Click Barns, Sock Puppets & Troll Factories

The 2017 YouTube video #Socialnomics has recently reported that we are preparing almost 30% of students for jobs that don’t exist yet.  I’ve always wondered what kind of jobs they could be.  Sadly, we are learning about them in today’s times.

I was exposed to three new terms this year that didn’t exist years ago:

  • Click Barns
  • Sock Puppeting
  • Troll Factories

For those that don’t know about these, I wanted to share them, as these terms are creeping into education practices, but have been more prevalent in politics and news.

 

download-1
A clickfarm.| image credit: bbc.co.uk

 

Ever wonder how something gets so many website hits or how it’s ‘liked’ by so many people? Look no further than a click farm. Click farms are offices/apartments that house hundreds of cell phones and thousands of SIM cards.  People and/or businesses that are looking to have search terms rise or fall can get click farms to change how you view products or people. Knowing that 90% of people do no go past the first page when a google search is conducted (Wressics, 2016), “pushing down” a search term is easier than ever.  Here’s the catch – it’s illegal; you’re manipulating data to reflect a false impression.  There are people now dedicated to finding the patterns of this practice and working with police to eliminate them.

 

download
Sock puppets in action. |image credit: showtime.com/homeland 

 

If you ever watched the Showtime television series Homeland, you heard about sock puppets in the 2016 season.  Sock puppets are groups of people hired to create accounts (like the click farms above) of every rang of social media known to us as we know it, and then comment on various articles, news websites, blogs, and other topics to boost a search topic or sway an image. This may sound familiar, as Russia has been accused of doing this to sway the 2016 presidential election. You can watch sock puppets in action by clicking here.

 

download-2
A troll farm in Europe. | image credit: reuters.com

 

The third term that has and is causing quite a problem in the online world is troll farm. Troll farms are like sock puppets, but their goal is not to just sway opinion, but incite hatred or anger. Troll farm employees are hired to deliberately cause/create conflict on a website, blog, or online forum. They do this by posting comments that are provocative or inflammatory. Troll farms have been confirmed on national news websites that typically show news in one angle (i.e. Fox News, MSNBC) and have been found to be at local news online stories as well. It should also be no surprise that all of the names that are created are just that; names. Less than 2% of people use their actual name as a username online.

A New Jersey Education Association executive once told me that education has changed more in the past 6 years than 60. I thought it said a lot coming from her; educators, in general, don’t like to acknowledge change, especially when they are comfortable in a routine (I know firsthand, I was one). With these new job creations, we all need to be cognizant of these changes so that our learners are aware of these things. The learner today has had the internet and social media presence in their lives for 100%. Scary as it may be, it is what it is, and we must be ready; our future depends on it.

 

LOOK ME IN THE EYE – SPECIAL EXAM COPY OFFER

For those looking to expand their knowledge on autism, here is a fantastic way to do it!

9780307396181 (1)

Look Me in the Eye
By John Elder Robison

To request a complimentary examination copy to review for classroom use, please contact us at K12education@edu.penguinrandomhouse.com or call us toll free at (844) 851-3955.

Ever since he was small, John Robison had longed to connect with other people, but by the time he was a teenager, his odd habits—an inclination to blurt out non sequiturs, avoid eye contact, dismantle radios, and dig five-foot holes (and stick his younger brother in them)—had earned him the label “social deviant.” No guidance came from his mother, who conversed with light fixtures, or his father, who spent evenings pickling himself in sherry. It was no wonder he gravitated to machines, which could, at least, be counted on.

After fleeing his parents and dropping out of high school, his savant-like ability to visualize electronic circuits landed him a gig with KISS, for whom he created their…

View original post 267 more words

I’m Watching (Part III)

I have previously blogged on two occasions about how I am fascinated with online data and what it tells us as educators. With what we send out or publish, there are just tons of opportunities to see what people are doing and how they are doing it. For most of my educational career, data and school were a poisonous combination. Data was tedious, most times ending up in a quagmire of educational gobbledy-gook.  It also didn’t help that, while the data was always there and accessible, nobody really knew how to read it. Eventually, I did learn one key piece about data itself–you can spin it to make it look fabulous in almost every situation. While not ethical to blatantly make it appear to be something else, using a few keywords often help soften the blow if the data is a hard punch to the gut.  Don’t be fooled, though; data is sometimes needed to be that punch to the gut.

While some of my favorite data goldmines have been the analytics offered through Smore and WordPress (the host of this blog), my most recent data goldmine has been the social media website LinkedIn. If you haven’t heard of or don’t use LinkedIn, think of Facebook, but for business and professional networking. LinkedIn is very business- and employment-oriented. You can post your resume, share updates on your job, and be introduced to new professional opportunities. LinkedIn boasts that it has “over 500 million members where you can manage your professional identity, build and engage with your professional network, and access knowledge, insights, and opportunities.” (LinkedIn, 2017)      Screen Shot 2017-09-22 at 09.40.39Screen Shot 2017-09-22 at 09.43.07

Screen Shot 2017-09-22 at 09.43.45

Screen Shot 2017-09-22 at 09.46.18Back to the data.  Not only can I see what people are looking at, I can also see who is looking at me, their job, and even what company they are from. While one can enact some privacy enablers, it operates on different levels.  I can still see the business or the job title they have, and then I can click and see a list of people (more often the list that populates you know the person than not). Not only can this tell me who is looking at what, it can prepare me for an upcoming sales call or an upcoming opportunity, or even help me pinpoint who is talking to whom so I can address whatever is being talked about.

Screen Shot 2017-10-06 at 12.07.13Screen Shot 2017-10-01 at 12.07.29Screen Shot 2017-10-01 at 12.06.41

Recently, I have been using LinkedIn to thank those who are donating or doing business with my district.  While a letter or a tweet is great, saying thank you on a forum that is used for professional purposes is, well, professional.

Why is this important in schools?

If school systems are not cognizant of the brand they are producing or the reputation they are creating among stakeholders, they are at a disadvantage.  We, as educators, have more tools than ever to communicate and solve problems, especially image problems. Even today, there are districts, schools, and individuals who do not embrace the free tools that we have that are used by stakeholders. If we are not meeting where our stakeholders are in today’s times, we are doing a disservice to everyone associated with it. We are no longer paralyzed by the gossip mill of aisle 5 in the supermarket or the soccer field. We can be proactive instead of being reactive. Harness the power of social media and such analytics to tell your story, or others will, and you most likely won’t like their version.

Data today is free and easy to understand.  Why not use it to help you? Having a mind at ease and working smarter, not harder, can help you grow, learn, and move forward.

Onward!

 

 

 

Voice & Choice

We have seen research over and over again that, when learners have a choice in identifying what to learn and how they want to learn it, it has produced academic success and allows creativity to flourish.

This is nothing new.  The way many teachers, schools, and districts are finally embracing it is.

About five years ago, I was introduced to the EdCamp professional development model, where educators not only choose what to attend, but they also teach it themselves and all have the ability to leave if they don’t like or understand what is being taught. Later, I blogged about the Northfield Community School and how Principal Glenn Robbins (now a superintendent) offered an elective-style period at the end of the day where middle schoolers (yes, students) were able to pick what class they wanted to attend.

Fast forward to today.  I recently observed arts teachers in one of my schools take part in the same model with students in grades 4 and 5. Students had the chance to choose from six different art-themed classes, in addition to the ones they already had during the week, ranging from musical theater to ballet.

While the school itself is unique in that it has been created to circulate around artistic infusion while students receive their elementary education, it also has embraced current, meaningful educational research that indeed shows that student voice and student choice are factors in obtaining an education that will serve students of today’s times, not the school that you and I went to.

Again, saying that we need to be cognizant of today’s times is nothing new and far from groundbreaking. It’s the fact that teachers and administrators not only understand but follow through and implement, so that our students have a chance to take part in today’s society, not be a product of the 70’s / 80’s / 90’s that just collects & completes piles of worksheets (that are all thrown out at the end of the year) and is known by a state testing identification number.

To all those who are embracing voice & choice in your classrooms, schools, and districts, thank you.

Onward!

 

My Mom’s House

img_0902A few weeks ago, I received the call that no one ever wants nor expects.  My brother called me during a meeting, and I sent it right to voicemail. I have the voicemail translation feature, and I briefly saw that he was the caller and didn’t call back.  Then he called again at 11:30. Again, I let it go to voicemail, but then listened to the first message, and was miffed. Surely the message of “Jason, Mom’s house has burnt to the ground,” couldn’t be. But it was.img_0897

My mom had lit a memorial candle for my late father and fell asleep, waking up in a sea of flames. She was actually rescued by a police officer, as she was so disoriented from the situation and had panicked looking for pets. Sadly, the cats did not survive, but Mom did, unscathed, with only smoke inhalation and a burn the size of a pencil eraser.

img_0899

Almost everything in the house was lost, a few knick-knacks and a handful of items on the second floor left at best. Looking at the big picture, though, Mom is okay, and most of the stuff inside was, well, stuff, much of which can be replaced.

What does this have to do with school?

img_0898Every October, schools across the country partake in National Fire Prevention Month. The activities range from checking out the gear on a fire truck to essay & poster contests to the local fire department passing out smoke detectors and issuing reminders. To be honest, I’ve also thought of this to just be a part of the yearly motions of school, along with bullying prevention week, red ribbon week, and every other week you can run off of the top of your head just as, when it comes to being a parent, you really don’t have a connection until it directly affects you. I’m still amazed that my mom is okay, and, from now on, I’ll always think about the effects of candles in the house.

img_0901 Below are some links that you can use for resources for Fire Prevention Month:

Here’s to a safe school year; being prepared is a part of it.

Onward!