Browsing the internet is not private, but as public as window shopping

We used to believe that surfing the internet, in the privacy of our own homes, was private. Nowadays, browsing the internet is a public act. Research by Tim Libert has found that 9 out of 10 websites either leak or share your data (TNW UK, Libert, 20015). In addition, 1 in 5 websites are possibly hackable by spy agencies. In effect, it’s like having the police and spy agencies watching what you do all day long. This includes watching what books you look at (on sites like Amazon), and what books you actually buy; what your credit card is used for (what products you buy, and subscriptions); and websites you’ve spent money on. In addition, spy agencies want to have “backdoor access” to apps and websites (TNW). This is a huge problem, because it then is a huge security risk, which, as TNW reports, has already been exploited by criminal groups.

Webcam shot. CC paul.klintworth, 2008.

Webcam shot. CC paul.klintworth, 2008.

Information, like your web browsing habits and purchase history, allows you to be profiled. This information could be used by advertising agencies to push interesting products onto you. Police agencies will be able to do psychological profiling of you, and make certain assumptions about you. These assumptions can include your political tendencies, which can be used by politicians for their own advantage.


Libert, T. (2015) Exposing the Hidden Web: An Analysis of Third-Party HTTP Requests on One Million Websites. International Journal of Communication, 9, 3544 – 3561.

Clean slates for students

I cannot emphasise enough how important it is not to stereotype, make assumptions of, or pidgeon-hole people, especially students. I go as far as not needing to know what faculty my EFL students are from, so that I avoid making assumptions about them as a group. There are teachers who say things like “Engineering students always hate talking”, or “Law students are so dumb”, but these are horrible assumptions to make of a whole group of individuals. Of course, if you have these expectations, the group will respond to you in this way. Consequently, I’ve found it so, so, so much better to allow students to create their own reputations, afresh, with you.

This story on Edutopia is about exactly that; no stereotyping, assumption-making, or pidgeon-holing of students.

The story on Edutopia is about organising class seating alphabetically, so to be egalitarian, and allow students to escape their past reputations. Additionally, I always have students either randomly mixing, semi-randomly mixing, and at times choosing their own partners.

HackNY Spring 2013 Student Hackathon. CC Matylda Czarnecka 2013.

HackNY Spring 2013 Student Hackathon. CC Matylda Czarnecka 2013.

If a student appears to be a potential “handful”, he or she becomes my best friend. This creates a positive rapport with them, and the class. Sometimes I’ll move that “handful” to the front to be close to my desk (though I’m actually rarely at my desk, it’s just symbolism). It’s less stress for everyone, and the “handful student” will gradually want to show you their best side, and, in time, won’t want to let you down.

In any case, my point is to give all students an in-prejudiced classroom experience. Let them create and maintain a new reputation. Finally, treat all with respect and dignity.

Classroom management for new teachers

There’s many blog posts I want to write for teachers, especially beginning teachers, however, whenever I get a good idea, I forget it. These ideas come to me in the midst of class, and then I’m distracted by a student asking a question, a student doing something goofy, a student laughing at something, or a student falling off their chair, and I soon forget it. So, here I am forcing myself to write something useful, though not candid.

A problem I had been asked about before by beginning teachers was what to do with rowdy high school classes and how to discipline them. One instinct is to yell at the students, and one student-teacher suggested punishing students, which in my experience both are counter-productive. In any case, I think the answer will be mostly the same, whether it be for kindergarten students, or university students: Respect and routine. Let me explain.

Students in Classrooms at UIS. CC Jeremy Wilburn, 2010.

Students in Classrooms at UIS. CC Jeremy Wilburn, 2010.


All people think of themselves as valuable. It’s only natural as we are ego-centric beings, and we look after our own best interests. This also extends to regular social settings. All people want to be respected, all people want their ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and contributions to be thought of as valuable to the group. Additionally, you don’t know the histories of all your students. The truth is, most students want to be accepted by their peers, and to do so people want to mimic their peers as close as possible, but without being a clone. Consequently, to you, facing the student group, actual variations between students can be well camouflaged, so it’s easy to think that they all have very much the same histories and backgrounds. In fact it’s not true. Some will come from happy and content homes, whilst others will come from homes where they might be ignored, badly treated, or have issues with a severely handicapped sibling or an abusive family member. All these things impact on the identity each person presents to the world. This identity is usually one that they are comfortable showing for whatever reason. So, even if a child is loud and obnoxious in class, they might in fact be offsetting something awful at home. Consequently, why should you make their time in your class additionally difficult for them. Why not use your class time as a kind of respite for them, let the person see what normality looks like, so that they might learn how to enjoy life. I should stress, that some students are just personality clashes with you, and are not “trouble makers” because they have difficult backgrounds. You really don’t know, so don’t be presumptive, and I think you don’t need to ask them either. So how do you manage those? Respect and allow each person their dignity.

So, how to show respect and not be a push-over? Well, in your first classes you need to lay down the law, and have a facial expression of a prison guard for the first month or so. You’ll quickly spot the “trouble makers”, and you’d quickly move them to the front of the room, and in time, make them your best friends. You’ll find techniques that fit your personality on how to effectively make these students your “best friends”.  Give them little jobs or tasks that help you; offer them your trust. I find that this even works with that one ADHD you might possibly have in thirty students. In time, they’ll learn to appreciate you, and look forward to your classes.

Student iPad School. CC Brad Flickinger 2012.

Student iPad School. CC Brad Flickinger 2012.


This is the easiest thing to do. Basically have a set lesson plan for each class, and that way your students will know what they are doing, why they are doing it (even if it’s implicitly, “because we do it every week”), and importantly, how to do it. If you’re always doing really different things every class, then the students will have no idea what you want from them now, and it takes a lot of mental effort to try and understand what this foreign teacher is on about now. So, a routine could be:

  1. Small talk (in pairs)
  2. Check homework
  3. Introduce new grammar target
  4. Do grammar practice
  5. Then speaking activities
  6. etc…

This looks pretty simple, and you just substitute in whatever homework answers you need to. Then demo the grammar target (CELTA style), then have students do whatever grammar activities are available. Then some speaking activities that relate to the grammar target. Make sure everything is interconnected, so it seems like there is also flow and that each activity seems implicitly dependent on the previous, so it seems that there is a need to do each step.

The final advantage, and perhaps most important to beginning teachers, is it makes lesson planning really quick and simple. However, each year I tweak my lesson plan and add, change, or adjust something, so that it is constantly evolving, just to be sure that I don’t become a dinosaur, but also to ensure students receive the most efficient instruction possible. Also, through the process of refinement, you gain more confidence in what you’re doing, and it requires less mental effort on you, so you can concentrate on the smaller important things about your teaching practice.

Privacy tools on the internet: what and why

It’s not often I get direct emails, and much less often form me to blog about it either. has sent me an email with a rather comprehensive article on Privacy (on the internet). I have to admit, the article looks good, comprehensive, easy to read, and well worth a look: They list over 150 tools, services, and methods of maintaining your privacy.

Person on Apple Laptop. CC 2014,

Person on Apple Laptop. CC 2014,

However, nobody ever asks, “Why is privacy on the internet important?” It’s simple, you have locks on the door of your house to keep people out, and you don’t distribute the key to your house to corporations, advertising companies, or to the police. Currently, if the police come, they have to knock on the door first. If the police wants to come into your house, they have to ask, or get special permission to enter from a court. Currently, without privacy tools, anyone, theives and police, can look at your internet traffic, see your emails, your online shopping history, your online bank accounts, see your web browsing history, and even see your chats. They can even watch you talk to a friend on Skype. They can hear, see, and read all your comments, complaints, and opinions against companies, governments, politicians, and more. Without adequate privacy, you’re at risk of being victim of identity theft, as well as facing accusations or arrest for having views that are not in-line with corporations’ or government’s views. Has any of this happened before? Yes. See these searches, “Government hacked email“, “Internet identity theft“, “Spy on journalists“, among many other cases. Finally, for your information, I mainly use for private web searches these days.

So please, in the same way that you have locks on the doors of your house and restrict who has the keys; you need to do the same with your computer and internet habits. It is not actually difficult, and a lot cheaper and easier than having discovered that someone has pilfered your bank account because you didn’t hide your IP address and didn’t encrypt your connection.

Digital Citizenship: the 9P’s students need to know, from @Edutopia

I’ve been concerned about the future repercussions students may have from studying with us (Blyth, 2011; and Blyth, 2015; at publications). Then publishes this lovely, succinct, info graphic that is easily accessible by students and teachers. Now, there’s no excuse for low-internet literacy. Also, a special thanks to Edutopia for letting me repost their info graphic (post), from their original Twitter post, and their blog post with lots more information. Maybe it’s time I get a graphic artist to turn my key concepts into an info graphic, too.

Digital citizenship from Edutopia.Org.

Digital citizenship from Edutopia.Org.