Privacy, FourSquare, and Teens

Some days two things come up that give you pause. Today was one of those.

Masters of Deception book coverYesterday I finished reading “Masters of Deception: The Gang That Ruled Cyberspace, the story of the teenaged hacker ‘gangs’ of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. There are the usual questions of whether these kids were just curious, smart kids who were under-served by the schools or there really was criminal behavior. The book gives enough of glimpse into each of the actors to see the various blends in each one, as well as how the intent changes as the boys grow up.

Today, the twitter-sphere is bubbling over with news of changes in FourSquare’s privacy policy. Apparently, FourSquare will now be sharing full names and giving venue owners more up-to-the-minute data on check-ins starting January 28, 2013. This comes only a few weeks after Instagram was forced to back down on some of its new privacy policies.

My interest is generally around the work I’ve done with schools and teen-agers so these stories intersect. The story of teen-agers is really about how their judgement grows over time. This collision of massive amounts of data with limited judgement provides for some interesting times!

Will our new definition of privacy be more like a small-town where everyone knows what you had for dinner but social mores dictate the way that information is used or more like the anonymity of a big city where so much is visible that no one really sees it.

At any rate, seeing our teenage selves in public will surely shape society for decades to come. This was recently discussed in the NY Times blog “Motherlode” in the article “Thanks, Mom, for Not Telling the World I Pulled a Knife on You.”

Makes you think!

Beyond Second Life

Last night I spoke to a parents’ group about Social Networking and balancing the opportunities and dangers on the Internet for kids of varying ages. By the end, we started to get to the fact that we really are at the very beginning of all of this when we look at things like Club Penguin or MySpace.

Today, I came across this slide show from Cory Ondrejka. Mr. Ondrejka offered this as the final session of a faculty seminar at the Annenberg School at USC, part of the Charles Annenberg Weingarten Program on Online Communities (APOC). Mr. Ondrejka was the CTO of Linden Labs and a leading architect of Second Life so he’s got an important and well-informed viewpoint on all of this.

And in my continuing Twitter story….I came across this via a tweet from gsiemens directing me to a blog post from Brett Bixler with this slide show embedded.

This is the kind of thing the I hope I got across to parents as we think about what social networking will mean in kids’ lives.

How do we know?

A few weeks ago, I put in a proposal for our state conference called “How Do We Know?” My intent was to focus on how we glean truth from the information we find online. This is a burning issue for teachers as they plan research assignments in this age of Wikipedia.

As I gather my thoughts and my resources, I’m finding that the question is reforming around three new themes that really contribute to the way I find myself dealing with information as I do other parts of my job: overseeing a team whose duties include managing a network, developing for the web and supporting hundreds of laptop and desktop computers.

All of these require access to an ever changing ocean of information available through Google, endless access to unknown folks who offer support but lie along a continuum of expertise, and the varied skills of our team.

So, the real questions for “How Do We Know?” revolve around 3 questions for me.

  1. How do we know when the amount of digital information now exceeds 281 gigabytes?
  2. How do we know when we have to separate “truth” from outright false information and myriad shades of truth?
  3. How do we know what to know next when we can pursue seemingly infinite paths to knowing more about the areas of our careers?

I think these are the real 21st century challenges today. I suspect that for our students some will get much easier an some will get harder, but I don’t think any of these will really go away.

What do you think? I’m looking for comments here and on my presentation wiki.

Blogs, Wikis and Safety?

Just finished reading an interesting blog post from Wes Fryer of Oklahoma entitled Blogs, Wikis, District Polices, Walled Gardens and the Open Web. Wes talks about how his belief in and ongoing support of students and teachers operating in the Open Web.

The starting point for the conversation is a video from gfrancomtube entitled District Policies Regarding Blogs and Wikis This is a mashup of a 1960’s video of a father and son discussing drugs, with a mix of the original audio and some new audio from grancomtube discussing district policies that keep students safe from predators on the web by keeping their wiki and blog usage in some protected space. (Unfortunately, if you look at this from your school, you may very well just see a black square since the video is only available on YouTube.)

Contrast this with the article “Online ‘Predators’ and Their Victims: Myths, Realities, and Implications for Prevention and Treatment” from the Feb-March 2008 issue of the American Psychologist. This article reviews just who the predators are, what behavior is most likely to put kids at risk, and just what risks really exist. Turns out it’s not what we’ve all been taught for the past several years. The article is fascinating in both its extent and citations, but it boils down to some things we should have known from the start. 1) Kids who engage in risky behavior (chatting with strangers, posting suggestive pictures, etc.) are at risk. 2) Kids who hang out in risky places (unmoderated chatrooms, private chats with unknown individuals, etc.) There is no evidence that blogs or wikis are dangerous, including MySpace.

While I’ve grossly oversimplified the article, both of these resources (the YouTube video and the article) make great starting points for formulating realistic approaches that protect kids and enable kids to prepare them for their lives in the 21st Century.

Preparing my next presentation

I’m starting to really think about my conference presentation for this year’s Delaware Instructional Technology Conference. My topic and blurb as submitted.

How Do We Know?

When we were in school, the question was "What do you know?" Now, for most of us, the question is "How can I know this?" and "how do I know it’s true? " This presentation will go beyond searching to discuss some real-world dilemmas in Knowing in the 21st Century.

Of course, that was when I only needed 50 words and a catchy title!

When I started out, what I really wanted to focus on was how we help students "know" the difference between what’s true and what’s not on the web. I really liked the article from TechLearning by Kathy Schrock and it made clear a lot of the issues in learning on the web. I also want to include the powerful words of Bob Sprankle’s third and fourth graders from a few years ago about using Wikipedia. Of course, the latest story along this vein is the tale of the college study group via Facebook at Ryerson University.

But with my recent use of Twitter, I’m finding another dimension of this topic. I’ve been "collecting" a number of local experts who help identify useful or interesting new bits of information. I’m also learning to look at other experts through the eyes (or tweets) of those I’m following. For example, David Warlick’s tweet today led me to a great post More Twitter types from Martin Weller, a Professor of Educational Technology at the Open University in the UK.

I’m thinking this is a different kind of "knowing" that consists mainly of a kind of swimming in the knowledge base that is constantly swirling around me.

I’ve set up a wiki to collect other ideas for my presentation and would love folks to post their links for me.