Private relay

Man, this is a utility that I could have used a long time ago and still wish I could use it today.

Today, it would be nice for all teachers to have access as well.

How many times have you signed up for a newsletter, download a piece of software, or wanted access to a web service and you’re asked to provide your email address? All the time, right? Then, in a lot of cases, you do your evaluation of things and decide that you’re no longer interested. But, the email keeps on coming. Sometimes, it’s even begging you to return. Or the worst, your original request to be removed was honoured but your email address has been sold to another entity who are bombarding your mailbox with something else.

Now, I have no hesitation whatsoever with someone that offers me a service, I like it, and I want to support it. It’s the abuse of my email address being used for something else that really bothers me.

Like most people, I have a few different email addresses for different purposes, including software testing.

In this day and age though, there are a lot of teachers looking for new and exciting ways to engage students and they’re trying out alternatives, only to find themselves on a never-ending mailing list. There are well-intentioned people that are providing links to this and links to that but, more often than not, an email address is required to access things.

Mozilla has announced a new service called Private Relay that may very well help you out in your quest to find the next great thing. The concept seems simple enough; whenever you visit a website that wants an email address, this extension will generate a “burner” email address on the fly.

This helps you meet the requirement that you provide an email address to access things and keeps you in touch with the server and your real email address safe.

While we could use this service right now, sadly it’s still in testing and you have to be invited to the party to be able to use it.

But, the concept really excites me. It’s definitely something that I would put to good use so I’m going to keep my eyes on the formal release to the general public.

And, the best thing, is that this project is open source which means that anyone can look at the code. Check it out here.

In the meantime, be wary of websites that offers lists of “great resources”. It’s easy to say, here’s a link, here’s a link, … The real value comes when the list maker gives you an indication of grade level and curriculum expectations that can be addressed by using the resource. Perhaps they should also give an indication if an email address is required in order to access that resource. That would help you protect your online identity and that’s always a good thing.

I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts about providing an email address to online services. Do you have a safety strategy? Would this service from Mozilla be of use to you? Why or why not?

Mozilla’s Web Literacy Standards Released

Mozilla has just released its set of Web Literacy Standards and it’s something that everyone who uses the web personally or in the classroom needs to look at and try to understand.

Many people are comfortable with just accessing the web and siphoning off what they need for the moment.  But, that’s only part of the picture.  The web literacy standard identifies three strands where you might be navigating, creating for, or participating on the web.  See the table below.

It’s not a big task.  It only takes a few minutes to read the attributes.

But, where are you?  Are you stuck on the left?  If so, there’s so much more that you could be doing.  Shift your eyes to the right.

In the classroom though, this should serve as a plan to scaffold the type of activities that you have in your classroom.

Where do you fall on this chart?  I wish that I had found this to share at the open of the #ECOO13 Conference.  It would have added so much value to just about every session that was offered.  Certainly, it should help as folks plan for ECOO14.

For more details, check the Mozilla Wiki and the Web Literacy Standard page.

Kudos to Doug Belshaw (@dajbelshaw) and team for release 1.0.

Life as a Defacer

Or a hacker.  Or a criminal.  Or someone learning HTML.

I prefer to think of this as an awesome tool for the last but perhaps a discussion point for the others.

I played around with a tool from Mozilla called X-Ray Goggles.  It’s simple to use.  There’s a pile of potential in there for those of you teaching HTML and ethics.

Visit the link above and do the “first hack” that they recommend.  Got it?

Follow the instructions and drag the bookmark to your bookmark bar for later use.  I decided to see what I could do to deface/hack my blog.

Yesterday, I shared the announcement of the CSTA Conference.  Part of it looks like this…

This is a dynamite conference and I’m looking forward to being on the conference committee again this year.  But, I’m not fussy about it being in Quincy in July.  I think it would be much better if we changed the details to Boston in August.  Could X-Ray Goggles do it for me?  Yep.  And, I can learn a great deal about the page the current information is on in the process.

So, I go ahead and load the webpage. Next, I click the X-Ray Googles button from my Bookmarks and cursor over the page and voila.  I get to see the HTML behind the scenes that makes this blog post so nicely formatted.

In the left part of the X-Ray Goggles workspace, you can see the existing content including all the HTML tags.  In the right part, you’ll get a chance to see what it looks like if you decide to apply the changes.  Done.  I notice that in the paragraph descriptor, there are a few things to be changed as well.  Done, and Done.

The hacked announcement now looks like this.

And it’s as simple as that.

Now, I don’t have the permissions (presumably) to save it back to the original site which is a very good thing.  But, X-Ray Goggles does offer a couple of alternatives when I click on or press P to publish.  I could post to their hosted site.  In that case, I did and the changes are here.  The second option is a little more nefarious.  I could download the HTML source and post it to a site of my choosing.

Immediately, I see all kinds of use for this.  In the classroom learning some website coding, you could have students work on a sample provided by the teacher to learn the concepts.  i.e. you give one layout and functionality and the students learn how to hack/code/change it into a prescribed output.

Beyond that, I would use this as a great opportunity to have students know exactly where they are when they’re online.  If we could change dates that easily, what else could we change?  What information could we actually collect from someone who went to “our” crafted page as opposed to the original?  Now, using the self-publish feature, we immediately know if we’re in the wrong spot if we look at the URL –  But, suppose we chose the second option and rushed out to register and posted our page there?  Would we be smart enough users to know just where in the internet we are?

This is a very slick and powerful hack.  Give it a try to see what you think.

Finally – please – the conference is in July in Quincy.  Don’t be fooled by competitors!


Badge Me

Seeing Peter McAsh at the ECOO Conference last week jogged me to a blog post that I had started to write but never finished.  That’s on the order today.

In our hall closet, there’s a big picture frame and inside there are things from my youth.  Underneath the glass covers are all of the badges I earned from the Wolf Cubs and Boy Scouts and swimming awards from the Red Cross, Royal Life Saving Society, and the Canadian Lifeguard Service.  Every time we do a thorough house cleaning, the question is posed “Why are you keeping this stuff?”  My response is always the same “I don’t know but I worked really hard to earn those.  I just can’t bring myself to throw them away.”

In fact, I bought an extra Bronze Medallion and Award of Merit when I earned them.  They remain with me all the time on a chain around my neck.  (except, of course, when I remove them to take a picture…)

Some of the other badges/awards just don’t follow me around like those two do!

Probably the one that I had to work the hardest for was the Bronze Medallion.  I remember that I had to take the course twice.  I failed the first time but got it on the second.  It smartened me considerably that success wasn’t just the in-pool work but that the RLSS took the academic knowledge part seriously as well.  Given the change in mindset, the Award of Merit was mine on the first try.  These two and all of the other things I’ve collected mean a great deal to me.

The concept is similar to education.  You learn; you pass a test; you win or lose, pass or fail.  Except that in education, we have different levels of passing.  By assigning a number to the work, we somehow quantify “how well” someone passes.  I wonder though – does that really matter?  I recall a number of students who wouldn’t be satisfied with 99%.  They wanted 100% for everything.  “Sir, it’s no sweat to you…just change it”.  I usually did.  It never happened but I often wondered how I could justify a “low mark of 99” to a parent or a “high mark of 99” to a principal!  After all, maybe the assessment was about proficiency of the IF statement.  How do you quantify that?  Isn’t it better that learning how to use that statement was an accomplishment and you could either use it or not use it?

It turns out that this type of logic is shared is other places as well.  In fact, the more you think about it, the more sense it makes.  In the “real world”, whatever that means, you learn various tasks and the test for success is whether or not you can do it.  Recently, I just took the Google Power Searching course online.  It was one of the better online courses that I’ve taken.  I actually signed up for the course earlier this summer but didn’t have the time to complete it.  I made a concerted effort the second time around and passed.  The result?  I have a certificate.  In order to be successful, I had to be able to demonstrate that I knew the concepts before passing.  Fair enough.

Some more examples…

Ubuntu Accomplishments
The description of this lays it out very nicely.  “The Ubuntu Accomplishments project is designed to provide a means in which you can be awarded trophies for different types of accomplishments in the community and elsewhere. The project is designed for Ubuntu’s needs, but actually supports any community and project.”  In this case, trophies are given for contribution to the community which is at the heart of the Ubuntu philosophy.  Or, there’s another alternative that I’m enjoying doing.  As you learn how to do things in Ubuntu, you’ll earn a trophy!

In this case, I learned how to change the desktop wallpaper.  Got me a trophy!

Edmodo Badges
This was where Peter came in.  He and I had had a discussion about the use of badges for achievements in courses offering all or some of the course in this learning environment.  Edmodo comes with pre-designed badges or you can create your own!

Mozilla Open Badges
The folks at Mozilla, which gives us Firefox and Thunderbird, have a really interesting concept in the Open Badges project.  By participating, you have an “Open Badge Backpack” to store the badges as you earn them.

I think that there’s a great deal of merit in the approach.  In fact, most skills are ultimately judged by whether you can do them or not.  Why can’t assessment be a celebration of the fact that you’re able to do something instead of trying to assign a number to everything.

Finally, it you’re an Ontario Edublogger, why not add an Ontario Edublogger badge to your blog.  I think it’s another good example.  If you’ve elected to become a blogger, that’s it.  There’s no percentage of posts or anything else required to be a member – just do it.

Finally, as I’m writing this entry, I dodge into my Diigo account and see that I’ve also bookmarked a site called  I’ll admit that I haven’t used it to any great extent.  The whole concept of do something – get a badge really intrigues me.