The 2013 Digital World? What CAN I Be Thankful For?

martipicTGiving

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

It’s Thanksgiving 2013, a time when we give thanks for family, friends, and the richness of our lives. It’s also a time to take stock, gain perhaps a bit more insight about the quality of life, and maybe even refrain from always wishing for more.

As a teacher, 21st Century learning advocate, and educational technology enthusiast, I spend much of the year on this blog suggesting ways that families, educators, children, and certainly, my students, can strategize, enrich, and improve their digitally connected lives and, of course, learn enough to avoid potential problems.

But today is different!

We spend so much time grumbling about all the problems that arise in our digital era. So to add some extra fun to our family’s Thanksgiving 2013 celebration, here are a few special experiences and joys that the digital world has brought into my family’s life — for which I am most grateful.

I am thankful that digital life allows me to:                  Continue reading

Privacy Settings Can’t Always Protect You

All of us — children, parents, and teachers — need to think about the security of our privacy settings. Part of learning to live in the digital world involves understanding and competently using these settings, but we also must recognize their limitations.

Privacy WaveOnce we post or share digital content, the privacy of the information depends on the good judgment of others. No matter how securely the  settings, our friends, who in theory understand our expectations, can err in judgment by copying, taking screen shots, or sharing the content in another digital location. When we post data via social media, we cede control of that information to others who may not abide by our privacy preferences.

In a Wired article, Don’t Make My Mistake: Always Think Before You Tweet, Randi Zuckerman, the sister of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerman, describes how she shared a picture with friends, only to have one of those friends share it in a more public way and eventually widely via Twitter. The picture caused a huge media stir, with people laughing that Zuckerman, the sister of the Facebook founder, did not understand the privacy settings. But she understood perfectly — it was her friend who did not get it.

Best Quote

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Digital World Research-What It Tells Us About Causation vs. Association

On a fairly regular basis I hear presenters and parents cite research results about technology and 21st Century kids. Often they justify their points by making comments such as “According to research,” or “Research demonstrates that…”

causationassociationSome time ago, for instance, I heard a presenter comment that too much use of digital devices causes students’ lack of concentration, and she cited a university research study. Trouble is, when I subsequently checked out the research, it was based on 25 participants — a small number on which to form a conclusion and make assumptions about a dramatic outcome. After I read the abstract, I discovered that the researchers who conducted the study concluded that the outcome is an association with kids’ lack of concentration and not a cause. The data did not indicate that too much technology causes a lack of concentration.

The difference between association and causation is significant, and parents as well as those of us in the educational technology community need to recognize the difference. Much of our accumulated data about technology outcomes are collected over a short-term, and in many areas we have no data collected long-term. Television statistics are the exception, because after years and years of well-designed, science-based studies, the causal connection between television viewing and childhood behaviors is only now being firmly established. That’s because enough data exist to enable researchers to draw firmer conclusions about how TV screen time affects certain childhood problems.

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Soundbites From Day Two of FOSI 2013 – Conference Post #3

fosi2013While I could not spend the entire day at the FOSI2013 conference, I joined the event around 1:00 P.M. after a morning at school and just in time for a terrific panel, Child Psychology and the Effects of Technology. Later I attended a session, Creating Trust on Social Networks, with panel members from the social media industry who described in some detail  how vendors and social media sites strive to commit themselves to user support, troubleshooting, problem-solving, and integrity — in theory, above profit concerns.

As usual, each of the break-out periods featured two sessions — topics that I really wanted to attend but scheduled at the same time — so I had the difficult task of making choices. Because FOSI2013 provided a detailed schedule before the conference began, I arrived with a pretty good idea about which session related more to the issues that I am currently thinking about and coping with at my school. Still, making this type of choice at a conference is always challenging. I’ve tentatively arranged to get together, face-to-face, with local colleagues who also attended the conference and swap notes about the sessions that we missed.

I might mention here that during a break my edtech colleague, David, and I struck up a conversation with Patricia, a conference attendee and government official from Kenya. She had arrived just before the conference and was leaving almost immediately afterward. He asked her if she would be attending the FOSI2014 conference next year and invited her to plan a few extra days and visit his school. I  chimed in and offered an invite to mine. Then we told Patricia that our independent school technology community is close-knit, and would welcome her at their schools, too.

To round out the afternoon, conference attendees all came back together to hear a group of experts discuss and distill some of the issues — privacy, digital citizenship, parenting, social media, connected life — that FOSI featured during the two-day conference. This was one of the most engaging conference activities, I think, because of the way the panelists — a journalist, an academician, a therapist, and a legal scholar — ranged back and forth over the topics connecting events and adding their own information.

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Soundbites From Day One of FOSI 2013, Conference Post #2

fosi2013Some of these ideas come from researchers describing the results of various studies. Others come from presenters’ comments. My apologies for not connecting individuals with their comments. 

I am drawing from my 30 pages of actual handwritten notes (handwritten because the seats were not a comfortable height for me to use my iPad).

In the Digital World

  • Six billion people have access to a cell phone in today’s world — more than have access to clean toilets.
  • The enemy of empowerment is fear and lack of expertise.
  • Be the change that you want to see in the world. (a Gandhi quote)
  • Children are using the Internet at younger and younger ages.
  • Surveillance does not create safety — only the illusion of safety.
  • Think less about digital citizenship. The Internet is a huge part of life and we are citizens on and offline.
  • Digital world communication often eliminates a person’s visual and aural signals setting the scene for misunderstanding.

Teens                                             Continue reading

Observations from FOSI 2013 – Conference Post #1

fosi2013I am away from school today, attending the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) 2013 conference in Washington, DC. I plan to post several times over the course of the two days, and because I am putting connected-world sharing above almost-perfect prose, I’ll make basic edits as I write but spend more time tonight and tomorrow fine-tuning my posts.

Check out the FOSI Annual Conference Program!

Check out the FOSI Annual Conference Program!

The conference, held in the Ronald Reagan International Trade Conference, features all sorts of digital life movers and shakers who  offer information and guidance to parents, children, and educators.

One always has interesting first impressions at the beginning of any conference. Is it easy to get settled? Yes. Is the wifi ready and easy for us to use? Yes, and I am using it now. Are the people friendly and helpful? A definite yes. And finally, does the conference facility have a coat check? Yes! There’s nothing worse than toting around a coat all day during a conference.  It remains to be seen if it will be easy to recharge my laptop when necessary, but I expect that will not be difficult either.

So now I get to excitedly anticipate the FOSI program. I await the panel on new research. I’m eager to hear from danah boyd (lower case intentional), especially about her upcoming book, It’s Complicated. (Editor’s Note: Even when I knew just a few of the many wonderful things about danah I was already a fan just because she attended the same university as my daughter.) Another author I’ll be interested to hear is Catherine Steiner-Adair, whose book, The Big Disconnect, is my current read and featured on the front of this blog.

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Digital Childhood and Technology: Another Good NPR Series

All Tech Considered

Visit All Tech Considered

Parents and educators can learn a lot about children’s digital lives — and the importance of helping young people develop strong digital citizenship skills — by listening to a series of broadcasts from National Public Radio (NPR) on raising digital natives (also available in print). The radio reports focus on children’s experiences in daily connected life and present wide-ranging information about the responsibilities of parenting 21st Century digital kids. All of the stories are posted at All Tech Considered blog, but I’ve included links for each story below.

The entire set of news stories, shared by a number of different NPR reporters, contains information that can help parents and educators think more carefully about how to strengthen their roles in children’s lives.

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