With the stories this week about the James-Bondish sounding PRISM program, the general public is beginning to learn just how commonly those little bits of their data were being aggregated by the US government into one huge pile for analysis. In the name of “national security”, it appears that many big communications and media companies were only too willing to pass along information generated by their customers to the NSA.
However, as explained by David Sirota, there is a big difference between a corporation collecting our data and when it’s done by a government.
He argued not only that a program sweeping in data from millions of Americans is modest, but also that it is no different than companies analyzing consumer data. Like so many carefully sculpted political talking points, it sounds logical, except when you remember the key facts being omitted – in this case, the fact that the government is using its law enforcement power to obtain the data without the public’s permission. Yes, that’s right: unlike a company with which you personally do business – and with which you sign an agreement about your personal information – the Obama administration is using the government’s unilateral power to simply grab your information across multiple platforms.
For better or worse, if we choose to use Google, Amazon, iTunes, Facebook, and the rest, we generally expect them to analyze and use the data on our activities, usually to sell us more stuff and improve their next quarter results. The fact most of us don’t read their terms of service before clicking Agree is no excuse.
What we don’t expect, and what is not in any TOS I’ve read, if for them to help the government spy on it’s citizens.
Some of the links I tweeted this week that deserve a little more comment.
Both the Mind/Shift blog and The New Yorker took note of different studies both of which suggest that daydreaming is a natural part of being human and necessary to our mental health. Of course, many parts of American culture (school?) equate daydreamers with slackers.
From the Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning blog an explanation of Why Teachers Need Social Media Training, Not Just Rules. The New York City Department of Education recently issued a nine page set of those rules which, if they were smart, would be the starting point for some great discussions (between teachers and students as well), rather than the final word.
From Gary Stager, Throw a Few Million American Teachers on the Barbie in which he notes that American teachers, despite being “insulted, mocked, punished, shamed, blamed and threatened” for the past decade generally refuse to stand up for themselves as a profession. He’s right. Certainly we’ll never see in the US something like what educators in Victoria, Australia recently did when they walked out and shut down 150 schools in that state.
Also from Stager, a long list of things he’s tired of. As with most of what Gary says and writes, I only agree with about half of it. However, to his list I would add that I’m very tired of districts like mine who allocate increasing amounts of time, attention, and technology to the mundane task of testing and test prep rather than using all those resources “to amplify student potential”.
And finally from the Read Write Web blog, a post revealing that millennials are not so tech savvy after all. That’s a lesson many teachers need to learn. Kids certainly know how to use computers for fun and games but they need to learn how technology can be applied to their learning. That’s our job.
When it comes to Twitter, I tend to post in bursts as I find stuff worth passing along in my info flow, or when I stumble upon an conversation to which I think I can add something interesting.
Of course, 140 characters doesn’t offer much room for comment after including a title and the shortened link. Â So here are some items that made it into my Twitter feed this week that deserve more attention, with a few more characters of additional thoughts.
From Ars Technica, Four signs America’s broadband policy is failing. As with way too many issues in American society, many politicians want to leave this stuff up to the phone and cable companies. And the policy becomes maximum profit for them and minimum service to those of us paying the bills.
Also from Ars Technica, 25 years of HyperCard – the missing link to the Web. I also see a connection to WordPress, which celebrated it’s ninth anniversary this week, in Bill Atkinson’s (HC creator) description of the program “Simply put, HyperCard is a software erector set that lets non-programmers put together interactive information.”. Both amazing, creative tools for their time.
From The Answer Sheet blog, Is teaching a science or an art? Daniel Willingham makes a great case for teaching being similar to architecture. Both have some “must have” conditions but also allow for some “could dos”, offering a great deal of flexibility and creativity. Or at least both should. Watch his whole presentation.
And finally, from Scientific American, NC Considers Making Sea Level Rise Illegal. When it comes to climate change and a host of other systemic problems, an increasing number of our “leaders” subscribe to a 6 year old’s philosophy of problem solving: ignoring them long enough will make them go away.