The Evil Letter S- a digital learning fable

Once upon a time there was a burgeoning growth in learning happening because content could reach students in the far corners of the globe, largely free after initial set-up costs. Our hero OER, began his journey as a simple lad, ready to help anyone at any time.

“Learning should be for everyone,” he proclaimed, “not for the few who can purchase books or subscriptions.” And the people and the teachers embraced him.

Then one bright sunny day in August, just before the start of traditional northern hemisphere school, something happened. It began with a click to upgrade, or perhaps it was automated, no one knows for sure. But the nemesis of OER, Security, took over without warning.

Suddenly entire schools were locked out of OER options, many on the day school started and with no warning to the industry. Security delared martial law!

“Thou shalt not access mixed active content!,” proclaimed Securities goons, Firefox and Chrome. And under the guise of protection (what a racket) they closed OER out.

IE, at least put up a fight. “Shouldn’t the people have a choice?” IE offered meekly, and displayed signs offering the people a route back to OER’s knowledge.

And that…that is the last anyone heard of IE.

At the time of this post, the people are being forced to conform, forced to seek paid options abandoning OER, or beg for scraps of an https interface from larger providers who are donating the secure site freely.

I have personally spent days of slavery emblazening the letter S on previous code.

I fear the worst…..Security without freedom.

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FYI, the Letter S may be purchased, for addition to any website, and does not by itself actually provide much security. According to Verisign.com, a provider of Internet infrastructure services, Secure Socket Layer Encryption is a technology that protects Web sites and makes it easy to develop trust by means of an “SSL Certificate that enables encryption of sensitive information during online transactions. Each SSL Certificate contains unique, authenticated information about the certificate owner and a Certificate Authority verifies the identity of the certificate owner when it is issued. ” In other words, it identifies the site. That is all. It does not verify that the owner of the site is not themselves someone who intends to use your information for nefarious means.

In addition just because a website uses such SSL encryption does not safeguard internet users from phishing and other schemes. When visiting websites that accept financial information online it is always a wise practice to make sure the online company is legitimate, has a good reputation in customer service and uses SSL encryption in their transactions.

So in other words, we are all being forced to use the scarlet S because … people pay to use the S. So its a business ploy, and quite a racket.

This is how I feel about the letter S

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The Sliding Hands of Time

As it is well past midnight I am contemplating once again the shift from brick and mortar to virtual education. This is a leap which began for me when I myself was an online student in the early days of online distance ed. Windows 3 was the big thing, and IRC chat and VHS tape was my classroom.

The hooks that got into me got in deep for two reasons. 1) The appeal for a young mother and teacher of being able to work when I was available, not give up my day job or time with my family. 2)Access to the education I wanted.

You see at the time, it was hard to find science degrees which would have accommodated my schedule. I maintain to this day that online ed was a huge leap forward for the math/sci learners of the world who still needed their day jobs.

Well now my day job is my night job. I live and work mostly in a world separated from time. I struggle to accept the limitations of the calendared masses. This reminds me of a book I read in the last year The Age of Miracles in which some people when faced with changing length of day due to catastrophic changes in our orbit learn to live a life outside of clock time. The clockless and the clocked clash because of their differences.

This also reminds me of my time in Latvia, which has always felt like a slow gentle time. Sort of the way the walker feels at the airport when they step into that 12 feet of floor space between people movers.

As I worked in my timeless time this evening the people whom I most enjoy working with were also there working online from wherever they are. Answering the calls of work at 10 pm as easily as 10 am. There is an easy carefree feel, a comfort, knowing that they are with me as the hours slide by.

All that while the 477 remaining hours until the fall term start looms and I decide that I should spend the next 6-7 of those sleeping. After I blog that is… 😉