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Nalaka’s take on responding to ‘fake news’

At a forum on Media and Development in Berlin yesterday, my friend Nalaka Gunewardena (who moderated a discussion) brought on a fresh perspective to the problem. It’s not about the tools per se that we could use to fight Fake News. It’s also about education, alliances and policy reform, .

We must also look for the symptoms in the loss of trust in journalism, he said. The need is to build structures that enhance and nurture quality journalism. In other words, create trustworthy messengers before trying to fix (or block) the pipes through which the messages flow. Plus the need to influence policy and literacy.

This is a lot more nuanced than just clamping down on media platforms or discrediting the sources – reactive steps.

So let’s get pro-active about a problem that didn’t arrive yesterday, and won’t go away soon.

I encourage you to read Nalaka’s post about this.

 

 

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A need to ‘register’ your face –and other tech silliness

As if we don’t have enough to be concerned about! Users of the iPhone X must ‘register’ their faces so that facial recognition –a feature that everyone seems to be fawning over– works.

I am not making this up. This was reported where an iPhone user had to repeatedly ‘register’ her face because her 10-year old son unwittingly unlocked her phone. The story cites Wired reporter Andy Greenberg who :

suggested that Sherwani re-register her face to see what would happen. Upon doing so, the iPhone X no longer allowed Ammar access. Interestingly, after Sherwani tried registering her face again a few hours later in the same indoor, nighttime lighting conditions in which she first set up her iPhone X, the son was able to regain access with his face.

Does this mean that:

  • Some day there will be a facial registry, somewhere in the Cloud? For now, it’s on the device.
  • There might be an after-market for 3-D printed facial masks to crack iPhones? Apple is skeptical. Of course!
 
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Posted by on November 16, 2017 in Hype, Technology

 

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The ‘sharing economy’ – Aaron’s article

Worth a read – my son’s article on the new economy movements, and land use practices in a ‘sharing economy.’ He’s spoke on a similar topic last evening at Clark University, Worcester, MA.

 

 

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Using robots to teach PowerPoint animation

Around this time of year when I introduce animation in PowerPoint, I try to find something topical to animate.

So I’ve got my 4th graders to think about ‘Man and Machine‘ -specifically how a human could evolve into a humanoid. We use the custom animation tool to draw a path to make the human glide across the screen to turn into a robot.

To preface it, I showed them a clip of Asimo, the Honda humanoid project. Asimo is the acronym for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility. It is a 4-foot 3-inch character that can run, climb steps, and play a bit of football (soccer). Even those who aren’t into robotics get instantly engaged.

I asked the class what they thought of man and machine after watching this; some thought it was a bit weird and creepy, but pretty cool.

Once the unit is completed, I figure this will be a good way to re-introduce Coding for the Hour of Code project. How do they build a set of instructions to make an inanimate object move? Coding and animation have a lot in common!

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2017 in Ed-Tech, Education, STEM, Technology

 

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Trolls, bots, and memes become parents’ new nightmare. So what’s the solution?

A friend recently asked me if someone should be putting together a source for parents who have to address so much in the lives of their digital natives. I have a few go-to websites that we use as teachers, but was struggling to find a good hand book.

First two of the best web-based resources I recommend.

COMMON SENSE MEDIA – This is a wonderful, deep trove of information that is updated with plenty of topics (plus short videos) on such from phone addiction, and fake news, to privacy tips and how to navigate the difficult world of plagiarism, copyright, password protection, oversharing etc.

EDUTOPIAAnother great place for articles on technology skills such as coding, academic skills being taught such as note-taking, problem-solving, state standards, digital citizenship etc.

But the reality is that almost every week, children are bombarded and confused by new issues. One week it’s plagiarism, the next it is memes, and add to that the constant misinformation through bots and trolls, followed by the news related to cyber-bullying or inappropriate behavior that pops up on TV or their social media feeds. The search engines and social media platforms are often gamed by bots, and tricked by pranksters, but who has time to inform the kids about these fast-moving events?

So the sad thing, as I had to tell my friend, was there is no handbook. Just like there was no user-guide when we first got onto the early Internet. However that Internet was a place we went to, consciously logging in to it, or “dialing up” to it. Today, that place isn’t somewhere we visit – it visits us. Students who grow up with it have to navigate it on their own. It’s like giving them the keys to the car, before they go to driving school, expecting things to be alright on the road.

But of course there is one user-guide. It’s unpublished. It’s called Parenting.

 

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Airbags on lamp posts – Signs of the times

This sounds so funny I thought it was a parody. But on checking, it appears that authorities in Salzburg, Austria have installed airbags on lamp posts. To prevent people (tourists) from hurting themselves as they walk around staring at their phones.

If ever there was a head-thumping situation to counter head injuries. Worth a read just to come to terms how far phone usage has come.

 

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2017 in Hype, Mobile

 

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Cyber-warfare – a new definition is overdue

Used to be that cyber war was considered actions of an adversary to take down a system using the Internet. Like crippling a financial system, hacking into and holding hostage a web site, compromising power and communication grids etc. That definition  is really old now!

As authorities uncover Russian interference – specifically the work of trolls, fake social media accounts, and even advertising piped through Facebook, Twitter and Google – we should understand that cyber warfare is more subtle, and has outgrown the old definitions. It is about disrupting the behaviors, and messing with the minds of citizens. Before we show our irritation with foreign culprits, we should be unhappy with how we citizens are easily manipulated by what is online.

The glue that holds us together appears to be easily dissolved by what passes for ‘information.’ As the Philadelphia Inquirer story reveals, we are experiencing high-tech cracks and wedges to undermine us. They worked because of a critical mass of people who unthinkingly re-tweet and share posts and sponsored content. Content that few care check where the source of the post is.

Consider this sponsored ad (featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer story). It looks so silly, and poorly crafted that you’d think any person with some common sense would not even read it, let alone pass it along to others. Variations of these include chain-letters, and memes that no one knows the origin, but often accompanies a statement like “Could I hear an amen?”

For the record I never respond with an amen, for two reasons. The word is a statement of approval or concurrence reserved for prayer. It’s not the linguistic equivalent to the Like button. Also, someone’s rant does always not require public approval to make it more valid. You can still be a friend whether or not you agree with someone’s pet peeve. And for heaven’s sake (pun intended), don’t Like or re-tweet this post unless you a read it in its entirety.

Cyber war is no longer just about attacking hardware or infrastructure. It’s about unhinging us through the things that pass through the pipes that connect our hardware. It’s not about a denial of service, but about a denial of common sense.

 

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