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Posts Tagged ‘facebook

The aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandals are online movements like #deletefacebook.

As much as I dislike that platform, this is not something that most people will do. For them, Facebook is a necessity for remaining in touch with people socially and professionally. They are not going to #deletefacebook.

However, it they do not do not take reasonable action, they risk their data being misused or abused. Facebook has long evolved. We are not users of the product; we are the product.

Under pressure, Facebook will tighten privacy controls. But it will still use our data. The issue is not IF it uses our data — it has to — but HOW it uses our data.

We have some control on how Facebook uses are data. Every time we read and write in Facebook, we provide data. The permissions we give Facebook guarantee its use.

I suggest we do not give away so much so that we open ourselves to abuse. By way of analogy, it is one thing to let people know your home address and it is another to let them know the code to your gate and door.

Periodically I do personal data security and privacy check-ups. At the moment this is a manual plow-through process in Facebook.

I also do not post anything in Facebook or allow too many mentioned postings. My last Facebook posting was in May 2015 where I said that I “avoid Facebook like it is the plague”. My last allowed mention was in April 2016.

I might start using Firefox for reading community postings in Facebook to prevent data leaks.

I choose to use Facebook like a passport. Like international travel, it is a form of identity, but I only use it when necessary. It is not my default or go-to, so I do not use Facebook credentials to log in to other online services.

You need to read and watch these exposés on how Facebook enabled Cambridge Analytics to access and capitalise on user data.

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If your time is precious, just watch the video immediately above of the whistleblower revealing his role and the impact of his actions.


  • Cambridge Analytica tapped a professor’s idea to get users’ Facebook data with a personality survey app.
  • According to the whistleblower, it took a few hundred thousand initial users to generate the corpus of data that came from millions of users who were associated with the initial few.
  • The tool mined the initial users’ families, friends, and acquaintances so that the company then had access to tens of millions of users’ data.
  • According to the New York Times, only the 270,000 survey participants gave their permission for their data to be used; the rest from the resulting raw corpus of 50 million profiles did not.
  • The company then fed users with targetted resources to sway opinion.
  • Cambridge Analytica would not have been able to do this if not for Facebook’s fast and loose data use policies. This was not Facebook’s first strike (see my curated resources).

This incident is unlikely to be Facebook’s last because most people seem to close their eyes and mouths to such misuse of data. If Facebook does not lose face, it will brazenly continue along this path.

You can choose to block its path or get off this well-beaten track. Unless you are powerful, influential or heavy-handed, you are unlikely impede the Facebook juggernaut.

If you are like me, you can choose to stay off Facebook or try not to provide it data that it and its partners can turn against you.

Today I highlight two videos that provide insights into current issues.

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The first is about what some workers are worried about — robots taking over their jobs. This is an issue made real by what people can already see happening around them.

It seems to be a relatively immediate threat, so policymakers and workers alike spread and share the worry.

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The second is about the harm that Facebook has brought. Facebook ostensibly wanted to do good, but in reaching almost everyone on this planet, did not regulate its own ambition.

This issue is less obvious to most people than the previous one. However, I think that it is as big a threat, if not bigger, than robots taking over jobs. Robotisation is a result of many agencies and stakeholders that are subject to rules and standards; Facebook is one mega corporation that makes its own rules and standards.

The irony is that laypeople has little say in robotisation. But we make Facebook what it is and we empower — and possibly embolden — it by using it indiscriminately or not objecting to its poor practices.

How more myopic can we get?

Most people I know do not question Facebook. They should, as an issue of:

I use Facebook as little as possible. I once described it like a passport that I use for identification.

I am part of a few Facebook groups, but I do not post to them. I refrain from posting in my timeline (my last one was in 2015). I do not wish to pour fuel into the fire.

I squirm each time I have to mention Facebook as one possible social media-based professional development option for teachers. For me that is like recommending a seedy bar for it salads simply because lots of people go there.

Just say no. It gets easier with practice.


In February, I shared this resource on Twitter:

Even though there were good ideas there about educators leveraging on Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest, the tweet not a complete endorsement.

Here are some considerations to prevent a blind plunge into those social media depths.

Why not Facebook?
Some people like to say that Facebook is a place to hang out with friends while Twitter is where you learn from relative strangers. Based on anecdotes, I also suspect that some people prefer to separate their personal social media platform from the professional learning one (if they even have the latter).

Facebook and Twitter seem to have different socially-mediated uses. If you receive an invite from someone on Facebook, you are obliged to take it. If you are followed on Twitter, you are not obliged to follow back (not nowadays anyway).

With Facebook, you cannot choose your family; with Twitter you can curate your “friends”. This might be why Twitter seems more closely associated with educator personal learning networks (PLNs) than Facebook.

There are many more reasons not to use Facebook. I will not go into how Facebook has abused user trust and helped spread fake news, but I share links to resources I have curated.

Why not LinkedIn?
It is not the go-to for youth. In a few past keynotes, I emphasised how LinkedIn was one of the least mobile of the big social platforms.

For example, a 2014 article in the Wall Street Journal illustrated comScore data:

LinkedIn is desktop-bound.

LinkedIn was very much a desktop-dominant tool. After being bought by Microsoft in 2016, the platform might be more mobile. However, it has not escaped the stigma of being an older worker’s tool.

This mobile vs desktop distinction is important. Mobile is already dominant and its mindset of use is different. Think about the obvious: On-the-go, small but contextual consumption, and interstitial learning.

Consider the less obvious too, i.e, learning from non-traditional experts like people younger than you and outside your professional interests. It is LinkedIn and not necessarily linked out. Having a mobile mindset enables the latter.

Why not Pinterest?
Ah, Pinterest, the platform that, according to this Pew study, rivals both LinkedIn and Twitter among adults, but has a heavy gender bias.

Pinterest might have had respectable numbers among adults, but interest has waned among teens. These are the same teens that will take their unpinned preferences and behaviours to adulthood.

The platform’s strength is photos, but while these might paint a thousand words, they are not necessarily accompanied by a thousand distilled, reflective, critical, or otherwise necessary actual words. The written word may be subjective, but pictures are even more open to interpretation.

So what then?
My reflection might seem like a put down of the three platforms. I did not write it with that intent.

I see it this way: If you are going to invest in a home or vehicle, you will want to know what is good and bad about it. While being encouraging and positive puts smiles on faces, I do not want you to be a grinning idiot (I mean that in the kindest way).

Be informed, stay informed. Then make up your own mind.

My own mind is continually using and evaluating tweeting and blogging for sharing and reflecting. Twitter is my short-form tool of choice while WordPress fills in the blanks with long-form space. I have been in Twitter since 2007 and this blog since 2008. I attribute my staying power to the affordances — technical, social, and pedagogical — of these social media platforms.

As an early adopter of both, I am not a fan of Facebook and I appreciate the utility of IFTTT. However, I only recently found meaningful reuse of both — Pokémon Go.

I joined the Pokémon Go Singapore Facebook group a while ago because the Pokémon tracker apps and sites (e.g., SGPokéMap) kept being shut down by Niantic. Learning from enthusiastic and informed players seemed to be the next best thing.

So far I find that experience to only be partly true.

Like any Facebook experience, there is the terrible language, i.e., poor grammar, insults, rudeness, vague references. I feel sorry for visitors to our country who visit our shores seeking advice on where to best hunt for Pokémon only to face a social wall of confusion and disappointment.

Thankfully the space is largely self-policing. Infractions like grammar are sometimes caught, but not nearly enough. This is like a web catching a fly but letting a swarm of locusts through.

There are also helpful people in the Facebook group, but I can count on one hand the folks who are truly giving and magnanimous.

Returning to the flip side, there are the:

  • uninformed who do not bother to search before asking
  • trolls who seek innocent or ignorant victims
  • marketers who post irrelevant or misleading clickbait
  • over-sharers who provide more information that you need to read
  • culturally-insensitive who assume everyone else understands them

There are many other character types, almost a numerous as the number of Generation 1 Pokémon. I am almost tempted to conduct informal research on these types and analyse the content of postings.

The folks behind SGPokéMap maintain a Twitter presence that is far less social, but way more helpful. Now that the map is back up — for now anyway — a bot tweets updates on the rare Pokémon, which areas they spawn in, links to Google Maps that pinpoint their locations, and roughly how long they will be there.

Here is one example:

The mappers also provided instructions for creating a Twitter-linked IFTTT applet to get updates only for specific rare Pokémon from areas of your choosing. The instructions are not quite up-to-date, but the gist of what to do is there.

What does this have to do with education? I connect this with something I tweeted recently:

Twitter Bingo is a fun way to get teachers who are new to Twitter to try new things. It is also an extrinsically-driven activity — complete the tasks in a row or column or diagonal to get a reward.

However, this is not why educators who continue tweeting tweet. They are driven by intrinsic factors — to share, connect, encourage, etc. Bingo might be an engaging start for Twitter professional development. It is also a quick end if the teacher does not see how Twitter is personally relevant and meaningful.

The Facebook group and IFTTT applet helped me fill in information gaps so that my Pokémon hunting is more efficient and effective. Teachers who learn to use Twitter should not just be given the mechanics. They need to find or make meaning from using Twitter.

Today I reflect on three seemingly disparate topics. However, all have a theme of not compromising on standards. They are standards of English, decency, and learning.

I spotted this sign at a Fairprice grocery store. It urged patrons to think of the environment.

You cannot use less plastic bags, but you can use less plastic the way you can use less water. The water and plastic are uncountable. Plastic bags are countable so you should use fewer of them.

Actually you should try not to use any plastic bags by carrying your own recyclable bags. If you do that, the sign reads another way: Do you part for the environment. Useless plastic bags!

If standards of basic rules of English have not slipped, we would see fewer of such signs (countable property) and I would be less of an old fart (uncountable property).

Speaking of which, a fellow old fart (OF) responded to a Facebook troll who had terribly warped priorities when commenting on the kids who lost their lives during the Sabah earthquake.

The troll focused on the fact that the deceased could not take their Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) later this year. When OF called the troll to task, the latter became indignant.

OF discovered that the troll was a student in a local school, and while not all kids act this way, OF wondered in subsequent comments how the standards of human decency seemed to have slipped.

I baulk at the fact that some teachers wait for official Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) materials to be prepared and distributed instead of using everyday examples like these. They are far more timely, relevant, and impactful.

To reiterate what I mentioned yesterday about bad advice for teachers, how are adults to realize what kids are writing and thinking if they do not follow them on social media? You need to be on the ground to see what is good and bad about it.

Parents and teachers should not be reacting in a way so that there is less social media use because that is unrealistic. When someone cannot write or speak well, you do not tell them to write or speak less; you tell them to practice more (after you coach them and provide feedback).

The third use-less/useless example comes from this Wired article about the change in Twitter leadership.

The author contrasted Twitter’s previously “unruly, algorithm-free platform” with Facebook’s. This was not a negative statement about Twitter because stalwarts value the power of human curation and serendipity.

However, those new to Twitter might view the platform as useless and choose to use less and less of it until they stop altogether. They do not stay long enough to discover its value.

The slipping standard here is learning to persist. I can see why school systems like the ones in the USA are including “grit” in their missions or using the term in policy documents.

But is grit the central issue?

What if the adults do not have a complete picture and are creating policies and curricula that are as flawed as the “use less” sign?

What if they should actually be spending more time on social media not just to monitor their kids and students but also to connect with other adults so that they learn the medium and the message deeply?

One key answer to these questions is about the ability of adults to keep on learning. We should not be holding kids and students to one standard (it is your job to study what I tell you) and holding ourselves to another (I have stopped learning or I have learnt enough).

Do this and you put yourself on the slippery slope of sliding standards. When standards slip, they are not always as obvious as badly-composed signs or insensitively-written Facebook postings. The refusal to learn can be insidious and lead to a lack of positive role models for kids and students to emulate.

As I reflect today, I link a viral video of a road accident, a cockroach infestation in an apartment, and a forum letter about the public standard of English.

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Late last week a local dashcam video went viral. It was of a female pedestrian being hit by a taxi while crossing the road even though the light was in her favour.

If you asked just five people what they thought, you would likely have got five different opinions. There are many comments at the original Facebook page.

Some people blame the pedestrian for not being more aware of her surroundings or say she should not have been looking at her phone while crossing. I agree that she could have been more careful, but that muddles the issue and dilutes the blame.

The issue is the carelessness of the driver; the blame is on the driver. The car approached from the left and rear of the woman. Even if she was not on the phone, she would have needed eyes on the sides of her head to have seen the car coming.

Complex situations rarely have clear answers. But if this was a court case, the law has clear standards. In this case, the standard was that the pedestrian had the right of way. As stupid as it is to not pay attention to the road while crossing it, it is not the time to focus on mobile walking.

Mobile walking is an issue and new standards must be negotiated to address it. But let us not muddle the issues or dilute the blame.


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In more shocking and perhaps stomach-churning news, local papers were set alight to the news of an apartment infested with cockroaches due to the hoarding habit of an occupant.

The road accident happened in the blink of an eye, the infestation was, by one account, at least 16 years in the making.

In separate accounts, everyone except the couple staying at the “roach motel” claims to have tried to do something. These include the children of the couple (who moved out when they grew up); the neighbours (who have to deal with the problem on a daily basis and are stuck with the problem); and various authorities (who the rest look to but seem quite powerless).

Interestingly, it seemed to require a viral video of the infestation for authorities to take concerted action.

However you look at it, the overriding issue is public health and safety. That is the standard to consider first before neighborliness, being tolerant, or social intervention.

All that said, even with standards of public housing and soft social contracts in place, the infestation was allowed to happen. Everyone involved, even the poor neighbours, had some role in letting the infestation grow.

Let us not muddle the issue. The blame is shared.

In #edsg, there is a lively debate following this tweet.

A writer concerned with the standard of written and spoken English wrote this letter to the ST online forum [archive].

The plea is straightforward: Can something be done to arrest the slide in English as spoken and written here? The writer is not the first to bring this up and she will not be the last. This time round, the examples that were cited included public signs and the poor problem-definition of the viral Cheryl’s birthday math/logic problem.

The debate on #edsg is likely to confuse. Note that depending on how tweeps replied, some responses might not be captured in the thread.

The issues of language acquisition and evolution are complex to say the least. The issues are muddled and it is tempting to lay blame to single sources.

The blame is shared and we must be honest about the problem, accepting the blame, and collectively designing solutions.

The problem is very public. It is only viewed as a problem if there are standards and standard bearers. The writer was brave enough to stand up and be counted.

The problem is also one that developed over a long time, longer than the behaviours that caused the roach infestation. It is an insidious one: Not as immediate and shocking as the traffic accident, and even harder to detect than hoarding behind closed doors.

The problem could be more obvious. If it is not, a week of critically examining posters, brochures, or public notices will reveal the problem. Alternatively, a simple Google search of Cheryl’s birthday explanations and critical examination of those explanations will reveal how language is fused with logic. It will also show how those with a better command of the language are better at defining and solving the problem.

From a systemic perspective, it is important to peel away the symptoms (grammatically poor notices and bad explanations) and find the root problems.

While the home environment is a critical start for language acquisition and formation, it is not a pivot point that system managers can manipulate easily. However, they have greater control as to what happens in schools and para-education (tuition, libraries, museums, etc.). Kids spend much of their time in such environments and there are standards for instruction here.

As educators of a nation, teachers, private tutors, and para-educators might have to own up to feeling “uncool” to have and maintain standards of English. For example, teachers might say that if they speak proper English, they risk not connecting with their students.

Our educators must maintain standards of English. I do not mean this in a muddy-duddy way, but because it is the right thing to do. By “fuddy-duddy” I mean blindly or stubbornly following tradition. By “doing the right thing” I mean recognizing that language evolves but also realizing that clear communication must exist for the sake of transnational and transgenerational dialogue.

If we fail our kids, we let it happen, individually and collectively. There is no muddling of issues here: We are to blame.

A tweeted question to #edsg prompted this reflection.

This question has been asked since Facebook appeared on our collective radars. Such a question is not unusual because adventurous educators always seem to ask it of any new technology.

I recall tackling this question with preservice teachers almost nine years ago. Back then the responses included 1) leveraging on the popularity of Facebook, 2) wanting to keep one’s different lives separate, and 3) maintaining different profiles for different purposes.

Quite a bit has changed since then and some things have not.

What has not is that most people do not like having multiple accounts because it takes effort. Just try asking a group of learners to create another account on a platform they are already in or a new one on a platform they are not familiar with. A few might react like you are demanding their first born child.

What has changed is the popularity of Facebook among the younger set. Facebook is where their parents and even their grandparents hang out, so it is less cool. Facebook is not yet a teen or young adult wasteland. A quick Google search on Facebook usage statistics will reveal that (examples [1] [2] [3]) . But there have been migrations to Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter.

Another thing that might have changed is the need to “separate lives”. Teachers might assume that their students have the same mindset or concerns as they do, but learner notions of privacy could be different. That is not the same as saying that kids are not concerned about privacy. They are and about different aspects of privacy.

But back to the question.

The tweeted question is a reflection of dated thinking. Such thinking is based on at least two wobbly foundations: 1) false dichotomies, and 2) limited learning opportunities.

Dichotomies (two-way categorizations) occur because of the human need to classify complex phenomena. Male or female. Good or bad. Married or not. Your side or my side. But giving in to this need to simplify ignores the grey nuances that are more representative of life and learning.

A problem with categorical thinking is that people feel that they must separate where they live, love, or learn. We might be conditioned to think this way because schools put academic subjects in separate silos, students in separate classes, and lessons that happen at one pace and place.

Whether a teacher, school leader, or policy maker thinks Facebook is GOOD or NOT for e-learning is not important. That is an attempt at categorizing the platform as suitable or not.

What is important is how students and teachers have already started using it as a learning tool or not. For example, students might use Facebook as an informal communication platform for homework help. Teachers might use it for persona-based lessons (e.g., Fakebook). Edmodo created the Facebook equivalent in education to leverage on social learning.

Learning does not just happen in the classroom or when the teacher says start. It can happen at any time and in any place as long as the learner has access and a question that needs answering.

Asking if Facebook (or any other tool for that matter) is suitable for teaching and learning is too late and the wrong question to ask. It has already been used by learners and educators who do not ask for permission, and in ways that might not be expected of the creators of the tool.

According to The Guardian, Twitter beats Facebook for breaking news.

It used the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, as an example. While the news of this broke (and was updated) on Twitter, Facebook feeds were filled with feel-good ice bucket challenge videos for ALS.

The Guardian then went on to say that social media was not one amorphous beast and that “Twitter and Facebook are radically different networks”.

Why is this the case? The Guardian explains:

What you see on Twitter is determined by who you follow. In contrast, what you see in your Facebook newsfeed is “curated” by the company’s algorithms, which try to guess what will interest you (and induce you to buy something, perhaps).

If this sounds familiar, I reflected on this yesterday in response to thought leaders writing about Twitter’s possible move towards algorithms.

I will offer this perspective: Twitter is better for the personal learning networks (PLNs) of educators worldwide. In an impromptu #edsg chat yesterday, I mentioned that 1) Twitter & educator PLNs are practically synonymous, and 2) I have yet to see successful Facebook or Edmodo-based PLNs.

What draws educators to Twitter?

First, it is relatively simple to use. With only 140 characters to share a thought or a resource like a website, video, or image in the form of a short URL, you have to get to the point immediately. It is professional development at its most efficient, and if the resource is meaningful to you, most effective.

The brevity of tweets allows you to consume many in one sitting. Imagine reading comic cells instead of War and Peace tomes. The bite-sized experiences can be very empowering.

Second, you choose to follow people of substance. You do this by manually adding to your Follow list or subscribing to a list of recommended tweeters. Unlike Facebook friending, when you follow tweeters professionally, you are more likely to benefit from their distilled wisdoms instead of their inane navel-gazing.

That is not to say that there is no personal connection or humour or noise in Twitter. It is that you get to choose people who choose to share in a certain way.

Third, you can manually tune in to discussions via hashtags like #edsg. Whether the online discussions are synchronous (fast and furious chats) or asynchronous (slow chats), you are in the company of like-minded folks who have questions and answers that interest you. Hashtagged chats are like tuning in to specific radio channels except that you can participate instead of just listening. The hashtag is so powerful that even Facebook and Google+ have some form of it.

All this is not to say that PLNs cannot be formed in Facebook, Edmodo, Google+, or any other platform. The adoption of a platform is a sociotechnical phenomenon, and while Twitter was not designed specifically for PLNs, it currently ticks most of the right boxes. Educators have appropriated Twitter for personal learning and have adapted to its idiosyncrasies.

The power of a Twitter-based PLN lies in human connection, content creation or curation, and communication. If Twitter moves the goalposts by introducing a more algorithm-driven timeline, educators the world over will decide whether on not they want to keep playing Twitter’s game on Twitter’s field.


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