mfioretti: education*

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  1. Given the tumult of the news cycle in late 2016, it is understandable how a report put out in late November of that year by SHEG, a division within its Graduate School of Education, might have been overlooked. But anyone still self-soothing with the thought that it’s primarily adults, their brains addled by Fox, recklessly incompetent at the civic skills required to keep democracy even limping along, ought to be chastened by what the report says. “Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Online Civic Reasoning” detailed the depressing results of 18 months of research into young people’s digital media literacy.

    According to the study’s authors (one of whom was Wineburg), across income levels and educational environments, in beleaguered urban school districts and well-resourced suburban ones, the ability of so-called "digital natives" to reason through the information they encounter online, “can be summed up in one word: bleak.” Eighty percent of middle-schoolers in the study could not distinguish articles from ads labeled “sponsored content.” High-schoolers, when shown an imgur photo depicting weird, double-headed daisies purporting to show the effects of a nuclear meltdown, accepted its claim at face value, with only 20 percent of respondents raising objections about the complete lack of information about the picture’s provenance. Reading the report, I was horrified but not surprised. Yes, my students would get A’s on their ability to produce cool merch promoting their YouTube channels if I graded such things, but when it comes to bringing sound judgement and a critical eye to media they consume, they are babes in the woods.

    While it is relief to me to know that fact-checkers’ online practices can be studied, taught, and learned, there is still the matter of getting these skills to children in a systematic way. I talked about this with Jennifer Higgs, a professor of Education at UC-Davis whose research focuses on digital practices in the classroom, and she emphasized that doing this will require an investment in educating teachers, who are themselves often untrained in digital media literacy. Higgs explained that, to date, most professional education for teachers around technology has been about how to use it in the classroom rather than on developing a critical framework for helping students to decipher its messages.
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  2. Children who are cyberbullied are three times more likely to contemplate suicide, according to a study in JAMA Pediatrics in 2014. With such facts and figures, who could argue that there’s something to worry about. Throw in the increased unease within big technology companies such as Facebook about the corrosive effects of rumor and fake news in its feeds, and among executives such as former Facebook VP Chamath Palihapitiya that they’ve unleashed a potentially destructive force, and the argument would seem airtight.

    Except that it’s not. Widespread parental apprehension combined with studies lasting only a few years, with few data points, and few controls do not make an unequivocal case. Is there, for instance, a control group of teens who spent an equivalent amount of time watching TV in the 70s or playing arcade video games in the 80s or in internet chat rooms in the 90s? There is not. We may fear the effects of the smartphone, but it would seem that we fear massive uncertainty about the effects of the smartphone at least as much.

    Any new technology whose effects are unknown bears careful study, but that study should start with a blank slate and an open mind. The question should not be framed by what harm these devices and technologies cause but rather by an open-ended question about their long-term effects.

    Take the frequently cited link between isolation, cyber-bullying, depression and suicide. Yes, suicide rates in the U.S. have been on the rise, but that has been true since the early 1990s, and prevalence is highest among middle-aged men, who are most disrupted by the changing nature and demographics of employment but are not the teens spending so many hours glued to their devices. Cyber-bullying is an issue, but no one kept rigorous data about physical and psychological bullying in the 20th century, so it’s impossible to know if the rate and effects of bullying have grown or diminished in a cyber age. As for depression, there too, no one looked at the syndrome until late in the 20th century, and it remains a very fuzzy term when used in mainstream surveys. It’s impossible to say with any certainty what the effects of technology and depression are, especially without considering other factors such as income, diet, age, and family circumstances.

    Some might say that until we know more, it’s prudent, especially with children, to err on the side of caution and concern. There certainly are risks. Maybe we’re rewiring our brains for the worse; maybe we’re creating a generation of detached drones. But there also may be benefits of the technology that we can’t (yet) measure.

    Consider even an anodyne prescription such as “everything in moderation.” Information is not like drugs or alcohol; its effects are neither simple nor straightforward. As a society, we still don’t strike the right balance between risk and reward for those substances. It will be a long time before we fully grapple with the pros and cons of smartphone technology.
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  3. Beyond how vomit-inducing the video is generally, one wonders just how closely the message in the video overlaps with actual UK law. While UK law is more stringent on free speech when it comes to so-called "insulting" speech, it seems far too simple an explanation to state that any parody that is found insulting would be illegal. Let's say, for instance, that Ed Sheeran considers this parody depiction of him, complete with an anti-piracy message that comes off as the opposite of his own, is insulting. Is the UK's IPO really saying that its own video suddenly becomes illegal?

    Now, while the videos generally tread upon long-debunked ground...

    After the Meerkats found out that people were downloading their tracks from pirate sites and became outraged, their manager Big Joe explained that file-sharing is just the same as stealing a CD from a physical store.

    “In a way, all those people who downloaded free copies are doing the same thing as walking out of the shop with a CD and forgetting to go the till,” he says.

    “What these sites are doing is sometimes called piracy. It not only affects music but also videos, books, and movies.If someone owns the copyright to something, well, it is stealing. Simple as that,” Big Joe adds.

    ...there is also some almost hilarious over-statements on the importance of this messaging and intellectual property as a whole. For instance, were you aware that the reason it's so important to teach 7 year olds about copyright and trademark is because navigating intellectual property is a full-blown "life skill?"
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  4. Facebook’s goal is to “push down the age” of when it’s acceptable for kids to be on social media, says Josh Golin, executive director of Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood. Golin says 11-to-12-year-olds who already have a Facebook account, probably because they lied about their age, might find the animated emojis and GIFs of Messenger Kids “too babyish,” and are unlikely to convert to the new app.

    Facebook launched Messenger Kids for 6-to-12-year olds in the US Monday, saying it took extraordinary care and precautions. The company said its 100-person team building apps for teens and kids consulted with parent groups, advocates, and childhood-development experts during the 18-month development process and the app reflects their concerns. Parents download Messenger Kids on their child’s account, after verifying their identity by logging into Facebook. Since kids cannot be found in search, parents must initiate and respond to friend requests.

    Facebook says Messenger Kids will not display ads, nor collect data on kids for advertising purposes. Kids’ accounts will not automatically be rolled into Facebook accounts once they turn 13.

    Nonetheless, advocates focused on marketing to children expressed concerns. The company will collect the content of children’s messages, photos they send, what features they use on the app, and information about the device they use. Facebook says it will use this information to improve the app and will share the information “within the family of companies that are part of Facebook,” and outside companies that provide customer support, analysis, and technical infrastructure.
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  5. Europe
    13:12 08.12.2017(updated 13:24 08.12.2017) Get short URL
    0 10

    Over the past few years, the number of Christian elementary schools in Norway has doubled. This increase is believed to be a popular reaction to Norwegian society becoming more secular and multiethnic.

    At present, there are currently 82 Christian primary schools spread across the Nordic country, according to the Norwegian Directorate of Education. Nearly half of them have been established over the past seven years. During the same period, only seven schools have been discontinued.

    Western Norway stands out as having the largest proportion of Christian children and youth schools. At the very top, Rogaland county is replete with 13 Christian schools, with another one scheduled for next year.

    © Sputnik/ Said Tsarnaev
    Have a Very Quran Christmas! - Norwegian School's Wish to Pupils
    According to Ole Andreas Meling, the rector of Jærtun Lutheran Free School, this is a token that parents want to spare their children from the "un-Christian" school of today.

    "It was parents who took the initiative to start the school in 2001. Parents who had a strong longing for a school with a more Christian approach,"
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  6. Children and young people should be educated in using smartphones to stop them being exploited by the rising tide of sex offenders attempting to groom and sexually abuse them via digital technology, a new UK report has suggested.

    The Digital Childhood released at the Children's Global Media Summit in Manchester, was commissioned by 5Rights, an initiative for youth digital rights launched two years ago by Baroness Beeban Kidron.

    It insists children and young people should be at the center of the digital environment and not left behind or overlooked despite extreme risks, such as grooming and child sexual abuse.

    Constant and unrestricted access to media means children constantly see sensationalist headlines, photoshopped images and unsavory content, which takes control out of their parents' hands as to the content they are exposed to from a young age, Jodie Cook, a social media expert and entrepreneur, believes.

    "App creators are working on creating devices and platforms that are as addictive as possible, which will have an impact on children's brains and attention spans. Currently social media platforms such as Facebook have a minimum age requirement for individuals signing up and films have age restrictions, perhaps we will see this with devices too," Ms. Cook told Sputnik.

    Sex Predators

    Online platforms can be used for heinous crimes such as the sexual exploitation of children by pedophiles and sex predators. This type of abuse can take almost as many forms as in the physical world, ranging from producing, storing and trading child pornography to seeking paid or unpaid sex online once onscreen contact has been established, normally via smartphones.

    Online grooming by pedophiles — the process of persuading a youngster to have sex online, sharing photographs or arranging to meet — is now at an alarmingly high level, prompting the UK government to introduce a new law in April 2017 whereby groomers who target children through mobile phones and social media will face two years in prison.

    The National Crime Agency warned December 4 sex offenders are increasingly using live online streaming platforms to exploit children. In one week alone, authorities identified 345 vulnerable children and arrested 192 people, 30 percent involving streaming, blackmail and grooming.

    Minimum Age

    Next week the House of Lords is scheduled to vote on an amendment to the Data Protection Bill which would force social networks to build child protection into their sites as well as make 13 the minimum age at which a child could create social media accounts online. Ofcom said 43 percent of 11-year olds already have accounts.

    YouTube announced on December 5 it will employ new and improved digital algorithms as well as thousands of human moderators across Google to shield its young viewers from disturbing content.
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  7. Perhaps this student would have stressed about violating social norms in any era. But in bygone years, the social norms at her school would’ve been clear and static; whatever upset people there would’ve been easy to avoid doing. Today, so many people are declaring so many things problematic on college campuses that the next controversy is almost impossible to predict; it is increasingly common to have done something without any fear of giving offense (say, urging a sushi night in the dining hall) only to subsequently read that the thing you’re on record having done is the object of a huge controversy elsewhere. Does the faraway story portend a future where you’ll be the one in the hot seat?

    No wonder so many students are stressed out by this. And the risk-averse have it especially hard. “I probably hold back 90 percent of the things that I want to say due to fear of being called out,” another student wrote. “People won’t call you out because your opinion is wrong. People will call you out for literally anything.
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  8. When asked by the filmmaker how they would respond if their yard time were reduced to just one hour a day, the inmates are horrified at the suggestion. “I think that’s going to build more anger. That would be torture.” One guard said it would be “potentially disastrous.”

    Shock and disbelief is registers clearly on the inmates’ faces when they learn that children are given less outdoor time than they. “Wow, that is really depressing. That really is,” one says.
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2017-04-27)
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  9. Facebook’s reach into our society is unique in scale: 1.86 billion monthly active users (December, 2016), and with its subsidiaries Instagram and WhatsApp it accounts for 77 percent of mobile social traffic. As a result Facebook has come to be regarded as a public utility – this is not the case however. In learning and teaching contexts in particular, whether it is used officially or otherwise, Facebook’s business model raises a number of important questions.

    The formal definition of ethics will typically relate to a moral sense of good and bad as practiced by a person, or a group of people. However, real world scenarios are rarely simple and we frequently encounter instances involving competing principles or values that are difficult to clearly label as good or bad, right or wrong. For the purposes of this site, values refers to a set of standards that are felt to be important. Therefore the ethical question here is really about how we assess, and express these values.

    This site is intended as an accessible and easy to understand guide enabling visitors to draw their own conclusions about the appropriateness of Facebook in education; primarily focused on higher education contexts. References to professional literature are included for those who wish to investigate further. Similarly, all online resources are linked directly. Readers may also find the Resources page of interest.

    The following sections frame the subject under three main headings: Privacy (relating to personal privacy), Support (considering a holistic approach to student support), and Data (concerning the data profiling practices at Facebook).
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2017-04-27)
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  10. In a July 20 speech at Ninestiles school in Birmingham, the British prime minister, David Cameron, said, “We believe in respecting different faiths but also expecting those faiths to support the British way of life. These are British values … Our freedom comes from our Parliamentary democracy.”

    The speech was intended to lay down his administration's strategy for tackling Islamist extremism in the country, but could be construed so as to limit the ability of any religious believer to exercise their freedoms of speech and religion.

    “The government needs to avoid classing anyone who takes their religion or faith seriously, especially Christians, as potentially harmful extremists. Catholics must not be forced to act against their religious conscience either in schools or in the workplaces,” Caroline Farrow, a member of Catholic Voices UK and a columnist for the Catholic Universe newspaper, told CNA July 24.

    She said Cameron, who is leading the anti-extremism push, should remember to protect freedom of speech.

    “He needs to take care that the British way of life does not come to mean that those of a religious persuasion are silenced out of fear.”
    Tags: , , , , by M. Fioretti (2017-04-25)
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