There has been a lot of talk surrounding the topic of protection and privacy for users on the Internet. It seems that everybody has an opinion on how to best secure your interactions with the virtual World. Buy a better firewall, use a VPN, encrypt your email are some of the suggestions that seem to be flying around these days. Ultimately, the strongest course of action that can offer a surety of privacy is to not engage with the Internet in the first place. Well, that is highly unlikely in today’s day and age. The likelihood that a student in a school in the 21st century will not have access to the Internet is decreasing and often not practical. More and more, students are interacting with Internet ready devices in the classroom either provided by the institution or through the adoption of BYOD policies. The BYOD policy has similarly been adopted in the business world and both business and education have seen an increased burden on the IT support structure (Maddox, 2015). Unfortunately, the adoption of BYOD policies has in many cases presented the IT support structure with an increase in the variety of platforms integrated into the system. Many schools have adopted an IT structure that isolates BYOD services through a managed tier based level of access to the outside World. Both public and private domains are being implemented into the same environment creating issues regarding security and ultimately privacy. Furthermore, access to an open public network allows for the use of tools that can bypass many of the security measures implemented to safeguard the students and staff. Although, students are required to agree to an acceptable use policy when logging in, it doesn’t prevent them from being exposed to inappropriate materials and issues surrounding privacy. Privacy is connected to security and we cannot separate the two (Zaharia, 2016). A decrease in security will potentially result in an increase in the risk to one’s personal privacy. As we increase the availability to access the Internet in the schools, we open the door to the potential risks to the security of student and staff privacy.
A Walk in the Cloud
One of the more exciting trends in Internet based software has been the shift to the cloud. The Software as a Service Model (SaaS) has been adopted by many of the large players currently operating in the World of software development. Major corporations such as Microsoft, Apple, Google, and Adobe all offer cloud based models for their platforms and devices. Many of the products created by the before mentioned companies are present within the school systems. Some companies offer educational models, such as the cloud based services offered by Google that connect students and staff to an array of educational software and tools. The products are free and function on a variety of device platforms. This is a true advantage for the 21st Century classroom and the students using the tools. How does this new model safeguard student privacy? Who owns the content if it is created and stored within the cloud? These are key questions considering that many of the companies who offer cloud based services such as Google have worked the stored content to their advantage. Google has been known to mine student data through synchronizing features that are set active by default when a student account is created. Apple, on the other hand, claims to have no policy surrounding the mining of student data for personal gain (Ghoshal, 2015). This would make sense, as Apple is in business to sell hardware and software to users while Google’s economic model relies on gathered data which in turn is used to develop targeted marketing and advertising campaigns (Farrington, 2017). How do we work to improve the level of a student’s privacy? Is there an acceptable amount of invasion of privacy that we must absorb in order to take advantage of the free educational tools? These are questions we must face as the issue of privacy has never been more important. As educators, we must work to establish an acceptable line or we must remove ourselves and the students in our schools from access to preserve personal privacy.
Privacy in Social Media
Students share a wide range of information on social media and are often aware of to transparency of a fully public approach to social media. Studies have shown that many teens take an array of steps to restrict and customize their profiles (Madden, 2013). With that said an overwhelming amount of users distrust the privacy and security steps that social media platforms offer. The following information demonstrates the level of distrust.
Farrington, D.(2017, April 24). Apple And The Danger Of Data Miners, noodlemac. Retrieved from http://noodlemac.com/2017/04/apple-and-the-danger-of-data-miners/
Ghoshal, A. (2015, December 2). Google is in trouble for collecting students’ data after promising not to, TNW: The Next Web. Retrieved from https://thenextweb.com/google/2015/12/02/google-is-in-trouble-for-collecting-students-data-after-promising-not-to/#.tnw_uhXoqufL
Madden, M et al.(2013, May 21). Teens, Social Media, and Privacy, Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2013/05/21/teens-social-media-and-privacy/
Maddox, T. (2015, January 5). Research: 74 percent using or adopting BYOD, ZDNet. Retrieved from http://www.zdnet.com/article/research-74-percent-using-or-adopting-byod/
Zaharia, A. (2016). 11 Steps to Dramatically Improve your Online Privacy in Less than 1 Hour [Updated], Heimdal Security. Retrieved from https://heimdalsecurity.com/blog/online-privacy-essential-guide/
Interacting Online can present both positive and negative benefits towards learning in the 21st Century classroom. Currently, students have more access to information than any other generation that has come before. Studies have shown that teens are accessing social media more than a hundred times a day on average (Gray, 2015). The range of emotions experienced throughout the duration of the day must be overwhelming to many young students. Many educational institutions have a ban on the use of social media during the formal part of the school day but, students still find a way to get connected and share their information. Their mental health and well-being has come in to question regarding the increased amount of social interaction. One area that is affecting mental health is the increase in depression being observed in the day-to-day actions of highly active users. One study discovered that regular use of social media could lead to symptoms of depression through a trigger of envy being experienced by the user (Abrams, 2017). Envy in social media arises when students uses the service as a tool for comparison. To avoid the social media induced depression, students should be aware of the risks of using the site in a competitive manner. As educators we need to place more attention on how students are using social networking tools such as Facebook and Twitter. One method would be to discuss the legitimacy of the action of making a post. Studies have shown that a majority of social media users tend to edit and post only their most attractive pictures (Abrams, 2017). We all have a bad photo day but, we can the photo look good through the use of image editing software.
The following videos discuss some of the effects observed by engaging in social media.
There are several ways that social media can affect our mental well-being. The most obvious being the onset of an observable depression. The American Academy of Pediatrics has warned about the potential for negative effects of social media in young kids and teens and suggest proper education on the effects is needed (Walton, 2017). The following is a list of potential negative effects towards the mental well-being of highly active users of social media.
Abrams, A (2017, March 5). Mental Health and the Effects of Social Media, Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/nurturing-self-compassion/201703/mental-health-and-the-effects-social-media
Gray, J. (2015, October 7). Teens Check Social Media 100 Times A Day, Bustle. Retrieved from https://www.bustle.com/articles/115147-teens-check-social-media-100-times-a-day-says-new-and-slightly-unsurprising-study-but-the
Walton, A. (2017, June 30). 6 Ways Social Media Affects Our Mental Health, Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2017/06/30/a-run-down-of-social-medias-effects-on-our-mental-health/#63f258792e5a
Nicholas Christakis - The hidden influence of social networks
Samia Khan - Social Media: Too Much of a Good Thing?
We have seen a dramatic shift in the professionalism in business communications since the emergence of SMS or “texting”. More often than not, communication is initiated or responded to with little more than a few sentences consisting of short hand infused direct statements. All followed by a “sent from my device” sign off as if it were meant to be a signature. This is a trend that is creating friction between the younger generations and the business correspondence traditionalists who believe in proper etiquette (Brekke, 2011). How do we reverse the bad habits of SMS texting that are now creeping into what is considered to be formal correspondence?
The use of SMS shorthand is clearly a problem in modern communication but, it is also making its ugly face known in the World of formal education. By 2003 teachers were report the emergence of texting shorthand in the responses from students while completing tests and exams in class. One 13 year old student completed an entire essay in SMS shorthand. A complete sentence such as “My summer holidays were a complete waste of time.” was replaced with shorthand that read something like “My smmr hols wr CWOT” (Arthur, 2012). When queried as to why they used the shorthand, many students responded that it was quicker or that their hand began to hurt when required to write more so they chose the shorthand route (Martin, 2013). Could it also be a factor of laziness? That is a question that has recently come into light. Writing is an art and it is also an essential skill for communication and should not be taken lightly. A student’s future employability may be affected by their lack of formal writing skills. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ Job Outlook 2013 survey, Employers listed strong communication skills among their most highly sought after traits in job candidates (Martin, 2013).
The smart phone of today has replaced the mobile devices of the past. This shift in technology has also forced a change in the billing strategies as providers began to shift data charges to a set amount of bandwidth for a structured period of time. Why do we still see the need for shorthand if cost is no longer a pressing issue? Well, we still have the limit of 160 characters for each SMS message. The social media application called Twitter uses a 140 character maximum that forces users to compress data even further. Although, the use of texting has been shrinking over the last half-decade, there is a sharp increase in the use of SMS short hand in everyday and professional communication. How can we begin to curb the use of this growing trend? We need a strategy b4 it’s too l8!
Thanks for reading,
Arthur, C. (2012, December 3) Text messages turns 20 – but are their best years behind them?, The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2012/dec/02/text-messaging-turns-20
Brekke, V. (2011, July 15). I’m being short, not curt! Mobile email etiquette in flux, Social Intent. Retrieved from http://blog.socialintent.com/2011/07/mobile-email-etiquette-in-flux/
Martin, A. (2013, August 17). Texting slang creeps into student writing, The Daytona Beach News-Journal. Retrieved from http://www.news-journalonline.com/news/20130817/texting-slang-creeps-into-student-writing
TED Talks: John McWhorter: Txtng is killing language. JK!!!
Entropy - lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder.
I would like to start my blog for the “Digital Citizenship” course in the same manner with which I would begin with if I were teaching one of my classes in technology. This week we began the EDUC-5131 with a few select discussions. The primary theme was one of choice regarding how we approach the concept of Digital Citizenship with respect to the students in our class. Long before I begin discussing select topics of netiquette, cyber-bullying, or even copyright issues, I begin with security. Reflecting on a mid-forum summation on the topic of choosing a dark or a light side of instruction the statement “how do we teach our learners to navigate the 'town square' that is the internet...” .(James, 2017) got me thinking. What type of introductory talk should we be having with our students? I would venture to say that we should begin with the topic of personal security and its importance in the assurance that we are doing all we can to prepare our students for their journey into the virtual town square.
I am the father of a ten year old daughter. Starting only a few years before her birth we saw the emergence of Facebook and YouTube with Twitter and Instagram following suit shortly after. Today we have Snapchat and apparently Myspace is back on the scene. I have armed my daughter with what I believe are the skills she needs to protect herself for when she ventures out into the physical world. We have had the “Look both ways before you cross the street” talk. More importantly we have talked about personal security, strangers and the importance of a strong, safe and secure home. We have locks and an alarm system all with secure keys and passwords that only we know. I apply the same tactics when directing her habits in the virtual world. I didn’t just stop there. I have discussed potential vulnerabilities to her personal security that could be created through actions of her friends and other people she knows. I would equate this to going to the “town square” with her friends. She may be prepared but, are they? What are they revealing to the shadows? I do the same in the beginning stages of all my courses that include the use of Internet capable devices. We begin with the concept of passwords.
Personal safety on the Internet begins with a strong password!
Personal Safety has been a discussion of teachers for students for decades if not centuries. I do, although, believe that we need to put more emphasis into personal security and awareness of who/what we should trust as individuals both in the physical and the virtual. I will be so bold as to say that the virtual “town square” has many more dark alleys than the physical one. The one thing continues to stick in my mind, is the amount of trust we put in the systems that are supposed to safe guard us. How can we be sure that we have adequately prepared our students to keep their “keys” safe? When you buy a home you change the locks and only give a copy to the ones you trust the most. You would never keep the same lock on the say-so of the previous owner who claims to have handed you all the copies of the keys. Why do we put such faith in systems with the assumption that they are always secure? Many of us can recall when the Heartbleed security bug was discovered in April of 2014. It was reported as many as two thirds of the sites on the Internet could be affected. Companies such as Google, Facebook and Revenue Canada were affected. Within a matter of weeks, more than 65% of potentially effected users still hadn’t changed their password or even knew to do so for that matter (Humphries, 2014). If one of the keys to your house was knowingly stolen you would most likely do something about it. Wouldn’t you? With that said, why do we not change something as basic as the default password provided to us by a service we are accessing? Changing an assigned default password is a concept I work hard to pass on to my students. We need to teach them to build the keys to their locks out of steel and not butter!
Merely changing a default password is not enough to ensure that your data is safe. Thought should be placed on selecting a password that is strong and is not made up of elements that reflect characteristics of the user. Passwords that consist of portions of a username, a birthday or the name of a pet are not considered to be sufficient. While passwords that are dozens of random characters long are not thought to be practical. In fact, at one time changing a password after short intervals of time such as 60 days was thought to decrease the level of vulnerability to a user. Recent studies have shown that “frequent password changes do little to improve security and very possibly make security worse by encouraging the use of passwords that are more susceptible to cracking” (Goodin, 2016). We need to find a good balance when we convey the importance of security to our students. Overall, Students should be encouraged to be smart about how they build their first level of personal security and to not take it for granted.
Some Interesting Facts about Passwords
Goodine, D. (2016, August 2). Frequent password changes are the enemy of security, FTC technologist says. Ars technica. Retrieved from
Humphries, D. (2014, April 29). 67 Percent of Internet Users Haven’t Changed Passwords After Heartbleed. Intelligent Defense. Retrieved from
James, D. (2017, July 5). Re: Dark and Light Discussion. EDUC5131 Courseware Moodle. Retrieved from
http://wpengine.com/unmasked/ (The 50 most used passwords)
http://wpengine.com/unmasked/ (keyboard patterns)