Tech Tuesday: Privacy, Part 2 – Why Privacy?

Each Tuesday, pleasureinlearning brings you Tech Tuesday.  Come back each week for more ways to become efficient and effective in your use of technology. 


You hear a lot of talk about computer security and personal privacy.  This series will explore privacy and the role you play as a consumer and as an individual.

Last week, I introduced you to a series on privacy.  I got to thinking that maybe my selection of topics for pleasureinlearning might be a little off base.  After further reflections, I believe this topic is as important as any that we cover here.  A while back, I wrote a post about trauma’s effects on education. While we strive to increase learning by learning pleasure, we also must mitigate issues that would detract from the experience.  Life trauma is one of those.  Loss of privacy is another.

Privacy is a cultural requirement for our students to feel safe and to learn.  This applies at home, in the classroom, in the workplace, as we consume goods and so on.  Really, it applies at all times.  Thus, we must have a healthy respect for privacy in our schools.  In addition, we must take charge of our own right to privacy and teach our students to do the same.

Here are some ways we can respect our students’ right to privacy. If you wish to review the definitions of the following privacy domains, see last week’s post.

  • Individual Control:  In every instance possible, we should give our students an ‘out’ if they do not wish to share personal data.  For example, I ask students to give me their phone number at the beginning of a course, but I don’t require it.
  • Transparency:  Students should be able to know how I will use that phone number, preferably before they give it to me.  In the assignment instructions it would be appropriate for me to tell them that I use the phone number when a phone call would be better or easier than an email.
  • Respect for Context:  My students can expect that I won’t use their personal information to try to sell them something from my kid’s school fundraiser.
  • Security:  At all times, my students deserve my best effort to protect their data from prying eyes.  I don’t leave my office door unlocked or my email open.  I don’t post grades and names together.
  • Access and Accuracy:  Students deserve accurate grades and the right to challenge the accuracy of grades without repercussions or difficulty.
  • Focused Collection:  While it is reasonable to ask for a student’s phone number, it is not reasonable for their instructors to ask for their social security number or their sex at birth.
  • Accountability:  Students have a right to know that I’m accountable for my use of their personal data. They know that I have a boss that I’m accountable too, they know they review me and my class, and they know that my employer has had a background check run on me.

Students learn better when they feel safe.  We can make them feel safe when we respect their right to privacy.  As a bonus, we have a platform to teach them how to protect and respect their own privacy.  Next week, get ready to dive in and see how you can and should protect your own privacy in our digital era.


Is There Such a Thing as a Dumb Question?

B picUp until course websites, instructors kept copy machines blasting out paper handouts to students. Even as late as 2006, my file cabinet was loaded with manila folders full of assignment prompts and exercises. Then came blowing in fast the “course shell,” known on our campus as BlackBoard. Assignments could be posted electronically.

Another fading entity was oral instructions. Why go through those, and expect students to take notes when note taking was dropping away, and stragglers mounted in number, making for too much repeating of things? A good assignment prompt could now be posted in step-by-step detail, with only minimum oral review necessary to get an assignment rolling.Headdesk

However, some students still ask questions that can leave an instructor ready to say (scream?) “Have you read the prompt?” All kinds of emotions and retorts come to mind in these situations, and thankfully the poker face is possible – or at least the spirit of restraint. At times, a tart bit of humor is in order.

An old cliché says, “The only dumb question is the one you don’t ask.” Students may believe this, and instructors may believe it part of the time, but the cliché isn’t blanket permission for students to skim written instructions without absorbing key details.

However, sometimes after initial feelings of mostly non-expressed frustration, it becomes apparent that what a student wants is to communicate conversationally in order to process an assignment prompt. The sense of bonding and “shaking hands on a deal” is what the student is after. A mere written prompt lacks the dynamics of body language and the emotions of a nurturer. When a student has a low quotient of certain in-person feedback, that student might unconsciously choose not to process the written instructions meticulously in order to seek a personalized and living expression of what’s to be done.

patienceWhen I suspect that, it’s a lot easier to relax and carry on a pleasant interchange with a student asking questions that ordinarily would tighten my eyebrows and bring a grimace. Dumb questions can become the occasion for connections that shouldn’t have been needed but which may greatly enhance the experience of a course on both sides of the podium.


Ending on an Up Note: Book Report, Peanuts Style

Yesterday, Brian shared his unique way of dealing with students who can’t seem to follow the instructions for completing the assignments in his writing classes. This clip from You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown suggests that Brian’s frustrations are not unique to community college classrooms. Have you seen any of these personality types among the students in your classes?

Enjoy your weekend.

Classhack: Does That Complete Your Order?

drivethruToday’s classhack is a gift from our own Brian Coatney.  When students fail to follow instructions, we don’t know whether to sigh, scream, or give up and go home. Brian’s students sometimes don’t follow his very explicit directions for completing and submitting assignments in his writing classes. In an effort to help his learners understand the importance of following instructions, he sent them the following modern parable:

Greetings class, an analogy came to mind that illustrates what it’s like to a teacher to get an assignment that doesn’t match the instructions in the assignment prompt.

Let’s say you go to the drive through and place a food order to take home, only to get home and find that the cook prepared something different from the order. The cook might have thought one of the following:

“I don’t know how to cook this, so I’ll cook something different.”

“I think it would taste better a different way, so I’ll make it my way.”drive-thru2

“You don’t need to eat that much, so I’ll leave off part of your order.”

“I can’t remember the order, so I’ll make a guess and hope I get it right instead of reviewing the order.”

“I’ll put the ketchup on the milkshake and pour a little milkshake on the French fries.”

You get the idea.

Mr. C


Do you have a strategy that highlights the importance of following directions? Send it to us, and we’ll share.

A Touchy Situation

karenWe recently attended an outdoor concert at a park in our town. A local animal rescue group had set up a booth on the edge of the park, and many concert-goers were drawn to the winsome dogs and cats who needed good homes. The volunteers from the shelter were only too happy to let folks cuddle the pets or take them for a walk. As I paid a visit to a particularly charming blue heeler pup, one of our friends warned my husband, “Watch out…she’s petting it. You may be getting another dog tonight.” We didn’t, but it was a close call.

The animal rescue volunteers knew what clever salesmen have known for centuries: when we make a physical connection with a product, we are more like likely to make a purchase. That’s why we’re encouraged to slip into the luxurious coat, to apply the pricey hand cream, and to take the spiffy car for a test drive. Consumer researchers have confirmed that touching an item unleashes the “endowment effect.” Why do you suppose that Apple stores invite us to handle the newest gadgets? We value something more when we own it, even when we own it only for a few moments.Apple-Store-Boise-Idaho-03

Recent marketing research from Boston College indicates that even “virtual ownership,” the kind created when we touch or swipe a virtual image on a tablet or phone, can powerfully influence our tendency to buy. Have you ever noticed how hard it is to remove items from a digital shopping cart, despite telling yourself that you were merely considering a purchase? (Please tell me I’m not the only victim of this phenomenon.)

skull2Earlier this week I witnessed how holding an item might influence students’ decisions to purchase the product that I am hawking: knowledge. My learners were engaged in an activity that encouraged them to handle replicas of human bones as they learned the names and features of different parts of the skeleton.  One young woman, who had transferred from another college, carefully examined the model of the skull that she held, then commented, “At my last college, the labs had so many students that I never got to touch anything. It’s so much easier when you can hold it in your hand and actually see things.”

A student in another class confessed that she was initially apprehensive about using the microscope to look at slides of tissues. She explained that her instructor in a previous class had advised students to “just look at the pictures.” After only a couple of sessions, this learner enthusiastically embraced viewing the microscopic world and remarked that this experience was “nothing like the pictures.”microscope

Anatomy & physiology is a natural fit for hands-on learning, but I hope to create even more opportunities for my students to learn by touch. I’m encouraged to learn that digital “touching” affords many of the same benefits as physical touch. The online learning platform used in my classes features lots of drag-and-drop activities to reinforce structures and processes. I’d love to hear how other instructors use literal or digital touch to help their students learn.



Tech Tuesday: Privacy, Part 1 – Definition of Privacy

Each Tuesday, pleasureinlearning brings you Tech Tuesday.  Come back each week for more ways to become efficient and effective in your use of technology. 


You hear a lot of talk about computer security and personal privacy.  This series will explore privacy and the role you play as a consumer and as an individual.

The White House has published a Privacy Bill of Rights (Full Report).  I’ll let you read exactly how they describe the aspects of privacy.

  • Individual Control:  Consumers have a right to exercise control over what personal data organizations collect from them and how they use it.
  • Transparency:  Consumers have a right to easily understandable information about privacy and security practices.
  • Respect for Context:  Consumers have a right to expect that organizations will collect, use, and disclose personal data in ways that are consistent with the context in which consumers provide the data.
  • Security:  Consumers have a right to secure and responsible handling of personal data.
  • Access and Accuracy:  Consumers have a right to access and correct personal data in usable formats, in a manner that is appropriate to the sensitivity of the data and the risk of adverse consequences to consumers if the data are inaccurate.
  • Focused Collection:  Consumers have a right to reasonable limits on the personal data that companies collect and retain.
  • Accountability:  Consumers have a right to have personal data handled by companies with appropriate measures in place to assure they adhere to the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.

A lot of this makes it sound like privacy is the responsibility of companies, but you have a lot of control too. We’ll talk more about each aspect in the coming weeks. Watch the first part of this video for a preview and a laugh.

*No endorsement of the advertised product is made or implied.

Plan B and Plan A

B picThe ideal is Plan A, right? In a perfect world, the plan would be formulated, and the designated parties would expedite flawlessly – every time. Occasionally this happens: “We did it just like we practiced it!” Normal living has more the flavor of Plan A not going according to plan, or at least according to every detail. Not to expect this pattern invites insanity, or at least constant, grinding frustration of why people don’t pay attention and follow the plan. In the case of students, this would mean following the assignment and carrying it out per the prompt.plan_a

This just isn’t going to happen a lot of the time, which is not an exhortation for instructors to abandon publishing a Plan A and hoping for it to happen. However, a realistic approach assumes often being a counselor to students in formulating a Plan B. The good news is that the Plan B is the corrective action – or at least adaptation – to get an assignment into Plan A form. The inconvenience is the process of going off the main road and then finding direction to get back onto it.

starting overPlan B doesn’t mean letting the student say, “Oh, I thought I would do it this way.” No, the student doesn’t pick and choose on essentials, or get to rewrite the lesson prompt: but the student is part of the Plan B that gets back to Plan A. A needed educational outcome in the classroom is still the same, but a host of reasons (sometimes excuses) can create the effect of a broken play in football. The goal is still the same; the players, however, have to regroup and start from where they are in the moment on the field.

Football players don’t go back to their original positions when the play started. That can’t happen, but with assignments, that is possible at times. For a student, Plan B may mean throwing out some good work that was irrelevant to the assignment, or it can mean adding in parts that were left out (“Oh, I didn’t see that part of the assignment”).number-7-Vincent-Campbell-pursues-Pleasant-View-Christian-in-a-broken-play

Education is a lot of broken plays reconstructed in the form of Plan B in order to get back to Plan A. The timing and process are not what the instructor or the student hoped for; each had a different idea about that. However, much of the time, Plan B isn’t too formidable or out of reach, and students learn that when Plan A is going to be enforced, it’s good, in the name of efficiency, to get there with as little Plan B as possible.