Online Rights and Safety

Picture of several European newspapers with Wikileaks-related headlines
Photo Credit: The War Logs by Alex Covic

(Note: Although this is still a timely topic, due to the devastating snow storm and resulting power loss throughout the state of Connecticut, I have chosen to repeat last year’s post on this topic.)

Wikileaks Iraq and Afghan War Diaries (note: since December 3, 2010, it has been impossible to reach the site through this URL. For more information on this, see here.) has once again dominated broadcast news in recent days, not only in the U.S., but elsewhere around the globe. Aside from the short- and long-term political, military and economic ramifications from the leak of these documents, one thing is clear: the Internet has made it extremely easy for anyone just about anywhere to virally disseminate information on a global scale.

So what does that mean for you, your colleagues and your students? In this week’s session we’ll take a look at concerns related to online rights and safety as reflected in the multiple perspectives found in our readings. We’ll discuss here how these issues impact us personally and professionally.

I hope you can all find some way to stay safe and warm in the aftermath of Storm Alfred.

Online Rights and Safety

Picture of several European newspapers with Wikileaks-related headlines
Photo Credit: The War Logs by Alex Covic

Wikileaks Iraq and Afghan War Diaries (note: since December 3, 2010, it has been impossible to reach the site through this URL. For more information on this, see here.) has once again dominated broadcast news in recent days, not only in the U.S., but elsewhere around the globe. Aside from the short- and long-term political, military and economic ramifications from the leak of these documents, one thing is clear: the Internet has made it extremely easy for anyone just about anywhere to virally disseminate information on a global scale.

So what does that mean for you, your colleagues and your students? In this week’s session we’ll take a look at concerns related to online rights and safety as reflected in the multiple perspectives found in our readings. We’ll discuss here how these issues impact us personally and professionally. We’ll all read In Defense of Open, Online Communication in Education by Jason Welker and divide up the rest of the readings among us. You’ll post a summary of your reading selection and your reaction to your reading, especially as it relates to our common reading for the week. During our Friday class we’ll have a chance to discuss this further and our first four presenters will share their class projects with us. I look forward to our Friday session and your blog posts here!

Online Rights and Safety

Agridulce el wireside con Lessig

Photo Credit: Agridulce el wireside con Lessig by De todos los Colores

Yesterday we participated in the live, interactive, global wireside chat with Lawrence Lessig, disseminated via streaming technology based on an open source platform. For those of you who missed it, you can catch it on Flumotion’s blog. I was especially happy to see some of you following/participating on Twitter and look forward to hearing your thoughts about the experience.

This week we are fortunate to have Nicole McClure and Joe Madaus talk with us about universal design for instruction principles when using technology. We’ll use the rest of our class time looking at copyleft resources and our digital footprints.

Was there anything in this week’s readings or in the wireside chat that you found surprising or encouraging?

Session Fourteen—Virtual Worlds

Van Gogh World in Second Life
Virtual Van Gogh World
Photo courtesy of txkimmers (Creative Commons License) from her flickr account.

In our last session we’ll navigate virtual worlds to explore their potential use in our courses. Educause serves up another concise explanation of virtual worlds and their importance in education while the four part T.H.E. Journal series provides a newbie’s perspective on initial forays into Second Life along with an intriguing and provocative interview with John Jamison (aka Virtual Bacon) on the future of Second Life as well as what he sees as seven key issues for traditional educators to consider when contemplating the implementation of Second Life in their teaching and learning.

We’ll wrap up the semester with a reflective look back at our experiences, discuss our wiki work and if time allows, take a few surveys!

Martina:

Virtual Worlds as described in our readings give me mixed feelings. On the one hand I think that they might be useful for educational purposes as described in Educause’s “7 things you should know about… Virtual Worlds”. It might be a good idea for job training, e.g. the example with student doctors who can prepare interacting activities with future students. I am also thinking -history is my other major- on this great German-Italian cooperation in creating the Forum Romanum as it was in Roman times. Projects like this might enable students to “dive” into times and architecture that are long gone or that is lost. In a language class student’s can experience other countries and culture’s without leaving the campus.

On the other hand I think it is important that student’s are guided in this process. Otherwise, in my opinion, virtual world that are so closely linked to computer games (compare the “Second Life: Do you need one?” by Patricia Deubel), the impact of these virtual worlds for (language) learning can become as “blurred” as mentioned in the Educause article. Of course it is fun and one can lean collaboration — but it this really a substitute for a “traditional” class. Similarly, the border between reality and imagination has to be treated carefully in a class, e.g. if I present medieval Germany/Italy/Spain etc. how much is this my fantasy and how much hard facts are involved. Of course everybody has fun playing a king/queen/knight etc. but who presents and who would be interested in experiencing the plague, hard daily work etc.? Influenced by Hollywood & Co. there is more make-up then historical truth and this could give student’s a wrong impression.

Again, I think that Virtual Worlds could be great tools. But I think we are just in the beginning process and should evaluate carefully how to use these tools in a classroom. Otherwise we have beautiful and entertaining, but, from a teacher’s perspective, meaningless pictures/pixel.

Renato.

I would like to comment on the virtual world session because I think this tool is the one that will develop the most in language classes.  When we talk about virtual worlds they necessarily have to be a place where the rule of the society we are studying are the same. I mean that in a contemporary Italian setting some slang has to be inserted. If we are trying to reproduce an experience close to the real one (that is a trip to Italy) we need to give the students an environment which is as close as possible to the real thing. And here start the problems and the mixed feelings. I have no idea how much work is involved for the instructor and the academic apparatus involved in such a project. To create such para-real environment one needs powerful means and a lot of time, and real people to talk and interact with the students. A program cannot do the job. Right now we are using a workbook on line and many students complain about the rigidity in which the program corrects their answer (it takes points off even if they miss the period!). Can you imagine problems like that in a virtual reality?

In the end such experience, to be effective, cannot be done once on a while. The students need to be familiar with the environment and then they can positively interact with the native speakers. My doubts is: how many of you would spend hours on line dealing with another world? Is ours not enough?

Session Twelve—Online Rights and Safety

The Web is Agreement
The Web is Agreement courtesy of Paul Downey (Creative Commons License) from his flickr account. To really get the full effect of this Tolkien-inspired sketch, be sure to go to his site where you’ll find a notated picture as well as a high quality pdf of this drawing.

Carolyn Campbell, in her blog post, “Learning in classrooms with glass walls raises important issues regarding student work in public spaces. In a recent post, Carolyn shares a link to a digital identity quiz that we might want to take in class on Tuesday.

For this Tuesday we have several readings, web site visits and a presentation that deal with the issue of online rights and privacy. In The Amplification Effect, Margaret Soltan, Professor of English at GWU, offers a cautionary tale to universities and colleges that choose to ignore the power of the Internet to ‘brand’ their institutions in ways unforseen and powerful. Dick Hardt, founder and CEO of Sxip Identity, discusses the problems involved in authenticating online identity in a 2005 keynote address. Terry Calhoun’s article, Admissions of Guilt, explores the ethical complications of easily available online access to information on students and employees that exists outside of official university business. Creative Commons takes a novel approach to copyright, giving creators a continuum of copyright options to select from when sharing their work with others. In class we’ll take a look at how some educational institutions, MIT, Berkeley, Drew University and Harvard, for example, have made their content freely available on the Internet as well as look at some options that offer solutions to identity security.

We are still in a state of flux, however, with regards to open access. In March of this year, the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board used the 1998 Digital Millennium Act to dramatically increase the royalty fee Internet radio broadcasters must pay to play copyrighted material. These stations, broadcasting from all over the world, provide rich, authentic content for language educators in the form of news, sports, talk and music. In response to what many see as the demise of Internet radio, several legislators (see, for example, U.S. representative Jay Inslee’s site) have introduced a bill that, if passed, would provide equity to small, independent Internet broadcasters, on par with their ‘terrestrial’ colleagues.

Another recent issue that aligns with the intent of the Digital Millennium Act is the effort by major Internet service providers to create a tiered system of Internet access. Briefly stated, those content providers who pay more will have guaranteed high speed transmission of their content, while those who pay less or not at all, will see their content, to use Bill Moyer’s toll bridge analogy, “stuck in the crowded, slow-moving line, and users will have to wait longer for their content to load.” Some have argued that the threat extends even further, to the possibility that these telecom providers, without governmental regulation, could develop proprietarty, competitive services and block subscriber access to rival sites. For a solid overview of the issue from both sides of the fence, check out the Wikipedia article on Network neutrality.