Tag: Digital Literacy

Google Maps Timeline & Digital Security

I’ve been (slowly) working my way through the 23 Things List, a project on digital literacy from the University of Edinburgh. Thing number 4 was Digital Security. While we include Web Security in a lot of our digital literacy prorams, I’m not a huge WebSec person. It’s not something that I think about or worry about to the extent that ….. does.

Probably because WebSec hasn’t been a huge concern for me, I was surprised by what I found on Google Maps Timeline.

My data on Google Maps Timeline

If you go to https://www.google.com/maps/timeline, you will likely find your own movement history for the past several years. As you can see in the picture above, Google knows my home and work addresses (I’ve removed them from the screenshot), the cities that I’ve been to, and even the modes of transportation I took to get there.

I can go through the data and find out how many times I’ve been to my favorite coffee shops over the past week or year. Google has data on my location dating back to 2009, which is probably when I got my first phone that tracked geolocations. The data is a bit patchy for the early years, but pretty thorough since about 2015.

My colleague Keegan Long-Wheeler has been doing some work on reconstructing his memories from the past few years. He had a brain tumor removed earlier this year, so he has been going back through the softwares that track him to retrace his steps and reflect on his activities.

If we want to be very generous to Google, we can suppose for a moment that this is how they intended such data to be used. I enjoyed spending about 15 minutes looking back through my data and remembering some of the trips from the past couple of years. Google also uses this data to send us notifications about how long it’s going to take to get to work in the morning and what the traffic is like around us. They put our maps through algorithms to understand our daily routines, and build that information into their phones, watches, and assistants.

However, I think we all realize that the reason Google collects this information is so that they can use it for marketing. Google is an ad company and a data company. They want to micro-target us with ads, and they want to sell our data to companies that will be most interested in us. Knowing literally everywhere that I’ve been over the past 10 years is valuable for their business model.

If you haven’t done it yet, go to https://www.google.com/maps/timeline and look at your data. Play around with it for a few minutes. Reminisce about those trips and your favorite spots around town.

Now look at the little black trashcan at the bottom of the screen, and seriously think about deleting all that location data. If you didn’t know about this service until today, and if you don’t care about those notifications you get to your phone, you won’t be missing anything and Google won’t be able to sell all of your location data any more. If you love your Google notifications, and you’ve got a Google Home listening to your every move at home, then maybe leave it on. Either way, control of your data should be up to you. You can find more about your data security in the Thing 4 walkthrough or check out this Medium post by Nick Rosener on Personal Cybersecurity.

Fake News and Fact Checking

Keegan is wrapping up the first week of his Information Literacy Faculty Learning Community as I type.

The FLC, especially for weeks 1 & 2, draws heavily on Mike Caulfield’s work on media and information literacy, especially his recent work around what he calls the ‘Four Moves’ of fact-checking. Mike has built out an challenge bank to test your fact checking at Four Moves and you can delve deeper into his work in his OER textbook Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers.

Within the FLC, Keegan is encouraging us to reflect on the material for each week by answering three prompts:

What should we be teaching our students about this topic?

I think there is an overlapping set of skills that can variously be called digital literacy, information literacy, media literacy, civic literacy, etc. There is a lot of overlap within the Venn diagram of these skill groups and there are identifiable pieces and disciplinary histories that help to define and separate each of the sets.

At OU we’ve had an initiative called ‘Writing Across the Curriculum’ in place for several years that tries to get students to write essays in classes across campus, not just English classes. Similarly, I would like to see a ‘Literacy Across the Curriculum’ initiative that emphasizes whichever sets of literacies are most applicable for each course (media literacy for journalism classes or information literacy for library classes, etc.). These skills are naturally part of many classes already, but a concerted effort to emphasize these skills in all (or as close to all as is practical) classes would both introduce and reinforce these real-world, necessary skills for students.

In my role within the Office of Digital Learning, I advocate for and help instructors integrate digital literacy lessons into their classes. Finding information online and vetting that information is a key real-world skill. In my history of science classes, I teach how scientists fought for authority/respectability and their rhetorical strategies for arguing their scientific theories. I want students to understand how to evaluate the trustworthiness of scientific rhetoric, and I think that’s an obvious place to extend the lesson into evaluating the trustworthiness of all rhetoric.

What’s a small change you can make in your course for the benefit of your students?

I really like Mike’s activity bank. I’ve used activity banks in my classes for a while now. I usually set these up as an array of different activities that reinforce the material from class. Students can choose those activities that reinforce the skills and/or content that most interest them in order to exercise those skills and deepen that knowledge. I think I can integrate Mike’s activity bank into my own to encourage students to practice their fact checking and broader digital literacy skills.

Feel free to share any other thoughts or comments you have on this topic:

I’m hopeful that participants in the FLC will integrate some of Mike’s work into their own teaching and courses. When I look around the ecosystem of Digital Literacy education in higher education, Mike’s work stands out as being incredibly timely, important, and practical.

I really like how Keegan has curated the material for this FLC. I know that we’re going to talk about Chris Gilliard’s work on Digital Redlining in the coming weeks. Amy Collier and her team’s Digital Detox project is another very accessible and adaptable entry into the field and served as a model for Keegan’s work.

I’m currently participating in the #engageMOOC and next week I’m leading a graduate student workshop on Digital Identity. My field, educational technology, is in this space right now, and I think that’s significant of the broader cultural awakening towards the threats of Fake News, digital manipulation, and the eroding of truth and trust in society. I’m hopeful that Keegan’s work and the work of all of the participants in his FLC can do at least some good in addressing these issues on our campus. I’d encourage you to participate in the FLC online and think about how to address them in your own work.

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