Select Readings and Thoughts on Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age
Reviewing my week’s reading, I was a bit surprised at just how much quality material there was in the hopper. It always takes a little bit of time to cull through what I have marked as possibilities and consider which pieces might be best to include. This week there was just a whole lot more than I remembered reading.
That being said this is probably the darkest newsletter issue I have ever put together. I certainly did not intend for that. Yet, as I was reviewing articles and trying to pick there was a kind of momentum that took hold. These stories all related to one another and seemed so connected in a powerful, albeit kind of scary, way.
As is often the case, I don’t really have a pick for “If you read only one article…” this week they are all excellent and important reads. Dark they may be but they definitely provide a view into a world in which we almost all now live.
Try to get some rest and for my fellow New Englanders let’s hope we don’t see any more wintery Nor’easter s. I am all ready for spring and the lion March has brought to be replaced with a more pleasant lamb.
Here are three+ curated articles about education, technology, and evolutions in teaching.
Tim Berners-Lee: we must regulate tech firms to prevent ‘weaponised’ web – The Guardian – Olivia Solon (6-minute read)
It is hard to believe that the World Wide Web is 29 years old. For most people, it might seem more like 25 years but still, that is a lot longer than I think many of us realize. Reading this certainly made me pause to reflect that I am of the last generation of people to remember what life was like before a ubiquitous. Tim Berners-Lee has been pretty outspoken for some time about the dangers of increased centralized commercial control. So, this open letter on a milestone anniversary is no real surprise. What he says in it, however, should garner more attention.
Who knew that Berners-Lee was such a talented stylist as well. His letter has more than a few lovely turns of phrase. “I want the web to reflect our hopes and fulfill our dreams, rather than magnify our fears and deepen our divisions,” has to be one of my favorites. Still, the fact that any company accounts for nearly 90% of anything should cause everyone concern, whether it is Google and search or any other enterprise. Also sobering are some of the statistics about the global digital divide, especially considering the kinds of profits that the largest tech companies have been able to glean.
Revealed: 50 million Facebook profiles harvested for Cambridge Analytica in major data breach – The Guardian – Carole Cadwalladr and Emma Graham-Harrison (16-minute read)
This story is kind of blowing up the Internet at the minute if you haven’t already come across it. As prescient as Tim Berners-Lee’s comments about weaponizing the web seemed only a week ago, the speed with which massive amounts of evidence supporting that claim would come to light is hard not to register as staggering. This story is no doubt just the beginning of a deep new wrinkle in a much longer and larger story that is unfolding in real time. The 13-minute video embedded in this story is also well worth the screening.
There are so many elements of this story that should be Defcon alarming about the digital world I don’t even know where to start. What is important to keep in mind is that this was unlikely the first time something like this was done and it was conducted with insider assistance, not some foreign adversary. I am not even sure that we have metaphors to completely understand the level of invasiveness and insidiousness of this data breach and manipulation. Sans all hyperbole, this story essentially renders every software user agreement utterly meaningless. The curtain is being drawn on just how easily these kinds of actions are able to be undertaken.
How An Entire Nation Became Russia’s Test Lab for Cyberwar – Wired – Andy Greenberg (20-minute read)
If the previous article was not enough to inspire some genuine horror about privacy, security, and the new world we find ourselves, this story might be an even darker view of the nascent possibilities that already exist. Again, I go back to my previous statement. We don’t even have the metaphors to make sense of some of this stuff, at least beyond a superficial level.
The programmer Dave Winer, a pioneer of Really Simple Syndication (RSS), takes a stab by explaining that we are in the midst of an asymmetrical war and preparing for a conflict long past. That may be the best set of metaphors I have seen to date. I especially think the Battlestar Galactica one might be the most insightful but probably less broadly communicative since there are so many people that still will not have any idea what the reference even means. All I can say is that is a bit scary and this one is from last June. So to think what has evolved in the nearly nine months has passed might be scarier.