FunnyMonkey Blog

Bill Fitzgerald | May 13, 2013

Over the weekend, as I was searching for something on my phone, it struck me how little I understand this device that I use countless times each day.

What happens when I touch my finger to the screen? What is the technology that enables my fingertip - but not, for example, a finger in a glove - to effect reactions within the phone. While I could probably do a decent job explaining the software and data components of this interaction, I would have - at best - a highly speculative breakdown of how the hardware worked.


And taking a step further back, once we understood how the hardware worked, how many people could explain where the hardware was sourced from? Who has an informed insight into how people live in the places where are things are sourced and built?

Once you start asking questions, our surrounding world is filled with them. How...

Bill Fitzgerald | May 2, 2013

Over on his blog, Dr. Charles Severance has outlined some issues he faces with his use of Creative Commons licensing. I suspect that he is not alone in grappling with these issues. While I have responded in the comment thread on his blog, I also wanted to put these thoughts down here so I don't lose them over time.

Dr. Severance (and additional commenters) outline some scenarios where they have experience issues.

The first two scenarios pull from this comment:

The first scenario is I write a book, make it CC-BY, provide a free electronic copy, and publish at a low price on Lulu so those who want a printed copy can get it. An unscrupulous person grabs the electronic copy and with no changes puts it...

Bill Fitzgerald | April 26, 2013

As part of our work on open content, and how to design systems that support authoring and translation that are both useful and usable, we have been thinking about the role of metadata and, by extension, search. This post contains some incomplete thoughts - a line in the sand, more than anything - and, six months from now, will provide something for all of us to laugh at. Possibly, we will all be able to laugh at this sooner than that. Time can be cruel.

In other words, I am firmly reserving the right to recant any or all of what I'm saying here. I'd love to hear different viewpoints on this.

Keep Data Simple

This sounds - and is - pretty basic, right up until it's time to implement an actual system. However, as soon as it's time to build a system, people "just need this one field."

In building data systems, additional fields are the equivalent of scope creep.

Bill Fitzgerald | April 24, 2013

There's no getting around it. The Common Core standards bring out the crazy.

Benjamin Reilly does a good job of collecting the crazy in one place, but his "alert" highlights a real issue: the amount of disinformation about Common Core has the potential to derail any rational discussion about the standards.

So, for those following along at home, here is a high level breakdown of the elements of this discussion. At the outset, I want to stress that this is a summary, and that there are certainly things I am missing and/or getting wrong. Please, point out these myriad shortcomings in the comments.

The best place to start is with the Common Core standards - these are learning standards, plain and simple. There are things to like and...

Bill Fitzgerald | April 21, 2013

Yesterday, Darren Draper put out a post expressing some concerns with Teachers Pay Teachers. Shortly after putting out that post, Darren was forced to don his flame-and-troll-proof suit, as the comment thread got, well, interesting.

I'll get to the discussions in the comment thread later in this post, as a majority of the comments are illustrative of a small part of a larger problem.

OpenWashing, Teachers Pay Teachers Edition

Teachers Pay Teachers markets itself as "An open marketplace for educators where teachers buy, sell and share original teaching resources." In this context, Teachers Pay Teachers (or, TpT) provides a clear example of how the word "open" has been mangled beyond recognition.

Bill Fitzgerald | April 8, 2013

Last weekend, we ran another open content authoring session at Lewis Elementary in Portland, OR; we'll have more details on the event in a post laster this week. During this session, we talked with several educators about ways to work around the organizational barriers they face. I'm going to list out a couple here; frequently, when we talk about the things that are absent from school learning environment, the conversation stops at blockages of YouTube and other social media sites. Really, though, there are barriers that are far more basic and pervasive than that.


Students Can't Save HTML Files

We spoke with an educator working within PPS who had set up a lesson where students were learning about the web, including some basic HTML and css. The...

Bill Fitzgerald | April 7, 2013

Twibbon is a service that markets itself as a tool to support "your cause, brand or organisation in a variety of ways." Twibbon targets Facebook and Twitter, and provides a small graphic that gets added onto a profile picture. This graphic is a visual way to show support for a ause.

After reading through Twibbon's privacy policy I have one question for organizations that use Twibbon: why do require that your supporters surrender all privacy?

The Twibbon privacy policy is remarkably honest when it descibes what it will collect, as it clearly states that it will get your contact information, your location, and other details related to surveys and "offers" (aka, ads and marketing).

RIP Privacy

What we may collect

We may collect the following...

Bill Fitzgerald | April 1, 2013

Over the last few days, I spent a little time looking over the inBloom Data Store Logical Model. Based on what I have seen there, I have some additional questions and observations about the data that is stored within the system. The questions included here are not comprehensive by any means. Rather, this is a short list compiled after spending around an hour reviewing the data model.

A. inBloom Could Be Used to Screen Immigration Status

inBloom can store information about how a person verifies their identity. The values used here could be used as a screen to check immigration status. Given some of the...

Bill Fitzgerald | April 1, 2013

When Beverly Hall ran the Atlanta public school system, she oversaw gains on student test scores on standardized tests throughout the city. These gains resulted in her being named the 2009 Superintendent of the Year, and collecting $580,000 in performance bonuses over 10 years.

According to an indictment handed down on Friday, Beverly Hall and 35 other people within the Atlanta school system conspired to cheat. The cheating consisted of people changing student answers on standardized tests. The gains in Atlanta - based largely in improved test scores on standardized tests - are likely not real.

Beverly Hall and Arne Duncan at the White House

While the cheating in Atlanta - and the level of cheating - is horriffic,...

Bill Fitzgerald | March 29, 2013

In the inBloom data model, there are four instances where people are tied to what is called a Unique State Identifier.

A Unique State Identifier is defined as:

A unique numeric code assigned to a person by a state education agency.

The people identified by the Unique State Identifier are:


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