From A Level Playing Field to a Few Empires: What Happened to the Web?

This post is part of a 10 day posting challenge issued by Tina Zita. You can’t be a connected educator if you don’t contribute. Sometimes we need a nudge to remember that if nobody shares, nobody learns. Thanks Tina! 


A caution as you read this: I am a learner, not an expert.  

I have set out here to use my #10posts10days  (#10days10posts) challenge to explore this area that deeply interests me, in an open way that lets others see what I am learning.  If you know more than I do, please correct me if necessary, and share! If you have more questions, please post those in the comments too.  Let’s learn more together.


The first timetable I was assigned as a new secondary school teacher was 3 sections of DIC2A/2G: Introduction to Computers.  It was all about DOS, binary numbers, file storage and hacking – before the excitement around Windows GUI – and I spent more time fixing the network than I did teaching!  But it was a popular course, and we recommended it to students.  Computers were new, but we seemed to understand that learning about them was important.

PET personal computer

A few years later, in the mid-1990’s, when the “Internet” arrived for most users, we taught most kids to craft websites using HTML code.

Anyone could make a website to share information, and the we saw the Internet as a place that gave people voices.

Shared by Kurazaybo Martinez Cabellaro CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Early users accessed the web and created HTML pages through Netscape, but that all changed with the release of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, the first “monopoly” on the web. By 2002, 95% of online computer users were accessing the Web through this browser, but only 11% of the world’s population was online.  As it lost the “browser wars” with IE, Netscape opened-sourced its code and Mozilla was born.

According to Mark Surman, CEO of Mozilla, developers were essentially able to maintain free access to the web by ensuring free alternatives were available.

Today, though, this has shifted.  Essentially four companies – Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google – control the internet, making it next to impossible to compete, or to be heard online, if you don’t fit the monetization strategies of the tech giants.

In a world where nearly 50% of the world’s population is online, yet many users thing Facebook IS the Internet,  how do we get back to an online world where all users have a voice?

From CBC Ideas: Screened Off – The Dangers of the Insular Web

“If you’re going to engage the modern world, you’re going to use the internet the way tech companies are making it for you. And you’re going to benefit from it in a bunch of ways. But you’re not really exercising a completely free choice.”
Tech thinker Sue Gardner

Tomorrow, we’ll look at how the tech giants use algorithms to control what you see online.

Featured image from Wikimedia

Your Smart Phone Changed Everything 3/10

This post is part of a 10 day posting challenge issued by Tina Zita. You can’t be a connected educator if you don’t contribute. Sometimes we need a nudge to remember that if nobody shares, nobody learns. Thanks Tina! 


A caution as you read this: I am a learner, not an expert.  

I have set out here to use my #10posts10days challenge to explore this area that deeply interests me, in an open way that lets others see what I am learning.  If you know more than I do, please correct me if necessary, and share! If you have more questions, please post those in the comments too.  Let’s learn more together.


It’s been 10 years since Steve Jobs first announced the invention of the iPhone.  Prior to 2007, how did you access information online?

Over the past decade, we have gone from primarily desktop and laptop access, to using our phones for most of our online activity.

This has profoundly changed when, where and how we access the web.

Image shared by Gerry CC BY 2.0

As you look around and see friends, family, and co-workers busy on their phones, consider how much of that time is being spent INSIDE Apps?

Why is that important?

At one time, the web was a place that was democratizing voices – allowing people to write, publish, communicate – without all the barriers to publication that were there for print media.  But as we moved inside the “walled gardens”, and changed our access patterns so that we existed online inside apps that tracked us, and fed us only what we wanted, some of the best content stopped reaching us.

Hossein Derakhshan, on CBC Ideas (9:20)

“I would describe the change in one simple argument, that the internet used to be like books, but now it’s like television.  That entails that a few elements, a few core elements and features of the internet and web, pre- the emergence of social media have also changed, so decentralization, non-linearity, it’s much less diverse now, and it’s become quite popularity driven, in a way.  If you write something that not many people support somehow, then it’s very likely that it wouldn’t be visible to very many people, even the people who are following you, and that’s a very key difference here.  Now, when you follow someone, let’s say on Twitter or Facebook, you don’t even see all their posts. That’s a huge change. You only get to see the ones the algorithms decide you should see, based on your previous engagements, based on the topics, and based on the amount of engagement they have attracted, likes and reshares, retweets and all that.”

He goes on to say that Web 2.0 has “transformed into social networks”, something which is now dominating in essentially every country.  This is probably even more predominant in developing countries where up to 50% of the people can think that the internet IS Facebook.

Apps have created convenience for us.  By spending time inside these corporately-owned spaces, we trade our privacy for that convenience.  According to Kin Lane, people who really understand the web are using this information to sort us into “comfortable little groups” so they can sell things to us.

So what basic understanding do we need to see what is happening to us based on our digital habits? To begin with, we need to understand what domains are, and who is behind them.  Domain Literacy, defined here by Kin Lane, is an important digital literacy.  Without this understanding, we are left to behave in our bubbles just as the app owners direct us to.

From Kin Lane:

“Increasingly startups are building tools to separate, segment, and personalize the web for “you”, leaving out all the bits about where you exist only in their sales funnel. They have a single focus, to identify you, target you, and put you into a bucket where they can monitor, track, and sell you things, on the way to their business exit (cha-ching).”

Tomorrow, I will take a closer look at the history of how our behaviour online has changed so much over the past 10-20 years.  In the meantime, I recommend the references below if you want to pursue this idea further.

Featured image by Frank McKenna on Unsplash



Hacking the Attention Economy by danah boyd

Why America is Self-Segregating by danah boyd

The Social Bubbles we Experienced During Election is the Future of the Web by Kin Lane

Screened Off – The Dangers of the Insular Web – CBC Ideas Podcast

Post-Truth Fact Check – Canadaland Podcast

Facebook Dismissive of Censorship and Abuse Concerns

Iran’s blogfather: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are killing the web – Hossein Derakhshan

Millions of Facebook users have no idea they’re using the internet

You Live in a Bubble – A Filter Bubble 2/10

This post is part of a 10 day posting challenge issued by Tina Zita. You can’t be a connected educator if you don’t contribute. Sometimes we need a nudge to remember that if nobody shares, nobody learns. Thanks Tina! 


In this year’s 10 posts in 10 days challenge, I wanted to find a theme for my posts. It had to be something I needed to explore more deeply, but I also wanted to present the ideas as an organized curation to better help others approach a topic that might be new to them.

In 2016, I was intrigued by how Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano offered her readers a structure to learn from her thinking.  By providing an advance organizer, she linked her ideas together in a way that helped her readers navigate through the topic in a meaningful way.

Recently, the idea that we live in an information filter bubble, and that these “bubbles” are part of massive social change, has entered into conversations on multiple platforms.  I want to learn more about how we came to this place, and the strategies and habits we need to intentionally escape from those bubbles.

I am planning the following posts, and I will link back to them here  (this is my initial thinking, so as I learn more, the topics might shift).

3/10 – How the “smart phone” and mobile apps have changed the way we interact online

4/10 – Historical perspective – the co-created open web to corporately owned platforms

5/10 – Algorithms: What’s controlling what you see and read?

6/10 – Videos and Images – From Facts to Feelings

7/10 – Popularity over Importance – How what sells trumps what is important.

8/10 – How edtech companies are shaping your behaviour.

9/10 – Strategies for escaping your bubble.

10/10 – And what about the classroom?

I welcome your feedback, comments and suggestions as I learn more about who has the power in our interconnected, yet insular, digital world.


Some initial resources:

CBC Ideas: The Insular Web

Tech Gypsies Podcast (caution – adult language)

Danah Boyd – Why America is Self-Segregating



Featured image by Califmom, shared under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

Sharing “Student Privacy” at Lakehead University Faculty of Education

Recently, I was honoured to be invited to share with first year B.Ed. students (aspiring teachers) at Lakehead University (Thunder Bay Campus).

We began by thinking about why digital was important, and by examining Padlet as a tool to be used in classrooms.  Our thinking on digital has been captured below.  Please feel free to add to our ideas.


Made with Padlet

As we used Padlet, we considered what security settings we would use, and how a tool like this might be used to extend learning in a classroom setting.

How can a tool like Padlet be used effectively in instruction without risking student privacy violations?

The reading slides for the presentation have been posted below. My contact information is on the last slide, or leave a comment on this blog if you need further information.

Featured Image by Wesley Fryer shared under a CC-BY-SA-2.0 License.

We Need You to Lead Us 1/10

This post is part of a 10 day posting challenge issued by Tina Zita. You can’t be a connected educator if you don’t contribute. Sometimes we need a nudge to remember that if nobody shares, nobody learns. Thanks Tina! 


We Need You to Lead Us

This subtitle from Seth Godin’s book, Tribes, is a call to action to all of us. In a rapidly changing world, we can no longer be complacent. Everyone has a voice, and a platform for spreading ideas that work.

How will the voices for good be the ones that rise to the top?

As an information junkie, who can easily spend a lot of time reading each day, I do need a push to share what I am learning.  It is so simple to fall into the traps that prevent sharing:

No time – it’s easier to keep reading than to stop, reflect and share.

Reflecting, sharing, and documenting learning are all essential parts of learning. Doing this openly invites conversation, helps others reflect further, and spreads ideas.

It isn’t perfect – in a few more days I will really be able to craft something better.

We hold on to the belief that we can’t “put it out there” until it’s perfect. George Couros often refers to having a place to do your thinking, and another place for your best work. Getting ideas out there helps  invites others to help shape your ideas. You can write even more perfectly about them once they have had the chance to bounce around in your PLN for awhile.

It’s too short – I’ll wait until I have a bit more.

Readers will thank you for “short” posts. It’s all they have time to read anyway! Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter – they thrive on our need for small pieces of information.

I really did need someone to lead me, to nudge me to get through the excuses for not sharing, and to push me to do what I believe, to consistently and reliably document and share what I am learning, to read the work of others and to be a participant in the evolving ideas of those in my PLN.

Thank you, Tina Zita, for modelling the importance of being a leader in 2017.

Won’t you join this 10 posts in 10 days challenge?


Back in August, Carlo Fusco invited me to speak on his podcast about my education passions, and the things that were keeping me up at night.

(The podcast can be found here)

In the podcast, I quickly outline my concern about the gap between what I see happening in schools, and what we need to learn to thrive in 2017 and beyond in the digital economy.

However, it was later in 2016 that I listened to Audrey Watters and Kin Lane in the Tech Gypsies Podcast, when they talked about each and every one of us being responsible to learn the things we must learn to make sense of the world, and to make good decisions.

The entire podcast is worth your time, and I highly recommend listening to it regularly.  If you only have a few minutes, begin around 35:00 (36:45 if you are really short on time, and Caution: Language can be explicit at times)

We need a more digitally literate society.  There are so many examples of why this is true, and I will be exploring those further this week.

Fullan's 6 C's don't require technologyEven when we consider the thinking around 21st Century Learning, and the 6 C’s (or 4 C’s) that we so readily accept, we are missing the part where digital literacies are critical to making good decisions for ourselves and for our children.




Throughout 2016, I worked to craft careful messages to influence others about the importance of digital literacies.

In 2017, rather than a focus on trying to convince others that digital literacies are important, I am committed to providing an open structure where others can learn more about technology with me.

I am convinced that in this world where facts are difficult to find, each and every one of us needs to find our voice and lead learning that will ensure that our connections are creating positive change in our world.

My focus word for 2017 is


[rhymes with seed, feed, need]


This spoken word piece, written and performed by Chinaka Hodge at TEDWomen 2016, pushes all of us to find the leader inside ourselves.

Digital Literacies: Simon Sinek on Millennials and Social Media

Below is the portion of the Simon Sinek interview that deals with Millennials and their addiction to social media and cell phones.

As a school system, what are our obligations in ensuring our young people have the skills they need to thrive in today’s world?

What digital literacies are needed?  What understanding do they need around the impact of instant access?

Simon Sinek raises interesting questions around what Millennials (and others, including their parents) need, and what we need to change in classrooms for today’s kids.



*Featured image by Jimmy Chang on Unsplash

Learning Network Leadership – A Path Forward

If we are to build an effective learning network,

what will it look like?

An effective learning network is complex, changing, growing, shrinking, morphing over old, new and evolving platforms.  It reaches into classrooms and across the globe, held together by personal learning networks (PLNs) that continually build new connections, cultivate new relationships and learning while allowing others to dissipate.

It centres on individual connections and actions, yet provides far-reaching value.

It allows learning to reach the student desk more quickly than our old structures.  It puts an end to the geographic privilege of access, builds collaborative efficacy over distance, normalizes collaboration as a way of professional practice, and amplifies promising practices.

Individual Workflow – Personal Learning Environment or PLE

An effective network is composed of educators who work openly by default.  Their daily workflow (Personal Learning Environment or PLE)  includes personal learning that comes not only from traditional sources, like books and research articles, but also through efficient searching for educator blogs, tweets (microblogs), ebooks, audio books, webcasts, videos and exploring other online digital content that takes them into classrooms and into the minds of educators.  

Content is organized and shared back to the community in a format that will reach their audience (parents, teachers, ECEs, leaders, community).  They connect online with people in similar or different roles to have discussions, share strategies, consider ideas, connect thinking and stay in tune with what is happening in the world of the people they serve.  They bring in the experts they need to ensure student outcomes are improving.

And, as they learn, they document that learning in a way that is valuable to others, considering audience and format, privacy and purpose.  They share that learning back to their audience in a way that models digital citizenship and celebrates the work being done in their schools.

  1. Collecting Information – Leaders dedicate time for professional learning and develop competencies in effectively exploring and organizing relevant content, including blogs, podcasts, discussions, monographs and articles shared by others through social media.  They share these information and knowledge collecting strategies with peers, teachers, students and the community.  They understand how to access the information they need by leveraging the capabilities of the network.
  2. Connecting in Physical and Digital Spaces – Leaders value their connections to others and the learning that comes from conversations in person and online.  They continue to nurture and build connections, bringing value to their organizations and those they serve.  They model the importance of connectivism for students and other educators.
  3. Curating and Sharing Important Learning with Others – Leaders streamline the flow of information by filtering, packaging, and sharing in a way that mobilizes knowledge for targeted audiences. This is a complex skill that all of our students should also master. 
  4. Creating and Providing Value to the Network – Leaders contribute what they are learning and make their thinking visible to others. This involves documentation and sharing skills, modelling them openly for others in the organization.  Networks are only as valuable as the people in them and what they create and share with others.

Documenting Learning: Capturing the learning (and lack of learning)

  • Understanding a process/protocol for documentation (for example, Documenting for Learning)
  • Choosing an appropriate tool and product (text, blog, image, video, webcast, podcast, report, etc.)
  • Developing expertise in editing products (audio and video editing, website development)
  • Technical expertise
  • Reflecting (what to share, what audience, when?)
  • Modelling all of these for those you serve in the organization (students, educators)

Sharing the Learning (Openly as the Default)

  • Consider the privacy protection of those involved in your learning
  • Consider the intellectual property rights of any work you have used or remixed (develop a deep understanding of Creative Commons Licensing)
  • Consider the most effective and appropriate place to share based on desired audience (with open as default) – online open, online internal, conference, learning session. It is understanding the shifting differences and similarities among platforms, and where audiences reside at the moment.
  • Develop visual media, web and information literacies as well as global literacies
  • Amplify the practices that are making a difference.
  • Contribute in a positive way to the network, modelling this for others in the organization.
  • Where are other learning networks you can leverage?

This view of network leadership presents many entry points, and a shifting variety of digital literacies and skills needed for successful participation in networked learning.

Some of these skills are outlined here.


*Featured images by Giulia Forsythe CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0


Langwitches Blog: Digital Citizenship and Documenting Learning

Harvard Business Review: Are You Network Literate?

The Digital Skills we Must Teach our Children:  World Economic Forum, 2016

The Tipping Point to Transformation: David Culberhouse


Retweet or Share?

Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook make sharing easy, much easier, in fact, than reading the full content or discovering the real source of the post.


An algorithm, which you have no control over, determines what content reaches your eyes.

There is no human to complain to when that goes wrong.

Facebook makes money through likes and shares.  It wants you to be engaged and share what you see.  Critical thinking, truth, facts, none of these factor into the profit equation.

In what is now referred to the Post-truth era, it is disturbing to think about how much false content is circulated as fact.  Students struggle to determine the difference between truth and fiction.

As parents and educators, how are we modelling practices that promote facts and reliable sources over clickbait and sensationalism?

On social media, liking, sharing and retweeting  shows others the content that is meaningful to you.  It is a reflection of who you are, and what you believe in.

A decade ago, I used to retweet fairly indiscriminately.  If it looked like a good resource, I shared it.  Then, Ira Socol took the time to question my retweet.  I realized that retweeting is actually a form of curating.  If I want to create value online for others, I need to critically evaluate resources and ideas, and share them with descriptive comments.

What I choose to share reflects my professionalism.  What I choose to share is the value I am creating for others.  Before sharing, I carefully evaluate the source, and I often highlight (in my comments) the part I find most valuable.

Fortunately, I have a loud PLN that will quickly question almost anything I share openly.

Other curators help me sort through the unfathomable amount of information on the web.  Stephen Downes, Doug Belshaw, and Audrey Watters are examples of thought leaders who filter, curate and share information regularly.  I know that there will be value in their curations.

More importantly, what do we do when we encounter colleagues and friends sharing misleading information or sheer fiction as though it were factual? Do we just turn our heads the other way, or do we take the time, like Ira Socol did for me, and challenge the source or the thinking?

Barack Obama said that we can’t move democracy forward if we don’t have a common set of facts to refer to.  Now that we have seen the impact of the propaganda spread through social media, what will we do as educators to shut it down?

How do we ensure our students can critically evaluate information,  triangulate sources, and distinguish between belief and fact?

Featured Image by Wesley Fryer CC-BY-2.0

Open Education Leadership

Should education leaders work openly?

Is knowledge more rapidly mobilized through the system when leaders work openly?

For the purposes of my work, I am considering personal professional openness – the concept of sharing thinking and learning in open spaces, curating resources for others, engaging in open conversations in text or through broadcast technologies like podcasts, videos and YouTube Live, blogging and commenting on blogs, and participating across the educational boundaries in wider conversations across the web.

“Working open” means different things in different contexts.  Doug Belshaw has summarized the idea of working open in education here.

He provides this question, that is an excellent starting point for opening our work to others:

We should be continually asking the question, “can we make this public?” If that seems too radical, then a smaller step might be the question, “is there any reason why this shouldn’t be shared with everyone at the organisation?”


Here is a summary of what I learned this week.  The full story is below.

Working openly is a new skill, with unlimited potential for mobilizing knowledge within the education system.  We (as a system) don’t yet value it as a critical leadership skill for education.

“You are never going to be able to shortcut doing the hard work of changing hearts and mind, and the hook which gets people to realize that working openly is useful, is going to be different in every situation”. (Doug Belshaw)

When, as a  leader, you work openly, you allow others to “swim in the river you are swimming in”, not your river, but the one you are swimming in right now. (Dai Barnes)

Open practices are on a continuum, and are dependent on context. Developing digital literacies helps leaders understand what should be shared openly, but also what should be shared behind a password, and what should be private.

Senior Leaders need to be conscious of their position when blogging, but sharing their learning  minimizes the disconnect between leadership thinking and classroom practice.

Once Senior Leaders believe that open practice is worth pursuing, we need a scaffolded approach to help develop an understanding of digital literacies and support in developing that open practice.

Open practice by senior leaders encourages the participation of the entire learning community, and helps all stakeholders in public education find their voice.


The full story:

Since beginning my work with #mathleadersNEO the Mathematics Leadership Network, I have been exploring this thinking – how open practice can impact the work of education leaders, particularly in influencing classroom practice and improving student learning.

Recently, I listened to the TIDE Podcast #61: Open to Suggestion, screen-shot-2016-11-22-at-10-59-12-pmwhich got me thinking again about the value in working openly as an education leaders.



I hoped that Doug Belshaw and Dai Barnes might explore it in more detail, so I posted this suggestion on their Slack Channel:


I was so pleased to see that in TIDE Episode #70, the answer to this question was discussed, and some ideas completely new to me surfaced in the conversation.

I have posted the sections of the podcast to help provide focus for the thinking.  Please take a few minutes to listen to the sound clips that are much more explicit than my summaries below.

The Importance of Content – Choosing Words Carefully


Dai began by talking about the role of an education leader and how conscious a leader needs to be about that role and position, and the ‘weight’ of the words they might make public.

Understanding what can and should be shared openly is a digital literacy, and it takes time to build.  Experiencing the value of reaching an audience this way, and leveraging it to achieve organizational goals, also takes time to develop.

It is difficult to access education leaders.  When they make their thinking and learning visible through blogging and other social media interactions, everyone in the organization (and the community) has access to what they are learning.

Sharing Resources Openly (Instead of Through Email)

Instead of sharing resources with specific educators in email, leaders can share them in an open space (such as a blog or website) so that all educators, within the system and world wide, have access to those resources. It also allows others to then comment on how they use the resources in classroom practice, to add other similar resources to the list, and to have a conversation in the comments around the specific learning goals best supported through these resources.


What are the Barriers to Sharing Openly?


We have to understand what can (and should) be shared fully openly, what should be shared behind a password, and what should be private.  As well, we need to learn how to do that sharing so that nobody is personally or professionally impacted in a negative way.

For example, sharing a screencast on how to copy a Google Doc might be valuable to many educators.  What we wouldn’t say, is, “I know many educators in my school are struggling with this, so I have made this instructional screencast to help you”.

We might say instead, “Are you trying to copy a Google Doc? Here are some simple instructions to walk you through the process”.  This statement makes the learning open to all without any suggestion that the skill is one specific people find difficult.

It’s new learning.  It’s 2016 learning. And you don’t know what you don’t know. For so many educators, the way they have always done things has served them well and they don’t see the need for change in practice.


What New Leadership Qualities do we Value in 2016?


When, as a  leader, you work openly, you allow others to “swim in the river you are swimming in”, not your river, but the one you are swimming in right now.

Dai is playing with an important concept here, I think.

There are certain qualities and strengths of education leaders that we have traditionally valued, and we look for these.

But working openly is a new skill, with unlimited potential for mobilizing knowledge within the education system.  We don’t yet value it in the education system.


Open Practices: Changing Hearts and Minds


There is no such thing as open practice.  It is open practices (plural) because it is always within the context of where the learning is happening.

“You are never going to be able to shortcut doing the hard work of changing hearts and mind, and the hook which gets people to realize that working openly is useful, is going to be different in every situation”.

Who can you influence to practice more openly today?

What small steps can each leader take to work more openly?



Here are some of the long term questions I am trying to answer:

How can Superintendents ensure that knowledge and understanding of high-yield instructional practices reaches the level of the student desk?

Does the exchange of ideas in open networks, across the boundaries of school districts, and even countries, more quickly impact change in classroom practice?

Can open leadership practices by system leaders enhance knowledge mobilization and improved classroom instruction, thereby increasing student learning and achievement?

Can technology help system leaders get new learning into classrooms?



Please also see our work with Stephen Downes here.

The Importance of Working Open by Doug Belshaw

Featured image shared by ThinkPublic CC-BY-SA-2.0

by Donna Miller Fry (@fryed)