Mario Couros Memorial Bursary

Hey everyone – I’m really hoping that you can support the following with your direct contribution or by sharing this far and wide.

Back in January of 2013, I initiated a massive open online course about edtech called #etmooc. It was an amazing experience for me, and perhaps most significantly, it introduced to me to a group of amazing, passionate individuals who have continued to learn and connect since the early days of the course.

These individuals have not only been great supporters of open and networked learning, they are also incredibly caring individuals who have demonstrated immense charity and kind regard for others.

As many of you may remember, the day after the last #etmooc session, my father Mario passed away unexpectedly. #etmooc participants and so many others in my network were there for me to provide their sincere condolences and support in my greatest time of need. I know that we often see the shallowness of social media connections, but I am fortunate to have experienced deep caring and friendship in these spaces.

About a year ago, the group of #etmooc alumni surprised me with an incredible gift. They initiated a bursary at the University of Regina (my place of employment) in memory of my father. Befitting the fact that my parents immigrated to Canada in the 1950’s, the Mario Couros Bursary has been set up specifically to support the post-secondary education of a new Canadian who is looking to enter the Faculty of Education and become a teacher!

#etmooc has been raising money all year but they are still short of the goal of $25,000 Canadian dollars. So, to boost efforts, #etmooc individuals have taken the incredible additional step of setting up an online auction to raise funds for the additional amount needed to fully fund the bursary.

So what am I asking you to do here? If you are interested in the auction items, please consider going to http://tiny.cc/mariocouros and scroll down the page to bid on various items that have been donated by #etmooc participants. If you’re not interested in any of the items, you can also donate directly to the bursary through Erin Werner at the University of Regina, via phone at 306-585-5432, or via email at erin.werner@uregina.ca

Or, if you are not in the place to bid or donate, please consider sharing this post. I’m really hoping that we can fully fund the bursary.

Thank you so much for your support!

Posted in All

Developing a Critical Disposition

This morning, I received a photo (found below – I added the watermark) from a catfishing victim. She received it from a scammer who had used many of my personal and professional photos to form an online, intimate relationship with her for the purpose of defrauding her out of money. The victim finally clued into the scam after already sending him thousands of dollars. While it may seem ridiculous to fall for such a scam, I receive hundreds of similar reports every year, and if you know of my ongoing saga, you will understand that I have tried my best to bring the problem to the attention of Facebook, Google, elected officials, law enforcement, etc. None of these organizations or agencies seem to be willing or able to do anything about this problem, and thus I feel the responsibility of teaching about such Internet scams must continue to be taken up by educators in K-12 and post-secondary institutions.

Over the years, I have seen teachers make great use of interesting “fake sites” designed to help students develop information literacies/skills. Some of these include DHMO.org, Save the Endangered Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus, Feline reactions to bearded men, and DehydratedWater.com. And while these are still great resources that can be used with some success, given the abundance of fake news and internet scams that inundate our digital society, there are plenty of opportunities to use fresh and authentic examples in class.

For instance, using the example of the photo above, students could employ some very basic info/digital literacy skills to identify the picture as a fake (i.e. photoshopped) picture through a reverse image search. In this Youtube video, I’ve previously demonstrated how to use Google Images to run a reverse image search, but I also wanted to highlight TinEye as an alternative tool for this task. To try out TinEye for this purpose, I would suggest that you download the above photo to your computer (ctrl-click+save or drag+drop), visit the TinEye site, and then upload the image to TinEye (there is also a TinEye Chrome extension available that makes the process a little quicker). In the case of the photo above, using TinEye produces the following results:

Exploring the resulting links, you will quickly discover that the original image shows Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people in Norway in a terror attack in 2011. Further investigation also reveals many additional photos of Breivik in custody, making it clear which version of the image is the photoshopped one (if the tiny size of my head compared to my body wasn’t already enough proof).

So there you have a component of a very basic information/digital literacy lesson that you could use in the classroom. However, I’d like to stress that these important tools and/or processes will likely not become first-nature to our students unless we help our students develop the disposition to approach the world with a critical eye. Recent studies have shown that young people are not, on the whole, very good at detecting fake news – and the stories that emerged regarding fake news about the U.S. presidential election being written by teens in Macedonia have made it clear that adults are equally vulnerable. There is little doubt that information/digital literacy will become more and more important in the years to come.

I’d love to hear from you. What strategies are you using in your classroom to help students become critical consumers and creators of information and media?