Apr 07

Learner Privacy

Heidi Siwak has what strikes me as a very important post on student privacy, that really extends to participants of any kind in all kinds of online learning situations. She’s shared the slides from a presentation she did for the Association for Media Literacy that raises some important issues, and makes some important arguments. I highly recommend her post and presentation, linked above with a direct link to Information and Privacy Commissioner/Ontario’s Operationalizing Privacy by Design: A Guide to Implementing Strong Privacy Practices.

A lot of research is still required here, but it will become easier when those in the know have compiled some practical lists of things we may want to do, and best practices for addressing learning participants’ privacy. I have this contribution to the list.

Quite recently I was responsible for posting a set of learning videos that are streaming from YouTube onto my own organization’s Web site as “embedded iframes.” I instinctively chose the high-privacy URL pattern from the choices. Heidi’s post vindicates my gut feeling, which falls under Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner/Ontario’s Foundational Principle #2, Privacy as the Default Setting. This should be considered a “best practice” for educators.

The pattern is (irrelevant pieces faded)…
Two parts of that are for the end-user’s protection: https sends information in an encrypted format, and youtube-nocookie.com is a domain YouTube—to their credit—has set up for privacy by not using cookies to read and write to your hard drive, exposing information about your surfing habits.

A third part worth noting is the ?rel=0 at the end. That protects my organization and the end-user from random “Related Videos” after the video, that may or may not be appropriate. If your YouTube link for any reason already has a ?anything=anything you should leave that intact and add &rel=0 to the end, e.g., ?x=y&rel=0.

The other part of the URL is the video ID. If you follow that link it takes you to the first video in a series of 5, on YouTube. We “embedded” them on our own site because there’s much more to it than that, so if you’re interested in that content, the entire series (Working Together: The Ontario Human Rights Code and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) is here.

Please feel free to comment, and leave any tips you may have for preserving Privacy By Default.



Further Reading

Association for Media Literacy
HTTP Secure (Wikipedia)
Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario



Apr 06

Situating the “WebApp Maker”

My project within a project within a project was accepted. I’ve got some final edits to make and constructive criticisms to apply, and I’ll receive my M.Ed. in June. But the best news is, I’ve got a friend with a class who are up to the challenge, we’re working out details to actually build mobile-friendly web apps. But wait! There’s more! I’ve just been tweeting with PLN interested in this and/or similar ideas. I’m quickly going to summarize some of the constructive criticisms I’m talking about, and in so doing reveal what I think comes next, at least for me.

The nature of this thing is you can pick and choose what parts might be useful to your own endeavors, or join in and help set the course of this one, branch off on your own at any time, or lurk and watch what happens to the rest of us.

It does not require Internet, only computers. The experience will be better if computers can share a network; Internet makes it all much easier, especially such rewards as viewing your work on smart phones and sharing with family/friends.

Framing the activity

The project needs a goal—context and boundaries. A simple instant gratification version of this activity can be done if each participant has an image of themselves and 2 or 3 documents of some kind, for example assignments… poetry, written work. It might take the shape of About Me, or My Work in Grade x. In my imaginings, participants have something with their picture and things they’ve created inside it, and they have just grasped a sense of how to control those things using buttons and links. I believe if I do that correctly, they want to go further and do more, and they tell me so. I prepare for that.

Each student needs a USB stick, even a 1GB will do. If you have limited computers you need to set up timesharing; the USB travels with the participant. The only premise I have so far for a group version is whatever the students do individually, the teacher compiles as a class page. Teacher should do the individual activity up front, but you’ll be learning with the class, too. You should hunt down things you need and people who can help—the class’s PLN. A “thicker” (rife with teachable moments, methods, strategies) scope might be My Community, and an extension Project-Based learning situation could have reporters, videographers, copy editors… the class decides the organization’s structure and “business model,” create jobs and hires each other to fill them.

I used mind-mapping software to chart this out, my first maps are very clear to me, but to few others. I’ve been given a newer version of the easier one and I’ve already made cleaner better maps. I’ll be replacing and rearranging things here for a week or two. designVUE is good at collecting resources and showing how dots connect—try it you might like it

I’ll respond to comments on this blog, on this or any other post, but I’ll also welcome and incorporate ideas of others. I may add to this post, and I’ll write Updated at the top if/when I do.



  1. Entrepreneurship is a 21st century competency in both C21 (Canada) and P21 (US).