Created by Ruth Elliott

Welcome! Join me as I reflect on my learning journey with Web 2.0 tools. I'm sure I will find bandwagons to jump on along the way. Let's enjoy the trip.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Transparent and Professional Online

A few minutes ago I received one of those phone calls that delights and excites every teacher's heart. The mom of one of my former students called me up to tell me her daughter had been accepted into the College of Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan. Her daughter has also received a scholarship. As soon as this grade 12 student heard the news, she said, "Mrs. Elliott would be so happy." So her mom called me to share the good news.

What is so amazing about this is that I taught this student in grade 2 and again in grade 5 (a long time ago). I haven't seen her or her mom for four years (I did attend her grade 8 graduation). How did they track me down? It's not really too surprising. I always give out my home phone number with every group that I teach. I welcome phone calls at home and love to build a partnership with the parents of my students. That student's mom knew that I would welcome a phone call sharing this special news about her daughter's success.

I realize that this kind of openness about my contact information could backfire on me. However, I have chosen to be transparent and professional in my real-life dealings with parents and students. As I look at the topic of privacy online, I will grapple with some of the issues of being transparent and professional online as well.

What is privacy?

"Privacy is the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves or information about themselves thereby revealing themselves selectively. The boundaries and content of what is considered private differ among cultures and individuals" (Working, 2009). The Australian Privacy Foundation (Australian, n.d.) describes four dimensions of privacy:

1. Privacy of the Person (physical)

2. Privacy of Personal Behaviour

"This is the interest that individuals have in being able to behave however they wish, without undue interference by other people and organisations. This relates to all aspects of behaviour, but especially to sensitive matters, such as sexual preferences and habits, political activities and religious practices, both in private and in public places. " (Australian, n.d.)

For the purposes of this blog post, I will highlight unjustified publication of personal data, web-usage surveillance and denial of anonymity as being three of the personal behaviour privacy parameters.

3. Privacy of Personal Communications

"This is the interest that individuals have in being able to communicate among themselves, using various media, without routine monitoring of their communications by other persons or organisations. This includes what is sometimes referred to as 'interception privacy'." (Australian, n.d.) This area would include the aspects of ISP-usage surveillance, email surveillance, e-chat surveillance, and denial of anonymity.

4.Privacy of Personal Data

"This is the interest that individuals have in data about themselves. People expect that data about them should not be automatically available to other individuals and organisations; and that, even where data is possessed by another party, the individual must be able to exercise a substantial degree of control over that data and its use." (Australian, n.d.) All of the aspects under this category connect with this blog post. I would encourage you to go to this link and scroll down to read through the list. Items like data handling, identification (biometrics, Google Streetview), and profiling occur under this topic.

Let's revisit each of these aspects of privacy and how it may relate to teachers and students.

1. Privacy of the Person (physical):

Location Based Services(LBS) are the latest occurrences in the online world. A chip in your cell phone is linked to the GPS which will allow people to know where your physical body is. (Anonymous, 2010) Can you imagine in the future that you will walk

into a clothing store carrying your cell phone? Within minutes the sales clerk has assembled clothing on a rack--everything in your size with the styles and colours that you prefer.

The store's LBS reader read your preferences one milli-second after you walked in the door. Now you may think you could fool the store by giving your friend your cellphone (as if you would ever do this). However, your LBS has also linked to the biometrics available on you.

2. Privacy of Personal Behaviour

People have moved beyond merely consuming information on the internet. They routinely create content on the internet. This may be through posting information, photos, and videos to Facebook or YouTube. Teachers, parents, and future employers can gain a large picture of your personal behaviour through what you post online. For a site such as Facebook, they have defaulted to public and you must take action to make your information private. Future employers will feel that if you have posted it online, it is acceptable for them to view or read it. (Shirky, 2007) One anonymous viewer of this video said, "I think that we are robbing young people the chance to live and make mistakes"(pienutty, 2009).

On a video (link) posted by the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, these questions are suggested about posting information online (Privacy, 2007):

  • What judgments or conclusions might others form with my information?
  • Are there some details about my life I would like to keep personal?
  • Who might view or purchase this information about me?
  • Will this information reflect well on me a year from now? Or fi ve years?
  • Would I want my best friend to know this?
  • Would I want my boss to know this?
  • Would I want my mom to know this
  • (I add: Would I want my children or grandchildren to know this?)

Nussbaum wrote a fascinating article on the topic of the younger generation and the end of privacy (2007). As she says, she grew up locking her diary with a real lock, so it has been interesting for her to interview people, like Xiyin, who are less concerned about keeping their lives private. She noticed three things:

Change 1: They think of themselves as having an audience.

"All sorts of opportunities—romantic, professional, creative—seem to Xiyin to be directly linked to her willingness to reveal herself a little." Our professor in this class said the same thing--that she has obtained jobs and established friendships through her willingness to be open online.

"In essence, every young person in America has become, in the literal sense, a public figure. And so they have adopted the skills that celebrities learn in order not to go crazy: enjoying the attention instead of fighting it—and doing their own publicity before somebody does it for them."

Change 2: They have archived their adolescence.

Change 3: Their skin is thicker than yours.

"What happens when a person who has archived her teens grows up? Will she regret her earlier decisions, or will she love the sturdy bridge she’s built to her younger self—not to mention the access to the past lives of friends, enemies, romantic partners? On a more pragmatic level, what does this do when you apply for a job or meet the person you’re going to marry? Will employers simply accept that everyone has a few videos of themselves trying to read the Bible while stoned? Will your kids watch those stoner Bible videos when they’re 16? Is there a point in the aging process when a person will want to pull back that curtain—or will the MySpace crowd maintain these flexible, cheerfully thick-skinned personae all the way into the nursing home?"

3. Privacy of Personal Communications

This would encompass the use of Facebook to communicate with friends. Here's a video about how to configure your privacy settings in Facebook.

Video on How to Configure Privacy Settings in Facebook

Another aspect of privacy in personal communication is the prevalence of cloud computing. "Rather than running software on a desktop computer or server, Internet users are now able to use the 'cloud'--a networked collection of servers, storage systems, and devices--to combine software, data, and computing power scattered in multiple locations across the network" (Cavoukian, p. 5). Read about some of the privacy issues related to cloud computing here (

4. Privacy of Personal Data

Every time you do a Google search, data is collected. They collect what your search query is and the IP address for your computer. They leave a cookie on your computer which is a small file that helps them with future searches (e.g. English used). They keep a file about your search. Watch this video (link) to learn more about their privacy principles. The Google privacy principles are listed below. (For a Google engineer's perspective on privacy watch this video.)
  • Use information to provide our users with valuable products and services.
  • Develop products that reflect strong privacy standards and practices.
  • Make the collection of personal information transpare nt.
  • Give users meaningful choices to protect their privacy.
  • Be a responsible steward of the information we hold.
Some people see this collection and use of our data as our payment for online services. You may receive targeted advertising based on your searches. It will be assumed that your friends may like the same things as you so your friends may receive directed advertising as well.

"The problem with buying things with your privacy is you really don't know how much you're paying. With money, five bucks is five bucks. But what is the value of your list of friends? If it's not worth much, your membership on Facebook may be the deal of a lifetime. If it's incredibly valuable, you're getting massively ripped off. Only the techies know how much your info is worth, and they're not telling. But the fact that they'd rather get your data than your dollars tells you all you need to know." (Lyons, 2010)

Through this type of data-mining, "computer scientists and policy experts say that such seemingly innocuous bits of self-revelation can increasingly be collected and reassembled by computers to help create a picture of a person’s identity, sometimes down to the Social Security number." (Lohr, 2010)

Given the status of privacy in our world, what are the implications for educators and for our students.

Implications for Educators

At the beginning of this blog post, I shared the story of a phone contact with a parent which was welcomed because I share my home phone number with parents. However, in my online class, with students from all across Canada, some are not comfortable with sharing a home phone number with parents while others have even accepted their students as friends on Facebook. I think each educator, after weighing up the options for communication with parents and students, must choose those options that they are most comfortable with. For some, giving out an email address may be the best way to maintain their boundaries between their public and private selves. Last week many in the education technology community had a Twitter discussion about how best to communicate with parents. You can follow the tweets here.

If you are interested in using Facebook as a tool for classroom communication, read this blog post with tips about how to use Facebook as a teacher. (link) You could also visit this wiki-page with additional resources about using Facebook or other social networking sites in education.

If you are interested in checking out your privacy settings on various applications, visit Google Dashboard. In one location, it shows you all of the Google services that you have interacted with and makes it easy to change the privacy controls. You could read this blog post about Google Dashboard and watch a video as well. (link)

The last piece of advice for educators is to begin to use Open ID for log-ins and password protection for all new applications that you join. Read an explanation of OpenID here.

Resources to use with Students

I found so many great resources to use with students that I will just list them here. Educators and parents need to inform students about the pitfalls of being unaware of privacy needs online.

At the bottom of the blog post, I would like to share two of the winning videos in this year's My Privacy and Me video contest. These videos were uploaded earlier this month.

Before the videos, I would like to give the last word to a very wise 15 year old who made this comment on a blog post about privacy, "there's a simple rule I like to follow, that being if you're worried about the whole world seeing it, just don't show it. Simple as that." (Jourdy288, 2010)

Take care out there and (as Red Green would say), keep your stick on the ice. Keep track of what's happening to your digital image and your privacy.

Think Before You Click Video (One of the winners in the contest this year)

The Spanish Lottery Video (A winner in the junior category in the contest this year)


Anonymous. (2010, March 6). Follow me; Location-based services on mobile phones. The Economist, 394, 8672, p. 85. ProQuest Journals. Retrieved from

Australian Privacy Foundation. (n.d.) Dimensions of privacy. Retrieved from

Cavoukian, Ann. (2009). Privacy in the Clouds: A white paper on privacy and digital identity: Implications for the internet. Toronto, Canada: Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario. Retrieved from

Jourdy288. (2010, March 15) Comment on Caroline Knor blogpost. You're not as private as you think. Message posted on

Lohr, Steve. (2010, March 16). How privacy vanishes online. New York Times. Retrieved from

Lyons, Daniel. (2010, March 1). Google's Orwell Moment: On the Web, privacy has its price. Newsweek, 155, 9. ProQuest Journals. Retrieved from

Nussbaum, Emily. (2007, February 12). Say everything: Kids, the internet, and the end of privacy: The greatest generation gap since rock and roll. New York Magazine. Retrieved from

pienutty. (May 2009) Comment on Shirky, Clay. (2007, November 6). Facebook killed the private life. (YouTube video) Retrieved from

Privacy Commissioner. (2007, November 7). What does a friend of a friend of a friend know about you? (Video, 2:41). Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. Retrieved from

Shirky, Clay. (2007, November 6). Facebook killed the private life. (YouTube video) Retrieved from

Working Group. (2009). There ought to be a law: Protecting children's online privacy in the 21st century. (Discussion Paper) Canadian Privacy Commissioners and Child and Youth Advocates. Retrieved from

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Dwarfs on the Shoulders of the Giants

bacon-_flowchartImage by i am indisposed via Flickr

When I was training to be a teacher, one of my professors often told us that it was acceptable to beg, borrow, and steal lesson plans and teaching ideas. He did not mention anything about respecting the intellectual property created by other people. Nowadays there seems to be a dichotomy in which many things are freely available while others are locked away behind a copyright wall.

I recently watched a video in which Lawrence Lessig talks about the hybrid economy of copyright and Creative Commons. Lessig is the developer of Creative Commons which was launched in December of 2002. For many products uploaded and licensed under Creative Commons, as long as you attribute the work to its creator, you are welcome to use the work free of charge.

At times, during my years as a teacher, there have been reminders of the importance of abiding by copyright restrictions. The copyright police have even descended upon some schools and scrutinized each use of the photocopier.

When I think about copyright, intellectual property, being a good digital citizen, combined with my cheapskate ways (FREE is my favourite price), I wish I had a copyright flow chart (similar to the bacon flowchart above. Hint: Click on the creator's name to go to Flickr for a larger version of this flow chart.) The flow chart would begin with the type of media or content. As I answer various questions about the product I wish to use, I will follow through on the flow chart until I reach a definitive answer on whether I am abiding by copyright regulations. One of my classmates (Hancox, 2010) suggested the following questions:
  • What is the purpose of the original copyrighted material?
  • What is the purpose of my own use (teaching, scholarship, criticism, comment etc)?
  • Are you crediting the original author of the work?
  • How is my purpose for using the copyrighted work different from the author's original purpose?
  • What is the nature and amount taken? Was it appropriate considering the nature of the copyrighted work and the use?
  • Did the unlicensed use "transform" the material taken from the original copyrighted work by adding value? Is the use of copyrighted material contributing to a unique new creative work, or does it mostly repeat the work for the same intent and value as the original?
  • What is the effect of my actions? Does the effect of my use impact the potential market of the original? Will it compete with the original work? How would I feel about this use of the copyright work if I was the author instead?
  • Is the project being used only within the school?
Until I discover a copyright flowchart that walks me through these questions, I will simply have to grapple with the issues and try my best to understand them. (There is an Exceptions for Instructors eTool using U.S. Copyright Law. This is similar to a flowchart as you work your way through the questions.)


Butler says that copyright "is a privilege of law, given to owners of tangible works...the owner...[can] reproduce or copy, distribute, publicly perform or display and create derivatives of it" (Butler, 2005, p. 41). Much of the professional literature around copyright has been written outside of Canada. In order to understand Canadian copyright laws, visit the Canadian Copyright Act website. Access is the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency (website). At their site, they have a section to answer frequently asked questions for elementary and secondary schools in Canada. This agency will assist you with getting the rights to copy certain materials. If you are outside of Canada, Copyright Watch collects copyright regulations from other countries (website).

Teaching about Copyright
  • Show this video which is American and oriented towards commercial interests. However, it presents basic information about copyright and issues related to it.
  • Temple University has created a webpage that collates a number of resources for teaching about copyright issues.
  • Educators could use the Library Copyright Slider with middle years or high school students. Students could use this interactive tool to work with books on the library shelves.
Fair Use and Fair Dealing

In the United States, there are fair use agreements that allow educators to use copyrighted materials. In Canada, the educational use of copyrighted materials are managed under a concept of fair dealing. To read about both of these concepts, please visit this website. There is an online Fair Use Evaluator. Temple University has developed a pdf which can be printed out and used to determine the fair use of content or media. It would be helpful to have a similar pdf file developed that meets the slightly different Fair Dealing criteria in Canada.

Creative Commons

The motto on the Creative Commons website is: Share, Remix, Reuse - Legally. This site was launched in December of 2002 by Lawrence Lessig. Lessig realized that copyright restrictions (all rights reserved) were more protectionist than many content creators wanted them to be. There was no simple way to signal an artist's willingness to share their content. Lessig created a framework called Creative Commons that content creators may use to signal their ownership wishes. "Creative Commons helps you publish your work online while letting others know exactly what they can and can't do with your work. When you choose a license, we provide you with tools and tutorials that let you add license information to our own site, or to one of several free hosting services that have incorporated Creative Commons." (License your work site)

I believe that as people remix content that is available through Creative Commons, they are being encouraged to use and reuse information. They are making their own connections with content and with their own lives. The reality is that all content is derivative. Years ago, my university professor said that every story stands on the shoulders of another story. This idea comes from a quote attributed to Bernard of Chartres who said
"We are like dwarfs standing [or sitting] upon the shoulders of giants, and so able to see more and see farther than the ancients." (On the shoulders of) If Bernard (who wrote this around 1100) could acknowledge that all thought is derivative, who are we to kick away the giants and start from ground level.

Teaching About Creative Commons
  • View this Slideshare presentation (What every educator needs to know) to learn about Creative Commons (website)
  • Encourage students to use the resources on Joyce Valenza's wiki page of copyright friendly tools (website)
  • Have students take digital photos. Upload them to Flickr and license through Creative Commons.
  • One issue with using Creative Commons is that it is time consuming to uncover the best resources. Have students work on projects of meta-tagging information and photographs in order to help people access the resources available through Creative Commons. At the Wikimedia Commons there is a request for people to help with the images donated by the Tropenmuseum.
  • View this video: Wanna Work Together (Explanation of Creative Commons)

Digital Citizenship

I recently visited some student displays of author studies. I learned a lot about some children's authors. What disturbed me (in light of our copyright discussions this week) was the lack of attribution or referencing for the information shared. There were over fifteen displays with no references listed on any of them. Some information was obviously printed directly from the internet (with the URL location cut off the bottom). Some information was rewritten in the students' own words. However, no books or websites were cited. This displays poor digital citizenship skills. We need to teach students to give credit where credit is due.

Last week I visited a school library in which the grade four students were working on Powerpoint presentations as the culmination of an inquiry learning unit. I was intrigued to hear the teacher-librarian reminding the students to create citations using ISBN numbers. They were using a program called OttoBib which allows you to easily cite your sources. This teacher was helping the students to demonstrate good digital citizenship skills.

In closing this blog post, I really appreciate the generosity of strangers who give so much away on the internet. However, I don't want those strangers to go broke producing wonderful content for thrifty people like myself. I was very intrigued to come across the story of Nina Paley and her creation of a movie called Sita Sings the Blues. This movie is freely downloadable online. Nina is still making money with this movie. Watch the video below to see how she is doing this. (I love her copyright song at the end of the video.)

The Revolution will be Animated (Video of Nina Paley discussing her film, Sita Sings the Blues)

The Revolution Will Be Animated from Marine Lormant Sebag on Vimeo.

We also have our Canadian remix artists who are standing on the shoulders of other giants. RiP! A Remix Manifesto has received a Genie Nomination (website).

As Canadian educators, let's encourage our students to stand on those giant's shoulders. However, make sure the giant doesn't mind (ask for permission) and make sure the students name the giants who they are standing on.


Butler, Rebecca. (September/October 2005). Intellectual property defined. Knowledge Quest, 34, 1, 41-42. ProQuest Journals.

Hancox, Lori Jackie. (2010). Discussion post for EDES 545.

On the shoulders of giants. Retrieved from