An Alternative to DOPA

A regular reader of my blog, one who is not an educator and who does not always agree with my ideas, has posted a comment on one of my DOPA entries that I suspect bares some consideration — probably more than I can give at the moment.

He points to a law that was signed on July 27, The Adam Walsh Child Protection Action of 2006. This reader says…

I’m curious why bloggers aren’t drawing attention to The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 which was signed into law on July 27. Among its many provisions are some intiatives aimed at protecting kids online. One is staffing up Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces across the country to go after online predators, increased penatlies for offenders, and a grant program to that instructs:
The Attorney General, in consultation with the National Center for
Missing and Exploited Children, is authorized to develop and carry out a public
awareness campaign to demonstrate, explain, and encourage children, parents, and
community leaders to better protect children when such children are on the Internet.
Similar grants could be made to state governments and potentially schools as well.

The commentor continues with…

It strikes me that this at least provides the arguement that DOPA is not needed due to a bill that was just signed with child saftey protections. Plus it includes the educational campaign that some are calling for.

Are there any aspects of DOPA, besides the appeal of the title that are not already covered in the Adam Walsh law?

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Who Should be Having Important Conversations?

AOL recently released the search histories of more than 650,000 of its users. There were no identities revealed, but it was possible to track what an individual person (many individual people) was searching for on AOL Search.

The company has apologized for a researcher’s disclosure of the massive database, and has removed it from their web site. However, the database had already been mirrored and is available for continued examination.

The profiles range ” from the mundane to the illicit and bizarre.” You can read about some of the search profiles in an article at cnet, AOL offers glimpse into users’ lives. Bazaar & scary!

Aside from the titillating glimpses, what does this mean? It’s going to happen again. What is privacy? What are our privacy rights? What is the difference between privacy in the U.S., The Netherlands, an aboriginal village in Southeast Asia, or most typical business endeavors?

There are some pretty important conversations going on, and teachers, as much as (if not more than) anyone else, should be engaged in these conversations. Blogging, wikis, and other new web applications seem ready-made for these conversations — but what do teachers talk about in your teacher’s lounge?

I know that a lot of teachers are engaged in book-reading clubs. Is there some way that we might expand this?

What do you think?

2¢ Worth!

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Class Blogmeister Update…

I was listening to James Farmer’s presentation at Education.AU’s “What’s Changed” conference in Sidney this weekend. It was a very good presentation about the value of read/write web technologies for teaching and learning, and included, in his speech, some statistics on EduBlogs’ usage. So I thought I would share just a bit about what’s happening with Class Blogmeister.

There are currently 3,345 educators with registered classroom blogging accounts. I’m receiving about a dozen new requests a day. These educators have established blogging presences for 28,961 students.

Those are the basics. Farmer’s talk lead me to do a little additional work on the data, some ideas that have been swimming around in my head for quite some time. To date, teachers and students have posted 79,414 blog entries, amounting to well over a hundred megabytes of content.

I wrote a couple of programs to take a look at characteristics of this content. This is, by no means, a scientific analysis, and we know too little about the conditions of this data, nor even the goals of the student work. Still, the findings may be interesting to you.

One of the reports was an attempt to determine a Flesch Readability Scale for student writings. The only impossible part of the algorithm was determining the number of syllables per word. Here, I merely counted up the number of vowels per word and divided that by 2 – erring toward fewer syllables.

To create a smoother curve, I calculated the standard deviation of all of the Flesch scores, and then omitted all blog entries that fell outside of the SD, considering these outliers. As you look at the graphs, understand that the shorter the bar, the smaller the Flesch value, the higher the reading/writing level.

You can view the report at this page:

 Images GraphUnderstand that there is much left unreported in this ad hoc study. We do not know the grade levels/ages of the writers. Also, we do not know the natures of the writing assignments, nor their goals. This is a feature that I may add at some point in the future so that teachers can get a report on their students’ writing levels.
What do you think?

MIT Weighs in on DOPA

Today, MIT’s Technology Review published an article on the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA – HR5319). The piece (The Moral Panic over Social-Networking Sites*) reviews many of the objections to DOPA that have been expressed from the library and educational technology communities, including equity issues. Schools and libraries are many children’s only access to online social communities. DOPA would deny them access to an integral part of teen culture today.

In quoting Henry Jenkins, director of Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT, the article includes:

It’s a “monumentally ill-considered piece of legislation” that “by any rational measure” should never have left the House, says Henry Jenkins, professor of literature and director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT. Jenkins believes the act plays on parents’ lack of understanding, and their resulting fears, about their kids’ activities on the Internet. “But the price of standing up to that fear may be too high for liberal Democrats,” he says.

From the other side of the issue, the article quotes from an interview with Michael Fitzpatrick’s (the bill’s author) press officer, Jeff Urbanchuck.

Opponents of DOPA misunderstand the bill, says Jeff Urbanchuck, a press officer for Representative Fitzpatrick. He says it is intended only to reduce the risk to teens from one particular category of websites — those where members can create online profiles and fill them with personal details, including e-mail or instant-messaging addresses, that help predators contact them. Critics are “extending beyond the MySpaces and Facebooks and arguing that the technology of social networking is so pervasive now that the Internet is going to become one big social-networking site,” Urbanchuck says. “But the objective of the bill is to deal with the growing threat of online predators on specific sites that allow profiles. We want to tailor the bill to those sites.”

Also appearing today is an article from Find Law. Written by Anita Ramasastry**, this article (Why the Delete Online Predators Act Won’t Delete Predatory Behavior***) offers a brief, but thorough overview of the bill, and then goes on to describe several reasons why the law will not work, and perhaps even make things worse, with regard to predators. Ramasastry says,

…teenagers can easily meet sexual predators or other criminals in public places – at shopping malls, all-ages clubs, roller skating rinks and parties. If they are forced off social networking sites, that won’t be the end of their social activity. Surely, many parents would much rather have their kids chatting online at school or at a library, than unsupervised at a mall or party. Even if DOPA did force teens offline, it might only put them in more danger.

The conversation continues. Hopefully, it will be heard by any Senators with the courage to be leaders.

* Roush, Wade. “The Moral Panic over Social-Networking Sites.” Technology Review 7 Aug 2006 7 Aug 2006 <>.

**Anita Ramasastry is an associate professor of law and a director of the Shidler Center for Law, Commerce, & Technology at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle, Washington.

***Ramasastry, Anita. “Why the Delete Online Predators Act Won’t Delete Predatory Behavior.” FindLaw 7 Aug 2006 7 Aug 2006 <>.

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A Reprise of EdBloggerNews

A while back, Will Richardson set up a Digg-style web site, using Web 2.0 application, CrispyNews. EdBloggerNews is an account on CrispyNews that allows up to post, or direct to the service blogs, news stories, or general web sites to a listing of community selected resources. Then you can vote for the news stories that seem most valuable to you, adding recommendation value to the story, and moving it up the list. Those stories with the most recommendations (value) appear at the top of the list. In a sense, it is a news paper, for which the readers are the editors.

The site includes a bookmarklet that you can post in your browser’s links bar, to make it easy to post pages to the site. There is also an RSS feed that follows the rankings, delivering the top ten stories at any time. As articles change in ranking, and as new articles rise to the front page, they will appear in your aggregator.

Currently, the top posts are:

  • Second Look at Second Life
  • We, The Teachers
  • using The Sims in Socialogy UPDATED with Curriculum Ideas
  • Someone to Watch Over Me (on a Google Map)
  • CoolCat Techer: Ten habits of bloggers that win!

I just thought that this deserved a second announcement. Thanks, Will!

You know, how might we make better use of these collaborative, information mixing, knowledge-building aspects of the new web — to convince Congress to leave, what they don’t understand, alone? Ah! Never mind!

Hitchhik to the’s “So What’s Changed” Conference

Aussie blogger, Brett Moller, has done an admirable job of reporting on the conference in Sydney, held yesterday. His very thorough notes have been captured by Hitchhikr, and can be accessed here:

The conference web site also features an RSS feed that points to a number of podcasted files, for an even more rich Hitchhikng experience.

Thanks for Sharing, folks!

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DOPA Conversation

The DOPA conversation may be expanding. In the past 24 hours, the following news sources have published articles about DOPA:

Most are referencing recent statements from the Center for Democracy and Technology.

This is not all good, as ABC News seems to insist on using the word MySpace as a synonym of online social networks — House Wants to Kick MySpace Out of Schools.

Joining the Blog-versation…

 1 160730 2Adfe76929 M-1At the workshop in Southeast Texas this week, the question came up several times about how to get readership on your blog? How do you get your blog out there? How do you become a part of the conversation that I keep talking about? I talked through a number of strategies with the group, but realized that I have probably never written this down. So here goes, some tips on getting your voice out there.

  • Write and write and write. This was the advice that I received, and it worked. Even though people aren’t reading initially, just keep writing — and they will come.
  • Read and comment. Find bloggers who are talking about the same issues you are, and comment on their ideas. In most blogs, you are asked to type your URL when you post a comment, and that URL is linked to your name. Use your blog address for the URL, and it provides a link to your blog.
  • Read and blog. If what you have to say about another blogger’s ideas is more involved or dramatic, then write it in your blog. Be sure to link to the entry you are commenting on. Then post a comment on the entry you read with an introduction, and point (link) readers back to your blog for the complete story.
  • Register your blog on Technorati. It is a bit of a technical endeavor, but probably worth an afternoon of self-teaching.
  • Put your blog address on your business card, and hand it out. Add your blog address on your e-mail signature file.
  • Attend blogger meetups. Chances are there is a group of area bloggers in your local who meet monthly. Attend some of the meetings. They probably do not blog the same issues that you do, but there is much to learn from people who are looking in other directions.
  • Think of your blog as your magazine, your company, publishing house. When you talk with people you do not know, introduce yourself as Bob Snodgrasse of Snodgrasse News. Or, I’m Bob Snodgrasse, and I publish a blog called Snodgrasse News.

Other tips?

Image Citation
~C4Chaos, “Blogging Station From Hell.” !C4Chaos’ Photostream. 7 Aug 2004. 4 Aug 2006 <>.

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Teaching & Learning in the New Web … or The Big Squeeze

Ared Den, suggested an interesting analogy for the new Web in his (her) cleverly titled blog, “Clever Title Goes Here.” In Web 2.0 and The Curies, Den writes:

I was sitting on one of my new rocking chairs this afternoon reading a biography of Marie Curie in search of an excerpt to share with my students tomorrow when I was reminded of David Warlick and Web 2.0. Here is what I read,

Marie and Pierre could have become rich by claiming all rights to working with radium. But instead they shared their information, telling how they purified the element, and more. They believed scientific research should benefit everyone. Marie and Pierre may also never have dreamed how valuable radium would become.

Does anyone else see any connections?

I comment on the blog with something like this:

What Marie and Pierre did, in sharing what they were learning with others, certainly exemplifies elements of Web 2.0. In a Web 2 environment, worked by people who have adopted a read/write information attitude, this is how people learn and work — in conversation. They share, build, and grow knowledge and value.

Additionally, what the Curies and other collaborators learned and shared could be mixed and remixed in a variety of ways by virtue of the fact that the information stays out there, in the network, able to be attracted together in many ways, based on many combinations of idea tags. The network of ideas can be reshaped into new conclusions and new knowledge, arranged by talented information artisans.

The important question is, “How do we help students to become information artisans, within an education governance that seems interested only in making students information sponges, who merely recite what they’ve learned, when squeezed?”

Thanks for the “conversation” 😉

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Over Filtered Networks

It’s early morning, in a hotel in Houston, and on my way back home for a week in the office. Glorious.

Yesterday, I posted an off-the-top-of-my-head list of barriers that still prevent many educators from integrating Web 2.0 technologies into their teaching and learning practices. The one that seemed to take traction was the over-filtering of school and district networks.

I like the analogy that Neil Winton shared, that we are facing the same problems that occurred with the rise of the printing press, that the elite power factions in society did not want the masses to have the power that information enables. It took me back to pre-gutenberg, when they chained books to the walls of the libraries. Network filters and other “policies” prevent us from making full use of the technology, crippling the opportunities and resulting in a HUGE waste of money.

Travis, makes the point that the digital domain is here to stay, and its where our children go to communicate. Social networks are their future, and to ignore this is down right arrogant. What do schools look like to their students, when they block learners from the information they need, rather than provide it?

How do you loosen the networks? I think that you have to get together as a team of teachers and administrators, and write a plan for exactly how you want to implement it. You want to have your teachers write a weekly blog about their classroom activities. You want students to start turning in their assignment in blogs so that not only do teachers assess them, but their fellow classmates do as well. You want to set up a network where students in your classes communicate with students in other parts of the world to exchange culture information and impressions.

Then you meet with the technology department. Make sure that it is the entire department, not just the network/filter person, including the director of that department. Go in their understanding and express politely in every way that you appreciate the enormous opportunities that have been provided for you and your students by new technologies and that you appreciate their work in making these technologies reliable. Then describe as passionately as you can these things that you want to do and the sites you need unblocked and that you need to have better response on unblocking future sites. Actually, teachers should be able to unblock sites on their end.

I think that it is also important to UNDERSTAND that these people work for you. Their job is to support your instructional practices. Be polite, because they are your partners. But they work for you. If that doesn’t work, then you work your way up. It’s worth the fight. But always treat everyone you work with as your partner. Be as persistent as you are in the classroom. But don’t burn bridges.

2¢ worth!