Computational Thinking, LiuLiShuo & Audiobooks


Why Computer Science Education in K-12 Settings Is Becoming Increasingly Essential by Mehran Sahami, The Huffington Post, 14 Sep. 2016.

Is computer science for everybody? In this blog post, the author reminds us that in today’s world, computer science goes beyond programming for programmers. It is more and more part of our everyday lives. The author asserts, “This is the reason we don’t talk about teaching CS as just teaching ‘programming,’ but rather as a means for students to develop ‘computational thinking’ skills.”

Ex-Google Guy Builds English Teaching App That Adapts to Student by Selina Wang, Bloomberg Technology, 13 Sep. 2016.

Chinese parents spend quite a bit of money for English lessons for their children, then find out that their children don’t speak English very well. In steps LiuLiShuo, which means “speaking fluently,” an app which incorporates gaming and social media into English learning. While it has its critics, it also has 30 million (yes, million) users.

Audiobooks Can Support K-12 Readers in the Classroom by Kate Stoltzfus, Education Week, 19 Sep. 2016.

Audiobooks have been around for quite a while, and their usefulness for struggling readers has been supported by research. With the growth of digital media, audiobooks are becoming even more important as a tool for learners, especially students who have trouble reading. A study by the American Association of Schools Libraries in 2012, which focused on elementary students, found that “audiobooks improved students’ reading scores, increased students’ positive attitudes about their reading ability, and offered students more personal choice in what they read.”

A Successful Public Health MOOC: Interview with Dr. Satesh Bidaisee

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro

One Health, One Medicine: An Ecosystem Approach was a five-week public health MOOC offered by Dr. Satesh Bidaisee1 at St. George’s University, Grenada, in summer 2016. The course attracted 582 students from all over the world and was especially popular with students from the Caribbean, United States, and even Sub-Saharan Africa and Europe.

Among the 582 who enrolled, participants, or “students who took at least one graded activity in the course,” numbered 98, which is 17% of the total enrolled. Of the 98 participants, 52 completed the course. Completion is defined as achieving “at least a 50% in the course, which required them to get full participation and quiz credit and at least one additional exercise (case or presentation).”

Calculated in this way, the completion rate among participants was 53%, four times the rate in previous years. Of the 50 students who completed the survey, 98% rated their overall experience in the course as good or excellent. To the question “Would you be interested in pursuing a degree from St. Goerge’s University?”, 82% answered yes. Of this number, 30% preferred online courses, 16% preferred on-campus classes, and the remaining 36% had no preference either way.

Dr. Satesh Bidaisee, St. George's University, Grenada.

Dr. Satesh Bidaisee, St. George’s University, Grenada.

ETC: How would you explain the high rate of completion for your MOOC?
Bidaisee: The key factors were: (1) A user-friendly online course management system, SGUx, which is built on the EdX platform. (2) Accessible course team. (3) Interactions with students through live seminars, live office hours, discussion blogs, Twitter communication. (3) Case study reviews, peer-review evaluation of student-produced seminars. (4) Focused course topic and content on One Health, One Medicine.  Continue reading

My Changing Expectations About Social Media: Facebook

Lynn ZimmermannBy Lynn Zimmerman
Associate Editor
Editor, Teacher Education

When I arrived in Albania to teach future English teachers at a university, I wanted to use online resources to stay connected with my students like I do in the US. After trying several different free learning management platforms, I decided to set us up on FaceBook. Most of my students already have FaceBook accounts, and they were used to using it. Although things did not work exactly as I had planned, it did form a basis for online communication among the students and with me.

My intention was that “our” FaceBook page would be a place for English-only communication about issues related to English and English teaching. I linked to the American English website and the British Council so we’d get their feeds. I asked the students to do the same when they find relevant links.

What actually has happened is that the site has functioned primarily as a social networking page for the students with daily posts of selfies and a lot of comments in Albanian. At first, I was upset by this because it did not meet my expectations. However, as time has gone by, I have accepted the social aspect of this and how it has created a sense of community among the students in a different way. I do use it to post class-related information and to link to “professional” resources, and they do occasionally post in English. However, the next time I do something like this with a group of students, I want to try to create more of a learning environment.

Eryk Bagshaw’s article “Social media is teaching the world English1 about using social media to offer “snack-size” English language lessons gave me some ideas about how to do this. This Australian initiative has found that users respond positively when offered small bits of English – a few idioms, a few uses of modal verbs, difficult spellings, etc. Bagshaw says, “It is all about giving people context to hang that learned language on.” He also wrote about how the BBC uses Twitter to connect English learning and current events and mentioned that creating a community is a part of the service and part of the appeal of using social media in this way. “You can get instant feedback from other users a world away, they collaborate, correct, rework. That is how you learn and that is really exciting.”

As a teacher, I recognize the importance of building community among learners. Therefore, I intend to take what I learned from my experience in Albania and what I learned from Bagshaw’s article and think about how I can change my expectations about social media use for a group of students so that it functions as a more effective learning tool, as well as for community-building .

I would like to hear others experiences with using social media in learning environments. What has worked? What hasn’t?

1Sydney Morning Herald, 26 June 2015.

Social Media in TESOL: An Interview with John Wasko

Lynn ZimmermannBy Lynn Zimmerman
Associate Editor
Editor, Teacher Education

[Note: This interview was prompted by an email, sent by John to Lynn, re her article “Technology Advice for First Year International Students in US Colleges. -Editor]

John Wasko, a former Peace Corps volunteer in Samoa, is president of American Pacific University in Pago Pago, American Samoa. Part of the university’s mission is to help foreign students develop academic English language skills and cultural competence so they can successfully complete study at colleges and universities in the US. Mr. Wasko commented that “too many foreign students come to the US unprepared to face an American classroom.” A commitment to using “21st century digital learning tools and resources” helps students accomplish their language and cultural competencies.

John Wasko

John Wasko

LZ: What are some of the social media online resources you use that have been effective?

JW: The most popular chat rooms in Asia and Southeast Asia are Wechat, QQ and IMO. I use them all to teach the kids English. First, they have automatic translators built in. Secondly you can share audio files for pronunciation. Third they have live video chat. You can talk and see the student in real time. Fourth they work great on mobile. There are even more chat sites specific to different countries. Zalo, for example is specific to Vietnam.

LZ: How do you use these resources in your teaching?

JW: I am now improving my teaching strategies by developing text modules and practical scenarios. Each builds on others to develop more complex sentence structures, vocabulary, contextual speech, jargon and slang. Using Google images in concert with text and audio messaging helps a lot and can be done on the fly.

LZ: Is there anything else you’d like to say?

JW: Here is the great thing. You don’t need any special set up or call center or anything like that. Just a smartphone. I use an iPhone 4. Works great. If we can develop mobile techniques to help these students, every university will knock on their door.

LZ: Thanks.

MOOC Sightings 002: Oxford Professor Declares MOOCs the Loser

MOOC Sightings2

William Whyte, professor of social and architectural history at St John’s College Oxford, assures us that in the “battle” of MOOCs vs traditional campus-based universities, “The MOOC will prove to [be] the loser.”1 He parades the usual suspects for their demise: low completion rates and absence of credits and degrees.

He tosses Britain’s E-University and Open University in with MOOCs for what amounts to a clean sweep of online programs. Two birds with one stone, as it were. He cites E-University as a costly failure and Open University as “actually a rather traditional university.” Convenient, but what these institutions have in common with MOOCs is baffling.

He bolsters his prediction with survey results: “Only 6% of prospective undergraduates surveyed last year [want] to stay at home and study. The other 94% expected and hoped to move away to a different place for their degrees.”

Whyte declares traditional universities the winner because “people want and expect something rather more than a purely virtual, entirely electronic experience of university. They expect it to be a place.”

Strong reassurance, indeed, for those who see MOOCs as “a horrible sort of inevitability.” Traditional universities have not only withstood the MOOC challenge but actually emerged stronger.  Continue reading

Technology and Our Health


Technology is rapidly morphing and changing, but what about the humans who use it? Numerous research studies as well as reports on various aspects of the connection between technology and our physical, mental, and emotional health are examining the various factors that may impact our lives.

box Can A Computer Change The Essence Of Who You Are?, by Lulu Miller and Alix Spiegel, NPR, Feb. 13, 2015.

In this essay, the authors explore the ways that technology can impact our lives in various ways. They focus on social media and how an individual used Twitter to document and call out people on bad behavior. Pete, who set up the Twitter account, soon found that over time, his tweets became harsher and harsher. The authors report that quite a few psychologists are trying to figure out how socializing is different online. For instance, when you have a bad day and post about it on social media, you are validated by not just one friend, but many “friends” who tell you that you are all right. This type of mass positive feedback can be addictive and can change the social dynamic. This post created a pretty lively exchange of comments, so be sure to read them, too.

box Internet Trolls Are Narcissists, Psychopaths, and Sadists: Trolls will lie, exaggerate, and offend to get a response, by Jennifer Golbeck Ph.D.Psychology Today, Sep. 18, 2014.

In this article, Golbeck reports on a study by some Canadian researchers published in Personality and Individual Differences which looked at people who purposely disrupt online discussion, so-called trolls. The researchers gave personality tests to over 1,200 people and surveyed their Internet commenting behavior. They found that respondents who scored high for narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and sadism also reported that “trolling was their favorite Internet activity.’ Trolls use the Internet to harm other people for their own pleasure.

box Long-term health outcomes and cost-effectiveness of a computer-tailored physical activity intervention among people aged over fifty: modelling the results of a randomized controlled trial, by Denise A. Peels et al., BMC, Oct. 23, 2014.

Rather than focusing on possible negative influences of technology, in this study a group of Dutch researchers examined how technology in the form of a computer-tailored physical activity program can improve long-term health outcomes among adults aged over fifty. “[S]timulating people to become more physically active… can result in better public health and thereby reduce health care costs.”

From ‘Yes Ma’am’ to ‘F*** You’

Tracey kashiwa 80By Tracey Kashiwa
Student at Kapi’olani Community College
University of Hawai’i

Justin Bieber Eggs His Neighbor’s House.” “Kendall Jenner…Calls [Her Mother] a…Whore.” “Miley Cyrus Twerks on Married Man.” In American society today, the media is filled with incidents of youths disrespecting their elders. In fact, even the idea that children should respect their elders seems nonexistent (“Respect for Others”). I’m only thirty-two, but even I wonder what happened to respecting our elders.

When I was a child, I looked to my parents and grandparents for advice and to learn about the past. I viewed them as wise old owls who had a wealth of knowledge and experience that I could tap into. Disrespecting my parents was never an option, and if I didn’t show respect, they would ground me for weeks or, even worse, break out the back scratcher. What has changed from my generation to this? Has the internet ruined our need to look to elders as knowledge keepers? Has social media eliminated our need for social pleasantries? Has the frown on spanking created an uncrossable barrier for parents and discipline?

To better understand youth, I interviewed my twenty-year-old housemate, John, a young man plagued by the need to disregard others. John is the kind of person who, if you asked how his day went, walks past you without eye contact or acknowledgement of your existence. He acts as though he is royalty and can’t be bothered by the peasants around him, and he always has music blaring through headphones to drown us out. I doubt he would behave so arrogantly if he knew how much he resembles a chicken pecking the ground for food when he bobs his head to the beat. Like I said, he is the epitome of a disrespectful youth.  Continue reading

Review: ‘The New Digital Age’ by Schmidt & Cohen

Frank B. WithrowBy Frank B. Withrow

Review: Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business, Knopf, 2013.

The authors visited thirty-five countries and examined the Internet’s impact in each. The new digital age has a significant impact with both positive and potentially negative outcomes. They discuss both possibilities. They focus on the new level of connectivity that the digital world brings to individuals and nations.


In perspective, connectivity in mankind has always been the yeast that has led to social and collective growth. In early man, the spoken word allowed groups to share sensory experiences and form collective societies. About five thousand years ago, the written word allowed mankind to share experiences across geography and time. Knowledge could be passed from one generation to another and transferred across geographic boundaries. The printing press increased our ways of storing and retrieving experience and documenting the ways man governed himself. Knowledge was stored and retrieved in libraries.  Continue reading

Social Media Tips for Virtual Conference Attendance

By Melissa A. Venable

[Note: Jessica Knott, ETCJ’s Twitter/Facebook editor, has coordinated the publication of this article. -Editor]

Last month The Sloan Consortium’s 7th Emerging Technologies for Online Learning took place in Dallas, Texas. According to the latest Sloan-C View newsletter, there were “more than 700 onsite and 1,000 virtual attendees representing 47 states including DC and 23 countries.”

Saint Leo University provided virtual access to a limited number of instructors, including adjuncts like myself. In my formal request to attend, I made a commitment to “be active on multiple social media platforms and use the symposium hashtag – #et4online – to further engage in live sessions and network with other attendees.” I was fortunate to be selected to attend, and it was this social media commitment that made all the difference in my experience.

Recorded sessions are helpful but don’t provide the energy and interaction of real-time attendance. And there is a lot to be gained from following the social media backchannel of a conference, but formal registration allows for a different level of access to the sessions and other attendees. This article includes a few of my lessons learned as a virtual conference participant.

Prepare to Participate

Are your social media accounts up-to-date? This may be the best place to start. Take a look at the platforms that are being encouraged by the conference organizers and review your profiles before the event starts. If it has been a while since you logged in to an account, it could take some time to review and refresh the information you are providing about yourself. Keep in mind that these profiles serve as your business card in an online networking sense.

Follow the conference itself and the sponsoring organization. In addition to the conference hashtag, this Sloan Consortium event was also active with social media accounts focused specifically on this conference, including Twitter and Facebook. These accounts provided a constant stream of reminders, letting participants know about upcoming sessions, highlighting participants and presenters, and announcing schedule changes.

Set Realistic Expectations

The Sloan symposium offered fewer streamed sessions than onsite sessions, but there were multiple presentation options for each time slot. The streamed sessions took place in Dallas with a live audience and allowed virtual attendees to watch both the presenter and his or her slide presentation simultaneously. Members of the online group were able to interact with each other via text chat and ask questions of the presenter through an online session chairperson who relayed them in real-time. We also connected and exchanged thoughts and resources through our social media accounts.

Take a look at your schedule for the week and identify, in advance, the sessions you would like to attend. Add these sessions to your calendar. I was tripped up when logging into my first session (an hour early), before I realized I needed to calculate time zone differences. The website mentioned this, of course, but sometimes you have to learn on your own, and I instantly connected with other virtual attendees on Twitter who made the same mistake.  Continue reading

Retirement of Your Elementary School Students: Keeping in Touch with Facebook

Frank B. WithrowBy Frank B. Withrow

As a teacher there always is one learner you cannot reach. You wonder why since your lesson plans seem in order, the other kids are learning but Suzy is stagnating. I had a girl who should have done well, but she had a hearing loss and was also mildly cerebral palsied. She was not a bad learner but also not really a good learner. I was never satisfied with her progress but also could not point out exactly where she fell short.

Central Institute for the Deaf, St. Louis MO

Central Institute for the Deaf, St. Louis MO

Forty years afterwards, she wrote me and asked why she failed. She never married, never worked and really never fully participated in the world. I could not answer her question, but it did not surprise me that she never became integrated into society. Almost intuitively I knew she would not make it.

I recently heard from a classmate of hers who had retired from being a school janitor. He was beloved by the teachers and students in his school. Being a janitor does not sound like a wonderful success story, but it does not surprise me that he did his work well and was socially liked by all who came in contact with him. As a kid he was hyperactive and into everything. In fact, he was so into everything people thought of him as a pest. Yet he has contributed to society and been a taxpayer rather than a tax consumer. He is a success story.

I taught multiply disabled students fifty-five years ago. It is interesting to find some of those students on Facebook. Some are very successful with good jobs and families of their own. My former students live all over the nation — even the world. It is nice to be able to find and follow them on Facebook. They are in their seventies so I must be getting a bit older myself.

I was a Scoutmaster as well as a teacher. My first Eagle Scout was a great kid. He was not the smartest, but he was the most compassionate and born leader I ever had. He worked hard to achieve but also wanted everyone else to experience what he was doing. He is close to 80 now and still a leader. He has worked in charities and still wants to help others. He has had a long and happy marriage. He says he has no intention of retiring and still believes he can help others.

Some of my students have children who have gone on to accomplish outstanding things. Central Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis where I taught will be 100 years old in 2014. I look forward to its reunion. In the meantime Facebook brings back memories.

My large family is spread from New Hampshire to Texas and the West Coast. I have been impressed that Facebook helps us follow one another. It would be an interesting study to examine how Facebook engages families and reconnects teachers with students.

A Beginner’s Guide to Twitter Chat Participation

By Melissa A. Venable

[Note: ETCJ’s Twitter/Facebook editor, Jessica Knott, has been working with Melissa to develop this article. Also see Melissa’s four-part series on  Twitter for Professional Use. -Editor]

A Twitter chat is a live, real-time discussion that takes place via Twitter messages, also known as tweets. Connected by use of a specific hashtag, those contributing to the discussion can add their comments in 140-character increments. While it may seem an odd way to participate in a conversation, you may be surprised at the benefits the platform provides, and at the growth of this format among educators at all levels.

As moderator of the Inside Online Learning chat (#IOLchat) since June 2011, I’ve experienced many of these benefits. It’s been a great opportunity to connect with a larger community of students, educators, and instructional designers, and to facilitate new connections among participants. It’s also an effective way to (virtually) meet leaders in the field of online education who have served as guest hosts.

If you’ve thought about joining a Twitter chat or are completely new to the concept, the intent of this guide is to provide you with the basic information necessary to successfully participate in your first live chat.

What to Expect

As in any group discussion, Twitter chats feature a general exchange of ideas, opinions, recommendations, and resources. Most are open to the public, and anyone interested in the topic is encouraged to attend. There are four common components of these live conversations you should look for:

  • Moderator: An individual or group that organizes the event and facilitates the conversation. Several chats, including @chat2lrn and @lrnchat, have their own Twitter accounts and homepages to help coordinate efforts.
  • Central topic: Most chats are organized around a central theme of interest, as well as a more detailed topic for each “meeting.” For example, one of the more popular events for educators is #edchat. This group always discusses issues related to education, but also picks a focus each week. A recent May session sought input on the question: “How important is it to teach critical thinking and how do we do it?”
  • Hashtag: The # symbol used with a series of letters and numbers is known as a “hashtag” and adding the chat-specific hashtag to each of your tweets allows you to participate. The hashtag is searchable and creates a way to filter the tweets that are part of the chat. Hashtags are also increasingly part of other social platforms, including Tumblr, Instagram, Google+, and Flickr.
  • Time and date: Many Twitter chats are recurring events scheduled monthly, weekly, or another pre-determined interval. Find a chat that meets both your interest and availability on compiled lists like these: Weekly Education Chats, Twitter Chat Schedule, Twitter Directory for Higher Education.

As you review existing Twitter chats, you may notice that some provide discussion questions in advance, while others include them during the live event. But some chats will be more open-ended, taking direction cues from gathered participants. As a participant, you should assume that your contributions will be collected in some sort of transcript, ranging from a blog post summary to a compilation via a hashtag aggregation tool like StorifyContinue reading

Impact of Facebook on Deaf Language Users?

Frank B. WithrowBy Frank B. Withrow

It is a sophomoric question, but I will ask it anyway. Is it better to be blind, deaf, or crippled? Of course, the answer is it is better not to have any of these disabilities.

Crippled means that you will have ambulatory limitations. However, if you have lost a leg there are prosthetic legs that can allow you to walk and even to run. Or wheelchairs can restore a degree of mobility. Blindness is also an ambulatory disability. You are to an extent limited in your mobility. You are not likely to own or drive a car, but even this is being made obsolete by modern technologies that are demonstrating self-driving cars. If you are blind you may not become an artist, but even that is marginal.

Oscar Pistorius.

Oscar Pistorius.

In a sense deafness is the hidden disability. Unless a neighbor stops to talk with you, you appear as just another person in the neighborhood. You drive a car, you play catch baseball with friends, and you dance with your girl friend on the patio after eating the steak cooked on the outdoor barbecue set. For all practical purposes you do not appear any different than the average neighbor.

But you are! You did not learn the English language from your mother’s knee. Whether you use American Sign Language or speech read, your language is visual. It requires an ample light source. As a deaf person you cannot easily multitask, that is, carry on a conversation while washing your car because you must see and concentrate on the speaker. Visual-based communication has different parameters than auditory-based language. As a deaf communicator, there must be enough light and you must concentrate on the speaker.

Stephanie Ellison, "a percussionist who happens to be deaf."

Stephanie Ellison, “a percussionist who happens to be deaf.”

As a hearing person I can multitask. I can talk and listen to you while I paint your portrait. As a hearing person I can carry on a conversation with you while I brush my shoes or I can listen to the radio in the dark. Since sounds surround me globally I can carry on a conversation in many different environments. If I am deaf I must have light and I must look at the sender I am communicating with whatever system I use ASL, finger spelling or speech reading. Even captioned TV requires my full attention whereas a hearing person can multitask and still get the meaning of what is on TV. I can iron my shirt and follow the latest news on TV.  Continue reading

Twitter for Professional Use – Part 4: Participating in a Live Event

By Melissa A. Venable

[Note: ETCJ’s Twitter editor, Jessica Knott, has been working with Melissa to develop this series. See Part 1: Getting Started, Part 2: Channeling the Streams, and Part 3: Curating the Chaos. -Editor]

This final installment in this series offers guidance on using your Twitter account to join live conversations and monitor ongoing professional events. After setting up and learning to manage your account, a good next step is to join active groups and discussions that use hashtags to set their conversations apart from the rest.

What Is a Hashtag?

Adding the “#” symbol to series of letters and numbers creates what is known as a hashtag. These are searchable in the Twitter system and can function as filters to create a list of tweets that include the hashtag. By inserting a hashtag into a tweet, you add your message to the conversation, joining all the others who have chosen to add that same hashtag as well.

Anyone can create a hashtag and start a conversation. Like tags and keywords, they help you sort through the seemingly endless flow of information to identify related topics of interest. Use Twitter search to find recent tweets related to #edtech, #highered, or #election2012 as examples. Notice that searching by keyword (highered) or hashtag (#highered) allows you to see all of the messages with the hashtag, including those from accounts you don’t follow.

Join a Live Conversation

Twitter chats are real-time text chat conversations in which participants tweet their questions and responses. Chats go beyond just using the hashtag to participating at scheduled times. Anyone can join in by simply adding the chat’s specific hashtag to tweets during the session. There are several established chats focusing on education topics, such as #lrnchat and #edchatContinue reading

Critical Thinking Skills for the Digital Age

Frank B. WithrowBy Frank B. Withrow

Until about five thousand years ago mankind was limited to communication skills in the form of the spoken word and cave drawings. With the invention of writing the word could be transported over time and space. Consequently, knowledge and events developed in one part of the world could be shared around the world and passed from one generation to the next.

Collage: on the left, a 1568 engraving of a printing press by J. Amman, , showing a pair of printers in the foreground and two compositors at their cases in the background. Then an arrow pointing to a Facebook page saying: "Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life", with picture of connected avatars.The written word was a much more stable record than the spoken word. It could be stored in libraries and retrieved from one generation to the next. However, until the invention of the printing press about 500 years ago, the written word was available only to scholars and scribes. Most people had to rely upon the gatekeepers of knowledge to interpret the record for them. Priests, scholars and scribes were the interpreters of this storehouse of knowledge in the libraries of mankind. Continue reading

Connective Learning: Challenges for Learners, Teachers, and Educational Institutions

Claude AlmansiBy Claude Almansi
Editor, Accessibility Issues
ETCJ Associate Administrator

The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning (IRRODL) has dedicated a special issue to “Connectivism: Design and Delivery of Social Networked Learning” (March 2011), edited by George Siemens (Athabasca University, Canada) and Grainne Canole (Open University, UK).

This special issue is not meant as a definitive sum on connectivism but rather, as Terry Anderson, editor of IRRODL, put it in his announcement on the Instructional Technology Forum mailing list:

… a challenge and request that we spend more effort into trying to understand if connectivism has approaches and delivers important insights and practical designs into the increasing networked learning context in which we function.

Continue reading

Cyberbullying: An Interview with Nancy Willard

Claude AlmansiBy Claude Almansi
Editor, Accessibility Issues
ETCJ Associate Administrator

Introduction: Nancy Willard, M.S., J.D., is the director of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use. She is the author of two books, Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats: Responding to the Challenge of Online Social Cruelty, Threats, and Distress (Research Press) and Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens, Helping Young People Use the Internet Safely and Responsibly (Jossey Bass). A new book, Cyber Savvy: Embracing Digital Safety and Citizenship, will be published later 2011 by Corwin Press.

Nancy Willard

ETCJ: What is cyberbullying? How is it different from traditional bullying?

Nancy Willard: Cyberbullying is a term that has been applied to situations where young people use digital technologies to engage in hurtful behavior directed at each other. The term “traditional bullying” generally refers to repeated hurtful behavior where there is an imbalance of power. Unfortunately, at this point in time, both terms, “bullying” and “cyberbullying,” are being applied to a wide range of hurtful behavior — arguments, conflict, drama, and the more significant ongoing or imbalance of power situations.

Continue reading

‘Locked’ Ning Networks? Access, Copyright and Privacy

Claude AlmansiBy Claude Almansi
Editor, Accessibility Issues


On September 14, 2010, after Ning had postponed the deadline for shutting nonpaying networks for the umpteenth time, I wrote:

I will not write another full post about Ning until the non paying groups have been deleted, or Ning gets bought by a more efficient firm, or disappears. But I’ve opened a Ning page on the wiki of ETC Journal where I shall attempt to keep track of what happens at Ning.

in a comment to my Why Unjoin Ning Networks that Won’t Pay (Aug. 28, 2010).

And now I am writing one, even though nonpaying groups have not been deleted and no one — to my knowledge — has shown any interest in buying Ning.  Motive: a discussion entitled “Deletion of Free Ning Networks?” started by Alex on September 18 in the Ning Creators network. Though it disappeared very quickly, there is a copy archived with WebCite® on the same day:

Eric Suesz — senior community manager at Ning — participated in this discussion, stating that “All free Ning Networks are now locked and can’t be accessed.” This is simply untrue. Continue reading

Why Unjoin Ning Networks that Won’t Pay

Claude AlmansiBy Claude Almansi
Editor, Accessibility Issues

In Ning’s New Deadline for Pay-Only: Aug. 30, I quoted the announcement of the new deadline set by Ning for paying to keep a network online. It now turns out that creators of Ning networks that won’t do so cannot delete them anymore.  In view of this, the  following passage in the announcement of the new deadline  becomes worrying:

…As a result, we have extended the deadline for selecting one of the three new plans (Ning Mini, Plus and Pro) to August 30, 2010. Beginning on this date, we will block access to any free Ning Network that isn’t subscribed to one of the three plans.

“block access” – and not “delete” – this means that after August 30, Ning will  have sole access  to, and use of:

  • the content posted in these networks
  • the profile data of all members of these networks, which include their e-mail addresses.

Continue reading

Ning’s New Deadline for Pay-Only: Aug. 30

Claude AlmansiBy Claude Almansi
Editor, Accessibility Issues

Ning  announced repeatedly that it would delete free networks whose creators had not paid for one of its new pricing plans by midnight Aug. 20. On Aug. 21, however, Ning extended this deadline to August 30. Here’s the announcement of this extension on its Help page:

Deadline for Selecting a Ning Plan Extended to August 30, 2010

A number of Network Creators, particularly those based outside the United States, have requested more time to arrange for payment and make the right decision on a plan for their network. As a result, we have extended the deadline for selecting one of the three new plans (Ning Mini, Plus and Pro) to August 30, 2010. Beginning on this date, we will block access to any free Ning Network that isn’t subscribed to one of the three plans.

Please let us know if we can help, or if you have questions or comments. Thank you!

Thus, if you are the creator of a free Ning network, you can still:

Ning’s Self-Contradictions

Claude AlmansiBy Claude Almansi
Editor, Accessibility Issues

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

About Ning’s decision to scrap free networks and for alternatives to Ning, see End of Free Ning Networks: Live Online Discussion: Apr. 20th.

Three plans

Ning sent an e-mail entitled “Important news about your Ning Network” to Ning network owners on July 28, 2010, telling them about three choices that will remain available to them until August 20, 2010: Mini, Plus and Pro.

Actually, the Mini plan also comes in a for-free version sponsored by Pearson — but only for eligible North American K-12 and Higher-Ed Ning Networks — in spite of all Pearson’s boasting about being Continue reading

Facebook Is Unfit for Educational Use

Accessibility 4 All by Claude Almansi
Due to Ning’s decision to go pay-only on June 1 (see End of Free Ning Networks: Live Online Discussion: Apr. 20), some educational networks are moving from Ning to Facebook, for instance, College 2.0. However, Facebook is unfit for educational use in several respects.


Facebook’s privacy is notoriously dismal, as Britt Wattwood pointed out in Yes or No on Facebook | Learning In a Flat World. See also Delete Your Facebook Account: “Quit Facebook Day” Wants Users to Leave by Catharine Smith (Huffington Post, 2010-05-15) and Graham Cluley’s 60% of Facebook users consider quitting over privacy on his Sophos blog (2010-05-19). According to Cluley’s survey, 16% of users have already quit for that reason. True, Ning’s privacy is bad too, but if you have to move to another platform, it makes sense to choose one where privacy is better. Continue reading

End of Free Ning Networks: Live Online Discussion: Apr. 20th

Claude AlmansiBy Claude Almansi
Editor, Accessibility Issues

Ning social networks have been very popular, particularly among educators for whom they meant a free – without ads for K-12 classes – learning environment, with blogs, forums, photo and video galleries, personal pages for members and the possibility to create sub-groups.

But on April 15th, Ning’s new CEO, Jason Rosenthal, announced that they were going to end Ning’s free offer: see Ning Update: Phasing Out Free Services by John McDonald, Ning Creators‘ forum. This is a severe blow,  as there is no simple way to back up a Ning network. Continue reading