After watching this TED Talk from Eli Pariser (February 2011 Lonbeach California) and thinking more about my own digital footprint and on line privacy, I thought it would be interesting to try a little test with my fifth grade class. I wanted to see just how private or not so private, their online activity might be and compare it to mine. First, I wanted them to Google their name. Also, after watching Eli Pariser on Ted Talk, I thought it would be interesting to try something similar to what he did. I would get my class to Google the word Tokyo and see if their ‘hits’ we similar to mine or randomly different according to how Google profiles you.
Some background information first…….I am currently teaching fifth grade and been involved with a 1:1 iPad/MacBook initiative this year. There are five sections at my grade level and three of us are using iPad’s while the other two classes are using MacBook’s. My class has been using the iPad since September. A decision will be made at the end of this year which device we will use for next school year. Perhaps more about this process in a future blog! This is the first year all fifth grade students have been using email, which is through Gmail.
My first test with my fifth grade class was to see how much information was revealed when they did a Google search of their name and variations of it. We found that there was not a great deal of information about just their name and this was similar to what I had found when I had done a Google search with my own name. Then I had them try a Google search with their name plus the school that we are attending. Things got more interesting at this point and right away students were shouting out they had found their name. I had them take a screen shot and email me the information they found. Next I posted a question for them to reflect on and asked them what they thought of online privacy (we had had a conversation about online privacy before we began this exercise and they are aware I am taking the COETAIL course).
What I found is that the majority of my students felt that they were alright with the information that had been posted and that they felt their online privacy was not in jeopardy. For most of the students in my class, much of the information was about swim team times or a write-up about a performing arts festival they had been in. One student found a video that had been taken of their family when they left the country after the earthquake last year, which he had forgotten about. I did find that two of my students had facebook accounts, and I was assured that their parents had full control.
It turned out to be a great discussion that I had with my class about online privacy. However, this really got me thinking afterwards. I’m glad they felt secure about their online privacy at this point in their young lives, but just how long is this going to last? As an educator am I responsible for keeping my students as anonymous as possible on the web or does this fall on the shoulders of the parents?
The second task I was interested in having my class do was the test that Eli Pariser had done with two of his friends. He asked them to type Egypt as a Google search and send him the information that they get from their ‘hits’. I thought it was very interesting, especially the difference between the two profiles as he discussed in his talk. So, I thought I would try this with my class for the second experiment. I had them log into Google with their Gmail account, type the word Tokyo and run a search. I then compared their results with mine. Ironically, all the information was the same for the first page compared to my results. The only difference was with one of my students under the News heading. The only difference was the seventh heading down on the first page. My Google search had Tokyo Hotels, his had PS3 Tokyo Jungle PV on YouTube. I know this particular student has a Sony PS3 and spends time on YouTube. However, with 17 students in my class this was the only difference. I only used data for the first page and didn’t look farther. Perhaps I need to expand my search a little more and compare after the first five pages.
In short, my two experiments didn’t reveal a great deal of online privacy being out of control. I am starting to think that we have to be more careful as a school with what information gets posted on the school website. As educators though, are we responsible for helping our students remain anonymous as possible? Should we be guiding them to read all the agreement terms when they sign up for Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr for example?
More to consider and many discussions with my class remain……