Academic environments are (theoretically) places where students come to be educated – they arrive on campuses after (typically) being cocooned for 16+ years – universities are where students emerge from their cocoons fundamentally transformed.
Plato and Shame
I’ve had the distinct privilege of working with students for more than two years now; the past year and a half as a teaching assistant and the time before that as a tutor. When you work with students, you realize that most of them have incredible potential, potential that you can see pent-up inside of them, but potential that they’re either unable to, or afraid to, release and realize. To address the latter concern in the first day of my tutorials this session I talked briefly about Plato and the straight-from-the-text reading of how absurd men appeared when laughing at the women who trained to become philosopher kings alongside men. The point was this: laughter in the classroom threatens to injure your comrades and, more importantly, marks that the person laughing can’t comprehend the purpose/form of laughter – their mirth demonstrates just how little they themselves understand.
I haven’t had a single person (that I’m aware of) be shamed by having other students laugh at them.
Normally when I talk about retaining data, I talk about retaining targeted information – don’t save everything, only what you need, and (if the information is about other people) only what you said you’d retain for particular stated purposes.
I was at a TA Conference yesterday, and at the tail end of it one of the presentations was about creating a teaching portfolio and a teaching philosophy. In particular, we were encouraged to save everything from students that pertained to how we taught, as well as copies of course outlines/lecture notes/etc. The idea was that by aggregating all data, especially that from students, we could filter out what we don’t need – it’s easier to filter than to find more data.
This is the exact opposite way that I think that data retention should operate, and I’m not alone. The principles standing behind the EU’s Safehabour, as well as UoG privacy policies, both support my stance that all collected information must be targeted, people whose data is being collected must be aware of why it is being collected, and there must be a stipulation on the duration of time the information must be retained. I’m not really concerned with whether this particular presenter was recommending actions that at the least were in tension with the UoG’s privacy principles – what I’m interested in is whether you would keep all of this information? I can’t, not unless I’m totally up front with students, but I don’t know if that’s just me being particularly paranoid. Is retaining this information common practise in the teaching profession?
This is a short post, but gives three definitive examples of why we need to develop and instill norms in youth concerning how to use digital resources.
Let’s help this woman find her camera!
Here’s the story (remember that…story).
In Britain a young woman (unfortunately) lost her camera. Some delightful chap decided that, rather than keeping the camera to himself, he’d try to get it back to her. Problem: he didn’t have her name, address, or anything that identified her beyond the pictures on the camera. Solution: post all of the pictures from the camera on Facebook and encourage tons of people to join the group the hopes that someone recognizes her. Problem: the embarrassment of having adult and non-adult pictures of yourself posted on the net.
Now, it turns out that this whole thing was viral marketing – the woman is an adult model and this was intended to promote a particular adult website. Nevertheless, based on the posts in the group that was set up, people saw this as a legitimate way to deliver missing property – many didn’t see anything wrong with deliberately posting pictures of a woman in various states of dress without first receiving her willful consent.
In this post I want to consider privacy from a bit of a ‘weird’ point of view: What information do you want students to reveal to each other and yourself, and what do you want to reveal to them? What ethical responsibilities do educators have to their students concerning their disclosure of information to one another?
In many classrooms, instructors and their students develop bonds by becoming vulnerable to one another by sharing personal stories with one another. ‘Vulnerability’ should be understood as developing a rapport of trust that could be strategically or maliciously exploited, though there is not an implicit suggestion that vulnerability will necessarily lead to exploitation. Some of the best teachers and professors that I have ‘revealed’ themselves as human beings – once I saw that they were like me I felt more comfortable participating in the classroom environment. With this comfort and increased participation, I developed more mature understandings of subject material and my personal stances regarding it. The rapports of trust that I developed with faculty led to the best learning environments I have ever experienced.
I have a lot that I could talk about here, but rather than working through philosophical arguments for the value of privacy in education, I want to constrain myself to establishing some key points that educators should be mindful of when using Web 2.0 applications in the classroom. I begin by listing a series of factors that organizations should consult to determine if they are collecting personal information, and then follow by talking about the value and importance of privacy statements. I will conclude by providing a brief (and non-comprehensive) list of personal information that educators probably want to keep offline, unless their University can provide granular access to the information.
Is this information personal information?
Pretty well all Web 2.0 tools gather some kinds of data from individuals that use them, be it in the form of email addresses, Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, telephone numbers, messenger names, or social networking information. Before deploying any Web 2.0 technology it is important for organizations to determine whether they are capturing what is identified as ‘personal’ data, and can do so by reflecting on the following factors:
Blog/WebLog: a web page containing brief, chronologically arranged items of information. A blog can take the form of a diary, journal, what’s new page, or links to other web sites. (Link to “Weblogs in the Classroom)
Blogs and blogging are one of the most prominent of social networking technologies. They allow bloggers to centralize content in particular places (posts) and then have others comment on the post’s subject matter. In essence, while the authorial voice is still projected by the blog’s owner, the owner can receive near instantaneous responses and feedback. In containing topics to particular posts, and by preventing viewers from altering the original text, the poster retains some of the authority that traditional authors hold, though bloggers’ ‘strong’ voices are diminished/enhanced when posters contribute their own thoughts, ideas, and challenges to the posted content.