And There’s ACTA

January 27, 2012

I’ve blogged about SOPA and PIPA, but it doesn’t stop there. Those concerned about Internet Freedom also have to think about ACTA (the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) that has captured increasing attention this week.

Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, has written an article:
The ACTA Fight Returns: What Is at Stake and What You Can Do

with information about the agreement and who to contact if you live in Europe, the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Scientific Freedom

January 22, 2012

Kathryn O’Hara, then president of the Canadian Science Writers’ Association, wrote to Prime Minister Stephen Harper last year to urge the Canadian government to allow scientists to speak freely with the media. Here’s a quote from today’s Globe and Mail:

Ms. O’Hara wrote “Take off the muzzles and eliminate the script writers and allow scientists – they do have PhDs after all – to speak for themselves.”

The government did not change its policy. The standard operating procedure still requires that all media requests for interviews be vetted through public affairs officials in Ottawa. Sometimes, scientists are cleared to speak – often they are not.

Contrast that with the “scientific integrity policy” adopted last month by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the United States.

NOAA’s new guidelines – which make it clear scientists can speak about their work any time, to anyone – flowed from a memo President Barack Obama sent to the heads of executive departments in 2009. In that missive, he affirmed his support for transparency in government and urged directors to foster a culture of scientific integrity.


In Canada, government scientists who want to talk to the media still have to get permission from public-relations officials, who can silence anyone they want.

Here’s the link to the full article:

If they can’t talk to formal media, I wondered if Canadian scientists are using social media to share their findings and a quick search found this site, where they indeed are doing just that!

Here’s their site:

my glass bottle YouTube video

January 21, 2012

I’m still thinking about the value of our ability to share using social media. The little things we like to contribute (and the reasons why we are compelled to do this) made me take a new look at a short (45 second) experimental video I put on YouTube not quite four years ago. Related to the family glass hobby, this video has now had over 72,000 hits (yes, it’s hard to believe).

There’s nothing special about the production of this video — it’s just a bunch of still photos cobbled together with iMovie. I was playing with ideas related to recycled glass and YouTube offered some free, very psychedelic music that inspired me. There’s really not much more about it that I can say. I’ve posted other videos intended to promote a message but this really doesn’t have any of that going for it 🙂

YouTube analytics shows interesting facts about who is looking at this video, but there’s no real pattern that I can discern. The hits come from all over the world, from slightly more females than males, from many search engines and linked pages, etc. The best news is that most people watch it through to the end (well, it *is* short).

The whole thing is sort of mysterious (why do people view this video?) but it seems to sum up why we should care about not allowing overly-protective legislation to shut down what’s great about the internet — anybody’s few moments of whimsical self-expression can be “out there” and that’s something to be cherished.

More SOPA and PIPA

January 19, 2012

Salman Khan on SOPA and PIPA.

The ongoing struggle.

b.t.w. I *like* the Khan Academy and I don’t get it when educators are dismissive of it. I know it’s sort of “talking head” content, but as a resource to go along with a whole range of other ways to teach and learn, allowing students to watch as many times as they want, make comments, etc., I think it’s great.

SOPA and PIPA and random thoughts

January 16, 2012

I probably can’t — and don’t want to — change the world. The very nicest thing I’ve been told in a long time is that I influence others in a quiet way that often becomes apparent to them some time later. “Quiet” doesn’t equal high-profile world changer but it is definitely a mode of being that suits my personality. And I do want to actively participate as much as possible in the good change I see happening all around me so that’s why I’ve spent a career in education. I’m especially interested in the technology/communication advances related to social media.

I want to share
WordPress asks its 60 million users to help stop SOPA and PIPA

because I’m passionate about not losing the important freedom of expression we’ve recently acquired by being able to blog, tweet, share photos, videos, etc. We can use this responsibly without the being shackled by the harshness of proposed legislation. My childhood piano teacher (who I thank for giving me a view of education that was astonishingly progressive for a woman who was 60 years older than me) said “the freedom to swing your arm ends at the other person’s nose”. I get that we shouldn’t use the new communication tools, or any other tools, to hurt others. But let’s not tip in the opposite direction and lose all the potential for great sharing and learning.

Clay Shirky, as always, describes it very well:

And, keeping with the “what-impact-do-I-really-have” motif, here are three separate comments from the instructor evaluation in the most recent course I taught:

– She has a talent to pull student’s out of their comfort zone and to “think outside the box”. This was not a negative attribute in a Master’s level instructor and facilitator.

– I like the approach of letting us figure out things ourselves. My sense from the group is the majority don’t like that approach. The social constructivist approach to learning works for me.

– I wouldn’t let her train my Cocker Spaniel.

I guess I have the ability to make some of my students think and make others get angry. Of course I think the first student completely understood what I was trying to do and the second one I appreciate for being honest enough to let me know that he or she saw others in the group who did NOT want the opportunity to learn by doing. To that ‘Cocker Spaniel’ commenter, I just have to say that grad students shouldn’t require ‘training’. If I’m there it’s for another purpose altogether. My belief system is strongly oriented towards encouraging people to learn how to learn. That’s not generally what you do with dogs and it’s why grad school is not obedience school. I have never wanted to spoon-feed educational content to anyone.

Mynna, born, I believe, in 1895, would be close to 117 years old. She lived into her 90s.

Mynna, born, I believe, in 1895, would be close to 117 years old. She lived into her 90s.

Back to my childhood piano teacher…. she told me that the word education came from the Latin “educa” which she translated as “to draw out”. Nothing about cramming in facts! Thank you Mynna! You were a quiet influence that is still apparent to me all these years later.