Photo Credit: MSH* via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: MSH* via Compfight cc

I need to start checking myself when this question comes up during presentations and trainings. At some point someone always asks about privacy. In many cases they don’t even know…..I think anyway…..that they are asking a privacy question. The questions usually are posed as:

“If I put something in Google Drive is it safe?”

“If I put something in Google Drive can anyone see it?”

“Is it secure?”

“Can someone hack in and get my stuff?”

I’m finding the more I’m asked questions like this, the harder time I’m having keeping my frustrations in check….to the point I had to apologize to teachers a few weeks ago for getting a little too passionate about the topic.

So here’s what I believe…it’s my belief so take it as that.

“If I put something in Google Drive is it safe?”

As safe as anything you are probably going to put on the Internet! This is a good graph that shows how secure Google is compared to other online storage sites.

Can someone hack in? Yep…..if they get your info they can get in…but people can also break into your house….and people do….I’d like to see research of house break-ins verses accounts hacked in the US…that would be a fun comparison. So you tell me what’s more secure….your images backed up to a site like Flickr.com or the external hard drive sitting next to your computer?

“If I put something in Google Drive can anyone see it?”

Well….no…not anyone……but yes…..Google can see it. Here’s the thing….by using their service you allow them to see your stuff. This goes for anything on the Internet, not just Google. Can your bank see how much money you have? Yes. Can your credit card track your spending? Yes.

Our Love Hate Relationship With Technology

Here’s the thing that I tell everyone at the end of the day:

You have to trust somebody!

Photo Credit: mueritz via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: mueritz via Compfight cc

You do…that’s it. Who you trust is personal but you have to trust someone and the issue right now is we don’t know who to trust. I trust my bank to keep my data safe. I trust Google to use my information wisely. I trust mint.com with all of my financial data. Now…you might not trust these places and that’s fine…..but you have to trust someone. Target is a perfect example. We all trusted Target with our credit card information until that trust was broken. Once that happened we all had a choice to make…..will I trust them again?

Some of us do….others of us don’t. No matter what you decide…..it’s a personal decision. Here’s the thing….if it’s not Target, then who do you trust? Where do you shop? Amazon.com, Walmart, Safeway, your local hardware store? You see….if you have a credit card….you trust someone with that stored information…..you just do….or you don’t have a credit card and you don’t….and that’s fine too. Most people do have a credit and/or debit card, so most people are making a choice to trust someone. I struggle then with those that say they’re worried about someone having their information. I feel like you have basically two options:

1. Come to terms with the fact that breaches of information (ie what happened with Target) are going to occur….welcome to the 21st Century


2. Get rid of your credit cards/debit cards, cell phones, and anything else digital.

I personally choose option one; I believe that companies are truly doing their best to keep information protected. Nobody wants to be in Target’s shoes. It’s not fun for anyone involved. Yes…every company should do everything in their power to keep your data safe…but will there be hacks? Yes…there will be. Just like their will be robberies and home invasions in real life too.

We Love/Hate Technology

We’re in a time period where we as a society are trying to figure out how much privacy we’re willing to give up. We benefit from giving up our privacy but it’s also a scary concept.

We love that when we do a Google search they know so much about us they give us exactly what we want…if they didn’t we wouldn’t use them.

We hate Google because they know so much about us that the adverts scrolling on the side are things we’ve searched for.

We love that we can go to Amazon.com and get recommendations of books, things to buy and things relevant to us.

We hate that they know our buying habits and it creeps us out a bit that they come up with exactly what we want.

We love Facebook and the connections it provides us and the specific information that pops up for us to peruse.

We hate that Facebook knows us so well the ads are tailored specifically for what we’re looking for.

We’re all in this love/hate relationship right now. Or you just hate it and you’re not reading this right now because you have chosen not to use the Internet!

Photo Credit: CBS_Fan via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: CBS_Fan via Compfight cc

It’s come out in the news again just how not sure we are if we like this or not as a society. Google and Microsoft read emails of child pornographers, turned them into the authorities and had them arrested. Now…we like this…we like that bad people were caught….but we’re a little freaked out that Google can…and might, read our emails.

We’re not sure if we like this. We love it when technology allows us to catch the bad guys……we just hate it when we realize that means they’ve been watching us too. Here’s the thing…we can’t have it both ways. We can’t say go catch the bad guys without giving up our privacy to make sure we’re not one of them. The other options is we catch less bad guys and protect our own privacy. Personally, I like the idea that more bad people are being caught and if that means I give up some of my privacy, I can live with that sacrifice.

Changing our default from private to public

This is what we’re struggling with. Perhaps my life experiences have helped me to make this mind shift more quickly than some. The idea that privacy looks very different these days than it did a short while ago. That doesn’t’ mean that privacy doesn’t exist…it does. It just means you start with public. Everything you do is public and you work backwards from there. That’s a mind shift from where we were even just 15 years ago. Where we all started thinking our lives were private and we got to decide how public they were. That’s not the case! The moment you signed up for Facebook, bought a cell phone, or signed into an email account…..you became public.

Public is the new default……now……how you stay safe being public is what we need to focus on. How do you do the best you can to lock the windows and the doors; share what you want with whom you want and be as safe as possible? That’s the question we need to be asking. It doesn’t mean someone can’t or won’t try to break in…there have always been bad guys and there will continue to be bad guys…but we do the best we can, we trust who we trust, to keep ourselves and our families safe.

by Rwanda Government
by Rwanda Government

As many of you know I have been keeping an eye on what is happening in Africa when it comes to Internet connect and how it is and is going to radically change the landscape there. Africa just help the transform Africa Summit. There have been some great articles written on what was discussed at the summit. I thought I would just share some information via news reports and quotes that have me shaking my head in excitement.

Rwanda recently signed a $140 million (£87 million) deal with Korea Telecom, which will see the company deliver 4G LTE internet to 95 percent of citizens within three years. Despite 5,000km of fibre-optic cable already being laid in the country, only 8.3 percent of the Rwanda’s 12 million citizens are currently connected to the internet. The government is hoping that the rollout of 4G, which kicks off this week, will change this. (wired UK)

Nsengimana demoed the new 4G in action. In a side-by-side test, it reached speeds 90Mbps, while the 3G network managed just 0.5Mbps. For education, he said, this means the difference between being able to study texts online and enabling students to access multimedia and participate fully in online classrooms(wired UK)(Bold by me)

“They should adopt a leapfrogging approach,” he said. “They should take advantage of broadband, because they are not impeded by legacy industries.” (wired UK)

Last year, 40 tablet computers were delivered to the children of two remote Ethiopian villages. The villagers were 100 percent illiterate—the kids had never seen road signs, product labels, or printed material of any kind.

Within weeks, they were singing their ABCs, picked up from the English-language learning software installed on the tablets. Within five months, some kid figured out that the tablets had built-in cameras—they had been disabled for ethical reasons—and hacked the Android operating system to activate them. (reason.com)

One Laptop Per Child considered the Ethiopian kids’ hack a success. “The kids had completely customized the desktop—so every kids’ [sic] tablet looked different. We had installed software to prevent them from doing that,” a contrite Ed McNierney, OLPC’s chief technology officer, told the MIT Technology Review. “And the fact that they worked around it was clearly the kind of creativity, the kind of inquiry, the kind of discovery that we think is essential to learning.”

On Oct. 1, LAUSD pronounced its ed tech experiment temporarily out of control and admitted that several schools were in the process of attempting to pry the new tablets from their students’ clammy hands. (reason.com)

Both of the articles quoted above are worth a read and so are the links within them. At the same time Bill Gates was interviewed earlier this week about his thoughts on technology being a game changer around the world. It’s an interesting view point from a man who’s mission has been to make this world a better place. I agree with Bill that there are things that giving people a connection can’t solve…or can they? What if you know how to treat a disease? What if you learn how to keep disease down in your tride? What if you learn better birthing techniques by reading something on the web? I don’t know…that connection can be pretty powerful. It’s already overthrown governments and changing the GPD of countries in Africa which means more money for more medicine for more people.

What I love…is right now we’re approaching this from both ends. NGOs and Mr. Gates are hitting things like malaria head on…which is awesome…and now if we can get those same people an Internet connection we impower them to change and learn. To mean it’s not an either or right now but a both.

The more I talk to administrators, present to school boards, and persuade educators that we can no longer ignore social-networks the more I am understanding that what schools/districts need is a new position. Now I’m sure in this current state of economy we find ourselves in that this won’t happen for a lot of schools, but I do believe private schools and those who are in highly competitive areas (like here in Bangkok) can not ignore this position any longer.

The Position is called an Online Community Manager and it’s not a new position. In fact the Wikipedia article about the position has been around since August 2008, so don’t think what I’m proposing here is a new position….it’s just new to education.

At the recent EARCOS Leadership Conference (Conference for International and Overseas Leaders) I had two packed sessions talking about how schools need to start moving into these spaces. I believe the sessions were packed as leaders understand where their community is getting more and more information from about their schools and they are trying to understand how to engage a community in a new social-networked world. I believe there are two reasons this position and schools in general need to have someone managing their online communities:

1) Protect their identity: Private international schools have a large transient population which means there are always new families looking for the right school. More and more people are relying on the Internet and reviews from others who already go to the school. I’m sure the same hold true for most private schools in other parts of the world. Schools need to be in these social-network places so that they can control what prospective families are being told.

2) Engage their community: I think this goes for all schools today. More and more we’re expecting information to find us and want to spend less and less time searching for or going to one more place to get the information we seek. Therefore, schools need to start engaging their school community where they are and stop expecting them to come to where you’re at….that’s a change we’re seeing on the Internet in large part to social-networks such as Facebook where you can “Like” something and have new information show up in your news feed (finally mass adopting of RSS).

According to Jeremiah Owyang there are four tenets of the community manager:

  1. Community Advocate
  2. Brand Evangelist
  3. Savvy Communication Skills, Shapes Editorial
  4. Gathers Community Input for Future Product and Services

Originally these were written for the business world, so I’ve remixed them as a starting point for educational institutions:

1) A Community Advocate
As a community advocate, the community managers’ primary role is to represent the school community. This includes listening, which results in monitoring, and being active in understanding what community members are saying on both school ran and external websites. Secondly, they engage school community members by responding to their requests and needs or just conversations, both in private and in public.

2) School Evangelist
In this evangelistic role (it goes both ways) the community manager will promote school/district events, student accomplishments and updates to community members by using traditional marketing tactics and conversational discussions. As proven as a trusted member of the community (tenet 1) the individual has a higher degree of trust and will offer help and support.

3) Savvy Communication Skills, Shapes Editorial
This tenet, which is both editorial planning and mediation serves the individual well. The community manager should first be very familiar with the tools of communication, from forums, to blogs, to podcasts, to twitter, and then understand the language and jargon that is used in the community. This individual is also responsible for mediating disputes within the community, and will lean on advocates, and embrace detractors –and sometimes removing them completely. Importantly, the role is responsible for the editorial strategy and planning within the community, and will work with many internal stakeholders to identify content, plan, publish, and follow up.

4) Gathers Community Input for Future Product and Services
Perhaps the most strategic of all tenets, community managers are responsible for gathering the requirements of the community in a responsible way and presenting it to the leadership team. This may involve formal recommendations from surveys to focus groups, to facilitating the relationships between the school/district and school community. The opportunity to build stronger relationships through this real-time live focus group are ripe, in many cases, school communities have been waiting for a chance to give feedback.

This of course is just a starting point and each school/district needs to look at these four tenets and mold them for their own school and community.

After reading through Online Community Manager job descriptions I’ve created the following job description as a starting point for schools (adapted from here).

Online Community Manager

Job Specification

The Online Community Manager will implement the School’s Online Community Strategy, managing, engaging and interacting with its larger school community, as well as foster community spirit with students, parents and the community at large. This role coordinates with the Communication and Marketing teams to support their respective missions, ensuring consistency in voice and cultivating a strong community around the school.


  • Implement an online community strategy, coordinating with stakeholders across the school to ensure its effectiveness and support to our school community with the help of various online communication tools
  • Work with the Communication and Marketing teams to ensure the community is kept up to date, as well as influence the roadmap of new tools and services the school should be using to engage the school community
  • Generate content and competitions to engage the community in a fun and meaningful way around education and school initiatives
  • Moderate all User Generated Content (Wikipedia), liaising with the Legal team where required
  • Manage and engage communities located in social networking sites including Facebook, Twitter, and other similar social media sites
  • Act as an advocate of the school and as the advocate of the community within the school, engaging in dialogue and answering questions where appropriate
  • Monitor effective benchmarks for measuring the growth of the community, and analyze, review, and report on effectiveness of new initiatives
  • Regularly feed back insights gained from community monitoring into the Communication and Marketing teams, to help them evolve their strategies in a timely fashion
  • Monitor trends in online community tools and applications. Engage the community in new forms of communication as they become mainstream


  • Creative, diplomatic, cool under pressure and fantastic interpersonal skills
  • Strong project management or organisational skills
  • In-depth knowledge and understanding of online community platforms and their respective participants (Forums, Blogs, Photo Uploads, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc.) and how they can be deployed in different scenarios
  • Knowledge of the school and educational institutions
  • Ability to effectively communicate information and ideas in written and verbal format, and build and maintain relationships
  • Team player, with the confidence to take the lead and guide other departments when necessary
  • Good technical understanding and can pick up new tools quickly
  • Willing to take risks on new tools and new ways to engage community participation

If anyone is thinking of putting this position into place in their school….give me a shout and I’d probably apply!

Two recent articles and other observations have me thinking about the need to restructure journalism programs or school newspaper programs in our high schools. Some interesting ideas and developments lately that if I was a journalist teacher I’d be sharing and discussing with my students.

First from Mashable comes 8 Must-Have Traits of Tomorrow’s Journalist which include:

  1. Entrepreneurial and Business Savvy
  2. Programmer
  3. Open-minded Experimenter
  4. Multimedia Storyteller
  5. The Social Journalist and Community Builder
  6. Blogger and Curator
  7. Multi-skilled
  8. Fundamental Journalism Skills

It’s a great read for any student who is thinking of journalism as a career.

Then today on my iPhone I read about AOL braking away from Time Warner to become their own company once again and focus on creating content on the web via their web portals. The AP article talks about how AOL hired Tim Armstrong, a former Google advertising executive, as CEO as it looks at the future of making money on free content. The article ends with this paragraph:

The company plans to fill many of its Web sites with inexpensive material produced by freelancers paid by the post. This week it said it had hired New York Times reporter Saul Hansell to oversee part of that content-generation effort.

So AOL will be looking to hire freelance journalist who understand how to create a community and blogging….see Mashable’s list above.

Now let’s throw one more thing into the mix and that’s the skills we teach kids around writing. I share this in many of my presentations, the fact that the writing process is changing due to the Internet. Not so much the whole process (although I do think a Word processor does change that as well) but the fact that you no longer have an introductory paragraph when writing an article. These days due to RSS you get a sentence. Case in point, the RSS feed from the Seattle Times:

Newspaper RSS Feed

As a journalist today you get one sentence to hook a reader and make them click through to visit the website to finish reading the article. Of course that’s where the ads are and how newspapers are trying to make their money. No longer do you get a paragraph to fit the 5 Ws of writing…now you get a sentence. Now one paragraph to hook your reader….one sentence.

I just wonder how many high school journalism classes around the globe are helping student to not only learn to write for paper based readers but those for the web as well. Are we teaching them not just to create web pages, but sites and articles that allow a community to form around their content?

If there is one class in our high schools that the web should have completely changed….it should be journalism.

Robert Scoble started a Friendfeed discussion with the following:

How generations change: my son, tonight, after seeing something new
from Google told the team “I’m not like my dad, I don’t have a web

It’s a statement from a 15 year old that I think captures how this generation sees the web. It’s not a place of static webpages or information, but  rather a place to communicate, keep in touch, play, and create for your own. The discussion has some pretty good take aways.

Making websites is time consuming and, in my opinion, not necessary if
you simply need a place to publish to the web, talk with friends and
get yourself out there.
Brandon Titus

It is time consuming and no longer serves the needs for most of the Internet generation. Sure there are still webpages out there, but blogs or blog like sites are becoming the norm. I left my first comment on The Seattle Times website the other day. Think about that….a newspaper where you can interact with others reading the same article. This is nothing new of course as my dad does the same thing. Every morning during the summer harvest he starts every day at 4am at the local coffee shop. My dad and the rest of the “the boys” talk about the news, the neighborhood, politics, and their lives. We’ve always talked about what’s happening…now we can just do it from places like Bangkok, Thailand.

It took me back to how I found my doctor. She’s #1 on Yelp but yet had
never been there. The world is changing and it no longer is only about
having a website.
Robert Scoble

I would agree….today it’s about having a facebook page, it’s about having a Twitter account, it’s about having places that allows others to connect with you, find you, communicate with you. The static web is slowly fading away.

Sounds like the teenager asked by Don Tapscott (“Wikinomics”) about why
she was not using email to communicate with friends. Reply: “Hmm …
email. That would be the sort of thing you’d use to send a thank you
letter … to your friend’s … parents!”
John W Lewis

What is e-mail used for? How is its use changing? Our generation (first web generation) cling to e-mail as our communication vehicle. We ask “What’s your e-mail address?” while this generation just says “I’ll look you up on Facebook.”

They use e-mail differently, if they use it at all. You have an e-mail address because you need one to register for sites. I find it interesting that our generation talks about and hates e-mail spam, yet I have yet to hear a student ever complain about the spam they recieve. Why is that? Why does it not bother them and yet bothers use?

I think that domains will become mostly for business and the like while
personal profiles will be controlled by social networks, profile sites
(Google profiles) etc.
Brandon Titus

@Robert maybe – or maybe it’s about owning an identity you control
which may indeed look like a website but function as an identity broker
owned by the user
Chris Saad

I agree…I think this is where the internet is heading. I own the domain jeffutecht.com but it’s becoming more of a profile site. I’m working on an update that I should have finished in a week or so, it will focus more on my “Lifestream” and less on the static content. It will be a place that pulls my web profiles all into one place to give an overview of what I’m about and where I’m at, and what I’m doing. It will become my identity control.

Are we helping students understand this? Students have their identities out there how do we leverage their facebook, twitter, friendfeed identities in our schools to help them create and control a positive identity? Is it our job? Who’s job is it?

It was never about having a website. It never will be. It will always
will be using the right tools to reach the right people. People that
you care about and people that care about you.
Akshay Dodeja

And that’s the ah-ha moment. I started my first website when I moved overseas. I had built one for my school my first year of teaching (for people who care about the school), but it wasn’t until I needed a way to communicate and share with those that cared about me that I created a website. That website no longer exists but in its place is a Facebook profile, a Flickr account, a youtube channel, and this blog. Places for people who care about me to know what I’m up to, and is a way for me to communicated out to them. The tools have always been about reaching people. Whether it’s reaching the person looking for your product or reaching that friend you’ve lost touch with. The interent has always been about making connections.

Websites are so 1990s

Stephen Pickering

Very few websites are being created anymore that do not have a blog tied to them or some way to easily update information and communicate with users and those who care about the product. Google has a blog for each of it’s products, not a website. Newspapers are folding and building large blogging networks, not static web pages for their articles. Just as my dad wants to be able to talk about what’s going on, so does this next generation. They’re still going to go to the coffee shop, but it will be one with wifi where they can not only talk to “the boys” in person but also communicate with others around the world that care about the same subjects. This is the world we live in and it’s the only world our students know. Are we preparing them for it?

I was co-teaching earlier this week in a 7th grade environments class. The students were signing up for the wiki they were going to be using to do a project.

One boy in the class created his username as: tommmmmmmmmmmmmmyyyyyyyyy!!!!


When do we start teaching students about self branding?

I understand that part of this is a maturity issue, but when is the right time/age to start teaching students about self branding?

You might be branding yourself without even knowing it. Just by using the same username on different websites you can start a brand. For example, I always try to use the username jutecht.

Anywhere you go on the web I’m known as jutecht. Twitter, delicious, Diigo, etc, etc, etc. That is my brand. That is who I have become on the Internet and it’s the brand that is Jeff Utecht.

It doesn’t have to be your name. Langwitches is a perfect example. Or how about Cool Cat Teacher. Both of these two self brands do not include the person’s name, but who that person is on the Internet. This would be a safe way to help student start their online name or online brand.

Some digital savvy parents start branding their children early on. Dennis Harter and Chad Bates, my two colleagues, both set up gmail accounts for their kids when they were born. They have already started the brand that will be their kids when they are older (how will this change our schools when students star showing up with their own brands?).

There is power in branding your classroom and getting students use to branding their thinking. I’m sure most of us would argue you start teaching this as soon as students start creating accounts online, and that this is just one piece of a larger picture that is Internet Safety, Digital Literacy, etc.

http://remoteaccess.typepad.com/ideahivelogo.jpgOne way to get to this…..to help students understand the importance of it, is to give them something to believe in, something to belong to. That’s what I love about Clarence Fisher’s classroom. Clarence created a brand for his classroom. A brand that lets the students know they belong to something bigger than themselves.  Within that the students become part of the classroom brand and take on a personal brand allows them to belong to something.

Schools can also create the brand for the students. Taking the example from yesterday’s post on e-portfolios the school has created the brand for Daniel. Daniel is known on the Internet as daniel03pd2014. This is the naming convention that the school came up with. Staff at the school knows exactly who this kid is based on that username. Daniel still has ownership (which is important!) as they used his first name. The rest of the information is used by the school to know who exactly this Daniel is.

I think these are conversations we need to start having in our classrooms/schools. They go with the other conversations of what to write, how to write, and who do you want to be on the web. Teaching students to use the web for their benefit early on allows them to brand their thinking, their sites, themselves. How great will it be when a student can go to apply for a job or for university and can be proud of the fact that they are searchable…in fact they hope their employer or university search them on the web and finds great information that talks about who they are as a person and a learner.