I felt so disappointed recently when I found out through my niece and nephew who are in grade 8 and 7 in Halton, Ontario, that their schools use Google Classroom as their primary digital learning and classroom interaction platform.

Even more disturbing was their complete dependence on Google Search for anything and everything to do with the internet.

They do not understand that Google Search is just one search engine among many. For them, the internet begins and ends with Google.

I find this to be very disturbingly irresponsible teaching of technology and internet education to young children.

My niece sent me a link to a digital escape room she made using Google. When I told her I couldn’t access it because I didn’t have a Google account she didn’t understand what that meant. In her mind, everyone has a Google account because otherwise they cannot use the internet.

Seems I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me to reverse all this unhealthy tech learning.

The thing that’s really infuriating about the kids having been set up with Google accounts is that the parents were never asked for consent. Do they really think pre-teens understand the extent to which their privacy is being invaded by the data collection?

Whichever committee fell for Google’s sales pitch and said this is a good idea obviously is incompetent and has no clue what they’ve done for thousands of unsuspecting students.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lawsuit headed their way.

@shahaan I wish you luck buddy.
I've had thanks from a couple of moms that they and their kids aren't on fb. They didn't realize how bad it was until cambridge news. They just trusted me all these years.
Now.
Guess whose kids ARE on fb?
Yeah... :-(

@gemlog I’m guessing you’ve talked to them about why it’s not so great to be on fb already. Peer pressure is very powerful. Add to it FOMO on stuff your friends post (and then talk about ad nauseam the next day at school) and you’ve got the perfect platform for capturing their attention and time.

Of course, some people are simply carefree and disinterested in issues of online privacy and surveillance. What can we do? 🤷🏻‍♂️

@shahaan My kids just roll their eyes at my privacy lectures and I've given up. It may help for you to know that they are 30-ish! ;-)
I thought my friends and their kids basically ignored my warnings too until cambridge.
As a geek, I'm used to being called out for over-explaining things and just being 'muted' and eyes glazing over... I have a hard time gauging ppl's attention.
It doesn't help that ppl are polite and make encouraging noises... I just keep going...
I *never* used FB. Knew of zuck

@gemlog Damn, that sounds just like my situation—not with my kids as they’re not nearly old enough but definitely with my extended family. Luckily, my wife hears me out and respects my wishes when it comes to digital privacy even though she doesn’t much care for the topic.

@shahaan Everyone *except* my own children heeded my warnings actually.
I've just sat here wracking my brain for which of my friends use fb or twit.... None. Or their kids (as far as I know...).
Kids are going to rebel and you don't get to choose what they will choose to rebel against...

@gemlog Ugh... I know this feeling all too well.

Not that it helps anyone but their kids could very possibly be on fb, ig and birdsite on the sly.

@shahaan @gemlog

the problem for younger people is FB is used in place of telephones etc for organising social events; if you don't use it you can literally lose touch with your friends in meatspace

This happened to me in the 2010s, OK it wasn't that bad as I was also leaving a peer group which was into some less healthy lifestyle choices like drugs and partying, but younger people (especially if they aren't doing anything "outrageous" find FB a lot harder to give up..) >>

@shahaan @gemlog

FB and WhatsApp are also now embedded into schools and social care (eg FB/WhatsApp messages are used to send info between schools and parents in many parts of England)

@vfrmedia @gemlog I can’t come to terms with government services using WhatsApp/Fb to communicate officially. I just can’t.

@shahaan @gemlog

Central government in UK does not use FB/Whatsapp for anything official to individual citizens (other than the normal propaganda stuff any govt produces), they have their own systems - but local governments (which tend to run schools) do not seem to have provide the funding or resources for schools to have their own digital resources..

@vfrmedia @gemlog Hmm... so where the public sector falls short, the private sector steps in to fill in the gaps. Unfortunately, of course, that also means they get to do stuff that aligns with their own profit model.

@shahaan @vfrmedia @gemlog

In my youth (Northeastern U.S.) it was normal in our early school years (especially) to read The One History Book, or The One Fiction Book. There was no effort to create an understanding of competing venues and views. (In marked contrast to entertainment, where it was touted that you had 3-4 networks to play with. :D ) In a way, the reliance on Google is just the logical outgrowth of that earlier mindset: the "ideal" of one-stop shopping. :/

@xenophora @shahaan @gemlog

even in my high school days corporates had quite a guaranteed market for schools, but it was Acorn for computers, a combination of Royal Dutch Philips and Thorn EMI for other audiovisual equipment, But of course none of these companies could gather in depth data on how the pupils used their products...

@shahaan @vfrmedia
No. NO! BS.
EVERY radio show has it's own web site. Every tv show.
They keep using fb and twit anyhow !!

@gemlog @shahaan

What is bad here is seeing how (some) of the UK public service broadcasters have downsized and abandoned their independent web presences and worse still, the small community broadcasters and activist groups often tend to use "facebook/twitter first" and abandon or forget to update their independent websites (and these are sites with modern CMS, its not like they have to edit raw HTML and have everything recoded each time a change is made..)

@vfrmedia
This is my point exactly. A bunch of easy to use cms cobwebs that we pay for at the national broadcaster who ignore them in favour of fb/twit.
@shahaan

@gemlog

to be fair BBC and other North European broadcasters do still seem to keep their independent websites updated (especially for content aimed at kids/young people) but commercial broadcasters are abandoning a lot of their own web presence other than the deliver streaming media that they can sell ads alongside (and gather user data - eg you need to provide it even to watch a kids programme on ITV (which surely isn't compliant with GDPR?)

@shahaan

@vfrmedia
I simply got fed up with radio programmes on the cbc referencing fotos and vids that were ONLY available on fb/twit when they have their own, perfectly capable websites for each show.
Two weeks ago I wrote to point out that links on the cbc new rss feed were broken consistently. Today they wrote to 'inform' me that they actually have rss feeds and I should check it out! Bastards don't even read feedback.
Since then I've written the crtc as a respondent.
@shahaan

@gemlog

I've always found the concept of talking about photos/videos on radio (and even to some extent studio webcams) to be a bit jarring. Things like that belong on /television/ (and if there isn't the resources for a full TV show, the short form videos that the BBC and ARD/ZDF produce work quite well..)

@shahaan

Show newer

@shahaan
I just wrote some VERY unhappy feedback to the crtc over the cbc 's lic renewal, but them too. I've stopped listening and 'de-cbc'd' myself.
Why do we pay for crap websites when all they do is promote fb and twit on all their tv and radio shows?!?

@vfrmedia

@vfrmedia @gemlog Yes that social/peer pressure and fomo on socializing events is a very powerful draw for a lot of fb users, especially younger but also lots of older ones.

@vfrmedia @shahaan @gemlog

I long ago accepted that some "friends" I knew IRL pre-internet care more about platform ease than preserving friendships. In some cases, the same people who urged me to check out Platform X or whatever was coolest at that moment still drifted away and rarely communicated. After awhile, you just get tired of begging for an audience while competing with billions of posters who (I guess?) they find more agreeable to deal with. It's easier on your pride to just let go.

@xenophora
Well. Some ppl appreciate it. It's like some other things I can't stay silent about.
@vfrmedia @shahaan

@vfrmedia @shahaan
I'll ask the older ones if they've found it necessary. Early to mid 20-ies.

@restioson Do they have any discussion with students about whether they give their consent for google to collect, analyze and monetize their usage patterns and other data?

@shahaan are there and FOSS, self-hosted alternatives? My partner's school uses Google classroom with the students, I'd like to suggest an alternative. The closest I've seen in OnlyOffice, but the community edition is crippled at 20 max users (or something to that effect)

@craftyguy No idea, to be honest. I’ve only just gotten into this topic and I’ve not done any digging around to see what alternatives exist. I’ll be sure to post about any if I find them.

@shahaan that's so sad. I use DuckDuckGo, StartPage, and Disconnect as my primary search engines, but a lot of people haven't heard of them!

@micrackbiron i know! Not only that, but when I introduce people to alternatives their first reaction is a hesitance as though they are using a lower quality product and won’t find what they’re looking for online.

Upon further discussion it turns out they use google search to simply go to their usual websites for shopping, banking, etc. Like they search for “amazon” and click on the first result instead of typing in “amazon.com” and hitting enter. 😑🤦🏻‍♂️

@shahaan Oh...wow. I started using DuckDuckGo when I got more concerned about privacy. I feel like Google knows too much about me already. StartPage is similar - although I suppose I still have Google accounts like Gmail, which isn't much better. One thing I have noticed is that when I use some of those alternative search engines for more obscure things, they don't always find what I'm looking for! I tend to search for a lot of technical subjects.

@micrackbiron I use google search too but rarely and obviously not with any sign in. I find most of what I need from ddg and others.

@shahaan hate to say it, but I do have a Google account. I have others as well but it's hard to separate from it. I've been slowly edging away from it.

@micrackbiron It’s hard but worth it, you won’t regret it :)

@shahaan
It's worse than that: Edge defaults to Bing search, so often they'll type Google into Bing so they can type Amazon into Google!
@micrackbiron

@dheadshot @shahaan reminds me of the "If Google Was a Guy" skit where this one girl just goes "Facebook," and the Google guy says, "It is right...THERE!!"

@shahaan And this practice, along with the control it grants Google, is why they want to kill the URL. @micrackbiron

@shahaan Well, to be fair, there are only a few comprehensive SE's. Google, Bing and Yandex... and the chinese one Baidu.
Qwant, DDG, Ecosia, Startpage are all just fronts for goog and bing. What would you have them use?
Now. Ppl who use chrome on chrome books and live in chrome browser, have android phones and use gmail... Oh, and get AMP pages and think Goog *IS* the internet... is a problem. Also FB ppl who are trapped in that world.

@gemlog Really? I thought DDG did its own web page indexing?

@shahaan No. I think that one is bing.
I had a good article on it.
Somewhere... :-(

@shahaan
You have *NO* idea how many links and stuff I hit in a month. Seriously.
It took all this time to find it in my browser history.
Half the problem was it didn't include any keywords I searched on in history. The other half was that I was looking for an article and not a video... :-(
Anyhow, here you go with some info on search engines

Why Google helps other search engines compete
youtube.com/watch?v=eOZFnMwkjV

@shahaan Same here at a fairly progressive K-6 school in the SF Bay Area. It's Google for everything. And on top of it, they set up all the 3rd-graders with Google accounts without first checking with the parents. Our kid just came home one day with a school email account on Google.

@tsturm I honestly think a school board can easily afford to host and operate its own email servers. Very disappointing to see them outsource something so simple and cheap.

@shahaan I'm not terribly well versed in this facet of this industry, so I'd be curious to learn what options we (as Ontario parents) would be able to suggest to our kids' schools. What equivalent digital ecosystem could a school set up for its kids that would give them the same account/document/searching /sharing functionality while also being able to connect and share with students/schools that opt to stick with Google? (No gotcha question here. I'm sincerely hoping to learn from this.)

@reay Same here. I’ve not looked into this topic until now and I’m hoping to find something. But how confident are you that the board will consider switching even if there is a viable alternative suggested to them? They’ve already dug themselves in quite deep, so to speak. :(

@shahaan Well that's just it: Google has come along and offered a sweet (seeming) package to schools that no one else has or does, so I get the appeal of it. But, to your point, without any equal (let alone better) option available to recommend, there's not much than can be done about it. Please do post about it if you can find any such thing.

@shahaan This is a huge concern to me. For the most part the online resources our schools have been using have been Canadian and so data sovereignty is hopefully being respected. But the whole Google Classroom thing is a huge annoyance to me. I have to wonder if the teachers, administrations, associations and unions have any idea of the issues involved.

But then I don't get involved because those who do are typically, for lack of a better word or nuance, shrill.

And--there is no opting out.

@dlek That’s a good point—about data sovereignty. I hadn’t thought of it but it’s definitely important. I always feel that public institutions should have their own servers for hosting learning resources. Unfortunately, I think, in a bid to “stay relevant,” “modernize,” and “keep up with the times” (as such fears are stoked by salespeople and marketing execs) they get rolled into opting for the convenience of outsourced services.

@shahaan A lot of public institutions are too small to roll their own, but the larger organizations (ex. school districts), associations, etc. would be better positioned to respond to these needs. The organizations I'm thinking about (local schools) will still have to outsource, but by engaging Canadian companies the investment and data can stay in Canada.

@shahaan
Not a new thing: my school blocked all non-google search engines (plus Google images, much to the annoyance of those of us doing art GCSE). This was in 2003-05!

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