Posts Tagged “washpost”

Ian Shapira from The Washington Post has written an article this week describing how many young teachers in Washington DC have Facebook accounts that are publicly accessible and are filled with content that represents them in inappropriate ways. Essentially, they are being young adults, but in a way that they don’t realize is in the public domain.

It’s almost like Googling someone: Log on to Facebook. Join the Washington, D.C., network. Search the Web site for your favorite school system. And then watch the public profiles of 20-something teachers unfurl like gift wrap on the screen, revealing a sense of humor that can be overtly sarcastic or unintentionally unprofessional — or both.

The article goes on to ask whether teachers should be judged on their out-of-school lives if it doesn’t affect their effectiveness with students:

Do the risque pages matter if teacher performance is not hindered and if students, parents and school officials don’t see them? At what point are these young teachers judged by the standards for public officials?

In states including Florida, Colorado, Tennessee and Massachusetts, teachers have been removed or suspended for MySpace postings, and some teachers unions have begun warning members about racy personal Web sites. But as Facebook, with 70 million members, and other social networking sites continue to grow, scrutiny will no doubt spread locally.

Whether they “should” or not is a big discussion point, but whether they “will” or not really isn’t.

In today’s society where political correctness reigns and public scrutiny and “moral” standards are held in front of everyone’s face, there is no doubt that Washington DC will follow the other states in removing teachers for social networking behavior.

Do adults need to be re-taught what privacy means since it’s meaning has changed with the coming of the internet?

Do they know how to manage their own Facebook accounts – never mind teach students how to protect theirs?

Like several other teachers interviewed, Webster said she thought her page could be seen only by people she accepted as “friends.” But like those of many teachers on Facebook, Webster’s profile was accessible by the more than 525,000 members of the Washington, D.C., network. Anyone can join any geographic network.

Are young teachers in training ready to defend their Facebook profile in an interview?

“I know for a fact that when a superintendent in Missouri was interviewing potential teachers last year, he would ask, ‘Do you have a Facebook or MySpace page?’ ” said Todd Fuller, a spokesman for the Missouri State Teachers Association, which is warning members to clean up their pages. “If the candidate said yes, then the superintendent would say, ‘I’ve got my computer up right now. Let’s take a look.’ “

Ultimately, the lessons of cyber-safety and responsibility that we teach our students needs to be shared with our teachers too. It should be included in their professional training (along with learning to use web 2.0 tools to enhance education of course).

All students, no matter what future profession they go into, also need to see the importance of knowing what they share and how they share online. And what better way to model this for a teacher than to share the very impact it has on our own lives and how we are perceived through what we and others share online.

Too many believe that the rules of public behavior are abandoned in Facebook. Here’s a terrific video which makes this very clear. Thanks to Brian Lockwood for the link to this on Twitter.

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No dice for Second Life. Or at least IN Second Life. Washington Post ran this article saying that they have just made a decision to ban gambling in Second Life.

“Because there are a variety of conflicting gambling regulations around the world we have chosen to restrict gambling in Second Life,” Robin Harper, senior vice president of marketing and business development for Linden Research, which runs Second Life, wrote in a posting to the company’s blog July 25.

The announcement was posted under her virtual persona’s name, Robin Linden.

This was a decision made with sensitivity to cultures around the world for which gambling is taboo (a nice move). Additionally (and more likely the real motivation), they also needed to avoid the fact that it was illegal in many areas, before Congress came a-knocking.

The short article is a funny one though because they throw in some random other facts:

An Australian newspaper published an article this week stating that terrorist groups are training for attacks by practicing in the online world. In Italy, a priest writing in the religious journal La Civilta Cattolica urged missionaries to consider Second Life a new place to save souls.

Now you can’t tell me that’s not a sweet gig for the young, would-be missionary. You’ve been lazing around playing computer games all your life and now instead of heading off to isolated areas, war-torn nations, or impoverished villages to convert…ahhh…just stay in your pajamas, grab a bowl of cereal and go save some souls online.

Maybe you can get some e-mailing done while you’re at it.

Just keep an eye out for those terrorists.

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In her high school track and field career, [Allison] Stokke had won a 2004 California state pole vaulting title, broken five national records and earned a scholarship to the University of California, yet only track devotees had noticed. Then, in early May, she received e-mails from friends who warned that a year-old picture of Stokke idly adjusting her hair at a track meet in New York had been plastered across the Internet. She had more than 1,000 new messages on her MySpace page. A three-minute video of Stokke standing against a wall and analyzing her performance at another meet had been posted on YouTube and viewed 150,000 times.

This is a quote from a Washington Post article on how a high school senior girl’s privacy and life has been turned upside down by the internet. A photo of her (that she didn’t even post) circulated and created “celebrity” status for her when she didn’t want it and didn’t ask for it.

We live in an age where celebrity life is scrutinized by paparazzi and Web 2.0 tools have allowed non-celebrities to actively seek their 15 minutes of fame through blogging, social networking, and YouTube.

But Allison Stokke didn’t actively seek anything. She is now living her own life, suffering the invasions of privacy, accepted by movie and rock stars, without any of the “perks” of that stardom.

Stokke has decided that control is essentially beyond her grasp. Instead, she said, she has learned a distressing lesson in the unruly momentum of the Internet. A fan on a Cal football message board posted a picture of the attractive, athletic pole vaulter. A popular sports blogger in New York found the picture and posted it on his site. Dozens of other bloggers picked up the same image and spread it. Within days, hundreds of thousands of Internet users had searched for Stokke’s picture and leered.


Now her father has to come home from work and scan message boards for potential stalkers!

Why am I blogging about this?

safetypin.jpgBecause, to me, this emphasizes the overwhelming obligation educators have to teach responsible use of the internet.

We need to teach being safe alongside acting responsibly.

We already teach kids to drive safely.

We have health classes that teach students about eating healthy, sex, and drugs.

We teach them to be safe.

And we teach them to act responsibly for the safety of others.

Now we find our students living in a world where their own safety and the safety of others is global in the blink of an eye.

So how can we not teach them the same things as they apply to the Internet?

Image by Marshall Astor, found at Flikr Creative Commons

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Know what a CAPTCHA is? I didn’t, or at least I didn’t know that’s what they were called. CAPTCHA stands for “completely automated public Turing tests to tell computers and humans apart.”

What are they?

There those little images that we have to translate into text in order to submit our orders or comment on a blog.


So what do they have to do with harnessing human power? This really interesting Washington Post article describes how the time spent doing that could be spent helping digitize thousands of books that are too difficult to scan using OCR.

Researchers estimate that about 60 million of those nonsensical jumbles are solved everyday around the world, taking an average of about 10 seconds each to decipher and type in.

Instead of wasting time typing in random letters and numbers, Carnegie Mellon researchers have come up with a way for people to type in snippets of books to put their time to good use, confirm they’re not machines and help speed up the process of getting searchable texts online.

“Humanity is wasting 150,000 hours every day on these,” said Luis von Ahn, an assistant professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon. He helped develop the CAPTCHAs about seven years ago.

It’s a pretty phenomenal idea. Use the collective time and minimal effort of EVERYONE to do what otherwise would be a painfully tedious task for many. Is this the future of menial digital labor?

Already we have examples of how machines can work together in bit torrent and massive mathematical calculations (to name a couple). What about using humans the same way?

Concerning those 150,000 hours/per day (!) von Ahn goes on to ask, “Is there any way in which we can use this human time for something good for humanity, do 10 seconds of useful work for humanity?”

Von Ahn is working with the Internet Archive, which runs several book-scanning projects, to use CAPTCHAs for this instead. Internet Archive scans 12,000 books a month and sends von Ahn hundreds of thousands of files that are images that the computer doesn’t recognize. Those files are downloaded onto von Ahn’s server and split up into single words that can be used as CAPTCHAs at sites all over the Internet.

If enough users decipher the CAPTCHAs in the same way, the computer will recognize that as the correct answer.

How cool is this? I love that smart people are thinking about stuff like this. The plan would be to replace current CAPTCHAs with images from books that need digitizing. The name of the project…reCAPTCHA. That’s good.

Let’s share this idea with kids and teachers. Get them thinking about the power of so many people doing little things. Get them to see how collectively we can do so much. And then get them thinking about the possibilities of collective human intelligence for solving world problems.

Now that’s “harnessing human power in exactly the right way.”

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(originally posted on harterlearning on Mar 7, 2007)
The Washington Post has had some gems lately…glad I have them on my Netvibes.

A recent article delves into a continuing, but also growing problem in online social networking sites where rumors and disinformation and personal attacks are impacting people’s lives negatively (to understate it). It’s a very scary article on what happens when the Web 2.0 tool gets used badly.

The article starts with the story of a Phi Beta Kappa, Yale Law graduate who did not get many call backs and received no job offers. Though admittedly difficult to prove, she claims that this was a result of deragatory postings about her in a well-read public forum on AutoAdmit.

The woman and two others interviewed by The Washington Post learned from friends that they were the subject of derogatory chats on a widely read message board on AutoAdmit, run by a third-year law student at the University of Pennsylvania and a 23-year-old insurance agent. The women spoke on the condition of anonymity because they feared retribution online.

The forum in question contains useful information about law schools and law firms, but also contains hundreds of posts filled with racism and bigotry. But the site’s founder says it’s free speech.

The students’ tales reflect the pitfalls of popular social-networking sites and highlight how social and technological changes lead to new clashes between free speech and privacy. The chats are also a window into the character of a segment of students at leading law schools. Penn officials said they have known about the site and the complaints for two years but have no legal grounds to act against it. The site is not operated with school resources.

This is out there. It’s real. How much more hiding from it can educators do? Ignorance on this type of thing is simply no longer acceptable for teachers. This is the world that a participatory web 2.0 has created. One in which anyone can say anything about anyone else. We can’t just teach kids to protect themselves, instead teachers have to assume the responsibility of teaching students to be responsible users as well.

The technology is new(ish), but it isn’t going away. As a teachnology facilitator, it’s my job to make sure that teachers get this. I need to show them how important it is for our students to learn how to use the tool properly AND responsibly. It is worth noting here that the “misuers” in this article are law students slandering their peers.

Dare I quote it? “With great power comes great responsibility.” (Thanks, Spidey.)

The educational power of Web 2.0 is out there for us to embrace: collaboration, critical thinking, communication. But not all teachers have jumped on board. Maybe we are still too content focused in our curriculum. Maybe “the kids are going to learn the technology anyway”, since they spend so much time on it outside of school (side note: why wouldn’t this be a reason to make school more like that?). But even if that’s the case, this article reminds us how important it is to have conversations with students about the implications of their actions.

So whose job is this? Only mine as the tech. guy? Parents? What about all educators? What about the village? But here in lies the rub: most of those people don’t even know what’s out there. They don’t know that this technology exists, that kids are using it, that kids are learning in it, and that kids are misusing it too.

Like so many things, the answer lies not in protection, but in education. But that adds to our problems as more and more schools are knee-jerking their way to blocking access and sealing off their schools from the participatory culture that’s out there. So we emphasize the good, make little of the bad (see Jeff’s ThinkingStick post on this), and get people on board.

So when’s a good time to bring in the bad? To have those real conversations with kids? How about ALL THE TIME. Damn…that puts me back at square one…I have to get our teachers to see this as their job. I want to be obsolete as Jeff suggests (well, the job anyway…not me personally), but I don’t see that happening any time soon.

That’s the key to this Web 2.0 participatory environment…it’s put power into everyone’s hands. And we just haven’t prepared everyone for that kind of responsibility.

It’s no wonder that there is misuse, just as it is no wonder that some are learning on their own how to behave well and how to protect themselves (great post on this from Justin at Medagogy and teacher directed kids learning based at ThinkingStick).

But we can’t rely on self-learning anymore, because it is about more than skills that we can scope and sequence. It’s about responsible use as well. It’s the job of all educators to make sure that students get that. And teachers will get there, because we can’t afford not too…I just hope it’s fast enough for our students’ sake.

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(originally posted on harterlearning on Feb 27, 2007)

Teens Can Multitask, But What Are Costs? –

Call it multitasking homework, Generation ‘Net style.

The students who do it say multitasking makes them feel more productive and less stressed. Researchers aren’t sure what the long-term impact will be because no studies have probed its effect on teenage development. But some fear that the penchant for flitting from task to task could have serious consequences on young people’s ability to focus and develop analytical skills.

We all know the scene: teen managing their MySpace, instant messaging, listening to music, sharing homework, and word processing all at the same time. This article from The Washington Post takes an interesting look at teenager multi-tasking.

The article misleads though when they quote Jordan Grafman, chief of neuroscience at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke as saying,

Introducing multitasking in younger kids in my opinion can be detrimental,” he said. “One of the biggest problems about multitasking is that it’s almost impossible to gain a depth of knowledge of any of the tasks you do while you’re multitasking. And if it becomes normal to do, you’ll likely be satisfied with very surface-level investigation and knowledge.

This quote has NOTHING to do with neurological disorder or stroke, yet by quoting him, the writer offers the impression that this could be a possibility. Is this even ethical? Lots of adults are saying the same thing…how can they be focusing? How can they be understanding? What purpose is their in getting this quote from the head of the Stroke Institute unless it is to imply that they think it’s bad for teens’ health (which they do not as far as I can tell)?

The article goes on to describe a study which indicated that scoring is similar on a card recall activity by those multi-tasking and those not. Interestingly again, it then goes on to offer that the multi-taskers seem to recall less detail.

imaging showed that different parts of the brain were active depending on whether the subjects did single or multiple tasks. When subjects were focused on sorting, the hippocampus — the part of the brain responsible for storing and recalling information — was engaged. But when they were multitasking, that part of the brain was quiet and the part of the brain used to master repetitive skills — the striatum — was active.

Was recall part of the activity? Multitasking may shut off certain parts of the brain that are unnecesary, but could it be that good multi-tasking would have allowed for recall, if that were asked of the multi-tasker? Maybe the multi-tasking brain is effective because it can shut off what it doesn’t need. I don’t know the answer to this, but as I read this article I thought of how often we, digital immigrant, try to force our own hang-ups on digital native multi-taskers.

If students aren’t getting to the depth of knowledge like they are “supposed” to, then perhaps that is because we aren’t “asking” them to. If they can multi-task and get good grades, as the article suggests, then these students are doing what is being asked of them and doing it well.

Yet we then question the depth of their knowledge?

Is not the depth of their knowledge, dependent on what we ask them to know? And if our questions ask for depth, wouldn’t that be an effective gauge for how well they can achieve that depth, while still multi-tasking? Maybe with thought-requiring questions, a student might drop some of those “tasks” and focus on the one…or maybe we’d find that their brains are in fact wired differently than ours and that they can think with depth while chatting with their friends.

Either way, I find it hard to blame the lack of depth in teens’ knowledge on their own multi-tasking. No, that blame falls directly on us…their teachers. Let’s give them something worth focusing on and then we can worry about how they get there.

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(originally posted on harterlearning Feb 9, 2007)

I was in Chiang Mai, Thailand on a grade 8 four-night trip this week. Just got back and am a little bleary eyed. Chaperoning is tiring work. Also didn’t touch a computer in that time which was both refreshing and worrisome.

Anyway, as I biked and hiked around the rural areas, I was struck, as I always am, with the understanding that the Internet and Web 2.0 and all of these other technologies that we talk about so much aren’t in everyone’s world. It’s our world that they influence, but there are a whole lot of people for whom day to day existence and agriculture sustenance are realities. Blogs, wikis and podcasts are not. They are not less happy for it. In fact, some of the happiest people I’ve met in my life have been in Nepal. People for whom we would describe have nothing, but they would say that have everything they need. Would they like to be wealthier? I am sure that they would, but they don’t need it to be happier.

I always liked going to Nepal.

Anyway, thinking about the massive population that does NOT have access, inevitably takes me to wondering about our focus on changing education for a 21st century learner. What about the world’s learners who are still mid-20th century at best? We are just widening this gap. But then I am reminded that our world is shaped, not by those farmers and those “without”, but rather by those “with”. And so, I am encouraged by what we do and our efforts to prepare worldly-wise, critical thinkers who won’t just learn the technology and the thinking that we teach them…they will bend it to their will.

And if that widens the gap, then perhaps these same children will be able to figure out a way to preserve (not destroy) and celebrate that world in which “those without” live – something we have not been able to do.

Upon returning from the trip, I got back to my netvibes to find this article among the many I had to catch up on. It reminded me of my “hiking thoughts” and so I’ve included it here. It reminds me how lucky, by simple fluke of birth, I have been to live without such massive oppression.

Despite a Ban, Chinese Youth Navigate to Internet Cafes –

For those unable to afford their own computers — the vast majority here — going online in a clandestine dive has become the only option; the local Communist Party leader banned Internet cafes nine months ago as a bad influence on minors.

‘If they dare to reopen, we might launch another campaign to shut them all down again,’ proclaimed Zhang Guobiao, party secretary for the surrounding Fangshan County.


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