Liked We Need Cellphones In School Because Theyโ€™re Distracting by Andrew Campbell

If students donโ€™t learn these essential digital skills in schools, where will they? Where is the environment where students can try to use cellphones productively, fail, receive feedback and then try again? Who other than schools and teachers are better situated to help students learn this?

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On the back of Permanent Record, Edward Snowden reflects on some of the problems with smartphones, including the listening and tracking:

My point is not that you should use a smartphone like me, but that you *shouldn’t have to*. Privacy should not be a privilege, but because the legal system is broken, the average person today stands, at every stage of life, naked before the eyes of corporations and governments.

This system of predation has survived for so long because it occurs under the illusion of consent, but you were never asked your opinion in a way that could change the outcome. On the most consequential redistribution of power in modern life, you were never granted a vote.

The lie is that everything happening today is okay because ten years ago, you clicked a button that said “I agree.” But you didn’t agree to the 600 page contract: none of us read it. You were agreeing you needed a job; agreeing you needed directions, email, or even just a friend.

It wasn’t a choice, but the illusion of it. The consent you granted was never meaningful, because you never had an alternative. You clicked the button, or you lost the job. You clicked the button, or you were left behind. And the consequences were hidden for ten years.

I like Snowden’s point about consent. This was a part of my concern with mobile devices, although I did not capture it that well.

via Sebastian Greger

Bookmarked Ban smart phones in schools. Not because theyโ€™re disruptive but because of this (EduResearch Matters)

The ACCC has recently released their finalย Digital Platforms Inquiry, which raises important points that I believe should have led the recent debate when Victorian education minister, James Merlinoย announced a ban of smart phonesย in Victorian schools.

This report, coupled with a major project onย human rights and technologyย by the Australian Human Rights Commission and theย Artificial Intelligence: Australiaโ€™s Ethics Framework (A Discussion Paper)ย by the CSIRO, provide a collective warning about the vast amounts of personal data being collected and its implications.

Janine Aldous Arantes argues that banning phones in schools is a helpful measure in that it makes the management of data and consent easier. Building upon the ACCC’ย Digital Platforms Inquiry, Aldous Arantes argues that with the rise of artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data that the potential for harm is almost impossible to understand. For me, this is why modelling social media and supporting students in exploring online platforms is so important in being better informed.
Bookmarked Cal Newport on Why We’ll Look Back at Our Smartphones Like Cigarettes (GQ)

The computer scientist on his new book “Digital Minimalism,” why workplaces may go email-free, and why the tech backlash is about to go mainstream.

In this interview with Cal Newport, he compares social media with fast food arguing that we are moving into a period of time when we will develop named philosophies to define our practices. For Newport, Digital Minimalism is one such philosphoy.

Digital minimalism is a clear philosophy: you figure out whatโ€™s valuable to you. For each of these things you say, โ€œWhatโ€™s the best way I need to use technology to support that value?โ€ And then you happily miss out on everything else. Itโ€™s about additively building up a digital life from scratch to be very specifically, intentionally designed to make your life much better.

This is in contrast to digital maximalism.

[Maximalism] arose in the 1990s. The basic idea is that technological innovations can bring value and convenience into your life. So, you assess new technological tools with respect to what value or convenience it can bring into your life. And if you can find one, then the conclusion is, “If I can afford it, I should probably have this.” It just looks at the positives. And it’s view is “more is better than less,” because more things that bring you benefits means more total benefits. This is what maximalism is: “If there’s something that brings value, you should get it.”

Newport argues that regulation will not curb social media and that we instead need to understand that we do not really need them.

I’m a skeptic on a lot of privacy legislation, just because I’m a computer scientist who knows it’s very, very hard to even get a sensible definition of what privacy means. So, I personally don’t see the regulatory arena as being what’s gonna save us here. I think what’s gonna save us is this idea that we don’t need the giant walled garden platforms to attract the value of the internet. We would be fine if Facebook went away.

In a separate post, Newport makes the case for blogging and owning your own domain a possible response.

Slow social media and escaping the walled factories of industrial social media are two ways to step toward a more authentic social internet experience. Theyโ€™re not, however, the only ways. As with my last post on this subject, Iโ€™m more interested in sparking new ways of thinking about your digital life than I am in providing you the definitive road map.

via Doug Belshaw

Replied to The War On the Smartphone: Has Data Cherry-Picking Destroyed a Generation? by an author

The truth is that most issues that are associated with โ€œproblem technology useโ€ have their roots elsewhere. Bullying existed before smartphones, as did pornography, screen addiction, and social isolation. While it is true that smartphones can exacerbate or facilitate these things, they can also have significant positive benefits for learning, social connection, and communication. We canโ€™t teach students to balance their screen time with personal interaction by taking the choice away from them. It is difficult to pursue lessons in the pernicious reality of data privacy and surveillance capitalism without a real and critical engagement with these issues.

I am not so concern about ‘access’ to smartphones Mike, as I am about the opportunity for ethical technology. Although we can preach digital minimalism or rooting devices, why can’t there be a solution that actually supports users rights and privacy by default?
Bookmarked Opinion | Steve Jobs Never Wanted Us to Use Our iPhones Like This (nytimes.com)

Practically speaking, to be a minimalist smartphone user means that you deploy this device for a small number of features that do things you value (and that the phone does particularly well), and then outside of these activities, put it away. This approach dethrones this gadget from a position of constant companion down to a luxury object, like a fancy bike or a high-end blender, that gives you great pleasure when you use it but doesnโ€™t dominate your entire day.

Cal Newport argues that the Steve Jobs’ initial vision for the iPhone was never meant to be a new form of existence where the digital encroached upon the analogue. He therefore calls for a return to the early minimalist days from early on. This is similar to Jake Knapp’s efforts to regain his attention by removing apps and notifications from his smartphone. I still have concerns about the analogue and digital divide and what that actually means. I also think the request for responsibility ignores the systematic concerns associated with smartphones.
Listened Reflections on the smart phone by an author from Radio National

Smart phones have become an essential part of our lives. But are they so familiar, we sometimes underestimate their importance? The role theyโ€™ve played in helping to shape our interests and interactions?

Antony Funnell speaks with Professor Genevieve Bell, Ariel Bogle, Distinguished Professor Larissa Hjorth and Emma Bennison about the history and affordances of the smart phone. They discuss the walled garden created by apps, the way devices inform our humanness, the cross-cultural appropriation of new technologies, support for accessibility and the surveillance built in. I have been thinking a lot about smart phones lately, especially while reading James Bridle’s New Dark Age and Adam Greenfield’s Radical Technologies. The conversation that I think is interesting is whether there is a future beyond the templated self produced by a handful of social silos.
(Re)reading Adam Greenfield’s sociology of the smartphone today and I came upon this quote discussing the impact on our lives:

Work invades our personal time, private leaks into public, the intimate is trivially shared, and the concerns of the wider world seep into what ought to be a space for recuperation and recovery. Above all, horror finds us wherever we are.

Made me think about Pernille Ripp’s trials and tribulations on being a connected educator. It also made me think about the darkside to PD in 140 (or 280) characters.

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After a single decade little more remains in our pockets and purses than the snacks, the breath mints and the lip-balm.

Adam Greenfield ‘Radical Technologies’

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This is such as interesting issue. Society is one perspective, but to think there is also the case of privacy and agency at play. Recommend Adam Greenfield.
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Replied to On the Need for Phone Free Classrooms by Pernille Ripp (pernillesripp.com)

I know that I have pushed the use of phones in our classrooms before on this blog, how I have written about using them purposefully, but I will no longer subscribe to the notion that when kids use their phones it is only because they are bored. It is too easy to say that if teachers just created relevant and engaging lessons then no child would use their phones improperly in our rooms. Thatโ€™s not it, all of us with devices have had our attention spans rewired to constantly seek stimulus. To instantly seek something other than what we are doing. To constantly seek something different even if what we are doing is actually interesting. And not because what we seek out is so much better, look at most peopleโ€™s Snapchat streaks and you will see irrelevant images of tables and floors and half faces simply to keep a streak alive. It is not that our students are leaving our teaching behind at all times because they are bored, it is more because many of us, adults and children alike, have lost the ability to focus on anything for a longer period of time.

Pernille, you might be interested in a Douglas Rushkoff’s recent reflection at the beginning of a Team Human episode. He wonders why is it so easy for people to lose sight of the design and purpose behind these platforms? He argues that other than teaching media, social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc) should never be used by schools. I think that this crosses over to the smartphone debate.
Replied to Technology isnโ€™t the problem by Greg Whitby (bluyonder.wordpress.com)

I believe the bigger question is how we as a society, respond to the seismic shifts happening. Since we canโ€™t ignore the digital age, we must find ways of navigating the new frontier including what we deem as acceptable and appropriate use at home, at work and at school. Banning mobile phones is not a solution, itโ€™s a reaction to the massive waves of ever-changing technologies. Thereโ€™s an air of anti-intellectualism in all of this โ€“ a fear of the new sciences that was just as evident in the time of Galileo.ย 

This is a useful provocation Greg for a wider discussion. To ‘ban’ mobile devices seems more convenient than embracing the opportunity. My only concern is that too often we embrace the smartphone without stopping to critique the implications for data, surveillance and commerical influence. The question that we need to ask is whether it is ethical and maybe start from there?
Listened IRL Podcast Episode 9: Digital Overload from irlpodcast.org

Recent reports estimate that over 50% of teens are addicted to their smartphones. Veronica Belmont investigates the impact of growing up online.What does it mean to grow up online? We investigate how the www is changing our bodies and our brains. A college student shares his experience at rehab for Internet addiction. Bestselling author Nir Eyal breaks down what apps borrow from gambling technology. Writer Heather Schwedel talks about taking a cue from Kanye and breaking up with Twitter. And blogger Joshua Cousins talks about the Internet as a lifeline, in the wake of recent natural disasters.

Veronica Belmont brings together a number of perspectives on digital life. From a critique of the naive advice to ‘just turn off’ to a comparison of habit vs addition, this podcast is not about easy answers, but rather about developing a better understanding.
Bookmarked All The Ways Your Smartphone And Its Apps Can Track You (Gizmodo Australia)

In the end your smartphone use is helping to build up a picture of who you are and the kind of advertising you’re interested in for companies like Google, Facebook, and others — even if an app isn’t part of a massive advertising network, it may well sell its data to one. Apple stands apart in this regard, keeping the data it tracks for its own use and largely on a single device, though of course the apps that run on iOS have more freedom to do what they want.

Even if you’re reasonably content to put up with some monitoring on Android and iOS, it’s important to know what kind of data you’re giving up every time you switch your smartphone on. Whether it means you uninstall a few social media tools, or disable location tracking for a few apps, it gives you some semblance of control over your privacy.

Mark Nield explains some ways that phones track users, including capturing location settings via photographs. He also provides some tips for how to regain some of the control through the privacy settings. Along with Adam Greenfield’s breakdown of the smartphone, these posts help to highlight what data is being gathered about us and how.