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open thinking



rants & resources from an open educator



Updated: 2017-07-23T04:05:02Z

 



6th Annual NJ GAFE Summit – Fake News

2017-07-23T04:05:02Z

Next week, I’ll be attending the 6th annual New Jersey GAFE summit. In addition to facilitating a few workshops, I’m also very honoured to have been invited to deliver the opening keynote at the event. My presentation, titled Developing critical … Continue reading

Next week, I’ll be attending the 6th annual New Jersey GAFE summit. In addition to facilitating a few workshops, I’m also very honoured to have been invited to deliver the opening keynote at the event. My presentation, titled Developing critical literacies: What students need to know in a “fake news” world, addresses what I see as one of the key challenges facing educators today: preparing students to survive and thrive in our post-truth reality.

In anticipation of this event, I’ve compiled a small collection of key readings, viewings, and other resources on the Padlet found below.

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I’d love for you to take some time to explore the information collected on the Padlet and then to think about how you might start to address the issue of fake news in your own school context. Then, please take a few moments to respond, by commenting on this post OR by submitting your own video response to the Flipgrid below. Even if you won’t be attending the New Jersey summit, I’d still love to hear your thoughts on this important issue in education!

src="https://flipgrid.com/5c154c/?embed=true" width="600" height="800" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen">




What Kind of (Digital) Citizen?

2017-06-05T22:27:00Z

This post was co-written with Katia Hildebrandt and also appears on her blog. This week (June 5-11) we’ll be hosting a couple of events and activities related to digital citizenship as part of a series of DigCiz conversations. Specifically, we’d like … Continue reading →This post was co-written with Katia Hildebrandt and also appears on her blog. This week (June 5-11) we’ll be hosting a couple of events and activities related to digital citizenship as part of a series of DigCiz conversations. Specifically, we’d like to deepen the discussion around digital citizenship by asking how we might move from a model of personal responsibility (staying safe online) to one that takes up issues of equity, justice, and other uncomfortable concepts. That is, we want to think about what it might look like to think about digital citizenship in a way that more closely resembles the way we often think about citizenship in face-to-face contexts, where the idea of being a citizen extends beyond our rights and also includes our responsibility to be active and contributing members of our communities. Of course, that’s not to say that face-to-face citizenship is by default more active, but we would argue that we tend to place more emphasis on active citizenship in those settings than we do when we discuss it in its digital iteration. So…in order to kick things off this week, we wrote this short post to provide a bit more background on the area we’ll be tackling. Digital Citizenship 1.0: Cybersafety The idea of digital citizenship is clearly influenced by the idea of “Cybersafety,” which was the predominant framework for thinking about online behaviours and interactions for many years (and still is in many places). This model is focused heavily on what not to do, and it relies on scare-tactics that are designed to instill a fear of online dangers in young people. This video, titled “Everyone knows Sarah,” is a good example of a cybersafety approach to online interactions: width="584" height="438" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ThxmgXMBpoM?feature=oembed" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> The cybersafety approach is problematic for a number of reasons. We won’t go into them in depth here, but they basically boil down to the fact that students aren’t likely to see PSAs like this one and then decide to go off the grid; the digital world is inseparable from face-to-face contexts, especially for today’s young people who were born into this hyper-connected era. So this is where digital citizenship comes in: instead of scaring kids offline or telling them what not to do, we should support them in doing good, productive, and meaningful things online. From Cybersafety to Digital Citizenship Luckily, in many spheres, we have seen a shift away from cybersafety (and towards digital citizenship) in the last several years, and this shift has slowly found its way into education. In 2015, we were hired by our province’s Ministry of Education to create a planning document to help schools and districts with the integration of the digital citizenship curriculum. The resulting guide, Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools, can be found here. In the guide, we noted: “Digital citizenship asks us to consider how we act as members of a network of people that includes both our next-door neighbours and individuals on the other side of the planet and requires an awareness of the ways in which technology mediates our participation in this network. It may be defined as ‘the norms of appropriate and responsible online behaviour’ or as ‘the quality of habits, actions, and consumption patterns that impact the ecology of digital content and communities.’” In the Digital Citizenship Guide, we also underlined the importance of moving from a fear- and avoidance-based model to one that emphasizes the actions that a responsible digital citizen should take. For instance, we suggested that schools move away from “acceptable use” policies (which take up the cybersafety model[...]



Mario Couros Memorial Bursary

2017-01-24T03:42:44Z

Hey everyone – I’m really hoping that you can support the following with your direct contribution or by sharing this far and wide. Back in January of 2013, I initiated a massive open online course about edtech called #etmooc. It … Continue reading

Hey everyone – I’m really hoping that you can support the following with your direct contribution or by sharing this far and wide.

Back in January of 2013, I initiated a massive open online course about edtech called #etmooc. It was an amazing experience for me, and perhaps most significantly, it introduced to me to a group of amazing, passionate individuals who have continued to learn and connect since the early days of the course.

These individuals have not only been great supporters of open and networked learning, they are also incredibly caring individuals who have demonstrated immense charity and kind regard for others.

As many of you may remember, the day after the last #etmooc session, my father Mario passed away unexpectedly. #etmooc participants and so many others in my network were there for me to provide their sincere condolences and support in my greatest time of need. I know that we often see the shallowness of social media connections, but I am fortunate to have experienced deep caring and friendship in these spaces.

About a year ago, the group of #etmooc alumni surprised me with an incredible gift. They initiated a bursary at the University of Regina (my place of employment) in memory of my father. Befitting the fact that my parents immigrated to Canada in the 1950’s, the Mario Couros Bursary has been set up specifically to support the post-secondary education of a new Canadian who is looking to enter the Faculty of Education and become a teacher!

#etmooc has been raising money all year but they are still short of the goal of $25,000 Canadian dollars. So, to boost efforts, #etmooc individuals have taken the incredible additional step of setting up an online auction to raise funds for the additional amount needed to fully fund the bursary.

So what am I asking you to do here? If you are interested in the auction items, please consider going to http://tiny.cc/mariocouros and scroll down the page to bid on various items that have been donated by #etmooc participants. If you’re not interested in any of the items, you can also donate directly to the bursary through Erin Werner at the University of Regina, via phone at 306-585-5432, or via email at erin.werner@uregina.ca

Or, if you are not in the place to bid or donate, please consider sharing this post. I’m really hoping that we can fully fund the bursary.

Thank you so much for your support!(image)




Developing a Critical Disposition

2017-01-15T16:10:43Z

This morning, I received a photo (found below – I added the watermark) from a catfishing victim. She received it from a scammer who had used many of my personal and professional photos to form an online, intimate relationship with … Continue reading → This morning, I received a photo (found below – I added the watermark) from a catfishing victim. She received it from a scammer who had used many of my personal and professional photos to form an online, intimate relationship with her for the purpose of defrauding her out of money. The victim finally clued into the scam after already sending him thousands of dollars. While it may seem ridiculous to fall for such a scam, I receive hundreds of similar reports every year, and if you know of my ongoing saga, you will understand that I have tried my best to bring the problem to the attention of Facebook, Google, elected officials, law enforcement, etc. None of these organizations or agencies seem to be willing or able to do anything about this problem, and thus I feel the responsibility of teaching about such Internet scams must continue to be taken up by educators in K-12 and post-secondary institutions. Over the years, I have seen teachers make great use of interesting “fake sites” designed to help students develop information literacies/skills. Some of these include DHMO.org, Save the Endangered Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus, Feline reactions to bearded men, and DehydratedWater.com. And while these are still great resources that can be used with some success, given the abundance of fake news and internet scams that inundate our digital society, there are plenty of opportunities to use fresh and authentic examples in class. For instance, using the example of the photo above, students could employ some very basic info/digital literacy skills to identify the picture as a fake (i.e. photoshopped) picture through a reverse image search. In this Youtube video, I’ve previously demonstrated how to use Google Images to run a reverse image search, but I also wanted to highlight TinEye as an alternative tool for this task. To try out TinEye for this purpose, I would suggest that you download the above photo to your computer (ctrl-click+save or drag+drop), visit the TinEye site, and then upload the image to TinEye (there is also a TinEye Chrome extension available that makes the process a little quicker). In the case of the photo above, using TinEye produces the following results: Exploring the resulting links, you will quickly discover that the original image shows Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people in Norway in a terror attack in 2011. Further investigation also reveals many additional photos of Breivik in custody, making it clear which version of the image is the photoshopped one (if the tiny size of my head compared to my body wasn’t already enough proof). So there you have a component of a very basic information/digital literacy lesson that you could use in the classroom. However, I’d like to stress that these important tools and/or processes will likely not become first-nature to our students unless we help our students develop the disposition to approach the world with a critical eye. Recent studies have shown that young people are not, on the whole, very good at detecting fake news – and the stories that emerged regarding fake news about the U.S. presidential election being written by teens in Macedonia have made it clear that adults are equally vulnerable. There is little doubt that information/digital literacy will become more and more important in the years to come. I’d love to hear from you. What strategies are you using in your classroom to help students become critical consumers and creators of information and media?  [...]



Are you being catfished?

2016-12-30T05:25:00Z

This post was written jointly with Katia Hildebrandt and also appears on her blog. Catfishing schemes, or romance scams, continue to plague social networking services. In fact, the issue has become so common that there’s a good chance that one … Continue reading →This post was written jointly with Katia Hildebrandt and also appears on her blog. Catfishing schemes, or romance scams, continue to plague social networking services. In fact, the issue has become so common that there’s a good chance that one of your recent “friend” requests actually came from a scammer versus someone who is actually interesting in pursuing a genuine friendship. Unfortunately, social networks on the whole seem content to turn a blind eye on the problem, despite the fact that people lose thousands of dollars to these types of scams every day. So, due to this alarming issue and utter lack of response from social networking sites, we’ve compiled a few tips, techniques and questions to ask yourself when evaluating an online profile. We hope that this information might prove be useful for both personal use and as an instructional tool. Step 1: Assess the authenticity of the profile picture This is really the easiest place to start. Drop the picture into Google’s reverse image search to see where else the image appears. TinEye, a dedicated reverse-image search engine, is also a great tool that can be used for to perform this search. If the picture is associated with many different names or profiles, it’s likely that you’re dealing with a scam account. Step 2: Critique the bio Catfishing accounts often use similar biographical components. Some red flags include: A relationship status of “widowed” or “divorced” (obviously not all widowed or divorced people are catfishers, but this status in combination with other red flags might be an indication of a fake account) A job that is of exceptional status and that may require a great deal of travel and/or periods without communication (e.g., military, engineer, oil worker, self-employed, shipping), making it easy for the scammer to make excuses for being absent, unavailable, or out of the country. An “about” section that includes clichéd, romantic statements such as “looking for love” or statements that may stereotypically reinforce one’s integrity (as in this scammer profile below; also note that he describes himself as “God-fearing” and that there are obvious spelling mistakes in the name of the supposed alma mater – which we discuss more later): Step 3: Investigate the profile name The name on the account can also be a clue about the legitimacy of the account: Many catfishers seem to pull from a list of popular names. If you search for the profile name on Facebook and lots of other profiles with the same name and similar occupations pop up, you may want to look more closely. At the time of writing, numerous “Nelson Colbert” profiles appear on Facebook and all seem to be fake profiles made up similar components discussed so far (e.g., stolen profile photo, suspect occupation, etc.). Check to make sure that the name on the profile matches the name in the URL. Otherwise, it might be a sign that the scammer has had to change their profile name when a victim found them out. Google the profile name. Most people have at least some sort of digital footprint these days. Can you find the person? Does what you find match up with what they are telling you? Step 4: Investigate the profile page Some other elements of the profile to watch out for include: Number of friends: Does the person have few friends? Do their friends interact authentically with them on their page, or do you only see the same people commenting/liking over and over again? Types of friends: Often, if you are able to see the scammer’s friend list, it will consist overwhelmingly of people of the opposite gender (the target victims), as in this screenshot of a male scammer[...]



Facebook Is Still Broken …

2016-12-30T05:25:08Z

I received this email a few minutes ago (and a few hours after I noticed that my Facebook account was down). For the fourth time, Facebook has disabled my account because the company doesn’t believe I am who I say … Continue reading

I received this email a few minutes ago (and a few hours after I noticed that my Facebook account was down).

(image)

For the fourth time, Facebook has disabled my account because the company doesn’t believe I am who I say I am.

Yes, apparently I’m the one with the fake account.

Not “Obrien Gary Neil” or “Michael Walter” or “Nelson Colbert” or “Trofimov Sergei” or “Anne Landman” or “Dounas Mounir” or “Kyle W. Norman” or one of the hundreds of other fake accounts that I have reported to Facebook for using my images to scam vulnerable women across the globe. No. Once again, Facebook has decided to disable my account for using a fake name.

Despite the fact that I’ve already had to submit my government-issued ID to Facebook in each previous case.

Despite the fact that my account is nearly a decade old and linked to 2000+ Facebook friends.

Despite the fact that I’ve had countless media interviews about the problem.

If it can happen to me, it could certainly happen to you.

I’m starting to feel like a broken record, but I really need your help. Please share so that we can get Facebook’s attention. The reporting system is badly flawed, and as I’ve written previously, Facebook really needs to get it fixed.




Facebook Is About To Make Catfishing Problems Even Worse

2016-12-30T05:20:18Z

Over the past week, I’ve had a number of people share articles with me related to Facebook’s testing of a new feature that is purported to alert Facebook users when it finds that someone is impersonating your account. Once the user is alerted, … Continue reading → Over the past week, I’ve had a number of people share articles with me related to Facebook’s testing of a new feature that is purported to alert Facebook users when it finds that someone is impersonating your account. Once the user is alerted, that user is then able to report the fraudulent account and pray that Facebook will take it down. However, given my 8 years of experience with this problem, I feel that I am qualified to say that this approach will simply not work for a number of reasons. Facebook often fails to take down fraudulent profiles: While I have successfully had Facebook take down hundreds of fake profiles (I find several new ones each day), there are certain profiles that it simply does not take down. For instance, I’ve been trying to get Facebook to take down the account of “Trofimov Sergei” (a user who is clearly using a profile photo of me and my son) for over a year now. Yet, no matter how many times I report the account, the profile remains. More disturbing is the fact that if you search for “Trofimov Sergei” on Facebook, you will see dozens of fake accounts by the same name using stolen photos of other men. Most of the deception is done in private communication with the (potential) victims, but every once in a while, you will find a public post where the fraudsters are asking for money for a feigned illness. Luckily, there are many people (often former victims) who do uncover and share their knowledge of these fraudulent accounts in order to contain some of the damage. Scammers may use photos of your children as their profile photo: After hundreds of reports, Facebook still refuses to take down the account of “Nelson Colbert,” a scammer who is using photos of my children as a profile photo. When you report an impersonation in Facebook’s current reporting tool, you ultimately have to choose one of the following: A) “This timeline is pretending to be me or someone that I know”, or B) “This timeline is using a fake name.” I have been completely unsuccessful when using Option B, and I have had only limited success with Option A: when you choose this option, you are asked to identify the user who is being impersonated, but when I identify myself, Facebook quickly rejects the report as it is clear that I am not the person in the profile photo. I have attempted to use Facebook’s “Report An Underage Child” tool (which is only available in Canada after you logout, apparently), but this has also been completely unsuccessful. The most unnerving part of this particular profile is that I receive more reports about it from victims than I do about any other. In fact, there are literally dozens of pages of search results that relate to “Nelson Colbert” and this scammer’s involvement in fraudulent activities. Yet, it appears that Facebook has made this account untouchable. I suspect that the scammer behind it may have created falsified documentation to get the account validated internally. Scammers may use your elderly mother’s photo as their profile picture: These criminals often create sophisticated networks of friends and family in their schemes. For instance, the scammers created a fake profile using my mother’s photos and named her Maria Gallart. I cannot report this profile directly to Facebook; instead I am only able to report it to my mother to deal with it. I did so, and as you would imagine, the distress, anxiety, and uncertainty that this caused my nearly 80-year-old mother was not something that she neede[...]



The Future of Identity Theft

2016-03-19T19:40:10Z

I’ve written and spoken extensively about my problems with romance scammers, criminals who have used my photos (and the photos of many others) to create fake profiles and trick victims into sending them significant amounts of money. In my research, … Continue reading

I’ve written and spoken extensively about my problems with romance scammers, criminals who have used my photos (and the photos of many others) to create fake profiles and trick victims into sending them significant amounts of money. In my research, I’ve learned that many potential victims ask for a video chat with scammers as a way for them to prove their identities. In fact, participating in a video chat and then asking supposed suitors to perform particular actions on request (e.g., hold up two fingers on your left hand) is often touted on anti-scammer sites as a way to ensure that the person that you are talking to is in fact who they say they are and not a scammer who may be using recorded video as their video source (a common and frightening possibility).

Well, verifying identity online has just become even more complex. As you have already likely discovered, there are a number of freely available apps (e.g., SnapchatFaceSwap Live, MSQRD) that allow for live face-swapping. In fact, MSQRD was recently purchased by Facebook, and there have been suggestions that face-swapping could become more directly integrated into the social network. If you have used one of these apps, you’ll likely agree that face-swapping can be a lot of fun, but these are fairly touchy/glitchy apps and their use could be easily detected. However, this may not be the case for long.

Researchers from Stanford University recently released a project that works to “animate the facial expressions of the target video by a source actor and re-renders the manipulated output video in a photo-realistic fashion.” The results are incredible, but the implications for identity theft are incredibly frightening, in effect allowing scammers to become puppet masters who manipulate the faces and bodies of their fake profile avatars. Takes the idea of “authentic identity” to a whole new level, doesn’t it?

width="584" height="438" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ohmajJTcpNk?feature=oembed" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>




r/NextSpace (Reddit)

2016-03-12T18:25:05Z

For a number of years, I’ve enjoyed using Reddit as a source for my daily reading. Reddit, often known as “the front page of the Internet,” is often where one can find stories and trends before they go viral in … Continue reading

For a number of years, I’ve enjoyed using Reddit as a source for my daily reading. Reddit, often known as “the front page of the Internet,” is often where one can find stories and trends before they go viral in the mainstream. As well, because of the networking and conversational properties of the spaces, I’ve often mused about the potential of Reddit as a space where educational conversations might be hosted and shared. There are several education-related subreddits (specifically-themed topics or communities) such as r/education and r/edtech, but these spaces tend to be a bit stagnant.

Just recently, my friend @j0hnburns (and colleagues) took on the idea of developing a new subreddit at r/NextSpace with the goal of creating a space where deeper conversations around edtech related topics could be hosted and shared. He’s written about the launch and has included the overall rationale, how to get to started with Reddit, and how to contribute to r/NextSpace.

To help with this launch, I’ve agreed to do an AMA (Ask Me Anything) starting on Monday March 14th, 8pm EST (or see your time conversion here). To participate, check out this AMA thread, ask questions (you can post them early if you like), upvote or downvote the questions or comments of others, and I will do my best to respond to whatever gets asked. I know I’m nowhere near as big of a draw as those who have led some of the most popular AMAs, but hey, I’d like to help in any way to get this started. Plus, I think I have a lot to share regarding my thoughts on edtech, digital citizenship, digital identity, or other related topics. And of course, an AMA is about what you contribute as well!

So I hope that you will give Reddit and r/NextSpace a try, and hopefully I’ll hear from you at the AMA next week!




Catfishing Tricks Become More Complex

2016-03-09T23:37:49Z

Yesterday, I received the following Facebook message: I posted this to my Facebook wall when I received it, and it was interesting to hear from several people who felt they might have been fooled had they received the same message. After … Continue reading →Yesterday, I received the following Facebook message: I posted this to my Facebook wall when I received it, and it was interesting to hear from several people who felt they might have been fooled had they received the same message. After nearly a decade of becoming familiar with the tricks of these scammers, I question just about every angle. While this was the first time that I have received a message like this, the motive for the message seemed obvious to me. A photo of me that verifies the date would make it possible for a scammer to “prove” they were really me (rather than just using old photos). As well, if I had Googled the name of the sender (like my colleague Katia did), I might have wondered how this famous Nigerian business woman had the time to message me personally (and perhaps even why she cared about a mere 150K). Today, I was contacted by another person on Facebook who had heard from her friends that a profile with her name, photos, and identifying information was trying to friend many of them. Several reported this to be suspicious so she immediately warned her friends with a status update. I asked her where the fake profile was and she found it for me. What we noticed was really sneaky (and horrible). See below, the real person’s profile: Now, look at the fake profile: Do you see the important difference? The profile and header photos are the same in each. The friend count is certainly different. But the big thing is the spelling of the name. The authentic profile is “Joy Brennan” (two ‘n’s) and the fake profile photo is “Joy Brenan” (one ‘n’). The especially sneaky part is that if you were to try and search for fake Facebook profiles with your photos and name, this would make these much more difficult to find. So why would the scammers do something like this? My guess is that they were hoping to perform a scam such as the common “email hijack,” where members of an existing friends/family network could eventually be tricked into sending money due to a contrived distress call (e.g., I was robbed while traveling, please wire me money). So there you have it – a couple more scams to be concerned about. Oh, and Facebook still isn’t doing anything about these problems. [...]