Saturday, April 4, 2009

tt4t_081 The Internet is forever

It’s Saturday, April 4th, 2009 and welcome to episode 81 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. Last week I talked a little bit about a new face recognition program from and offered my concerns about privacy issues technologies like this and other Web 2.0 services may have. As users of Web 2.0 technologies we need to be aware of the digital footprints that are being left behind online.

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You also need to be aware that new technologies may be invented in the future that may be able to mine little nuggets of information about your online digital identity. In the future these nuggets of information may be used to put together a profile about your online life based upon what I call digital fossils. Alone any nugget of information may not be worth much but if collectively put together the information has the potential for enormous value.

The ability of using an application like in conjunction with a facebook account should give one pause to consider the implications. A possible implication could be as benign as a goofy picture of yourself discovered on your friends facebook account that may have been shared with the rest of the world, or it could be more serious and have the potential to jeopardize a future employment opportunity. New uses for data in user accounts are being found to help improve Web 2.0 services as well as for developing business plans for monetizing the services that are provided.

Data mining technologies do exist and new uses are being found all of the time. While many of the Web 2.0 technologies are free for basic services we do need to keep in mind that the data that is stored online as well as the way it is being used is often monitored for business reasons by these services. Most often this use is in the form of advertising where advertisers target ads based upon one interests and demographic information. So please keep in mind that your current digital footprints may be collected in the future in ways that we cannot currently imagine as massive amounts of data may find new value.

Speaking of data living forever on the Internet, this week I discovered a Web 2.0 service called Etherpad that allows you to collaborate with a group of friends very easily online. A link is available in the show notes.


This application has a lot of potential for collaborative group work and can be used either synchronously or asynchronously. Etherpad reminds me a lot of a Google document where you can share a document with others and simultaneously edit the document together in real-time. Etherpad however has an advantage over a Google document in that you do not even need to sign-up for an account to begin using the service. You simply go to the Etherpad website and click the button labeled Create New Pad and you instantly have a collaborative simultaneous editing environment, it really could not be easier.

When you create a new pad you are given a URL for your newly created pad. Write down this URL and make sure you remember it as this is the address to your Etherpad that you will need to reference in the future. To share your pad you can simply copy and paste the URL of your newly created pad into an email and send it to a friend or friends so that they too can contribute to the editing process of your pad.

When I first found this service I thought of a thousand uses for such a collaborative editing environment from keeping meeting notes, using it for study groups, conference calls, etc… There is no userid or passwords required for the basic free service so you need to know that pads cannot be considered secure or private. You can also save various revisions of the shared pad if you have a need to.

One reason I wanted to discuss Etherpad this week is that I was browsing the Etherpad website and found this little tidbit of information on the FAQ section of the website. Here is the question and response:

“Can I delete a pad or revision?
No. Once you create a pad or save a revision, that pad or revision will be accessible forever.
In the future, we will offer paid accounts with greater control over your pads and revisions. See the pricing page for more info.”

Ehterpad FAQ

Now you know why I named this episode “The Internet is forever”. The definition of forever can be debated as many Web 2.0 services are either bought out by bigger companies or the company may change the terms of service agreement at any time as they see fit. Many Web 2.0 services also go out of business and therefore may leave its users without access to their data when the doors close. Keep this in mind when using any service and be careful about the type of information that you post on these services. You should also have an off-line copy of important data as a backup copy just in case.

I have used many Web 2.0 services that have changed policies and/or have gone out of business in the past but the point is that it is the intent of Etherpad to keep this information available forever barring unforeseen circumstances. So as the saying goes “buyer beware” or in this case “user beware” that the information posted on this service may live forever. Because no userid or password is required, the basic free service is not secure, so you also need to be careful what you post. I would also recommend not storing any confidential or sensitive information on any service that does not offer adequate security procedures for securing data.

Like all technologies there is the potential for abuse of Etherpad and some users will most likely post inappropriate content. The system can identify individual computers that are contributing to the content but not having the ability to delete a pad especially if inappropriate and/or offensive could prove troublesome.

Technology Pick of the Week

My Technology Pick of the Week this week is a fun pick that involves music that I pickedup up from my PLN this week. Virtual Keyboard is a browser based application that presents a basic piano keyboard on screen. A link is available in the show notes.

Virtual Piano Keyboard

The Virtual Keyboard would be a great site to bookmark for elementary teachers and music teachers to use in class to explain the basics of music and note playing. The site also offers different instrument voices including an organ, saxophone, flute, pan pipes, strings, guitar, steel drums, and double bass. The keyboard has a chord mode that you can use to demonstrate chords and also has six drum beat tracks if you want to perform a mini-composition. Add this virtual keyboard in conjunction with a Smart Board or other interactive white board and you have an excellent learning resource for the budding musicians in your class. If you have a Smart Board get your kids up out of there seats and let them play the keyboard using the touch-screen.

That wraps it up for episode 81 of TechTalk4Teachers. Transcripts and show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available on the web at the Eastern Illinois University Instructional Technology Center website at just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you have questions, comments or suggestions please send an email to or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.

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