Uncovering Privilege in Online Education

April 21, 2016

“Tethered.” A. Worner, 2014. CC-BY,SA https://flic.kr/p/ow/Roub

(Download my full paper, “Uncovering Privilege in Online Education: Applying McIntosh’s Lens” here.)

This past semester I was privileged (pun intended) to audit Soci 470, a course in educational sociology given by my colleague, Dr. Jerry Hinbest, in the Sociology Department at Vancouver Island University (VIU). While proximity made the course accessible for me (Jerry’s office and classroom are one floor up from me), the course also made me further question the ‘accessibility’ of online education for students in general.

People who have taken OLTD 506  with me in VIU Education Department’s  Online Learning and Teaching Diploma Program over the past 3 years are aware of my equity concerns when teaching about social media use in education. Equity and access are strong threads in the technology integration workshops I run for our VIU Ed pre-service and graduate students. They are also evident in my Twitter feed (@jhengstler). Yet, it was Jerry’s course, the readings and interactions with his undergraduate students that gave me the tools and time to reflect on my position in greater detail. The paper I’ve posted began as a paper and presentation submitted for Soci 470. In this version of the work, I’ve attempted to refine my thoughts for a more general audience. ( I also use Chicago vs. APA citation style, to allow for a less “academic” reading experience. To someone so programmed in APA, this was a bit of a challenge.)

Below are the “5 Key Assumptions of Privilege in Online Education” that I uncovered in my reflection on the topic. If you want to know more about them in detail, or how these issues could be addressed, please download the full paper here: “Uncovering Privilege in Online Education: Applying McIntosh’s Lens”.  It is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0, so you may freely share it and use it under those provisions.

The 5 Key Assumptions of Privilege in Online Education

  • Assumption 1: Everyone Has Internet Access.
  • Assumption 2: Public Schools Level the Playing Field for Online Education.
  • Assumption 3: Online Courses (Like MOOCs) Democratize Education, Especially in Post-Secondary Education.
  • Assumption 4: Online Education is Accessible for Everyone.
  • Assumption 5: You’re Free from Discrimination in Online Education.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the topic.

Sexting & A Safety Agreement for Families

February 15, 2016

After running a recent workshop on privacy legislation and educators, I was approached by an attendee. The person was currently going through a divorce, was just starting her teaching career and concerned about some racy photos she made and shared with her husband. They were now divorcing. She was wondering if she should be concerned about those photos. My response started with, “It would have been simpler if you hadn’t shared those photos…” (My advice continued, but that’s for another post.)


Sexting is risky business, there’s no denying it. We need to discuss the risks with our children as soon as they are ready, and have a plan in place to help and support them if they get in trouble. This post is provided as a tool to help families understand the issues and perhaps enter into an agreement (document template provided at end) with their children to lend support should it ever be necessary.

Sexting & The Issues

Sexting is the practice (even if it’s just one time) of sharing intimate, explicit images, videos or messages with one or more others. The practice of sexting between romantic partners or as a means to flirt and attract romantic partners has been on the rise—especially among older teens.

Often people share sexts under the assumption that the person(s) receiving the sexts will keep them private. When relationships breakdown, one of the parties may break that assumption of trust and share that ‘private’ sext with others. In fact, the top 3 justifications 18-54 year olds gave for non-consensual sharing of personal data were:

  • a partner lied (45%)
  • a partner cheated (41%)
  • a partner broke up with them (27%).1

The same data showed that 10% of ex-partners threatened to release intimate photos of their partner online and of those, 60% followed through and shared them. 1

But it’s not always relationship breakdowns that cause sexts to be made more public: loss of personal devices holding sensitive information like sexts (e.g. cellphones, tablets, computers) can leave parties vulnerable—especially when said devices have little to no password protection. (TIP: Use strong passwords- See http://www.howtogeek.com/195430/how-to-create-a-strong-password-and-remember-it/ ). Some people share their passwords—to their phones, or online accounts—and later find out someone breached that trust and shared content (like sexts) they wanted kept private. (TIP: Don’t share passwords guarding personal information—your devices or accounts. My one exception: my kids share their passwords with me.) Then there’s always the risk of a hacker revealing content—especially if any of the parties involved store their sexts online or in the cloud (E.g. In 2014, a hacker breached Apple’s iCloud and publicly posted private nude photos of female celebrities).

The risk of sexts:

  • They are permanent digital records of intimate/explicit things;
  • They are easily copied & distributed;
  • They could be shared without your consent;
  • They could be shared with unforeseen people: friends, family, future/ current employers, the world;
  • They could be shared in ways you never intended (like posted publicly online).

While sexting may be done consensually, age differences between the participants may make the practice a legal concern–this varies by country & legal jurisdiction (e.g. child pornography). Another concern is that social and peer pressure can be used to extort sexts from otherwise uncomfortable or unwilling participants. Englander (2012) writes that among 18 year olds, “Indisputably, the most important motivation for sexting…was pressure and coercion”. 2 The two main reasons for sexting were:

  • “because a date or boyfriend/girlfriend wanted the picture (66%)”
  • to attract someone you’re interested in (65%). 2

Youth are still discovering what constitutes a respectful romantic relationship. Sometimes the partners requesting the sext through pressuring and coercion may be unaware that they are crossing a line toward sexual harassment. In the case of youth and young adults who choose to sext, they may not be fully aware of the permanence of the content in the sext, how readily it can be distributed, and the potential impacts if shared.

Youth and young adults aren’t necessarily thinking about their future careers when they sext. Sexts made public can affect your employment—future or continuing—in trust professions like teaching. In British Columbia, you need look no farther than the Shewan Decision (1987)3 to understand the ramifications of how sexts in the wrong hands, or made public could affect your job. Other examples of trust professions where sexts-made-more-public could be an issue: counseling, law, law enforcement, medicine, politics, etc. Members of these professions are held to higher standards than the general public—particularly teachers who are seen to influence the development of children and youth.

Youth Reluctance Reporting Problems

Unfortunately, youth are reluctant to report problems that arise from sexting—especially to parents/caregivers. They are concerned that:

  • Someone will “judge” them for sexting.
  • Someone (parents/caregivers) will take away their devices or technology.

A Sexting Safety Agreement (V 1.0)

To support families in navigating risks associated with sexting and to encourage youth to report problems to caregivers, I’ve drafted a Sexting Safety Agreement (V 1.0)  along the lines of the M.A.D.D.’s Contract for Life (an agreement between caregivers and youth to manage the risks of impaired driving). This is one of the first documents I’ve released under Creative Commons licensing: BY-NC-SA (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share Alike).



  1. McAfee, 2013, Lovers beware: Scorned exes may share intimate data and images, http://www.mcafee.com/us/about/news/2013/q1/20130204-01.aspx.
  2. Englander, E.K. (2012) Low risk associated with most Teenage Sexting: A Study of 617 18-Year-Olds, Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Centre, Bridgewater State College, Bridgewater, MA. Available at: http://webhosbridgew.edu/marc/SEXTING%20AND%20COERCION%20report.pdf
  3. In the late 1980’s, a nude photo of a teacher in the Abbotsford School district was submitted by her husband (also a teacher) and published in a magazine as part of an erotic photography competition. The teachers were disciplined by the Board and it lead to a series of court cases. Ultimately in the BC Court of Appeals, Shewan v. Board of School Trustees of School District #34 (Abbotsford), 1987 159, the court stated: “The behaviour of the teacher must satisfy the expectations which the British Columbia community holds for the educational system. Teachers must maintain the confidence and respect of their superiors, their peers, and in particular, the students, and those who send their children to our public schools. Teachers must not only be competent, but they are expected to lead by example. Any loss of confidence or respect will impair the system, and have an adverse effect upon those who participate in or rely upon it. That is why a teacher must maintain a standard of behaviour which most other citizens need not observe because they do not have such public responsibilities to fulfil.”(page 6; http://caselaw.canada.globe24h.com/0/0/british-columbia/court-of-appeal/1987/12/21/shewan-v-board-of-school-trustees-of-school-district-34-abbotsford-1987-159-bc-ca.shtml)

There’s Regulations & Then There’s Best Practices

February 3, 2016
Image of hand extended holding a light bulb with text: Pondering Best Practices

Image adapted from niekverlaan, 2014, lamp-432247_640.jpg, CC0, https://pixabay.com/en/users/niekverlaan-80788/

(BTW, the ex-high school English teacher in me is making me say: I know, strictly speaking that title is not grammatically correct, but it sounded better.🙂 )

In this blog, I’ve previously delved (in some detail here) into the nature of BC educators’ compliance (or lack thereof) with BC’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA, or as some people may remember it, FOIPPA) . I have also mentioned that practically speaking, I don’t think we’ll reach “full compliance” on the Compliance Continuum due to the rate of technological change and our ability to keep pace (access to resources, time, and professional development aside, though clearly important factors😦 ). What I haven’t really differentiated between is what might be considered “strict compliance” (following the letter of the law) and best practices from an educational perspective with regard to privacy legislation and the use of web-based tools by BC educators. I believe technology savvy educators should reach higher than strict compliance to address students’ & educators’ best interests. In honour of Safer Internet Day 2016’s (2/9/16) theme, “Play Your Part For a Better Internet”, I’m going to share some personal examples of this difference. It’s my way to ‘get involved, inspire, and empower’. I encourage you to share something in honour this year’s Safer Internet Day theme too!

When working with a school staff or faculty, there is what I’ll call a “strict compliance necessity” to make sure that people know their legal obligations like “knowledge, notice, informed consent” when using cloud computing or social media tools–especially those with data stored or accessed outside Canada, or those where the location of data storage is unknown; however, knowledge of such strict compliance requirements is information without context. In my opinion, de-contextualized knowledge doesn’t stick very well–and prevents people understanding why things are the way they are and what makes the specifics important in a particular context. It’s like learning the formula for the Pythagorean Theorem by heart (i.e. a² + b² =c²) without understanding the context of a right triangle. In fact, during school math, I had difficulty with that entire formula until I finally realized that it dealt strictly with right triangles and always referred to the relationship of 2 sides of a triangle to its hypotenuse: while the sides might change, the hypotenuse never did. (A little math lesson, too?🙂 ) This is one of the reasons I now like to give some sense of the historical context that ‘grew’ FIPPA, its amendments & regulations when I present the topic to BC educators–not only the global context but also regional, as pertains to our particular province. Ensuring educators have some understanding of the context in which FIPPA legislation was written, has been amended, etc., is a best practice.

(Note: If you’re interested in approaches to privacy legislation, you should be following the current developments in the European Union since the “Safe Harbor Ruling” was struck down in 10/15. If you are following the current EU situation, and are familiar with the BC context, there are clear parallels between  the circumstances under which the EU’s new privacy legislation is unfolding and BC’s current FIPPA laws and regulations; BC was just a bit earlier.)

Now for an in-the-field example of strict compliance necessity vs. best practice with students… In strict compliance with FIPPA and FIPPA Regulations, nowhere does it direct educators to specifically provide students (and their parents/guardians where applicable) with the steps to delete accounts after a class or course–though Section 11 of the FIPPA Regulations speaks to providing “the date on which the consent is effective and, if applicable, the date on which the consent expires” (See BC’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Regulation, Section 11, http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/155_2012 ). It does, however, fit under the legally interpreted aspects of “knowledge” and “notice” for mitigating risks that are critical to the concept of “informed consent”. It is also a practice I encourage my graduate students to use in my OLTD 506  course (#OLTD506) here at VIU (#VIUEd).  When a course/class using a specific online tool comes to an end, providing support documentation or tutorials that walk students through the deletion of accounts or data–as is reasonably and practically possible–would be a best practice not only in British Columbia, but anywhere. In fact, teaching students how to manage the lifecycle of their accounts and associated services/products over time teaches good digital hygiene necessary for a digitally literate citizenry.

If you’re wondering what such a document might look like, here is an example I’ve drafted for our VIU Faculty of Education: Controlling the Lifecycle of Google Accounts_shared .

NOTE BENE: A ‘how to delete an account or data’ document such as this does not replace  the documentation required for obtaining informed student consent to use tools like Google Accounts & YouTube in a BC school under FIPPA. In our case, consent documentation was provided separately along with activity alternatives for students. Controlling the Lifecycle of Google Accounts_shared is provided to students as a supplement to consent documentation.

This document was designed for use with university students in classes where the use of Google and YouTube was encouraged. If you created a similar document, you would need to tailor your content to

  • the specific tool(s) you are using & their processes for deletion/ account closure
  • the level of your audience(s) (i.e. for students and caregivers)
  • your specific school policies, and/or regional laws/regulations

and the document should include the names & contacts for the relevant individuals who can lend support.

Let me know what you think of this post & shared document. I hope it inspires you to do your own thing to “Play Your Part For a Better Internet” on Safer Internet Day 2016.

If you would like to adapt this form for your own use, just contact me & I’m happy to extend permission.

(If you’re wondering why I don’t use CC licensing here, the research I’ve seen shows that “attribution” is rarely given as requested. You’ll see I gave attribution above to the CC0 image I used even though it wasn’t strictly necessary; it’s a thanks to the author from me. If you know of research showing the statistics have changed, share it with me and I’ll be happy to revisit my licensing commitments.🙂 )

Working with Visitor Posts in the Timeline of a Class, School, or District Facebook Page

September 17, 2015

[Note: This post is geared for people who are starting out as Facebook Page administrators, managing a class, school, or district social media presence via an organizational Facebook Page.]

Icon of One Cartoon Head in profile talking to another

By Terry [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

You may have set up a class, school, or district Facebook page to connect with your audiences on social media. Maybe you created it as a page which is managed by a single–or limited number–of individuals to ensure that the page is content is moderated & reflects your social media & organizational standards. Maybe you’ve been moderately successful getting it of the ground for pushing out information, but are missing the interactivity people in your audiences have come to expect from social media.

One day you find that Visitor Posts are popping up on your organizational Page in a box entitled “Visitor Posts”. Congratulations! Someone’s listening and you’ve made contact. How do you respond?

You have two main tasks: determine whether the content posted aligns with your organization’s (class, school, or district’s) objectives and mission and/or serves its community? If not, click on the down arrow to the right of the post’s account name and you’ll find the options to:

  • Hide from Page
  • Delete from Page
  • Report post
  • Embed post
  • Turn notifications (off or on so you can know when comments are added)

Your decision will depend on the content you see. If the content is clearly spam or offensive, go ahead and report the post. If the post is irrelevant, or not useful for your organization at the time, but you want to be able to see it later as the administrator, hide it from your audience using Hide from Page. If the content the other account posted in your Visitor Posts is relevant and useful to you or your audiences, let it keep it showing on your Page in the Visitor Post section.

But maybe that Visitor Post is so good you’d like to do more to connect with it, the person or organization behind that other account, and share. What do you do now?

  • Like the post as your organizational Page identity.
    1. You may have a personal/professional identity on Facebook separate from the identity of the organization whose Page you manage. You want to keep this personal/professional identity separate from your actions as the organization’s (class, school, district’s) account that you are managing on Facebook. Make sure you are liking the post with your appropriate identity. To do this look in the shaded bar directly below the specific post in the Visitor Posts section. There will be an icon/avatar to the right of the “Like   Comment” with a dropdown arrow. If the icon/avatar is your personal/professional & not your organizational one, be sure to switch it.
    2. Remember “liking” implies and endorsement, so you might want to do a little reconnaissance on the Facebook account that posted to your Visitor Posts section BEFORE you like it. What or whom you “like” in Facebook terms reflects on the professional/organizational reputation of your page. For example, if an account posts something kind about your Facebook Page content, and you visit that account’s page only to find slews of racist jokes posted there, think twice about “liking” that particular account’s Visitor Post and building seeming endorsements of that account’s content.
    3. Also, feel free to add a thankful or useful comment to the Visitor’s post if you feel so inclined. Interacting with it, boosts its presence in your Visitor Posts area.
  • Share the content in your organizational Page’s timeline.
    1. Click on the day & time beneath the Visitor Post’s identity in your Visitor Posts section. This takes you to the original Visitor’s post.
    2. Below the content of the post is a bar with “Like Comment Share”. Click on Share.
    3. You have 3 options: Share Now (only Me), Share…, or Send as Message. Click on Share…
    4. You are taken to the “Share this [Link, Status, Photo, etc.]” window. Below the title of the window, use the drop down list to select the timeline you want to share it to: On your own Timeline, On a friend’s Timeline, In a group, On a Page you manage, in a private message. Select “On a Page you manage”
    5. This brings up some additional options. You will see two boxes that help you specify where the target Timeline is by selecting the Page you manage and the identity with which you are posting. Ensure that both boxes are set to the correct organizational Page, and the correct identity you want to use to share it in your organization’s Timeline.
    6. You’ll have an option to add a comment in the Share before it posts up to the Page Timeline. Feel free to post a thank you or other relevant comment.
    7. Below the content of the Visitor’s Post that you share, you have additional options for having the share be “Public” to all, or to limit your audience.
    8. Once your settings are correct, click the Share Link button in the lower right.

Hope this helps you as you begin to manage an organizational Facebook Page. If you have any other hints for newbies, feel free to share them here.

Supporting School Social Media Use from the Top

June 23, 2015

Today’s post is a poster called “Supporting School Social Media Use from the Top”. It provides what I consider to be the key ideas and/or ways administrators and school leaders can support social media use in their schools. Please heed the copyright notice at the bottom of the poster. You are free to link back to this page. If you would like permission to re-use or re-produce this poster, just email me at Julia[dot]Hengstler@viu[dot]ca.  As to why I’m not using Creative Commons myself–that’s a post for another day. I hope you find this helpful. Let me know what you think.

Poster: Supporting Social Media Use from the Top

Teacher Sick Day? GASP!

February 26, 2015
Sick. Photo by Leonid Mamchenkov (Creative Commons, Attibution)

Sick. Photo by Leonid Mamchenkov (Creative Commons, Attibution)

This is not my usual topic for a post, but it’s an education opinion piece.

I was recently sick—but am not teaching this semester. (Note: This is not a picture of me sick: first clue, I’m female.😉 ). I remembered my K-12 teaching days and how I sweated over whether or not to take a sick day.

I tried to find some tips for teachers to support them when they are sick & really should take a day off. Yes, this situation does actually occur: teachers, in schools with oodles of germy students, are not superhuman and do indeed get sick themselves. Sometimes they get seriously ill. Teachers (and other workers in other jobs) have allotted sick days because it’s a fact: we all know people get sick.

I admit I was a bit disgusted to see that most of what rose to the top in Google results were allusions to teachers using sick days indiscriminately or for a “day off” to miss work. There were even statistics that say that teachers take a disproportionate amount of Fridays & Mondays off. (Hey, my doctor’s office is often overrun on Mondays with sick people. Any correlations?)

In one article, a teacher reported how the school administration sent around an email stating that students sick with vomiting or diarrhea should stay home for 2 days before returning to school–but same standard was not in place for teachers.

Another teacher pointed out how much work is involved in staying home–arranging a substitute/teacher-on-call, creating some lesson plans, dealing with whatever other outfall then and upon your return. He then prided himself on only ever taking 2 sick days in XX years of teaching.

Do people abuse the system? I’m sure like every system there are abusers, but teachers do get legitimately sick and rather than coming into school, spreading their illness and extending their time required to get better, they need to take a sick day and visit the doctor.

So, if you are sick and should stay home or in bed— Teacher, take a sick day.

End of MS Clip Art Means Educators Need to Pay Attention

December 16, 2014

I recently got the news that Microsoft Office will no longer have Clip Art (see more here http://blogs.office.com/2014/12/01/clip-art-now-powered-bing-images/ ). What will happen now is that your search for images to embed in MS Office documents (Word, Excel, Publisher) will be handled by Bing (a search engine owned by Microsoft) using a filter to identify Creative Commons Licensed materials. In theory, this should return “useable” images for you, but the reality is a bit more complex for the average educator. Please read on.

What You Need to Know About


Every CC License Except “CC0” Has Requirements for the User

Many people think they are free to use Creative Commons licensed materials in whatever way they want. This is incorrect. Creative Commons content is licensed in a particular way and all but one of the licenses has requirements. The exception license is designated “CC0” where the creator/author is contributing content to the “public domain” meaning you can do whatever you want with it, however you want. Some countries do not legally recognize that authors/creators can directly put work into the public domain. cc-0.fw

There are 6 other commonly recognized forms of Creative Commons (CC) licensing. What they all have in common is that EVERY ONE of the other 6 licenses requires ‘attribution’ as a minimum requirement when you make use of that content. Below is a quick grid of the 6 main licenses (other than CC0), their icons, and the requirements for use.

Creative Commons License Requirements (J. Hengstler, December 2014)

cc-by.fw  Attribution (BY)

Requirements for the User:

  • Credit the author/creator
cc-by-nd.fw  Attribution- NoDerivatives (BY-ND)

Requirements for the User:

  • Credit the author/creator
  • Redistribution OK if it remains unchanged from the original
cc-by-nc-sa.fw  Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike (BY-NC-SA)

Requirements for the User:

  • Credit the author/creator
  • Redistribution & derivative works OK if non-commercial
  • New works must carry same licensing
cc-by-sa.fw  Attribution-ShareAlike (BY-SA)

Requirements for the User:

  • Credit the author/creator
  • Redistribution & derivative works OK New works must carry same licensing
cc-by-nc.fw  Attribution-NonCommercial (BY-NC)

Requirements for the User:

  • Credit the author/creator
  • Redistribution & derivative works OK if non-commercial
cc-by-nc-nd.fw  Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives (BY-NC-ND)

Requirements for the User:

  • Credit the author/creator
  • Redistribution OK if non-commercial
  • No derivative works can be created

MS Bing’s CC Search Filter is Reliable, Right?

Tom Kulhmann, a respected blogger & elearning developer, did a recent test of the Bing search function with MS Office (T.Kuhlmann, 2014, Microsoft is Dumping Clip Art. What Are You Going to Do?). He unfortunately found that the Bing image search returned images from sites “under some sort of Creative Commons license, [but] many of the images [my emphasis] were not necessarily owned but the site author”. He goes on to say, “In my tests, there was nothing to indicate that the site owner actually had rights to the image for me to use. So basically, you can’t trust the images you find in the search [my emphasis]” (T. Kuhlmann, Microsoft is Dumping Clip Art. What Are You Going to Do?).

Your Take-Aways

As an Educational Technologist in a Faculty of Education, here’s my advice to educators:

  • Remember anytime you use Creative Commons content you have obligations—the least of which is attribution (unless it is CC0, Public Domain.)
  • Don’t trust Bing’s image search results as your sole test to determine if the image itself is licensed under Creative Commons & which license it is.
  • Do a little legwork to find the original version of the image online & check it’s licensing. (If you need help, ask others to give you a hand or try tineye.com.)
  • Find other sources of Creative Commons licensed image—some ideas below.
  • Be sure to follow the requirements of the particular image’s Creative Commons license.

Some tips to search for appropriately licensed alternative content: