Messing Around with Identity Graphs

Identity Graph: Writing Days

For the E-Lit 3.0 course, Stephen Downes has us pondering identity and graphs, with a focus on Identity Graphs. These are used by marketers to fine-tune who we are, using our data trails, in order to push their products our way.

Stephen envisions a different way in the Web3 world, where data will be used in deeper, richer, and unknown ways. He is turning “quantified self” into “qualified self.”  A new EL30 post he is working on (he has shared his draft with the world) expands on this notion in interesting ways, particularly in the world of anonymity and biometrics and more.

The task for this particular activity was to create an Identity Graph but without identifying who we are, or naming us on the graph. This suggested cloak of identity invisibility led me to think of a Scatter Graph, and then I figured, what does writing look like in this kind of visual? That’s what the graph above is aiming for.

The comic below? It’s my initial response to thinking of Identity Graphs and marketing departments.

Don’t Graph Me

I remain concerned about how Identity Graphs are used and are developing with different technology (would an Augmented Reality Identity Graph be cool or creepy, or both?) , and how our ability to hide from commercial interests in digital spaces seems more and more difficult to maintain.

Stephen interviewed Maha Bali for this week’s theme.

If you want to engage with me in the margins of their conversation, come on over to Vialogues where I have set this up for discussions as a way to watch together.

Stephen and Maha in Vialogues

Peace (where data hides),
Kevin

Engaging From the Margins: A Fake News Studio Visit

Fake News studio visit

The folks at Equity Unbound explored the concept of Media Literacy and Fake News this week with a “studio visit” with two insightful participants — Mike Caulfield and Cheryl Brown. As it turns out, I am working with my sixth grade students this same week on this same topic of fake news and media literacy (through some cool symmetry of curriculum overlap), but I missed the hangout.

I popped the hangout into Vialogues (which allows for conversations about video), so I could engage with the discussion from the margins. You are invited, too.

Visit the Vialogues: Studio Visit on Fake News

And while thinking of Caulfield’s work around Digital Media Literacy, such as his Digital Polarization Project, I was pondering his conceptual framework of the Four Moves of determining the veracity of news, from his ebook Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers. Somehow, in my brain, I had this idea of the Four Moves of fact-checking for students being re-conceived as Dance Moves. I know, it’s strange.

Thus, a comic:

Dancing about the Four Moves (of media literacies)

Peace (moving forward),
Kevin

 

 

 

On Beyond Like (The Place Where Conversations Happen)

On Beyond LikeI was sifting through a magazine article about the ways that social media make it easy to interact with text and how this has unfolded through sharing via the “like” and “plus one”  and “thumbs up” and “boost” buttons (and others with different monikers — choose your context). That got me thinking about how I, too, use those easy avenues for interaction, too, but also, it reminded me of the opposite — of how I often do try to add a comment, a question, spark a conversation.

Maybe I don’t do it enough but I try. If I read a blog post, for example, I try to leave some words for the writer, if only to plant a flag of “I was here with you.” Sometimes, I’ll grab a centering phrase. Or create a found poem. Or ‘take a line for a walk’ with reflection. If I see something interesting in a tweet, I’ll respond and wonder out loud. Many times, that’s where the conversation ends. Not always, but often.

Perhaps too often.

The above comic was an attempt to distill this idea of shifting away from the “read-and-run” mentality of online spaces, and maybe spend a little more time with a text or sharing. Engage the writer/creator in a conversation. Wonder out loud. Ask questions. Probe the topic.

Is there any doubt that the world would be a little better place if we took the time to talk, even in digital spaces, with each other? A “like” or a “plus one” or a “boost” or whatever is something, to be sure, but is it enough? Does it have depth? Nope. I can’t even remember what I liked yesterday and I bet you can’t either.

In Dr. Seuss’ not-well-known On Beyond Zebra, he imagines endless letters beyond our traditional English alphabet, spaces where creativity and imagination take hold, in Seuss-like ways, of course. The letters beyond Z were always there, we just never saw them.

Until we did.

This post is titled On Beyond Like because I am thinking that maybe, like the Seuss story, we have not yet gone beyond what the technology companies have designed for us. Remember: the likes and thumbs and all that are merely ways to gather data about what we like and don’t like, so they can push content and advertising our way. We are voluntary giving them tracking data on us. Imagine that.

This morning, I saw that Charlene had responded to my initial sharing of the comic. She asks a good question.

And I don’t know the answer. While my impulse is to say yes, do away with the buttons, the reality is that this would take away much of the way people show appreciation and interact. There needs to be some middle ground, perhaps, one that I don’t yet see.

Do you?

Peace (beyond like),
Kevin

 

 

 

Even More Maps of the Internet (student view)

More Internet Maps

I continue to be intrigued by how my sixth grade students “Map the Internet” by artistically representing themselves to technology. This is a riff off Kevin Kelly’s The Internet Mapping Project. Two more classes did this activity this week.

These are some I shared last week:

Internet Mapping Project 2018

Peace (in nodes),
Kevin

Picture Book Review: The Nantucket Sea Monster (A Fake News Story)

I am at in the middle in our Digital Life unit with my sixth graders, and the one component that I am adding to and beefing up in the last few years is a “critical digital media” component, with a focus on the veracity of news. I’ve been searching for a good book that might introduce the topic in an interesting way, and came across the perfect picture book and tale: The Nantucket Sea Monster (A Fake News Story) by Darcy Pattison and Peter Willis.

This true story of fake news takes place not too too far from where I teach (Nantucket is a few hours east and then a ferry ride) but I know plenty of kids know where Nantucket is and some have even visited or vacationed there (my wife and I had our honeymoon there).

The book centers on 1937, when an elaborate spoof of the public — the newspapers, some department stores and a few locals were all in kahoots on it — unfolded in the newspapers, first locally and then nationally. It had to do with the sighting of a monster in the fishing waters of Nantucket, and the curiosity and fears that came from it. The newspapers printed “authentic” accounts of sea monster sightings and spun the story from different angles.

Finally, the collaborators let the public in on their joke — an elaborate stunt by a local balloon maker getting ready for Thanksgiving Macy’s Parade. The monster was inflatable.

The picture book story is helpful for framing a discussion about Fake News because it points to gullibility of readers, responsibilities of the media outlets, and the way businesses use these elements to market products or information. I’ll also reference the use of radio in the War of the Worlds broadcast in 1938 (a year after the Nantucket incident).

Cut to modern day and the political use of news items and news outlets as rhetorical arms. Our work in the classroom is to make visible as much of the fake news phenomenon as possible and give them strategies for considering source and material for what we call “news” these days.

All in all, I recommend The Nantucket Sea Monster (A Fake News Story)While its reading audience might be younger than my sixth graders, I am always bringing different picture books to the classroom, and this one is a gem.

Peace (real, not fake),
Kevin

Locating Yourself: The Internet Mapping Project

Internet Mapping Project 2018

This is the second year I have tapped into Kevin Kelly’s The Internet Mapping Project to have my sixth grade students metaphorically connect their lives to their technology, and the Internet. I always worry the concept will be too obtuse for them and each time, they remind me of how capable they are in using art and reflection to understand the world (or at least, try to).

This presentation has assorted student maps, after a few videos that I share with them to spark initial conversations about what the Internet is, and what its origins are. Most don’t know.

The maps that my students create lead to small group discussions about what we noticed among our collective maps. Topics include the prevalence of YouTube in their lives, the ways we are still at the center of the Internet universe, the influx of mobile devices as the way to interface with technology, the social aspects of the Web in their lives. (Interestingly, Kelly shares a link to a taxonomy project about the Internet Map Project.)

What would be on your map? Download, make and share.

Peace (in charts),
Kevin

 

 

Comics … On Kids, Technology, Algorithms, and Openness

Kids today .. it’s all perspectiveI’ve continued to make comics as a sort of reflective response to some of the discussions going on in the Equity Unbound course, where I pop in an open participant from time to time, mostly via Twitter. The comic above was my attempt to think of the confidence that my students have with technology and then, how overwhelmed some of them become with the choices and the possibilities. Who’s in control of our tech use? For adults, it’s difficult. For kids, it’s even trickier.

Hiding Behind Words

This comic was from some frustration of the limitations of online endeavors — where sometimes we use big words as a way to grapple with difficult topics, and the words water down our actions. This is not pointed to anything in particular, just a critique of academic spaces (including my own).

Occupy the Algorithm

Someone in the #unboundeq hashtag used the phrase of “occupy the algorithm” and something about that resonated with me. It’s about taking ownership of your own experience, of knowing where your data is being used (or trying to grapple with it), of pushing back on the Googles, the Facebooks, the Twitters of the world. It’s not yet clear if that is a losing battle.

Where you at?This comic also stems from watching a discussion unfold, where the idea of “country of origin” seems to juxtaposition against the “place where we are.” I was also attuned to a reference to Facebook, asking the question of “country where you were born” and using that information to geo-locate you in the platform. I find this unsettling, for a lot of reasons (privacy, location data, advertising, etc.)

Knock knockFinally, for now anyway, I was paying attention to the tension that happens when any open networked project works to keep an open door but sometimes ends up closing the door. I think any of us who run open learning networks know the difficulty of this balancing act, of how to protect a space for conversation while also inviting more voices into the mix.

Peace (in the open),
Kevin

 

 

Google’s Reach into Classrooms (via NYT)

Piece from New York Times

It’s a strange bit of circumstance but the shift in discussions for Equity Unbound this week — in the form of a slow Twitter chat, unfolding over days — is about technology’s reach and impact into our lives. The odd part is that I had just been interviewed last week by a science/technology/education reporter at The New York Times about Google’s reach into the classroom through its “Be Internet Awesome” site.

The reporter had seen something I had written way back when the program was first announced and asked if I could talk. I did, explaining that while the site has some solid potential for teaching about technology use, the branding of it by Google clearly is a business strategy to hook kids into the Google ecosystem, early and often. I suggested that teachers use more than just the Awesome campaign when teaching about digital life. (I use elements of the CommonSense Media Digital Citizenship resources, for example.)

The issue is complicated further in that we are a Google Apps for Education school district, and we use our Google accounts regularly for writing and for media making and more. It’s a valuable addition to our writing and technology and research work. I find the Google accounts more than handy … yet …. yet … I know that GAFE and cheap Chromebooks are all ways to get more schools to use Google’s infrastructure (even with privacy protections on GAFE accounts, if we believe it). More schools, more kids, more users.

And the more we use Google, the more ads they sell. (To be clear, there are no ads directed at students within GAFE itself.)

As it happens, I am right now in the midst of teaching my sixth graders in a Digital Life unit, where we discuss and explore issues of privacy, identity, choices, and the ways corporations like Google are using our browsing histories and data to target us with advertising. You won’t find mention of that state of the modern day technology world in Be Internet Awesome.

Here is the link to the piece in the New York Times.

I am quoted about halfway down, and then again at the very end. It’s interesting to see myself in The New York Times — when I was a reporter (before I became a teacher), I often wondered if my career would ever take me to the Times (it didn’t and I am glad for where I am as a teacher, and I don’t think I ever had the skills or talent for the NYT, anyway.) Now I find myself in there, in the newspaper itself.

I’m going to get a paper copy today and share it with my students.

Peace (in the ink),
Kevin

 

Avatars (and Identities) on the Classroom Windows

Sticky Note Avatars 2018

We’ve moved into a curriculum unit called Digital Life, in which we examine technology and digital media, and privacy and data, with sixth graders, and we begin this work by talking about avatars and identity.

Our discussion leads us to two main points about avatars: they are designed to be a privacy buffer between the user  and the digital space they are in(using art instead of image), and avatars offer a chance for a user to project an identity, or a sliver of identity, into the world. We get to craft how the world sees us, if only in a visual way.

We work on an activity in which my students quickly design a paper/sticky note avatar for the classroom window before exploring some online avatar creation sites.

There are plenty of sports and game themed avatars (two of the most popular things my students do) in the mix but also, you can see more than a few avatars that have hidden stories that make you wonder as you look. I don’t have my students defend or explain their avatar, only make and share. We then put the sticky note avatars up on display as a visual reminder that we all inhabit both digital and classroom spaces together, and that we all have different interests and different identities.

Plus, it looks like cool art, doesn’t it?

Peace (on the pane),
Kevin

We’re In This Room Together

At our recent Western Massachusetts Writing Project conference, the keynote speaker was educator Kelly Norris, whose new book — Too White — explores her identity and her story through the lens of race, bias, empathy and social justice.

Here, she reads some of her recently published book:

Interestingly, during the Q&A period, Kelly responded to a question about addressing difficult issues like these while working in a relatively insular school community, and Kelly mentioned how difficult a role that can be. Particularly, she noted, when she always seems like “that person in the room” who raises questions and challenges assumptions and bias.

Then, while watching the video archive of a Studio Visit for the Equity Unbound course, I heard the same phrase by some of the guests, noting that they often feel like “that person in the room” and put on the spot.

Which led to a comic. We’re in the room together.

Spark change

Peace (and understanding),
Kevin