Monday, November 24, 2014

My wish for a list

This blog post took me much longer than average to write. I suspect that's because it's not simple, and I'm still trying to understand and process some of it myself.

Andrew Campbell wrote a great blog post about education technology tools and privacy.
My initial tweet response just hinted at the brain swirling occurring:

I actually did read it that night at least three times, and followed all the links to thoughtful educators Andrew mentioned like Royan Lee (@royanlee) Heidi Siwak (@HeidiSiwak) and Tim King (@tk1ng). It was a lot to absorb and comprehend, at least for me, because it feels abstract even though it isn't. I exchanged some public tweets and private DMs with Andrew on the topic. His replies made me think even harder, especially when he did some research for me on a free tool I was using that, it turns out, can collect any data it wants, analyze it, and can sell it or use it how it likes. My reaction was a desire for a list of good free apps and Andrew's follow up led to another blizzard of thoughts and feelings.
Nothing’s “free”. Most of them are trading data for services. So long as you are OK with that.
Dang. This short statement forced me to seriously consider things. Was I willing to trade away my students' privacy rights for a free tool, for convenience in assessment? The part that scared me is that I was worried that I was. Students didn't really care about their privacy that much, did they?

The webinar I listened to the very next day clarified that possible self-delusion pretty quickly. On November 19, Media Smarts (@MediaSmarts) shared the findings from their research. It took me a while to get to see the visuals but I heard the audio loud and clear and it stated that young people DO care about their privacy.

Andrew Campbell's provocations and probing questions reminded me of another educator I admire greatly: Peter Skillen (@peterskillen). As I mentioned here before, a short conversation with Peter had my mind reeling. I really had no idea about the level of influence of corporations and consumerism on education; I remember the Twitter kerfuffle when Pearson invited some educators to a talk - turns out that was just the tip of the iceberg. During our chat at the TLLP introduction workshop, I asked Peter if there was a list of conferences that were too commercial; instead of a list, Peter suggested I read things written by Diane Ravitch (@DianeRavitch). Once again, some of the issues are a bit beyond me because I'm such a novice at considering these topics, but I can feel my brain stretching in good ways. As I told Andrew, "I feel like [these ideas] are over my head but they inspire me to fetch a ladder".

Look critically at my blog post title - why is it that in two similar situations that I wanted a list? I think the hard truth is that I wanted someone to do the thinking for me - tell me what are the "good" conferences and "bad" conferences, tell me what are the "safe" apps and the "dangerous" apps, and if I trust you, I can take this summary and go off and do my thing with a seal of approval in my back pocket. Is that lazy? Cowardly? Ironically, a list like this sort of already exists - Bill Fitzgerald (@funnymonkey) has compiled some commentary on different software and their privacy settings. Instead of being lazy, I think the bigger issue is that I'm insecure in my own knowledge on some of these topics and I want someone I respect to guide me. What I need to realize is that I've got to do some of the thinking and deciding myself, and turn to the experts for assistance. I don't want to give up on using my iPad for collecting anecdotal notes on my students, because it beats trying to decipher all those scribbled observations on scrap paper close to report card time, but I want to be considerate of my students. Can I find an alternate with privacy settings I can accept? I hope so. As a mom, I'd want privacy considered for my own children, which is why I need to ask my son's school about how they handle Prodigy (a tool he loves but does gather information).

Everything this past week has been serendipitous, because my final thought that complements all of this reflection comes courtesy of the workshop I attended on mentoring. The delightful Jennifer Watt ((@jenniferwatt65) said that we have to stop acting as if "politics" is a bad word. We need to take political stances, to critically examine power relations. I should not be afraid to get a bit political, and if a list can help me gain courage to enter a political frame of mind, then maybe it's not such a lazy wish.

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