Digital Citizenship Wrap-up

As I began this series on digital citizenship, I discovered that the subject encompassed much more than I’d previously thought, in particular, looking at the idea of the importance of access. Expanding on that topic later by looking at open source software, I discovered that open source and Creative Commons sharing are not only important in making copyright issues easier, but also serve a vital purpose in encouraging collaboration and community.

Looking at understanding search engines to curate a digital footprint and the responses to some cyberbullying cases, along with other topics, have enhanced and shaped a broader view of digital citizenship. Eventually, this all culminated in developing a concise mantra, 

Human Controlled Access in Community.

Based on that phrase, then, which more or less sums up my view of digital citizenship, I developed a website which looks at the four key words of that phrase, mapping them to the 9 elements of digital citizenship and a more in-depth written exploration built around the same phrase.

Digital Citizenship thoughts (Part 4)

As I read some of the stories about victims of bullying, I was struck by a common refrain of parents after the bullying was discovered. The focus was often on what the school should have done or could be doing. In particular, this line in a story really struck me, “the bully prevention law we spearheaded in Vermont that holds schools accountable [emphasis added] for preventing and responding to bullying.”  This troubles me, not because I don’t think there is a value to educating students about cyberbullying but because I think it’s foolhardy to place the responsibility for monitoring and preventing it on schools when they have limited ability to prevent the activity.

While it is likely that much bullying (online or in-person) happens as result of relationships established in the school environment, schools have limited ability to control what happens outside the school environment–and rightfully so. Parents and guardians need to be expected and empowered to get involved in their children’s lives. If they are allowed–like has happened with so many parental responsibilities that have been dumped on teachers–to relinquish that responsibility to schools, there will be less and less that can be done. At the same time, since it is easier to pass laws aimed at schools, more and more laws will be passed and parents will be more disengaged.


Reference

Digital Citizenship thoughts (Part 3)

In my time as a small-time software developer and IT professional, I have a long-standing love for open source software. The term “open source” is often used as a replacement term for “free,” and indeed that is how I became aware of open source. I was just starting out, didn’t have much money, and wanted to use software; I learned that I could often find free software by searching for open source alternatives to popular commercial software packages.

It wasn’t until later that I became aware of the more important sense of free, open source software through the Richard Stallman’s concept of copyleft–“a general method for making a program (or other work) free (in the sense of freedom, not ‘zero price’), and requiring all modified and extended versions of the program to be free as well.”  It is not an exaggeration to say that this concept–perhaps more than any other–has revolutionized the software development world and had a significant influence in other realms as well.

Copyleft uses the structure of the copyright system (a license) to ensure that software can be freely used, studied, distributed, and adapted.  Works in the public domain can be adapted and then released as closed source; however, under copyleft, those modified versions have to remain open source under the terms of the license. If this sounds like to a Creative Commons Share-Alike license, that’s because Lessig based it on the work of Stallman and others in the Free Software Movement and provided a mechanism to apply the concept to other types of works. 

Open source software is incalculable in its effects–the chances are good that the device you are reading this on is built on an open source framework (this includes Chromebook, Android, iOS, macOS). This website, like the vast majority of websites, is hosted on a Linux-based server. It uses an open source content management system, WordPress, which is built using the open source language PHP and open source MySQL database. The ability for software developers to take existing code, take it apart, and then modify it to suit their (personal or commercial) needs is what has built so much of the technology we now enjoy and rely on.

It is this same approach that undergirds the “maker mindset”  and constructionism , which is why copyright and access to information are such an important part of learning in the 21st century. Intrusive controls to copyright such as digital rights management (DRM) threaten that by giving publishers more power to limit how content is used and disallowing them from studying and remixing content to better understand it.   

A proper use of copyright and digital citizenship gives great importance to the author’s ownership of their content and need for attribution but also allows for others to appreciate, learn from, and build on that work to create a more rich learning environment.


References

Digital Citizenship thoughts (Part 2)

Understanding digital footprints is helped by at least a basic understanding of search engine optimization, something I’ve gained from a career in web development. Google’s major innovation was the PageRank algorithm, “a method for rating Web pages objectively and mechanically, eff ectively measuring the human interest and attention devoted to them.”  Dramatically oversimplified, PageRank considers the relative importance of each page and passes that rank through to all the pages that are hyperlinked from that page–simulating the importance that a standard user would give to the links from that page. Since that time, the major search engines have adopted similar search algorithms and built upon that. 

What that means for building a digital footprint is that there is, in fact, a way to build a digital presence by focusing on developing and being linked to from highly-ranked sites (like schools and colleges). Social media sites also tend to pass ranking, meaning that an ePortfolio, linked to from academic sites and regular postings from social media, is an excellent way to build a digital identity. 

My digital footprint: Eric L. Epps


References:

Digital Citizenship thoughts (Part 1)

When I began looking into digital citizenship, my perception of the study could essentially be summed up as “don’t be a jerk online.” While of course that is a significant portion of digital citizenship, examining Ribble’s 9 elements–digital access, digital commerce, digital communication, digital literacy, digital etiquette, digital law, digital rights and responsibilities, digital health and wellness, and digital security –has given me a more expansive view of what is involved. 

One area that has been of particular interest to me is digital access. Access to information and digital resources is more ubiquitous than ever, but we are far from the author’s ideal of equal access for all. While it is unlikely that we will ever see true equality of access, where everyone has the same level of equipment, internet connection, and training, but we should nonetheless strive toward that goal. While one-to-one laptop programs and the like seek to address this problem, they are definitely not the whole solution to the problem. The best computer with an inadequate or no internet connection is only so useful. If the resources aren’t available to provide laptops for every student, what can be done? I think that one way to provide for equal access in the face of inequality is to imbue the curriculum with flexibility. Allowing the student choice–aside from a host of other benefits–allows them to make the best use of the resources they do have and complete a project that shows mastery of the subject matter. 


Reference

Effective Online Programs

Udacity – I have taken a few Udacity courses over the years, and I have found that them to be quite successful. In addition to “one-off” courses, they also offer what they call nanodegrees, which provide a useful credential for the student.
Georgia Tech OMCMS – Georgia Tech’s Master’s programs in computer science are built on the Udacity platform and many (if not all) are freely available as a MOOC, though one obviously needs to be enrolled in the program for graduate credit.
Khan Academy – One of the originals and still hard to beat for math education. I used some of the videos as course content and extended resources in my own online math course.
Lynda (now LinkedIn Learning) – Another of the early online learning resources, and still a great place to go to get accessible learning on a wide variety of subjects.
Lamar DLL – At the risk of sounding like a brown-noser, I have learned much about effective course design as a participant in the DLL courses.

A Change of Focus for My Innovation Plan

In recent months, it has become clear to me that I need to shift focus for my innovation plan, so I wanted to take a moment here to explain that shift and how it came about.

What’s Not Changing

I became interested in developmental education because it’s one of the most clear, well-documented problems affecting higher education, and community colleges in particular. However, as clearly understood a problem as it is, the solutions are anything but clear. To my mind, this is a perfect place to perform research and try experiments. Everyone is hungry for a solution and actually willing to try things (even if that means failing miserably).

After I started digging into it, I became passionate about developmental education. There is so much squandered potential there, and, most importantly, I could see myself and my kids in those students being slowly rejected by a higher education system that’s trying desperately to help them (and I believe they REALLY ARE trying their best to help).

What is Changing

I have slowly come to the realization that my plan to develop these online, self-directed bridge courses was just not going to work. The main reason it wouldn’t work is that I simply wouldn’t be able to make it happen. I’m not a teacher. I’m not developing courses. I don’t have connections into the high schools to get buy-in from that side. Another reason is that, as I started paying closer attention to these issues, I started noticing that a lot more people are working on similar things. Unlike me, they are in the trenches and able to make things happen.

As I was developing a professional development plan, though, I focused on one section of my plan—academic advising—and things started to get easier and ideas started to flow. COVA: Choice, Ownership, and Voice through Authentic Learning This, once again, is the COVA model in action. Because I had a choice, I developed increased ownership in the learning process, so I was able to find my voice and my learning was more authentic.

The “Discussion” section of my literature review strongly hints at the direction I’ll be heading. I’ve decided to focus on the academic advising process, making sure that advisors have the data they need to be able to identify students who will need extra assistance but giving them the ability to apply COVA in their own area of expertise–helping students. It’s exciting and more importantly, it’s something I can actually accomplish.

Stager on Papert

A colleague of mine, upon discovering my interest in maker education, directed me toward Gary Stager and Seymour Papert (creator of Logo among others). I learned to program a little in Logo on an Apple IIe, so my interest was immediately piqued. Later that night, then, Dr. Harapnuik directed our class to an article quoting Papert.

Little did I know that Scratch (which I recently introduced to my kids) was based on Logo, or how direct the connection was to math education. Here’s a video by Stager detailing some of Papert’s contributions to education. I have a feeling that I’ll be coming back to Papert, especially as I continue to develop my innovation plan.


Scratch-ing the Itch to Program

scratch programming blocks photo
Photo by andresmh

I’m late to the party, I realize. I’ve seen the user- and kid-friendly programming blocks before. In fact, I’ve even used a version of them when learning to develop mobile apps. But what spurred me to introduce my kids to the Scratch platform was when I learned about the user community and that all projects are open-source and remixable.

My kids have–like most kids–been developing in Minecraft, so I was looking for a next step for them to extend those skills. Scratch is the perfect fit. They have complete creative freedom. My oldest’s first project is a lab building game, my younger son’s has growing and shrinking dragons and robots, and my daughter’s is a “beautiful ballerina.”

As I begin a class on significant learning environments, it’s helpful to see such a great example of one in action. It’s also a perfect encapsulation of the COVA model. Since they have complete creative control, they eagerly take ownership of learning the platform, use and develop their own voice, and create projects that are authentic to them.