For The Public Good

Welcome back all! This is Digitally Literate, issue #308.

This week I post the following:

  • From Crackpipes to Criteria to Critical Pedagogy – As I continue to unpack my experiences with ungrading, I’m sharing many of the comments, questions, and feedback I’ve recieved from the field.
  • The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin – Some great sci-fi that is situated in China’s Cultural Revolution. Asks whether science is truly objective and provable, or is it simply the best we can do given our limited understanding of four dimensions.

As I sit down to write this week’s issue, I’m learning about the sudden passing of two giants in the fields of digital literacy. Drs. Michele Knobel and David O’Brien. Much of Michele’s work was written with Colin Lankshear. These two not only framed most of my thinking about digital and new literacies, but they also published most of this content openly along the way while blogging about their work. They are one of the key reasons why I work the way that I do. Dave also inspired most of my work as he investigated digital and new literacy practices, especially as they connect to content area instruction. He informally mentored me throughout my career and framed most of my thinking and the words I use to express what I see.

If you haven’t already, please subscribe if you would like this newsletter to show up in your inbox. Reach out and say hello at hello@digitallyliterate.net.

How synthetic media, or deepfakes, could soon change our world

Synthetic media, better known as deepfakes, could be a goldmine for filmmakers. But the technology has already terrorized women who have had their faces inserted into pornography. And it could potentially disrupt society.

Several years ago, I first started writing about deepfakes here in this newsletter. I wasn’t sure if I should even write about this technology as it has its roots in pornography and revenge porn. I’m glad that I’ve been following this topic.

This Is The Hard Part Of Teaching. It’s Getting Harder.

Peter Greene writing about one of the key challenges involved in teaching. It is never enough.

There is never enough time. There are never enough resources. There is never enough you.

We ask teachers to do more with increasingly less. As the pandemic reverberates across society, we’ve asked teachers to put their lives on the line to serve us and our children. When they ask for safety in the form of virtual learning, vaccinations, testing, or masking policies, we mock and threaten them. We peer into their classrooms and demand to know what they’re teaching and think that we could do it better.

The teacher appreciation t-shirts, coffee shop gift cards, and exhortations of self-care do nothing.

Pay teachers. Treat them with respect. Treat teachers as a valuable natural resource.


Facebook’s Effort to Attract Preteens Goes Beyond Instagram Kids, Documents Show

I’m continuing to unpack the Facebook Files, A Wall Street Journal investigation. Internal Facebook documents reviewed show Facebook formed a team to study preteens, set a three-year goal to create more products for them, and commissioned strategy papers about the long-term business opportunities presented by these potential users. In one presentation, it contemplated whether there might be a way to engage children during playdates.

Facebook isn’t the only technology company to court children and face scrutiny for doing so. Virtually every major social media platform, including Snapchat, TikTok, and YouTube, has confronted legal or regulatory problems related to how children use its products. Federal privacy law forbids data collection on children under 13, and lawmakers have criticized tech companies for not doing more to protect kids online from predators and harmful content.

“With the ubiquity of tablets and phones, kids are getting on the internet as young as six years old. We can’t ignore this and we have a responsibility to figure it out,” said a 2018 document labeled confidential. “Imagine a Facebook experience designed for youth.”


Without child care, work and family are impossible

Shauna Shames writes that there is no such thing as the so-called work/family conflict. This is not only a personal observation. Scholars have found that good jobs – full-time, with benefits – and family, without help, are simply incompatible.

Will the U.S. take something positive from this crisis by learning an enduring lesson about the power of child care? Americans tend to think of having children as an expensive, private choice. The alternative is to think of it as a public good. There are many potential options when child care is made a priority in a society.


Education Activist Dirk Tillotson Was as Real as They Come

Last week, Oakland education activist Dirk Tillotson was murdered in his home. In this piece Courtney Martin indicates that Tillotson described himself as the “patron saint of lost causes.”

Some great quotes from this piece:

“You gotta dig in where you can,” he says. “Don’t overthink it. Especially if it’s what the teachers want. Just don’t be an asshole.”

“Make sure the teachers know you’re not blaming anyone,” he goes on. “You’re there to help them get more support, more books, more partners.” 

“The system is the villain. It’s built to serve some kids and leave other kids behind. It’s life or death, not to sound too dramatic, but it is. That’s what we should be talking about.”

You can read more about Dirk’s work on his blog, Great School Voices, and donate to a Go Fund Me to support his family here.


How a video game chore became a storytelling technique for TV and movies

Sometimes the most memorable part of a video game, movie, or show isn’t the main story, it’s the weird tangent a character takes in the middle of their journey.

Sidequests might seem like an unnecessary addition to shows and movies, they’ve long been an intrinsic but loathed part of role-playing games. Sidequests have become an essential part of storytelling, whether it’s in games or films. And much like other popular RPG concepts, sidequests date back to the heyday of tabletop games.

8 Traits of the Entrepreneurial Mindset

Michael Hyatt on the not-so-linear path necessary to build perseverance and determination.

Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren literally wrote the book on reading. They identify four levels of reading:

  • Openness. See problems others don’t and fixate on challenges others dismiss.
  • Ownership. Don’t wait around for somebody else to solve the problems they observe. Find solutions and take the initiative.
  • Grayscale Thinking. See and make indirect connections, often from an adjacent field, and then take the risk of giving it a try.
  • Risk Tolerance. Push against the norm. Turning their vision to reality requires taking numerous risks. Failure might be inherent within risk, but it’s also a requirement for success.
  • Resilience. Bounce back after failure comes, especially when hitting roadblocks, naysayers, or a no when a yes is desperately needed.
  • Resourcefulness. Find clever and unusual ways to overcome difficulties or make the most of opportunities.
  • Patience. Stick with a problem long enough to solve it.
  • Belief. Believe in yourself, not just your work and solutions.

Time moves in one direction, memory in another.

William Gibson

Thanks again all. I’m off to figure out how to bake these blueberry cookies.

Let me know if I got anything wrong at hello@digitallyliterate.net or on the social network of your choice.

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