Coffee and Filters

Recently I travelled to Melbourne to attend a conference on Teaching and Learning with Technology. The workshops were simply brilliant and I learnt so much from the keynote speakers and the individuals that conducted the various break out sessions. One of the presenters was Michael Carr-Cregg and his session was filled with excellent information, current statistics and helpful hints. The opportunity to attend the conference was fantastic and I was blessed to have been there for a few days.

I took the opportunity to absorb the Melbourne culture as much as possible. I woke early to walk the alleyways at sunrise to grab a warm coffee at a rustic cafe that seemed to welcome guests with its ecliptic design, artistic presentation and coffee aroma. I fell in love with Degraves Street and the many cafes that lined the alley with their furnishings spilling onto the street. I enjoyed a finely crafted coffee from Degraves Espresso and found it to be the most perfect cup of my lifetime. It wasn't just the coffee that was enjoyed but the entire experience and atmosphere that was promoted with each and every slurp of my mug.

While in Melbourne I paid a visit to Federation Square and went to the art gallery to see the 'Screens Through the Ages' exhibition. The various displays were extraordinary and showcased the development of media through time. On display were old cartoon printing machines, early cinematic gadgetry that were operated by coin. Furthermore, there were other interesting items on display that included shadow puppetry as well as the history of televisions and gaming machines. The gaming machines showed everything from the early age of entertainment with 'Pong' and Atari and all the way to PS2, XBox and Apps with Android and iPhone. It was a pleasure to see the various displays and see the advancement of technology all in one place. It was a dose of art, science, history and technology all at once.

At the venue there were young and old and everyone between. I observed the various reactions of individuals to the numerous displays and noticed that what was a lesson in history for some was a walk down memory lane for others. Regardless of time or people, technology has always allowed people to create, publish and share content to entertain, inform, advertise and educate others. The students of today desire to create, publish and share content like all authors. 21st Century learners are known as 'Generation C' because they desire to be Collaborative, Connected, Communicative and Creative. Technology allows people to network with others and share information and social media is a means for students to develop an online community where they can socialize with others and publish their creative content.

In years gone past young people use to meet at the local milk bar, beach or drive inn. Today people simply meet online. While there are elements of risk with online activity, there was risk in riding your bike and meeting with friends at the downtown milk bar. Perhaps society has become more conscience of people's activities and have a heightened interest and awareness of the potential risks. Social Media is everywhere and having applications on mobile devices has enabled instant connectivity and has made meeting with friends a little easier than the mile bike ride to the local milk bar.

Facebook has some 901 Million users (according to Siri) and while the numbers are gradually declining, other social networking sites are experiencing explosive growth in popularity. Places like Twitter, Touch, MSN Chat, Skype, Instagram, TumblR and Pinterest are among some of the most popular at present. In fact Pinterest is the fastest growing social medium of all time. It is apparent that there are some risks with social media and young people should always make sure that their privacy settings are on the lowest degree of social penetration to ensure their content is protected.

Often online activity worries parents and protection is desired to provide peace of mind. Parents may wish to install filtering software to reduce potential risks and safe guard their children against cyber bullying and other nasties including pornography. Indecent images can be easily stumbled upon and downloading software that can filter online traffic is recommended for situations when students are left to their own devices. There are three filtering systems that I am aware of and although I have not yet used them myself, research leads me to believe that they are suitable for home use. I have heard positive reports on numerous systems and they include 'K9 Web Protection', 'NetNanny' and 'B Gone'. The added benefit of this trio is that they are free services. When using filtering you can either install the package on a computer at a time or use router filtering which will create a filter at the front line and this will provide a level of protection at the gateway for all the computers within your household.

'NetNanny' is a popular choice by many and has extra features that may provide increased functionality. If you want to set time parameters around when particular sites can be accessed and denied, then you may need to purchase software. To prevent the use of social media at certain times and while assignments and homework are suppose to be done then apparently 'Optenetpc' is the word (http://www.optenetpc.com/Internet-filter.html). I have not used it myself, however, from some brief investigation have found that it cleverly overcomes the dilemma of social media within the household by enforcing time restrictions on certain sites. 'AVG Family Safety' also offers time restrictions on social media. 'Mcafee Family Protection' claims to supply network filtering and allows time schedules to be set for social media activity. Unlike 'K9', 'NetNanny' and 'B Gone' which are free, 'Optenetoc', 'AVG' and 'Mcafee' attract fees and yearly subscription for their added benefit.

In my personal opinion the best filtering for any family is family. Children should only use a computer while under adult supervision and mobile devices with Internet connectivity should not be allowed in children's bedrooms. It is a known fact that children are tempted by social media and while children are suppose to be resting they often are woken throughout the night by status updates, alerts and notifications. In order to encourage good sleeping practice and hygiene, personal devices should be kept outside of the bedroom as this will create a level of disengagement or freedom from the self imposed need to be connected. I recommend for immediate family members to maintain clear and open communication with all online activity. Set rules for Internet use and set time allowances and review them constantly. Make expectations upfront and ensure consequences for inappropriate behavior are followed through when needed.

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