October 31, 2014

The Raven Tweets: Anonymous nevermore

Filed under: digital footprints,edtech coaching,Teaching and Learning — Candace Hackett Shively @ 9:02 am

Ah, social media.

This week I notice that someone has tweeted this (Twitter ID redacted out of respect for anonymity):

raven tweets

      Of course, I know that TeachersFirst’s Interactive Raven is one of our most popular resources and that schools all over the world use it, especially during October. This was the first time I have noticed The Interactive Raven being tweeted by a student  My reactions, in order of occurrence, are probably typical of most teachers, edtech coaches, and/or web site editors:

  1. Is this kid promoting “cheating” using TeachersFirst? Nah…not really. It’s out there on the web. Great that kids can find it. Surely the teacher knows that kids can find anything.  If he/she does not realize that, the assignment needs some work. (Call in an edtech coach for ideas to make the assignment build from comprehension level to creative synthesis level…)
  2. Cool. Kids sending us traffic. Traffic is always good. And this tweet has 3 favorites. What should we be hashtagging our tweets with so kids find us?
  3. Cool. Kids LEARNING! Smart kids to share resources! Social learning via social media. I wonder if the teachers know they do this? Sad if they don’t.
  4. I wonder who this kid is. Oooo, fun challenge! I will call him/her MK (for Mystery Kid)…
    • Check out MK’s Twitter profile. No location listed. Some references to ice skating in tweets in last few days. Picture of obviously high school aged couple in front of a lake. Is this the boy or the girl ? (Name not clearly one or other). Pics on profiles of people MK follows include many outdoorsy, winter sports. Ice skating seems more than a passing interest. One MK tweet mentions “my new skating program.” Hmmm.
    • Digging further: one tweetpic includes screenshot with location of  someone who retweeted. I’ll call it Coldtown, USA. That location fits: I know it is in a cold climate with lots of ice skating. It is near a one-time Olympic venue. Other pics and profiles show cross country skiing, hockey and high school kids.
    • Another tweet, retweeted by MK, includes a teacher name: Mr. X.
    • Google MK’s name (in quotes). Still not sure if girl or boy. Several by this name. Tried adding “skating.” Bingo on the first page of results! Newspaper article from the Olympic venue-town paper about local skaters competing to move on to sectional and national competitions. There is MK in the picture, and the image matches the girl on the Twitter profile. Definitely a girl. (Also found a Pinterest board — possibly hers — that includes skating jewelry.) Article mentions she is from skating club in Coldtown, USA.
    • Google the name of the teacher “Mr. X” plus the word Coldtown. Bingo– found the Coldtown High School web page. Found the favorite teacher Mr X’s web page. He teaches social studies, not English. Check out the web pages/assignments of the entire English department. (It’s not that big — only six teachers.) Cannot find the specific homework assignment about “The Raven,” but suspect it is one of two teachers based on the other topics they are teaching.

I stop. I know that MK is a girl who figure skates and attends Coldtown High school in Coldtown, USA.  She used TeachersFirst’s Interactive Raven to do her homework and shared it with her friends, many of whom are involved in cold weather sports. All of the above took less than five minutes. What do I learn, aside from MK’s true identity?

  1. I could be a digital stalker,  but this is creepy. Yuck.
  2. Kids share and learn via Twitter. Teachers should know that. Teachers should USE that! (I feel a pang of guilt for not following through and informing the teacher(s) at Coldtown High School).
  3. Kids share and learn via Twitter. TeachersFirst should USE that!
  4. A five minute, savvy “dig” tells a lot about a high school kid beginning from just one tweet. This could be a great lesson on digital footprints. If you are savvy/fearless enough, give your students this same tweet or another you find on Twitter about homework answers. I am sure there are plenty!

And I wonder: What would you do if you saw a student tweeting about answers to your homework assignment?

October 19, 2012

A digital raven’s footprint

Filed under: digital footprints,TeachersFirst — Candace Hackett Shively @ 1:28 pm

‘Tis the season for the Raven. We have been watching our Google Analytics live as TeachersFirst’s Interactive Raven is hammered by traffic from around the world. I think it is kind of scary to think that we can “see” who is on the  TeachersFirst site minute by minute (their general location and numbers).

The Raven is such a haunting poem for many reasons, not the least of which is how easily it invites parody and poor imitation. So I offer an early trick or treat. Maybe you would like to invite your students to  spend some time with the Raven then try their own hands at a mimicking version related to a topic you teach.  Here is a sample. (Perhaps you can suggest a title?)

Once upon a blog post reading, logged in tabs I leave, unheeding
As the world of data miners raids my unattended store.
Clicking on, I set to shopping, then to Facebook briefly hopping
As the ads that came a-popping match my shopping cart and more
‘Tis coincidence I mutter, these enticing wares galore.
Random ads and nothing more.

Bored with browsing, I try tweeting hashtagged quips and ideas fleeting
While on Tweetdeck laughing, reading others’ pithy repertoire
Twitpics, links, from folks I follow, reweeting with praises hollow
Cheer each follower I add as I send new tweets by the score.
I’m so clever — here come more!

Bravely then I take to writing, links and articles a-citing,
A post acerbic — even biting – thoughts that none have thunk before.
Proudly dream of going viral, Technorati upward spiral
Wordiness and hubris gath’ring, will my reputation score?
Saved and tweeted. Whew, I mutter, hope my Clustrmap will soar.
I’m an optimization whore?

Insecure, I check my tags. Seems my footprint ever lags
I can find no way to raise my Google reputation score.
Googling myself, I then discover that my name has yet another
Whose accomplishments surpass my tweets and blog posts written heretofore
I must press my footprint deeper in the sand upon this shore!
Oops…that tab is for an online store.

As I click to close my Facebook, ads arising flaunt a new book:
“How to make your friends share photos, posts, and ‘like’ you more”
“See your face here!” it is screaming, but I am no longer beaming
As the monster Bigfoot prints the prideful sands upon my shore.
Haunted by my online clicks and logins I must shift to something more.
Clear the cache—clean out the store!

Logging out, I clear my history, some of which is quite a mystery
Can’t believe that I have ever clicked some things in there before
Cache is gone, and Chrome restarted, my old paths no longer charted
Yet the searches of my name still yield ten thousand eighty-four
Memberships and projects linger from a past so long before
Cast in sandstone on this shore.

Far from me, a sandstone sculptor shapes my name and gives it luster
Analytics, spiders weave my life and story more and more
All I want is to go shopping, from ideas to Pinterest hopping
Without carving data fields as Google keeps a hidden score
Let my thoughts for once be fleeting as they were in years before
Quoth the Google, “Nevermore.”


June 25, 2012

Hums in my head at ISTE 2012

Filed under: digital footprints,iste12,Teaching and Learning — Candace Hackett Shively @ 11:24 am

Two convergences are humming inside my head like songs I cannot shake. I attended SocialEdCon Saturday and the ISTE 2012 opening keynote yesterday. At both the talk was about helping kids find their passion. The hum in my head was still strong — asking me to connect to the post I just did about today’s five year old.  He will have the chance to pursue his passion when “left to his own devices.” I’ll just let the personal passion song keep playing in my head as I continue through ISTE.

The second inside song (a clever harmony?) has lyrics about MePortfolios (a distinction form ePortfolios). EPortfolios are for the teacher or principal or department of ed. Meportfolios are for the audience I want to share them with. My five year old will have a MePortfolio, portable, personalized, and completely adaptable to the audience of choice.

That’s it… I am off to another session.


April 19, 2012

Finding Digital Fauxprints: A lesson in social network reality

Filed under: digital footprints,Teaching and Learning — Candace Hackett Shively @ 10:24 am

As one who runs a web site and offers free services to teachers, I am bombarded by offers from social network marketing companies. Everyone wants to make a pitch via social networks. Get people to “like” you on Facebook, pin you on Pinterest, comment about you on blogs, tweet you to the heavens, and generally fill digital space with noise about you. And it does work. Sales come from social networks. Of course, TeachersFirst isn’t selling anything, but we are always trying to get the word out so teachers benefit from timesaving and thought-provoking ideas from our Thinking Teachers®.

When I look for more than a few minutes at the many networks I belong to (conservatively in the hundreds) and even at some comments left on TeachersFirst resources, I see the same pattern. Thinly veiled impostors are creating their own digital fauxprints to hawk the wares of commercial clients. Others simply play the role of something they are not, in order to lure users to new web startups or build the traffic on another site.  How many of the “members” of social networks are actually what they say they are?

I am not talking about cyber stalkers claiming to be teenagers in order to lure our kids into unhealthy relationships. I am talking about self-sculpted digital “experts” and frequent commenters. Spammers are trapped by Akismet and similar tools, but others spend their days creating and maintaining infomercial identities. This would make a fascinating digital (and ethical) exercise for our students (and ourselves as students of the digital world). I’d love to try this challenge with a class or two.

Digital Footprints and Fauxprints

Choose a site where users leave frequent comments. You might choose a popular technology blog, entertainment blog, newspaper site (if open access), food/restaurant review site, Ning or other “community” related to an interest you have, or even a shopping site such as Amazon. Explore some frequent commenters: how many comments have they left? What kind of profile information can you find about them? Can you find the same username on a related or competitor site that also has social features? What evidence can you find that this user might be the same person?  Create a collection of comments by this persona along with the questions they raise for you. You may wonder whether this person has a political agenda, a history of bad experiences, or some other motivation for his/her comments and posts.

Now the big question: Is there any evidence that this persona is, perhaps, a fictitious identity creating a “faux print” to accomplish a certain task? For example, does he/she always send you to see another site that is selling something? Or is he/she trying to generate ad revenue from site traffic (hits)?  Is it possible that this persona is not what he/she pretends to be? Create a digital presentation in support of your fauxprint hypothesis.

Variation: Conduct a class fauxprint scavenger hunt on ONE large site such as Amazon or the Washington Post ( I would have said New York Times, but they charge for access). See how many obvious sales-pitch or agenda-pushing identities you can find during one class period.  What evidence can you show that they may be false identities, hired for a purpose? Award a digital Fauxprint Finder badge to the student with the most, most creative, or most discerning observations.

If you have ever done this or a similar activity, please share it (and a link to any results). I doubt I am the first to wonder about this. I promise to approve REAL comments!

February 24, 2012

Exchange rate: how we trade for privacy

Filed under: digital footprints,musing,teaching — Candace Hackett Shively @ 11:42 am

I have never protected my privacy so fiercely that no one could learn about me. On the contrary, I value my professional digital footprint. When I Google myself, I see thousands of results, and I am OK with that. It’s even OK that the ads on Facebook seem to know I frequent certain online vendors or like to swim.  Seems harmless enough.

Recently, however, the OK2Ask®  team at TeachersFirst has been developing a new professional development offering, Web Worries: What teachers should know about online behavior. That got me thinking about what advice I would give to teachers trying to separate personal and professional personnas online. About the same time, Google announced upcoming changes to its Terms of Use. These two related events spurred me to think further about the tradeoffs teachers make when using online tools, establishing memberships, and generally “sharing” our thoughts, bookmarks, creations, and lives online.timetrade.jpg

The real tradeoff is not about giving up privacy in order to be social. It is about trading  privacy for time. Each steals from the other, in a nasty currency exchange. If we, as teachers, choose to use the timesaving tools that help us learn, teach, or communicate with parents, students,  and colleagues, we pay with our privacy. If we use iGoogle, Google Reader, Google Docs, Blogger, YouTube, or Gmail accounts, the data about what we say and do there is open to cross-pollination about us in an aggregate form that Google does not fully explain.  It may not be personal, but it is based on the personal. If we work diligently to protect our privacy, we spend extra time — not only to cloak our identities, but possibly in using inefficient means to accomplish the same necessary tasks. Having tools that talk to each other, posting information on one tool and allowing access for use of that info by another tool, saves us a lot of time.  But the web of our information means that we are more easily traceable, searchable, and less private. It becomes more and more difficult to check to be sure we have not slipped up and allowed our personal lives to ooze into our professional personnas or vice versa. Simply monitoring the cross-pollination of our data by swarms of technology bees takes time. Aggravating the privacy trade-off is the fact that time is a teacher’s most precious commodity — beyond her family’s love and her paycheck.

I present this not as a problem-solution scenario, but as food for thought.  We need  not “solve” the privacy/time tradeoff. Rather, we should be aware of it.  As who we are becomes a gestalt in a virtual cloud, the one thing we still hold as our own is the ability to think, question, and decide. Decide how much privacy you are willing to pay to save time. Decide which times of your life are too precious to relinquish to the screen. It is no coincidence that the expression says we “spend” time.  The exchange rate for privacy is still up in the air cloud.