Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Archive for the ‘Privacy’ Category

The missing piece

Posted by lpearle on 8 January 2014

Just after my school went on Winter Break I headed off to my former school (easier to see everyone in one place!).  They, like several schools I know, are struggling with the question of going 1:1 with some device, as well as the question of if they do, what device should it be?  Since my school is nearly 1:1 (they did a slow phase-in, and by next year it’ll be 1:1 with iPads for all grades) some of my former colleagues asked my opinion and for my reaction to what I’m seeing now.  Some of my answer was informed by serving on the Professional Development Committee and hearing departmental responses…

Here’s the thing: yes, using the iPad can be helpful.  There are drawbacks, like thinking about privacy issues (do the apps track student use? what information is being collected and share without our knowledge?) and whether you’re being forced to change a text that works really well but isn’t available digitally  for one that might not work as well but is available digitally, and how to distribute apps/resources to a large number of people.  There are pluses, like lightening the load for students in terms of textbooks.  Cost is another issue, especially if you’re asking parents to pay for an iPad when they’ve just bought a new laptop for their child, let alone replacement/upgrade costs.  Etc.

I don’t need to cover all that here, because others have done it better earlier.  For me, the biggest challenge, the biggest “missing” has been teacher training.  It’s more than merely rethinking classroom management, keeping students engaged in class despite having a machine linking them to the world “outside”.  It’s completely redoing your pedagogy and revamping lesson plans: how does this homework assignment look if we’re using digital resources in class?  should the class “flip” and if so, how?  what multimedia resources should be integrated to best make use of the new tool?  It’s also about training teachers to help students use the new tool: if it’s an iPad, how are they taking notes (using a keyboard? with NotesPlus or Penultimate or ??)? how are they organizing their digital notebooks? how do they access your downloadables and do they really need to print them out? And finally, who is making the decisions, the tech people (deciding what they think will work best) or the teachers (which may mean more work for tech support, but would lead to better teacher experience).

The departments at school all have different approaches, with only one truly embracing the possibilities the iPad presents.  Another department is using it, but the teachers are struggling with all of the above.  Still another seems to be refusing to really use it, staying with “tried and true” for now.  Training would help – having the teacher who really rocks a specific app or process work with those who can see some way to use it but don’t know how to get started.  More than a mere introduction at the start of the year would help (Genius Hours for teachers, anyone?), and when a major application changes (as NotesPlus did just as school started) then PDO time is not just nice, it’s a necessity.

All too often I’ve seen this rollout done poorly: tech department, plus the administration, decides what device and which applications without teacher input.  Teachers don’t get the training or time to effectively integrate the new tools into their curriculum, just a mandate that This Is The Way Things Will Be and are hesitant (or resentful).  Students sense that the teachers haven’t fully embraced the tools and don’t try, either.  Result? Failure.

I’m hoping that we can change and improve what’s going on at my school, and that my experience can help others heading down that road.  Stay tuned as we move forward, finding the missing.  And, as always, if you have thoughts and suggestions, the comments are open!


Posted in Musings, Pedagogy, Privacy, Techno Geekiness | Leave a Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 30 December 2013

Now that I’m tidying up from a year-end reading binge, it’s time to clear out some of my saved links on Twitter and in my RSS feed.  Lucky you!

Books, Reading, Etc.

School Life

Tech Stuff


Posted in Collection Development, Links, Pedagogy, Privacy, School Libraries, Student stuff, Techno Geekiness | Leave a Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 18 December 2013

For those about to go on Break, some things to explore and/or ponder.

Books, Reading, Etc..

School Life

Tech Stuff

  • FlipGrid looks like an amazing tool for both reader-to-reader advisory and in class collaboration for online learning.  (via)
  • Are you Sleepless in Cyberspace?  Maybe this vacation is a good time to try to rethink things.


  • Doug ponders Age, Energy, Privacy and Morals – I’m a little more concerned about privacy (perhaps because of my age) than he is… it’s interesting to note that many of my students don’t think about it, but when you start talking about the lack they get very concerned.
  • For those of my friends traveling, some tips on how to get through the airport fast.  Bon voyage!

Posted in Books, Collection Development, Ethics, Links, Pedagogy, Privacy, School Libraries, Student stuff, Techno Geekiness, Work Stuff | Leave a Comment »

Data driven at #AASL13

Posted by lpearle on 18 November 2013

Most of us are not math people, but even the numerically challenged should question this:

But when such thoughtful and challenging speakers as Debbie Abilock and Kristin Fontichiaro are giving a presentation entitled “Slaying the Data Dragon” it’s difficult to resist going.  Trust me when I tell you they brought the awesome and then some – and at 8am, no less!  Despite my “bed head” (as Deb called it) I manged to take copious notes…

The first thing to remember is that it’s not just about collecting data, it’s about interpreting the information as well as being aware what data is being collected (by whom? for what purposes?).  Scientists and techies are not just being required to submit their interpretation of their data but all their data sets so that others can learn from and expand upon them.  Big Data builds on past experiments – but we need to always question the data we didn’t collect ourselves.

(QUERY: if that’s the case, why do we blindly accept the data and interpretation provided by the Pew Internet & American Life surveys? are any of their data sets statistically significant?)

It’s also important to remember that computers can unearth connections we don’t see (or don’t think of to look for) but that they can’t made a distinction between good data and bad data; humans also need to interpret the correlations but can’t assume they understand the causations.  Privacy concerns may be something that our students don’t share, but when our data is being tracked by the politicians, sports teams, stores, financial institutions and others in addition to the NSA, one has to ask the question, “how will we weigh the trade-off between privacy, consumerism and security?”  What are the implications for the future, both immediate and longer term?  Why do we share our data so freely?  An extreme example of the downside is the ease with which the Nazi’s identified even assimilated Jews, based on data given freely to the government decades earlier.

Private browsing?  Not so much.  Acxiom is one data aggregator tracking your movements around the interwebs.  Try downloading and using ghostery to see how many others are using trackers, monitoring your movements from site to site, feeding the data back to… whom?  Don’t want to use the download but on a PC?  Try right click / view source / ctrl F .gif to see who’s hidden trackers on the site.  You can block and control who sees what you do!

But what about apps and tools like Fitbit and Jawbone?  The data they collect from you isn’t just included in your profile, it’s shared with everyone else using those programs.  Health data is protected, but what about our other data?  Target can predict when you’re pregnant (assuming you use either an affinity card or your credit/debit card).  Is that ok?  It may be helpful to get recommendations on shopping sites, but isn’t it also a little creepy?  Here’s a new term to learn: algorithmic regulation, which is supposed to help solve public problems without having to justify or explain by using personalized “nudges”.  Some seem benign, like your doctor or dentist reminding you to come in for a check up, but what about reminders to floss, or take a walk, or purchase milk?  Not reminders you set, but those that come from “elsewhere” based on data input from you and others?  Or what about glasses that can fool you into thinking that broccoli is really cake?

The problem is that Big Data isn’t neutral, mostly because it influences policy decisions – policies made by people who, like most of us, don’t know how to interpret the data they’re given.  An example of this is InBloom, a Gates-funded organization taking data from students without their permission or knowledge.  Decision makers also need to look at both macro- and micro-levels, as data provided for a neighborhood or town may look very different when compared to larger areas.  Infographics may be fun ways to represent data, but we need to learn how to read them.  A good start are the ACRL visual literacy standards, which can be walked down to K-12.  Working with teachers to create lessons that incorporate data interpretation also helps.  We were left with a number of sites that either have collected data or are still doing so, good places to start with both colleagues and students:

Reading List:

Posted in Conferences, Privacy, Techno Geekiness | Tagged: | 5 Comments »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 29 July 2013

Books, Reading, Etc.

School Life

Tech Stuff

Posted in Books, Collection Development, Links, Privacy, School Libraries, Student stuff, Techno Geekiness, Work Stuff | Leave a Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 28 February 2013

Books, Reading, Etc.

School Life

Tech Related

Posted in Books, Links, Privacy, Student stuff, Techno Geekiness | Leave a Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 9 September 2012

Books, Reading, Etc.

School Life

Tech, Tools and Other Stuff


And finally, I just loved this quote from an interview on Powells:

Straub: I had to do so much research. I had no idea how much fun research could be. It turns out, to my great delight, that if you write a book about something that is really fun and interesting, research is also fun and interesting. [Laughter] (Emma Straub on Laura Lamont)


Posted in Books, Ethics, Musings, Pedagogy, Privacy, School Libraries, Techno Geekiness | Leave a Comment »

Diversity in action

Posted by lpearle on 19 October 2010

At the start of each year, our Admissions Office reports on the composition of the student body: male/female ratio, class sizes, and how many students come from HUGS (“historically underrepresented groups”).  What they don’t report is diversity in learning styles, economic status, sexual orientation, athletes vs. artists, science nerds vs. humanities fanatics, and other equally good measures of ‘diversity’.

As a faculty, I’d argue that we’re relatively diverse with one major exception: the liberals far outweigh the conservatives.  That’s not a slant that’s new to academic institutions – it’s been reported on, and decried by conservatives, for years.

One of the things I’m proud of, perhaps incorrectly, is that I keep my biases and personal preferences relatively hidden and am neutral on most “hot button” issues .  Even the topic of what my personal favorite genre for reading is not something I’ll readily discuss (dark mysteries, but that doesn’t mean I won’t drop everything and read a student suggestion in any genre).

So last week, after observing back-to-back conversations with two students, my assistant laughed at the diversity I was showing.  One student, a leader in the Young Conservatives club, is considering ROTC in college… the other is a leader in our GSA and was so excited about having met Kate Bornstein.  And I thoroughly enjoyed both conversations and genuinely like both students.  There are adults at MPOW, and at MFPOW, would couldn’t do that (I worked with one woman who would grade conservatives more harshly than liberals, and boys that were conservatives harshest of all.  Sad thing is, the students knew it because she was so open about her biases. And one person I currently work with said how sorry he was that most of my family are die-hard Republicans.)

I’d like to think I’m doing my bit to keep diversity alive.

Posted in Ethics, Privacy | 1 Comment »

One person’s #TEDxNYED – Openness

Posted by lpearle on 8 March 2010

I think this topic flowed well from the first (Participation), but perhaps that had to do with the speakers in this grouping. It was at about the start of this session that I noticed that there were many people who, like me, were taking notes the old-fashioned way.  One fellow pen-and-paperer said that this forced him to type up his notes and assess them (something that I much prefer to the live-blogging type of note-taking).

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Conferences, Musings, Pedagogy, Privacy, School Libraries, Student stuff, Techno Geekiness, Work Stuff | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Privacy Thoughts

Posted by lpearle on 27 February 2010

Today three things happened that got me thinking about privacy:

  1. @lbraun2000 tweeted approvingly about this NYTimes article, saying that libraries need to consider adopting this model.
  2. I heard about PleaseRobMe, a website that links to Foursquare in an attempt to make people aware of their privacy breaches. (although, as this post posits, it’s a case of plus ça change)
  3. I received an e-mail from a cousin that said he’d been mugged in Britain and was without cash, credit cards or cell phone and needed my help.

How do these tie in together?  It’s all about privacy.  If my cousin (whom I know is not in Britain but is safe at home, unmugged) had alerted Foursquare that he was, indeed, away from home shopping for something, and then used his smartphone to make the purchase, I would know by following his Twitter feed.  Being his cousin, I could take vicarious pleasure in traveling with him and commenting on his taste (and bank account).

But what if I were someone else, someone less loving and supportive?  I’d have a general idea how long it would take him to return (and in this case, Britian to Boston can’t be done in anything less than a few hours).  I’d also have a general idea about his tastes and his net worth, so would know that I’d have quite a bit of time to get in and get out of what could be a very nicely appointed home. I could be wrong (about the home and the net worth; it could be a gift bought on credit), but if this were my m.o, chances are I’m pretty good at finding my mark.

I’m also concerned about using this technology in libraries.  Yes, I think it’s a great idea that we let people know that libraries are being used, that books are being borrowed, and that this is more than just babysitting snow day children.   My concern is about the child (or teen) borrowing a book about a sensitive topic and that information getting out.  How do we protect that information?  How do we protect that child/teen?

This issue of privacy is increasingly worrisome for me.  I see students (and adults) sharing information on Facebook and Twitter that previously they might now have shared.  I know things about some of my “friends” that I don’t want to know, and I try not to overshare with them in return.  How do we talk with our students about these issues if we ourselves are losing our boundaries?

My fear is that we’ll go too far with our lack of privacy, and then there’ll be a backlash that negates some of the really good things about these new tools.

Posted in Privacy | Leave a Comment »