Settings for Trust in Connected Learning

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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

danah boyd is a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and a Fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. She is also the founder and president of a new think/do tank called the Data & Society Research Institute. Her research examines the intersection of technology and society. Currently, she’s focused on research questions related to “big data”, privacy and publicity, and teen culture. Her recent book – “It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens” – has received widespread praise from scholars, parents, and journalists.  Blog: http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts and Twitter: @zephoria

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

The public projects a lot onto technology. It is seen as both the savior of our current economy and the destroyer of our cultural fabric.  The companies and organizations that build a lot of these systems are perfectly aware of how imperfect they are, but many people assume technology to be perfect and infallible (or outright evil).  To complicate matters further, the organizations that are building or employing new technologies are rarely local or connected deeply to the communities that use them.  As a result, a whole host of questions about trust emerge.  How do we understand the technologies? The companies that build them? The organizations that deploy them? The parties that abuse them? Given our general fear and misunderstanding of technology, this gets complicated very fast.
2. How are you thinking about trust in regard to connected learning?
When we talk about connected learning, we’re implicating a whole host of different actors to enable learning – educators, parents, students, librarians, administrators, government agencies, technologists, learning companies, etc.  We need those varied actors to understand, respect, and trust one another.  And then we need them to help bake trust into the systems that they build – technological, social, and governmental.  At a technological level, trust requires security, privacy, and safety sitting at the center of the story.  These things take on a different valence when we’re talking about social and governmental decision-making.  But trust starts from collectively recognizing that we’re all working towards a desirable goal of empowering learners and realizing that getting there will be imperfect and require iteration.
3. What are some of the biggest challenges to engendering trust you see in connected learning?
Distrust. <grin>  More seriously, I do think that there’s a lot of distrust between different actors in the network. Some of this comes from historical battles, but there is also genuine fear and concern about what new technologies and disruption writ large mean for those who have spent their lives in education. The other core issue is that people’s failure to understand technology’s strengths and weaknesses mean that the public often has unreasonable expectations regarding technology and its application.  This is not helped by industry actors who are happy to sell the moon without accounting for the limitations of what various tools can or cannot promise.
4. 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?
Advancements in this arena happen at multiple levels. For example, encryption can be a powerful tool for enhancing privacy and security.  Public commitments and correction procedures – such as those made by Wikipedia – can go a long way in building trust over time, even when people doubt the service at the beginning.  Publicly detailed data management plans, such as those required by many federal grants, can be a great mechanism for assessing the efforts of a particular endeavor. The most important thing to remember is that no system is perfect, no procedure infallible.  So a huge part of the process of building and sustaining trust is to plan for what happens when things go wrong.  We do this all the time in education – think about fire drills – but we don’t realize how important this is when we think about technology.
5. What are some of the literacies you think are required for learners to  have a digital “trust literacy”?

I think that people need to understand how data is collected, aggregated, sold, and used in the process of enabling all sorts of everyday services.  Why do you think you got the results you got on Google? How did Amazon decide to recommend that other product to you? Why are you seeing the ads you’re seeing on your local newspaper’s site? What happens when you Like something? The more that people can understand how data operates in a networked society, the more that we can have a meaningful conversation about trust.  And the more that people can start asking questions of the services they are using in order to hold those services accountable.

Reflections on Trust and Learning with an Evolving Internet

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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

Dave Steer is Mozilla Foundation’s director of policy and advocacy, where he shapes the organization’s public policy position and develops programs that enable web users to have a voice in advancing and protecting the free and open web.

Dave joined Mozilla in 2014 from Facebook, where he was responsible for the company’s global policy programs in a variety of areas including teen safety, education, digital citizenship, jobs and economy, and veterans affairs. Prior to Facebook, he held leadership positions at Common Sense Media and GreatSchools.org, and ran Trust & Safety marketing at eBay and PayPal. Steer started his career as part of the initial team at TRUSTe, where he was responsible for marketing and public relations for the privacy program.

Steer holds a B.A. in political science from the University of Vermont. He serves on the Bay Area advisory board for Little Kids Rock, is an avid Phish fan, and dreams of touring in a band when he grows up. He lives in San Francisco, CA, with his wife and daughter.

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

We are at a critical point in the evolution of the Internet.

We’re seeing first-hand that new technologies are enabling people all over the world to connect and share the most important parts of their lives. They are fueling innovation and opportunity, and leading to new jobs, stronger economies, and more resilient communities. They are creating new opportunities to improve academic, social and emotional outcomes through learning inside and outside the classroom, enabling educators to create whole communities that put the learner at the center.

More broadly, we’re seeing the explosive adoption of the Internet. Today, billions of people are online and, led by the massive growth in mobile usage, billions more from the most rural parts of the globe will be online in the next few years.

The same factors that are fueling this growth so dramatically, however, can work against us. Indeed, the Internet is a fragile resource and its stability is hinged on trust in the medium.

People’s comfort with privacy, security and safety online is what drives this trust. Their comfort is shaped by many factors they read in the news and experience in their online lives: governments undermining the security of the Internet to advance surveillance practices; policy makers threatening to destroy the level playing field of the Internet; companies tracking people’s online activities; identity thieves attacking the Internet to steal sensitive information. All of this leads to an environment of distrust which creating barriers to leveraging the Internet to advance society as a whole.

This presents us with unique challenges and opportunities.

The Internet has the potential to be the greatest shared, global resource and medium in the history of the world, accessible to and shaped by all people. It has the promise to be the first medium in which anyone can make anything, and share it with anyone.

In order for this to become a reality, particularly during this time of ever-accelerating growth, we have to codify the way in which we can earn trust and enable a vigilant, successful global community on the Internet.

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?

Privacy is at the core of trust.

Consider this: Over the past decade, people have been asked to share more and more information with websites and mobile services. This raises many questions: What information is being gathered? Who has access to it? Why is it being gathered? And, when it comes to Connected Learning, are educators trained with the skills they need to handle sensitive personal information?

But trust and privacy is not limited to student data collection and use. It also includes social networking, which raises even more societal questions when it comes to learning and the interaction between students, families and educators. How can educators create a safe environment in the school when so much connection among students is happening online? How can it create a culture of kindness, where bullying and cruelty are not OK? And in an age where students and educators are both exposing parts of their lives online, what constitutes a reasonable expectation of privacy?

While these open questions can raise doubt and uncertainty, there is also great opportunity in enabling young people to better develop their identities through a deeper understand of what is private. Specifically, privacy allows people to play around with identities, which is particularly important at formative stages of life. These stages often coincide with formal education – without that space to try on different identities, people are locked into a single way of being.

In this way, the notion of privacy is subjective and contextual, and young people today are learning about privacy while developing their identity and exploring different contexts, both online and offline. danah boyd highlights the opportunities and dangers of this ‘context collapse’ in her book ‘It’s Complicated’.

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

Some of the biggest challenges to engendering trust are rooted in privacy. That is, what sensitive personal information is being gathered by the technologies that educators are using? How are they using the information, and how are they safeguarding it? And are educators trained to handle the information? We need to create a better understanding among students, families and all stakeholders about who ‘owns’ the data, how the data is being used, and people’s rights regarding the data. A key part of developing this understanding will be transparency – that is, making the answers to these pivotal privacy questions transparent to all parties.

Safety is another core challenge to trusting a Connected Learning experience. With fear over bullying and other issues related to how students interact with each other, educators and families question the risks associated with an increasing role of connected technologies in the learning experience. This is just one reason why social-emotional learning development must be part of any educator’s approach to Connected Learning.

The technologies associated with Connected Learning are new and evolving all the time. As a result, there will be a knee-jerk tendency from policy makers to develop rules around how these technologies are used in order to maintain privacy and safety. Without understanding the technology or how it will be used, this type of policy making approach can undermine the promise of connected learning.

4. 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?

At the core of enabling trust in Connected Learning is greater understanding how the Internet works.

Today, there is an upswell of programs aimed at teaching people coding skills. These programs serve as a tool to prepare people for an information economy-driven workforce.

This is important, but I encourage people to start by engaging in systems that enable people to build trust through creating web literacy. For example, Mozilla’s Webmaker tools are easy — and FUN — ways to learn how the Web works.

A good guide to navigating the various elements of web literacy is the Web Literacy Map and related resources. These resources map to core web literacy skills, that will be vital both to trust in Connected Learning and competencies in an evolving economy. Another set of emerging tools are badging systems, such as Open Badges, that give people recognition for accomplishments. This type of incentive system inspires people to continue learning and ‘level up’.

5. Do you see a distinction between the structural conditions and experiential considerations regarding trust? If so, what are the sorts of structural/institutional structures that might engender/discourage trust in relation to learning/connected learning?

Trust is so critical to how a thriving society functions that it must be intentionally designed and architected into its fabric. Call it ’Trust by Design’.

For example, since openness and transparency are vital drivers of trust, the architects designing a connected learning experience must include points at which they demystify and shine the light on their practices. In Connected Learning, people want to understand what information they are giving, who they are giving it to, what will be done with the information, and why it is needed. Beyond this, they want to understand the value exchange associated with Connected Learning — specifically, does new technology result in better outcomes, whether it be academic, social, civic, or workforce related.

Another ‘trust by design’ element must take into account the notion that trust is an interpersonal, social dynamic. It is the dynamic that says ‘I rely on you. So you can rely on me’. In this spirit, healthy systems that engender trust enable the community to actively participate in the making of the system. Wikipedia, for example, is such a powerful engine for knowledge and learning because it is developed, maintained and safeguarded by the community.

The most successful Connected Learning systems will keep this community development and participation dynamic at the core of what they design.

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.