When you live in a culture of fear, even student hugs and helpful teachers are viewed as threats


I’m bothered when I read that some schools are banning students from hugging and (via danah boyd – and be sure to read the comments) other schools are banning any contact between students and teachers during “off-hours,” including any contact via non-school-hosted online forums (i.e., Facebook).

The assumption that hugging is aggressive behavior and the presumption of deviant motives of any teacher who would make themselves available to answer questions from students on Facebook are just two more examples of how fear-based regulations and rules that are instant responses to “crises” — real or imagined — often crush opportunities and positive results that could be achieved if cooler, more reasoned heads prevailed.

Are those schools trying to protect students who don’t want to be hugged? Are those schools trying to protect teachers who don’t want to be bothered by students outside the classroom? If so, they’ve chosen a rather ham-fisted solution.

Let me get this straight: I’m in no way suggesting that real issues — real deviant adults and real aggressive teenagers — did not create situations thatled to the specific hugging and friending bans reported in these two accounts. What I’m saying is this: I believe that bans on all hugging and all teacher-student “off-hours” collaboration will result in far more harm than good.

To parents of teens, read this

I get asked lots of questions (from parents) about how teens use the Internet. Typically, the questions are phrased in such a way as to imply the Internet should be added to the list: sex, drugs and rock-n-roll. I can understand the concern. Among people I know, I’ve heard of some incredibly cruel and hurtful web-based acts among teens. Then, again, I’ve heard of similar acts that didn’t involve the web, so I’m not so sure it’s the web that’s the problem.

I’ve also been a part of many discussions with students and other discussions with parents about the appropriateness of things like “friending ones parents/kids” on Facebook. (Personal observation: Neither teens or parents understand how to use the privacy settings on Facebook.)

Despite having a teen and recent-teen in my in-house focus group, my answers to such questions are typically based on whatever danah boyd says. danah has spent the past several years researching how teens use the Internet, especially social networks. (Heck, I even have her PhD dissertation loaded on my Kindle.)

Yesterday, she invited the 11,000+ people who follow her on Twitter (@zephoria) to ask her questions about current web practices by teens.

She then compiled those questions and her answers into this extremely informative post.

In the immediate future, I’ll be using danah’s post as a crib-sheet to answer questions related to teens. However, if you want to cut out the middle-man, I suggest you bookmark that page for yourself.

(via: waxy.org)

Wolfram Alpha is not a Twitter-killer

The title of this post is a joke, of course. Last night’s “softly launched” Wolfram Alpha “computational knowledge engine” (official “pre-launch” is Monday) has nothing to do with killing Twitter. Nor, for that matter, does it have anything to do with killing Google or Wikipedia. That hasn’t stopped most of the geek-oriented coverage from primarily comparing it to Google or Wikipedia. (To understand what the service is all about, I suggest Danny Sullivan’s post from a couple of weeks ago.)

My quick reaction to Wolfram Alpha: It has lots of wow factor, but it’s no Twitter.

Also, it lacks the intuitiveness of Google and the disambiguation clues of Wikipedia. But as it’s not supposed to be compared to them, forget that.

HyperLincs: Celebrating Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday online


[CC / rexblog.com]

While Presidents Day (the third Monday in February) is the official day for celebrating the birthdays of both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, this year is definitely a Lincoln year. Not only did the inauguration of President Obama provide the context for a great deal of recognition and exploration of the Lincoln presidency, but next Thursday, February 12, is the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birthday and it kicks off a year-long series of exhibits and celebrations.

If you’d like to get into the spirit of the celebration, here are some of the best of the countless Lincoln Bicentennial resources I’ve seen around the Internet:

The Official Lincoln Bicentennial Website: The site contains a list of Lincoln-related exhibits planned around the country. (However, its list of events doesn’t seem as complete.) The site contains a fairly thorough list of links to Lincoln-related educational resources and points of interest.

The Library of Congress’ Abraham Lincoln Flickr Set: The Library of Congress has posted a set of photos of Abraham Lincoln on its Flickr account that features public domain images from its collection. (Disappointment: The LOC has a special Lincoln-related exhibit taking place, but other than a press release, the exhibit does not have a corresponding website. Its “Mr. Lincoln’s Virtal Library” website seems “shovel-ready” for an overhaul.) I also ran across a collection of photographs of Abraham Lincoln and his family that an individual collected and used the MediaWiki software platform to organize.

Abraham Lincoln quotations (WikiQuote.org): A comprehensive listing of quotes that can be attributed with citation to President Lincoln (as well as a listing of quotes that can’t be cited, but are often attributed to him). The entry also includes a helpful list of links to Project Gutenberg free e-book versions of many of Lincoln’s most famous speeches and writings.

U.S. National Park Service Lincoln Bicentennial Website: Longtime readers of this blog know I’m a fan of national parks so I’m glad to see they have this website that pulls together information about what’s taking place over the coming year at the many Lincoln-related parks, sites and memorials they manage.

The Gilder Lehrman Institute and iTunes U: It never fails to astonish me that so few people have clicked on that little link on the front of iTunes that will take them to iTunes U where they can download countless hours of free lectures from dozens of universities, foundations and institutions. When it comes to American history topics, I’ve found one of the best sources on iTunes U is The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Over the past week or so, I’ve been listening to several Lincoln-related lectures they’ve posted on their outpost at iTunes U. On the Gilder Lehrman Website itself, you can see the website version of the current edition of its quarterly journal, History Now, which is a collection articles, lectures and a teachers guide called “Abraham Lincoln in His Time and Ours.”

C-SPAN’s Lincoln 200 Years Website: C-SPAN is a Lincoln-wonk’s heaven these days and this website pulls together all they are doing online and on their cable channels.

History.com/Lincoln: From the “for-profit” world, History.com and the History Channel are going all out for Lincoln’s 200th birthday, including this impressive website that features segments from lots of Lincoln-related documentaries in the History Channel’s vaults.

Have I missed anything special? Add a link in the comments.

The NYTimes.com’s “website of record” features

With this innovative video/transcript archival feature chronicling last night’s Veep debate (and last week’s first debate), the New York Times is displaying what a news website of record should be: The definitive spot where news-related media is collected, curated, analyzed and then organized in various ways that allow individuals to search and easily find everything they need to make up their own minds. For more of their interactive campaign features, visit here.

Sidenotes: Information design wonks will love the elegance of the interface of the video archive — the timeline especially. And on the business side, note that the archive has a single sponsor who gets lots of visibility thanks to the lack of noise on the page.

(via: waxy.org/links)