Friday, January 27, 2017

Digital Leaders: Who Are They, And Why Am I One?

This semester in Digital Citizens, my classmates and I were faced with a very difficult challenge;
To prove that we were have become digital leaders, and to support evidence for that.
It is a subjective thing, of course.  There is not one accepted scale used to measure digital leaders, nor is there a single person who can judge such a thing.
However, through my final project, using five unique strands of evidence, I aimed to prove this.

One of the most satisfying parts of my presentation (which can be seen here) was when I was able to provide photographic evidence of when my friend Alicia and I went to the Oakdale Mall and handed candy canes to strangers.  We spread this with the hashtags #kindness and #gratitude, and aimed to bring people into the holiday spirit.  In doing this, we were positive influences in the lives of others.  Obviously other people recognized this as a benefit, since my Google Form referred to it multiple times.

There were, however, a couple of setbacks.  I felt as though I lacked evidence in the criteria of "sharing my learning".  I didn't necessarily feel like I had shared enough to prove that.  Though I received a 100% approval rating, I was not personally satisfied with it, and I do not believe that my presentation catered enough towards that department.  This was also difficult for me, since, even if I did do such things, it was much more difficult to present it.

So what would I say to someone who is trying to present these strands of evidence?

Be prepared beforehand.  Make sure that you have gone over each of the items multiple times, and that, in case one comes up lacking, you are ready to pull out something else to replace it.  Make sure that you have a lot.

In the end, having more than you need is better than not having enough at all.

Being a digital leader is an extremely fun, satisfying thing.  In our world of technological-based communication and education, it is a tool that will take you very, very far.

Just make sure that you have the facts to back it up.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Perpetuators, Upstanders, and Bystanders - Which am I, And Which are You?

In today's world, it is needless to say that bullying and harassment are major issues.  Especially in the age of the Internet - a system growing much, much faster than we can keep up with - these situations happen all too often.  Online and offline, it is hard to avoid seeing such behavior - and, oftentimes, falling victim to it.

And, in dealing with these haters and trolls, there are three main personalities / ways to handle the situation:
Perpetuators, Upstanders, and Bystanders.

A Perpetuator, for example, is just as it may sound.  While they may not make the first insult, they are rubbing salt in the open wounds.  By sharing, liking, and talking about the instance, they are effectively showing the bully their support, and making the situation all the worse.

Similarly, a Bystander is a person who can see this harassment happening, but, instead of taking a stand, decides to turn a metaphorical blind-eye.  They use their ignorance to distance themselves from the situation, and, in dissociating from what they have seen, do absolutely nothing to help.

Alternatively, an Upstander is the archetypal "good guy" of the three.  Instead of supporting or contributing to these acts of nonsense, and Upstander will take a stand, and interject themselves between the bully and their victim.  They do not let these actions go any farther, and, in doing so, make the person being bullied feel much, much less alone.

Upon learning about these three terms, and the people whom they describe, I was posed with an interesting question.  What am I?  Which of these do I fall under?  How does my social media presence, among other factors, contribute to this?

To find out, I - narcissistically, with a cringing brow and self-evaluative mind - took to my Twitter profile.  See, my Tweets are primarily in regards to writing, to pretentious humor, and - to the disdain of my less savvy, less (aggressively) Liberal followers - to politics.  There was little evidence of myself standing up against a cyberbully, or defending someone against a hater.

Until I came across a certain post.

In seeing it, I was reminded - painfully - of the feeling that I experienced when first posting the picture.  It was just after visiting the National Civil Rights Museum in D.C, and seeing exhibit after exhibit of the horrible, pain-staking crimes that were done in the name of bigotry.  I was offended, disgusted, and had to take a stand.  So, to do so, I posted a picture on Instagram, using the #BlackLivesMatter campaign to get across my point.  In doing so, I tried to stand up for the cause that I believed in, and stand up against such horrid behavior.  I believe that this makes me an upstander.

In addition, it is not just social causes that I stand up for.  Sometimes, I feel the need to do nothing more than make people happy.  With Alicia, using the #Kindness and #Gratitude campaign, we were able to hand out candy canes to strangers, and make people happy for the holidays.  Sometimes, you see, it takes nothing more than a piece of candy, a Santa hat, and a smile to make someone's day.

On top of this, there were other questions that I couldn't help but wonder.  For instance, YouTube and other social media sites give users the option to “Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down” other comments. In cases of cyberbullying, does this promote perpetuators, and, thus, cause more of an issue?

This feature - liking comments - is available on many different platforms.  YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram, to name a few, have this option.  And while it is usually a good feature, and, in my opinion, should not be eliminated, it can lead to many more problems.  It encourages perpetuators to contribute to the conversation, and makes the "mob mentality" makes it easier to "gang up against" someone.  It only furthers this problem.  This is why many sites offer users to eliminate comments from being made under their posts, and why they allow people to delete and report comments from being seen.

In addition, similarly, YouTuber Jenna Marbles has said, “It’s not the hate comment that hurts. It’s the hundreds of people that give the comment a thumbs-up.”  This is extremely true.  This ability to support comments and commenters only makes the defense stronger.  It is a very viable statement, and only supports the ability to stop people from posting on the bottom of Tweets and videos.

The Internet is an extremely strong, extremely useful tool.  It is, in so many cases, used for much more good than it is for evil.  But there are instances in which it can be used for malicious reasons, and, thusly, it is so important to be an Upstander, rather someone who perpetuates the situation, or sees it and simply stands by.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

StayFocused - Google Chrome Extension Review

As human beings, we all have those moments.
You’re sitting at home, your laptop screen illuminating blue light on your face.  I will get work done today, you keep telling yourself.  This won’t end up like last time.
Yet, before you know it - almost as if it was out of your control - you emerge from your foggy haze, and five hours have passed.  You’ve somehow gotten to reading a Wikipedia page about domestic relations between South Korea and China.  Your best friend’s sister’s FaceBook page is opened in three different tabs.  You watched a half an hour of YouTube tutorials on how to make origami cranes.
Your productivity is non-existent.
The Google Chrome extension StayFocusesd can help tremendously with this.  If you need to meet a deadline, if you are easily distracted, or even if you want to stop visiting a certain website altogether, this extension is a vital tool.
To begin using this mechanism, simply download the extension from Google Play, and its icon will appear in the upper right-hand corner of your Google Chrome browser.  Upon opening it, you will see a timer, alongside the name of the site that you are currently browsing.  Go to the page which you wish to block, and click “Block This Entire Site”.  Upon doing so, the timer will begin counting down - the default time allotted is one minute, but this can be changed through the “Settings” option.  Browse the website for your last, precious minutes, and, once the timer has reached zero, the site will be blocked.
In addition, users can choose the “Nuclear Option”, which provides a more thorough and customizable set of options.  For instance, you can choose a wide variety of content to block, rather than a particular website.  You can also choose the amount of time that this block lasts, as well as a specific time for this block to begin, rather than having the stress of a countdown looming over your webpages.
While testing this extension, I found it to be incredibly helpful and convenient.  It does exactly what it promises, and, occasionally, adds comical pop-ups and rhetorical notions, making the whole process seem less daunting and more lighthearted.  Both the traditional way of using the tool, as well as the “Nuclear Option” that it offers are extremely useful, and both worked (for me, at least) very well.
Let’s break it down.
Appeal; Looks and Sounds:
The extension manages to hide in the corner of your screen, making a very small and non-bothersome presence.  It does not block what you are working on, and does not make loud or irksome noises while you work / browse.
I would rate this area as a 4/4.
Engagement / Motivation:
While the motivation behind the extension is strong - it inspires users to browse quickly and precisely, and, obviously, use their time wisely - the engagement is very minimal.  This, however, for the specific tool, is a plus.  Its quiet presence is better than an exaggerated and boisterous distraction.
This deserves a 4/4.
User Friendly Directions and Instructions:
One of the few downsides to this extension is its lack of user friendly interface.  While the tool is easy to use once it’s learned and experimented with, the process of training yourself to be fluent in the technology is not so simple.  There are few directions once the extension is first installed, and, if you accidentally block a website that you didn’t mean to, it can be a major hassle to reverse the process.
I would give this a 2/4, simply because, once you do learn the process of using the extension, it is not so difficult.
Performance / Ease of Use:
Functionally speaking, the extension runs very well.  It does what it will say, and I have not personally experienced any glitching.
4/4 in this category.
Differentiation in Learning:
With a very high level of customization, this extension is very good for someone who has specific needs.  With the Nuclear Option, users can completely change the allotted time, sites, and various other options.
4/4.  No questions.
StayFocused is extremely helpful for anyone who has a hard time concentrating on their work, and needs that extra kick to stay on track.  Its interface is both authoritative and fun, and works well for a professional who needs to have some fun while working - and, most importantly, needs to work.
With the biggest downfall being the difficulty in the introductory stages, this is quickly evened out by the great upsides that it possesses; namely the ability to customize the time allotted and types of websites prohibited.If I had to put a number on it, I would give StayFocused a solid 18/20, or 90% rating.
To download StayFocused for your Google Chrome experience, you can find it here.

- Casey Adrian

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

I Don't Want to Google Myself

Before Googling myself - a feat which I was not excited to embark upon - I wrote a short list of things which I expected to come across.  These included:

1) A link to my novel / author page.
2) Social media.
3) Old, horribly embarrassing photos of me.

Surprisingly, it was much more than I expected to see.
I came across many photos of myself, and also unrelated ones of my friends and followers.  There were many posts about my blog, and my novel, and all the things which go along with one.  My YouTube videos popped up, as did some of my poetry.
On the darker side, there were a handful of old, extremely embarrassing photos, coupled with even older, more embarrassing profiles.  My emails led me to some unsettling memories of sixth grade - I was overweight with a bowlcut - and my tagged photos were, as expected, not selfie-quality.
I am happy, however, that it was not a lot worse.  It very easily could have been.
Though, if a link to my novel was on the first page, rather than the second, that would have been very nice.  Feeling a little snubbed by that one.
So, all-in-all, I can't really complain.
Though a sweep of those old selfies and mediocre pieces of writing would be awesome.