Google, anti-trust and trust

google-76517_640The fact that Google has been fined around £3.8 million for “antitrust” violations (read more here) highlights a potential issue which students need to be aware of; the fact that the big tech companies, google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, etc, are businesses at the heart as opposed to being focussed on the public good.

I will carefully qualify the above in that I most of what companies such as the above do does provide public benefit plus that they also make great contributions to philanthropic, research and charitable endeavours.   The issue is that given their size and resultant power there is the potential for inappropriate activities or activities not in the public interest to take place.   There is the potential for decisions and actions to be taken in pursuit of the dollar, or pound for us here in the UK.

As we provide the big tech companies with more of our personal data, as we sign up and eagerly consume the subscription services they provide, we are feeding them power.    This power can be used, as is suggested in the claims against Google, to leverage and bully other organisations, establishing monopolies and reducing public choice.     This power can be used to influence individuals and groups through profiling and targeted advertising as was the Cambridge Analytica scandal that impacted on Facebook appeared to suggest.    This power might even be able to revise history or to change the “truth” in the future, assuming this isn’t already happening.

Do students consider how the services they subscribe to might be used to influence them?   Do students consider the competitive market and the impact of overly powerful monopolies?   Do they consider how data, the new oil in terms of value, might be used?

I wont be stopping using the above companies any time soon as they each provide excellent services which help me in my work and life however I am aware of the implications of their use.    I believe it is important that we have discussions with our students in relation to these issues, to ensure they too are aware before the sign up to yet another service.    Do they trust these sites having consciously considered it or do the trust blindly?




Ban watches in schools!!

smart-watch-821559_640The issue of mobile phones in schools is once again raging with various schools deciding to ban mobile phones.   On social media teachers and school leaders are split.   Some occupy the ban all mobiles camp citing mobile phones as a distraction and also concerns around student mental health in relation to overuse of social media.   Others support the use of mobile phones in classrooms as it provides teachers with an additional tool which can be used to engage students in their learning opening up new opportunities and learning experiences not available without mobile phones. 

I have repeatedly stated my view, in that I am for allowing mobile phones in schools.    In the real world we all have phones vying for our attention.   Some adults manage this potential distraction and even addiction better than others.    It is due to this I feel we have a duty to work with students and help them learn to manage their mobile devices, their online presense along the potential resultant distraction.   If teachers don’t spend time working with students to discuss and consider these issues then who will? 

The one question that I would like to raise via this post is, has anyone thought of discussing this issue with students?     We are hearing plenty for educational bodies and individual school leaders and teachers but what about the students.   I so far have heard little if not nothing in terms of students views.   Have we discussed with them as to the potential concerns and risks are mobile phone use, that result in the view from some that mobile phones should be banned?    Have we discussed with them as to the potential positive benefits of having mobile devices in school and in classrooms, along with the potential ways that such devices could be used?    Have we discussed creating an agreement for the proper use of mobile devices in school, developed collaboratively between staff and students? 

To me banning something is seldom effective.   Work arounds are created making bans ineffective.    I suspect the Smart watch may be one such work around.   The students phone would be silent and out of sight however their Smart watch would allow students to continue interacting with social media without ever having to get their phone out and get caught for having it.    Are we going to start banning watches next? 


Cyber emotional intelligence?

feedback-3239758_640A recent twitter post highlighted the Goleman book, Emotional Intelligence, a book which currently sits on my book shelf having been read a couple of times.   Goleman’s book focuses on the importance of interpersonal skills, of emotional intelligence rather than the academic intelligence measured by testing and indicated by your Intelligence Quotient or IQ.

My current reading is that of “The cyber effect” by Mary Aitken.   I have found the book to be instantly interesting particularly in its discussion of online dis-inhibition and escalation and how the internet is effecting our behaviours and leading to new norms.

I wonder about the implications of the convergence of these two books and their different topic areas.   If we treat the cyber world as a distinct place within our current world then the theories of emotional intelligence would seem to apply when interfacing with others on Facebook or via email.  The Cyber world would just be another place or location much like our home, our school, a shopping mall, etc.   This seems logical however there may be differences in applying emotional intelligence online versus face to face given the lack of the physical cues associated with face to face communication when communicating online.    It may be that Emotional Intelligence in our new technological, hyper connected and hyper socialised world may be different than the Emotional Intelligence which Goleman referred to in 1996 when publishing his book.   The extent to which it differs, I am unsure.

Given Aitkens comments on online dis-inhibition and escalation, there may be a need for a different kind or emotional intelligence, an online or cyber emotional intelligence, when communicating online.   Emotional Intelligence online may involve being able to deal with more charged exchanges between individuals resulting from dis-inhibition.   I must admit to having seen some evidence of this on forum discussion boards and on twitter, where individuals have traded barbed comments and insults resulting from differing viewpoints.    I would suggest that online there is a tendency towards individuals adopting more polarised viewpoints or at least towards expressed their view points in a way as to suggest polar opposition.   Cyber emotional intelligence may also require individuals to be able to adjust to very quick escalations where initially polite and constructive comments quickly degenerate to trading insults, far quicker than would be expected in the real, face to face, world.   Again, this is something I can attest to having seen online.

Aitken discusses how our cyber world may result in the generation of new norms.    I wonder if we are sufficiently aware of this process where new norms are being created or are we simply being swept along by the tide.    The use of email to communicate even when it doesn’t represent the best communication method is one new norm which I think has occurred without much notice.

I think we need to start to consider human behaviour in relation to technology use in much more detail.   Technology is shaping our behaviours which in turn is shaping our use of technology much in the same way that organisational culture and behaviour interact.   This goes to suggest another possible area of thought in how organisational culture and technology might converge in the culture of technology use, however that’s for another post.



Useful articles/videos

internet-1181586_640I thought I would share some links to articles or videos which I have came across recently which may be interesting starting points for discussions with students in relation to digital citizenship.


Volkswagen Cars Open To Remote Hacking, Researchers Warn

As we connect more devices to the internet, such as our car, do we increase the risks.  In the case of a hacked car for example there would be both the physical risk if key systems like braking were compromised but also the data risk of outside individuals knowing every detail of our travel habits or being able to eavesdrop into in-car discussions.

How a handful of tech companies control billions of minds every day

An interesting TED talk looking at how tech companies such as FaceBook and Google are vying for our available attention, and in doing so attempting to influence or control us, or to addict us to their platform.   The discussion in relation to Snapchat in particular is relevant given the common use of SnapChat among students.  The discussion of profiling users to target then with a “lie” or fake news is also apt considering the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Online risks are routine for teens, most bounce back

Adults often worry about what students are exposed to online but are students more resilient to these issues than we anticipate.   This article refers to a limited study into children’s online activity and the impact on their lives.

Google faces mass legal action in UK over data snooping

An example of a big company being caught in how they gather data from users.   Links nicely to discussing the data we generate and how it might be accessible and/or shared along with the possible uses or misuses of such data.

‘Our minds can be hijacked’: the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia

An interesting article again about how companies providing Apps or online services seek to bet users “hooked”.   Also an interesting point regarding these companies having “no ethics”.

Digital Citizenship

I was asked by a student in a lesson the other week as to what “digital citizenship” meant.    Up until this point I had considered this to be a simple extension of citizenship but into the technological or digital world but hadn’t given it much thought beyond this.    The question made me think or at least made me look online for an outline which I could use as a starting point.   I found this outline which can be viewed here.

The website raises the following factors in digital citizenship:

  • Digital Access: The opportunity to access the digital world, digital resources and to get online.
  • Digital Commerce: The ability to conduct commerce, to manage money and to buy and sell items online.
  • Digital Communication: The ability to communicate online through email, SMS, Video Conferencing and other online medium.
  • Digital Literacy: The skills required to use technology and also to learn new technologies as they arise or become required.
  • Digital Etiquette: An understanding of what is right and proper behaviour when conducting yourself in the digital world.
  • Digital Law: An understanding of the laws and regulations which surround the use of online services and resources.
  • Digital Rights and Responsibilities: An understanding of the expectations of users online and also what they can expect from others and the online world.
  • Digital Health and Wellness: An understanding of the physical and mental implications of technology use including digital addiction.
  • Digital Security: The process of how to remain safe and secure when online.

To me the above seem reasonably comprehensive however I wonder if there are another couple of areas which might merit inclusion.

  • Digital implications: An ability to appreciate the wider implications of new technology use seeing technology beyond its intended purpose into the unintended or secondary consequences.
  • Digital ethics: The ability to evaluate the ethical and moral issues surrounding technology use. Considering not the question of “can we” but the questions of “should we”.
  • Digital Openness: The ability to read the comments from others, such as tweets, and understand that the comments represent a viewpoint and that the medium itself may shape how you perceive the comments and their meaning and intention.   An ability to avoid taking things personally.
  • Digital resilience: The ability to manage technological failures, difficulties and negatives, and to move on, trying new things and seeking better solutions.    Also linked to digital openness in the ability to move on from negative comments received online.

Have I missed anything?


Basic Tech Safety

In developing a series of sessions on digital literacy I thought a good place to start would be that of basic computer safety including password management.    Ahead of this is an initial discussion with students in terms of identifying what the risks and implications of using technology where no consideration has been given for computer safety and security.

The areas which I consider to represent the basic elements of safety are:

  1. Password and account management
  2. Risk associated with website access
  3. Social media dangers
  4. The danger of the ubiquitous use of email
  5. Data loss from mobile devices, portable storage or storage failure.

In discussing each I use the CIA acronym as a structure for examining the risks and safety measures.    CIA refers to Confidentiality, Integrity and Accessibility.     In discussing password management confidentiality may lead us to consider how we keep usernames and password confidential such that our files remain confidential.   It may also leads us to discuss accessibility in that as users we want easy access to our data and therefore shorter easier to remember usernames and passwords seem preferable yet this run contrary to the need for confidentiality.    This conflict may leads to examine how password managers might assist in achieving both confidentiality and accessibility.

The main aim of the first session will be to get students to consider their technological safety in greater detail and depth than they may have done previously.     It is also hoped that this first session will allow for in group discussion and debate, which will set the tone for the discussion and debate which will be needed on some of the more moral or ethically related discussions in later sessions.

You can access the basic PowerPoint (yes, I know, a PowerPoint!   Have just used it to create a basic framework only and have no intention of death by PowerPoint) related to session one here.

I would welcome any thoughts or comments.



A digital literacy programme

I am currently in the process of preparing a programme of lessons for 6th form students focusing on preparing to live in an increasingly digital and technological world.     The first part of my planning is to decide on the specific topic areas which merit discussion.    Currently my thinking is to include the below:

Basic internet safety

The basics of internet safety including passwords, phishing, etc.

Cyber security and internet safety

Examination of some of the more technical aspects of cyber security including the devices we use at home and the increasing prevalence of the Internet of Things (IoT).

Privacy and public safety

Discussion of the paradox of privacy and online security versus public safety.

Digital Profiles

Why establishing an online profile might be important and things to consider in developing an online presence.

Disconnecting and the risks of addiction

Managing our technology so it doesn’t become additive and understanding how our technology use might shape our behaviours and habits.

Managing our data

Understanding our data and how it may be stored and used by others and the resulting implications.   Also consideration of machine learning and how it can impact on individuals.

Social Media as a collaboration tool

Discussion of how social media can be used for much more than sharing funny cat videos

Googling It

Discussion of the benefits of google as a source of info along with potential risks.

The Internet of Things

Examination of the internet of things, the potential benefits and risk

Other emerging technologies

Discussion of emerging technologies such as VR and AR


Now the above are just my initial rough ideas for topic areas.    Over the coming weeks I hope to flesh them out a little bit further and add some skin to the bones however in the meantime I would appreciate any thoughts or comments on the areas which you think need including.