Thursday, December 17, 2009

Is Facebook Private?

Lately people are talking about the "new Facebook privacy settings" and I wonder, once again, why anybody still thinks Facebook, MySpace, or any other social networking site (much less any other data you have stored on someone else's computer) is private in any way, shape, or form. After all, the basic premise of the web and the Internet is that you store data on a computer or computers that other people can access.

Social networking is the latest example of Orwellian 'newspeak' in action. Facebook's "privacy settings" take that to another level in an attempt to provide the feeling of security when placing one's personal information on the Internet. When I read the discussion of these new features I can't help but be further convinced that nothing you put on the Internet is private. (Let's not even talk about what people might be doing with the information that we all freely give away every day.)

To take the Orwellian metaphor even further consider these quotes:

"To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle."

It is truly difficult to see what risk you take when it's so much fun doing something. Sometimes you can't know the problems you are facing because they have not surfaced. Still, if you read about the pitfalls of social networking it's hard not to think of them as an accident waiting to happen. Which leads me to this Orwellian quote:

"Every generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it."

I think about this all the time being a teacher at a modern, college prep, high school filled with high tech students who are living large online. Having grown up living in a house with a high school teacher I recall my own sense of being smarter than my parents and the teachers in most of my classes. Today I see the folly in those thoughts. However, I do see that the younger generation has something for us to see and use in the world today. We just need to find a balance between the true wisdom of those who came before us and the new knowledge and intelligence gathered by young people today.

Here is a note I sent out to all the staff and students at school this week. I hope you take the time to think about what you decide to put out there on the Internet.


Hi Everyone,

I hope you are all doing well and getting ready to enjoy some down time from school and all the pressures of exams. During the coming weeks you may find that you have some extra time to enjoy some entertaining moments with your Facebook friends.

You should all be aware that Facebook has announced and will be implementing new privacy settings for all accounts. These changes will make it much easier to broadly share your personal information. If you accept Facebook's recommended privacy settings, Facebook will make your status updates, links, photos, videos, and notes available to the entire Internet via all the major search engines.

I recommend that you explore your settings and manually adjust them to your own personal needs. Select Settings -> Privacy Settings from the blue menu bar and review the options in there.

In addition, you should be aware that Facebook will now share a standard set of your personal information both on the Internet and with third-party Facebook applications. This includes your name, profile photo, gender, current city, networks, friend list, and pages. This information is now considered visible to everyone and you do not have control to change that setting (unless you close your account).

The attached article explains the change in greater detail.

I encourage you to raise this topic with your friends and relatives. Let me know if you have further questions.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Holidays to one and all,



Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Save the Redwoods

Dan Burgess, a long time friend of mine, lives in Crescent City, CA near the Oregon Border. For many years he has worked on the forest whether it was restoring salmon spawning areas, clearing invasive species from stream areas and lakes, or even searching for the famed spotted owl. For the past several years now he's been doing what I think is the greatest work of his life. Saving the Redwood forests of the Northern California Coast.

Not only is Dan helping to restore the forest but he's doing it with a variety of different people and organizations all working toward the same goal. Making the forest back into what it was before humans began cutting it down. Personally I can't think of anything more important one can do in life.

You can learn more about it by watching this video:

Forest Restoration in the Mill Creek Watershed

When You are done, you can see more by visiting film maker Thomas B. Dunklin's site to learn more.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Children who use technology are 'better writers'

Recently at work we've had a discussion about an article from the BBC claiming that "Children who use technology are 'better writers'." Some of the comments people made were great. They made me think of the National Rifle Association and I came up with this slogan:

"Technology doesn't make people stupid, people using technology makes people stupid"

Actually, I don't really believe that but the numbers are staggering. In one recent presentation I heard these statistics:

An average 21-year-old in the US today has:

- Watched 20,000 hours of TV
- Played 10,000 hours of video games
- Sent or received 250,000 E-mails and/or text messages

If you have read Malcolm Gladwell you would know that he believes it takes approximately 10,000 hours to master something like playing an instrument or a sport or almost any complicated human skill. He cites Bill Gates and The Beatles as two examples of people who spent countless hours developing their skills in a single area and how that helped them become so successful at what they did in life.

If we can agree with Gladwell, and these statistics are correct, then we are, indeed, raising a generation of people who have mastered skills in areas that many of us might not consider useful (at the expense of opportunities to become skilled in other more important areas).

When I speak with parents and educators who are calling for us to do more to integrate technology in the educational experience I always describe how I believe it's all about what you do with the technology. The statistics above indicate that most young people focus their use of technology on social and entertainment behaviors. Our job as educators is to take the lead and design a curriculum that takes advantage of the technology but that also focuses the student's energy in a direction we believe will help them grow intellectually and academically. I see that happening everyday. We can certainly do more, but it does happen everyday.

Some people are advocating for the elimination of books in schools. Libraries should be electronic they say. I'm not sure the jury has made that decision just yet. I have worked with many teachers over the years who combine technology with the reading of books. The simplest and perhaps most profound experiences are those where E-mail discussion groups or blogs are utilized around what the class is reading. This allows discussion to expand beyond the classroom and gives new opportunities for people to share their thoughts in another context. Others have combined the creation of multimedia with the text of poetry and books. These are wonderful ways to integrate technology and maintain the traditional experience of reading.

Please let me know if you are interested in exploring these ideas in more depth. I would love to work with you on them. Educators learn best from each other and I often lead teacher technology share-a-thons for faculty. If you have something you'd like to share please join in the conversation.

Thanks! Brad

Online Experiences Increase Civic Participation

This article and video is from Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning

Produced by Ben Wolff

Research by education professor Joe Kahne shows online experiences—such as participation on fan sites—can help make kids more active offline citizens.

Joe Kahne, professor of education at Mills College and director of the school’s Civic Engagement Research Group, has studied the connection between students’ participation with digital media and their level of civic engagement. He finds that kids who participate in community activities online are more likely to later get involved with civic actions offline, even if their online activities appear to be only social or for fun.

Kahne notes that young people who use digital media are picking up skills on how to find, assess and share information. New media provides opportunities for young people to be active participants—as opposed to old media, such as newspapers, which provide learning opportunities but no way to immediately share or add input.

More good news: Kahne also found that participation in online communities doesn’t isolate or distract young people from other forms of social life.

Joe Kahne on Civic Participation Online and Off from Spotlight on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

So, you want to integrate technology? Why? What are the pedagogical reasons for doing this? What do you hope to gain from an educational standpoint?

Here is a collection of articles, videos, and other resources that explore the use of technology in the curriculum. Some argue for using technology some suggest teachers should consider not bringing technology into a lesson. I will be adding materials to this page as the year goes on so please come back and visit.

The discussions are broad and general but I think you'll get the sense that they are saying you should be able to know when it's right to integrate technology and how to think about changing the lesson or the environment for the lesson to make sure the learning you are planning for will actually occur. This is as opposed to going with a tech-centered lesson no matter what.

If you'd like to comment, please click the discussion link to type out some of your thoughts here.

Enjoy!, Brad


Making Your Chalk (I mean computer) Teach?

This set of powerpoint slides includes highlights from a 1951 filmstrip created for a professional development program with educators using chalkboards.

How is this relevant today? Are there parallels with using websites, blogs, interactive whiteboards? What can we learn about the tools we use today from the way we taught about the tools we used in the 1950s?

     Making Your Chalk Teach

Getting Attention in a Laptop Classroom (November 2008)

Schools Drop Laptop Program But Are They Dropping the Ball As Well? (May 2007)

Bill Gates remarks at the National Summit on High Schools (February 2005)