Tag: pandemic

Digital Robber Barons


This week I published the following:

  • Create a Personal Webpage Using GitHub Pages & Jekyll – This week we had the last year of our professional development focused on infusing computational thinking into middle and high school classrooms. I taught a breakout session focused on building simple webpages using GitHub Pages.
  • What will digital life be like in 2035? – My insights about the evolution of digital spaces and whether or not there will be improvements in the coming years when it comes to the overall good of society.

My post above was a response to a survey request from the Pew Research Center and Elon University. As a regular reader of this newsletter…you’re more than qualified to respond. Here’s your chance.

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.


Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger – Daft Punk

I don’t know how the YouTube algorithm took this long to bring me the Scary Pockets YouTube Channel…but I am thankful.

I watched almost all of the videos on the channel with the family this week.


Private Israeli spyware used to hack cellphones of journalists, activists worldwide

Human rights activists, journalists, and lawyers across the world have been targeted by authoritarian governments using hacking software sold by the Israeli surveillance company NSO Group.

Pegasus is malware that infects iPhones and Android devices to enable operators of the tool to extract messages, photos and emails, record calls, and secretly activate microphones.

The leak contains a list of more than 50,000 phone numbers that, it is believed, have been identified as those of people of interest by clients of NSO since 2016.

The Pegasus Project reports that journalists, activists, and heads of state could have been infiltrated.


This tool tells you if NSO’s Pegasus spyware targeted your phone.

The Absurd Proposal to Put Bodycams on Teachers Is … Feasible?

The idea to monitor educators so they don’t teach critical race theory seems ridiculous. But schools are already rife with invasive surveillance.

As outlandish as the body camera proposal is, we’ve already spent years shifting the Overton Window of acceptability in favor of more invasive surveillance in schools.

The proposal is insulting, exhausting, and un-American, but it is not impossible. One Texas school district’s facial recognition system is capable of capturing a single student’s image more than 1000 times a week.

How Tech Won the Pandemic and Now May Never Lose

As the world reeled, tech titans supplied the tools that made life and work possible. Now the companies are awash in money — and questions about what it means to win amid so much loss.

How to manage feedback on your open project

When you post content openly online and ask for feedback…you just may get it.

The brilliant Laura Hilliger and her team are working on a definition for open leadership.

The team is using a Google Doc to keep track of comments and identify how they’ve addressed changes. I value how the team has developed and documented their process openly.

The Neuroscience of Taking Turns in a Conversation

Research in birds suggests that when one partner speaks, the other partner’s brain is inhibited from talking over them.

Findings also suggest that when individuals are interacting in a shared behavior they act as a single entity. This concept is important for any group of organisms cooperating to produce a shared behavior that is more than the sum of its parts; for example, people dancing the tango, or several people playing in band. To coordinate behavior, the brains of all participants must link together to become a single unit.


Building YouTube Shorts, a new way to watch & create on YouTube

YouTube released their version of TikTok this week.

Shorts is a new short-form video experience for creators and artists who want to shoot short, catchy videos using nothing but their mobile phones.



Think outside the box, collapse the box, and take a fucking sharp knife to it.


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Before getting off of the bus, this little girl told the bus driver that “Shake It Off” was her favorite song, so he stopped everything he was doing, turned the radio up, and preceded to absolutely jam out with her.

Come BS with me at hello@digitallyliterate.net or on the social network of your choice.

On What We’ve Lost


Welcome back, friends and family.

In 2020 I was selected as one of the winners of the Divergent Award from the Initiative for 21st Century Literacies Research. Because we could not meet together for an awards ceremony and series of keynotes, the honorees submitted a video. Here are my responses.

This video was edited together into a literacy doczoomentary reflecting on the past twenty years of 21st-century literacies and where we go from here. Enjoy.

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


Explaining the Pandemic to my Past Self – 1 Year Later

It’s been exactly one whole year of forest fires, murder hornets, pandemics, isolations, protests, quarantines, elections, vaccines, and riots and yet here we find ourselves, back at the beginning…

This series of videos from Julie Nolke is funny…and terrifying at the same time.

Enjoy Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.


Guns don’t kill people…good guys and the legitimization of gun violence

It’s Time To Retire The ‘Guns Don’t Kill People — People Kill People’ Argument. Actually, guns DO Kill People.

The research linked above utilizes an online concealed carry forum to critically analyze how firearm proliferation is rationalized in the U.S.

The analysis focuses on three specific examples of violence—the Parkland, Florida, and Philando Castile shootings, and stories of children who find guns and shoot themselves and/or others to critically examine the discourse used to rationalize the proliferation of guns as a response to gun violence in the U.S.

The “guns don’t kill people” argument is flawed because it sidesteps the debate. The issue is not whether guns can spontaneously kill people on their own. The issue involves how incredibly easy a modern weapon makes killing.

Police Violence And Reform: The Inequality In Restorative Justice Opportunities

From George Floyd to Adam Toledo to Daunte Wright to countless other killings, the world is asking questions about racial injustice and excessive use of force by police. A patchwork approach to police reform has left the nation at a critical crossroad with no clear path forward.

One possible path might be available in restorative justice. In educational contexts, this is based on three pillars:

  • Empathy for all and by all
  • A mumbled “sorry” is not enough
  • Everyone is involved in the healing

NPR’s Michel Martin speaks with attorney sujatha baliga about whether restorative justice principles are useful after a shooting incident or killing involving a police officer.

How to Help Your Adolescent Think About the Last Year

For many of us in education, we’re turning the page to the summer…and the fall. As the number of vaccinated adults rises, we begin to imagine a post-COVID world.

In previous posts and interviews, I’ve discussed the need to learn lessons from this global pandemic.

Online schools are here to stay, even after the pandemic. Some families have come to prefer stand-alone virtual schools and districts are rushing to accommodate them — though questions about remote learning persist.

Judith Warner suggests that we should not refer to this as a “lost year.” Also, screen time with friends? It’s good for mental health.

Pew Report on Social Media Use in 2021

A new report from the Pew Research Center suggests that despite a string of controversies and the public’s relatively negative sentiments about aspects of social media, roughly seven-in-ten Americans say they use any kind of social media site. This is a share that has remained relatively stable over the past five years.

A majority of Americans say they use YouTube and Facebook, while the use of Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok is especially common among adults under 30.

Google Earth is now a 3D time machine

Google has pushed out what it says is Google Earth’s “biggest update since 2017” with a new 3D time-lapse feature.

Entering the new “Timelapse” mode of Google Earth will let you fly around the virtual globe with a time slider, showing you satellite imagery from the past 37 years.

Using the 3D Google Earth globe, you can watch cities being built, forests being cut down, and glaciers receding.


What to say when someone is gaslighting you

The term “gaslighting”— as in, the psychological manipulation, not the 19th-century profession—has been thrown around a lot over the past decade or so.

Here’s how to deal with gaslighting and stand firm in your truth:

  • Know how to recognize when gaslighting is happening
  • Stand firm in your truth
  • Write things down
  • Keep the conversation simple
  • Be willing to leave the conversation
  • Don’t worry about trying to outsmart the gaslighter
  • Increase your support system and share your truth



Treat my first like my last, and my last like my first.


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If spiders and spiderwebs fascinate you, then you may be interested to know researchers have turned spiderwebs into music. It’s a virtual look into the world of spiders and the vibrations they sense.

Look/listen here. Perhaps VR (virtual reality) is more your speed.

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

Collective Sensemaking

Collective Sensemaking
Digitally Lit #252 – 6/27/2020

Hi all, welcome to issue #251 of Digitally Literate. Each week in this newsletter, I synthesize the news of the week in education, technology, & literacy. If you haven’t already, please subscribe if you would like this newsletter to show up in your inbox. Feel free to reach out and let me know what you think of this work at hello@digitallyliterate.net.

I was involved in the following content this week:


Abolitionist Teaching and the Future of Our Schools

A conversation with Bettina Love, Gholdy Muhammad, Dena Simmons and Brian Jones about abolitionist teaching and antiracist education.

What would freedom look like in our schools?

How can abolitionist educators make the most of this moment to fight for humane, liberatory, anti-racist schooling for black youth and for all youth?

The coronavirus pandemic has transformed the US education system overnight. The antiracist rebellion in the streets has shown a light on the deep racial inequality in America.


Misinformation, Crisis, and Public Health—Reviewing the Literature

The Covid-19 pandemic comes at a time when we were already grappling with information overload and pervasive misinformation. This review of the literature by Kate Starbird, Emma S. Spiro, and Kolina Koltai explores the tactics and intentions of those spreading these streams.

In a crisis, humans communicate in a process called collective sensemaking in order to understand uncertain and dynamic circumstances. Collective sensemaking is a vital process, but we can make mistakes—or the process can be manipulated and exploited.

New research explores how conservative media misinformation may have intensified the severity of the pandemic

As the global pandemic begins to accelerate in the U.S., especially in my area, simple steps like wearing masks while in public tends to be a political statement. What initially seemed to be an anecdotal observation, now seems to be backed up by some research.

Numerous studies paint a picture of a media ecosystem that entertains conspiracy theories and discourages audiences from taking steps to protect themselves and others.

I recommend reading more on this topic:

Simulating COVID Spread in College Setting

A new working paper from professors at Swarthmore College and the University of Pennsylvania models the spread of COVID-19 in a large university setting to examine what mitigation efforts are most effective against the spread of the disease.

The working paper builds off work from Kim Weeden and Benjamin Cornwell, sociology professors at Cornell University, who modeled student interconnectedness from course enrollment patterns.

TikTok teens and K-pop stans don’t belong to the “resistance”

Not long after I shared out last week’s newsletter, a lot of news was made about TikTok Teens, and K-Pop Stans interfering with Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

I’ve been suggesting for years that adults don’t really understand how to use these digital, social spaces…and we need to spend more time studying and amplifying the practices employed by youth. This usually is met by harsh criticism from colleagues indicating that adults should guide youth and show them the way.

Not soon after the initial news stories, we see the media hop in to push back against glorification of these online forces. Stories about TikTok Teens and Pizzagate suggest that Gen Z will not save us, and that the kids are not all right.

I don’t agree.

The 7 elements of a good online course

The seven elements of a good online course by George Veletsianos

  • A good online course is informed by issues of equity and justice
  • A good online course is interactive
  • A good online course is engaging and challenging
  • A good online course involves practice…doing…and doing again
  • A good online course is effective
  • A good online course includes an instructor who is visible and active, and who exhibits care, empathy and trust for students
  • A good online course promotes student agency


Not everything has to be digital: my analogue daily and weekly planners

Doug Belshaw provides his templates for use in daily and weekly planning.

This is part of Belshaw’s #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at 100daystooffload.com



You are what you read. You are what you write.

Ian O’Byrne 🙂

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Digitally Literate is a weekly review of the news, notes, tips, and tricks from the week that resonated with me.

Black metal jazz made by people in weird masks is what the world needs right now.

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