Private: keep out!

The concept of privacy is something that I have found myself thinking about quite a bit lately. Interestingly, Jeff and I were having a discussion about this idea more than a month ago (long before it became an essential question in our course!).  I had just finished reading the book Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet. Initially, I found the book very disturbing…it was pretty graphic with the violence and raw human aggression.  However, it did make me think long after I had finished reading it. That’s when I classify it as a ‘good book’. Though I would clarify the recommendation with a caveat about the content of the book!

One part of the book that struck me was how during the middle ages, people lived in one room homes. Often in the book, the family sleeps in the great halls of the manors and castles. Many people and couples and children slept all together in one great room. Acts of lovemaking were done under the cover of a cloak…which afforded very little privacy for sure! This started me thinking about our current idea of privacy. Where did we develop this concept of what privacy means? In other cultures, how is privacy viewed?

Living in China, we were witnesses firsthand to the arguments between couples on the streets and in the parks. At first we found this confusing, then we realized that being out in public probably afforded them more privacy than in their tiny, crowded homes! It also made me realize that not so long ago in America, people probably also went outside their homes to have a ‘private’ conversation. So when did we start making that switch, and why? When did we start moving towards this idea of privacy and a right to have our information and business kept to ourselves when historically, it would seem, it was anything but like this?

I find myself wondering if we are entering a new age of privacy and how we will need to define it. Case in point: I am a reluctant (putting it mildly) user of Facebook. Just recently, I visited my homepage and found a picture attached to someone else’s ‘newsfeed’ that was showing up on MY homepage. Now, I’m friends with the user who first started the feed, but am not friends with the people who commented on her note. Yet, their words and pictures were coming up on my page. Some of this content was disturbing and I was uncomfortable with it on my page. I ended up ‘unfriending’ the friend, just to be safe, but still found myself thinking about the incident long after it was over.

I guess this was one of the lessons that drove home this idea of controlling your online profile and protecting your own privacy. This week we read some articles that talked a bit about what online privacy means. The author of Don’t overestimate privacy of online information warns us to:

Knowing what a site’s terms of use are is critical before signing your name to anything, just as posting information about yourself. Before you join the popular world of social networking and post anything, know that someone out there may see it.

I think this is very good advice! The article talks quite a bit about recent developments in Facebook’s user policies and how they can change in a way that could remove any vestiges of privacy we may have thought we had.

Another article we read, Beware: the Internet could own your future, starts off with:

 A friend sent me a bumper sticker on Facebook that read, “Do you ever look at a picture of yourself and see a stranger in the background? It makes you wonder how many people have pictures of you.” While I laughed upon reading the silly message, I also found myself a little disturbed.  

I too find this idea somewhat disturbing…suddenly our idea of privacy is completely turned on its head! Where before, these pictures could end up in a stranger’s album, or at worst maybe posted on bulletin board, now these pictures are posted online to be seen by potentially millions of people. Add to this the prevalence of digital cameras (do they even make cell phones without one anymore?) and you have yourself a recipe for complete obliteration of our privacy.

So, this brings back my question…do we need to rethink what privacy means? How will we define what privacy means in this new, digital world that we are all (some of us reluctantly) existing in today?

Back in the saddle again

In my head I’m singing “back in the saddle again!” Here I go again…I can’t say that I missed writing on my blog during my few weeks of respite between COETAIL courses, but there was a time or two when I found myself thinking “I could write that on my blog!” So maybe I am coming around to blogging after all…or maybe not.

We had our first Face to Face meeting for our course a week ago. I am definitely a fan of classes that combine both an online component, but also still add a F2F component as well. What can I say, maybe it’s the counselor in me!

One of the activities that we did in our F2F meeting was to read and examine the Acceptable Use Policies (AUP) at our respective school levels. It was interesting the format we used, which did not allow for ‘cross-talk’ during the activity. One person picked out a statement or part of the AUP that struck them, the others in the group were allowed to say one or two sentences about it (taking turns) but no one was allowed to comment or interrupt. I’m not sure that this format was my favorite, but I could see times when it might be a useful way to facilitate a discussion in groups.

Reading the AUP for the middle school, there was a part of it that I found very interesting (as did others in my group based on their comments!). The Middle School AUP states:

Online safety is a personal responsibility. It is important that students are aware of the implications of their actions online, both to themselves and to others. The actions students take in social networking areas like MySpace, Facebook, or others, can impact their university applications, job searches, and overall reputation. It can also provide sensitive information to online predators.

What I found myself wondering as I read that is where do kids learn this ‘personal responsibility’ from? Who’s responsibility is it to teach the kids what that means and what it looks like? I wonder if because it’s part of the AUP, does that mean the school/curriculum has a responsiblity to ensure that each student is equipped with the knowledge and skills to keep his/her online profile safe and practice good digital citizenship?

More and more this concern is coming up. There are companies now that can help you ‘clean up’ your image online. More and more employers are searching online for information about prospective employees. For some time now, colleges and universities have begun utilizing online information when examining admission applications. Articles like Protecting Your Digital Footprint and Your Online Reputation Can Hurt Your Job Search are being seen more and more.

Much of this centers around the social networking sites like Myspace and Facebook. These sites bring up the issue and concern of privacy. This concept of privacy and what it means today is something I have been giving a lot of thought lately…but those thoughts will have to wait until my next post!

Final reflection, final post?

Wheww, so we’ve reached the conclusion of our intensive six week course. This last post is supposed to be my reflection on my project…but I think I’d rather reflect on the blogging! I believe many students in the course would agree that the blog was a bigger ‘learning curve’ than the final project. For me that’s certainly where a huge chunk of my time, thoughts, and learning has happened.

When I started this blog, my first post was a challenge to myself (and my teachers!) to discover whether or not I was, and wanted to be a blogger. And after six weeks, numerous blog posts, some welcomed comments and some unwelcome ‘re-tweets’ (thanks very much Andy, I was trying to remain incognito!), I’d have to say the verdict is…yikes, a hung jury. Or at least the jury is still out! Since I’m continuing on with taking classes towards the Certificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy, I have a sneaking suspicion that I won’t have much choice in the matter.

Writing the posts is getting easier, I don’t suffer near the same level of anxiety I did at the outset. However, I still have mini panic attacks when I think of complete strangers reading my words and thoughts. At the same time, when someone I didn’t really know commented on my blog…it was kind of neat!

I am not convinced, however, that blogging is something I will want to continue. I think partly because I feel the need to try and balance Jeff out a bit! Also, I made a promise to Clarence’s wife to start a Widows of the Web support group to help those of us who often lose their spouses to that virtual world out there. Of course, the best way to reach all of those other Web Widows and connect would probably be through the Internet…

So I guess I will continue to explore, expand, and push my thinking. I will attempt to see how and if this idea of blogging fits into my life. Until the next post, signing off.

– The Thinking Chick

Backwards by design…maybe?

Part of this course involves us creating a final project…and to this end we were asked to create a project sketch on our blog prior to completing the project on the class wiki. As per typical Daneah fashion, I went about it all backwards and did the project first and now am feeling like an idiot trying to write a ‘sketch’ for something I’ve already completed. Sigh. Some things never change. I hated those classes in college that required a rough draft or an outline prior to the final product. I often found myself completing the final project, then going back and creating a pretend rough draft and outline. I earned pretty decent grades, so it’s a method that worked for me…hmm, I wonder if this qualifies as ‘backwards by design‘!?

Anyway, so instead of the project sketch, I thought I would post here links to some videos  that may come in handy for teaching a unit on cyberbullying and digital citizenship. They’re favorites that have been around for awhile, but I like them. A few from the adcouncil that I like are: Kitchen, Bulletin Board, and Talent Show.

I constantly marvel at how the level of engagement from students increases dramatically when Web 2.0 tools are utilized. Now, not all students of course respond the same and some students seem to be reluctant learners in almost any situation! However, I have never experienced the level of engagement and response as I did when I worked with my 4th grade students last year on a friendship video project. First I showed the kids a couple of other videos, Don’t Laugh At Me and Hero in the Hallway. We discussed what message those videos were sending, then decided to create our own video about friendship at Shanghai American School. The first question in every individual class was “Can we put it on YouTube?” I had students meeting after school, on weekends, and during their recess time to work on their projects for the video. I actually had students writing songs, including music, for the video. All on their own time and their own volition…it was remarkable! It certainly helped me to see how the utilization of many of these ‘new fangled’ tools can seriously impact a student’s learning in powerful and meaningful ways. I was so proud of what my kids had created…but more importantly, they were proud of themselves!