Today We Fight Back Against Mass Surveillance #privacyisaright

Privacy is a Right

As has been written in the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance:

Privacy is a fundamental human right, and is central to the maintenance of democratic societies. It is essential to human dignity and it reinforces other rights, such as freedom of expression and information, and freedom of association, and is recognised under international human rights law. Activities that restrict the right to privacy, including communications surveillance, can only be justified when they are prescribed by law, they are necessary to achieve a legitimate aim, and are proportionate to the aim pursued.

I’ve signed the 13 Principles. Have you?

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When #Data Misdirects

I got a Fitbit for Christmas and have loved it!

I’ve loved how it effortlessly tracks my physical movements, and I love how it pushes me to remain active. There have been times when, near the end of the day, I’m prompted to take “just 834 more steps” in order to reach my daily goal. And so instead of digging into another bowl of ice cream, I’ll get my lazy self off the Lazy Boy and take a few laps around the house. Sometimes I’ll even throw in a flight or two of stairs for good measure.

I didn’t used to do that, and so in one sense, continually reviewing my Fitbit data has been a very good thing.

D Drape's Fit Bit Data
Fitbit allows you to effortlessly monitor the number of steps taken over time.

In spite of these wonderfully helpful nudges toward desired behavior, nevertheless, I’ve learned that life with the Fitbit also comes with a dark side to it. Because the device can only record the data it measures, I’ve yet to get it to function while not wearing it.

As a result, there have been numerous occasions when my children have heard me grumble because I journeyed to the basement storage room “without getting credit.” Can you imagine climbing stairs without anyone there to notice?!

Ugh.

Or ever so refreshing; depending, of course, on your perspective!

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If Tomorrow is #DLDay, When Do We Celebrate Learning with Pencils? #LwPDay

February 5th is Digital Learning Day! Fun, I know. There’s a pledge you can take, by clicking a link. I took it, I know.1 There’s even an official avatar. How many days do you know that have their own avatar?

#DLDay 2014
#DLDay 2014

Now, I appreciate a good party as much as the next guy, but why do we really need this? Perhaps we’re an anomaly, but we “build awareness about the potential of technology” in our schools daily. Celebrating digital learning on one day a year infers that we shouldn’t – or don’t – learn digitally all the rest.2

And what is digital learning, anyway? Or better yet, what is analog learning? Is there really such a thing? When will we reach the point where learning is just learning?

I’m ready to stop drawing lines in the sand, so I’ll make you a deal. I’ll wear your avatar on February 5th if you wear mine the rest of the year.

Learning with Pencils Avatar
Learning with Pencils Official Avatar #LwPDay #FTW

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Place your hand on your screen and repeat after me: “On my honor, I will do my best to support digital learning. Whatever that means.”
  2. Is this really just a way to give exposure to the #DLDay corporate partners?! Do they really deserve more exposure?
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Robots Speaking to Robots

Twitter user and apparent “Digital Learner and Teacher” Nick Chater has configured IFTTT to auto-tweet a link to my posts every time I publish. Upon scanning his Twitter feed,  it appears that it’s been quite some time since he’s posted anything in person; nearly every tweet includes an IFTTT link or other script-generated action.

In spite (or because?) of this, “he” has published over 30,000 tweets and garnered over 10,000 followers.

Should I be happy to see that my blog has made the cut, worthy to occupy his feed? Or should I be upset, and treat his tweet pingbacks as spammy-smelling filth? Finally, if Twitter follower quantity is any indicator of success, should we all follow “Nick’s” example and get robots to communicate for us?

Ironically, this is an opening slide I like to use when teaching about how IFTTT can be used to make our lives more productive.

Why Work? Opening slide used to teach the benefits of IFTTT.
Why Work? Opening slide used to teach the benefits of IFTTT.
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Vendor Trust and Their Competence with #EdTech Data

Bud Hunt writes a very timely post in which he expresses rightful disgust over the level of care many current vendors tend to take with student data.

I can’t fathom why publishers and vendors are so willing to play fast and loose with precious data – student personal info, their schoolwork and creations, etc. But it’s not okay. And worst thing is when, in spite of our concerns, we hear things like this:

“Well, the front end is so beautiful and high quality. Would you really allow your concerns over this other stuff to prevent you from giving these amazing resources to your teachers and students to use?”

My answer to that question is always going to be yes. A pretty thing on the other side of a glass wall of awfulness will keep me walking right on through the universe of options. I’ll pick the resource that’s not as good if I know I can keep my students safe and our data reasonable to manage and protect.

Bill Fitzgerald also makes several valid points in the comments. Vendors can and should do better. But while FERPA, our integrity, and student rights lie at the heart of this issue, for me it’s also about fostering genuine and trusting relationships.  Have state procurement laws caused us all to forget about the important things in life?

Some vendors are more capable and trustworthy than others.
Some vendors are more capable and trustworthy than others.

To be honest, I’m at the point where spam levels have produced so much distrust between potential vendors and me that I’ve nearly stopped answering the phone altogether. If I can’t trust a company enough with my phone number or email address, why would I ever want to trust them with more critical data over which I’m a steward?

For some reason, I’ve never been a fan of Shark Week.

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Increased Perspective on Vulnerability

Stephen Downes continues the Learning Is Vulnerability discussion by agreeing with much I’ve written, stopping just short of the “eating is vulnerability” comparison I chose to include.

Draper writes, “Learning is no more vulnerability than eating might be.” Quite so. But every time we eat, we are vulnerable. Not ‘vulnerable’ in the sense-of-community kumbaya sense. But vulnerable in the sense that we might be poisoned, suffer indigestion, eat too much, find the food distasteful, and any of a hundred other discomforts. Any change creates vulnerability because it introduces something from outside the system into the inside, and that introduces the possibility of some sort of failure – failure to adapt, failure to learn, failure to digest, failure to grow.

To be honest, I like it, and really appreciate that Stephen took the time to elaborate further! While focusing mostly on the feelings of vulnerability a learner might experience while in the process of learning, I hadn’t considered how internal change might impact the system as a whole.

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The (Im)Perfect Human Side of Blogging

I love this post by Dean Shareski, but not for the reasons you might think.

What begins as a somewhat rushed (?) rant about the digital divide becomes clarified in the comments,  and eventually solidifies into a strong argument against our common language habits associated “the achievement gap.” I love that the post is imperfect, I love the discussion that ensues, and I love that the cream naturally rose to the top.

Containers
Containers – Slide created by Scott McLeod.

Thanks, Dean, Scott, and Andrew! Such a great reminder of how perfect learning in an imperfect environment can be.

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When Learning Isn’t Vulnerability

I’ve sat on this post for several days now, because I empathize with the sense of fear that George Siemens described two weeks ago:

When I first started blogging, I had a sense of fear with every post (“did that sound stupid?”), loss of sleep soul-searching when a critical comment was posted, and envy when peers posted something brilliant (“wow, why didn’t I think of that?”).

I think all bloggers have probably felt this way, illustrating one of the reasons an editor-colleague can be so valuable. The act of blogging – or nearly any type of shared or public learning experience, for that matter – can bring with it a daunting sense of weakness. Sometimes these feelings of weakness may yield humility within the learner, which can be a good thing, while other times raw anger and defensiveness result. Alas, the price of “learner becoming.”

Nevertheless, at the heart of George Siemens‘ recent argument – echoed by Will RichardsonStephen Downes, and Audrey Watters – lies an idea with which I simply can’t agree.

Learning is vulnerability. When we learn, we make ourselves vulnerable. When we engage in learning, we communicate that we want to grow, to become better, to improve ourselves.

Have we consigned ourselves to a world where learning must be networked, must require community, and must embrace the vulnerability of students? I hope not. Even simple definitions describe learning as the “activity or process of gaining knowledge or skill by studying, practicing, being taught, or experiencing something.” In today’s technologically capable society, there are many times when learning (i.e., studying, practicing, being taught, and experiencing) takes place without an audience and with minimal communication strain on the part of the learner.

Risk-free Learning Device
Risk-free Learning Device

When technology is used to access knowledge, with whom must today’s learner unavoidably communicate? I agree that the deepest learning takes place through empathetic human interaction, but unaccompanied and private learning nonetheless happen all the time.

How vulnerable do we really make ourselves while quietly checking Wikipedia on our phones? Is human to human communication required to span Google Scholar? How much frailty is demonstrated by the student eagerly engaged in a self-paced MOOC? With whom do we communicate our desire to grow when we spend alone time reading a book? Finally, when Will Richardson’s daughter used YouTube to learn to play the piano on her own, to whom did she disclose her deficiency?

No one.

Learning is no more vulnerability than eating might be. Consider instead that ignorance is vulnerability; as is the human body’s need for nourishment.  Learning and eating, therefore, become the processes followed to overcome these all-to-common weaknesses.

When Facebook introduced inline privacy control to its line of basic privacy settings in October 2012, they provided users with the ability to easily control audience. What keeps us from doing the same for our students, and how might this type of learner autonomy improve their impressions of school?

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Introducing the NEW Drape’s Takes

Yep, I did it.

I packed up my things and decided to move – from Blogger to WordPress – and I have to admit, I really like the new view. I’ve used WordPress before; back when I was setting up department websites  at Brighton High School in 2005. Those were pre-iPhone days. Let’s just say WordPress has come a looong way since then. And so have many other things.

Here’s the process I followed to make the move:

  1. Decide to move. This step took the longest. Blogger’s weak trackback/pingback support sealed the deal.
  2. Purchase hosting.
  3. Purchase a domain name. I’d held out until now because I honestly didn’t know which name to select. I didn’t want .com because I intend to keep this site ad-free. I didn’t want .org because I’m not an org – I’m just me. And so I landed on drapestak.es. A little weird, I know, but a lot easier to type.
  4. Install WordPress, install a theme, configure.
  5. Tweak disqus. It’s still a little buggy, but I knew that going in.
  6. Delete my practice posts and comments. Write this “first” post.
  7. Write my final post for http://drapestakes.blogspot.com/.
  8. Update my Feedburner configuration to this new address.
  9. Publish this post, welcoming you here!

I hope you’ll enjoy yourself while we learn together. I’ve appreciated all the help and learning my seven readers have provided in the past. Let’s keep the streak rolling strong!

RIP
RIP drapestakes.blogspot.com

Peace.

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