Over the last weeks ChatGPT and Natural Language Models of Artificial Intelligence have created a real buzz for many in the technology industry and general media. For schools the arrival of these have generated important reflections and introspection on the role of AI, Chatbots and Natural Language Models in schools and the classroom. ChatGPT bringing on important moments to think about the role #AI in a classroom- schools. How does this refocus and challenge educators pedagogy, which can often in schools be focused on teaching content -knowledge with assessments designed around tests and exams.
We as educators and schools need to invite ourselves to ask what then is the value added proposition of learning in a classroom and school in the age of #AI #ChatGPT3. How do schools position themselves for a future with #AI. We all need to create the space, time, and support community voices to engage with this creative tension. To find the time and space, and hear these voices, will only allow us to be better prepared for such cohabitation.
Over the last 18 months, our time spent online has simply increased to levels maybe not experienced prior to the pandemic. As we continue to juggle the complexity and nuisance of the pandemic, this also maybe is an opportunity for schools to re-explore their relationship to digital citizenship. The growing erosion of our privacy as well as our amplified cohabitation with Artificial Intelligence (AI) present us with new challenges.
We all have become so much more aware of being tracked 24/7 with digital ecosystem grids which are seamless and frictionless parts of our daily routines. In (The Age of Surveillance Capitalism), Shoshana Zuboff describes this process of tracking “behavior surplus. Behavior surplus is the personal data that we leave on our devices and give away daily based on a mutual agreement (user agreements) between the digital companies and us. These agreements (when is the last time you read a user agreement?) give permission for our behaviors online/offline to be tracked, collected, monitored and analyzed by companies and in some cases governments at will. The purpose of “surveillance capitalism” is to leverage this “behavior surplus” to mitigate the uncertainty of our desires and to better predict what we will do. This is then turned into a profitable commodity. The value of our “behavior surplus” is unprecedented and the raw material of human data is fueling the engines of innovation, economics, politics and power.
Over the past few years, and in some ways accelerated even more in the last 18 months, AI has a growing impact on our lives, more often than we realize. Daily, it seems we develop a growing dependency on this cohabitation with AI: be it our GPS, HomeAssistant, iRobot vacuum cleaner, Health Device, Dating Apps, SmartWatch, or SmartTV. For our students, this seamless integration of AI into our lives often comes as a frictionless change. Tik Tok is a great example of this – a social media platform with sophisticated AI and unprecedented tracking algorithms, which in a short time added 1 billion users. Overnight, Tik Tok become a teen favorite and serious competition to Snapchat and Instagram. For many educators, new digital consumables are embraced with hesitancy but somehow often the convenience is enticing enough for us to succumb to the charm of the “smart” and “wifi“ ready products.
I have worked with groups of educators and students to build a series of lessons around ARTE’s Do Not Track in order to highlight the complexity and intricacies of how we are tracked. The different episodes are thoughtfully constructed with interactive components breaking down the erosion of privacy. I am surprised how often a percentage of students confidently express their indifference with this erosion of privacy and its implications. In some ways this makes sense. If the current privacy landscape is the sole point of reference, the current state of privacy is interpreted as normal. In comparison, educators interacting with ARTE’s Do Not Track respond with far more anxious discomfort as for many this erosion is compared to experiences where individuals felt greater control over their privacy. As we re-explore digital citizenship, we need to take these varying perspectives into consideration.
The fact is that most of our students are highly proficient digital consumers and not digital natives. The same goes for many educators in general. If we think of our own interactions with digital environments, it’s very likely that most of our time is focused on consumption over creation.
We need to consider re-framing how we support educators and students in a school setting away from a sole focus on digital citizenship to a broader focus on digital fluency. This requires us to develop an approach where the focus is on developing purposeful connections to our digital ecosystems with the goal of becoming ethical digital creators of content.
The concept and idea behind digital fluency is built on the work of the DQ Institute and its DQ Framework and the 8 digital intelligences. Digital fluency is facilitating an approach where learning opportunities are constructed around the natural connections of our day to day lives with these 8 digital intelligences. The important aspect of this focus is not excluding other essential learning in the curriculum. To make this meaningful, digital fluency needs to have clear connection points to personal experience, ensure these connection points are purposeful, and build on the learning already taking place in a school’s curriculum and the different learning pathways of the units of learning.
The above graph is one sample of several surveys done with Grade 5- 6 students asking them what areas of the DQ Framework they would like to learn and focus on. Interestingly, there was a clear pattern across several groups for Digital Safety as the highest priority (from the DQ Competencies.)
An important aspect of this is allowing student voice to actively guide the design of these digital fluency connections. They are identifying valuable needs and ensuring this open communication is key to making this shift meaningful to them.
Here are some examples of what digital fluency could look like, and what some schools are already actively creating. One example is giving high school students a LinkedIn account and spending time supporting what it means to have a public profile and how to curate a positive digital footprint compared to a personal social media footprint. Other schools are creating blended courses for parents on how to understand the difference between the pedagogic use of digital devices in schools and the challenges of a more open ended environment of digital device use outside of school in the home. Another example is having students develop public service announcements regarding malware and then coaching younger students on how to identify phishing emails and how to manage an antivirus app. Another is walking through the architecture of effective password creation and developing sustainable strategies to ensure a solid level of security in the students personal lives as a podcast. Or having students coach their parents through the privacy and security settings of their favorite app and create a how-to help screencast.
It is through these activities that participants build on a set of dispositions, skills and knowledge where they feel a sense of autonomy in addressing the complexities, challenges and opportunities of the digital ecosystems we are so intimately connected to.
The new year, 2022, at our doorstep will be even more intrinsically connected to cohabitation with AI and a continued dilution of the autonomy we have with our privacy. Scaffolding digital fluency as an essential part of the learning pathways provides a guide for students to shift their energies away from being passive digital consumers to active digital creators. Digital fluency provides a mindset to better understand the importance of the ethical responsibilities of digital creation and the implications of the digital ecosystems which permeate our lives, both visible and invisible. Ignoring this will just amplify a society of passive digital consumers, while eroding our free will.
Glaucia Rosas co-founder and Director of the https://edutecalliance.com/ invited me to sit down and share some reflections on her podcast about Educational Technology, Online Learning and juggling General Data Protection in a School setting.
As the first days of 2018 arrive, any reflections on last year seem to contain an uncomfortable rawness because of the events continuously populating our devices – the immediacy, brutality and complexity of a world fueled by-“FakeNews?”, each one of us trying to construct a context in the “Filter Bubble” choreographed by algorithms from which we build a sense of the world we live in.
As International School educators, we straddle between the walled garden of “school” and the outside “world”. The reality is that we are surrounded by constant change and ambiguity. But there is a gap between the accelerated rate of change and our capacity to adapt to it. For some, the gap is wide. For others, the gap stays the same, and for a few, the gap is narrowing. How we interpret and engage with the gap and our own capacity to keep up influences many of our feelings and emotions. These in turn fuel the perceptions, opinions and behaviors with which we express ourselves.
International Schools have to juggle the fine line between ensuring students and parents are pleased and ensuring that they feel safe, challenged and cared for. In the unique world of International Schools, a percentage of parents come from a comfortable socio- economic environment. Often times, their education is a contributing factor to their current positions. This education provided the opportunities for their successes and their economic prosperity. Living with this becomes a strong marker in what International School parents believe their children should get from an education and an International School. This pedagogic reference point in many cases 25+ years old. The world was avery verydifferent place then. However we try as schools to innovate, change and adapt, we do this with a level of caution and reservation. At the end of the day, the invisible mandate between parents and international schools, is “provide my child with stability, continuity, what I remember from my school days and more certainty then I have in my life today“.
As educators, we fall into a similar narrative. We have a desire for of stability, continuity, and more certainty than in the outside world we interact with. We do innovate and change in our schools, but the presence of the invisible mandate between our parents and schools influences the level by which we break the status quo.
Today the level of stability, continuity, and certainty that we were once used to has eroded. Uncertainty, ambiguity and volatility are an unavoidable part of the day. The complexity of this change permeates into everyone’s lives, and often not by choice.
2018, is an opportunity to embrace the world’s uncertainty, ambiguity and volatility, not as something eroding our past and challenging our present, but as an opportunity to re-frame the possibilities in front of us as a unique and rich learning journey. We have a responsibility to take this on in our roles as mentors, facilitators and educators. We bring a wisdom, resilience and care that has served us well and can continue to serve us today. Many of our students will one day be International School parents or educators who look back at their education as a point of reference for their own success. The measures will be different. We live in a world where uncertainty, ambiguity and volatility are part of our lives. We should not depend on reference points from our past to give us stability, continuity and certainty. Thegapfor many will still get bigger and more uncomfortable. But hopefully, in 2018, we can work to bridge that gap as well.
The post is inspired by a L2talk I did at the Learning2 Europe conference in Warsaw.
“every storyteller has a bias – and so does every platform”- Andrew Postman “My Dad Predicted Trump in 1985 – It’s Not Orwell, He Warned, It’s Brave New World.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 02 Feb. 2017
I am an addict. Are you too? Don’t you hate it when you can’t find your phone, and a friend has to call it. Maybe the first thing you did this morning was check your phone and the last thing you did today was check your phone. Think of it, we walk and text, and even drive and text. Have you had this happen, you are in a social situation and you go the bathroom to check an update. You are standing on a street corner and suddenly realize you are on your phone swiping at it, unconsciously. Then there is the feeling you get when you post a picture on a social media feed. The “likes” start coming in. It feels good, really good, and then you check back and back. You post an update and there no “likes”. You start wondering to yourself what is going on?
I am sure you’ve heard about B.J Skinner’s rat experiment. The first rat had a lever in its cage, and every time it hit the lever food would come out. The second rat in the same set-up, hit the lever and nothing came out, no food. The third rat, same set-up, when it hit the lever a little food came out, then nothing, and then a lot, and then nothing again. The third rat developed an addiction. It quickly realized as long as it hit the lever it had a chance of getting some food. This is called the principal of variable rewards. That feel good feeling, the dopamine rush. Behavior design as explained in this article (Scientist who make our apps addictive by Ian Leslie 1843 Economist October.November 2016) is a critical part of every app development. Tech companies employ behavior economist, psychologist, and psychiatrists in the creation, design and curation of our apps ecosystems to ensure we keep coming back.
So many of our interactions with devices are subconscious. In Eric Pickersgill thought provoking photos series “Removed” (do spend some time on the link) he highlights the idea of being alone together as Sherry Turkle so aptly describes in her book Alone Together. We are often physically together with another person in a space sometimes even intimately but our mind’s burrowed in a phone.
As adults, we are quick t0 point the finger at kids for not being able to manage their screen-time. Think of this, the first time an infant will interact with a digital device is watching a parent using one. What does it feel like for a child in a pram looking up at their parent to only see a blank expression immersed in their smartphone. The dinner table conversation interrupted by parents checking work emails. Mary Aiken in her book “ The Cyber Effect” states we are asking the wrong question. Mary Aiken writes “We should not be asking at what age is it appropriate to give a digital device to an infant, but be asking the question when is it appropriate for an adult to interact with a digital device in front of an infant.”
A good example of behavior design is Snapchat and the new feature “streaks“. The idea of streaks if you have a dialogue with a friend over 24 hours and you continue this over days, a flame emoji shows up. In tandem a number counting your interactions keeps tally. Should one of you stop posting, an hour glass shows up giving you a heads up that the streak will disappear if you do not stay on. For adolescent’s social media relationships can be a gauge of their social capital. Streaks adds a layer of complexity to the interactions.
I am not against digital devices. I have been working in Education Technology as a coach, coordinator, IT Director and Director of eLearning for over 20 years. I love the seamless and frictionless experience of our digital environments.
It is a fact that our online data (health apps, social media, travel, online games, GPS, shopping, search etc…) is collected, analyzed, and then sold to third parties, or curated to give us a personalized online experiences with a clear goal to manipulate our behaviors. We as educators have an ethical responsibility to be skeptical of behavior design’s narrative. Let us challenge our learning communities to question the complexity and consequences of behavior design in our lives. Stuffing a digital citizenship lesson for 15 minutes during a Friday morning advisory is not enough. We need to make this narrative an integral part of the living curriculum.
Do we want to end up being puppets pulled by the strings of choreographed digital ecosystems which we do not control?
I think it is important to understand schools are most likely the last place where children interact with digital devices with balance and pedagogic purpose. We cannot take this for granted.
If we ignore behavior design we will loose something. Free will. I and you do not want to lose this.
Every year has its moments, and 2016 was no exception. Various significant shifts occurred, including changes in the political landscape in the United States, United Kingdom, and other countries around the globe. And the horrors of war, civil strife, terrorism and an underlying global tension have been constantly fed into our digital lives from the comfort of our screens.
As we consume the aggregated algorithmic social network feeds, each customized to ensure we get what we want to digest, we are choreographed into a more divisive world.
Information is power. This year, the pollsters, news agencies, and pundits got caught out with two big votes, and so many predictions seemed off.
Our landscape of information has entered a level of Orwellian curation, and what is news, fact, or reality seems dictated by emotion and perspectives constructed from our own curated news feeds. They are rarely factual. “Post Truth” – Oxford English Dictionary Names ‘Post-Truth’ Word of the Year by Jon Blistein is the word that defines these moments and a shift to a new narrative.
For many of us, this Orwellian curation has us struggling to distinguish fact from fiction. The level of sophistication of not only the algorithms but how these are manipulated to shift thinking is the new power. In schools, we are being told by various studies that our students capacity for media and information literacy is weak. (Students Have ‘Dismaying’ Inability To Tell Fake News From Real, Study Finds by Camila Domonoske ). When you consider we as adults struggle with this landscape, it is no surprise that our students struggle too.
To be complacent is short-sighted in a school setting. There is a tendency with school professional development to not explicitly address the digital reality that engulfs our lives as an essential part of our professional learning. Information and Media literacy are what frame our own democratic values: choice, perspective, empathy, resilience, and critical thinking. If we as educators are going to assign students critical thinking tasks and ask them to engage with media and information while juggling screen time in a complex digital landscape, we cannot be passive bystanders.
As school leaders, we need to re-frame our engagement with the role of digital life in professional development. Together, we need to understand the complexity and impact of algorithmic information flows on our devices.
We also need dedicated spaces for this professional learning. We must learn how to mentor information flows, authenticate media, source perspectives, and understand the pedagogic impact of a curated news. We must approach this with patience and empathy, and allow everyone to build an understanding of the digital flows we live by, tapping into the talent of our librarians and digital coaches as guides. We must take advantage of the frameworks available to us (e.g: #1 or #2) and use them ourselves, as a point of reference for a pedagogic consensus on how to mentor our school community.
The paradigm shift asks us to look at Digital Intelligence as a core intelligence. As defined by http://www.projectdq.org: “- the sum of social, emotional, and cognitive abilities essential to digital life.” and shared out in the World Economic Forum article: “8 digital life skills all children need – and a plan for teaching them“.
Digital Intelligence needs to be woven into the curriculum. We do this on a daily basis with all other aspects of the curriculum. Let us do it with Digital Intelligence. Re-structure the focus and content to explicitly encompass screen-time management, privacy management, cyber security management, digital footprints, and digital identity; use these to make authentic connections based on our experiences. Then, reflect on our digital habits, likes, tensions, questions and understandings to create activities to share. In this process, we should hope to find comfort in being honest with our own vulnerabilities. We can then use this life-learning to support our students’ understanding of digital intelligence.
Being explicit about implementing Digital Intelligence in faculty professional learning ensures this is an essential part of our educators professional growth. Working together, as adults learners, we need to harness the complexity of the choreographed digital world. By ensuring this is in our professional learning landscape, we are then empowered to share our digital intelligence to students. It is the only way to counter an Orwellian curation of information in a “post truth” world.
A colleague of mine and her Kindergartners were busy exploring where an egg comes from. “Was it born like a baby? Does it grow on its own? Where do they come from? Different perspectives and ideas were shared enthusiastically. The children discussed and challenged each other with their theories. At the end of the activity, one child turned to her partner and said, “when I get home, I’ll ask Siri for the answer.” A routine response in our classrooms? Or an important moment to understand that artificial intelligence (AI) has embedded itself in our day to day lives? For a generation of children who have been raised on iPads and Siri, AI – with a name and voice like a human – is as ubiquitous as any other technology.
AI is a tool that learns, anticipates and predicts. It provides us with instantaneous information or completes routine tasks remotely. The Amazon Echo and Google Home, two new devices that have recently gained traction, have begun to enter the home as personal assistants. The Echo and Home are two of many voice-activated AI assistants that tap into vast artificial intelligence networks. They aggregate information based on our digital footprints and predict our habits based on a learning algorithm that engages continuously with the data we share on our digital devices.
A shift has occurred in our relationship with AI and the impact is profound. It is the seamless adaptation of AI into our lives – a frictionless experience that is slowly making us dependent on this predictive technology. This new relationship meets our unique taste and needs, and only gets better the more it knows about us. Over time, this is changing the way our brain functions when interacting in the digital world. This short video by AcademicEarth.org -“ Cognitive Offloading,” is a reminder of the neurological changes AI is having on our learning. We collectively feel more and more comfortable subcontracting out tasks to AI. The term ” let me google this” is an example.
For educators, this shift is showing up in our classrooms informally and in some instances invisibly. Artificial intelligences are important elements of the devices which exist in our school tool kits. These include mobile devices, apps, browsers, search engines, smartwatches, and more. Writer and professor Jason Ohler asks an important question in his article “Bio-Hacked Students On the Outer Edge of Digital Citizenship”. How should we, as educators, shift the curation of a scholastic experience when students come to the classroom with embedded or wearable artificial intelligences? This alters the value of the commodity of knowledge in the classroom and highlights a potentially new hierarchy where AI supplements a user’s expertise. Suddenly, we have 24/7 access to predictive and anticipatory information which has the potential to disrupt the independent learning experience of a typical classroom. In his article “Artificial intelligence is the next giant leap in education“, Alex Wood reflects on the role AI could play in education.
Coming to terms with these exponential changes takes time to digest. As educators, we need to understand that engagement and critical thinking are vital components of education, especially as AI shifts the classroom narrative. The ethical issues which surround these exponential changes are here now. The complacency that schools engage with in the discourse of what it means to be in a world dominated by AI is a tension we cannot ignore.
As educators, we have a unique opportunity to design curriculums around the narrative of artificial intelligence. We need to be encouraging our students to not only be good digital citizens but proactive digital leaders who understand the complexity of a world fueled by artificial AI. Schools should promote the skills and inquiry mindsets which provide students with the capacity to harness the power and opportunities of AI and not become complacent with the technology. Ultimately, we want our students to be active leaders and architects of AI’s continued growth. As educators, we have a responsibility to ensure our students have a working understanding of how to navigate a complex and changing world fueled by artificial intelligence for the good of future generations.
Disruption for many people generates discomfort, shakes the status quo and breaks routines. We all have an emotional response to this process: for some hesitation, doubt, confusion, fear, anger, bewilderment, and for others excitement, rejuvenation, inspiration, motivation and energizing or a combination of the above.
The Digital Disruption Has Already Happened” image on twitter challenged my own thinking, and as I unpacked this with a group of students we all had to take time to unravel what this meant to us. After a healthy discussion we came to a common understanding that each of these companies generated a “disruption” armed with ideas and models that completely reshape the economic contract of the business world. The disruption challenged a set of expectations, routines and structures, thus redefining what it means to provide a particular service. In the process, the relationship between worker, employer, customer and their social contracts was also redefined. As these models of disruption become part of our economic ecosystem, a whole new paradigm faces us. A good example of this process is featured in this article “The Last Kodak Moment?” (Economist)
As the students and I further discussed what this means to us here in the classroom, we started realizing a distinct disconnect between the objectives and outcomes of our learning in school and the reality that this image represents. There are two worlds working in very different realms with no clear bridge creating a meaningful authentic connection between them. As one student shared after seeing this video in class, “mmm I find it odd that we are not learning how to make these things in school, or understand how they work or maybe fix them.”
Yes, the world around us is changing rapidly, very rapidly, we know this, we are aware of this, we state this, and are impacted by this daily. However, our role is often that of the passive consumer, unconsciously sucked in by the addictive seamless convenience of the services these disruptions deliver. In our passivity and growing dependence we seem willing to sideline a more critical reflection of what this disruption is doing to us. The engines of this disruption: creativity, machine learning, algorithms, and innovation are driving the ecosystems which are quickly becoming non negotiables with our work and social flows. These disruptions are inevitable and not bad or good, they are part of today’s economic narrative that impacts us all locally and globally.
But in the bubble of “school” there is a sense that it is okay not to engage with this concretely, giving ourselves permission to continue focusing on learning objectives and outcomes tied to a past. As Michael Wesch shares in this TedTalk: From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-Able, what we teach, what we engage as “musts” as part of the learning contract are disconnected from the pressing realities surrounding us. This lack of authentic connection and scaffolding which should provide the skills and cognitive capacity to critically engage with the rapidly changing world are watered down to suit our own educational comfort zone and established routines, which have worked so well for us in the past.
Schools are keen to talk about teaching to students’ future and as George Couros share in his book ” Innovators Mindset”, its all our future and all of us need to understand and engage with it concretely, not just the kids. Education rhetoric is rich with 21 century skills terminology and on the surface we are okay to dabble with some ideas and changes, but not at the level where we truly have taken on a deep understanding as educators about what this disruption is doing to our world and how we can act as concierges of learning. We need to ensure our students are not simply consumers of the disruption but empowered creators and active participants of the disruption.
A disruption needs to occur in schools with professional development. In a video by Frank Barrett in the Harvard Business Review “To Innovate, Disrupt Your Routine” he highlights the importance of leaders ability to engage in a process where routines are disrupted to generate opportunities for creativity. As an example he uses the wonderful analogy of Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue album and the disruption he facilitated, disrupting routines which had the group enter a discomfort and then supporting them to create something new that changed the face of Jazz.
It is often the case, and I am generalizing here, that professional development in schools is focused on pedagogy framed by comfort zones that generate no disruption, learning framed with limited clear connections to the real world, lecture style delivery, and bulleted PowerPoints squeezed at the end of a long day of work. This dynamic can generate a level of disconnect, cynicism and passivity by participants, and dilutes the connection between what we teach and how we tie learning to be authentic and connected to the pressing realities surrounding us.
School leaders need to first disrupt their own professional development. They also need to be bold and challenge their own comfort zones. Through this act, we then experience first hand the process described by Frank Barrett in the Harvard Business Review, and will be willing to mentor leadership teams and faculty to go through a similar process with explicit support and care. If we are going to lead and disrupt our routines to engage in a process where we innovate and create then educators need time, space, support, empathy, and meaningful scaffolding. With this we build the capacity to disrupt their own thinking and internalize how they can take ownership with the process. We need to disrupt professional development learning outcomes, so as to be able to craft a learning narrative connected to a world driven by a new economic reality; one framed by creativity, algorithms, machine learning and innovation. Through this process we can then facilitate a culture where educators become active participants of the pressing realities surrounding us and lead and mentor learning with authentic and meaningful connections to the world of disruptions we are living in.
We cannot expect to authentically connect our students’ learning environments with the rich tapestry of the world of economic disruptions without giving ourselves permission to disrupt ourselves first and shift our professional learning discourse to unpack, synthesis, connect and craft learning outcomes that explicitly provide meaningful opportunities for us to make sense of constant disruptive change, and from there as concierges of learning, choreograph an authentic learning landscape for students. “Disrupt me!”
In reaction to this sense of disconnect and divide, educators often restrict access to technology, keep the screens out of the classroom, or tightly dictate the parameters of its use on their own terms. This is often done in an effort to dampen the disconnect we feel when trying to understand the students’ perspectives.
Often, parents and teachers express a sense of having to “catch up” or “keep up” with children’s adeptness at using digital tools and environments. There is a feeling that a race is on, and somehow as adults we have the odds stacked against us.
Children are not born digital natives, they are born digital consumers. A child’s first encounter with digital devices and environments will be framed by their parent’s digital use: a mom walking with the stroller whilst talking on her phone, listening to her music player, or checking a social media post; a father texting while giving his child a bath; parents watching a video on their tablet, searching on their phones as they feed their child, checking email or wall posts while their kid watches from the stroller at a restaurant. These daily routines are part of our growing fractured attention – being here but actually somewhere else. This behaviour quickly frames the context and role of the devices in our relationships, as well as their role in communication and day to day actions. Children from a very early age are the audience to our digital behaviors. Children start constructing their own understanding of digital devices and their role in response to our actions. They use this experience as a guide, most often subconsciously at a young age, and ultimately frame their own interactions based on what they have seen.
As children start interacting with the digital devices, be it on their own or with ones shared by a sibling or parent, they are in consumption mode. This consumption often becomes the source of their relationship with these digital devices and ecosystems – playing a game, watching a video, chatting, posting, and searching. Often the experience can be a solitary one, disconnected from physical reality. The device becomes a babysitter, a tool to give parents a break, or an opportunity to allow us to have a split attention.
Yes, so-called digital natives are very adept at using devices and quickly working out the tools they provide. The strategy is one of press, try, press, click, try again. They have a sandbox mentality when it comes to exploring technology. Anything is okay, as long as the child is making progress. It is this blind capacity to forge ahead, try, and try again with a fail forward philosophy that throws us off as adults. For many of us, the point of reference is a more linear approach to problem solving, working sequentially and sometimes with more hesitation than blind confidence.
This difference should not be our exit card from the need to engage with children and digital device use. We as adults have a responsibility to be active participants in the digital device journey of children, both at home and at school. We have a responsibility to choreograph concrete strategies where we become active participants and guides. This starts with us understanding and being mindful of our own use, and how digital devices are tethered to our day to day workflows. We need to consciously reflect on how our own behaviors frame the context of digital device usage for our children.
The social media and digital ecosystems we have are the environment of our age. Throughout time there have been repeated instances where new technologies come into play, and a generation gravitates to these. This divide between the current generation of users and adults is one that has occurred time and time again – with the telephone, the radio, and television, just to name a few. The process of learning and adapting to these new cognitive interactions is part of being human. We frame our use of technology on human emotions, understandings and aspirations. Our role as mentors, educators and parents is to nurture these human emotions, as well as the aspirations of our children, as active partners.
As adults, being a proactive partner in learning with a child creates a rich opportunity for both to understand the shared experience. The partnership provides language development through the conversations between the adult and child. Unpacking the context together and developing an ability for questions and comprehension is part of the process we use to construct new understanding. For adults these are precious moments. With our own development of this relationship, we scaffold a vital critical thinking experience for the child. This gives us a unique opportunity to understand the child’s experience. Throughout the ages, the sharing of knowledge and experience between adult and child has been an essential part of the building blocks of relationships between different generations.
Moving kids away from a consumer model with digital devices requires guidance and inspiration. What they are doing and how is more important than what digital device they are using. As adults, we can curate these experiences and provide inspiration by modeling less of a swipe and point consumption philosophy. By doing so, we would encourage children to engage with critical thinking skills through creative content and inspire them to get excited about creative problem solving.
With our society’s nearly ubiquitous access to digital devices, why have we as adults disengaged with the changes? Is our own digital consumption numbing our ability to find inspiration? Parenting is still parenting, be it in an online or offline environment. Children are still children. It boils down to our willingness to carve out the time. The world does not need a growing population of digital devices consumers. The world we live in is hungry for critical thinkers who are engaged in creative problem solving and in leveraging digital devices and ecosystems in a way that might create a more connected society.
Over the last few weeks, an outstanding series produced by ARTE called “Do Not Track Me” has become available and is getting quite a bit of social media attention.
The different episodes explore and highlight the technologies, algorithms, data mining and aggregation of our online information through digital devices, tools, ecosystems and environments. Each of the episodes breaks down the architecture and rationales of companies, organizations and governments tracking in an interactive manner and examines how this impacts our privacy and digital footprint.
For many of the pre-internet generation, privacy both online and offline is an important right. Having full control of our privacy and being able to independently curate and choreograph where our information is and goes is an expectation. Naturally, there has always been an aspect of our information which we have not controlled, but in general, the collective expectation in most democratic countries has contained a certain level of privacy.
A paradigm shift has occurred in the last decade initiated by many companies realizing that instead of generating income from only paid advertising (remember pop ups?), they can also keep track and personalize their users’ internet experiences to generate far more valuable information, which can then be leveraged into an income. The incomes generated from a personalized web (where you get search results, ads, and information that is tailored to your tastes and based on a saved history of where you have been) are impressive. This interactive live stream shares the incomes generated by internet companies in real time.
We each are generating information that contributes to Big Data: large sets of aggregated information which we each create as we interact, live and work in the Internet’s ecosystem. Every click,”like,” scroll, connection, purchase, browse, download and action generates a footprint. This tracking and aggregation of our data is done on all of our devices connected to the internet and/or cellular networks. (A video thatunpacks the technology behind tracking information)
There is no doubt that some of the tracking taking place is positive and provides us with certain efficiencies including a more tailored online experience. On the other hand, there is also a large amount of information that is collected without our knowledge which does not add to our browsing experience.
For many of us the convenience of a frictionless experience with our digital devices, tools, and environments is a huge plus. For this frictionless experience, many of us are willing to give up a level of our privacy to third parties. After all, a convenient and seamless experience is the key for users. Nowadays many of the actions, processes and uses we engage with on digital devices, tools, and environments are almost subconscious actions. Our usage is so embedded in our daily routine, both social and professional, it becomes a non-negotiable part of our life.
With this precedent, we have entered a world where personal information aggregated over time is combined, analyzed and then generated into a longitudinal profile of us. This rich set of information is then sold, traded, and curated by organizations, governments and companies. It is from these information landscapes that services and products we might need can be accommodated or altered based on our profile.
The question of course, is what our world will look like as every single digital device, tool and environment is consolidated, monitored, aggregated, and analyzed over time. Yes, maybe you could try to opt out, but it is unfortunately becoming harder and harder to do so as the internet becomes more integrated with our culture. Commerce, social media, communication, socialization and work have all moved to an online environment 24/7 in most parts of the world.
Does it matter? Are our online profiles and habits a true reflection of who we are? Does this aggregated information sold, traded, and curated by companies and organizations provide us with services and experiences that supersede the erosion of privacy? Either way, the discourse is clearly an integral component of our connected data experience.
“Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.”