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Friday, March 12, 2010

FCC's positive new plan for digital literacy & Net safety

This morning Elmo of Sesame Street helped Julius Genachowski of the FCC launch the child- and family-empowerment part of the FCC's universal broadband plan (trying to understand Mr. Genachowski's job, Elmo asked, "So you're the chairman of the Funky Chicken Club?"). But before Elmo joined him, the Federal Communications Commission's chairman spoke of the "four pillars" of broadband Internet for US families:

  • Digital access – "every child should have broadband access," Genachowski said, and one of every 4 kids is missing out. "Anything less than 100% access is not good enough," because "every child must benefit from digital opportunities and do so safely."
  • Digital literacy "doesn't just mean teaching children basic digital skills" (though that's important, too, he said), "but also teaching children how to think analytically, critically, creatively" and to "teach media literacy." He said that both digital and media literacy skills are particularly critical, given how much time the average child spends a day in and with digital media. "This is not just a good idea," he said, "it's increasingly a job and citizenship requirement"....
  • Digital citizenship – Genachowski said the FCC plan is not just about giving children access and teaching them how to use the tools, but also teaching them how to be responsible community members, which gives them "the ability to participate in a vibrant digital democracy" (I'd argue in democracy, not just the digital kind; we adults keep thinking in this binary, delineating virtual/real, online/offline, digital/non- way). He also acknowledged the challenges to this effort, including online "anonymity," which masks the impacts of their online behaviors on others.
  • Safety – The FCC chair mentioned first the risk of online harassment, saying "43% have been cyberbullied, and only 10% have told someone." He also referred to distracted driving and inappropriate advertising. My connection to the event's live video streaming was a little sketchy, so the fact that I didn't hear a reference to "predators" in the mix could've been due to my connection; but his starting with cyberbullying was an important high-level acknowledgement of the findings of the Internet Safety Technical Task Force, which some attorneys general have sought to discredit (see this for examples and a link to the ISTTF report). Schools often turn to law enforcement as their authority on Internet safety, so fears not grounded in research which are generated by senior law enforcement officials and published in their Web sites could be an obstacle to 21st-century learning and universal broadband adoption.

    Though the plan is positive, Genachowski acknowledged children's experiences with media certainly aren't always: "Parents are asking themselves whether they should be embracing new technologies or worrying about them. The answer is, we have to do both," he said, as EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet reports.

    To help parents and schools, he announced a "digital literacy corps to mobilize thousands of technically-trained youths and adults to train non-adopters," my ConnectSafely co-director Larry Magid reported in CNET; a plan to get public libraries "more broadband capacity"; "a national dialog" in the form of FCC-hosted town meetings around the country; a new section of for kids and parents; and an interagency working group on online safety (something I've been hoping would happen for a while), which certainly includes the Federal Trade Commission and its pioneering work on virtual worlds and free, well-written Netcetera booklet.

    "Let's focus on what parents can do" in helping their kids have positive experiences with digital media, "not on what they can't," Genachowski concluded. Exactly, Mr. Chairman. Last July ConnectSafely made exactly that point in "Online Safety 3.0: Empower and Protecting Youth": "To be relevant to young people, its intended beneficiaries, Net safety needs to respect youth agency, embrace the technologies they love, use social media in the instruction process, and address the positive reasons for safe use of social technology. It’s not safety from bad outcomes but safety for positive ones."

    Related links

  • "Multimedia in the Classroom - The Future Is Here" a video in which New Jersey middle school teacher Marianne Malmstrom (as avatar Knowclue Kidd) describes and illustrates what a powerful teaching tool machinima (like animated video, cinema+machine, or moving screen capture) is for young new-media producers and sharers (Generation Video?)
  • "I Need My Teachers to Learn," a musical plea for 21st-century learning from students' perspective, written, performed, and produced by educator and tech integration specialist Kevin Honeycutt in Hutchinson, Ks. (thanks to California educator Anne Bubnic for pointing it out)
  • "'21st-century statecraft' at home and school"," which I blogged because inspired by Secretary of State Clinton's vision for Internet freedom and call for creating "norms of behavior among states." She got me thinking about how we need to start here at home, in homes and classrooms, promoting and modeling norms of good behavior online as well as offline, something that the FCC, FTC, and Department of Education are now addressing!
  • "How to teach Net safety, ethics, security? Blend them in!"
  • The full text of Chairman Genachowski's speech today.

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  • More evidence student anti-gay bullying is rampant

    More than half of self-identified gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) 11-to-22-year-olds surveyed said they'd been cyberbullied in the past 30 days, reports. The study, by Iowa State University researchers Warren Blumenfeld and Robyn Cooper, "appears in the LGBT-themed issue of the International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, being released March 15," Futurity adds. It was an online survey of "444 junior high, high school, and college students between the ages of 11 and 22–including 350 self-identified non-heterosexual subjects" (here's an audio interview at CNET by ConnectSafely co-director Larry Magid with Dr. Blumenfield). An earlier study by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network and Harris Interactive I blogged about found that LGBT youth are "up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers." I have to repeat the profound words of New York Times columnist Charles Blow after two children's suicides last year which reportedly involved anti-gay bullying: "Children can’t see their budding lives through the long lens of wisdom - the wisdom that benefits from years passed, hurdles overcome, strength summoned, resilience realized, selves discovered and accepted, hearts broken but mended and love experienced in the fullest, truest majesty that the word deserves. For them, the weight of ridicule and ostracism can feel crushing and without the possibility of reprieve." [See also my blog post "Cyberbullying better defined."]

    Meanwhile, preliminary results of another bullying project of researchers at the University of Ottawa and McMaster University show "that bullying can produce signs of stress, cognitive deficits and mental-health problems," the Toronto Globe & Mail reports. Lead researcher Tracy Vaillancourt said her team knows brains under bullying conditions are functionally different (act differently) but doesn't yet know if there's a structural difference, and to find out they'll do brain scanning of 70 victims they've been following for five years. Vaillancourt "says she hopes her work will legitimize the plight of children who are bullied, and encourage parents, teachers and school boards to take the problem more seriously."

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    Thursday, March 11, 2010

    Net access a basic human right: Study

    The US's Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is not alone in saying everybody should have broadband Internet access. The UK government has promised to deliver universal broadband by 2012, and the EU is also committed to providing universal access via broadband. In fact, basic Net access is coming to be seen as a fundamental human right. "Almost four in five people around the world believe that access to the Internet is a fundamental right," the BBC reports, citing a survey of more than 27,000 people in 26 countries. The BBC said its survey found that 87% of internet users view Net access this way, and 70% of non-users do. "International bodies such as the UN are also pushing for universal net access," the BBC adds, pointing also to Dr. Hamadoun Toure, secretary-general of the International Telecommunication Union, as saying the Net is now basic infrastructure, such as "roads, waste [removal] and water" because the ability to participate is essential in a "knowledge society." How about you – do you see Net access (among many other things, of course) as a basic right for everybody? Pls comment here or in the ConnectSafely forum. Meanwhile, "the internet is among a record 237 individuals and organisations nominated for this year's Nobel Peace Prize," the BBC reports in a separate article, beating last year's record of 205 nominations. [See also "UN Child Rights Convention: How about online rights?"]

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    Wednesday, March 10, 2010

    How Americans 13+ use their cellphones

    Text messaging is by far the No. 1 activity of US mobile phone users aged 13 and up, according to the latest figures from comScore. Though talking on the phone isn't even on the list (presumably all cellphone users do that), comScore's January figures show that 63.5% of mobile subscribers send text messages. The other mobile activities on the list are "Used browser" (28.6%), "Played games" (21.7%), "Used downloaded apps" (19.8%), "Access social network site or blog" (17.1%), and "Listened to music" (12.8%). Social networking by phone was the biggest growth area between last October and January, at 3.3% growth over the three months.

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    Tuesday, March 09, 2010

    Can the social Web be policed?

    In "Cyber-bullying cases put heat on Google, Facebook," Reuters points to increasing signs around the world that people want to hold social-media companies responsible for their users' behavior. "The Internet was built on freedom of expression. Society wants someone held accountable when that freedom is abused. And major Internet companies like Google and Facebook are finding themselves caught between those ideals," it reports. Back before social networking, when people harassed or fought merely over the phone, people didn't hold phone companies accountable for settling the disputes. In the US, the Communications Decency Act extended that "safe haven" to Internet service providers, and courts have included social-media companies in that category ever since.

    Here's the view from Australia, where the Sydney Morning Herald reports some cruel defacement of tribute pages in Facebook have gotten Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to consider "appointing an online ombudsman to deal with social networking issues." [Maybe that's where we're headed: countries having ombudsmen able to decide if complaints in their countries should be "escalated" to their specially appointed contacts at social sites at home and abroad? But what about sleazy social-media operations that fly under the radar or refuse to deal?]

    Certainly it's understandable that people expect more from social network sites than they do from phone companies because bullying is more public and harder to take back, but is the expectation logical? That's an honest question, not a rhetorical one (please comment here or in the ConnectSafely forum), because what does not seem to be different in this new media environment is how arguments and bad behavior get resolved: by the people involved. It may take time with complaints sent from among tens and in some cases hundreds of millions of users, but fake defaming profiles and hate groups do get deleted by reputable social network sites like MySpace and Facebook. Deleting the visible representation of bullying behavior, however, doesn't change much. Bullies can put up new fake profiles as quickly as – often more quickly than – the original ones can be taken down.

    Of course we should expect companies to be responsible and take such action, but can we reasonably blame them if doing so has no effect on the underlying behavior? What court cases like the one in Italy against Google executives for an awful bullying video on YouTube that the court felt wasn't taken down fast enough (see the article in the Washington Post above) illustrate are: humanity's struggle to wrap its collective brain around a new, truly global, user-driven medium where the "content" is not just social but behavioral – and the full spectrum of human behavior at that.

    If you do, please comment, but I know of no real solution to social cruelty on the social Web as yet except a concerted effort on the part of the portion of humanity that cares to adjust to this strange, sometimes scary new media environment by adjusting our thinking and behavior. That includes teaching children from the earliest age, at home and school, social literacy as well as tech and media literacy (social literacy involves citizenship, civility, ethics, and critical thinking about what they upload as much as download) – as well as modeling them for our children. Can it be that universal, multi-generational behavior modification is not just an ideal, but the only logical goal? What am I missing, here?

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    Cellphones & school: A great mix

    Today, two views on mobile learning: that of an 18-year-old social entrepreneur and school-reform activist in Georgia and that of a research guest-blogging at O'Reilly's Radar....

    If you have any doubts about mobile learning at school, I have two suggestions: 1) Take about 5 minutes to watch college freshman Travis Allen of Fayetteville, Ga., demonstrate how iPhones can be used in school, from classroom applications to keeping track of homework to student-teacher-parent communications in a video on YouTube, and 2) check out the iSchool Initiative, a nonprofit organization Allen founded as a "partnership of students, teachers, school administrators, and software application developers" designed to help all parties "comprehend each others' needs" and help students themselves advocate for the intelligent use of technology at school.

    It all started, Allen says in his blog, when his parents got him an iPod Touch for Christmas of 2008. Now at Kennesaw State University, he says the Initiative has "three primary objectives: raising awareness for the technological needs of the classroom, providing collaborative research on the use of technology in the classroom, and guiding schools in the implementation of this technology." He's not alone. See, for example, this tutorial on YouTube from Radford University in Virginia showing teachers step-by-step how to create a quiz on the iPod Touch so the class can take the quiz and together go over the results in the same class.

    Why cellphones, not textbooks?

    Qualcomm has been looking into just that question, funding field research such as Project K-Nect in rural North Carolina, where remedial math on iPod Touches has helped students increase proficient by 30%. Writing in Radar, Marie Bjerede, Qualcomm's vice president of wireless education technology, says the project has turned up four reasons why it helps to teach with cellphones:

    1. Multimedia in their hands. Each set of math problems starts with a little animated video showing how to work the problem. "You could theorize that this context prepares the student to understand the subsequent text-based problem better. You could also theorize that watching a Flash animation is more engaging (or just plain fun)," Bjerede writes.
    2. Instruction is personalized. So "students need to compare solutions" not answers. "How did you get that" replaces "what did you get?"
    3. Collaborative math. "Students are asked to record their solutions on a shared blog and are encouraged to both post and comment. Over time, a learning community has emerged that crosses classrooms and schools and adds the kind of human interaction that an isolated, individual drill (be it textbook or digital) lacks and that a single teacher is unlikely to have the bandwidth to provide to each student."
    4. Unanticipated participation: "Students who don't like to raise their hands use the devices to ask questions or participate in collaborative problem solving [with blogging and instant messaging]. There appears to be something democratizing about having a 'back channel' as part of the learning environment."

    Related links

  • A teacher's iPod Touch proposal (to her school tech director) is linked to in this blog post about her – Sonya Woloshen, a new teacher who uses mobile and other technologies in the classroom but whose focus is on "the meaningful engagement of students ... learning transferable skills and teaching each other as they learned," writes blogger and Vancouver, B.C. vice-principal David Truss. Here's another educator's blog post about Sonya, including a video interview with her about teaching with students' "Personally Owned Devices" (PODs) – Hey, it's 2010. They're in their pockets! Sonya says. And stop with the excuses, like, "They don't all have one." They don't all have to; they can share in class; they have splitters that allow five to listen at the same time!
  • Touchscreen phone data: Gartner says the market for touchscreen phones like the iPhone, Droid, and Nexus One will nearly double this year. It says the worldwide market "will surpass 362.7 million units in 2010, a 96.8 percent increase from 2009 sales of 184.3 million units," and they'll account for 58% of mobile device sales worldwide "and more than 80% in developed markets such as North America and Western Europe."
  • "The three important lessons banning cellphones teaches kids" in The Innovative Educator blog
  • Two important studies on this from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center in New York: "Pockets of Potential: Using Mobile Technologies to Promote Children's Learning" and "The Digital Promise: Transforming Learning with Innovative Uses of Technology."
  • My last feature on this at the beginning of this school year: "From digital disconnect to mobile learning," linking to some important data and mobile-learning projects and drawing from compelling research by Project Tomorrow

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  • Monday, March 08, 2010

    Drivers, don't text!: New campaign

    With its "Txtng & Drivng ... It Can Wait" project, AT&T just joined Verizon Wireless in campaigning to stop the practice of texting while driving. AT&T's campaign, aimed at teens, is using "television, radio, print, the Internet, shopping malls, even the protective 'clings' over the front of new cellphones, to target young drivers," USATODAY reports. Verizon Wireless launched its "Don't Text and Drive" campaign last year. Persuading drivers not to text may take time. USATODAY cites the view of Peter Kissinger of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, saying that the national Click It or Ticket seat belt campaign worked "because it has a law generally accepted by the public, a visible enforcement component and a big public awareness effort." USATODAY adds that, in 2008, the latest figures available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, "5,870 people died and more than a half-million were hurt in crashes involving a distracted or inattentive driver," and "young, inexperienced drivers are disproportionately represented among these drivers." US 13-to-17-year-olds send or receive an average of 3,146 texts a month, or 10 an hour, on average, for every hour they're not either sleeping or in school, according to Nielsen numbers I recently blogged about. Let's hope that includes every hour that 16- and 17-year-olds aren't driving.

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