Have you got a pirate in your school?

Something that rather belatedly crossed my professional radar has been the ‘antics’ of the Dread Pirate Roberts. I first caught up with this topic sitting in a hotel lounge in Singapore, reading the Forbes Asia September issue. Here was a fantastic challenge to the ongoing discussions of what happens online, including challenges to ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and the whole matter of appropriate global citizenship. The truth is, we must be aware that online environments can be manipulated as well as manipulative – and in that sector, drug trafficking,  porn and the sex trade exemplifies everything that is destructive to society despite the so-called ‘democratic’ right of people to engage in their own peculiar passions and vices.

So it was increasingly sophisticated anonymity tools in online environments that created a bustling online narcotics market – and in this realm Dread Pirate Roberts was king of the waters, running the booming anonymous narcotics bazaar known as the Silk Road . What’s interesting to me is not only the ethical issues of drug use and marketing etc, but ALSO the communication mechanisms that are deployed online.

The Forbes reporting on the Dread Prirate said:

An entrepreneur as professionally careful as the Dread Pirate Roberts doesn’t trust instant messaging services. Forget phones or Skype. At one point during our eight-month preinterview courtship, I offer to meet him at an undisclosed location outside the United States. “Meeting in person is out of the question,” he says. “I don’t meet in person even with my closest advisors.” When I ask for his name and nationality, he’s so spooked that he refuses to answer any other questions and we lose contact for a month.

All my communications with Roberts are routed exclusively through the messaging system and forums of the website he owns and manages, the Silk Road. Accessing the site requires running the anonymity software Tor, which encrypts Web traffic and triple-bounces it among thousands of computers around the world. Like a long, blindfolded ride in the back of some guerrilla leader’s van, Tor is designed to prevent me–and anyone else–from tracking the location of Silk Road’s servers or the Dread Pirate Roberts himself. “The highest levels of government are hunting me,” says Roberts. “I can’t take any chances.”

How many of your students are aware of these unofficial and anonymous back-channels?  I know I am not. Seems that neither were any of the Dread Pirate’s family.

A media report today tells us that it’s the End of the Silk Road. On Wednesday, the FBI announced that they arrested 29-year-old Ross William Ulbricht, the Silk Road’s accused administrator, in the Glen Park branch of the San Francisco Public Library.The FBI hasn’t yet revealed how it managed to track down Ulbricht in spite of his seemingly careful use of encryption and anonymity tools to protect his identity and those of his customers and vendors who visited Silk Road as often as 60,000 times per day.

My question is – which kid is going to be the next dirty ‘entrepreneur’?  Which library or cafe  is going to be that kid’s base for disruptive activities deployed via online environments?

Digital citizenship programs in schools?  What a challenge!

Why digital citizenship is important

Are you busy preparing new content and learning experiences for your students?  If you are, never miss the opportunity to include digital citizenship in relation to online environments.

This video cleverly highlights the scary truth about how much personal information is available about those who are not careful. A fun way to make a point!

Survey on cybersafety and library users

Libraries play an important role in providing internet access and advice to children, their parents, and other library users. To help library staff in this role, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has developed a range of resources about how to manage risks so that  library users have safe and positive experiences online.

The Cybersmart Guide for Library Staff provides information and resources about safe, responsible and enjoyable internet use in Australian libraries, including public libraries and school libraries. For library staff, the ACMA’s cybersafety program includes web-based and printed materials on internet safety. All materials for library staff are available online at
cybersmart.gov.au. The ACMA worked closely with the Australian Library and Information Association and Australian libraries to ensure that all materials are both accurate and appropriate.

Having access to a range of useful and current cybersafety resources is vital in ensuring users have safe and positive experiences online. To assist in this ongoing work, a survey has been jointly created by ALIA and the ACMA to gather information.

This feedback will help shape and inform the future development of cybersafety resources for library staff and library users.

This survey for Australian library users will remain open until COB 12 December 2011.

Your involvement is strongly encouraged and your responses very much appreciated.

Go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Cybersmart2011 to complete the survey and
have your say in the development of resources that will benefit all library users.

What about cybersecurity?

April 4, 2011, the EastWest Institute hosted the International Youth and Technology Forum in partnership with Columbia University, where the event was held. It brought together everyone from cybersecurity experts and activists to government representatives and Girl Scouts to lay the groundwork for a new alliance aimed to protect – and empower – kids and teenagers in our digital world. Dominique Napolitano, a fifteen year-old Long Island Girl Scout who has testified before the U.S. House of Representatives, describing the new risks kids face online from “sexting” to cyber bullying, took part in the  International Youth and Technology Forum .

In her own words

We need to empower youth to take this problem into our own hands and find solutions that will work for us”. This is of course why we have to be actively involved in Digital Citizenship initiatives in our schools and community organisations. People of all ages have to become better “digital citizens,” capable of applying real-world knowledge, ethics and personal responsibility to cyberspace.

Here’s the trick. While we may well be learning, engaging, and keeping up-to-date with online tools, and working with students to pursue good digital actions, do we remember to also cover off security? James Lyne, Director of Technology Safety at Sophos, warns that cyber criminals fueled by organized crime are “winning the battle for the internet,” deploying about 95,000 bits of malicious code to threaten consumers each day, making it urgent that we ensure best practices and update our awareness as best we can.

That’s of course where my knowledge falls a bit thin – and I have to rely on the services of companies to provide me with tools/software/networks for security. I have no ‘hacking’ knowlege. I can’t do anything illegal myself, and have no way of preventing hackers other than by deploying third-party solutions (and these will only work against very mild intrusions anyway!).

Perhaps governments and citizens need to pressure companies to better protect online privacy and safety?  Perhaps there is no solution?  What advice can we give to our students?  This is where I need help from someone more knowledgeable!

On May 31, 2011 in London, EWI’s first International Youth Congress on Digital Safety and Citizenship, which will include many forum participants, will precede EWI’s Second Worldwide Cybersecurity Summit (June 1-2)

This interview with  James Lyne from Sophos left me thinking I really need to learn more about this field!

via Educating and Protecting Young Digital Citizens

Schools taking responsibility for digital citizenship

One of the new courses in 2011 on which I am working at CSU at the moment is called Digital Citizenship in Schools. The opportunity to work with school educators on this topic is a complete bonus!   I feel this way because having recently left working in schools I am only too aware of how easy it is for schools to skirt the issues, or believe they are ‘doing something’ worthwhile – yet missing the point by miles!

It is important to open our eyes as wide as we can to the possibilities, and the far-reaching changes not only in technology tools ( such as computers, laptops, cameras, multi-purpose phones, ipads and portable devices, and ebook readers) but also in information access, and social communications that our digital world is inspiring.

The media constantly report stories about the shift in digital technology use among children and teenagers. These highlight the fact that ‘the shift’ is not just a topic for educators, but is a topic of interest, and perhaps concern, for all adults. Learning to play Angry Birds before you can tie your shoes is suddenly media news!  More importantly, though, is the need to grow in knowledge of the digital environment, and it’s influential role in learning and teaching.

So what are schools doing about it? Ask yourself.  Look around.  Look at your policies, community communications, and your teaching programs. Look at your teachers and figure out how many actually have a clue about any of this?

Fortunatley, there are some really strong role-models in the education community, who help lead the conversation, and now I have found something that I am VERY excited about!

iCyberSafe.com – Living in a Connected World


This outstanding website provides information, resources, videos, updates and more for the school community on all matters related to Digital Citizenship.  It’s so easy to build a resource like this for a school using WordPress – yet how many schools have done this?  I  could have built Joeys something like this in the wink of an eye – but of course, that’s just not the way it happens in schools. We had other initiatives underway!

But the question is  – what does it take to create a whole-school response to Digital Citizenship?  What it takes is a Principal with vision, and determination to break through traditional structures to get where we need to go.  This is why is was wonderful to read that Darcy Moore has such a Principal.

For the first time in 20 years I do not have English classes to teach. The principal has requested that I am ‘off the timetable’ and work with all students on digital citizenship and creating a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) or, if you prefer, Personal Learning Network (PLN). This is another small step towards creating an environment at our school where student learning is personalised with the internet in mind.

What Darcy describes as a ‘small step’ would seem to me to be a significant step, given the cost in time and staffing. I would like to find other schools that have taken bold steps to ‘go where no-one has gone before‘.  This is a new frontier  that must be explored, with conections made and tamed,  so that working with digital citizenship it is no longer seen as being groundbreaking.  How long will it take before digital citizenship just becomes citizenship?

final report from the Learning with New Media research group at Monash University’s Faculty of Education was recently released.  This report, called Teenagers, Legal Risks and Social Networking Sites provides an outstanding analysis of  some the issues involved.

The research findings of this project confirm that SNS usage is now playing an important role in the lives of Victorian middle school students, including in socialisation and identity formation. In fact, SNS use has become integrated into the everyday social lives of most Victorian middle school students.

The final words of the report urge:

There is a need for further research directed at understanding young people’s use of SNS and how they can better be empowered to be confident and safer digital citizens. There is also a significant need to further work to be done to assist teachers to be better equipped to understand their rights and responsibilities in the digital communication environment.

We have a  way to go!

Join us in the journey. Become proactive in your use of digital environments, and urge your school to explore and engage in these environments more (rather than shutting them down).

As a result of my work  with our Digital Citizenship course at uni we now have two ongoing resources that readers may like to tap into and help to build.

Find us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/DigitalCitizenshipInSchools

Find us at Diigo http://groups.diigo.com/group/digital-citizenship-in-schools

Don’t turn a digital blind eye…

Denver Convention Centre

So here we are  -  back at school again!  After the amazing ISTE2010 conference in Denver Colorado, I can honestly say that I came away packed with inspiration, and refreshed by the multiplicity of exciting approaches being tested and proved for their value in schools around the world.

There were many highlights, but above all, the message came across loud and clear from top to bottom  that we need to be proactive and adventurous in digital environments. Don’t guess  -  collaborate and learn from others! Build academic rigor through excellence in digital innovation.

I was so impressed with the schools that have a solid track record of integration of handheld devices such as the iTouch. They have shown us that it IS possible to have secure networks AND robust learning taking place that transforms opportunities for students. Even more exciting was hearing from those that are also exploring the added advantages that an iPad can bring to flexible learning. Of course, educators also reveled in the opportunity to explore and share Apps for the iPad. ISTE2010 was groundbreaking for me  – seeing so many iPads in one place was amazing!  Oh yes, the TL Learning Tools Smackdown was a real winner!

It was exciting to hear and see Howard Rheingold in person, in his Crapdetection 101 session. He has so much to offer us in understanding issues around good critical thinking in our digital environments. Take the time to watch his presentation, and then visit ISTEs critical thinking compendium.

So back to school for me  and the challenges of digital learning.

Thanks to our Powerful Learning Project initiative, our Digital Citizenship program delivered through a private Ning is once again alive and active with a plethora of curious, clever, colourful and amazing expressions of learning by our Year 7 boys. I know @snbeach will be pleased!

I love watching what happens in the first week!  Some boys are really excited (once again) to be working in an environment that to them ‘is like Facebook’ – which makes it cool! Others can’t help but use the Ning environment to ‘shout out’ about topics that are close to their hearts – who should win the next rugby game; should Ricky Ponting be dropped from the cricket team; and personal reflections on home and school. At the same time, boys are able to reflect on the topics being discussed in class, and sometimes amaze me with their  insights into their own digital world.

For example:

Cyberbullying is common  and mainly occurs because the person on the other side of the screen can’t see how hurt the victim is and they think it’s all a big joke to them. It is one of the largest forms of bullying because it doesn’t have any physical requirements, like conventional bullying does, but can be done by anyone. It is a major problem and is mainly based from social networking sites, not from SMS’ and phone calls because they are too intimate in communication.

One of the most annoying things about cyberbullying is anonymity and not knowing who is bullying you. It also is only effective in large groups so you feel excluded and like everyone is against you, unlike when you know you have friends to support you and back you up. If I experienced cyberbullying I would probably tell a teacher and document all the incidents so that the cyberbullies would get into trouble and hopefully learn a lesson.

Digital Citizenship cannot be ignored. Out of 160 + boys, only a few believe that they have had any help or guidance from parents or teachers in these digital environments.  So our digital initiative is being ‘rolled out’ via our English faculty – communicating in digital environments seems a very good reason to adopt this as our own (yes Darcy – I’m an English teacher too, so perhaps rank as a small part of your English Literati set perhaps in some small way?)

Other examples:

This is all well and good that the school’s IT group has put all this time and effort in to making this program but I have a an idea that this is just a trap for cyber bullyers. Because I’m gathering that school has no jurisdiction over our use of Facebook.

Ning is sooo cool, its just like a mini facebook, I can learn soo much from this!!

The important message  is that the world is changing really fast and in order to keep up with all the new and exciting things, we also need to no how to use these things in a responsible matter.

Cyberbullying = cowardice!

Very perceptive !

These environments are so important in both social and academic spheres.

Why do some educators continue to turn a digital blind eye?

Safe online – fact or fantasy

http://www.danpink.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/hogwarts-e1264722646117.jpgI came  across two things this week that can help teachers with supporting good use of online spaces.  For some teachers  effective understanding of online spaces and places in terms of good information practice is still a bit of a fantasy tale – like finding Platform 9 3/4 for Hogwarts!

So the following guide is well worthwhile distributing to your school community.

Net Cetera: Chatting With Kids About Being Online,  gives adults practical tips to help kids navigate the online world.  Net Cetera covers what parents and teachers need to know, and issues to raise with kids about living their lives online.

What about the big student magnet  – Google?

Google published its five privacy principles for International Data Privacy Day on the 28th January.  OK, I admit that this is the other side of the coin.

However, it is important to understand exactly what our major online tools consider as important to their product – driven by business forces – as the fact that online tools are extensions of our kids brains means educators have a responsibility to keep in touch and activate the right options for online spaces and places.

Google’s Privacy Principles are:

  1. Use information to provide our users with valuable products and services. Search history informs personalized search, but users can opt-out.
  2. Develop products that reflect strong privacy standards and practices. For example, you can chat on Google Talk “off the record” so the conversation isn’t saved.
  3. Make the collection of personal information transparent. Last year, the Google Dashboard was launched to show you what info Google is collecting on you.
  4. Give users meaningful choices to protect their privacy. You can report privacy issues related to Street View. Google often blurs faces, for example.
  5. Be a responsible steward of the information we hold. Google doesn’t sell data to other companies.

You can view the published web document on Google’s privacy principles here.

(via Google  Search Engine Watch)

Timeline yourself – your past is with you

The Dismissal, 1975

The Dismissal, 1975

A cold night in, by the fire with my MacBook and playing with online sites gave me an insight into the digital future of our students.

We often talk about ‘digital footprints’ and the importance of digital citizenship in the learning experiences of our students. Students interact with music, movies, software, and other digital content every day. In fact, now it starts before they even know what is happening, with blogs, videos, and images online right from birth, put there by doting parents and family. But for us it’s a little different. “Digital” is something new in our lifetime.

I played with AllofMe – an online tool to ‘timeline yourself’.  I didn’t find much of course, because I haven’t been online for much of my life!! unlike the kids today who in 2050 could find memories of things long forgotten – the good, the bad and the ugly of who they were and who they wanted to be.

But I got a tiny taste of how it would be for our kids – AllofMe dredged up a snippet of myself in 1975 – the year that the Australian Library Association appointed it’s first Industrial Information Officer – me!!

I’m embarrassed to think how little I knew but how audacious I was to embark on that role. I set the position up, then left to raise a family.  I have no recollection of that issue of  The Australian Library Journal now.  But I do remember my tour of significant libraries around the country which I undertook as part of my information research.  I was even a guest speaker for an AGM   in Melbourne (perhaps at the State Library?) – my first ever public engagement  in my working life.

Must have said a lot of rubbish :-)