Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Facebook Violates Privacy

When you buy a book, movie, or gift online, do you want that information automatically shared with everyone you know? Last week, the social networking site Facebook began doing just that. Private purchases made by Facebook users on other sites were posted on Facebook for people's co-workers, friends, and random acquaintances to see. Why? To benefit corporate advertisers.

Facebook says its users can "opt out" of having their private purchases made public. But the link is easy to miss. And even if you do "opt out" for purchases on one site, it doesn't apply to purchases on other sites—you have to keep opting out site by site, week by week, month by month. The obvious solution is to switch to an "opt in" policy, like most other features on Facebook.

Facebook's statement to stressed that because this information is not public, it isn't an invasion of privacy. "Information is shared with a small selection of a user's trusted network of friends, not publicly on the Web or with all Facebook users.” Just because Facebook requires a sign-in doesn’t mean that the information is not available to hundreds of people. There’s no telling how many of one’s “closest” friends have access to this information.

Other sites are looking at Facebook's example to see if they can get away with similar privacy breaches. We need to draw a line in the sand—making clear that the wish lists of corporate advertisers must not come before the basic privacy rights of Internet users.
This fight is about more than just Facebook users. Sites like Facebook are revolutionizing how we communicate and could transform how we organize around issues together in a 21st century democracy. The question is: will corporate advertisers get to write the rules? Or will these new social networks protect our basic rights—including privacy? This is fundamentally about the future of the Internet as a public space.

More Info:
Facebook group "Facebook, stop invading my privacy!"
Facebook description of Beacon feature:
Facebook responds to MoveOn criticism of ad program

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Including our students in the academic conversation

Judith A. Langer argues “that in order to use instructional scaffolding teachers need to ensure that the students have ownership of the learning event.” In his article about Instructional scaffolding, Konrad Glogowski goes on to say that “once the student is engaged as a researcher/writer/thinker, the teacher can focus on conversing with the student.”

Researcher/writer/thinker. Is this how we view our students? Do we give them the respect and authority to initiate, plan and develop their own learning and thinking? Do we see ourselves as “co-participants” in our students’ research and/or learning process? Or are we waiting for the final product to be finished so we can “grade it”. This mind shift is critical if we are to embrace a learner-centered environment.

Our “job” and the tools we use change as our students grow and learn. We, as educators, can no longer rationalize that those who can’t succeed in our classes probably shouldn’t be here. Learning is both social and active. Too often, in higher education it is isolated and passive. We must adapt, challenge and find new ways to engage our students in the academic conversation, so they are involved in the learning process. User-created content such as blogs, wikis and podcasts allow students to develop not only their own voice but also an audience who reads, responds and reflects upon what they write—an authentic context in which their own reading, writing, and critical thinking are valued.

I recently attended a conference sponsored by the Georgia Southern Center for Excellence in Teaching: SoTL Commons. SoTL stands for Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. More information about the conference later. However, in relation to what I’ve said earlier about engaging our students as “co-participants” in the learning process, I attended a presentation by Brannon Anderson, Furman University and Bonnie Mullinix, Educational Consultant. The presenters asked us to consider multiple perspectives for identifying methods for identifying and capturing transformative learning as students participated in the River Basins Research Initiative. Brannon indicated that they had self-reported data as well as personal observation that the students did change their perspectives regarding science, fieldwork, and themselves as scientists. We read qualitative data—journals in which the students indicated this change. What caused them to change? In part, we all agreed it was because they were considered colleagues—not just undergraduate students. They were included in the process, in the conversation. In addition, since the research is ongoing, there was no real final product. The process was what was important.