Last week I offended someone. For those of you who know me, that might not come as a shock, but I’d like you to bare with me. I was reading an article about Twitter in a kindergarten classroom. I re-tweeted it and called it reckless.
@ginrob_pt P. Tucker
Rather read about their understanding of SM and privacy-reckless! MT @OISELibrary How a SK class uses Twitter to learn http://bit.ly/qttEum
@happycampergirl was good enough to engage me about it on twitter, and I am hoping she will respond to this post. Since my initial re-tweet, I’ve learned more about her and what she is doing. Not that she needs my approval, but I think she’s doing a good job. She seems to have the current privacy of her students well in hand, and she is using twitter to do really interesting stuff. She has found a way to use it for a very engaging, authentic, ongoing, literacy, learning activity. If you disagree with my objections below, you should check out her blog about it @ http://ow.ly/6xJ7f . If you disagree with my points, you could hardly find a better use for Twitter with kindergarten students; however, if I were a parent of one of those children, I would not have signed the parental consent form; I would not allow my child to participate. By the end of the post, one of 3 things will be apparent: 1) I was reckless to call her reckless; 2) she was somewhat reckless in using twitter; or 3) we both were reckless.
Objection 1: The invisible curriculum.
It is startling that people in education want to extend the reach of a company in the market place, even to places it doesn’t dare go on its own. Twitter has rejected young children as a market to deliver to its advertisers; why are teachers trying to do it for them? Has twitter seen a danger we haven’t? Have we even asked?
Objection 2: Do they understand it?
The digital media environment is complex and difficult to understand. It is frustrating, but without a deep understanding, my warnings fail to alarm people; I find those who understand media better are more receptive to my arguments for caution. Twitter, for example is not a conversation; it is not the same as talking to someone. Twitter is a publishing and broadcasting system; it is also a business with a complex business strategy. How can one properly prepare kids to use media, if s/he doesn’t understand media theory? My objection is: teachers might not know the dangers that are out there (and there are out there); therefore, it is dangerous for them to lead their kids into SM.
I use twitter for limited purposes with my intermediate gifted students in late January or February, depending on when they are ready – when they know enough. I think kindergarten is necessarily too young. 10 % of them still cry on Monday mornings; some believe in Santa Clause (even that Virginia kid); that a bunny hides chocolate eggs for them to find because the world is a wondrous place; at least half of them don’t understand the difference between commercials and TV shows; they certainly don’t understand the techniques or reasons for them. Sadly, I think most teachers don’t understand the digital environment either.
One can’t just read “Here Comes Everybody” by Clay Shirky or watch him on Ted.com, though those are a start. He and other technophiles are great and inspiring but not necessarily critical or cautionary. Teachers have to read things like: “Understanding Media,” by Marshal McLuhan; “Amusing ourselves to death,” or “informing Ourselves to Death.” by Neil Postman. Teachers have to analyze media like Twitter using something like this: http://bit.ly/eedUBq . Do you think it is a conversation they are having? Then you haven’t read http://bit.ly/jnbeUU by Danah Boyd, or http://bit.ly/pmqlSh by Alexis Madrigal. Teachers even need to figured where their students or even themselves reside in Twitter’s business model?
If you do understand all this, do your students? teachers might be able to keep them safe in their class, but by normalizing twitter at such an early age, students/children will not approach it critically the next time. They won’t give it the respect/caution in needs. (“ahhh, no big deal, we used it in kindergarten; I know all about it)…will they use it next year or in two years by themselves? Do their parents now think it is harmless because it was introduced in school?
What’s the rush? There must be other less abstract ways to get your students to relate and talk to others. What advantages does the digital environment offer to kindergarten students that cannot be replicated by other means? What great advantage outweighs the negatives? Eventual participation is not an argument for early exposure. Students will do all manner of things when they grow up: drive, drink, enter committed sexual relationships….is early expose necessary? I think that they are too young.
Yes, @happycampergirl and others are doing great things with Twitter…but there are other great things they could do (I have no doubt). Things that are age appropriate that their students will better understand. Use media that is more immediate, mundane and less abstract. Have them talk and read to each other or the class down the hall. Why, in our multicultural schools, do we have to abstract an opinion from across the world? They are right across the hall. Make a chat room by arranging your desks in a circle. Get them to know each other and share their diverse opinions.