Scaling Trust: How We can Make Trust Part of Old, Traditional Systems

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HASTAC sent a series of questions to thought leaders about trust challenges and solutions that could enable trust across social contexts of connected learning and engagement. From September 3rd through October 31st we will be posting their responses to these questions on HASTAC.org.

The Trust Challenge: Building Trust in Connected Learning Environments

Trust, privacy, and safety are critical to learning in an open online world. How can learners exercise control over who sees and uses their data? What tools do they need to navigate, collaborate, and learn online with confidence? What solutions will foster greater civility and respect in online learning environments? How can open technical standards create more opportunities to share and collaborate online in a spirit of trust?

The Trust Challenge will award $1.2 million to institutions and organizations that tackle these questions in real-life learning contexts. More information about the Competition including rules, guidelines, and how to enter can be found on the Competition website.

INTERVIEW

David Weinberger, Ph.D., writes about how the Internet is shaping our most fundamental understanding of ourselves. In books including “The Cluetrain Manifesto” (co-author), “Small Pieces Loosely Joined,” “Everything Is Miscellaneous,” and “Too Big to Know,” he has explored the implications of the Internet for marketing, journalism, business strategy, information organization, knowledge, politics, science, and much more. A senior researcher at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, he has been a Franklin Fellow at the US State Dept., an entrepreneur and marketing consultant to high tech companies, co-director of Harvard’s Library Innovation Lab, and an advisor to presidential campaigns. Dr. Weinberger’s doctorate is in philosophy from the University of Toronto.

1. What about our contemporary moment makes understanding trust important?

Trust is established through a complex set of social interactions and markers. The Net is a radically new social world where the interactions and the markers are different because the Net is an open space where anyone can participate; each person brings her own community’s expectations and norms. It is therefore very easy to misinterpret the markers that establish trust.

But, the Internet is also, of course, an enormous opportunity for new social engagement. We need to face the issue of trust or else we’ll lose that opportunity.

2. Often when we hear terms like “student data” or “student privacy” we don’t hear them in conversation with “trust”. Do you have any thoughts on why that might be the case?

Trust is one of the implicit factors in any discussion of privacy. Sometimes it’s ignored because people are focusing on the technological side of privacy. That’s fine so long as the discussion is truly about the technology. For example, if people are talking about the efficacy of encrypting packets via SSL as they travel across the Internet, the question of trust is implicit and can remain so. But if the conversation thinks that SSL will solve the privacy problem, then the question of trust needs to be made explicit. Once the packets arrive at their destination, we have to ask if we trust the recipients to keep them safe.

3. How are you thinking about trust in regard to connected learning?

Trust is obviously a crucial part of any learning relationship. The learners and their teachers (who may be one in the same) have to trust one another as sources of information and, more importantly, as committed to the mutual learning process. Without this we won’t trust what we’ve learned, which is exactly the same as not having learned.

In most real-world structured learning environments — a classroom, a mentoring session — we trust the institution and we come to trust our teacher or co-learner. We come to this trust through well-established norms and markers: Is the school accredited? Does this person seem to have my interests at heart? Are my teachers and co-learners people of integrity and character? Online, those markers are not nearly as well established. The relationships are often less rich, and cultural differences can wreak havoc if they are not recognized.

4. What are some of the literacies you think are required for learners to have a digital “trust literacy”?

The main issue is that the old systems for validating sources don’t scale. There aren’t enough editors, librarians, and curators to handle the never-ending waves of ideas and information on the Net. We have to use methods that do scale, and we have to accept a higher risk that we’ll misplace our trust. (There were prices we paid with the old regime as well: a more homogenous group decided what was worth our attention and trust, and what they didn’t let through the gates became inaccessible.)

So, among the literacies now required:

  • How to evaluate a web site’s legitimacy and trustworthiness. This also requires understanding the “rules of evidence” within a domain. For example, what counts as evidence in science is different from what counts as evidence in a law court or in literary criticism.

  • Old fashioned informal logic to spot fallacies and good arguments.

  • Crucially, learning how to use social media to evaluate the trustworthiness of sources of information — including how not to be fooled by the abusers of social media and by the structural weaknesses inherent in any system of legitimization.

  • Humility: Recognizing that understanding always occurs within a context of settled beliefs but all systems of settled beliefs reflect cultural, historical, and linguistic biases. So, we have to re-double our efforts to reach beyond our own cultural milieus (or “echo chambers” as they’re sometimes misleadingly called).

5. Do you have a favorite method of creating an environment of trust in your own digital practice? in learning practices? What do they look like? Is this scalable to/FOR connected learning? Why or why not?

Modesty and humility go a long way: acknowledging early on that there are things we as individuals don’t know or understand, and looking to others to join in the investigation.

 

Building Trust in Connected Learning Environments Interview: Cathy N. Davidson

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HASTAC sent a series of questions to thought leaders about trust challenges and solutions that could enable trust across social contexts of connected learning and engagement. From September 3rd through October 31st we will be posting their responses to these questions on HASTAC.org.

The Trust Challenge: Building Trust in Connected Learning Environments

Trust, privacy, and safety are critical to learning in an open online world. How can learners exercise control over who sees and uses their data? What tools do they need to navigate, collaborate, and learn online with confidence? What solutions will foster greater civility and respect in online learning environments? How can open technical standards create more opportunities to share and collaborate online in a spirit of trust?

The Trust Challenge will award $1.2 million to institutions and organizations that tackle these questions in real-life learning contexts. More information about the Competition including rules, guidelines, and how to enter can be found on the Competition website.

Interview

Cathy Davidson is a distinguished scholar of the history of technology and appointed in 2011 to the National Council on the Humanities by President Obama, is a leading innovator of new ideas and methods for learning and professional development–in school, in the workplace, and in everyday life.  She is a frequent speaker and consultant on institutional change at universities, corporations, non-profits and other organizations, and writes for the Harvard Business Review, Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Washington Post, Times Higher Ed, as well as many other academic and trade publications in the U.S. and abroad.

Davidson moved to the Graduate Center, The City University of New York, on July 1, 2014.  She   holds the position of Distinguished Professor and Director of The Futures Initiative, a new program designed to train the next generation of college professors and catalyze and draw upon the abundant energies and ideas of CUNY faculty and students for innovative leadership in higher education.

Interview

1. What about our contemporary moment makes understanding trust important?

Why this is important now is because everyone is paying attention. The trust issues haven’t really changed. We should have–as individuals and institutions and a society—been concerned about our security, privacy, and identity online since the beginning of the Internet.  Certainly this was a concern to those who developed the internet early on. However, in recent months we have all become urgently, personally aware of public violations of trust: everything from the massive retail credit card security breach to colleges and medical centers having student data leaked to hackers to Edward Snowden’s revelations about NSA spying on private citizens.

2. Often when we hear terms like “student data” or “student privacy” we don’t hear them in conversation with “trust”. Do you have any thoughts on why that might be the case?

More than ever before, we are aware of the relationship between privacy, security, and identity. You cannot expect people to trust your network if you are not conscientiously working to earn their trust. This competition gives learning institution’s the opportunity to reconsider their systems. It also gives them an opportunity to inform the public about these issues, contributing to all our digital literacy and therefore to all our safety.

3. How are you thinking about trust in regard to connected learning?

Whenever my students put anything online, in the classroom or out of it, I want them to be aware of the nature of the data they are sharing as well as the “persona” of themselves that they are making available to anyone with an internet connection. I put a lot of emphasis in my teaching on “curating” an identity, creating an online identity that represents their best public aspirations. That is a digital literacy, of course. One has to learn, in this historical moment, the difference between private and public in a new way. That, too, is part of trust.

4. What are some of the biggest challenges to engendering trust you see in connected learning?

Ignorance is one issue. People often trust online sites that are not trustworthy. So one challenge is making people aware that they need to ask why people are requesting their data, for what purpose, at what cost? Care is another. Sometimes our private data is exposed to the unscrupulous because organizations themselves are naïve about the difficulties of security and of protecting those who have placed trust in them.   Finally, we have to be aware, in a democracy, that free speech must be protected even as we must learn to be kinder and more considerate of one another. Trolls are as big an impediment to a trustworthy environment as government or corporate spies.

5. Do you know of any tools, procedures, apps, and/or systems enabling or disabling trust? How are they doing this? What do these  tools, procedures, and/or systems change how learning can happen in connected learning environments?

There are a vast array of tools for learning that are applicable to the Trust Challenge. For example, verification systems are very useful for private, confidential data. They need to be better, more user-friendly so that more of us use them in our everyday lives. If huge corporations such as Google offer us verification systems that are not interoperable (that, for example, work for my cell phone but not for my iPad), then I won’t use them and they might as well not exist. Other tools, such as Mozilla’s “private browsing” settings, allow us to surf the web without having others be able to track your browsing history for their purposes (not ours).  In the end, it is crucial to understand the problem and address it within that specific situation.  That is why I am excited that this Trust Challenge offers institutions the opportunity to survey their own vulnerabilities and then propose better ways of protected those learning on their tools.

Informational Webinars: Applying to the Trust Challenge

The Trust Challenge has launched a broad, open, constructive conversation about building trust in connected learning environments. We invite you to learn more about the Trust Challenge during a series of interactive webinars hosted by the HASTAC/MacArthur Foundation Digital Media & Learning Competition.

During Trust Challenge informational webinars, hosts will address questions about the application process. Questions can be submitted in advance by emailing dml@hri.uci.edu and including “webinar question” in the subject line.

Trust Challenge Informational Webinars

When: Tuesday, September 9 @ 11am PST / 2pm EST

  • Duration: 50 minutes
  • Register at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6906006506679823105
  • Advanced registration is recommended, but not required.
  • Webinar will open at 1:45 EST to allow registrants time to establish access
  • Hosted By:
    • David Theo Goldberg, Executive Director, University of California-Irvine Humanities Research Institute
    • Sheryl Grant, Director of Social Networking, HASTAC/MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competition;

When: Thursday, October 30 @ 11am PST / 2pm EST

  • Duration: 50 minutes
  • Register at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7660848726939103234
  • Advanced registration is recommended, but not required.
  • Webinar will open at 1:45 EST to allow registrants time to establish access
  • Hosted By:
    • Connie Yowell, Director of Education, MacArthur Foundation
    • David Theo Goldberg, Executive Director, University of California-Irvine Humanities Research Institute
    • Sheryl Grant, Director of Social Networking, HASTAC/MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competition;

Archived versions of this event will be available at http://dmlcompetition.net/resources/. Information about other upcoming Trust Challenge webinars will be available at http://www.dmlcompetition.net/Blog/ and announced on Twitter from @dmlcomp with #dmltrust.

Connected Learning Webinar Series Wrap Up

For the month of July HASTAC partnered up with the Connected Learning Alliance to produce a webinar series focused on building trust in connected learning environments. An archive page with all the webinars can be viewed at http://dmlcompetition.net/resources/

About this Series

We met in July to explore the concept that “students should have safe and trusted environments for learning,” which is one of five principles for creating safe, optimized and rewarding learning experiences shared in the Aspen Task Force ‘Learner In The Center Of A Networked World” report. We know that trust, privacy, and safety are critical to learning in an open online world, so we framed the series around the following questons: What tools do learners need to navigate, collaborate, and learn online with confidence? What solutions will foster greater civility and respect in online learning environments? How can open technical standards create more opportunities to share and collaborate online in a spirit of trust? What role do badges play in conversations about trust in connected learning environments?

Our goal was to inspire people to think about both challenges and solutions to building trust in connected learning environments, which is the theme of our upcoming HASTAC/MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competition, the Trust Challenge, which opens on September 3.

The topics of the webinars covered:

  • Why Trust Matters in Connect Learning Environments
  • Trust Challenges Across Connected Learning Environments
  • Social-Emotional Literacies and Digital Citizenship Best Practices
  • Higher Education as a Trusted Environment for Learning

 

With all of these conversations around trust taking place, especially the complex social considerations of trust, it is the infrastructures that underly the social learning environments that we hope people are inspired to think through. The underlying theme and goal of this series is to think of solutions to challenges to trust in connected learning environments, or “ways to think through the creation of digital systems and tools that enable trust in connected learning.” For example, how do we:

 

  • design systems and digital environments that engender trust for networks of youth, parents of youth (where appropriate), and learning institutions?
  • arm learners with the knowledge, skills, and tools they need to become savvy web citizens and to know when a system is safe and designed to protect their information?
  • share data across platforms and organizations in productive ways that allow learners to pursue their interests and easily share and control their data across different learning networks?
  • promote a culture of civility and respect online, enabling deeper and more supportive trusted engagement among learners, and encouraging the development of learners as responsible creators and stewards of an open, inviting, and egalitarian web?

 

In the webinars, we spent time reflecting on the complex relationship between trust, teacher/instructor, and learners. This conversation is part the backdrop for us to start thinking through the complex task of building digital tools that are designed to put learners at the center. A big part of this, and something that came through with all of the webinar sessions, is rethinking the hierarchy of learning spaces to allow for more dialogic and transparent interactions and learning paths. To paraphrase what Audrey Watters said during the 4th webinar on Higher Education as a Trusted Learning Environment, how do we account for students being interpolated into technology, and how do we make sure that the technological tools and solutions we are creating empower everyone involved in learning?

Building Trust in Connected Learning Environments Webinar Series completed

Jade E. Davis, Program Coordinator at HASTAC, participated in the Social-Emotional Literacies and Digital Citizenship webinar produced in collaboration with ConnectedLearning.tv, and shares her thoughts about the conversation in this blog post.

The final webinar in the Building Trust in Connected Learning Environments series was on “Higher Education as a Trusted Environment for Learning”. In addition to myself, the participants included:

  • Jonathan Worth – Creator of the massive, open Photography & Narrative (#Phonar) course, and a renowned British portrait photographer
  • Audrey Watters – Technology and education journalist, and self-described “rabble-rouser & recovering academic”
  • Howard Rheingold – Author, virtual community expert, and self-described “online instigator & expert learner”
  • Anne Balsamo – Dean of the School of Media Studies and Professor of Media Studies at The New School for Public Engagement; co-founder of FemTechNet
  • Martha Burtis – Special Projects Coordinator for Teaching and Learning Technologies at the University of Mary Washington

The Conversation

This was a very dynamic conversation with many takeaways for people who plan to enter the Challenge. Here is a partial list of questions that came up during the conversation to consider when we imagine new trust based tools for connected learning.

How do we:

1. build trust in the processes of learning, from the tools to the shared spaces?

2. use tools to empower instead of reinforcing existing power relationships for both the learner and the instructor?

3. allow for many voices to be heard while removing noise?

4. make it easier for learners to understand what they can and can’t control?

5. build in the ability to delete or hide in open tools?

6. ensure that we’ve minimized the barriers to entry

7. take advantage of the wealth of information and connections made possible by digital media?

8. find ways to encourage creativity and co-exploration?

This isn’t an exhaustive list of the wonderful questions, concerns, and challenges that were brought up during the webinar.  As we think through the purpose of tools for learning, it is important to not forget that on either side of the tool we are hoping to make connected learning better, safer, and transparent for all those involved, from the designers and developers to the user. Trust is essential to all of this.

Now that the webinar series is completed we hope you will watch, comment, and join the conversation over the next month as we prepare to launch the application on September 3rd. You can follow us on twitter @dmlcomp and join the ongoing conversation with the hashtag #dmltrust.