Are you part of the Big Parent response to Big Data? Great lede from Politico.com’s Stephanie Simon: “You’ve heard of Big Oil and Big Tobacco. Now get ready for Big Parent.” She’s talking about an unpredicted mobilization in recent months that has “catapulted student privacy … to prominence in statehouses from New York to Florida to Wyoming” and “attracted powerful allies” from left (ACLU[.org]) to right (ALEC[.org]). As of a month ago, “14 states have enacted stricter student privacy protections, often with overwhelming bipartisan support, and more are likely on the way” and “at least 105 student privacy bills were introduced this year in 35 states,” Simon reports, citing the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Photo by Moyan Brenn (Creative Commons licensed)
You may’ve heard of the first accomplishment of this new movement: the folding last month of the $100 million InBloom database that was funded by the Gates Foundation “to make it easier for schools to share confidential student records with private companies.”
State databases are next
Next, children’s privacy advocates are tackling “huge state databases being built to track children … from as early as infancy through the start of their careers,” Simon reports. “They are intended to store intimate details on tens of millions of children and young adults — identified by name, birth date, address and even, in some cases, Social Security number — to help officials pinpoint the education system’s strengths and weaknesses and craft public policy accordingly.”
The strength of parent activists’ reaction reportedly took by surprise people who want to improve public education in an evidence-based way, and they’re trying to turn an unhealthy blend of “legitimate questions about data security” and “alarmist rhetoric” into a productive discussion. Further complicating things (and adding heat to the controversy) is the way some states are handling the data. For example, in one state, data gathered on students is processed for analysis in aggregate so that individual students’ data can’t, at a reasonable cost, be produced for parents who request it (see the example on the report’s first page of a retired math teacher in Nevada making such a request for his four children’s data). Read more
When MediaSmarts conducted its focus groups with young Canadians, it heard quite a bit about the important role the Internet plays in their “exploring and learning about sexuality and relationships,” the Canadian digital literacy organization says. But the authors write that the survey itself – of 5,000+ students in grades 4-11 – suggests that that role may be smaller than you’d think, with only 8% of students saying that they go online to learn about sexuality. That goes up as they age up, though, so the figure is 1% for 6th graders and 20% for 11th graders. Still, they use the Net more for information on physical health (18%) and mental health (11%), compared to that 8% for info on sexuality. [Not all questions about sexuality were asked of kids in younger grades, the authors write. Some, "including questions about pornography and sexting, were asked only of students in grades 7-11.]
Other interesting findings in three categories:
Romantic partners vs. everybody else: Young Canadian interact more with friends and family in social media than with boyfriends and girlfriends. “Over 90% of students in grades 7-11 think their friends should be able to read their social media posts compared to 59% who think their boyfriend or girlfriend should be able to.” This too changes as they age up, but with 11th graders, 95% are open to friends reading their social media posts vs. 70% romantic partners doing so. They also feel friends should be able to track their whereabouts using geolocation tech) more than romantic partners (and almost as much as their parents), for 11th graders, the percentages were 49% for parents, 45% friends and 30% romantic partners. Canadian teens “more actively engage in deleting posts … to avoid misunderstandings on the part of their family and friends than they are in keeping something from a romantic partner.” Read more
Now there’s a phone that puts the Amazon store and all that accompanying “retail therapy” right in people’s pockets. It’s a pretty slick looking little device, so here’s fair warning to parents worried about kids getting caught up in consumer culture that you may see this on some wish lists. [Of course, this is not to say that Amazon.com with all its convenience isn't already in our pockets (and wallets); as much as I love hanging out and shopping in independent bookshops, I've been known to buy and read a book or two on my iPhone, using Amazon and its Kindle app.]
Called the Fire Phone (to go with Amazon’s Kindle Fire), this device sort of runs on Google’s Android operating system, but modified, so that not all Android apps will run on it – which is only really a problem if the 240,000 some odd apps available in Amazon’s Appstore aren’t enough (Apple’s App Store and Google Play “each have about five times as many offerings,” Wired reports). HOWEVER, I don’t know whether parents will see this as good or bad: Kids and other media-sharers will probably be dismayed to find that Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube won’t work on this phone. Amazon may have to fix that! What the phone will be great for, Wired says, is 3D effects and hands-free navigation. Its 3D technology makes the phone “a little diorama box, with stunning effects for 3-D maps, games, and homescreen wallpaper,” according to Wired.
“Pricing for the Fire Phone will be $200 for the 32GB version and $300 for the 64GB one. Both of those are with two-year contracts. It will only be available on AT&T for the time being, and will go on sale July 25th,” Wired reports.
Presenting “Family Sharing” Photo: Dean Takahashi
Apple unveiled a whole slew of features coming in the next iterations of its operating systems for the iPhone (iOS 8) and Macs (OS X Yosemite), coming to a device near you in the fall. Among them was an iOS 8 feature called “Family Sharing,” a little bundle of convenience and control.
The feature will “let up to six users share any apps or media content they buy using the same credit card. Users will also be able to share family photo albums, calendars and more,” reports the Los Angeles Times. This way (here’s the parental control part), “if a child tries to buy something with their Apple device, the purchase will not go through until the parent approves a notification they receive on their gadget.” According to VentureBeat.com, Apple says “Family Sharing also permits kids to ask parents automatically if they can purchase a new app.” It may even save families money.
- My ConnectSafely co-director Larry Magid also touched on what’s coming with OS X Yosemite
- PC Magazine put together a wish list for iOS 8 before Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference. Here‘s “What We Wanted vs. What We Got.”
- The L.A. Times’s article highlighted 10 features Apple announced.
One year ago this month, its 3rd-through-6th grader designers launched the fifth and final iteration of Escape to Morrow, an open source digital game they designed in Minecraft for Minecraft players. The five iterations – including writing and rewriting backstories, creating maps, finding mods (Minecraft modifications out on the Web) and producing the trailer – took a year of work in summer camp, an afterschool program, spare time and 5th graders’ class time. Two of their teachers (at the Elisabeth Morrow School in Englewood, N.J.) wrote the game’s kernel.
The teachers were contacted by educators in other countries wanting to collaborate with their students on a project in Minecraft. Since other countries’ daytime can be US nighttime, participation would have to be asynchronous, not the more compelling mode of simultaneous and face-to-face (on screen). That was the first constraint. But – as with any art – constraints bring out creativity. What could be just as compelling as face-to-face interaction for students? Maybe a game?
“We wanted something as engaging as The Hunger Games, socially organized by our students and as compelling as the colonial unit we [had in a previous year] designed for 3rd grade,” the teachers write, referring to a 3rd-grade American history unit for which they had students build a colony from the ground up in a “new world” (in Minecraft). So for this new challenge, “we played with the idea of what might happen if we built a world where resources were allocated only to specific areas…. Inspired by observing John Hunter play the “World Peace Game” [in a master class he gave that one of these teachers, Marianne Malmstrom, attended], our seed began to take root in the idea of creating three nations, each holding one resource needed to construct a spaceship to escape certain doom. We agreed to set some simple parameters that would require each nation to work together. Having created the basic framework, we turned the design process over to students to work out details,” including the rules of the game.
When kids write the rules
But the students are doing so much more even than collaboratively writing the rules of a game, a great exercise all by itself. They’re crafting community norms. They’re being citizens, practicing citizenship. They’re managing their learning process – they have something they need to accomplish so they figure out as they go how to complete the task together; in the process, they’re creating and maintaining community. All three elements of what – according to professor Scott Nicholson at Syracuse University – turns “gamification” into meaningful play (and learning) are involved: agency, competency and relevance (see this), elements also key to student engagement.