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Digital Dirt: Managing Your Online Identity

This was a comprehensive analysis of what personal information people may or may not know is available to Internet users. The author's advice is for us all to actively look for information that has been posted online about us, and to either remove it or at least have control over who sees it. She suggests a Google search for starters:

1.Put your name in quotes on Google, Bing, and Yahoo search engines, and see what shows up. If you have a particularly common name, try adding your location, as in "James Smith Cleveland OH." If you operate a business or service that is under a different name, do a search for that as well.
2. Take note of what you've uncovered, and categorize it as: Good (leave it alone); Neutral (ignore it/not worth worrying about); or Bad (action needed). Bottom line: Does your current online image reflect you at your best and convey the message you would want potential employers, customers, or clients to see?

There are several more tips on how to search for your "digital dirt", and they are good tips. As are the tips on how to "Banish, Bury or Build" on the information you do find. The article is too long to quote in it's entirety here, but the author has done her homework!

If you have any concerns about what information is available online about you, I strongly suggest reading this article. The author begins the article with a quote by Kurt Vonnegut that is quite appropriate: "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be." -Kurt Vonnegut

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The Online Identity Crisis

“The Online Identity Crisis” is an article that was posted on Wired and written by Dave Vronay, who is the founder and CEO of Heard, a social content sharing platform. It’s a very provocative piece, and makes a number of strong statements, including:

“...It is not about being anonymous or even pretending to be someone else. It is about controlling which subsets of true facets of a person are relevant in different social contexts. This is fundamentally not deceptive but actually enables one to be authentic.”

He then looks at social networks where this control over what a person will reveal about themselves is either being hindered or designed to not be available. His biggest concern is with companies like Google, who have made such a great effort to encourage users to create one password, and have their entire online experiences occur under the umbrella of the Google platform. To quote from the article:

“The Googles and Facebooks of the world want to aggregate all of these personas into a single identity. They want to do this, not because they think this is good for users or because this is how they think society works, but rather because it helps them monetize user interactions. However, this type of aggregation is a very bad deal for users.”

“These services are making an extremely strong push to get users to sign in everywhere on the Internet with a single ID. This is initially great for those who do not want to remember many passwords. But when this is done, Google is able to aggregate an identity into their system, and all activity on that new site is mixed with everything else the user has told them before. Most people are not really aware that this is undermining the trust relationships that they have with those new sites.”

Summary: Mr. Vronay makes a strong case for not succumbing to the promised ease of only using one company to handle all our online needs. He reminds us that whatever information we share with Google and Facebook is collected, that the advertisers and other online “players” that make deals with Google and Facebook will also have access to this information. The result is that the implicit trust we users have toward the sites we give our information to is lost, because of this large cataloguing of our online data for profit driven goals.

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The Online Identity Project

The Online Identity Project calls itself a “not-for-profit initiative” and states it was “born out of curiosity about what makes our online environments so diverse and vibrant, and perhaps as an antidote to suggestions about the negative implications of technology on our society.”

They are looking for people to participate in their project, too. A person would hopefully be willing to be interviewed, using a text chat resource of their choice, or answer questions that would be emailed to them. But the interview section isn’t mandatory. They are most interested in people sharing their online personas, expressing themselves through paintings, photographs, text, or whatever medium they choose to explore. An online form is available on the site where you can simply write about your online experiences, or you can become more involved by creating imagery for the site.

Questions from their “About Us” page help to define what they are looking for:

Who are you online? Do you go by a different name? How do you express yourself? Do you travel in different circles, engage with an online community which is different from your offline life? How do you look online? Do you look like your physical self, or are you a fictional character? Does your online self have a particular dress style? Do you identify as a specific race, gender or sexual orientation when you are online? Do you endorse certain brands or engage in particular activities which illustrate your identity?

Summary: A visual collage is the site’s goal. They want people to express their online lives and share these experiences with others. Showcasing how diverse and creative these efforts can be, the “Online Identity Project” promises to be an interesting collection of ongoing human thought and experimentation in the technology age.

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Twitter. It's What's Happening!

I am now following 8 new Twitter accounts. All of the new connections are with people involved in Instructional Design, or are with blogs created by groups of people who are involved with ID. I have had a Twitter account for years. I did my best to ignore it too, because I associated it with celebrity gossip following, or with seeing tweets by people who were on the complete opposite side of my cultural, political, or philosophical opinions. That has now changed. I am very impressed by the variety of posts that are available for my field of study. Also, there are plenty of posts for jobs through this Twitter network. The jobs may be for a company in the south of England, but it's a job that someone will want. It is nice to see an area of the Internet where this type of information is collecting, and surprisingly, Twitter has become this type of hub for professional networking.

In addition to my selection of people to follow, there is also the opportunity to sign on to live chat sessions. There is one called #lrnchat that meets twice every Thursday, once in the AM and once in the evening. Their goal is to network with others who work in the educational field. As stated on their blog site: "Participants are people interested in the topic of learning from one another and who want to discuss how to help other people learn in formal, informal, social and mobile ways. " They also transcribe the chats and link to them on the blog, for people who may not be able to join in the online chat.

If you are curious, this is the link to their blog:

And one of the instructional design sites I joined:

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For the creation of my Mind Map, I turned to a free tool called XMind. There is a Plus version, with more export and save functions, that costs $79.00 and a Pro version that is on sale for $99.00, but for my simple mind map needs, the free version worked perfectly!

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Title: Tips for Kids and Parents About Internet Safety

Description: I just noticed that Neil reviewed the same online article, so I will just mention that Education World did a great job of listing some of the threats teens and children face when they go online. The article gave alarming statistics to emphasize how serious the problem is. Youngsters need to be given clear direction and rules that safeguard their identity online. The article also listed the steps that should be taken if inappropriate contact is made with a young person, which included a tips hotline phone number and the name of an FBI agent who specializes in online safety and protection.

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For my final project, I will be researching new technology by examining the smart robots named Bit and Evo. Ozobot is a company that has created these small robots, which are used to teach STEAM courseware to students. Evo is described as the "social robot," since it has the ability to connect to the Internet via Bluetooth. Bit is called the "educational robot" because it teaches students computer programming. The use of these two robots in tandem creates an educational experience that I will be exploring.

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Title: PBS Kids Go! Webonauts Internet Academy

Description: PBS Kids has created a very informative, interactive Internet safety site for students, educators and parents with the online game, Webonauts Internet Academy. The Academy “addresses issues of web safety‚ information literacy and digital citizenship” by introducing students to these concepts through key missions (lessons) they must undertake. The game’s motto of: Observe, Respect, Contribute is introduced early on and these themes are used throughout the game’s space age training sessions. PBS Kids has organized the site to include a section for Parents and a section for Educators that offers tips, suggestions and explanations to enhance the learning experience.

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The topic of my final project will be the development of an online course through the learning management system our county uses; Canvas. I am teaching Principles of Business and Finance in the Spring and the state released a brand new curriculum this year for implementation. This project will allow me to delve deeper into Canvas and Google apps to create an online environment for my students that is intuitive, relevant, and engaging. I think this a great opportunity since I am able to utilize this course to create content that I will use next month.
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