Weekly Play – Caption Contest

For my weekly play I decided to do another daily create from DS106. Basically, the task was to take a cartoon from the New Yorker (they do a weekly caption contest) and add your own caption. Since my advocacy focus has been providing political commentary on topics in the recent news, I thought this would be a nice way of scaffolding how to make political cartoons. Since the picture was already drawn, my only task was to think of which political situation could best be represented through the image. After a bit of brainstorming, my thoughts turned to the resignation of Jeff Sessions and the uncertainty about the Mueller investigation with the appointment of Matthew Whitaker.  Here is the caption and cartoon.


Overall, I think this kind of activity could be a fun thing to do with my students. I imagine that students who struggle with reading and writing would find this task to be challenging yet accessible. In addition, my more advanced students might enjoy the chance to be a little extra clever with their captions.

Chapter 4 Worried About the Wrong Things

This chapter examined the use of electronics in schools and the ways that restrictions on technology impact the educational environment. According to the author, worries over the potential for technology to distract students from learning has led to restrictive policies in schools. While Vickery points out that this fear may be valid (especially with younger students), she also argues that restrictive technology policies undermine the educational environment. According to Vickery, restrictions on technology  communicates to students that they cannot be trusted and ultimately creates a “prison-like” atmosphere in which boredom reigns. Vickery also notes that restrictions on technology limits student access, creativity and opportunities to learn to use technology responsibly. Furthermore, limits on technology use are especially problematic for low income students who may not have any other access to technology other than at school.

Through student interviews conducted at a high school, Vickery also notes that many students use restricted sites to access tools necessary to their learning. In addition, access to social media and unrestricted technology allows students to feel connected within an environment where they often feel alienated or isolated.

Overall, I found this chapter to be an interesting take on the use of cell phones and restricted technology in school. While I generally lean towards trying to limit technology and distractions to students, I appreciated hearing arguments against what is seen in most schools. I also appreciated the interview portions with students – although I am a little skeptical of some of the statements that they made. In the end, while I see the problems (and futility) with restricting access to technology, I am not completely sold on the idea of opening up technology either.


The Realist

This week I took a privacy personality quiz in order to further develop a sense of what my views are about the use of my personal data. Interestingly, the results seemed to be fairly accurate in calling me a privacy realist (please note, unlike the profile, I don’t regret posting certain photos on social media or have Facebook messenger installed on my phone) . While not a perfect fit, I definitely see the potential threats to my privacy that technology poses as well as the benefits. In particular, some of the terms used in the privacy personality profile that seem to represent my thinking are: flawed, conflicted, and choice.

More importantly, this survey made me start to reexamine my views about privacy and my online presence. While I don’t want to be oblivious to the risks that new technologies pose to my privacy, I also don’t want to become paralyzed by fear. In addition, it is at times incredibly difficult to be as vigilant and conscious about digital privacy as I probably should be. Thus, while I am realistic about many things, it is difficult to determine what an appropriate level of security and concern about digital privacy should be. Is it truly worth it to spend a lot of time and resources towards protecting my privacy? Will such efforts be successful or are we destined to be one step behind?

While I am not giving up on this manner, I am still curious as to what the appropriate response is to all the new technologies that may threaten our privacy. What do you think? Please make sure to include your personal information (SSN, Credit Card, date of birth, etc.) in your responses.

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Wanted: Secure Place to Connect

After reading about the dangers of algorithms and the tendency for social networks to collect our information, I am curious why there isn’t a popular social networking site devoted to keeping user habits private? While Mozilla has filled this need with browsers, DuckDuckGo has done this with search engines, and there are countless linux operating systems devoted to this issue, I have not heard of any social networks with privacy as emphasis. With all of the public uproar over the use of private information by Facebook, I would imagine that someone would have developed a viable alternative.

Of course, I am sure there are plenty of reasons why people haven’t done this. For example, it may be too costly or people may not have shown much willingness to actually change their online habits. In addition, it may be that people who want to post information about themselves online are not overly concerned with privacy. Finally, there actually might already be a viable alternative out there that I have simply not heard of or that has been muscled out of the market by larger companies.

What are your thoughts on this? Are there good alternatives? What other barriers are there for new social networking sites entering the market?

lake pebbles under body of water

Where is the online equivalent to this?


Weekly Play – Remembering WWI

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For my weekly play this week I decided to go back to creating a meme that relates to a current topic in politics. Since tomorrow marks the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI, I thought it would be fitting to comment on the lessons that we maybe haven’t quite figured out since then. Sadly, there are countless countries that are ramping up nationalistic rhetoric and choosing chauvinism over international cooperation.

The picture I chose for the backdrop of this meme is from a photograph that was taken by an unknown French photographer in 1916. I liked this particular image since it sets a serious tone and portrays someone who seems to be giving much more thought to the people who died than most world leaders do today. Hopefully, this image could at least make someone pause and think about the connection between nationalism and the bloodshed that occurred in the 20th century as a result of it. It has been encouraging to see a little more attention given to the issue over the past few days. I am curious whether this will die down again after the anniversary has passed.

Beware of workplace analogies

While reading chapter 4 of Jacqueline Vickery’s “Worried about the Wrong Things” the conversation of cell phone use in classroom shifted to how adults in the workplace are able to learn how to manage cell phone distractions. While this is often true, I was reminded of how inaccurate it can be to compare schools to places of employment. First of all, we may not necessarily want to mimic the corporate culture and values often found in the workplace (though please feel free to enroll in my new Goldman Sachs finance class or my Exxon sponsored environmental stewardship course).

Furthermore, we have to remember that employees may act a little differently since they are allowed to choose where they work or they may get fired if they do not meet the expectations of their employer. Students on the other hand, may not be as worried about upsetting their teachers or being unproductive as much as they would be about upsetting a friend for not responding. In addition, unlike teachers, leaders of corporations are not held accountable if an individual is failing or not progressing.

Therefore, while it is handy to act like schools and the workplace are the same, I don’t particularly see it. That being said, it may be necessary to still assume that students may require the freedoms and conditions that are often found in the workplace. However, much of this may still be dependent on age and is a slightly different conversation. Stay tuned for that one.


Referees discussing the penalty for illegally applying privater sector concepts to the classroom



Let’s Take This Outside

Reading about the Harry Potter Alliance and the work that they are doing is an excellent reminder of how meaningful change often develops in unremarkable ways. While it is perfectly acceptable to start off with an ambitious social mission, is this the way that most social movements develop? Maybe we just need to get passionate and capable people in the same room (or digital environment) and the great ideas will take care of themselves later.

Throughout the civil rights movement, churches and college campuses often served as a meeting place from which many of the key figures emerged. During the creation of the US Constitution, it is said that the taverns of Philadelphia was where the real ideas were developed. As a result, it may often be necessary to simply create a safe space that can act as a point of connection and incubator for new ideas. What is inspiring about online communities is the fact that they can mobilize a large number of people and communicate over vast geographic areas. In addition, the ability to easily integrate funding models through paypal, gofundme, etc. means that they can operate on an even grander scale. Now the the question is, will other online fan groups and communities start to evolve by including a social mission to their work too?

black and white decision doors opportunity

Which path will online groups follow in the coming years?