - whicch of course with the pace of change could be 3 (or 10yrs) - I can see many savvy educators now teaching through blogs turning to this as a "learning spaces aggregator". Now if a pageflake base can be built but students/users can then modify as desired and dock with formal learning tools as required and Elgg gets tied in as the community tool - the learning ecologies we could envision...

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Gary Stager : What's the Difference Between School and Prison?

Gary Stager : What's the Difference Between School and Prison?

In addition to that previous posting on the cvonfiscation of ipods and cellphones in new York, Gary has done such a good job just pulling items out of headlines that make schools look a lot like prison - here are a few - follow link for more (these are the U.S. but most ring true for Canada too):

Criminalizing the Classrom: The Over-policing of the New York City Schools, raise serious concerns whose consequences are "significant and consequential damage to the learning environment."

Students remain grouped by age while increasingly segregated by race (here and here) and gender in single-sex classes (more here).

Student speech rights and press freedom continue to decline. (resources from the ACLU & Rutherford Institute )

We have long accepted the practice of seeking permission to use a toilet in school.

School security costs are through the roof.

A school banned conversation between boys and girls.

The Supreme Court of the United States is actually entertaining the notion that a principal may punish a student at any time for what they do outside of school or school events. The issue at stake is if a school principal may do any action that "disrupts its mission."

School officials continue to assert jurisdiction over what students do with their home computers despite constant rulings on behalf of students.

This school and others are requiring students to remain silent during lunch. Another school claims that the silent lunches they deny exist are for "safety purposes."

This school requires "silent transitions" between classes. If students talk between classes, they must attend "silent lunch."

Special paint is being purchased by schools to jam cell phone use. This continues the desire to treat cell phone use or possession as a crime.

Art, music, foreign languages and even physical education (social studies and science too) are being eliminated from school days as a response to calls for academic accountability.

Collective punishment (prohibited by the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949) is a hallmark of NCLB with all teachers and students held "accountable" for the test results of a few.

A Santa Fe elementary school student was duct-taped to his chair by a teaching intern. Here is a similar story from Oregon. Here's one from California. Even the Aussies are doing it!

Drop that Ipod, kid! Now!

What an incredibly ridiculous, stupid, inadequate, repulsive, expletive response to the evolution of learning and personal communication. As reported by Will Richardson New York city police and school administrators set up metal detectors at a middle school on the Upper West Side of New York City and confiscated “404 cellphones, 69 iPods, 23 other electronic devices, two knives and one imitation gun”.

"Out of 900 plus students, 404 cell phones were “confiscated” from the kids, some of whom were put to tears over the incident. About 70 iPods and a couple dozen other assorted devices were nabbed as well, all causing some parents to threaten lawsuits and the building principal to avoid questions at the end of the day."

What are we teaching these kids? Is it okay for us to have cell phones and Ipods but that they can't have them? Why not? Maybe we just don't trust them. This isn't about safety, it's about control. And fear that they will misuse the technology. Odd, the appropriate response might be to teach them how to use these tools, incorporate them into their learning, empower them! Instead there'll be a them against us ethos established, and the walls will go up - the walls the school builds to control the kids and the walls the kids will put up to block access to their facebook accounts where they will network and smolder about yet another time when they were made to feel disenfranchised, disempowered and just plain angry.

If this continued we won't have made us of the information revolution, and students will not trust institutions and suspect every attempt we make to integrate web2.0 tools and methodologies into our learning environment.

It's not the technology!

2 Cents Worth: David Warlick is always intriguing and provocative. I like that in a person, or even a thing. And in one of his musing moments (he has lots of those) he ponders what the NES standards coming from the ISTE might look like in the classroom. He is so right when he contends that "for quite some time, have been complaining about an over emphasis with the technology, that it’s actually the information revolution that we should be focused on." This is a page out of my book as well - and we can never tire from focussing people on this distinction. But, the kicker is, “What does this look like in the classroom?” “What are students and teachers doing that affects the outcomes of: creativity and innovation, communications and collaboration, research and information fluency, critical thinking, problems-solving, and decision-making, digital citizenship, and technology operations and concepts.”

David has created a slide show to demonstrate the ideas roiling around in his mind - and it is a good set of ideas - and a beginning to how we should be making use of technology and teaching our kids how to effectively integrate into their academic and personal and eventually professional worlds - see his Slideshare presentation where he walks through the process of his thoughts...

Friday, May 25, 2007

Look Both Ways

Look Both Ways

Linda Criddle, parent and ex Microsoft has a good website (yes she is plugging her book on intenet safety - but that's good) and provides us with some obvious and not so obvious advice about our online activity:

Buy all the safety software you need and use good filtering tools. Keep them current and use them unfailingly-as automatically as locking your door when you leave the house.

Discuss online safety with your family and friends. Decide together how you will help protect each other online and set rules that reflect your personal and family values. Decide what activities are okay, and what information it's fine to give out and to whom. Consider using an Internet Safety Contract For Families.

Be selective about who you interact with online and what information you make public. The risks are relatively low when you stick with people you know—your family, and friends. Going into public chat rooms or opening your blog up to the general public, for example, significantly increases your risk.

Think before you post online any information that can personally identify you, a family member, or friend in public place. (That means in a public blog, in online white pages, on job hunt sites, or in any other place anyone on the Internet can see.) Sensitive information includes birth date, gender, town, e-mail address, school name—even photos. This information can be used to help someone find you or steal your identity.

Pay attention to the risks of e-mail. Think twice before you open attachments or click links in e-mail-even if you know the sender-as these can be used to transmit spam and viruses to your computer.

Never respond to e-mail asking you to provide personal information, especially your account number or password, even if it seems to be from a business you trust. Reputable businesses will not ask you for this information in e-mail.

Put your family computer and Internet-connected game consoles in a central location. A family room or kitchen makes a good place where you can watch over your children’s online activity.

Never, ever meet in person someone you've met online without taking somebody else along. Remember, people are not always who they say they are.

Review the features on your children's cell phones. Can they download images from the Internet, use instant messaging, or access services that allow others to pinpoint their location? All of these features could be a cause for concern, depending on your child’s maturity and situation.

Find out how and where to report abuse. Create an environment that encourages your kids to report abuse to you. Acting as a responsible Internet citizen can help stop the illegal activity, harassment, and predatory behavior of online criminals.

Don’t trade personal information for “freebies.” (Good advice for kids, too.) Just as in the physical world, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Unwanted software like spyware and viruses often piggybacks on software that’s “free.”

Check out the safeguards on computers your child uses outside the home-at his or her school, the public library, and the homes of your child's friends.

Choose a safe online name. Use e-mail addresses, IM names, chat nicknames, and other such names that don't give away too much personal information. Pick a name that doesn't help identify you (your age, for example) or locate you. Avoid flirtatious or provocative names that may cause unwanted attention.

Sit down with your child regularly to review Internet contacts and activity—buddies, blogs, browser history, image files, music downloads, and so on. Let them know you'll do this periodically. Explain that this is not to violate their privacy, but to protect them and the family from risks.

Facebook's viral plan

Facebook's plan to hook up the world - May. 24, 2007

"Imagine that when you shopped online for a digital camera, you could see whether anyone you knew already owned it and ask them what they thought. Imagine that when you searched for a concert ticket you could learn if friends were headed to the same show. Or that you knew which sites - or what news stories - people you trust found useful and which they disliked. Or maybe you could find out where all your friends and relatives are, right now (at least those who want to be found)." Or maybe rumours become fact in the flash of a pixel...

24 million members - growing at 150,000 a day - a ready made audience that connects, prods and advises each other is now available to any application developer. Facebook is aiming to be the social networking platform offering multiple applications and interlinked referrals...I don't know - it just seems the idea of loosely connected is getting tightly connected, and mass is going to impact upon social capital, and localization is going to crash against internationalism, and dominant cultures will prevail...and those in the loop will continue to benefit and a new class (or a continuation of) of disaffected and disenfranchised will appear.

And the idea of everybody in the world (the goal) being connected into the same platform (wait a minute isn't that Microsoft?) seems to bring up some sort of Gibson generated cyber nightmare waiting to happen. Am I missing the desire to connect? To paraphrase Gibson -Maybe the future is already here. It's just not widely distributed yet - to every human being - to me?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Star Wars Mash up

STAR WARS TO MAKE HUNDREDS OF CLIPS AVAILABLE FOR MASHUPS Lucasfilm plans to make clips of "Star Wars" available to fans on the Internet to mash up at will. The clips -- about 250 of them, from all six Star Wars movies -- will land on the Web site tomorrow, part of this week's 30th-anniversary celebrations of the release of his hit movie. Working with an easy-to-use editing program from Eyespot Corp. of San Diego, fans can cut, add to and retool the clips. Then they can post their creations to blogs or social-networking sites like MySpace.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Star Trek Scotty’s Space Ashes Lost Up A Hill - Hecklerspray: Music, Movies, TV, Celebs, Games and Gossip

Star Trek Scotty’s Space Ashes Lost Up A Hill - A rocket that blasted into suborbital space two weeks ago from a remote area in New Mexico and contained ashes of late Star Trek star James Doohan has fallen back to Earth and landed in a mountainous region of the state that's made it difficult to recover, according to a spokeswoman for the company … "It's not like Mr. Doohan's lost. The rocket did hit its landing target, but it's in a very mountainous and rugged terrain. They can't get to it by foot or by vehicle. They have to take a helicopter up there."

Captain Kirk never did listen to Scotty's plaintiff cry about the ship['s ability - "She can't take anymore cap'n" - and sadly in his last trip technology failed him yet again. Warp drives aren't what they used to be.

Pentagon blocks websites from staff and troops

New York Times, May 14 - This is yet another case of institutional censorship that is just not going to work. The Pentagon has banned access to MySpace, YouTube, Metacafe, IFilm, StupidVideos, FileCabi, BlackPlanet, Hi5, Pandora, MTV,, live365 and Photobucket. They cited technical and security concerns - “We’ve got to have the networks open to do our mission. They have to be reliable, timely and secure.” Private internet connections still have access, but most troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are limited to Pentagon service, Stars and Stripes notes.

"Today’s Web site ban and last month’s revision of military blogging policy were partly justified by operational security concerns. Howevere in reality this is just a censorsjip issue - seeking to reduce the voices of individual soldiers by making it more difficult to publish their own material and not allowing them to see or hear information that the Pentagon doesn't want them to see or hear.

Oddly, the ban also arrived as the American military started to increase its profile on YouTube, posting official footage that seeks to counter other footage on YouTube that is less than supportive of the Pentagon and US military actions.

Through their blogging policy and this comprehnsive site ban they have muffled free speech, evn free speech in support of their policies and actions. It is a loss for everyone, and will prove to be an example of great folly - many will find a way around this, and many will still find access to these sites.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Using Wiki in Education » Blog Archive » Why “computer time” and “cheating” are good for students

Why “computer time” and “cheating” are good for students Stewart Mader is so right in this exhortation of the educational system and its inexplicable banning of Ipods in the classroom because students are "cheating". Students are not cheating when they are using technology to find answers and assistance in responding to questions. "Putting facts at your fingertips" is the sort of skill they will be prized for in the workplace. If educational institutions truly want to fight cheating they would beef up their assessment strategies. Why not develop more challenging assessments - something other than true and false and fact based. Why not try to create application questions, project activities, cases studies. These are the sort of real life assessments that need the sort of skills demonstrated when students use technology to assist them in the determination of appropriate answers.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Ont. government bans Facebook

Ont. government workers told to log off Facebook

What a throwback this is - did anyone actually do a study to determine who and how often and what they are doing on these site? This issue is so important that the Premier - the leader of the province -had to make the announcement? It reminds of the 1950's and 60's when you couldn't use a company phone to make a personal call.

Among the things that bothers me about this are:
1.Premier Dalton McGuinty says he doesn't see how Facebook adds value to a workplace environment.
2. Facebook joins YouTube, gambling websites and hard-core sex sites as forbidden fruit in any provincial government office.
3. Lack of respect for employees as responsible, discerning adults.
4. Government deciding on a "site" - why not ban all social networking sites? Why not ban web conferencing?

Can Facebook add value to a workplace? Arguably, it can. It is a social networking site - groups are formed for various reasons, professional and personal. The opportunity to network, connect - and stay in touch with people that may be of assistance to your work activities - why not?

What about messenger services or Skype - do the contacts list always have to be work related? How to define that? Facebook is now equivalent to a porn site? A total lack of respect for employees - what actually prompted this? Did all employees join up to facebook - were they meeting online? Oh, my God! Were they networking and getting things done? Was their productivity diminished?

And finally, if the government wants to start picking sites to block the IT folks will be very busy indeed. Monitoring all employees on a minute by minute basis to see what other social software toolset they are accessing - they'll be blocking Eduspaces, LinkedIn, Guesse, Orkit, Skype - the list goes on and on and change by the hour. Good luck to the IT censors! What a soul sucking job that would be.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Disney hijacks social networking for kids Disney unveils social networking for kids

Well with MySpace owned by News Corp. and a myriad of other social networking sites being groped by investors it isn't suprising that Disney would want to step in and protect my children. Hmmm. A safe, social nirvanna where preteens create personal mini websites like , with parental controls. A chat feature requiring parental approval for kids to go beyond trading canned messages ("hey Mickey, where's Goofy", Ariel, have you lost your voice?") and preventing users from revealing personal information, or from using profanity ("Holy !#%^ Batman).

And hey, "Kids can gather games, videos and music files from Disney's promotions-rich website and place them on a page that they decorate with a selection of motifs from the company's character library. “There is a weaving together of entertainment and promotion and marketing,” he added. “It's difficult to say where one ends and the other begins.”

Yeh, right. It's also difficult to see where blatant advertising and propoganda stops and a desire to protect my child begins. Why not protect my child from brazen advertising, gluttonous consumerism and sickly cuteness? Good idea - bad execution; wouldn't it be nice if one of these media conglomerates wanted to really contribute to social networking by doing something without expecting more in return? Disney did this for themselves - the kids are just tools for their marketing. No thanks.

I'll keep an eye on my own kids, set my own restrictions and take responsibility for ensuring they have a healthy, beneficial upbringing.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Psiphon - creating cracks in the wall

To add to my previous posting on Psiphon here's an entry from Scott Leslie's blog that give further info:

"Psiphon, developed by the Citizen’s Lab at U of T, allows individuals to form social networks that proxy web traffic in a way that no central censor will ever keep up with. See an illustration here that helps explain it. Instead of just a few central proxy server sites that authorities can block themselves, this turns any machine with an IP address into a potential proxy, but unlike more anonymous p2p approaches this works through the idea of small trusted networks. "

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Whose 'Pedia is best?

Wikipedia a force for good? Nonsense, says a co-founder-News-Tech & Web-TimesOnline

The British education secretary, speaking to educators, suggested that the internet as “an incredible force for good in education” for teachers and pupils, singling out Wikipedia for praise. Larry Sanger, one of the founders of Wikipedia counters this claim suggesting that the website’s integrity is in question. Sanger left Wikipedia, and two weeks ago launched an online encyclopaedia called, which he said would be monitored and edited by academics and experts as well as accepting public contributions.

But our options don't stop there - if you're distressed by the liberal bias in Wikipedia and want to make sure that you're only confronted by conservative factsl, turn to Conservapedia... which has this entry about Harry Potter:

The English "public" schools Hogwarts resembles are Protestant institutions; but at Hogwarts, chapel is conspicuously absent. A failure to mention Christianity, combined with the presence of wizardry, have led some to wonder whether Rowling is substituting paganism for Christianity.

Luckily the education secretary didn't mention Conservapedia as "an incredible force for good in education."

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Open CourseWare - Open University

LearningSpace - OpenLearn LearningSpace - The Open University

Finally - shared learning content that is structured and pedagogically sound. Unlike the disjointed, unstructured mash of MIT's Open CourseWare project this is what sharable open learning resources is about. Open University's offerings include pedagogically sound preparation, activities and assessment. Open Learning offers complete "lesson plans" complete with interactive multimedia.

Can a University really refuse to offer online courses?

learning technology: Can a University really refuse to offer online courses?

This posting by a fellow blogger deserves restatement -

"Is it really possible for an institution of higher learning to refuse to offer or stop offering online courses to its students? Baylor University has taken that position and will no longer offer any online courses.

At first glance, that seems ludicrous and downright unbelievable; what is the leadership at Baylor thinking?

Many institutions, 2-year and 4-year, are literally and still rushing to the web to create and offer online courses; it often increases enrollment for the institution and scheduling flexibility for learners. However, most institutions are and will continue to struggle with the quality issue. Well . . . issues. What does a quality course look like once developed? What constitutes a quality online learning experience? What resources are necessary to develop a quality online course? Can faculty - trained in their content areas - create quality online courses? What sort of and how much training do they need to do so?

Faculty are good at what they do in the classroom, but delivering the same type of quality learning experience in the online environment - no matter how much administrators and faculty may insist otherwise - is a different animal. Teaching online requires using new technologies to develop materials, to present content in a meaningful, accessible and usable manner, and to interact with learners. The pace is fast and furious - from listservs to discussions to wikis to blogs to other social networking tools; and most institutions expect faculty to keep up with that fast pace. And, keeping up isn't as easy as many faculty and administrators would like to think. Emerging from graduate programs over the last five years are educational professionals that have spent their entire academic careers focused on the cognitive impact of technology, and that group is struggling to keep up with the pace. How can we reasonably expect faculty with terminal degrees in English, Mathematics, Political Science etc to keep up with a field - other than their own - that is moving that quickly when those trained in the field are struggling to keep up? Ultimately, a decision, like Baylor's, to focus on what the institution can unquestionably continue to do well, is not a bad one; that's much more desirable than joining a race that can not be won or even sustained . . ."

I agree with what is said here - if an institution is going to offer distance based courses - they MUST build and maintain the instructional and design and evaluations skills necessary to build and maintain the distance learning. Too many institutions are moving into alternative delivery and just adding more resposnibility and expectations on a Faculty that often hasn't even been taught how to teach, let alone how to design learning materials.

Main Page - AcademicBlogs

Main Page - AcademicBlogs

This website provides a community developed, wiki-style listing of academically related web logs (blogs). The Chronicle of Higher education published an article about that provides background information and general commentary about the site.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Circumventing the Internet censors

In those countries that monitor internet usage it takes a foreign "friend" and/or filter beating software to allow them to surf the net without Big Brother watching. Researchers and academics in China and Iran for example are using software like Psiphon or Tor to surf the net without being oberved by their governments. Tor works by itself, Psiphon requires someone you trust, outside the monitored area to allow you to use their system by proxy. The drawback to Psiphon is that the "friend" can monitor what the user does, so trust, the basis of social networking, is crucial. How does it work?

Psiphon, a new open-source software program developed at the University of Toronto, allows academics and others in foreign countries to bypass government Internet filters. Here's how:

  • A user in a country with censorship tries to access a prohibited site, like Amnesty International's. The government filter blocks him.
  • The user locates a friend or family member in a country without government censorship. (For various reasons, connections to personal computers are not generally blocked.)
  • The uncensored friend installs Psiphon, sets up a Psiphon "node," and passes a Web-site address and password back to the user in the country with censorship, sometimes on paper or via telephone.
  • The user logs in to the node, connecting him with the friend's computer. Psiphon encrypts the information with a secure connection known as "https."
  • The friend's computer transmits unrestricted Internet access back to the user, circumventing the filter.

But lest we get smug and believe our freedoms are inviolate - take heed. "Western universities control Internet use, too. Students and faculty members, forget about legalistic "responsible-use agreements" that suspend their right to, say, download music or run businesses on university computers. Vague clauses in those agreements give colleges latitude to ban other activities, says Paul A. Cesarini,... Bowling Green officials confronted Mr. Cesarini for using Tor in his office to prepare for classes on cybersecurity. They said Tor violated the university's computer-use policy and asked him to stop - he refused. But not before entertaining the stone visage and stern demands of the tech police.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Students Punished for Facebook Comments

A student council president of a Robert F. Hall Catholic Secondary School in Toronto asked a very pertinent question after being suspended for "online bullying" for negative comments made about the school Principal in Facebook, "When does the school's jurisdiction end?" said Sultana, 17, , adding as far as he knows none of the 19 students was accessing Facebook during school time or on school computers. Since Sultana says he only viewed the comments but did not take part - yet suffered a suspension - where does guilt begin? By association? By viewing comments? By opposing the principal? By voicing free will? By using Facebook to vent? Having an opinion at 17?

The students involved in this online discussion, not able to plead their case or discuss the suspension, are naturally concerned and confused. But what it really signifies is that there is something wrong with the administration of this school - and the students in their frustration were venting about that. Not only is there concern about how they were treated by the principal before this Facebook discussion, but also why they are denied opportunities to discuss the issues when punsihment is meted out.

The long arm of totalitarian control, denying opportunities to face the charges, denial of freedoms - exercised by a principal who obviously has some organizational problems to deal with. This is not what we should be teaching our students.