Balancing Identity, Community & Trust

Whether we like it or not the Internet is changing how we see ourselves and how others see us. This post isn’t about the rapid pace of technological change but rather how this change is affecting how we communicate, form relationships, and trust one other.

Social Networks are not new but the need to architect your communities within these networks is. What happens if you ignore this evolution? Imagine everyone you know getting together in one big room with a giant display screen behind them advertising some of the most private details of their lived experience. A birthday party, the death of a parent, the personal impact of a recent natural catastrophe.

Some of these events you may want to share with everyone but mostly you want to target your message to specific people in your community. Before social media this concept was referred to as back room and front room conversations and was easy to manage. Social media has broken down the walls between back room and front room conversations and opened a window into back room behaviors.

What you need to know is that social media can be designed in a way to strengthen our broader relationships in a way that is manageable. This introduces the concept of trust and managing our trust relationships.

I found the following presentation through a tweet and it’s probably one of the most clear and comprehensive explanation that I’ve come across about the importance of architecting your social network and of understanding the underlying trust relationships. It’s written from a designer’s perspective but is relevant to individuals and businesses alike.

Social Media & Collaborative Knowledge Building

Strategies & Challenges in using Social Media

The UBC Masters of Educational Technology program is a strong collaborative environment for learning. One collaboration tool that is emphasized is the Wiki. Although I am a fan of using Wikis, I can’t say that I find collaborating within them intuitive or easy. One thing that I’ve noticed is that it really helps to make use of the discussion page to describe your thoughts on what you have changed or what you think still needs more work.

Working with Wikis is something that takes a lot of practice to get good at. It takes some amount of confidence to go in and modify someone elses work without first getting their permission to do so. By virtue of working within a Wiki you give others permission to modify your work but it is still a little uncomfortable for me.

I thought it would be good to share the top strategies that we came up with as part of one of my classes for the benefit of anyone thinking about incorporating social media into their Community of Practice. These were developed over a week within a group Wiki and demonstrate the potential for the tool to support collaborative knowledge building. I have tailored some of the points to adapt them to CoPs rather than just academic learning environments.

5 Strategies for using Social Media

  1. Enhance a lesson by reaching learners through a multitude of learning styles; for instance, visual, tactile, and auditory
  2. Capitalizing on the way that learners already communicate during their daily lives and use social media to enhance their learning.
  3. Utilize the wisdom of the entire group to progress collectively to a greater destination than what they could have achieved on their own.
  4. Research other training uses of social media to determine the advantages of field tested group learning techniques.
  5. Teach digital etiquette. Discuss public identity management and the appropriate time and use of technology, privacy, copyright, and flame wars.

5 Key Challenges in using Social Media:

  1. Navigating through copyright and plagiarism issues and how these issues apply to the read/write digital culture
  2. Supporting learners with limited computer and/or internet access at home or in work so that they are not marginalized
  3. Providing another platforms to network while yielding sufficient training outcomes without negatively impacting individual learning goals
  4. Ensuring social media sites terms of service and corporate privacy policies are followed and kept apprise of by the CoP’s administration team.
  5. Navigating the legal, social and organizational ramifications of using social media between learner and teacher.

If you are interested in developing a Wiki to build knowledge within your Community of Practice then you might want to check out:

If anyone has a Wiki platform that they would like to share – please leave a comment and I will add the site to the technology page.

Terms of Service

I chose today to review the terms of service and privacy statements for four social media sites to investigate terms of services: WikiSpaces, Facebook, LinkedIn, WordPress. After a quick look at the size of the documents, and the related privacy documents, I decided to start with the WikiSpaces statement because at least I could understand it. The Wikispaces terms of service and privacy statement were surprisingly and refreshingly simple. They do not claim ownership of any content that you submit however, because of the nature of the service they have a full sub licence, royalty free, perpetual licence to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, etc. everything you submit or make available to the service. The material can be used for anything. The site is very clear about privacy and does not make any private information available to anyone. However, they will disclose private information by law, and they are an American site which means that the Patriot Act would apply. The site does collect clickstream data in log files for performance reasons and uses cookies for sessions as well as those that are persistent. I think it’s appropriate for adult students to use this site.

The next site I looked into was LinkedIn. I was surpised that it’s legal to do extensive updates to your terms of service but not have to rewrite the terms of service. They have a page of updates referencing line items in the original document so not only do you have to read a complex original document but you have to refer to the new changes on a separate page. What I determined is that you essentially own your content but they have full rights forever by licence. You can request material is deleted but have no control if someone else has used it. It has pretty much the same legal access as Wikispaces and it is also an American site but there is also part ownership in Ireland. This is a site that I would encourage my students to use because of the network of people involved in related communities of practice that they could connect with.

I moved on to FaceBook where I was surprised and maybe a little disappointed with the complexity and detail of their terms of service and privacy information. This definitely is not a site that you should request that students be members of for a course. There are a number of privacy controls but the users information is accessible through their friends and there are quite a number of third party applications that can access your information. Like the other sites Facebook has a full licence to use your content however they like, royalty free of course. I found the terms for this site the most confusing because of the amount of information. I was wishing for the simplicity of the Wikispaces terms.

Finally I moved on to WordPress – clickstream information is collected but not for performance but for ‘understanding’ how users are using the site aka marketing and they use non-identifying information in aggregate for marketing as well. The site collects personal information but doesn’t disclose it. They mention access to personal information is allowed by their staff, on a need to know basis, which made me wonder why I didn’t see this clearly stated in the other sites terms. They also mention that these staff may be located in countries other than your own and your information will be transferred to those countries but it doesn’t specify the countries. They have the typical statements that the other sites have that they don’t rent or sell your information, they disclose it for legal purposes, and they use cookies but they take the opportunity to remind users that they are in control if they want to turn cookies off on their computers but some aspects of the site may not work properly. I didn’t find any reasson not to have my learners use this site. I think it’s a valuable format for sharing information across a diverse community who may have different perspectives.

All in all this was an informative but tedious exercise that I have been putting off for a long time but glad I’ve made my way through it!


As part of some background research for E512 I went to sign up for an account with a social learning website “Babel” and read the terms of service more thoroughly than anything I’ve signed up for to date. I was quite uncomfortable about a couple of statements. The first was that they seem to shift more responsibility to the user for security and access. Specifically they state that the user is responsible for blocking third party applications from accessing their registration information and that the user is responsible to make sure that none of their content has any virus, worms, trojans or the like. They also make it clear that they have full rights to repackage and redistribute any content the user  uploads. This is a paid service site so I found this quite concerning because it gives the impression that the corporation can ‘steal’ from the users to repackage and format their ideas for sale to other members. I’m not sure this would happen but they’ve written it into their terms of service and I’m sure it’s not by accident. This is the first German terms of service I looked at so I wonder if this has anything to do with some of the differences.

Blogging & Wiki

I started the Wiki activity by adding a post but I’ll need to wait a bit for a few others to add to it before continuing the evolution to discussions and summarizations. Right now the wiki is more like some type of rolling blog. In the meantime I moved onto the blogging assignment which will probably have a discussion forum open up next week. For now, here’s my thoughts.

At first I was nervous about commenting about this issue because I don’t have children nor do I teach children. However after watching the Fischbowl video and reading the Educause article about educational blogging I feel a lot more comfortable about the idea of grade school children blogging in a supportive environment. That is how Stephen Downes describes the environment in the Educational Blogging article. I was also swayed by the interviews in the Fischbowl video where the students listed the multitude of benefits like extending the classroom, having time to reflect, taking accountability for their writing because it will be read so publicly and they will need to be able to defend what they write.

Now, optimistic about the value of the exercise I ran the process and technology through Chickering and Ehrmann’s Seven Principles and the results were also encouraging:

☑  encourages contact between students and faculty,
☑  develops reciprocity and cooperation among students
☑  uses active learning techniques
☑  prompt feedback
☑  emphasis time on task
☑  communicates high expectations
☑  respects diverse talents and ways of learning

I do acknowledge that neither of the sources seemed to offer any critique or discussion of potential risks. However, based on my assessment using these materials, I will move onto the potential strategies.

First would be to have a discussion with the parents – possibly a dialogue with them and their children to hear out the concerns. I would recommend sharing the assessment about how powerful of a learning experience this is and to share the video with the parents. I think its a strong message in the voice of the ones that matter – the kids. I think another option is to look into having a semi-public blogging space that is only open to the educational community e.g. the whole school but not the whole world. I didn’t hear any specific statements by the students about the benefits of having ‘strangers’ comment on their work. The value for the students seemed to come from interacting with their peers in an extension from the classroom. However, this may limit the value of the exercise that allows the students to engage with the world at large in a supportive environment which seems to be a timely and necessary learning experience. I think that they made the right choice with selecting Livejournal given the policy, as stated in the Educause article, of only allowing new members who are recommended by existing members. It’s not completely controlled but it helps to foster a safer community environment. I also think that it would help to include regular discussions and reflective exercises about how the students feel and respond to negative and hurtful comments that appear in their blog. As a last resort I suppose you could allow students to opt out.

Chickering, A.W. & Ehrmann, S.C. (1996).  Implementing the Seven Principles: Technology as Lever. American Association for Higher Education Bulletin, 49(2), 3-6.

Downes, S. (2004).  Educational Blogging.  Educause Review.  September/October 2004 Accessed online 25 March 2009. Retrieved from

Fisch, K. (2007). “Blogging: In Their Own Words,”The Fischbowl.  Accessed online 26 March 2009.