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Archive for March 2012

1

The Filter Bubble Disguised as Personalization

The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You by Eli Pariser is a book I recommend reading since most of us are online, searching for information probably not aware of what is happening with our data while we click away.
"The primary purpose of an editor [is] to extend the horizon of what people are interested in and what people know. Giving people what they think they want is easy, but it’s also not very satisfying: the same stuff, over and over again. Great editors are like great matchmakers: they introduce people to whole new ways of thinking, and they fall in love.” ~ Eli Pariser
Pariser shares "Your filter bubble is the personal universe of information that you live in online — unique and constructed just for you by the array of personalized filters that now power the web. Facebook contributes things to read and friends’ status updates, Google personally tailors your search queries, and Yahoo News and Google News tailor your news." The filter bubble is populated by the things that most compel you to click. Think about what you are looking for when you search and click around the Internet. You may be looking for medical information, want to know about a celebrity, or just want to shop. These may be highly personal to you but they may not be the same things you need to know or want to learn. Google declares that search is personalized for everyone, and tailors its search results on an individual basis. When you search a topic, your results will be different than someone else's search results. The reason companies like Google and Facebook use algorithms is that, once you've got them going, they cost much less than hiring humans to edit the news feed or find relevant information for you. Unfortunately, you may get results based on past searches, text in email messages, chats, and just clicking on different pages while trying to find what you are looking for. Each click is captured. Each time you "like" a friend or post, that is captured as "personalized" for you. I have several gmail accounts so Google keeps all of my email received or sent so it knows who I’m connected to and all of their information. Google knows what I’ve searched for over so many years, and how much time it took me to search for something and how long I took to click a link or stay on a page. Are you aware that there are 57 signals that Google tracks about each user even if you’re not logged in? This is not personal. It's business. It is another way to push products, services, people, and other items to you based on their algorithms. I receive ads for coach products because of my company, My eCoach. This has nothing to do with wanting or needing any coach products. It's just seems relevant to the algorithms.  I also get trends and news sent to me even though I'm not interested in what is sent to me. I learn about different stars breaking up and other not so interesting news. I really don't need that either. Why is this happening? Google, Facebook, and many online companies use and sell your data to third parties. They give your information to the government if they are asked for it. This is your information -- information about you -- that they are manipulating and giving to others without your knowledge. We use products like Google and Facebook, putting up private information about ourselves, because it's free and seems like the privacy policies will protect you. I recommend reading the terms of use and privacy statements. The double talk and legalese is difficult to understand. Just know that if a program is FREE, they are using your data. Nothing is free. Every time you click on a link or type in an email, your information is being collected.
"Companies like Yahoo have turned over massive amounts of data to the US government without so much as a subpoena.” ~ Eli Pariser
There’s a basic problem with a system where Google makes billions off of the data we give it without giving us much control over how it’s used or even what it is.

Pariser states a profound concern "Personalization is sort of privacy turned inside out: it’s not the problem of controlling what the world knows about you, it’s the problem of what you get to see of the world. We ought to have more control over that — one of the most pernicious things about the filter bubble is that mostly it’s happening invisibly — and we should demand it of the companies we use." Go ahead and click the image below to get the book:
7

How Personalized Learning is Being Framed

The term "Personalized Learning" is huge and controversial. Technology offers incredible potential for education. The concern I have is how educational technology companies are framing how technology can personalize learning. I attended the keynote of NYU professor Diane Ravitch on March 16, 2012 at the Computer-Using Educators (CUE) conference in Palm Springs, California who started with "for a century, educators have dreamed about student-centered learning, and now technology has the potential to make it real." Ravitch explains this in more detail in her latest book: The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education "Educational technology helps students rise to a level of engagement and learning “far beyond” what a textbook can offer," Ravitch said, "adding that textbooks often avoid sensitive or difficult topics from the past because publishers and those with a stake in adoption want the textbooks to be approved for student use. Textbooks have been plagued by a regime of silence and censorship, and for years, educators have wondered how to expose students to true versions of the events they read about in their textbooks. So what do you do?" “ The answer is technology,” Ravitch said. "For instance, educators can show videos depicting historical events or portraying scientific phenomena without editing. Technology is too big, too various, too wide open, and far too much for them to monitor,” she said. “It’s free, and they can’t make you edit out the controversial stuff—they can try, but I think it might be too hard.” Ed tech has, in fact, helped spur new kinds of freedom. Teachers aren’t the only ones who see technology’s potential in the classroom—entrepreneurs see it as a way to make money, and policy makers see it as a way to cut costs and, in some cases, eliminate teachers.
“Some advocates of online instruction say it will make possible reductions of 30 percent of today’s teaching staff,” Ravitch said. “The bottom line for some is profits, not students.”
Technology adapts curriculum, analyzes data, stores content, allows anonymity, and produces vast amounts of information. In many of these cases, companies frame what they do with technology as personalized learning. Ravitch added “no machine can judge nuance, or irony, or tone, or some amazing bursts of creativity. I fear the use of these programs will inevitably reduce student work. … I fear a loss of thoughtfulness” as students write papers to satisfy a computer. This is the thinking of a world too flat for me. … Don’t let them flatten you,” Ravitch said. “Don’t let them give you a number—we are not cattle; we should not be branded. Let us dare to use technology as it should be used—to dream, create, explore, and learn without boundaries. Let us use the power of technology to say ‘No’ to those who want to standardize our minds and the minds of our students.” Diane RavitchDiane Ravitch is an historian of education at New York University. Her best-selling book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, has made her one of the nation’s most sought after speakers on current issues. She is a graduate of Houston public schools, Wellesley College, and holds a PhD from Columbia University. She has received nine honorary doctorates and many awards for her scholarship.  She served as Assistant Secretary of Education for Research and Improvement in the administration of President George H.W. Bush and was appointed to two terms on the National Assessment Governing Board by the Clinton administration.  She lives in New York City.   Educational companies are framing personalized learning to adapt what you learn. Their software adapts to your learning so learners sit in front of a computer half a day.  It is also being framed as a way to make learning cost-effective and guarantees increasing scores. They are promoting that computers can take over the work of a teacher. This is what I say: "A computer cannot personalize learning like a teacher and a student can." It is all about the learner not the software, the textbook, or the tools. Personalized learning starts with the learner. For more information on Personalized Learning, go to Personalize Learning.
1

Inquiry Circles in Action

Comprehension and Collaboration: Inquiry Circles in Action by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels Comprehension and Collaboration is a guide for teachers who want to realize the benefits of well-structured, engaging, cross-curricular projects. Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels lay the foundation for inquiry circles:
  • explain 10 fundamental classroom conditions needed for active, small group learning;
  • profile 19 small-group inquiry circles that bring strategies and principles to life;
  • provide 27 practical lessons in comprehension, collaboration, and inquiry;
  • offer how-to instruction for four types of inquiry circles – mini inquiries, cross curricular inquiries, literature circle inquiries, and open inquiries; and
  • address characteristic management concerns.
  The authors Harvey and Daniels stress the importance of student collaboration and using inquiry as a vehicle to increase comprehension and deepen understanding.
“Comprehension is about understanding...Reading is about thinking." (p. 27)
Inquiry is a process of learning that encourages kids to ask questions, to work together to solve problems, to discover knowledge, and to construct their own meaning, with guidance, rather than lectures, from teachers. The inquiry approach has three key strands (p. 56-57):
  1. “framing school study around questions developed and shaped by kids” which means allowing students’ genuine curiosity about curriculum topics to form the center of teaching;
  2. “handing the brainwork of learning back to the kids” meaning that instead of sitting quietly and receiving the information presented by a teacher, students actively work to construct their own learning experiences and take responsibility for the outcomes; and ultimately,
  3. "focusing on the development of kids’ thinking, first, foremost, and always."
  "The Gradual Release of Responsibility" has different stages (p.112):
  • Teacher Modeling: Teacher explains and models a new strategy, thinking aloud in order to demonstrate their thought-process behind the strategy use.
  • Guided Practice: Teacher and students practice the strategy together in shared contexts, constructing meaning through interchange; students gradually take more responsibility for task engagement and completion.
  • Collaborative Practice: Students share thinking process with one another or work in small groups and pairs and reason through text together; the teacher moves between groups, checking in on how things are going.
  • Independent Practice: Students practice using the strategy independently of teacher and other students; students receive regular feedback on their progress.
  • Application of Strategy: Students use the strategy in authentic situations, across a variety of settings, contexts, and disciplines.
"Kids' questions really matter." (p. 228)
I recommend this book as prompts for discussions about bringing inquiry-based learning into your classroom and as part of your professional learning communities. The authors also created DVDs that support their work:
5

Blended Learning for Each Learner

Blended learning refers to any time a student learns, at least in part, at a brick-and-mortar facility and through online delivery with student control over time, place, path, or pace. [source: infographic] This sounds like personalizing learning to me. Yet, something's happening how schools are using the blended learning approach. Blended Learning Blended learning environments are growing especially in the charter school movement. According to Michael Horn and Heather Staker on Innosight:
Online learning is sweeping across America. In the year 2000, roughly 45,000 K–12 students took an online course. In 2009, more than 3 million K–12 students did. What was originally a distance- learning phenomenon no longer is. Most of the growth is occurring in blended-learning environments, in which students learn online in an adult-supervised environment at least part of the time. As this happens, online learning has the potential to transform America’s education system by serving as the backbone of a system that offers more personalized learning approaches for all students.
They continue with a concern about the numbers of students who will have access to o online learning opportunities. There is a limit, however, to the number of students in America who have the ability to be home-schooled or attend a full-time virtual school. The same analysis that shows that 50 percent of all high school courses will be delivered online by 2019 reveals that home schooling and full-time virtual schooling will not substitute for mainstream schooling, as their rapid growth flattens out at around 10 percent of the K–12 schooling population.
There is a limit, however, to the number of students in America who have the ability to be home-schooled or attend a full-time virtual school. The same analysis that shows that 50 percent of all high school courses will be delivered online by 2019 reveals that home schooling and full-time virtual schooling will not substitute for mainstream schooling, as their rapid growth flattens out at around 10 percent of the K–12 schooling population.
Blended learning means something different to different groups depending on the ages of students, access to resources, teacher support and training, integrating digital literacy, assessment strategies, and amount of collaborative planning time. Allison Littlejohn, director of the Caledonian Academy, Glasgow Caledonian University wrote 20 Tips and Resources for using Technology in Higher Education where she shared about blended learning:
Blended learning should transform learning, not just replicate teaching: Companies want graduates who can source, filter and use existing knowledge to create new knowledge, and the university is key to equipping students with these skills. Yet we seldom see technology  tools being used in radically new ways in Higher Ed. They are usually used to replicate lectures - think of websites or podcasts - rather than enabling students to learn in new ways.
Littlejohn makes a point that the relationship between blended learning and digital literacy is important, yet often overlooked. There are few well-defined ideas on how learners make connections across distributed networks and how they chart their learning pathways.Most of the blended learning models that I'm finding in my research so far talk about learning pathways and students' personalizing their learning, but, in most of the models, the schools "personalize" students' learning and adapt their students' learning paths based on test scores and the level they reach on some online activities. Teachers may differentiate activities that they post on their website or "flip the classroom." I like the idea of flipping the classroom so the real work in the classroom is meaningful and relevant. However, these activities are so much work for teachers. Teachers are working after-school taking up much of their own time to develop materials, lesson plans, and websites. Teachers spend time compiling data to determine how to teach to the different groups of students in their classroom. They assume that if they differentiate instruction, then each student in their classroom will understand the content.
Teachers should not be the hardest working people in the classroom.
When you look at the blended learning model for Higher Ed [Blended Learning Toolkit], teaching is teacher-directed either on-site and online and self-directed. With the availability of iTunes University, Open Education Resources [How to create your own textbook] and digital textbooks or Flexbooks [CK12/flexbooks], teachers from K-20 are picking and choosing resources to customize instruction. In all these cases, are we as teachers understanding how our students learn best? Are we taking into account each learner is not only different but they may learn in a different way? That's a lot to think about.
 
There are organizations like Rocketship Education that are using adaptive courseware for students to increase their achievement in specific content areas like math and reading. These tend to be in lab situations monitored by a para-professional or teacher. The concern I have for this model is that student learning pathways are based on algorythms calculated from the answers students choose. The student has not designed their learning path or determined how they learn best using the different games or online activities. Student test scores do go up, but are students learning critical thinking skills? Some students don't learn well this way -- some do well for a time and then plateau. In this case, the software doesn't take in account how the learner learns best. They may move to a different level or receive intervention strategies to understand the content, but do they really "get" it? How can a computer understand how each learner learns best?
How about changing the word "Student" to "Learner?" Student implies that they can only learn from a teacher. Learner implies a different role for teacher and learner. The learning starts with the learner. The learner drives and owns their learning. How about re-evaluating how the learner learns and using that information to design their personal learning path or personal journey?
 
Maybe what we call blended is more than on-site and online. It means knowing how the learner learns best and then blending the following to help them reach their fullest potential:
  • on-site
  • online
  • interactive games
  • small groups
  • one-on-one
  • appropriate resources
  • technology
  • observations
  • collaboration
  • personal journeys
  • flipping the classroom
  • inquiry and critical thinking
  • project-based
  • problem-based
  • design-based
  • challenge-based
  • studio-based
  • and so much more...
What if...
  • learners are able to determine how they learn best?
  • teachers are co-designers of blended learning environments with learners?
  • learners have a voice and choice in the way they learn?
  • there are a variety of opportunities of blended learning approaches to choose from?
 
We will see and research more models and examples of personalizing learning. Just think we are in the middle of discovering and transforming learning.  We will have to figure out how to personalize learning for all learners of all ages. The time is now. This is very exciting to be part of this type of transformation of learning. There will be lots of tugging and pulling and pushing to get it the right way. But I don't think there will be one right way. I'm thinking each learner's learning path will be their way.
0

Free Report Explaining the Chart on Personalization

The chart on Personalization vs Differentiation vs Individualization that Kathleen McClaskey and I created has brought an enormous interest from people and organizations around the world. We also have received lots of requests for copies of the chart along with thousands of hits. So what we did was create a place to download the chart. Now that the chart is all over, we have been getting lots of questions and requests for more information. We created a report explaining the elements of the chart in more detail and added it to the download. Click here to learn more and download your free chart and the report
We would appreciate feedback on the report and please share with the people in your network!
0

Google's Privacy Policy: What? So What?

Google Privacy PolicyThe privacy terms at Google changed today. The goal is to streamline your experience and cut through a lot of legalese that Internet companies put together. However, as part of this process, Google is also sharing data between all of their services. When you are signed into Google, Google combines  information about users provided from one service with information from other services. The goal is to treat each user as one individual across all Google products, such as Gmail, Google Docs, YouTube and other Web services. These changes have Europe, Congress, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and others really upset. {source}
Is this personalizing what you want or actually customizing what a company can market to you?
"We can provide reminders that you’re going to be late for a meeting based on your location, your calendar and an understanding of what the traffic is like that day," reads Google's blog explaining the search giant's unified policy. This works whether you're accessing Google on your computer, tablet or cellphone, as long as you're logged in according to Technolog on MSNBC.
"People still have to do way too much heavy lifting, and we want to do a better job of helping them out," Google points out.
Heavy lifting??? That's another way of saying Google knows how to find the resources for you. It's just that the resources they find may be advertisements. Another concern is that Google is now better equipped to help out law enforcement officials and the government when it comes to finding out about you. Curious what Google can find out about you:

For some time now, Google's been able to connect your phone with your phone number and carrier, identify your computer model and OS (right down to the serial number), collect your IP address (traceable to your real-life address), and save what you've searched for.

The policy states that Google will collect your location information, even if you have your GPS turned off. It says it will collect cookies data and other information about your devices. But the policy also states that Google can change your information and show information about you to others without your express consent. Did you know that? Google's Privacy Policy (March 1, 2012) Google Privacy So what if the data will be used for advertisements? That's nothing new. The only difference is that the advertisements will be truer to your interests. Customized!  Remember -- Google is free. They need to pay for their services somehow. Right? Here's my issue: Google's privacy policy is NOT personalizing your search. Personalizing means you choose what you want when you want it. You drive the information to you. Remember boolean searches. Google is using your information to customize what you see and who markets to you. Your search results are different for you than someone else right now. Some of the top results get there because they pay to be promoted.