Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Students, Parents, Privacy, and the Social Media World

My wife has started a blog and put up a really good post about privacy and social media. Then, my wife invited her students to comment on the issues in the post. There were many good comments and thoughts but the ones that struck me were about the role of parents in educating young people about issues of privacy and protection while using social media.

Student thoughts included the idea that this material should NOT be the subject of a new, compulsory course, that workshops and presentations in school could inform students about the dangers and solutions, and that parents could teach their children how to be safe on the Internet. One particularly good point was that, while schools could try and teach Internet safety, young students might not understand the importance and so would not follow the advice they had been given. This puts the onus back on the parents to be monitoring their children's Internet and social media use. However, I think it is safe to say that only a small percentage of parents are truly savvy about the Internet and social media. For example, I consider myself pretty tech-savvy, but I don't have a Facebook account so my understanding of the dangers and the solutions is only second-hand at best.

So perhaps the solution is to teach the parents, as one student suggested. The question is, how do we teach the parents? Maybe one way is to have Town Hall type meetings like the one at my wife's school that prompted her post. But Town Hall meetings will not reach every parent, so what else can be done? At the moment, I am not sure. Any thoughts, suggestions, or comments would be appreciated.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

School Connections of the future

Back in September 2009 I wrote a post about the difficulties of getting enough computer access for students. Since then, the continuing rise of the smartphone has made me wonder whether a solution is possible if we focus on portable connectivity rather than desktop computers.

Most initiatives in schools come down to money. If there is funding for it, it happens. No funding, dead initiative. So I started thinking about where money could come from for devices that provide network and internet connectivity as well as the computational power to run applications. The first idea I had was textbooks. Every year there is money being put into the school system to buy, repair, or replace textbooks. At some point, I bet it will become cheaper for the school boards or the Ministry of Education to just give a student a device and a license for the textbooks rather than buying, maintaining, and storing thousands of textbooks.

Already some universities are experimenting with devices like iPads. Clearly, there are still issues, but given the amount of money being spent on textbooks ($539.2 million in 2000-2001 according to StatsCan and probably 10 times that in the United States), I am sure that textbook publishers and device manufacturers will both be trying to get as much of the textbook market as possible.

There are so many advantages to etextbooks and the disadvantages that currently exist can be reduced or eliminated by changing the software and hardware being used to read the electronic versions. I imagine that it is only a matter of time before the use of paper textbooks becomes much diminished.