Got Social?

When is a friend a friend

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how and when to allow someone into a specific network.  I know the word ‘allow’ carries some of its own baggage, but that truly is what we do – it often even says “allow” on the request.  When this whole dustup happened with Facebook, everyone was griping (including me) that the FB folks were “allowing” others to see information we did not want them to.  Technology, and specifically security, is all about “allowing” or “permissions”.  Permissions are often toggle type settings written into code and are at the very basis of everything we do.

Has this person presented the right credentials (user name and password) to authenticate to this site?  Yes – allow.  No – do not allow.

With social networking moving at the just sub-light speed it has been for the last few years, we have started to develop within us a set of “permissions” based on the networks we interact with.  Do you have the same criteria for who you follow (or block) on Twitter as you do on Facebook or Linked In?  Probably not and you probably should not because each tool serves a different purpose.

When I get a notification that someone has followed me on Twitter I look at their profile to see if there is something they are posting that I’d like to follow back.  Many times, although interesting, I have to make a choice as to who to follow back because there are just too many options and  information is wildly fluid and difficult to keep up with on Twitter.  Yes, Twitter’s lists have helped, and some 3rd party vendors help manage this.  But the amount of work to manage this needs to be proportionate with the benefit.  I’ve found Twitter to be a much better information spout than pail, and great to keep up with what is going on in real-time.  For this reason, I’m not at all picky about who follows me and open, within reason, of who I follow back.

Facebook is another story.  I must have some kind of connection with the person I friend on Facebook.  The more personal the connection the more likely I am to accept the connection request.  I’ve even gone through and unfriended some folks who I had no personal connection with – folks I’d let in when my Facebook network was smaller and FB was better about their privacy issues.  Since I know that the folks at FB have a habit of mishandling privacy issues, I keep as little private information on FB as possible, but use it as a connection tool to those I have a personal connection with.  If something else were to come along, and address my needs, I’d consider a phased switch.

LinkedIn is an even tighter network for me.  When you sign up, and in several places around the site, the folks at LI tell you how important it is when you get connected to someone.  They suggest that we should  ”Thoughtfully select those people you know and trust because these are the people you will seek advice from and request Recommendations about your/other’s quality of work. Because of this, the quality of your connections is always more important than the quantity of connections. It is important you know your connections because you may be asked to recommend one of your connections to another. If you know little about the connection you weaken the integrity of the Recommendation and your network.” (citation).  I take this advice very seriously and only allow into my  LI network those who I have some work experience with.

Any other social networks I’m a member of, I typically don’t spend my time “tending” to them.  Usually I signed up for an account as research, so when someone asks me why Facebook is better than MySpace, I can tell them (which is actually part of my job).  In order to update all of my statuses (or would that be stati), I use a service called  I simple tell Ping what networks I’m a part of – I then post to Ping and Ping goes out and updates all my networks for me.  Easy Peasy.

Ok, i didn’t just say “easy peasy” in a blog post. [blink blink] Yeah, I did.

How do you decide?  Do you even think about it? Do you have your own rules of etiquette for your interactions in various social applications? How important is it that we pay attention to this?  If we’re in education, and using technology in a classroom, are should these types of thinking be included in the learning objectives?  If we are going to require these technology, how much is it our responsibility to make sure students know how to interact with them responsibly?

Destroying our rights to our private information

In a recent Tweet  I wrote “Set up a wiki for posting information about Facebook & how they are destroying our rights to our private information.”

Marc Parry, from The Chronicle of Higher Education, responded with “marcparry @sorry_afk “Destroying our rights to our private information” Bit extreme? Nobody forces you to have a Facebook account.”

My response couldn’t be boiled down to 140 characters  :-)  or even a couple of sets of 140 characters!  LOL  So I’m responding here in my blog and will post this link to Twitter.  I encourage others to continue the conversation in the COMMENTS section.

Marc, I don’t think its extreme at all.  What I think is extreme is the management of Facebook’s cavalier attitude toward our personal data.  When I first came into Facebook I was promised a level of  expected privacy.  Slowly that has been eroded until now, I have no control over it.  And I don’t even have the option to opt out, they say they are keeping everything, AND can still publish it, after I’m gone. AND, they’ve gone out-of-the-way to make it as difficult and confusing as possible to opt out of even portions of this.

Chris Hoadley sums it up really well here:

I suggest people start paying attention to what is going on here.  If this type of privacy invasion is left to be set as a standard, big brother will all to soon REALLY be watching, as will the entire Internet.

Rez day?

What is a Rez Day, you may ask.  Well, if you’re not in Second Life, it will mean absolutely nothing.  Even if you ARE in Second Life, you might not have heard it put this way.  But one’s Rez Day is the day they first “rezzed” in Second Life, or in simpler terms, the day you started your account.  Its like a birthday – but its called a Rez Day.

Today is my 3rd Rez Day.  It’s been three years since I first created my SL account and SOOOOOO much has happened in that short time.

Today is also the 3rd Rez Day for Rixhawz Milestone and Hugo Vansant.  Doesn’t it seem odd that our of all the people in SL, and all the ones I know, that I know two other people who first created their accounts on the same exact day in the same exact year?  Well, for Rix, it is a strange and happy coincidence.  I met Rix a year or so into my SL adventure.  He works in the California educational system.

As for Hugo, well, having the same Rez Day is not such an odd thing.  Hugo is the first person I ever met in SL.  Back then, you showed up in an orientation area, a place where you learned the basic of using the application (moving, communicating, etc…)  Hugo showed up a few minutes before I did and we got to talking.  This is where the coincidence comes in.  Of all the places in the world Hugo could be from, he is Brasilian.  Now, for most of you that might not seem so odd, but that is because you don’t know about my ties to Brasil.  So, not only is he from Brasil, but he lives in Brasilia, a city in which I’ve spent a great deal of time.  Not only does he live in Brasilia, but he lives in a suburb (they call them satellite cities) call Guara I.  The suburb I spend nearly all of my time in Brasil in was Guara II, which is – as you can imagine, right next to Guara I.  So Hugo and I had a great deal to talk about, and knew many of the same places.  In fact, it turns out, that we used the same Pharmacy (Pharmacists in Brasil can dispense more medication than here in the US, often replacing the need to go to a doctor’s office).

It just goes to show – it really is a small world, but actual and virtual

National Educational Technology Plan meeting

As mentioned in my previous post, I was one of the speakers at the International Society for Technology in Education’s (ISTE) Second Life meeting with members of the President’s panel for the National Educational Technology Plan.  Below is the content of my speech.

Hello, and welcome. I’m excited and honored to have been asked to speak today at what promises to be an interesting and informative event. My name is AJ Kelton and I’m the Director of Emerging Instructional Technology for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Montclair State University, located in Northern New Jersey.

I am joining you from the premier technology in higher education event, the EDUCAUSE Annual Conference, taking place this week in Denver Colorado. What an appropriate place to be when considering this topic, as EDUCAUSE is heavily invested in talking about, and acting on, improving the use of technology in the learning and teaching process. I’d like to thank all the folks at EDUCAUSE, especially Victoria Fanning, Lida Larson, and Justin James for assisting me today.

At this event you are going to hear about assessment, tools, pedagogy, and, I’m sure, a wide variety of other aspects of the importance of technology in education. As a doctoral student in the Educational Communication and Technology program at New York University’s Steinhardt School, this topic is of great importance to me. The work being done in the Educational Communication and Technology program, and other programs like it, is invaluable to our industry.

Funding and support for education needs to be consistent with the incredible importance we place on education. If funding continues to take a back seat in our priorities, we will fall further behind regarding a well-educated public and, more importantly, we risk losing the support of the most important constituency in this process, our students.

It has been said that technology is anything that was not around when you were born. At the rate we are seeing technological advances, everything we know as technology today will be passé to most students entering our grade schools in a few years. Things are changing that quickly and our students are adapting to the change. If we do not adapt with them, we run the risk of becoming the dinosaurs of the educational process.

This is not to say I believe we have to use technology because the students want it; or that we should use it just for the sake of using technology. No, we need to invest both time and resources to an ongoing conversation about pedagogically sound uses of both current and emerging technology.

We can spend a great deal of time talking about different tools that will engage our students as we move further into an increasingly digital age. Virtual worlds, like Second Life, are an excellent vehicle to engage our students in ways that are simply not possible in the actual world. I have watched students, those I’ve taught, and those in grade school, become completely immersed in the learning activities in virtual worlds.

Although not for formal educational purposes, many children are already immersed in virtual environments. There will soon, very soon, come a time when these students will expect the same type of engagement when learning in school. Want proof of this? Watch any small child while they play away in Webkinz, Club Barbie, Club Penguin, or one of the many other virtual worlds exclusively for children. These students are engaged.

These students are prosumers, those who are both producers AND consumers of content. Think YouTube, Facebook, and Wikipedia. These students will soon be in our grade schools, our high schools, and then our institutions of higher education, making their way into our work force. If we don’t do what is necessary now, we run the risk of creating probably one of the greatest social injustices in our lifetimes.

But it’s about more than just Second Life, or virtual worlds, or any of the tools that are just cresting over the horizon. What good are virtual worlds, augmented reality, web-based games, etc…, if our system does not have the three things it needs to be successful making use of them.

First, everyone needs inexpensive access to the Internet. I have watched my home Internet access bill go nowhere but up. I am fortunate enough to be able to afford the $60 for high speed access. Many people, however, all across this county, like in cities such as Newark, NJ, where I was born and still live near, cannot. Let’s do whatever is necessary to make Internet access a utility, like water, electric, and gas, instead of a commodity more concerned with profit margins. Want to see a kid learn, hook him or her up to the Internet and guide their learning process. This is not just about hardwired connection, either – it is very much about wireless.

Second, the tools we use to connect to the Internet need to be easy to use, well designed, and inexpensive. This is not just about laptops and desktops. In fact, it is about much more than that. It is about mobile technology and what the students can hold in their hands, walk around with, be connected wirelessly, and explore. The One Laptop Per Child program is a great start, but we need to take it further. We need to see handheld devices for educational use at a price point most can afford. We need to see the access to those devices come at a reasonable price, so people won’t have to look at the bill each month to decide if they can afford to continue to learn using them.

Bottom line, we need to make it easier for students to get the technology and access they must have in order to be great learners and the future of our world.

Lastly, we need to see many more people studying and talking about pedagogically sound uses of the technology. Our schools need to employ people who have taken the time to learn, and continue to learn, about theories and practices that will help the teachers plan the educational uses of existing, and new, technology. One instructional designer for 100 teachers is just not enough.

How can the government help with this, meaning, why did I couch such large issues into a meeting like this? These issues, although large, are also foundational. Unless we do something about them, the other issues on top of which these three are build, will continue to flounder. There need to be incentives created for the private sector to develop and maintain partnerships with school and students at all levels.

We need to be more concerned about what students learn, and not just what they remember. Well thought out and pedagogically sound use of technology is a gigantic step in that direction.

Thank you for your time.