Digitally Literate #203


Know the Why
Digitally Lit #203 – 6/29/2019

Hi all, my name is Ian O’Byrne and welcome to issue #203 of Digitally Literate.

In this newsletter I distill the news of the week in technology into an easy-to-read resource. Thank you for reading. Please subscribe if you haven’t already.

This week I was busy helping to facilitate at a weeklong institute on computational thinking and coding at the Infusing Computing initiative. As part of this work, I created a couple of tutorials to help guide users as they test out Slack as a backchannel for discussions.


Know Your Why (3:38)

Great lesson to share with your students! The reason you teach them is to help them find “their why”!

When you know your why, your what becomes more clear and impactful.


Helping kids learn to evaluate what they see online

“Be Internet Awesome”, a new Initiative from Google. Six new media literacy activities designed to help kids analyze and evaluate media as they navigate the internet.

The new media literacy lessons developed for Be Internet Awesome make it easy and fun for kids to learn key skills for evaluating what they see online. These lessons complement the program’s digital safety and citizenship topics, which help kids explore the online world in a safe, confident manner.

The activities were developed in collaboration with experts Anne Collier, executive director of The Net Safety Collaborative, and Faith Rogow, co-author of The Teacher’s Guide to Media Literacy and a co-founder of the National Association for Media Literacy Education.

Screen time is rising, reading is falling, and it’s not young people’s fault

Leisure time activity

Americans spent less time reading and more time watching TV last year than ever before, according to new time use data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This dataset suggests that its not just the kids that are to blame for this move from print to pixel. The majority of changes in time use come from seniors aged 65 and older. Use of the Internet by this group jumped from 14% to 73% over the last 18 years.

So while society frets about teens growing “horns” on their heads from too much phone use, in the end it may be older Americans who are most adversely affected by the changes in technology.

Preliminary evidence that lonely people lose the reflex to mimic other people’s smiles, potentially sustaining their isolation

A new study suggests that a failure to mimic other people’s smiles automatically could be playing a role in loneliness. A failure to mimic a smile might send an antisocial signal to others, the researchers note, undermining social connections, and leading to social disconnect.

I have two takeaways from this.

First, when we move to high tech, we sometimes loose high touch. I’m thinking about the increasing move from physical to digital spaces, and how this impacts our mental health. Does staring at a screen for most of our interactions lead to isolation.

Second, when you see someone (especially a stranger)…smile first.

Can Screens Help Your Child’s Brain? 4 Tips To Get The Most From Kids’ Media

Four ways to harness the advantages of screen time from NPR’s Life Kit:

  • Whenever possible, share screens with your kids.
  • Balancing screen use is about much more than time.
  • Be smart about content.
  • Look for what’s positive about your kids’ screen time so you can help those positive things grow.

What Facebook’s Cryptocurrency Libra Is Really About

Ben Walsh in Barron’s on Facebook’s cryptocoin, Libra. Walsh suggests that the key motivation for the social network is users.

He uses the example of Farmville, the wildly popular game that captured the world’s attention for some time. Games like Farmville and Candy Crush are cheaply made, and require that users stay logged in to Facebook for hours and hours…and make in-game purchases. This gives them command of this purchasing power.

I’d take this a step further, and suggest that this is not just about cornering the market on in-app purchases…and keeping you logged in. First, I think this is a centralized wolf in decentralized clothing. Far worse than that…I think this is all about digital identity.

Coindesk points out that in a section describing the consortium that will govern the Libra coin, the white paper states:

An additional goal of the association is to develop and promote an open identity standard. We believe that decentralized and portable digital identity is a prerequisite to financial inclusion and competition.

I think this all about digital identity. Facebook’s model is all about learning as much about you as possible and selling this information to others. If they connect this identity to a finance model they’ve connected the dots from your identity to your data trail, to your wallet.


Firefox Will Give You a Fake Browsing History to Fool Advertisers

Track THIS, “a new kind of incognito” browsing project between mschf internet studios and Mozilla’s Firefox team, opens up 100 tabs crafted to fit a specific character—a hypebeast, a filthy rich person, a doomsday prepper, or an influencer.

The idea is that your browsing history will be depersonalized and poisoned, so advertisers won’t know how to target ads to you.

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Despair = Suffering – Meaning

Chip Conley

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I had fun playing with this digital globe of Ancient Earth to see where my hometown would have been 750 million years ago.

I also really enjoyed listening to the debut album from Black Pumas. Think of it as a mix between Sam Cooke and the Wu-Tang Clan. 🙂

Digitally Literate is a summary of all the great stuff from the Internet this week in technology, education, & literacy. Say hey with a note at or on the social network of your choice.

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