On November 13, 2013, I spoke to the London Region MISA PNC about assessment and technology. Many people use technology for assessment; I believe assessment itself is a technology.
On November 13, 2013, I spoke to the London Region MISA PNC about assessment and technology. Many people use technology for assessment; I believe assessment itself is a technology.
If you’re into educational technology, then you’re always thinking about security and privacy, right? Hmmm, maybe not. I, for one, used to poo-poo it regularly as the raised hand of the luddite and resistor to change. But try going a day these days without an important story about a security breach, privacy violation, or intentional data mining hitting the Mashables and Verges of the world. Alas, that free lunch we were so desperately hoping for in an ever-tightening world of education budgets seems to have led us a tad astray after all. This past week has been particularly devestating with the news of the #heartbleed bug (read and learn more here). I am by no means an expert in this complex field, so I called in a Twitter buddy, Jessy Irwin, to talk with me about the matter.
I always have a great time interacting with Jessy because of her insight and sense of humour. Jessy has a passion for all things education and technology, and has experience in the world of startups and social media. Increasingly, she is finding her passion in exploring and educating others on the privacy and security (#edsec) sides of #edtech. I wanted to speak with someone that has a unique vista on this topic.
Hey Jessy. So, to start off, tell us a little bit about your background in education and technology from a personal and professional level.
My passion for education technology started with a World Regions course taught by John Boyer (and run by the always brilliant Katie Pritchard) when I was a student at Virginia Tech. The class was an experiment in social media and self-guided learning for 3,000 students, and as an assistant I created social media assignments and guidelines while running a ton of the Twitter accounts that were part of the course.
I was so inspired by the group synergy I experienced and by what we accomplished as part of that classroom community that I eventually moved to the Silicon Valley to just be a part of whatever was going on in technology and to advocate for its to be thoughtful, creative, innovative and authentic integration in the classroom. Everything in my career can be traced back to the work I did in that course– I work in social media and community, and the job I have now was barely in its infancy when we started our grand experiment– and to this day, one of my favorite things on my professional resume is the Skype interview we landed with Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung Sung Suu Kyii of Burma.
How and why are you so interested in #edsec?
My fire for #edsec started few years ago, and was fueled by some of my closest friends who are security engineers. I’ve always been fascinated by the concepts of hacking and security, and I decided to go to Def Con in Las Vegas, which is one of the largest hacker conferences in the world. That first year, I understood almost nothing — but I was so inspired by what I saw that I had to learn everything I could about technological underpinnings and security holes of the web.
Eventually, I realized that most education technology companies failed to use common security practices– encrypting their sites, for example– to protect their users, and that some avoided collecting certain kinds of user data so that they didn’t have to worry about complying with laws like FERPA that protect student privacy. It made me sick to even think that despite being some of the biggest advocates of digital literacy, the earliest adopters of new technologies, and the guardians of student data, a vast majority of the educators I’ve engaged with had no idea how vulnerable their students’ information (and their own) was on the wild, wild web and had never really entertained the idea of what might happen to them, their classrooms, and their careers if an email or social media account was breached. A short time later, I began telling pretty much anyone who would listen why they should care about securing classroom information… and I haven’t really stopped talking about it since.
If I’m an educator enthusiastic about employing social media and web 2.0 tools in my classroom or school, what should I be contemplating that I may not be in my zest for innovation?
As always, it’s important to remember that if a product is free, then you are the product. A great example of this is Facebook– to over a billion people in the world, it’s a free social media tool… but to marketers and advertisers, it’s a ad distribution network. Think carefully about the time and energy you invest into a site or technology tool and what that may be worth to the company that build it.
What are some of your biggest concerns as it relates to #edsec?
We warn students about the permanence of things on the internet, and we encourage them to find their authentic voices through blogging and interaction on social media but we aren’t teaching them how to protect themselves and their digital identities that will follow them through the rest of their lives. How are students supposed to learn responsible security practices on the web if their teachers aren’t modelling this for them?
What are you optimistic about?
It’s happening at a glacial pace, but since the massive revelations about the NSA metadata collection and spying were made public, people are very slowly beginning to think about their privacy on the web. While many people have absolutely no idea how much of their personal data is tracked, captured and sold to advertisers, they are beginning to think twice about what they share, what they sign up for, and who they allow to access their accounts.
What are some simple things you would recommend #edtech educators do to make their online learning environments safer, more secure places?
First thing first: think about what your absolute biggest vulnerabilities are online — usually, your email account is the key to everything– and set up 2-factor authentication everywhere you can to protect them. This article and video are a good introduction to why 2-factor authentication is important, as is this cautionary tale from tech writer Mat Honan from Wired whose entire digital identity was wiped by a teenager who really, really wanted his Twitter handle.
In terms of technical practices, teachers should absolutely never ever ever ever never never never (did I emphasize that enough?) use the same password for all of their accounts. If one account goes down in a breach, then all accounts of your accounts can go down. I recommend using a password manager such as 1Password or LastPass to store, create, and audit passwords used for personal and classroom accounts and communications.
It’s important to avoid using public wifi because it’s incredibly vulnerable to snooping by anyone with access to that network. If you regularly connect to the internet on the go, consider investing in your own wifi hotspot or setting up a VPN (virtual private network) to connect to when you’re out. Alternately, I highly suggest using the browser plugin HTTPSEverywhere to encrypt communications with many major websites.
Are there any other issues or topics you think are important to bring forth?
Many people think that hacking is an internet problem that isn’t going to happen to them– but the behavior has been there all throughout human history (see: espionage). Technology is just making it easier than ever to compromise information and identities left and right. It’s important to note that the majority of hacks aren’t technical in nature at all, they’re “crimes” of opportunity where someone looks over a shoulder while a password is being typed, or gets unauthorized access to a mobile device or computer. For this reason, teachers should be sure to add passcodes and passwords to their machines and devices to protect them when they’re unattended– otherwise, all of the technical measures they’ve taken to secure their information will be for naught.
Thanks so much, Jessy, for talking with me today. I hope your next Taco Tuesday is a good one.
Thanks so much for letting me take over the Spicy Learning Blog and rant about security! I’m happy to answer questions about security for the classroom in the comments here or on Twitter.
If you stayed offline this week, you may not have heard about a serious bug coined #heartbleed which threatened the security of a huge swath of the internet.
Heartbleed appears to be one of the biggest glitches in the Internet’s history, a flaw in the basic security of as many as two-thirds of the world’s websites. Its discovery and the creation of a fix by researchers five days ago prompted consumers to change their passwords, the Canadian government to suspend electronic tax filing and computer companies including Cisco Systems Inc. to Juniper Networks Inc. to provide patches for their systems. [via Bloomberg]
If you do anything on the internet, then this is something you should learn more about. What’s more, if you are an educator involved in educational technology in any way, I believe we have now reached the point where not having a serious re-examination of the whys, whats, wheres, and hows is irresponsible. Here are a few links which I’ve gathered if you’re a bit in the dark:
Note that, as my friend Jessy Irwin reminds us, it’s very important not to change your passwords until you receive confirmation that the website has patched the vulnerability.
Is this stuff rocking your world like it is mine? I’d love to know in the comments below.
Change is a funny thing. We all love to wax philosophical on it when someone changes something in a manner that befits our tastes, but we tend to, in varying degrees, react differently when the shoe is on the other foot. Take me for instance.
When I’m facilitating a workshop on ’21st Century Learning’ I’m all, “Oh, change is the new black, dontcha know” and “If you’re not willing to change, then [insert metaphor here].” But start putting avocados and bean sprouts in my should-be bacon, lettuce, and tomato burger, or ask me to start using Microsoft Office since that’s what everyone else is using, and I might get a bit…
So that face you see above? I’m starting to make it to Twitter (as in, Twitter Inc.), our beloved platform for connection. Rather than a sea change, what we’ve started to notice are minor ripples in the water which may or may not be harbingers of things to come.
Well, why shouldn’t Twitter continually seek to improve itself, responding to the needs of its users and the market? If you’re not moving, then you’re at risk of drying up in the Silicon Valley desert, right?
I completely acknowledge all of it. Moreover, I am not oblivious to the impact and demands of shareholders on such a valuable commodity as Twitter. Still, I don’t know about you, but it seems pretty obvious to me that the bigwigs at Twitter Inc. in San Francisco, CA increasingly see the platform as one for projection over connection. Let’s deconstruct the changes a bit more.
Photos are the New Text
It’s a fact: photos and images make a huge difference to how likely a tweet and any included links are to be read. Most savvy online publications now make it a rule to post a provocative image to entice a click on one of their tweets. What is more, the entire redesign of Twitter and accompanying apps visually favours tweets with images and video. Basically, if you ain’t Tweetagramming you’re like the social media version of an old codger. Don’t even bother showing up to a Silicon Valley cocktail party or mineral water fiesta or whatever. I wonder if a preferance for images signals a bias for the ever-sought after 18-35 set. And what about four pics per tweet? Without an impact on your 140 characters? Good gracious. And tagging? So, another metric to gauge one’s popularity? The kids are coming! The kids are coming!
Promoted Tweets Everywhere
You can pay to advertise on Twitter and let their clever algorithms go all Google on finding your customers. What’s more, you won’t be able to avoid these soon. Again, I don’t begrudge any business for seeking greater revenue streams. Just a reminder, though, that money talks, baby.
@-Replies and RTs and Other Esoteria “Scaring” Off the Newbies
Frankly, I don’t buy the scaring off the newbies party line on this one. I suspect, in line with some of the other changes, Twitter isn’t the fondest of conversation on Twitter. Maybe you can’t monetize a 12 tweet thread? Just the threat of taking away the @-reply is a good ol’ fashioned drawing of a line in the discursive sand, I feel.
I’m wondering if, in general, Twitter increasingly sees its space as one where there will be a distinct stratification between users who send out content, and others who consume it. Perhaps that already exists. Of course, it’s entirely possible that I’m losing my mind down a rabbit hole of paranoia. A man can get like that when a technology he loves starts getting all “It’s not you, it’s me” on him.
I’m watching you, Twitter.
Our panelists: Lisa Noble (@nobleknits2), Michelle Solomon (@msolomonteacher), Aviva Dunsiger (@avivaloca), Bill Ferriter (@plugusin), Neil Andersen (@mediasee), Andrew Campbell (@acampbell99), Alec Couros (@courosa), Johnny Bevacqua (@jvbevacqua), Jane Mitchinson (@jmitchinson), Royan Lee (@royanlee).
These days I rarely find it necessary to speak didactically to students about technology and social media; I simply ask them, and they’re usually more insightful than any adult I speak to. Here is one of my student’s advice for parents on their child’s use of social media:
First, I would say, if there’s an age limit and [your child] is under the age limit, you shouldn’t let them. And, if there’s privacy settings, you should use them properly and learn how. Also, if your child wants to use it, you should say yes and not be too… pushy and say no, because you’re gonna make them feel very different from their friends who are all on social media. They’ll just feel left out. But, at the same time, they should talk to their kids about what they should and shouldn’t be posting. So, nothing inappropriate. Like, if you wouldn’t want your parent to see it, they shouldn’t be posting it. Basically, talk to them about it, but respect their privacy and trust them.
First there was this (I’m posting the Simpsons version ’cause it’s way funnier):
And now, to no one’s surprise, it is a full fledged meme:
No doubt, at your next staff meeting, business function, or wedding reception, you will be gathered in front of someone’s phone to assert your coolness too. If you are sensing exasperation in my voice, you are very perceptive. I’m not feeling this way because I have any general problem with selfies. In fact, I’ve taken many selfies myself, and am essentially a fan of the way I’ve seen youth (namely, my students) use them to spread joy and express intimacy with one another. I’ve believed for a long time that we spend far too much energy with our time-honoured hand wringing over elements of youth culture like this. Today, though, after seeing Kimmel and the Clintons ‘spontaneously remix’ the Ellen selfie, I am distinctly #SMH. I apologize in advance for the sarcasm, but I have some questions to ask.
How do you think that Oscar selfie would have been received if a group of ‘gangsta rappers’ had snapped it?
So, the youth of today aren’t going to hell in a hand basket anymore?
How come we never see dominant cultures take something, once demonized and labelled as immature, innapropriate, and classless, and reappropriate it for their own benefit? Oh wait..
Are we basically ok with anything as long as the people doing it represent our own sensibilities?
In the blogosphere, we spend a lot of time extolling the virtues of freeing our learning environments of barriers to creativity. Whether it’s traditional grading, standardized testing, or a bloated curriculum, we win some battles but the war (and, yes, it sometimes appears like it’s at least a theoretical one) never seems to cease. I mean, the Ken Robinson video (the “Another Brick in the Wall” of the ed conference scene) has been viewed over 25 million times.
I have occasionally enjoyed my time in those trenches too. But that message, as tantalizing and seductive as it is, can be very paralyzing in its own way. Most ideas are when they are argued in an echo chamber, and with false dichotomies like knowledge vs. creativity put on the poster. These days I’m fascinated by how we can leverage barriers to creativity, and I was reminded of this again after thinking about the words and experience of three people (who never dreamed they would be spoken about in the same context): the supreme cellist Yo-Yo Ma; Greg Jackson, a trainer of top level martial artists; and my own beloved wife Janet. Let’s start with the best looking one.
Janet is a great cook. Professionally trained and experienced, she never fails to amaze our family with great dishes and baked goods. It’s almost criminal that our children think it’s normal to live in a home with savoury and sweet aromas all day long, eating healthy, delicious home cooking every day. I always feel rich, like a king, because of her.
There’s one thing about Janet the chef that struck me from the early days of our time together, and still does on a regular basis.
Janet cooks best when she is limited in ingredients and tools, or has an incidental melange of them. It’s not that she can’t whip up a great, fancy dish if given an unlimited budget and an abundant market, but it’s not her element, as Sir School Sucks would say. The wheels don’t turn in the same way, the intrinsic reward isn’t as high, and the results aren’t as innovative. Janet often says her ideal way of getting groceries would be to get a surprise box of fresh, local, seasonal ingredients. Some of her most memorable creations have been made during:
The funny thing is, if you talk to most chefs about their own personal, most memorable meals that they’ve cooked, they usually cite similar moments.
I also had a light bulb go off in my head when listening to Greg Jackson, a well known trainer of the highest level of mixed martial artists in the world at Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Jackson is generally praised for his pedagogy in coaching the best mixed martial artists in the world, and his gym is often called the “mecca of mixed martial arts”. When asked why, in contrast to its status, his gym was relatively spare, utilitarian, and devoid of the comforts, technology, and resources of most modern, successful gyms, he says it’s intentional:
All of that’s by design … the underlying thing is you don’t want it to get comfortable. You don’t want to come in and have this fresh, fragrant smelling place with plasma TVs all over the place and fitness models working out everywhere you look. This needs to be a place [that isn't] fancy, and it doesn’t need to be anything spectacular or meet anyone’s external expectations… It should be a rough and tumble place where comfort is not your number one option.
Finally, let’s take a closer look at the words of the great cellist Yo-Yo Ma:
In our advanced species, we also have these “necessary edges.” The hard sciences are probing one far end of the bandwidth, searching for the origins of the universe or the secrets of the genome. People in the arts are probing the other far end of the bandwidth. Without the “necessary edges” that interface with a changing environment and find innovative response, the middle will go over the edge like lemmings. Those on the edge are, in effect, the scouts that say “there is a waterfall, there is a ledge, there is danger ahead. Stop. Don’t go this way, go that way.”
Equilibrium occurs when the information from the edges is available at the core. Only when those meridians or pathways that connect the edges to the middle are open will a life-form survive, and even prosper. Only when science and the arts, critical and empathetic reasoning, are linked to the mainstream will we find a sustainable balance in society.
What is dangerous is when the center ignores the edges or the edges ignore the center — art for arts sake or science without a humanist and societal perspective. Then we are headed for doomsday without knowing it.
Instead of hoping for a day when they don’t exist, how can we leverage barriers for creativity?
SAMR has been an incredibly useful framework for conversations around, and implementation of, educational technology in schools and districts. I mean, goodness, just look at a Google image search on the term. But there’s something about it, or rather, the way it is often promoted, that has always given me that feeling like a piece of food is stuck in the back of my teeth.
I’m wondering if it’s a mistake to suggest that technology integration in education is a linear, hierarchical quest. I believe this may be an issue for a few reasons.
It sets many up for failure
If there’s a sure fire way of setting up a defeatist scenario for the reluctant or new technology integrationist, it’s by suggesting that there are levels to ascend to. In order to ‘achieve’ a state of consistent redefinition, you need not only a personal resolve as an educator or leader, but an incredible amount of support, resources, and collective vision. My students and I? We’ve had a lot of that. But, in some ways, this has been because we’ve regularly won the educational lottery, so to speak. What if some schools or classrooms are truly limited to using tech in ways that only substitute other tools?
It is evaluative
When you are a teacher, you see evaluation everywhere. Every time you look at a mirror, an honest and reflective teacher sees their deficiencies in planning, assessment, instruction, time management, and helping that child who went home crying the other day. Models and acronyms like SAMR can be incredibly appealing to people who only need to contemplate its utopian wonder but are rarely pressed to apply it in reality. When you walk through the bright flourescent lights of a school and listen to the echoing voices Monday to Friday, the simplicity often dissipates.
‘Redefining’ is hyperbolic
I feel we have become overly consumed by grand pronouncements in #edtech. Words like ‘revolutionize’ and ‘transform’ are thrown around in ways that belie their true meaning, and regularly reflect consumer discourse as opposed to a pedagogical one. There aren’t any SAMR charts for arts integration or healthy school initiatives. In my classroom, I seek to make the tech figuratively invisible. Thus, in some ways, the antithesis of redefining.
It just isn’t true
If you are committed to merging progressive pedagogy with powerful technology, you are always sliding to and fro on the SAMR continuum. There’s no “Well, I’ve made it to Mount Redefine, so I guess I’m like the Sir Edmund Hillary of Silicon Valley High School” or something. This is because when you are trying to use new tools in innovative ways, you have no idea if you will actually end up substituting, augmenting, modifying, or redefining learning. You usually just have to try it out, and sometimes you are completely stunned at how ridiculous or wonderful it turns out to be. Moreover, a tool that was once redefining suddenly turns into the epitome of substituting, and vice-versa. I feel we need to move away from linear thinking in this realm, not unlike the way many are contemplating a new, non-hierarchical Bloom’s Taxonomy.
I am willing to bet that whoever gave birth to SAMR didn’t intend for it to be as all encompassing as it has become in the #edtech world. I would also fully agree with anyone who says that there are many positive aspects of SAMR, such as the way it admonishes us against gimmickery when using these expensive tools. I simply feel it’s important for us to gaze a critical eye on any framework that becomes as ubiquitous and, ironically, definitive as SAMR has become. I would love to know what you think.