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Who Do You (Really) Trust? With Your Personal Info? With Your Child's . . . ?

Who Do You (Really) Trust? With Your Personal Info? With Your Child's  . . . ?

I don't know about you, but just about all of my life is in the hands--or on the server, to be more accurate-- of a lot of people I don't really know.  How do I know if I can trust that they will make every effort to keep my data safe and secure? Are the institutions I trust trustworthy?  How do I know?  What questions should I be asking before I upload or download this survey, my credit card information, maybe even my genome data if I am participating in one of the genealogy DNA testing services, or buy a new Apple watch that collects my heart rate and my credit card number--not to mention my latest selfie?

And do I even trust myself to be wise on line when I'm (ostensibly) in control?  If my supervisor/boss/department chairs Googles me, what whill s/he find?  And how might s/he use it against me if s/he doesn't like it? What If I say something intemperate and hit 'send' too quickly? Or what if I use the brashness of the 140-character public quip genre known as Twitter to speak my mind?  How could that hurt me? Or others?

Those are just a few of the questions that inspired the Trust Challenge. And here's one that really bothers me:  Am I trustworthy? And as an educator, a lot of people trust me. I try to be responsible as a person, but what about my tools?  The data of my students is entrusted to me--in email, in proprietary software such as Blackboard or Sakai, or enterprise sofware that runs our various records offices, or by Coursera in the MOOC I taught, and on and on. 

  • Trust is a Challenge. That's the conversation and the Competition. 
  • We urge you to pass information about the Trust Challenge on to ALL the learning institutions you belong to, that your children belong to, that your students belong to. 

We ALL need to have this conversation.  Now.

I am guessing most of us have no idea who and how to trust---and I am guessing every communications offier at every museum, library, school, university, after school center spends some part of each day worrying what happens if there is a security breach. Who will be hurt?  How can we minimize the damage or ensure there won't be any in the first place?  We cannot ask people to trust us if we aren't sure ourselves if all the tools we rely on are trustworthy.

That is why we came up with the Trust Challenge as our Fifth Digital Media and Learning Competition.  

This is an opportunity for the institutions we trust to scrutinize themselves and compete to find better ways of ensuring their environments are trustwortworthy while also communicating to their communities about the importance of trust. 

The Trust Challenge is opportunity to ask very hard and principled questions about trust:  

  • How do you prevent design systems that prevent spying and surveillance?  
  • How do you set up standards to minimize misuse of data by corporations, goverment, hackers, or even decision-makers at your own institution who may be so concerned about "risk" that they shut down free experssion and creative, critical engaged learning?
  • And how do you design protocols for trust while ensuring that different, diverse, even divergent voices all have a hearing.

How can you ensure security and trust--without enforcing censorship or violating rights (a real issue in higher education right now)? You do NOT ensure trust by shutting down conversation but by fostering the most open and candid expression of diverse views. 

Trust is about tools. And trust is about principles. Both are part of the Trust Challenge.

Here are the details:


Awards: $10,000 to $150,000 for year-long development grants; $1.2 million will be awarded in total.
Timeline: Final applications are due Monday, November 3, 2014 at 5pm PST/ 8pm EST.
About: Trust, privacy, and safety are critical to learning in an open online world. How can learners exercise control over who sees and uses their data? What tools do they need to navigate, collaborate, and learn online with confidence? What solutions will foster greater civility and respect in online learning environments? How can open technical standards create more opportunities to share and collaborate online in a spirit of trust?

The  Trust Challenge is the fifth open, international HASTAC/MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competition, and will award $1.2 million to institutions and organizations that tackle these questions in real-life learning contexts. The Trust Challenge will fund successful collaborations or “laboratories” that create scalable, innovative, and transformative exemplars of connected learning that bridge technological solutions with complex social considerations of trust.

Who can participate:  Successful proposals will include youth-serving organizations and institutions and institutions of higher learning anywhere in the world where challenges to trust in connected learning environments can be identified and addressed.


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