Trust me, I’m not a Dr.

Working with people online (that you may never really meet) is all about trust. The way trust is formed, either you believe the information you get is correct, because you choose to, or someone whose opinion you value says it’s good.  The interwebs are to a large degree a trust nexus.

While everyone goofs on online, posting, yelling, ranting and do all manner of narcissistic behaviours (Tweet, blog posts etc.,). It all comes down to trust.

If I tell you to click this link – and its absolutely brilliant – you will, only if you think I’m worth trusting.

If I sell you a line and don’t give you evidence …

“Kids spend almost the same amount of time playing games by the time they leave school as they do in school”

then you have to make a judgment call as to whether or not you value my opinion and resourceful regurgitation of that fact. Perhaps the one outstanding ‘fact’ of this decade is ‘digital natives’ – I simply don’t trust people who talk about that – nor people who jump on the next Wired bandwagon ahead of local journos, who are usually unable to install Digg themselves.

Data, is unreliable, the interwebs are unreliable – hell, we’re all unrealiable. We have to figure out who we trust in the metaverse, just as we did when we made friends in childhood. You can’t base trust on research either.

I love two phrases about research, both of which come from academics. “the great thing about standards — there are so many to choose from” and “if you draw enough circles, you can prove anything”.

“In tests, 8 out of 10 owners, said their cats preferred it”. But wait, back up — everyday, teachers repeat facts, give answers that match the text book and judge students not on their ability to to research or critically analyse or synthesise, but to memorise. Was there a war? Did the soldier really feel like that? How do I know? The student has no other option but to trust their teacher that what they are told is a) meaningful b) correct and c) important enough that they should remember it.

So if I have and iPhone and I Google that – and I disagree – it doesn’t mean some expert is going to change the text or the exam? No, owe learn to accept facts as being, well, unreliable. We rely on trust-networks to validate. And we do it instantly.

Right now, the internet tells me so much; that the people who’s opinions I trust are those directions I follow.

I don’t give a rats basket about how many followers you have, or what title you give yourself on TV, or when you bought your first friggin’ modem. Just for the record my first modem was just a pcb-hacked into a BBC micro. True? Who cares. You can be an ‘expert’ an ‘authority’ or whatever else you want to be. The real trick seems to be to get some journo to add you to their filofax and get you to support some facile point about xyz technology that ‘stumbled upon’.

If however you have a group of people who trust you enough to believe you, follow you and interact honestly with you. It’s an epic win over whatever was before. I read academic papers – as I believe that they are well researched and constructed on the whole. I don’t care about media-faces who are not visibly active in actually helping people in the network – which I see as digital-hubris. I learn more from one Tweet from a teacher in Sheffield a year than I’m going to learn by reading the endless drivel of TED wannabes.

Everyday – thousands of people build more meaningful trust and connections with people who actually do something – for them. Regugitating crap you read on Boing Boing or scraped off Twitter on the basis you once knew a woman who slept with Axle Rose – seriously. You’re having a laugh. I can appreciate the whole obsession with fame thing I guess – after all, this is the last bastion on media-sales – but … and heres fair and present warning – if you are NOT adding supporting and doing something for ordinary teachers – and just show up to collect your speakers fee. The back channel is going to own you.

It comes down to trust and monitising your ‘brand’. Its very hard to balance the two. Now please go and buy a 3D Television from Sony as I’ve owned several TVs in the past — which makes me an expert.


How do you determine trust on the interwebs?

Ineffable Essence of Nothing

In my first post this year, I put forward my predictions for 2010.

I’d like then to pick up on the first point — Bubblegum EduPunk – the ineffable essence of nothing.

Stepping into 21st Century learning — should be a leap into tomorrow — Buck Rogers style. My idea of punk is not exactly the same as Malcomn Mclaren’s. So, even if education has been frozen for 50 years like Buck Rogers– its never too late to thaw out and kick some Draconian butt.

What is Edupunk anyway?

For me, eligibility for the dubious label “edu-punk” means delivering more than content – digitally. It is about reacting to popular culture, not being scared to pioneer and explore ideas yourself or with students in ways that are experiential. The degree of punkyness is very much relative to the environment and opportunity.

Poking your finger in the membrane of learning is not about being a radical throwing tweet-grenades into staff rooms or buying a Nerf gun. You don’t even have to be a hero, heroine or martyr  — you just have to want to be a better teacher and be willing to be experiential in doing it.

Conceptually, I think EduPunk is just a datum point. For many teachers it was an awakening to the insanity of making kids learn by absorption in an era where for any given topic, no one human can absorb that amount of information — nor do they need to. Get out of whatever orbit you are in and be a punk for while — even if that just means reading a different kind of book . We all react differently to technology, so for some — talking to the Librarian or approaching an integrator is a commendable first step. Some however do nothing, deny it or block. These are the one’s who need a metaphorical kicking. There is no excuse for this behavior in my view, unless you have been frozen in time, staunchly demanding everyone revert to your way of thinking should get you Zooka’d.

Fortunately many teachers create amazing things like the Flat Classroom or wikis that change thousands of minds (Andrew Church). Many more develop resources for their students like Mr Miller and create vibrant networks for students, such as English ClassIIIA. At some point all these people went punk because they wanted to. Punks create conversation – and this is sound of the (digital) suburbs that like it or not are the future of education — formal or informal – playing out in the metaverse.

Bubblegum Punk

The urban dictionary is tough on bubblegum music, saying “many bands use this style to make their music because it so effectively goes right to the top of the charts and gets them money”. A close relative is Sugar Punk — which usually involves wearing baby blue and pink, with lots of intricate designs and layers.

Truly disruptive teachers —  are those who don’t take sufficient care to immerse themselves in the culture and networks — but go online anyway. Those who lecture others about technology, but themselves are almost invisible online. More worrying are those projects which get kicked off because of someone’s bureaucratic or political agenda — often manifesting as pilots — which teachers then have to follow. These often consume time, effort and resources that could be better used elsewhere. These are the bubblegum edupunks.

Never mind the learning, heres the text book

Way back in the 1930’s, Hugo Gernsback, the’ father of science fiction’ didn’t settle on leaving his Amazing Stories in print. He took his protagonists onto the radio when few radio stations were interested in Science Fiction. This punk-mindedness is what we all need to have. Gernsback  did get his airplay … and now we have the movie Avatar. We too manifest ourselves worlds that have long been imagined — as avatars, but it takes real effort to download Aion and play when you don’t know why. We have to force our minds to deal with them and not ignore or dismiss them.

The digital-datum point

Each of us have unique datum points and stick to familiar channels. I looked for a story and found this old radio play from the 1930s. The hero is presented with an un-recognisable version of himself in from the future after noticing a strange notice in a store window —  the Ineffable Essence of Nothing (You can listen to it). This is very much how the majority of teachers currently see technology in professional practice.

Upon entering the store the owners tells him. “Nothing is impossible, Mr Castle … and none of this is real unless you make it real”.

For some teachers, trying the impossible means allowing students to communicate in a forum. For others it will means teaching English in World of Warcraft. For students, every day is real. They don’t get to choose.

This is punk-mindedness. Repeating something without going somewhere new, just to look like Buck Rogers? … bubblegum … Wilma Darling, I’m home!

No Clean Feed 2

The digital-president Rudd has once again got the social movement up in arms over the National Filter announcement today.

The shadow minister is not exactly oppositional to the idea. In a statement Smith said the Coalition “supports measures to protect children from inappropriate internet content” and that “appropriate adult supervision and guidance should be front and centre of all online safety efforts”. Well he would say that, it’s basically the law.

A trial conducted by Enex Testlab earlier this year with a handful of ISPs resulted in a report also released today. Internet Service Providers (ISP) may also be offered incentives to go beyond the mandatory blocks. One report about the ‘over-blocking‘ suggests that the government is ignoring key recommendations. The Christian lobby of course want even more filtration. Smashing keyboards and re-instating scribes seemingly on the agenda.

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.”  Friedrich Nietzsche

Perhaps the best way to experience this is to look at a twitter search using a real time visual tracker. Huh? Just click here to see what we are saying about the plan to filter Australian content by the government.

My take on it is that there are so many lobby groups and intersections; filtration of content is key to risk-managing the long term legacy of the digital-president. No one ever went online to find Utopia and indeed much of the internet’s phishing and criminal activity was perpetuated from geographical locations that supposedly had or have tight control over it’s citizens. We are not facing a dystopia from cyberspace either — despite the endless flow of mainstream media feeding ignorance.

The protagonists of cyberpunk fiction are almost invariably street punks, cyberspace hackers, black market techies, mercenaries and their likes. They perform their dubious skills in the greyzones of this new world, this witch-broth of commercialisation, technologisation and globalisation gone wretched

It seems that the government, like many organisations is saving us from this fiction. Worlds imagined by writers such as Gibson or movies such as Blade Runner. In reality, we are chatting, shopping and playing games … our biggest crime is that we are simply not interested in much of what goes on in the name of governance. We are hard to predict and hard to herd now we have Facebook.

Clay Burrell wrote about social intelligence today, and why grades and current assessment methods are increasingly unrepresentative of a persons worth. It is well worth reading in the context of the social limitations. We are obviously less and less interested in listening and commenting through the varicose veins of old media. #nocleanfeed is just a movement of ordinary people who actually believe that we are able to make our own decisions, and that the laws are already there to deal with online content. Remember the concessions to porn and gambling Howard did to get the GST a decade before.

Filtration pushes content to ‘sanctioned’ outlets — and that is not good for speed or access. Bottom line — if you are thinking about or running a filter — you’re brain-missing to think we can’t beat it.