Digital Citizenship to Digital Fluency

Pfannenstiel Switzerland

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.

Grade 6 responses to survey on what 8 digital intelligence they would like to focus on ranking them 1-8

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.

John@beyonddigital.org

Sources-References

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power by Shoshana Zuboff.” Goodreads, Goodreads, 15 Jan. 2019, https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26195941-the-age-of-surveillance-capitalism
Asthana, Anushka, et al. “The Strange World of TikTok: Viral Videos and Chinese Censorship – Podcast.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 7 Oct. 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/audio/2019/oct/07/strange-world-tiktok-viral-videos-chinese-censorship
Written by Yuhyun Park, Founder and Chief Executive Officer. “8 Digital Skills We Must Teach Our Children.” World Economic Forum, www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/06/8-digital-skills-we-must-teach-our-children/.
DQ Framework: “What Is the DQ Framework?” DQ Institute, http://www.dqinstitute.org/dq-framework/.
“Coalition for Digital Intelligence.” Coalition for Digital Intelligence, www.coalitionfordigitalintelligence

2018

Photo John Mikton
Waiting seagulls, Nyon, Vaud, Switzerland.

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 a very very different 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. The gap for many will still get bigger and more uncomfortable. But hopefully, in 2018, we can work to bridge that gap as well.

John @beyonddigital.org

Puppets on a string

CC0 License: https://www.pexels.com/photo/bag-electronics-girl-hands-359757/

 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?

(CC BY 2.0) Photo taken by Angus MacAskill “Rat” https://www.flickr.com/photos/19951543@N00/3908678004/

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.

By Jim McDougall from Glasgow, Scotland (Puppets on a String Uploaded by Snowmanradio) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
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.

John @ http://beyonddigital.org

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Living in a “GAFA” world.

Think of what Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon services and products you use daily. How much are they a vehicle for communications, work, social life, purchases and tasks? How often do you connect to them? Count the number. How many? Surprised? Now, out of the 4 companies, how many do you use? Or do you not. The reality is that you probably use at least one, if not all of the four, very frequently.

Lac Leman, Rolle Switzerland -photo J.Mikton

Welcome to the “GAFA” (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon) world. The”GAFA” world is where most of humanity’s internet users and consumers work, communicate, socialize, learn, entertain themselves, and share, in services provided by one, two, three or all four of these companies: the “GAFA” grids.

We have become comfortable with “GAFA’” being part of our lives in multiple venues, and as a result, schools, educators, students and parents are investing significant amounts of monies into “GAFA”. It is an essential component of our ability to function at school and at home, and the collective convenience and seamless experience of “GAFA” intoxicates us.

In Terry Heick’s (@TeachThought) thoughtful article “How Google Impacts The Way Students Think”,  he highlights how learners working in a Google ecosystem develop an appetite for a black and white information age.  The expectation? Immediate answers, 24/7. The convenience of this immediacy creates an illusion of thinking, but actually disengages the user from deep critical thinking. It does this by simplifying the process of gathering information and giving the impression it is all connected.

In order to have a constant infusion of innovation and creativity, “GAFA” also hungers for start-up companies. By absorbing these companies, they are able to facilitate the pollination of ideas, products and services and enrich their ability to generate more seamless methods of connectivity. In this way “GAFA’s” largeness and versatility is engrained in all aspects of our lives

This innovation also provides “GAFA” with opportunities to tie our lives closer together with multiple platforms and venues in a frictionless environment. Examples of this reach are Amazon’s cloud service, which hosts large architectures of company websites, services, and databases, including the CIA’s; Google moving into the home with Nest and pursuing the development of artificial intelligence (Dark Blue Labs and Vision Factory); Apple’s acquisition of Affectiva, a company that specializes in emotion recognition, and investments in health apps and services; and Facebook’s expansion into virtual reality.  Making its services ubiquitous, as with the “free wi-fi-with-check-in ”in hotels and small businesses. Its purchase of “Whatsapp” is another example of how a “GAFA” company spent billions on an innovative service.

The algorithms provide a treasure trove of information with which to understand our behavior, habits, aspirations and desires.  In Raffi Khatchadourian’s  article “We Know How You Feel”, we are reminded that the hunger for data is tied to a hunger for emotional interactions. In Shelley Podolyn’s New York Times article, “If an Algorithm Wrote This, How Would You Even Know?”,  she highlights the level of sophistication of writing algorithms generating news articles and books. In tandem, the growth of “The Internet of Eyes“ in objects we interact with, as part of the “ Internet of Things.” brings about a new dynamic to data mining. It is a reminder that many of these algorithms being designed within “GAFA” play an almost non-negotiable role in our lives.

Many schools believe that their curriculum’s should allow for authentic connections to the world around them. What about “GAFA”?  Should we as learners, guides, mentors, and facilitators highlight “GAFA”? Is this important? Should its presence be considered in our learning outcomes?  To ignore “GAFA” is to create a disconnect with present changes that are reshaping all of our lives. It sidelines a reality that is the future. What does “GAFA” mean, to us, our schools, community and educational institutions? Schools have a responsibility to ensure this is part of the curricular discourse.  We need to construct learning moments and scaffold time to pause, reflect, understand, explain and critically think about what it is to live in a “GAFA” world.

If personal privacy, independent thought, critical thinking, differentiation, balanced perspectives, mindfulness and our capacity to be unique are in our school’s mission, we need to address what it means to be curated by “GAFA”.  Will we not lose an important aspect of humanity, if we continue to ignore “GAFA”?

John@beyonddigital

P.S: Next time you are at a Starbucks drinking your coffee remember that the free wifi is a “GAFA” gift!

…leave the kids alone?

Views Czech SwitzerlandThere is a belief that children nowadays are natural, “Digital Natives”, and that we adults on the sidelines are “Digital Immigrants”.  The dexterity and comfort many children demonstrate when interacting with digital devices and social media tools generates this image of them being “naturals”. This in turn contributes to the sense of disconnect between the so called “Digital Natives” and “Digital Immigrants”.

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.

John@beyonddigital

Our Connected Data

unlearning learning
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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 that unpacks 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.”

― Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

John@beyonddigital

 

The Death of ” Digital”.

Santa Cruz California
Santa Cruz California

Words are a powerful vehicle for meaning and understanding,  connected to individual or group perspectives, interpretations,  and connections. The word “Digital” has been part of our vocabulary landscape for a long time.  It was only after reading Nicholas Negroponte’s  book, “Being Digital” in 1995, that I began to be aware of the term and its impact on the world to come, but in 2014, the word “digital”  has now blended itself into the daily fabric of our lives. When we think of the word “digital”, it creates a sense of disconnect from our world and implies that the digital world is a separate part of our reality. However, this is no longer true. Our lives are so embedded within this digital realm that the two have become inseparable. So, I invite us to use a new set of vocabularies to frame this paradigm:  Appliances, Utilities, Information Flows, Ethics and Algorithms.

Appliances are the consumables that we connect and interact with (laptops, phones, tablets, GPS, and other hardware). These tools have become the default to our connectedness; disposable and with each new version more seamless, simple and integrated.

Utilities frame our day to day interactions. These social medias, networks, email, RSS, professional learning networks and Web 2.0/ 3.0 tools have become the architectural  framework of communication and information for our connected world.

Information flows are the 150,000,000 Blogs posted a year, 5 million tweets per day, 200,000 videos uploaded on YouTube daily, and the petabytes of information created, aggregated, shared, and circulated daily around the earth.

Ethics is the why, how, when, where and who of our digital footprint in today’s world. It is the wide ranging issues from Killer Robots to the impact of a Filter Bubble (where search, news, and information algorithms choreograph what information types we get based on our personal browsing habits). The curation of our online and offline privacy as governments, corporations, and organizations juggle a treasure trove of information created by our respective digital footprints, is the new ethical dilemma we all deal with, as individuals, groups and as societies at large.

Algorithms are the backbone to the intelligent softwares that inhabit the engine of the internet. These are predictive, anticipatory, intelligent and analytical. The are the lifeblood of the internet ecosystems for individuals, governments, corporations, and organizations which then create, develop, build, facilitate, monitor, analyze, synthesize and evaluate our day to day interactions. The algorithms have become the life line to the information flows, ethics, utilities and appliances.

These words are not the definitive list, but reflect a vocabulary we use both from our past and present. They highlight how the “digital” world is ingrained in our daily lives, to the point we often are not even conscious of its presence. This connectedness fueled by our devices and ecosystems now are part of the fabric of our lives, often out of our control, and a non negotiable aspect of our own participation with the day.

A critical understanding of these words and their respective dynamics should be an essential ingredient in School and Organizational curricula. We can no longer think of them as separate entities. We have inherited this reality which now has us connected in ways where opting out becomes the abnormality . These Appliances, Utilities, Information Flows, Ethics and Algorithms are part of the fabric of our world and impact us as humans both consciously and unconsciously.

This discourse needs be given equal time in all educational settings; imbedded as seamlessly in the curriculum as they are in our lives. A responsibility to highlight the power, richness and cautions that come with tying ourselves to a set of appliances, utilities, information flows, ethics and algorithms that have and will continue to change the fabric of our interactions as humans and organizations.

So how do we do this? The key is that these terms and their meanings are introduced as part of the learning landscape in all units of study. Creating authentic connections between these words and the learning environment will then scaffold a clearer understanding of their real world applications. In our school ecosystems most subjects and curricular areas are using technology, often as a separate tool, or as a side show, but, if it is so seamless and embedded in our day to day lives, then we need to translate this into our learning. One of the first steps is to give ourselves permission to change the way we work with this vocabulary. As we change the vocabulary, and with it the meaning and role of these words, we are engaging in an active learning process connected to the changing world.

To ignore this vocabulary is to short change future generations of their awareness of a world that has become more invisible, seamless and blended both in our conscious and unconscious day.  The death of “digital” is here.

John @beyonddigital.org

 

There is a needle in the haystack, Ground Control.

All of us are engaged daily in the process of looking for information on the Internet, or “searching“. Sometimes, we search for clarification, facts, confirmation, projects, solutions, while other times our searches help us broaden our views, come to terms with a concept, make a plan, find a definition, or cross check a fact. Watch yourself or a friend at your next social function. Someone is bound to pull out their portable digital device (phone, tablet and/or computer) before long to make sure something that was said is correct. They might look up an actor, a city, an album, a song, a title, or an author. This is now part of our daily digital diet: a quick hop onto our device and off into the Internet to “search” for information.

  • 51 million – Number of websites added during the year.
  • 1.2 trillion Number of searches on Google  in 2012.
  • 43,339,547 gigabytes are sent across all mobile phones globally everyday.
  • Humankind in 2007 successfully sent 1.9 zettabytes of information through broadcast technology such as televisions and GPS. That’s equivalent to every person in the world reading 174 newspapers every day.
  • There are 5 million tweets per day enough to fill New York Times for 19 years.
  • Humankind shared 65 exabytes of information through two-way telecommunications in 2007
    That’s the equivalent of every person in the world communicating the contents of six newspapers every day
  • 58 – Number of photos uploaded every second to Instagram.
  • 5 billion – How many times per day the +1 button on Google+ is used
  • 1.3 exabytes – Estimated global mobile data traffic per month in 2012.
  • Bloggers post 900,000 new articles everyday.
  • Over 210 billion emails are sent daily which is more than a whole year worth of letter mail in the USA.
  • Daily around 200 000 videos are uploaded on youtube which will require over 600 years to view them all.

(Source: Economist  The World 2013 and Internet 2012 in numbers by Tech Blog Pingdom and Science Daily: How Much Information Is There in the World? Feb. 11, 2011)

Information grows from Terabyte to Petabyte . As a human race, we cannot actually view, analyze, or keep track of all the information we generate without third party digital tools and softwares. We now defer to sophisticated algorithms and intelligent softwares to store, track, synthesis, analysis, aggregate, and deliver information in amounts we have the time and capacity to digest. And most of us today expect to have this information available non-stop, over multiple devices.

Information overload, information stress, information pollution and information anxiety are part of the narrative of the digital age. With the amount of information increasing at accelerated speeds, we have relinquished any control we once had over its exponential growth. What we need to do is develop strategies, skills and understanding on how to filter, sift, analyze and juggle information, so we feel some level of control.

As we embed ourselves in this vast information landscape and wish to remain critical thinkers, we need to be ready to retool ourselves:

  • Coming to terms with the “Filter Bubble : this is where information is processed and delivered through algorithms based on what our viewing and search habits are, thus filtering information to our perspectives and not providing alternative views and information. The balance of information is vital to building a broad understanding of different views. Nowadays however, through the “Filter Bubble, this balance is being diluted. We need to understand this and be able to counter it as critical thinkers.
  • Developing a strong searching expertise:  We need to understand the capacity of search engine tools, their variables, and limitations so we can refine and sift information in a manner which gives us manageable amounts of results.
  • Be able to Aggregate:  Learn how to leverage news aggregators, real time syndication, social media, micro blogging, and social bookmarking sites.  These tools can help in sorting different formats, cull large amounts of information and deliver it in digestible portions for us to develop new capacities.
  • Engage in Connectivism: A learning theory constructed on the idea we can learn with digital, social and cultural connections, and from this interchange build individual and/or collective capacity to gain knowledge and understanding. Through our social and professional connections create networks of expertise, knowledge, and understanding to support learning. Use the “cognitive surplus” we have available in our social and professional groups to increase our own knowledge so we can create, communicate, produce and share effectively as critical thinkers.
  • Learn, unlearn and relearn: We need to develop the strategies and methodologies that allow us to engage effectively in this process of “learning, unlearning and relearning” daily. In tandem, we need to ensure that everyone has the opportunity, support and resources to do this.

From this point forward, there is not going to be any less information – that is a fact. As the world moves into a state of constant change, and the pace accelerates, we have a responsibility to ourselves, our peers and our communities to make the process of learning, unlearning and relearning permanent. If we do not, we could potentially lose our ability to participate as critical thinkers and control the information landscape we live in.

John@ http://beyonddigital.org

There is a war going on in my internet!

IMG_2429Somehow late in the game I have suddenly realized in the background of my life there was a war going on in my Internet and still is most likely, and without much fuss or noise it  took place and I suspect is still going on. It is one of these new dimensions of war, it happens undercover, behind the scene with little fan fair and without much human interaction. So not being aware of it is somewhat understandable. According to some pundits this has been going on for a few years but recently a Security company http://www.kaspersky.com/ started noticing this virus called “Flame” and since has been trying to better understand its workings and complexity.  Flame’ Virus explained: How it works and who’s behind it  and Flame and Stuxnet cyber-attacks. What to me is interesting, is that potentially nation states can engage in a destructive war within the internet, damage, capture, manipulate and steal information and in return shut down, wipe out or paralyze computer systems deemed a threat, or the country with the machines deemed a threat. This is now fact, and in the last years different groups have been busy at work using this powerful technology. Is this in the headlines, part of our daily discourse, something night news talk shows are spending time on? No, not at all this is something that happens undercover behind the scenes with little information or we hear of it after the fact.

With the global information glut and overload we consume, engage and live off, we just cannot keep up or be in tune with the various events, stories, and key pieces of information that might frame a better understanding of everything that is taking place in our world.  Then there is the information that does not get shared, or buried deep away from the main stream traffic, headlines and captions. As humans we tend to engage with our digital devices, apps, web environments and new technologies in removed manner, less questioning or critical at an ethical and moral level of the role these have on us as humans. The sheer convenience of the digital devices, apps, web environments and new technologies we live, work, play and entertain ourselves with, dilutes often a critical engagement in understanding how these different tools are impacting us as individuals and a society. No time with our day to day business and the bombardment of new devices, apps and technologies daily being pushed out to us, prevents avenues for us to really stop, think, question and engage with this issue.

We are at the cusp of an age where there are more digital devices than humans on the planet: Mobile devices to outnumber people on planet this year.

New Technologies, digital devices, and web environments as they become more seamless, integrated, and part of our day to day fabric for us to function as humans. We are at many levels defaulting executive decisions to these devices/environments  independent of our input. I suspect most of us might feel that it is a small price to pay for the convenience of these digital devices, apps and technologies making the mundane decisions we need to engage with work, play, and living in a connected world. These two articles illustrate the wonders of some of these new technologies but at the same time test and confront our own morals and ethics.

Running repairs: An experiment on rats brings hope to the paralyzed
http://www.economist.com/node/21556209?frsc=dg%7Ca

A big step toward ‘designer babies’ – and big questions
http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/the-monitors-view/2012/0608/A-big-step-toward-designer-babies-and-big-questions

There has to be a cautionary tale if this convenience overrides our ability to stop and reflect, think, probe, discuss, and question the world of digital devices, web environments, and technologies we adopt.  If we are happy to sub contract our digital devices and new technologies to work, care, entertain, and support our day to day lives, how far do we give up the control for the convenience of it all? This article from the Economist highlights for me “Morals and the machine: As robots grow more autonomous, society needs to develop rules to manage them“, that we need to have this conversation as educators, organizations and a society in general, and be fully engaged with what is the potential impact to us all.

John @http://beyonddigital.org

No privacy, please.

We are in a world were our communication, information , search, entertainment, creation, and content are done with some form of digital device with access to the internet. This dynamic intricately tied to our personal and professional lives : privacy both online and offline is being transformed.  Some of this is within our control and some out of our control. This combination generates discomfort when people have time to sit back and reflect on this change we all are witnessing on the sidelines passively. Can we do anything about this? Do we need to?

There is nothing like the convenience to work and live with digital devices that provide you everything at your finger tips seamlessly 24/7. Google’s integration of mail, documents, sites, video, blogs, maps, online shopping, music storage etc…. is an example how the integration of a digital platform with one username and password provide users with powerful consumption and creation tools for free! Google is not alone, other examples: Apple iTunes, iCloud, and its growing selection of products via its own digital devices, Facebook and its growing menu of services and tools all available to you whenever you wish with any device that has an internet connection.

The pay-off is that the services and companies facilitating seamless connectivity and convenience 24/7 get unlimited access to all your online information. Our online information, habits and behaviors are available to them.  This is the hidden cost of using these environments, often without our specific consent or knowledge. Let us be honest, how many of us spent the time reading the information Google shared out once it changed its privacy philosophy with users of its suite of products. Does it matter? This is a matter of personal choice. Living without these services makes functioning in a digital world quite challenging.

The meaning of the word “privacy” has changed. The days of being anonymous, and having no digital footprint, are gone. We have adopted these conveniences in our eagerness to keep up with the changing world, and partly by the success of digital environment and device companies marketing. We have been convinced that we need these digital environments and devices to function in today’s world. The reality is that there are few alternatives.

What next? The dependency for 24/7 seamless connectivity is only increasing with the proliferation of digital environments and devices for communication, information gathering/sharing and content production. The algorithms digital companies are currently using to track, analyses, synthesis and control our personal online information will only get more sophisticated and intricate. Our own control of how much gets tracked and analyzed will diminish as the connectivity becomes more invisible.

The concept of privacy as we might have understood it in the past has changed. Our online lives are attached to an intricate digital trail on everything we do. This trail available to governments, companies and organizations controlling/managing our digital environments and devices. We as individuals need to re-frame what privacy means to us.

As an educator I am already witnessing some concrete evidence of students and adults coming to terms with this, as they manage their own online environments. There are students who are deleting their Facebook as they get ready to apply to Universities. They understand the timeline of events, and photos which often where started when they where in middle school are maybe not what they wish to showcase or allow folks to have access. With this a growing appreciation of having a clear division between your professional digital footprint and your personal footprint. Google (ing) your name on a regular basis, and trying to manage/control what is available to search engines by better managing your privacy settings. Developing a deeper understanding of what the different privacy controls mean, and how to best manage your online digital footprint with these controls.

We can no more expect to work in a world where privacy is something we control or have options to function under the radar. We live in a connected world, where everything we do, leaves a digital narrative. This digital narrative used, shared, and built upon by third parties often without our knowledge.

It is through an understanding of these new frameworks, tools and environments that we can to a certain level choreograph our own digital footprint. I believe that the literacy of online privacy needs to be part of our curriculum and learning for both adults and students. No privacy is the new privacy.

John@ http://beyonddigital.org