23. June 2009 · Comments Off on Learner-centric learning and people we don’t know · Categories: Internet safety, Issues, My personal learning journey, Second Life, Social networking

I’ve been researching virtual worlds for Education.au’s Immersive Learning Unit and had an aha moment this morning in between hitting the snooze button on my N95 that I wanted to commit to pixels before it faded away in the morning routine.20/06/2009

The issue of risk management in virtual worlds as with so many other virtual spaces stems from the fact that there are people there we don’t know.

Would closed-off virtual worlds created within a school or institution solve the issue of risk while allowing for many of the pedagogical affordances such as collaboration, role playing, simulation building and modeling? Is there value in creating a safe space?

But just as we don’t settle for a LAN or a closed off portal alone to solve the issue of viruses, scams and annoying people on the internet — settling for a localised virtual world cuts learners and educators off from their most valuable learning resources: other people and their ideas and information.

These closed off environments also create funnels — someone other than the individuals using them decides what is relevant and valuable. If we’re truly going to move towards learner-centred teaching — then allowing a centralised authority to limit access to tools and information and decide what goes on a narrow portal is a ball and chain that has to be severed.

Virtual worlds are 3D representations of  web sites.   Each personal plot is a blog or MySpace page in 3D.  Each island or simulation a web site or a series of smaller web sites.  Some of these destinations whether 2D or 3D are fluid, unique, wonderful, valuable and some are dangerous, scary, spammy and flawed.  Why are they this way? Because they are created by PEOPLE and that’s what people are.

So, opting for a virtual world that is limited just to one institution is creating a LAN or a closed portal – not a virtual world experience.

If educators and learners are limited to password protected virtual portals or LANs — on the net or in the virtual worlds space — they are shut off from a universe of original thinking, unique experiences andopportunities to broaden their worlds.  Plus, it prevents both groups from learning the digital literacy skills they need to have to be fully realised as citizens of the 21st century.

Virtual worlds like the 2 D internet offer a wealth of experiences – one institution or jurisdiction cannot possibly create them all. And if they did, what a homogenous world it would be.

PS: You may be asking yourself – what’s up with that photo? It is of a group of valued friends/colleagues  (and our waiter) that are an important part of my life and constantly enrich it with their insights, knowledge, friendship and laughter.  I got to know them all in Second Life. So glad I didn’t get limited to a LAN or portal or single closed off island.

Actor Christian Bale’s highly publicised, foul-mouthed rant on a movie set, Michael Richards racist rant at a heckler, Michael Phelps captured by a digial camera smoking marijuana, politicians who take one stance one year and reverse it 6 months or a year or two on without explanation (thinking that what, all video evidence was erased?). Fishnotising - Project 365 - Day 31

We marvel that these famous people would be so careless. The eyes of the world are on them, right?

How about THESE people:

  • Teachers disciplined for inappropriate photos on Facebook and MySpace
  • Workers calling in sick on Fridays and then fired when the party photos appear on Mondays.
  • Mean-spirited email exchanges via corporate accounts published to the world.
  • Tipsy or emotionally charged or just plain bored people having a rant about bosses, co-workers or less than tasteful extracurricular activities in public chat rooms.

You don’t need a blog, or a Facebook or MySpace account or a photo-sharing or video sharing site account to get in the spotlight on the internet — although any one of these certainly helps.

Publishing is now instant and 24/7.  The ability to communicate instantly and share instantly means that everyday people are now just as at risk for having their reputations damaged, careers hurt and relationships destroyed as the famous.  Educators, do a search on “teacher yelling” or “my crazy teacher”  in Google or YouTube and see what comes back.

For those of us basking in our obscurity, keep in mind that we don’t need our faux pas distributed to millions of people for our lives to be impacted.  Thanks to search technologies, a thoughtless tirade could end up end up on the monitors of potential employers, peer review bodies, friends and family — or even being the next internet sensation.

What’s the answer? As the famous do, own and control your identity and yourself online and offline:

  • If you wouldn’t want to see it as the latest headline (or have it read by your boss, parents, children, friends and/or spouse), don’t write it or say it or pose for it or publish it.  Just because it’s been published in a pass-word protected area doesn’t mean someone can’t use PrintScreen to create an image of it.
  • After hours, don’t be afraid to tell snap-happy friends that you don’t want your photo taken.  Especially the ones who are online publishers.
  • Set workplace guidelines regarding privacy and what is considered appropriate to share publicly.
  • If you’re feeling emotionally charged and cannot argue with or correct someone without backing the emotion out of it, walk away or save the email as a draft. If it happens a lot, switch to decaf.
  • Remember you don’t own your work email. Your organisation does.
  • If you do live some of your life online, use an online service that will stitch together those online identities you wish to claim.

Despite opposition from numerous quarters, despite facts presented, the Rudd government is going ahead with tests of an ISP-level filter.

With an attitude of utter contempt for the Australian people, the government is not revealing any details that would aid the public in understanding why they feel it is necessary.  In fact, they are making a point of withholding information from the Australian public, point-blank refusing to answer questions and doing a 180 degree turn on the promise that any filter would be opt-out.

In the face of findings that reportedly show the filter system would only slow down the ‘net but not do much good (but how the hell would we know for sure — our tax dollars only PAID FOR THE REPORT, BUT WE’RE NOT ALLOWED TO SEE IT) — the formerly self-styled “fiscal conservatives” running the country are going to blow millions on testing a broken system that will only ensure we remain at the back of the pack.  And with the “global economic downturn” (or GED as they style it) — it doesn’t see to be a good time to be gambling — with either our money or our future.

The internet is, after all, our pipeline in and out for education, commerce, research, entertainment and communication — so why the secrecy? And why the apathy from most of the other parties?

Here’s the Australian article to get you started on your own research into this issue: http://www.theage.com.au/national/internet-censor-scheme-flawed-20081222-73ne.html

It’s so frustrating that the government refuses to treat us with respect on this issue by opening a dialogue. Saying sorry after they’ve wasted money and sent us backwards won’t be good enough.  Though that might be just how the people who voted this government in are starting to feel.

Back in August, Rudd confessed that he believes intelligent design is responsible for the universe.  Pity he doesn’t feel the same way about ISP-level filtering.

28. October 2008 · Comments Off on Content filtering with NO Opt Out and government deciding what’s in · Categories: Broadband, E-business, government filtering, Internet filtering, Internet safety, Issues, My personal learning journey, Research, Social networking, Technologies · Tags: , , , ,
Don't filter me

Don't filter me

“I’m not exaggerating when I say that this model involves more technical interference in the internet infrastructure than what is attempted in Iran, one of the most repressive and regressive censorship regimes in the world.” Colin Jacobs, chair of the online users’ lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia, as quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald, 24 October 2008.

Nope, this isn’t a post about China or a dictatorship (at least, not an official one) that’s the subject of this blog post.  It’s the Australian government’s short on detail long on self-righteous rhetoric approach to “protecting our children”.

I don’t know why suddenly everyone is shocked.  Internet filtering at the ISP level has reared its ugly head on both sides of the Australian Parliament.  The latest effort was in March 2006 when then-Labour-leader Kim Beazley pounded his fist in righteous indignation “for the sake of the children”. Of course that led to the then Howard-government’s disastrous filter for every home mail-out that then year 10 student Tom Wood cracked in less time than it takes to watch an episode of that soft-core porn TV fav “Big Brother”.

In January, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Stephen Conroy resurrected the cause and attempted to stifle debate on the issues, as I blogged in the post “Disagree and you are an anti-Australian pervert.”

Things seemed to go quiet until April with the government introducing amendments to the Telecommunications act that would reportedly “force all telecommunications providers to facilitate lawful data interception across fixed and mobile telephone systems, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), Instant Messaging (IM) and chat room discussions”

Now it’s on again — time to educate yourself and choose a side.

This Thursday 30 October, the Hon. Stephen Conroy will be intereviewed on ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) radio national’s Media Report program – 8:30am AEDT, repeated 8pm.  His interview will immediately be followed by one with respected futurist, educator and programmer Mark Pesce. Hopefully the audio and transcript will be up on the Media Report site not long after.

If you’d like to do some homework in advance, WA Greens Senator Scott Ludlam’s web site provides a transcript of a conversation he had with Mr. Conroy in an estimates hearing — http://scott-ludlam.greensmps.org.au/content/transcript/cybersafety-net-filtering

Read up, listen in and take a stance.  Mr. Conroy says it’s early days yet – so we all have time to feed into this debate.

Finally, despite the fact I am not a Greens supporter, I have to say how blown away I was by Senator Ludlam’s blog and the Green’s site.  It’s the antithesis of Senator Conroy’s deadly boring web 1.0 pixel ghetto and proves who is in touch with how the internet is used and who gets “briefings”.

26. April 2008 · Comments Off on Invitation to educators using social media with students · Categories: Blogging, Events, government filtering, Internet filtering, Internet safety, Issues, Social networking · Tags:

In Australia, most schools operate on a white list system when it comes to the web sites they can access. Educators have to apply for sites to be unblocked for classroom use and some sites are banned with no hope of unblocking them. The practitioners I’ve talked to are feeling frustrated – they’d like to explore new ways of engaging their students, but having to continually request sites be unblocked or finding a site that wasn’t blocked now is can put it all in the “too hard basket”.

Recently, an educator who had successfully been running a blogging program with his Year 3 students for a few years was told to remove the blog with the kids blogs and photos (all had parental permissions slips signed) due to safety concerns. http://alupton.edublogs.org/

Even in institutions catering to older students such as TAFEs, educators face the blockage of sites such as Twitter that can be valuable as a professional development networking tool if someone up the chain deems it to have no educational value.

I work for national, not for profit educational organisation called education.au We are owned by the federal and state education departments with the goal of supporting practitioners and administrators in the use of ICTs. We also aim to provide leadership in the innovative use of online and offline tools.

Part of my role involves producing a podcast for educators – E-learning Insights http://www.edna.edu.au/edna/go/news/podcast/eli.

To provide educators and administrators with case studies of programs that are successfully balancing risk and opportunity, I have set up a voice board to allow educators who are using social media and online tools with students to record their stories.

Here is where the voice board is located: http://sandpit.edna.edu.au/course/view.php?id=118

Due to licensing issues, users need to have an account with education network Australia (edna) services and log into the site in order to participate.

Alternately, you can send me a link to an audio file you’ve already created or an email to read out. Please include a link (or mention) of your blog or other online site so that we can make a credible link between your story and you. My email address is kjohnson at educationau.edu.au (replace “at with @ to use).

Thank you for helping to open up discussion on this issue.

I’d like to get all submissions in by Wednesday, April 30th Australia time (Tuesday 29 April US and Europe).

If you know of other educators working with students online whom you feel would make a valuable contribution, please forward this information on to them.