Tag: motivation

Digitally Literate #212


Built for Plan B
Digitally Lit #212 – 8/31/2019

Hi all, my name is Ian O’Byrne and welcome to issue #212 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 shared the following:


There is always a Plan B (4:55)

One of the greatest sources of anxiety and despair is the feeling that there can only be one answer to major problems we face: one ideal job, one ideal lover, one ideal way of life. But we should consider the extent to which there is always, just below the surface, a Plan B available.

Flexing our mental Plan B muscle hugely expands our sense of safety and spontaneity.


Gamergate comes to the classroom

This post made it around the Internet last week to a great deal of debate. The byline to the article is “Students used to be blank slates – but now they arrive with agendas.” Judging by some of the criticism of this article…I think some people read just that title…and didn’t carry on to the article itself.

The article shares the challenges of teaching students when they might come to class looking to start a confrontation and harass others.

Now educators face new challenges: teaching responsibly, while also safeguarding themselves from the very kids they hope to help. “You develop this self-preservation intuition,” Ruberg tells The Verge. “You have to know what’s happening so that you know how to protect yourself.” As misinformation and hate continues to radicalize young people online, teachers are also grappling with helping their students unlearn incorrect, dangerous information. “It has made a lot of us teachers more cautious,” they say. “We want to challenge our students to explore new ways of thinking, to see the cultural meaning and power of video games, but we’re understandably anxious and even scared about the possible results.”

I do not believe that students come into my classes as blank slates. Much to the contrary, I think they come in with a wide variety of experience, opinions, and perspectives. My job is to teach my content and the facts associated with it. My hope is to provide a safe space where all students can share their “slates” and learn from one another. I also regularly am inspired and learn from them.

My Life As a Cautionary Tale – Probing the limits of academic freedom

This post shares the events that led Steven Salaita from a tenured position in a higher ed institution to driving a school bus to make a living.

In a somewhat related story, Rachel McKinnon, a professor from the College of Charleston, faced a wave of backlash for a series of tweets posted last week.

I probed these questions in a publication in Hybrid Pedagogy which examined the challenges of serving as a public scholar in digital spaces.

How much freedom of speech should educators have in public spaces?

YouTube, Which Remains Exhaustingly Inconsistent, Reinstates Several Banned Far-Right Channels

YouTube seems unwilling, or unable to moderate some of the troubling content on their network.

YouTube started last week by quietly indicating that they would remove violent or mature videos that were targeted to kids. Three days later, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki explained why the service leaves up controversial or even offensive videos. Not long after Wojcicki’s comments, banned several far-right channels.

Once again, we have questions about the limits of freedom of speech, and the rules that govern them.

Designing Communities for Kindness

This post was shared by Adam Procter last week after I relayed information about the GamerGate post I shared above.

The post shares how Kitfox Games designs spaces outside of their games to interact with each other, and perhaps the development team.

Their community development philosophy focuses on the following elements:

  • Rules – social structure to influence & shape behavior
  • Mutual understanding & expectations – boundaries between everything/everyone
  • Norms – Creating acceptable ways of communication
  • Sincerity & trust – Facilitating cooperation through trust
  • Home – Coziness to enable low pressure, interpersonal connections

These elements have merit as you consider your own interactions with others (online/offline). They also help guide the development of social spaces where you exist.

I’m excited to check out the upcoming Steam game by Kitfox, Kind Words (lo fi chill beats to write to).

Audiobooks or Reading? To our brains, it doesn’t matter

In research published in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers from the Gallant Lab at UC Berkeley scanned the brains of nine participants while they read and listened to a series of tales from “The Moth Radio Hour.” After analyzing how each word was processed in the the brain’s cortex, they created maps of the participants’ brains, noting the different areas helped interpret the meaning of each word.

This new evidence suggests that, to our brains, reading and hearing a story might not be so different.


You’re not lazy, bored, or unmotivated. Just Do It!

You’re connected to the Internet. You have an unlimited supply of information, and cool stuff to consume online. This is of course topped off by this newsletter. 🙂

We may think that we’re bored, lazy, failures at life…but perhaps the problem is that we’re not focused. With this glut of information, we are incapable of sitting in silence, and focusing.

Perhaps if we tinkered a bit with our perceptions, and learned to sit in silence. Perhaps we can take guidance in the “Just Do It” advertising strategy and get things done.

Niklas Göke, the author of this piece, shares the need to have a theme for each year…instead of a goal. His theme for the year is “focus”. Let’s follow along.

Thanks to Doug Belshaw for sharing this post earlier this week.

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All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.

Blaise Pascal

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The new Tool album came out this week…and I’m loving it. I’ve been a huge Tool fan for years and saw them multiple times while in college.

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 hello@digitallyliterate.net or on the social network of your choice.

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 hello@digitallyliterate.net or on the social network of your choice.

Motivational quotes are ruining your life

Motivational quotes are ruining your life – Paul Jarvis (pjrvs.com)

You know what inspires me? Actually doing the fucking work.
Real work or real artistry doesn’t happen by reading quotes on social media. It happens when you actually do the work (which requires social media to be turned off).


The point of inspiration isn’t to be inspired. It’s that sometimes we need a spark, a catalyst to propel us into action. If social media quotes on Twitter aren’t moving you towards action and instead just move you towards looking at more quotes, then maybe it’s time to make a change.