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Author Archives: Angelo Fernando

About Angelo Fernando

Author, business journalist, elementary school teacher, podcaster. I have been blogging since 2004, and a business and technology columnist for magazines, since 1994. Passionate about education, and media literacy.

Has Facebook ‘made things worse’ in Sri Lanka?

Singapore asked Facebook some tough questions. I hope Sri Lanka did.

On January 10th, Singapore’s ‘Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods’ took a deep look at how news spreads. It addressed such things as ‘digital manipulation’ and ‘hyper biased news’ in a well footnoted ‘green paper.’ Testifying at the hearing were the big 3, Facebook, Twitter and Google.

Facebook has been infected by social bots and seems to be unwilling or inept at fixing things, as we have seen in Sri Lanka’s case involving a complaint by lawyer, Jeevanee Kariyawasam. (Reported in the LA Times last week. The article quotes Sanjana Hattotuwa and Mario Gomez.)

Really worth a Read: Hate Speech on Facebok

(A report by the Center for Policy Alternatives, Sri Lanka)

It’s time to be proactive about social media platforms as they become de facto news feeds. Not by shutting down, but by timely, smart inverventions, as the CPA study recommends. The video below of Singapore’s stance, is worth watching!

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2018 in Social Media, Technology

 

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No, WhatsApp is no substitute for Facebook

It may seem tempting to think WhatsApp could be a great Facebook substitute. But that’s amlost like giving up donuts for breakfast, and having a bar of chocolate instead.

For starters, Facebook owns WhatsApp – a little known fact. It bought it for $19 billion in 2014. That was when many were becoming aware of that thing called ‘Chat apps.’ This means much of user data, inclusing phone records, pictures, text chats etc are being scooped up into a giant data blender.

Also, Whatspp is not a mini broadcast station. No ‘PDA’ feature – for public displays of affection.

And just in case you’re wondering if Instagram might be an substitute, bad news. Facebook owns that too. Like not putting cream and refined sugar in your tea, and using consensed milk instead.

 

 
 

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Publishing, Coding, Avatars, and ‘Little Data’ – My takeaways from EdTechteam Summit

EdTech workshops help recharge our batteries. Just attended one last week by EdTechTeam. Two days of intense, hands-on sessions that are easy to incorporate in the classroom immediately. I was impressed by:

Created using Spark

Adobe Spark. I didn’t realize that Adobe was putting so much weight into tools for students that won’t cost an arm and a leg (they are free!), and are so intuitive. For anyone needing to give students an on ramp to Photoshop, web design, and creativity, they have three tools worth exploring.

Google Earth. Geo tools make an interesting hook to get students to consider the value of data, behind those fascinating images and places they could visit using Google Earth. Who thought spreadsheets could be so exciting! A great way to get the to understand the ‘Little Data’ that makes up Big Data, as Chris Betcher explained.

Coding. Yes, there could be no EdTech event without coding, but there’s so much more happening in the open-source community. From Game design to Wonder Robots.

BitMojis. Avatar-based story-boarding that derived from BitStrips. It is however owned by Snap, which could be a problem in schools, for obvious reasons.

On my radar & worth exploring:

  • Doctapus –  Created by a science teacher, Andrew Stillman, this Chrome extension is a boost to workflow with teachers in mind.
  • WonderBots – Clever little spherical bots called Dot and Dash that make coding come to life!
  • FlipGrid – Video tools for Student engagement
  • ClassCraft – A way to introduce video game mechanics in the classroom
  • HyperDocs – An interactive, rich-media document created in Google Docs, which could be used to collect all materials for a lesson or learning cycle into one ‘hub.’ The approach could be also used to create small books.
 
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Posted by on March 25, 2018 in Workshops

 

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Channel 4 sting shows how Internet gets contaminated

To me the most disturbing thing was not the use of a Sri Lankan decoy in Channel 4’s Sting operation on Cambridge Analytica. It’s the creepy statement by the chief exec of Cambridge Analytica caught in the sting :

“We just put information into the bloodstream to the internet and then watch it grow, give it a little push every now and again over time to watch it take shape. And so this stuff infiltrates the online community and expands but with no branding – so it’s unattributable, untrackable.”

 

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2018 in Communications

 

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PR Stunt or Learning Moment? When protesters take over class

Student protests happen everywhere, not only during times of turmoil. When I was in Uni, students took over parts of the campus ‘kidnapped a Dean (!) and held him for a few hours. At another time some stormed the campus police station. Most student protests happen in public spaces, with rhetoric aimed at public figures – or at least those people in power.

So what do you make of a situation when a classroom (in Reed College in Portland, Oregon) was turned into a protest space? Is the audience just students like themselves, sounding off their different perspectives? Watch this and think again.

  • Is it possible that the demonstration was set up (this doesn’t seem a spontaneous turnout) to create ‘media’ and not just to hijack the space?
  • Was the debate that took place toward the end, unintended?
  • Was it an appropriate way to address sensitive issues around a Humanities 101 class?

What’s your take?

For some background, read the piece in The Atlantic in November last year.

 

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Facebook, just like nicotine, has no good patch

About eight years ago, I would begin a workshop with an opening line that went something like this: Facebook is the greatest, most irresistible social network ever designed.by the CIA. Not factual, or course, but it got attendees to ponder how surveillance had become so easy, with no need for wiretaps, or laws such as FISA or ECPA.

Well, it’s now normal for journalists to talk of Facebook as being the great harvesting ground of big data organizations that use it to surveil and/or target users. That includes our friends and family in our networks. Social media addiction feeds the algorithm. Here’s what Mashable’s Damon Beres just wrote that it’s time to protect yourself -and your friends –from Facebook:

“The photos you post are interpreted by Facebook’s programs to automatically recognize your face; the interests you communicate via text are collated and cross-examined by algorithms to serve you advertising. Our virtual social connections enrich this marketing web and make advertisers more powerful. And many of us open the app to scroll without really knowing why. Facebook literally presents us with a “feed.” We are users the way drug addicts are users, and we’re used like a focus group is used to vet shades of red in a new can of Coca-Cola.”

He uses the analogy of the Marlboro Man, and the rugged cowboy appeal that continued to lure ‘users’ into a deadly nicotine habit, despite the truth which tobacco companies hid, and were reluctantly forced to admit.

So what to do? Some of my friends have quit Facebook. I haven’t yet. But I do recommend limiting data that algorithms could vacuum up: birthdays, business information, opinions related to our social causes, political rants and things we purchase online. No public displays of affection for family birthdays, anniversaries and such. (Birthday cards and letters were invented for this; despite claims to the contrary they haven’t gone out of style.) And Selfies! –unless you don’t mind feeding facial recognition algorithms now being used in many, many locations.

Deleting some of this now is a bit too late, but like the nicotine patch, it’s better than the alternatives. Unless your family and friends don’t mind the creepy second-hand smoke…

 

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Still publishing Newsletters? We do!

I’ve often said I still read newsletters. From the quirky Trader Joes’ black-and-white ‘Fearless Flyer,‘ to those that come in the mail, often unsolicited. A good friend, a realtor, publishes and mails us an information-filled newsletter that is a delight to read each month. And there are many more – we just don’t give them enough credit in an everything’s-on-Facebook kind of era.

What’s your favorite newsletter? Does it still get printed or has it turned digital? I’m curious.

The case for newsletters has been debated ad nauseam. Most tend to get into the print vs email debate. But I don’t think it’s an either/or. It could be both. Sure, the reading habit is on life-support in some places. But we’re not going to pull the plug.

And so in school, some of us continue this tradition as a way to communicate with parents and the community as to what goes on in our classes in Music, Art, Library and Media Center, PE, and Computers & Tech. Here’s our latest Specials Newsletter – the March 2018 issue.

 

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