Keeping Things in Perspective

As the semester begins to draw to a close it is good to spend some time reflecting on where we have been and some of the lessons or understandings gained along the way.

Personally as an educator I have always felt that the lives of my students are heavily impacted by the use of technology.  I have been very fortunate to have always been in a school with very supportive administrators who felt that the more exposure to technology we can grant students the more prepared they will be to not only use, but to engage  with technology in the future.  I can still remember the conversations had around the dismantling of our computer lab.  On one hand those that believed that technology needs to be integrated into the classroom, not just housed in a room that could be shared on a 6 day rotation vs. those who believe that technology is a one time event, like going to the gym for PE or bringing down the pastels for an art lesson.  I reflect back on that because I realize now that was really the start of a continuing path down the road of technology becoming an everyday part of our lives.  We have made the shift from “using technology” to more specifically “being connected” to the world around us, in ways that we haven’t in the past and in the constant evolution of what that means.  Specifically as a grade 8 teacher I understand that being connected impacts the whole student that I teach, academically, socially and emotionally.  As an educator then I have a responsibility to help my students learn how to navigate and be effective in that space.

How then do I approach digital citizenship in the classroom and in the curriculum?  I believe the answer is twofold.  First there are a set of “skills” that are important for all students to be able to function with their use of technology.  More basic tasks such as file saving and sharing, email, password protection, are very important as the student develops.  But in the later grades and depending on the student when they are ready maturity wise as well as comfortable they can start to participate in more meaningful ways.  Dave Cormier talked about MOOC’s and Rhizomatic Learning in the video below, the idea of a culture becoming a participatory culture where it isn’t enough anymore to passively be part of the learning, but to engage others in building our own learning.  While there are so many different ways for interaction to happen and so many skills involved in doing so, it is important to remember that participation does not happen over night or in one school year, but rather evolves and grows over several years.  As Andrew said in his post, the responsibility does not fall solely on us.  Rather it takes all of us as educators and parents to play a role both in our role modeling and our teaching of how to be a good digital citizen.

In addition to “connecting” with our learning, it has been suggested several times that technology use can help to broaden students abilities.  David Crystal suggest that the daily use of things like Twitter or texting is not hindering language but perhaps helping language to evolve.  Students today are creating a new norm in terms or language that we are engaging with.  But it is important to not judge their forms of communication because they are not what we as adults would consider most appropriate.

Also, participation in Twitter  could help to engage students in their learning and even help to give a voice to those that sometimes take a more passive role in their learning.  In one of my post’s I talked about the article that outlines how more university students are engaging with Twitter to communicate and contribute to discussions and dialogues about their learning because they are feeling more comfortable engaging in that fashion.

Also important to note is that we as educators also have a job to do in presenting technology in a more balanced approach.  We already know that our students are using technology in both their outside of school lives and perhaps in different ways than we are within the classroom.  As role models I think that it is important to help demonstrate that there is a balance between our online identities and our in life identities.  In Sherry Turkle’s article she talks about what might be lost in communication if we are never disconnecting from technology to have more meaningful engaging interactions.  While at the same time, we have read several articles that talk about how some students who never felt a sense of belonging, have been able to connect and feel like they belong because of space they have found online.

As educators I think that we also have a responsibility to some extent to the parents of the students that we teach.  We are a resource for parents who can offer help and support in how their students use technology and how they are engaging in the online world.  I think we have a responsibility to inform parents of some of the ways their students connect to the world around them.  I also believe that the greatest responsibility falls to the parents to be aware of what their children are doing and how they are spending their time in an online space.  At the end of the day, they spend the most time with their children and those times are definitely more unstructured and less supervised than the time at school they spend online.  As a resource we can also help parents to understand some of the dangers that could potentially exist for their children online.  As Jenn mentioned in her post, things like ghost apps are new potentially to them as well and so sharing information in order to help inform would be helpful.  Sharing perhaps some of the videos we talked about like Ron Jonson’s “One Tweet Can Ruin your Life” and “The Price of Shame”by Monica Lewinsky can help us give parents something to reflect back on in order to gain some perspective and better help their children navigate those spaces as well.

At the end of this class I have definitely spend some time thinking about how to better support and engage my students in online spaces.   In addition I understand better why we need to advocate for students to gain more access to spaces that give them a voice.  Yes, there are potential risks involved in doing so, but the more we educate, rather than fear monger, the safer we will keep our children.  The possibilities then become endless for them to participate and engage in the world larger than just the classroom.

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