You and us, me and we

I came across this quote from Larry Smarr, a physicist and leader in scientific computing, supercomputer applications, and Internet infrastructure. This quote struck me, especially in light of the recent events involving swine flu around the world.

“Having a wiki world, and having an ability to instantaneously set up mass collaboration, you can solve problems on a time scale that’s going to matter. So if we start having a bird flu pandemic, or if global warming continues to accelerate, we may not have the luxury of what I think of today as the slow speed of coming to answers for the challenges confronting the human race. And so the idea of being able to apply all the brains on the planet to a time urgent situation is something that we are going to look back on and be really glad that we figured out how to do because otherwise it’s going to be too late.”

cimg6017Sometimes when I stop and think about what all this means, I start to feel overwhelmed with it all. The idea of what mass collaboration means today can leave me feeling utterly exhausted with the sheer immensity of what it would, and could, look like. Then add in the idea of preparing students for a world of mass collaboration…and it’s almost more than one person can think about. I guess it’s a good thing then we have the ability to think about it collaboratively on a massive scale!

In an article titled Mass collaboration: Harnessing the power of global ideas, the author writes:

The trend of you continues.
You were the person of the year in 2006, chosen for Time magazine’s annual honour.
You are also the focus of a new book by Toronto’s own Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams about mass collaboration: Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything.

weMy initial reaction to this was maybe it’s time for the ‘person’ of the year to be “us” instead of “you.” If we’re talking about mass collaboration, maybe we need to start thinking about the idea of we instead of me. Dana wrote something similar on her blog post about the idea of mass collaboration and how she could see individual egos being problematic in some situations. I, too, wonder how all of this will pan out in the long run. Will it be easier for students who grow up with the idea of mass collaboration to put aside individual egos? A bunch of us were just discussing the other day that we felt our generation (raised mostly in the eighties) was very much a ‘me’ generation, all about getting what ‘I’ want and need. Will these next generations see things differently because that’s just the way it has always been for them?

Not that I don’t think those of us raised in different generations can’t embrace this new way of being. Dana wrote on her blog:

I have recently worked on an amazing new project called the Connected World with three colleagues. We have never worked better together, and when you combine the skill set of the four of us, you have one powerhouse of a teacher. Together we have created a curriculum that is so engaging to teach. I love going to work and learning as much as my students every day.

This is what it is all about. This is collaboration at its finest. Let’s take this idea, and expand upon it even further. What if these four amazing teachers shared their ideas with four more amazing teachers? And those new teachers did the same? And so on and so forth and pretty soon, massive amounts of teachers feel the way Dana feels. And these super happy and excited teachers are impacting hundreds and thousands of kids.

My hope is that we will all come to embrace and appreciate this age of collaboration. I know my fingers are crossed that we will be able to prepare kids properly for the world of mass collaboration. I have a sneaking suspicion that they are already well on their way to understanding it all by themselves anyway!

Whenever, wherever, with whomever

The other day Jeff and I were streaming the radio, listening to the “Top 40 Countdown” from the USA. The host is none other than American Idol’s Ryan Seacrest; having been out of the states for so long, we hadn’t known that was one of his ‘other jobs’! As we’re streaming the show, Ryan asks a question of his listeners and tells them to ‘Twitter your response back’. Jeff and I both stopped what we were doing (painting the living room) and looked at each other in surprise. When did Twittering become a routine part of radio shows?

dscn1788I was catching up on my news stories a few days ago and came across an article about people who were charged astronomical amounts on their cell phone bills. In each incident, the person being charged the exorbitant amount was being ‘connected’ in some way. One gentleman was downloading a movie while on holiday, another man was streaming a football game while on a cruise. A young girl was secretly sending 100s of text messages a day to her friends, and yet another gentleman was stationed in a remote area in Canada and decided to use his cell phone as a modem…$83,000 USD later he realized it wasn’t such a great idea!

On Sunday we decided to order pizza for delivery (too hot to cook!). We now don’t pick up the phone, we pop open the laptop. We input our order (including what toppings we want added and removed) and hit submit. Approximately 30 minutes later our pizza is delivered to our door.

p5051779I discovered the other day that my very good friend was fighting off a bad case of pneumonia. I also read that her mom, who lives in Arizona, had fallen and needed to get staples in a gash on her head. I learned of this all through Twitter. My friend learned about her mom’s accident via twitter as well.

Last week I called my mom in Washington State on her cell phone via Skype from Bangkok. While I was talking to my mom on the phone, I was chatting on Skype with my best friend who works in Shanghai. At the same time, I was sending text messages to my sister’s cell phone in the states via my email account.

This brings me to the question ‘what makes the web so powerful?’…I believe it is connections: whenever, wherever, with whomever. We have the ability to connect to anyone and everyone all of the time. I’ve only been routinely using the Internet for about the last ten years or so, but even I feel a sense of ‘emptiness’ when the Internet is down (don’t tell Jeff!). When I’m unable to get a signal on my cell phone, I suddenly feel cut off from the world, yet I can remember a time when hardly anyone had cell phones. I’m not sure when this switch happened, but it did happen. We’ve entered this digitally connected world and I don’t think there is any turning back. Whether we like this ability to ‘constantly connect’ or not, it is a part of this world we are now living in. I have to admit, rather reluctantly, that I am one of those people who likes the ability to be connected…often. But I still am holding out against getting an iPhone, one per family is enough I think!

My job, your job?…our job

In an earlier blog post (Back in the saddle again) I wrote about International School Bangkok’s MS Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). We had looked at the policies by division and picked out parts of them that we found interesting or significant. There were two parts of the MS AUP that struck me. The 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.

I asked in my original post, whose job is it to teach kids this ‘responsibility? Where do they learn what that responsible behavior is supposed to look like? The AUP also goes on to make a statement about cyberbullying:

Cyber-bullying is not tolerated at ISB. ISB becomes involved when student’s online activities impact at-school life and community. In other words, if the actions of students outside of school have an effect on students feeling unsafe or uncomfortable at school, then ISB administration will act and remedy this. Additionally, if members of ISB staff or its community are targeted, then the school administration will get involved.

This is a strong, and I think necessary statement. I think being an International School we have a bit more flexibility when it comes to laws around liabilities and such. I’m not sure how this would look in other countries. I do think, however, that with anything, there is some subjectivity involved. In reading a recent article about a student who was penalized for publishing derogatory statements about school administration on her personal blog from home, I found myself concerned with where our lines are drawn. Another article shared how a school in California responded to a group of students who started a ‘hate group’ on Facebook about another student. Laws are changing as people become aware of the potential effects of irresponsible Internet use.

dsc_0666In this day and age, I think as a school we are doing students a serious disservice if we are not teaching them about online safety, responsibility online, and ethical Internet use. Ideally, kids would be getting these digital literacy skills from home (and many are I’m sure). However, with the rate of change and the speed at which information is evolving, I believe educational institutions need to shoulder much of the burden for helping students to understand their digital world. Realistically, many parents are ill equipped to support and guide their children because they themselves lack the skills and information. Maybe helping parents to learn and understand digital literacy is also something that schools should be considering.

dsc_0689Within an educational institution, whose job is it to make sure this information is being taught to students? I don’t know if I have the answer to that…my hope is that it’s everyone’s responsibility to be teaching these skills. Yet my worry is that if it’s everyone’s job, then who is held accountable to ensure it is happening? Where are the standards and benchmarks in our curriculum for these digital literacy skills? As a counselor, I know I feel responsible for ensuring my students are gaining the skills required to be successful in life. In this life, they need to be equipped to navigate the digital world. So, I guess it’s my job too.

Antiquated copyright?

In reading different articles and blog posts surrounding copyright laws, I’ve noticed a couple of reoccurring themes. Primarily “I am not a lawyer” appears often when well known bloggers are offering up opinions/advice about copyright. Additionally, answers about copyright are ambiguous and vague…it seems that there are no fast and hard answers when it comes to this issue. Often people trying to ‘do the right thing’ are frustrated and left without a clear answer of what that ‘right thing’ is when it comes to using copyrighted material.

Doug Johnson wrote about this in his post Copyright Counseling. I love this title…I think it fits with the idea (as in counseling) that having a black and white answer to problems/questions isn’t how it works! His idea of taking in all the information and then making a judgment “based on your own interpretation of fair use” works for me.

As a global society, do we need to rethink copyright laws? Absolutely. An article about a high school athlete who was inadvertently catapulted into the limelight because of a routine photo taken at a track meet is a perfect illustration. How can we control copyright in a world that is hyper connected and linked? This girl legally has no avenue to put an end to the unwanted attention she’s received. Even if she did, it is unrealistic to think that she could even begin to find and retrieve all of the photos that have been posted and copied over and over again. How do we deal with these issues? My heart goes out to this girl and her family; they’ve had their lives turned upside down through no fault of their own. But how do we protect ourselves and our loved ones?

Protecting ourselves and determining ownership is one aspect of copyright. The other side of copyright is acknowledging the creators of material and ‘compensating’ people for their work. Shouldn’t artists be credited with their work and be able to receive compensation for what they have created? Of course they should…but maybe this will look a bit different in this digitally connected world we live in. Attempting to control the illegal downloads of songs and videos, for example, hasn’t seemed to work. The recent court case against Pirate Bay is a good example-last time I checked (this morning) the Pirate Bay website was still up and running!

I don’t have any answers, but I definitely think that our antiquated ideas of copyright need updating! Creative Commons seems to be a progressive way of looking at copyright…