As I’m working through the required posts for our CoETaIL, course 2, I (happily) have realized that I’ve already written one of the posts (originally titled Social Networking and Responsiblity in February 2008). Lucky me, I’m always thinking one step ahead.
So here it is again, with a reflection about what (if anything) has changed since then:
After an excellent session with parents about cyberbullying and an equally excellent session with our staff discussing the Frontline documentary Growing Up Online, I’ve been thinking a lot about responsibility. As in:
- Whose responsibility is it to teach students about the dangers of social networking (not only physical danger from online predators, but the danger of getting college applications rejected or the danger of getting kicked out of school)?
- Whose responsibility is it to help parents stay informed about these new methods of communication?
- Whose responsibility is it to ensure that students learn how to have successful, productive, and educational online experiences?
I’ve been noticing that many teachers are happy to be ignorant of what goes on online – that “out of sight, out of mind” mentality – which really worries me. I mentioned to Miguel in a twitter a few weeks ago that some really appalling student behavior has been going on for quite a while now, which actually made a little bit relieved to see that cell phone scandal hit the press in the US. On one hand, I can understand just how damaging that kind of press can be to a school trying to implement progressive learning practices, but on the other hand, aren’t these things we need to be talking about? Aren’t these issues that parents need to know about? And aren’t these issues that students should be learning how to stay away from?
I wonder how many schools are talking about this as a whole? Justin, Dennis and I were just discussing how great it would be to watch Growing Up Online as a whole faculty and then have some smaller break-out sessions to discuss what we saw. How many teachers are going to say: “our kids aren’t doing that kind of stuff!” And how many are going to say “that’s a parenting issue, not a school issue”? How many are going to say: “I need to embed authentic learning experiences into my curriculum which help students build their understanding about online safety and appropriate behavior”?
If learning has become increasingly social, and networked learning is on the horizon as the future of education, as so clearly described in the recent Educase article: Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0:
The most profound impact of the Internet, an impact that has yet to be fully realized, is its ability to support and expand the various aspects of social learning. What do we mean by “social learning”? Perhaps the simplest way to explain this concept is to note that social learning is based on the premise that our understanding of content is socially constructed through conversations about that content and through grounded interactions, especially with others, around problems or actions. The focus is not so much on what we are learning but on how we are learning….
This perspective shifts the focus of our attention from the content of a subject to the learning activities and human interactions around which that content is situated.
Then we need to be aware, actively involved, and responsible for teaching students and parents how to participate in these new communities – even if so much of their activity online has been for purely social purposes until now. Isn’t it our job to teach them how to take this social environment and use it for educational purposes? When I think about how powerful my PLN has been for my learning, I can’t imagine not including those experiences in my teaching. This is truly the Future of Learning in a Networked World, isn’t it?
At the beginning of this school year, when I was still adjusting to life in elementary school, I remember realizing just how lucky I am to have switched to elementary. This is the time when I can really make a difference. Students are excited about learning, they haven’t developed many bad habits, they still adore their teachers, they still enjoy having their parents watch over them while they play online, and they are still open to asking questions and discussing the possible outcomes. It is so essential to reach our students before they begin to pull away, to become more independent, to become more reluctant to share all aspects of their lives with the adults around them, in essence, to become teenagers.
This week I worked with a grade 3 class on our BlogPals project. We are using this project to develop our reading and writing skills – through the lens of connecting with others, creating a social learning environment. We are taking the time to teach them about online safety and appropriate behavior, and our third graders are responding with energy, excitement, enthusiasm, inquiry and understanding. This is the time to start developing appropriate behaviors, and I believe it’s our responsibility to teach them.
May 2009 Reflection
After reading through this post a little over a year later, I’m pleased to say that this class has really brought many of these issues to the forefront. I see my passionate colleagues speaking out about teaching online safety and how we can help students develop responsible behaviors and habits. I see more and more parents attending our Technology Coffee Mornings and making a sincere effort to understand their child’s digital world. I am meeting more and more teachers around the world that are ready to (or already) building in these essential skills into their classroom practice.
I still believe it’s our responsibility as educators to teach students how to be safe online. Ever so slowly, teachers are becoming better and better equipped to take over this task. Unfortunately, what I don’t see in many places, is schools, as institutions, acknowledging the need to fulfill this role. Why aren’t we offering PD about online safety? If it’s in our AUP (and it is in ISB’s) it’s ultimately seen as the parents’ responsibility. Therefore, it easy for school’s to say that if it’s the parent’s responsibility they don’t need to spend PD time training teachers. A dangerous game, isn’t it?
Every time I work with a teacher on a global project, we spend a few days working with the students to understand this online environment. We talk about safety and appropriate behavior, we make class guidelines, we sign a permission slip and we practice our safety skills in context. I believe this should be happening every time a teacher begins an online learning experience – even if it’s not something they need a technology facilitator’s support for. How do we get this to be common practice in classrooms if we don’t spend our PD time building those skills with teachers and placing online safety as a high priority?
Schools are quick to filter and block, to make attempts to stop students from seeing “innappropriate” things, but what we really need to do is teach students how to make those decisions for themselves. For the times when they’re online, unsupervised, at a friends house (without a filter), or a Starbucks, or in the public library. They need to know, individually, and deeply what is safe online behavior and what’s not. Student’s need to be taught to use the “filter between their ears” in any and all online situations, and the best way to do that is to utilize authentic learning experiences within a safer environment, the classroom.
What do you think?