Real names

Google will no longer require that you use your real name on Google+. A comment from the company indicates that the change was in response to user requests.

How a blog, web page, or social account should be attributed is likely one of those issues for which there is no perfect answer. Those of us in education may see the issue as it relates to the use of social media by students.

However, it is useful to recognize that privacy protects both the good and the devious. What is that expression about a dog on the Internet? While I understand the privacy argument, I also would like to know when I should not assume I know who someone actually is. Perhaps the Google policy should allow pseudonyms, but require that such “names” be identified as such. We have the hashtag for a purpose. How about ~grabe?


I still make use of rss and an rss reader. My workflow for reviewing new online resources is to search my feed using Feedly and send the URLs I want to store or work with more extensively to Evernote. I use the personalized Evernote email option to save content.

Feedly has announced a pro version that has some interesting additions. One stores the entire content of a page to Evernote. My issue with the pro version is that the cost difference between the free and the paid version seems overly large to me. I do pay for a pro version of Evernote and would do the same for Feedly at a more reasonable price.

Newsify is a  new RSS reader that taps into the Feedly feed, but presently saves the entire page to Evernote at no cost (the app is free). I assume Newsify will eventually figure out how to make money and charging for some services may be part of the transition, but a present the service is probably trying to build market share and offers some advantages.


Tablets and Reading

I encountered two posts today that concern “deep” reading and tablets – one negative (Chronicle of Higher Education) and one positive (te@chthought). Just for the record, both articles are observational/opinion pieces and the Chronicle article seemed primarily focused on long form (books) reading in the humanities.

Both papers make some sense – e.g., we are distracted when we can use the same device for reading and for other things, we can follow links to explore a basic idea in greater detail. There are some oversights - not all tablets (basic Kindle reader) are designed to encourage multitasking, cost is an issue educators/students do care about, online reading can result in fairly detailed annotation and highlighting, etc.

I must admit that I seldom purchase a book (since this is the focus of the negative position) in hard copy anymore. However, I purchase many more books than was the case say 15 years ago. I quit reading scientific journals in the paper format because reading online was far more efficient, allowed me access to many more journals than I could own or my library carried in paper form, and allowed more sophisticated note taking and highlighting because of search and storage capabilities.

I am pretty much convinced that ebooks are the format of the future. Technology tools associated with reading (broadly defined) will continue to improve (paper books would seem to have little upside). We may have behavioral flaws that have permeated our reading activities, but the distractions are there unless we seclude ourselves in a setting without access to devices or the Internet. I would hate to think that isolation is the only role for the libraries of the future.


I have discovered disco. My discovery has nothing to with mirrored balls, Donna Summer or the Bee Gees. Disco is a disc copy utility for the Mac that is still available, but not longer under development. The developers are now offering downloads with a password at no cost.

The problem

I am working on the revision of a Kindle book. My plan was to create a more current version of the existing book using Pages. It turned out that Pages 10 can not be used for this purpose because it has been “simplified” and features I need are no longer available. I need iWork 9. You cannot obtain version 9 from the online store, but Cindy had 9 on a DVD. The problem was getting the install to work on my Mac Pro – no DVD drive.


Disco allows you to create a disc image. So, the solution to the driveless Mac problem was to create a disk image. Load the image on a flash drive and install from the flash drive. The install worked great.

So, if you have been frustrated installing software from DVDs you used on older machines on a Mac Air or Powerbook, try this technique.

Evaluating Kahn

The government is spending nearly 3 million to evaluate the “efficacy” of Kahn Academy math tutorials. The research will be conducted by WestED and will follow the randomized-control methods proposed as the best way to eliminate the confounds present in  so much applied research. Careful research methods require this level of funding.

This evaluate effort seemed familiar and a search of my blog confirmed a similar evaluation of math software that was part of the original NCLB initiative.

Facebook Research and Human Research Ethics

Facebook has again attracted attention for deceptive practices. In this case, Facebook conducted a research study to determine whether the emotional content of the newsfeed influenced the behavior of Facebook users. The content was purposefully manipulated (an experiment) rather than naturally occurring (a correlational study).

There seem two parts to this story. First, there is the behavior of Facebook. Second, there is the behavior of university faculty members who helped design the study and then reported the results without clearing the study with the University Human Subjects Review Committee.

I am in a better position to comment on university research expectations than business practices. This was essentially a social psychology experiment. Social psychologists frequently manipulate subject mood using methods involving deception. If you inform research subjects that they are involved in a study that will involve manipulation of their mood, the outcome of the research is suspect. Deception can be employed. HOWEVER, a review committee evaluates the methodology to consider the potential impact of the manipulation and the potential benefit of the research, participants know they are participating in a research study, and after completing the study students are debriefed to help them understand the nature of the research and to suggest possible assistance participants might seek should they have negative consequences as a result of the research. While deception can be involved, participants are informed they can withdraw from research without malice. Deception during an experiment should not continue once the participants has completed the study.

Psychologists are familiarized with ethical research practices. Even students in introductory psychology courses, perhaps because they frequently serve as research participants, would be introduced to the guidelines I have described here. In my opinion, the researchers have violated ethical guidelines.

I follow this analysis with several references offering different opinions. I do not buy the argument that researchers were operating independently of their institutions and hence not bound by Human Subjects requirements. The academics list their university affiliation in the publication that results from the study.

 danah boyd analysis


“Because the research was conducted independently by Facebook and Professor Hancock had access only to results— and not to any data at any time—Cornell University’s Institutional Review Board concluded that he was not directly engaged in human research and that no review by the Cornell Human Research Protection Program was required,” the statement said.


Educational mifi

Kajeet offers online educational access. One of their products is a specialized mifi (mobile hotspot) that routes requests through a filtering service. In addition, an agreement with Sprint includes a reasonably priced data plan. The device seems a great product when paired with devices sent home with low income children.

I asked the vender whether their mifi qualified under e-rate. He said no, but that many schools use Title I money for purchases. The problem I see with many 1:1 initiatives is that low income students may lack high speed access when at home. Devices of this type may offer an option so that all students can continue their learning from any location.