Net Neutrality & Digital Tattoo

Two Digital Citizenship Topics in One Post

Net Neutrality

Net neutrality, the concept that the internet is open to users regardless of legal content that they choose to access, without being blocked, throttled, or required to pay additional fees has implications for education. According to Dr. Amy McGinn of Loyola University in her 2017 blog post, “Net neutrality is the principle that all data on the internet should be treated equally by Internet Service Providers (ISPs).” Further, when net neutrality is in place, ISPs are not able to slow access or charge extra based on content that is being accessed, such as video streaming services.

The lack of net neutrality guidelines can impact education as we consider the need to provide equitable access to content and learning for all students, in all communities. In a 2017 NPR interview, Richard Culatta, the current president of ISTE, the International Society for Technology in Education, expressed concern about the deregulation of net neutrality. He provided an example from a Chattanooga, Tennessee school where students were able to use the internet to access scanning electron microscopes. As actual electron microscopes are very expensive, the students would not normally have had the opportunity experiment with them. However, they were able to access one from the University of Southern California digitally. If their high-speed internet access was throttled, this would affect their equitable access to the learning opportunity of accessing the scanning electron microscope, among other opportunities.

Part of what is exciting about technology in education is that internet access feels like the great equalizer, bringing tools and access to applications and opportunities to students digitally. There is concern that without enforceable net neutrality guidelines, that equity is threatened. All students deserve equitable access to legal instructional content to have equitable learning opportunities.

In the past few years, net neutrality has been in a state of political ping pong as the regulation has changed with different presidential administrations. Internet service providers and corporations are against net neutrality in the name of innovation. Additionally, there is controversy over whether or not states are able to enforce their own net neutrality regulations, as Drew Clark of Broadband Breakfast suggested in a May 2021, video stream.

The story of net neutrality and its impact on citizens, education and internet service providers will certainly continue in the United States, as well as other countries. The best that we can do as educators is to continue to provide enriching digital learning opportunities for students.

My Digital Footprint and Tattoo

Our digital footprint, or digital tattoo is our digital trail, or the data that exists as we interact with various online applications. We can use the terms digital footprint and digital tattoo interchangeably, as the mean the same things. However, when discussing this with students, I prefer using the term digital tattoo because of its suggestion of permanence. Children and teenagers do not generally have a concept of the potential permanency of their actions both in the real and the online worlds because of their naivety and lack of experience. As educators and parents, it is our responsibility to frequently remind them that their online actions can have future implications. Additionally, we have the obligation to be aware of the digital footprint we may be forming on behalf of our children. The 2008 Youth and Media video Digital Dossier perfectly explains the concept of the breadth and permanence of our digital tattoo.

One very effective activity for illustrating the concept of the digital tattoo is to simply have participants do an internet search of their name on Google, Yahoo or Bing. It can be very revealing, showing the good, the bad and the ugly. Of course, the more active the student is online, the more there is to find. This can be particularly true if you have a name that is not very common.

When I searched myself this week, I was surprised by a few things. Generally, my online presence is a positive one, and I make a concerted effort to maintain that. I am active on multiple social media platforms including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. My search revealed my ePortfolio, my association with Killeen ISD, and a couple of platforms that I have stopped using long, ago. For example, I did not realize that set of lists (along with those of my colleagues) were public on Spelling City. Is an early adopter of various digital tools for many years, I have accounts on multiple platforms that I have tried and abandoned. A few of these are bulb, Clubhouse and classroom 2.0.

One of the creepiest places to find your personal information or on sites like beenverified.com and govsalaries.com. While much of the info is accurate, some is not as it is cultivated by automated web crawlers. Many times, these types of sites are created for money-making. Establishments are designed specifically for selling your information that is readily available online because it was posted by you, or is in public records such births, marriage, and death.

The thing that surprised me the most was to find articles that I have pinned on Pinterest as well as comments made on Facebook or Twitter on the posts of others. This is where students can get tripped up for sure! While I would give myself a score of 4 – advanced for the positivity aspect, I would give myself a lower score regarding the sheer abundance of my personal information that is available. I certainly need to work on that!

“Everything you do now ends up in your permanent record. The best plan is to overload Google with a long tail

of good stuff and to always act as if you’re on Candid Camera, because you are”.

Seth Godin

Reflections

This week in our EDLD 5316 Digital Citizenship course has been rich in experiences and learning opportunities. The concept of Digital Citizenship is broad and has so many interwoven elements to explore. This week we have delved into the concepts of the digital footprint (tattoo) and net neutrality as well as started work on the culminating project.

Mindful Schools outlines a fun and effective reflection activity called Rose, Thorn and Bud as a way of attaching thoughts and feelings to learning experiences. I will frame this reflection with that method.

The rose for this week would be the opportunity to explore our own digital footprint in a Google or Yahoo search of our names. I enjoyed that and caught some areas where I need to improve!

Something I had not considered before is that our students of today are experiencing the fact that their digital footprint is created even before they are born. As soon as a parent post an ultrasound picture with the name and expected due date of their child, then the details of their life are beginning to become public. Many parents are simply proud of their children and want to share every funny moment, frustration, and milestone. If we are sharing these before our children can have a voice, then we are doing them a disservice in prematurely contributing to their digital tattoo unnecessarily. Although I believed that I was a not a person who overshared, when my daughter was about 10, she pointed out that I had a large amount of YouTube videos of our family adventures. The privacy settings were set to public. Some of her school friends discovered the videos and teased her. I very quickly changed the settings to private and asked permission before posting images of either one of my children in online environments.

Another tool that my digitally inclined friends and I used excessively was called Four Square. We posted images of places we visited along with hints and recommendations. The app had a competitive element to it, as the person that posted them most from a location became the mayor. I never realized the safety implications until I came across the name of the app in an article about online safety.  I stopped using the app, and promptly forgot about it. But guess what? The posts are still there, like a tattoo! There is nothing embarrassing or weird posted there, aside from clear patterns of locations we frequented at that time.

Also, I previously had not considered that in addition to the digital footprint that we can control by our social media posts and sharing in online spaces, there are thousands of digital footprints that we do not have control over. Those are the ones built by our digital interactions with various entities in our daily lives. Banking, map locations, purchases online, doctor visits and more. It is endless. Then if we factor in our conversations that can be overheard by digital assistants like Google Home, Alexa and Siri, it can quickly get overwhelming.

My thorn for this week has two layers: the politicized controversy over net neutrality and the lack of emphasis in education placed on digital citizenship. The issue and lack of solid regulations of net neutrality is a thorn for me solely because I feel uncomfortable when in a state of limbo. The fact that the regulations change with each presidential administration is confusing at best. Also, I feel very strongly that equitable access to educational resources should not be controlled by corporations. In a 2014 Forbes article, Josh Steimle suggests that net neutrality could potentially lead the government to install “hardware and software at critical points to monitor Internet traffic.” Well, if that means safety and equity, then I am okay with that. He also points out that this could eventually lead to a “mismanaged public monopoly.” That would not be good at all.

The other layer of my thorn is the lack of emphasis in education placed on digital citizenship. I can completely understand why it has taken a back seat, as it is an issue of time. However, I think the future, safety and mental health of our students will be negatively affected if we do not find ways to incorporate digital citizenship into daily conversations with students. It should be naturally woven into instruction, rather than separate lessons. One way for this occur is if we raise awareness with teachers, so that it becomes a natural part of their conversations with students. Personally, I would like for each on of our teachers explore the resources of Common Sense Education, and earn their Common Sense Educator Badge. As an ambassador, I have been striving to achieve that!

The bud for this week is the culminating project. I have so many ideas swirling in my head as there is so much content to cover. I have determined that I will make a book in Book Creator. It is such a versatile tool that I can creatively incorporate multimedia as well as share a huge variety of resources.

The keys for successfully sharing the concepts of digital footprint and net neutrality as well as the other elements of digital citizenship are to explore the wealth of resources without becoming overwhelmed and to make it part of everyday conversation.

References:

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