On moving away from Facebook

Time to move and refocus

The idea is to post once a week here on this blog, with all my thoughts for the week, and then link to it from Facebook. So I am not giving up on FB completely, but only accessing it on the weekends. I have taken it off my phone and am avoiding the urge to post. I hope to have the process down by the new year. (I may blog more often, if it becomes sustainable).

I have noticed, though, that my outrage is mitigated by posting to the blog instead of FB. It requires a bit more contemplation, some thought, and more consideration. The zing is less, but that, in my opinion, is a good thing. Zing is addictive and destructive.

Instead of having FB open on my phone, I have WordPress ready to go. I have reworked the site here, mostly ignored in 2017, but ready for a resumption.

What you guys can do to move away from the FB ecosystem is to use one that I have used over the years, and you may have done too. RSS. Get a reader. I use Feedly, Mac people like Inoreader. You can even set up Flipboard as an RSS reader if you are using that. You will see, after the initial investment to set up your feeds (the websites you monitor), that the control you get is well worth it. I end 15 minutes of FB enraged; I end 15 minutes of Feedly enlightened.

And if you do make it over to my blog at kevinryan.com, you are welcome to make comments. I have to approve your first comment (this is spam control), but once approved, you can comment any time.

New Year Passwords

Every year I update my passwords. That is a lot easier than it sounds.

I use a password manager to create a different nonsense password at every site I register. But I need 3 that I remember; my master password (for Lastpass.com), one for logging into my computers, and another for my phone.

For the phone, I usually use old numbers from my childhood (my address number on Cordova Road, for example). But for the other two, I use abbreviations of quotes.

For example Iyttt,ydhtra. “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” Mark Twain. I like quotes with numbers in them, or easily insertable numbers, as that adds to the randomness. 80%osisu. “Eighty percent of success is showing up. -Woody Allen.

Best if you have all four elements: Uppercase, Lowercase, numbers, symbols. For example, (not a quote) you could make a password out of that last sentence. Biyha4e:U,L,n,s. Need more help?

Here is a short video too. 

The CommonCraft guy explains how to make a password.

For even more security, if you use Lastpass, you can limit the countries where you log in from (be careful to reset before traveling). 

And more important, you can set up Two Factor Authentication (2FA) for your main sites (I do it with Google, Evernote, Facebook and Microsoft. But more about that in another post. 

Edutopia and EdSurge, too many Edu-websites

Steven Herder interviewed me for the iTDi Teacher’s Room a few days ago. In it he said he liked Edutopia and I said that it was primarily funded by big tech stakeholders in education. The truth is a little more complicated.

Though I hold to my opinion, I will have to admit I was confusing Edutopia with EdSurge. Edutopia was created by George Lucas of Star Wars fame as a non-profit to look into ideas for education.

Edsurge, on the other hand, is a total creation of the edtech companies and is little more than a front for its PR. Audrey Watters in her essential weekly run-down of edtech news (that run-down can be taken both ways), often berates EdSurge as company pablum.

So both websites depend on money from large corporations and thus are suspect. Edutopia is a bit more balanced, as it is more separate from its corporate parent. But mostly I agree with Steven, that the articles in Edutopia are very uplifting.

So there you have it. I haven’t even covered EduCause and a couple of others.

iTDi Interview Follow-up

Last Tuesday Steven Herder, of the International Teacher Development Institute, or iTDi (itdi.pro, YouTube, Facebook) was nice enough to include me on the list of people interviewed for their Teacher’s Room series. Steven interviewed me online using Zoom conferencing software. It ran almost exactly an hour and was really exhilarating. I started to realize I may just have some things that are worth telling people.

I went on far too long about my own history of language learning and teaching, how I discovered at 11 years old in Mexico that there were some people who did not speak English. I didn’t get to tell the story of watching Batman in Spanish, and how two little bilingual kids about half my 10 years of age could translate the dialog on the fly, all the while giggling. I wanted to do that. So you can go through my notes if you don’t want to watch the first 30 minutes.

More interesting was the last half where we talked about teaching and learning languages, along with tech (I am a tech guy). We did a few minutes at the beginning on RSS feeds and (one of many readers) Feedly software and how to use that to collect (aggregate) blog posts from across the world. I didn’t have time to note that after 20 minutes of Facebook, I am angry, and after 20 minutes of RSS (Feedly) I am enlightened. (Facebook is like porn, which, as Bruce Springsteen notes, “Just makes me mean,” because the enticement is there, but no real interaction.)

But after my history of junior year abroad in Barcelona, returning to teach English, studying for DELTA (in those days RSA Dip) and working my way into the field, my move back to Chicago for an MA (under Elliott Judd, great mentor), then to the TESOL meat market to get a job in Tokyo, meeting my wife at work, China for a year then daughter and university job 3 days apart 34 years ago, we finally got to the real discussion.

We talked about influences like JALT as a professional development network, but I did not talk about the Tokyo PC Users Group where I learned how to learn with other people and without a textbook (there were no guides to PC use in the early 90’s, things were moving too fast). The thrill of arguing about the best way to improve speed on the BBS software (a precursor to the Internet) to avoid high telephone bills when using a modem at 300 “baud” was eye opening in that we could create our own knowledge and help each other as a group. Following the Hacker Ethic has guided my teaching too. (Look it up. Hackers were good before some went to the dark side.)

Now a list of links because I was too excited and talked too fast about too many things, so you can follow up here. MIT Conference on Connected Learning netted a new tool for Augmented Reality software (for iOS) and Interactive Storytelling ARIS. We talked about Stephen Downes and his contributions to MOOCs and Connectionism. Do note that right now, he has just started a new MOOC taking it to the next step, E-Learning 3.0. Do take a look. The future of learning with tech. We talked about the JALT CALL SIG and how that paralleled my experiences of the TokyoPC in that we were (and still are) creating new knowledge, this time about teaching languages with tech.

We talked about frameworks for teaching. Steven liked that we had come up with similar ideas about having a variety of approaches to vocabulary learning, some with tech, others not. Developing a set of tools is something the learner has to do on their own, with support of course. I talked about using small groups and having students teach each other. Here are slides from a presentation I made last year on the topic. I didn’t get to talk about Socratic Circles (pdf) where you ask questions in the SIR order (Summary, Issues, Relevance) and SOLE (Self Organized Learning Environments of Sugata Mitra) to develop learner autonomy.

Language learning is 90% motivation, 10% autonomy. If I am doing my job correctly, students will not see most of my work, which is developing and fostering an environment conducive to learning (languages).

More in upcoming posts.

Short URLs: Goo.gl going under

Graphic from Strategic Planet

News today (and not it is not April Fool’s) is that goo.gl URL shortener. Here is the message:

Starting March 30, 2018, we will be turning down support for goo.gl URL shortener. From April 13, 2018 only existing users will be able to create short links on the goo.gl console. You will be able to view your analytics data and download your short link information in csv format for up to one year, until March 30, 2019, when we will discontinue goo.gl. Previously created links will continue to redirect to their intended destination.

I have hundreds of shortened URLs. They are good for making easy links for students. And everyone else. And I have a year to continue, and the links will continue after that, so not such a big deal.

Alternatives: I like bit.ly better in many ways, you can make a custom URL. But they don’t do QR codes. All my students have phones, and using QR codes makes things even easier for them. Here are some alternatives (Thanks, Richard.)

I have discovered tiny.cc, which looks like a spoof of tinyURL, one of the first shorteners. It looks a bit iffy, but Web of Trust says they are moderately safe. The neat thing is that they incorporate QR codes right into the process, making it perfect for me. The add-ons for a pro account looks like they may be monitoring traffic a little too closely. Will keep you updated, but this is the direction I am looking for now.

Kind of reminds me of the problems with RSS readers, but that is for another post.