Archive for category Media Studies

The Internet might be an extension of the Panopticon—SM might be a prison after all.

 A short little post that might be too much of a downer–I’ll be more positive next time:

I began a mini-unit entitled “the architecture of control.” with my students the other day.  Our introduction centers around Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon.  In Michal Foucault’s now famous analysis of it (in “Discipline and Punishment”), he concludes that Bentham made visibility a trap.  By being visible all the time, prisoners had to regulate and normalize their own behaviours because they were constantly able to be scrutinized.  Visibility was a mechanism that made us partners with authorities to limit our own autonomy and homogenize our behaviours.  Conformity becomes normalized; difference is viewed as dissent or with suspicion.

 While this is certainly true in prisons, many hold it to be true in society as well.  One might also extend the argument to include our online culture.  We are being watched while online.  As I type this, departments in my school board are recording my computer use—it is tied to my account and this computer specifically. Companies place cookies on our browsers; they compile our profiles; they data mine our purchases; and increasingly, law enforcement is entering the data mining and surveying game as well.  Everywhere I go, I leave a digital foot print that is permanently attached to my identity.  With this kind of surveillance, I had better conform.  The only chance I have to remain anonymous is to hide in the anonymity of the data stream—to do that is simple—don’t stand out!  Conform!  Monitor my own behaviour!  Regular my autonomy to coincide with society’s expectations!

Our students are being introduced into an environment that might ultimately end up controlling them rather then freeing them.  It might force them to regulate themselves and each other.  It might teach them to view with suspicion those who act differently.  It might add conformity to our world, not diversity.  Even in our most enthusiastic embrace of the Internet and SM, let us at least for a moment consider that we might be wrong—it might not be a perfect world after all.  If we do that, we might end up better preparing our students for some of the possible difficulties they might encounter…

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21st Century Learning? Get over it! It’s Already 2012!

@Stephen_Hurley proposed that the writers at VoicEd.ca write exploring 21st century learning and its meaning.  Here are some of my initial thoughts.  They’re a bit jumbled.  Feel free to deconstruct or ask for clarification:

I think the idea/term, 21st century learning is a fairly empty catch phrase used to sell a variety of programs or to rally for change in the education system.  People may do this with the best intentions, and may affect positive change; others might not be so pure.  To do this, they temporarily define the term and apply it to their ideas/programs.  They are free to do this, because the term/concept is an empty shell, free to be inhabited; it is a cart waiting for a horse and a bandwagon waiting for us to jump on, it seems to be an attempt to throw the baby out with the bath water…

I have been perplexed that the phrase is as persistent and wide spread as it seems to be.  Perhaps it is because the idea is free to be adapted, but I have been surprised that a group of educators, focused on innovation and reform as a positive utility, would adopt a single concept so completely and project its reign for a 100 years…what will we have in 2099, 21st century learning as we have it now?

It’s possible that there is something unique in our technological landscape and this pedagogy, but I’m less sure of this then most.  Perhaps “more is different” as Clay Shirky suggests, but perhaps it’s not.  When members of the Oldowan Culture were breaking rocks into tools 2.6 million years ago, they sat in groups.  They helped each other, they collaborated and improved, they gave feedback and shared, they did everything we are asking of our students in their learning and are calling new and innovative under 21st century learning.  Class discussions are asymmetrical, like conversations on SM, and require the same social skills.  When a student is sneaking a peek at answers in their desk and making sure the teacher isn’t going to catch them, they are multitasking.  Is there any skill required in 21st century learning, besides button pushing, that hasn’t existed, as a skill, in the last 5 centuries?

I am further perplexed by our current push to leave the past behind us and innovate.  The present was built on the skills of the past.  We inhabit a world of social media and communication revolution that was constructed from the education system we are so quickly trying to abandon.  I was a product of that learning environment, as were most of us here, yet here we are adapting, using, creating and all without the benefits of a school system designed to include 21st century learning skills – one wonders how we do it?  If people need radically different education to navigate this world, then surely we can’t hope to do so.  Further, with our rapidly changing media landscape, why do the skills 21st “centuriests” are now focused on, have a better chance to prepare students for that unknown future?  Won’t they be outdated as students mature?  It reminds me of Marshall McLuhan’s line “if it works, it’s obsolete.”

Valuing innovation and innovators is a cultural choice and not a universal truth.  Some prefer stability, familiarity, tradition, etc.  Can we in multi-cultural Canadaretool our education system with this cultural tenant so entrenched in the idea of 21st century learning?  Each change in the process seems to create new problems as it solves old ones; it seems to be a zero sum gain/game.  Is each innovation in pedagogy an improvement or just a change?

Instead of focusing our discussion about 21 century learning, it seems to me that we should be focusing on effective learning and teaching.  There are fun, engaging, activities to be created and done with the tools we now have available, but 21st learning seems merely to be “an improved means to an unimproved end.”  The goals for our teaching and student learning, the skills we wish to engender, are the same skills that led to success in the past.  Let’s not focus on the century, that seems like focusing on the technology at the expense of focusing on the learning.  Let’s stop talking about learning in the 21st century and just talk about the skills students need in order to be successful and the many approaches, even traditional approaches, to engender them.  Let’s drop dropping catch phrases to blur our conversations and drop making false dichotomies between the past and the present…

 

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“Will I ever get to be a real little boy (on SM)?”

When I was 11, I met my grade 5 teacher at the grocery store.  It was a very exciting moment.  I felt 3 things: 1) I felt lucky and excited to see her; she was a favourite of mine and I struggled to be a favourite of hers. 2) Very awkward—without our familiar context, I didn’t know how to act or what to say to her.  3) Unsettling—I had to deal with the fact that my teacher was a real person who didn’t live at the school or cease to exist when I left.  This might not be universal.  If you live in a small town you might see your teacher outside of school so much that it is no longer exciting or surprising.  If you live in too large a city, you might never see your teacher in “real” life.  However, for some of us, particularly those of us who idealized our teachers (I certainly was one), seeing them as real people can be uncomfortable—it can challenge our perfect notion of them among other things.

With teacher’s increasing use of technology, my students are bumping into me more and more in the real world—how should we handle it?

At the faculty I was advised, if we were ever going to do something embarrassing or “inappropriate” for a professional, then we should make sure we do it hundreds of kilometres away from where we work(we all were, it wasn’t personal).  Well, that isn’t possible with social media; there is no hundreds of kilometres away.

And what if it isn’t embarrassing or inappropriate?  What if it is simply adult?  Back a few years, under memo s33 “how do deal with controversial issues in the classroom,” we had a concise guide of how to deal with our personal opinions—hide them!.  With the OCT’s recent(ish) discussion on using social media and other sources we have a directive to be professional and conservative with what we share.  But how far should we take that?

What ever flaws S33 had in what it regarded as controversial, and what ever opinion you have about the recent OCT comments, they have at their base an awareness of a teacher’s influence on their students.  They have an awareness of what sharing a teacher’s opinion might do to student autonomy.  If we share our opinion, students might not be able to critically assess it; they might be overly influenced by it—such is the supposed power of our position.  Much like the reading of Miranda rights in the States, checks must be used to insure we don’t suppress autonomy by our awesome presence!

However with students being able to access my real life–with my presence continuing in their lives outside of the classroom thanks to SM, what do we do?  I have shied away from taking about my religious beliefs, political beliefs, and say, drinking habits, in the classroom for the reasons above – need I exercise the same caution on social media?

In my real life, I want to stand up and be counted for my political and religious beliefs.  I want to share these beliefs because these beliefs make up the real me–it is by my opinions and thoughts that I am knowable.  I want to share, promote, advocate but I haven’t as yet (much) because I am mindful of my students (once the invisible audience, now 22/24 follow me on twitter).  Must I be?  I have seen people like @mbcampbell360 talk at length in twitter about their atheism, political support of the Green party, and liberal use of profanity—but he teachers adults—can I join him?

Do I suffer from a lack of integrity for this hidden side of me like the Zuckerbergs suggest?  Am I being overly cautious?  Like Pinocchio I am asking, “Can I ever be a real boy?” and share my opinions more freely on twitter?  Where would you draw the line?

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Don’t teach with tech until you know what you’re doing (did I really just say that?)

 I was talking to @mbcampbell360 on twitter the other day…oops…did you catch it? I of course wasn’t talking; I was using Twitter, the micro-blogging publishing and broadcasting service, …but I digress…. I was reminiscing about an old friend who liked to learn as he went. He’d not really plan and think things out—for him, the first idea was always the best and it was “go time” – time to explore. Often this led him into trouble…I remember the 40 ft ladder falling off the building into the parking lot, I remember the 100 year old tree falling the wrong way and almost crushing most of my cottage guests (don’t worry, it only rushed the outhouse-vacant!). I think this “don’t worry-it will all work out-you don’t need to have deep understanding of what you are doing or the consequences of such” is a very worrying trend in education right now…

I am getting a little concerned by the level of ignorance we tolerate, even encourage, in teachers using digital technology and SM with their students.  Often educators insist that the tech shouldn’t be “the lesson”, but a tool–its not about the tech!  I agree with their reasons, but it does also allow teachers to have a cavalier attitude to tech instruction.  I believe there is a vast amount of instruction to be done regarding the tech. before it is opened to be used by students as a tool (you can see the process I went through before students were encouraged to blog and tweet here: https://tuckerteacher.wordpress.com/2012/01/21/the-process-we-went-through-to-start-blogging/ -its not tech specific; studetns can still explore).  This requires the teacher to learn it first. 

I’d like to highlight 2 tweets that were sent recently (without identifying the person—while these were sent by individuals, I feel that they represent common trends in education):

“hey PLN…I need help. I’ve borrowed 10 iP@ds for two months to use with my class. What are must-have apps?” This concerns me a bit. While it may be the case that she already has well thought out reasons and uses already planned for these iPads (well not certain, but hoping), I guess my fear is that she doesn’t. That she is going to do some exploring with her kids and see what they can do. That she’s going to teach them the technology (or let them explore and learn undirected) rather then a learning goal. For her and her class, I worry, that it will be about the technology and it will be directionless and without other learning goals. It will be dangerous.

another tweet was:

“introduced the Ipads to my kids yesterday and was AMAZED (sic) with what they came up with!” While it is sometimes the case that our students surprise us, and there can be no happier occasion then when students exceed our expectations; nonetheless, I can’t help but fear that this teacher really had no idea what she was doing with the iPads to further their learning. If they outstrip your expectations in the introduction, the process you went through to develop your expectations was flawed. It could be she’s only talking about how surprised she was at their speed of ‘mastery’ but the fear lingers in me regardless.

I’ve written about this metaphor before, but I’d like to explore it more fully. Teaching SM to students should be done like driving instructors. We should be experts first, our exploring days should be behind us, and we should advise caution (you can see the original here: https://tuckerteacher.wordpress.com/2011/09/27/learning-to-use-social-media-shouldnt-be-like-learning-to-ride-a-bicycle-it-should-be-like-learning-to-drive-a-car/ ).

Experts first:

We used to talk about deep understanding and master teachers. Of course now we talk about innovators and experimenters and willingness to fail. While these are desirable traits at times, I’m not sure that using SM with students is one of them. Assuming for the moment that SM is a powerful learning tool, shouldn’t that power have a little direction. If it is a powerful opportunity, it is all the more tragic when it is squandered and wasted. If anyone feels there is no wrong way to use it; that it is so intuitive you don’t need deep understanding, or it is so powerful that in can overcome the instructor’s ignorance, then let them come forward and argue it below; otherwise, me must posit that increasing our knowledge increases the power of the tool. It was the master teacher who know many teaching techniques (TDSB and YRDSB—remember Instructional intelligence?) and had the deep understanding to know when and how to apply them to extend and maximize student learning. Sure kids can learn on their own, sure they can learn in spite of our ignorance- but wouldn’t a knowledgeable instructor help? Can we afford inefficient models of teaching? Are we being professional if we utilize them? The answer used to be a resounding and emphatic no. What changed? What role do we play better wrapped in ignorance like scholarly garb?

Out exploring days should be behind us:

We should be masters in technology and SM firs; before we introduce it to our students. What other subject would we tolerate such teacher ignorance? As students progress in school, should they be more tolerant of it or less? Should primary teachers not understand young kids or not be masters of reading and teaching techniques? Is there any other place that we praise teachers for not knowing and for learning concurrently with their students so completely? It really bothers me to hear teachers talk about using SM to have a conversation—they aren’t conversations. They are broadcast and publishing mediums permanently attached to your identity. They are advertisement delivery services-neither free or safe (without understanding). I have said several times: read some Neil Postman, and some Danah Boyd. If you are going to bring minors into this environment, you had better understand it. Would you bring them into any other environment that you weren’t knowledgeable in? The forest? The subway? A desert? On a Frozen pond? How can we prepare, utilize, trouble shoot, assist, protect, and guide effectively when we don’t have deep understanding of what’s happening?

Advise caution:

look before you leap! Check your mirrors! Look both ways! Don’t talk to strangers! In unknown or alterable situations, we advise caution. Why wouldn’t we be cautious with SM and digital technology? Imagine our driving instructor saying such things as, “I don’t know, lets find out!”, “lets see what this can do!” , “feel free to explore a bit!”, “don’t be afraid to make mistakes”, “the highways work by everyone being nice to each other, don’t worry, people will help you!” Hmmm…Of course, you have to be knowledgeable to realize there are dangers on the Net and such. This is especially true because of all the bad advice about how safe and wonderful it is. Of course it is these things, but just like a car, it is only true when the conditions are right and you know what you are doing.

Some one else tweeted: “When introduced to a new technology, I’ve never heard a student say, “when’s the workshop?’” I hope that when you teach it to them, you do it with such rigor that they would never need to say that. I hope that when intorduced to tech, you did it with in the frame work of a workshop—why wouldn’t you? If you leave them not understanding, you have failed them and left them at risk. Don’t use Tech. Until you know how to use Tech. Don’t teach tech. until you know how to teach it and use it to teach.

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The process we went through to start blogging

 So the class of 2012’s blogs and Twitter accounts are off and running. I want to take a moment to detail the process I’ve gone through before and with them to get to this point. I think its going to be a long one so I’m just going to write a step-by-step list with little rhetorical flourish.

Edit: I have left it vague; a rough sketch—if you want more detail about a specific step, just let me know…

Prologue:

  1. I was part of a committee that was looking at ways to improve gifted education in YRDSB a couple of years ago. Among other things, we explored the integration of technology and social media (shockingly:). I was pushed a little and encouraged to use Twitter with my class as part of the process. I was resistant, but I capitulated. I should not have; I was not ready. I was unprepared, and I don’t think that it was useful or even safe for my students. I continued to learn (by myself) because something in it appealed to me. It was a useful learning experience to me

  2. I became certain, and continue to maintain, that a teacher should not explore technology or any technique/content with students. You should explore it first yourself. If you are going to open a door to students, you had better know how, and you had better know what’s on the other side first. I have blogged this sentiment several times on this site.

  3. I learned more: I read articles from Techcrunch, GigaOm (specifically @mathewi). I read some Clay Shirky (“Here comes everybody”, “Cognitive Surplus”), I re-read Marshall McLuhan, Neil Postman. I read some Danah Boyd.

  4. I continued to use Twitter and other social media on my own. I started my own blog and made my own mistakes

  5. I had many conversations with my principal and vice-principal as well as board consultants. I developed my own robust permission/consent form/appropriate use of technology

2 years and some experimenting later, I was willing to try it again….the following are steps my class and I went through this year to get ready for January and February’s Journalism/Web 2.0/SM unit/ Public Discourse:

Part 1 – Exploring Media:

  1. we define media and explored some McLuhan and Postman. We explore a broad definition of what is media. We learn about how different media influence messages and have their own limitations. We learn about “hot” and “cold” media and the effect the receiver has on the message (but also how the media effects it as well).

  2. We explored Neil Postman’s “5 ideas we need to know about technological change.”

  3. We use it as a analytical framework for media using tools like: https://tuckerteacher.wordpress.com/2011/04/21/analytic-tool-based-on-postmans-5-ideas/

  4. We explore brand creation and its relationship to people’s self fashioning as we explored advertising. I would have liked to spend more time on ad techniques and audience interaction (next time).

  5. They work on a series of “Media Koan’s” to get them looking at media differently and critically (you can see some of them here: https://tuckerteacher.wordpress.com/2011/05/06/media-koans/)

Part 2 –The Moodle Years:

  1. Our class uses our moodle course quite extensively. From the first week they are building a community of learners and are using digital tools to help each other and extend their learning beyond the classroom. There are many wiki’s, forums, topics, and discussions.

  2. They are introduced to Tucker’s rules for using social media https://tuckerteacher.wordpress.com/2011/04/06/tuckers-rules-for-using-social-media/

  3. They practice the skills of digital citizenship before they are formally introduced to the topic (at least from me). Before the “blogging unit” the average student has posted well over 100 times on our course.

Part 3- The ISU

  1. As part of the gifted program at our school, students participate in an independent study unit loosely based on Bloom’s Taxonomy (not that I’m the biggest fan, but it serves-with a few changes)

    1. Students select a topic that has a controversial element and begin researching and learning at school and at home. We teach a parallel curriculum of research skills and note taking that I would like to make more robust next year.

    2. Students demonstrate understanding of their topic in a interview

    3. Analysis (we think it should be 3rd before application-even if this violates Bloom’s). This year we skipped this because of time but it involves laying out, in an organization web, all the facts relevant to a topic (well within reason)

  2. students brush up over the winter holidays and first week back in Januray to hopefully have a good grasp of their topic before the blogging starts

Part 4.. “Corporations are people,” and “The news about the news”

Since there is so much talk about “free” services out there, I try to break down that barrier so they can see these business for what they are-businesses

  1. We talk about the driving ethics of business- for profit, branding and niche marketing. We look at Unilever and its strategies for the Dove and Axe brands.

  2. We look at types of news and the purpose of news from different stakeholder’s perspectives.

  3. We analysis the problem of corporate media control and SM as a possible counter force.

Part 5 – What is the internet really like?

Running parallel to parts 2-5 above, we start our social media/journalism/web 2.0/public discourse unit (some of the below items run concurrently)…

  1. We pre-teach vocabulary and concepts

  2. We discuss business models of “free” services like Zynga

  3. We discuss in detail issues of privacy. (for example: http://www.danah.org/papers/talks/2011/PDF2011.html (“networked privacy”) , http://www.guardian.co.uk/tedx/cory-doctorow-privacy?CMP=twt_gu , http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/technology/digital-culture/trending-tech/free-sucks-i-want-my-privacy-back/article2128006/ , I discuss elements of: Why Privacy matters even if you have nothing to hide: http://chronicle.com/article/Why-Privacy-Matters-Even-if/127461/?sid=cr&utm_source=cr&utm_medium=enBy by Daniel J. Solove, with them as well

  4. We explore the concepts digital footprint and digital citizenship. We host discussions on our moodle and bring in an array of sources.

  5. We discuss related internet issues that the students find and bring back to a moodle hosted discussions

  6. We discuss the effects of networks and being part of a community (and the production of hyper-local news

  7. We talk about the “Who owns the digital you” series by Tim Chambers

  8. We talk about how Twitter and SM are publishing and broadcasting networks and how they are different from a conversation. We learn about the implications of Danah Boyd’s work: 4 ideas of the internet persistent, replicable, searchable, scalable (“Social Network Sites as Networked Publics: Affordances, Dynamics, and Implications.” In Networked Self: Identity, Community, and Culture on Social Network Sites (ed. Zizi Papacharissi); the dangers of the invisible audience; and http://m.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/08/why-facebook-and-googles-concept-of-real-names-is-revolutionary/243171/

  9. We have discussions about some of the following (dependend on time or where we menader arround:

    1. real name policies: http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Who_is_harmed_by_a_%22Real_Names%22_policy%3F , http://gigaom.com/2011/10/18/for-twitter-free-speech-is-what-matters-not-real-names/ , http://gigaom.com/2011/06/20/anonymity-has-real-value-both-in-comments-and-elsewhere/ , “Real Names” Policies Are an Abuse of Power http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2011/08/04/real-names.html , http://m.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/08/why-facebook-and-googles-concept-of-real-names-is-revolutionary/243171/ (again) , and http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/27/randi-zuckerberg-anonymity-online_n_910892.html

    2. other issues as discovered by their earlier serachs and conversations

  1. Other safety

    1. http://canadasafetycouncil.org/child-safety/online-safety-rules-kids (especially the 3rd in the list)

    2. And corollary issues like: http://socialmediacollective.org/2011/08/11/if-you-dont-like-it-dont-use-it-its-that-simple-orly/

Part 6 –Their turn?

  1. I introduce them to the complexities of Twitter and some of the issues: reinforce the 4 Danah boyd principles and the invisible audience, Spambots, etiquette, offensive content, and how to use twitter well. We gather and look at sources for twitter and blogging. We talk about the different uses of twitter and the like. We primarily use twitter to build an audience and advertise blog posts to drive traffic to our discussions

  2. Students decide which strategy they want to use for entering public discourse from here: https://tuckerteacher.wordpress.com/2011/05/07/7-archetypes-for-entering-public-disources-through-social-media/ They are also free to make their own moodle course and mimic the process if they feel they are not ready (given the time spend on caution, I don’t feel I can make it mandatory…this year 2 students chose this option…we made them teachers of their own moodle course and they use that as a website to host their classmates or others they invite into discussions on their topic).

  3. Students make their first 10 tweets, and I review them carefully. We discuss clarity, long term consequences, digital citizenship issues. Once their first 10 are vetted, they are approved to tweet at will!

  4. Finally, the part that the public sees: Students begin to build their own posts or comment on the posts of others depending on their chosen strategy, tweet to drive traffic to their posts, build audiences, engage in discussions, and learn….

Part 7 – Their learning log:

  1. Students record their activities and their thoughts about them on their learning log (hosted on the class moodle) which I monitor, continuously assess, and eventually evaluate

That is the sketch…I feel I’ve left a lot out….might have to update. But in the meantime please consider following one of my student accounts and commenting on their posts. They can be found here: https://tuckerteacher.wordpress.com/2012/01/18/student-twitter-account-roll/

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Eventually, I say we need to add ‘forgiving’ to our practise of Digital Citizenship…

 

Eventually, I say we need to add ‘forgiving’ to our meaning of Digital Citizenship…

A couple months ago, I lost my enthusiasm for blogging. At some point during the discussions on twitter, my blog; and other blogs, about my post, “Should Kindergarteners be on Twitter?” I realized I was no longer enjoying it. In fact, it was quite the opposite. I learned some lessons from it, but I still found it hard to move past it and post again (yes I have two posts after it, but they were written and posted as the conversation was continuing about kindergarten). I have many ideas for posts that I’d like to write, and I think about them quite a lot, but I need to get past that discussion first. I hoping this blog will be part of that and a start to push me to write more. I haven’t read through the comments again but I know someday I will…The part that dragged me down the most was, during the discussion I was constantly (or so it seemed) labeled arrogant (something I felt/feel was unwarranted).

I think that comments sometimes become the context your post is evaluated in; you’re known by the company you keep, as it were. Once someone labels you as arrogant or any other label, it pushes others to see you similarly—where they might have given you the benefit of the doubt before, the context of “arrogant’ pushes them to interrupt your writing a similar way. No matter how: I tried to soften my message; I tried to leave parts of it as agree to disagree; I tried to accept part or at least partly accept what others were writing, I could not escape the charge of arrogance once it had been raised. I think that I had a sense of the ‘principle of context’ before I started. One of the reasons I argue / respond to my comments at such length is because I don’t want to leave it to influence others….I want them to consider my points separate from the context (at least initially….after they have formed their initial impression of me or my point, then other comments just serve to give them more to consider rather then a light to understand me by…). I think this is something basic about blogging that we all should understand…

Why does this happen?

I think that people are influenced by the context of text on the Internet more than in face-to-face. Ads, fonts, comments, etc are perhaps used to replace some of the missing information that we’ve evolved to seek out and interpret in face-to-face communication. I’ve heard many times that most of out communication is non-verbal. People point out: tone, pitch, speed, facial expression, body language, social context as aspects of communication that help construct and interpret meaning. On a blog these aspects are largely missing. We get a shadow of the rich communication we are used to. In the absence of these aspects, people are still looking for more information to inform their interpretation or that information is streamed to them unbidden to enhance/obscure the original intent.

Because we are writing for the invisible audience in a de-contextualized, persistent way, messages require more interpretation on the part of the receiver to construct meaning. Because more is required from the receiver, they influence their interpretation of meaning more. Because of this, there is inherently more chance of misunderstanding intent/meaning on the Internet then there is is face-to-face communication.

Given the above premises, what should we do? I would like us to emphasize a new component of digital citizenship (could be just the emphasis that is new). People are good at articulating the need to be polite and thoughtful as part of citizenship; now I am suggestion they also have to push the need to: give the benefit of the doubt; be generous in your interpretation of others; realize your influence on the message you’ve decoded; seek clarification; be empathic; and most importantly, be forgiving.

This will help everyone, including your students. On web 2.0 tools people are learning. Inherent in that statement is that they will make mistakes (me, you, your students). The mistakes can be many and varied. You may be teaching your kids to be careful and thoughtful, but obviously they will make mistakes too. It behooves all of us to make an environment that is tolerant of mistakes, understanding of mistakes, and forgiving of mistakes. This needs to be part of out digital citizenship as well because without it -because social media is persistent and scalable– it is too dangerous an environment to learn in….people will be labeled, judged, regarded on their learning process, not themselves at the ‘end’ of the journey or after they’ve learned more…

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Learning to use social media shouldn’t be like learning to ride a bicycle, it should be like learning to drive a car.

 

 Learning to use social media shouldn’t be like learning to ride a bicycle, it should be like learning to drive a car.

Generally, children start to be taught to ride a bike when they are physically able to learn. We start by doing. We don’t worry too much about them going too fast or too far as they are still young and are watched by their parents. They are also small so going too fast is rarely a concern. We don’t worry too much about the rules of the road; those come later. The rules aren’t that important to their learning process because they are, again, not going far, not fast, there’s always a parent around. Often, the rules of the road are immaterial as they are learning on paths, parks or parking lots. Eventually, we teach them all that as they begin to go farther away from a parents gaze. Eventually, we fill them in about the dangers and the we warn them about the rules. Maybe we wait so we don’t dampen their enthusiasm; maybe we don’t want to worry them. In any case, it doesn’t really matter, they have plenty of time to learn the rules as they go. There is little danger in learning to ride a bike this way.

Learning to drive a car is a radically different process. First, we wait until we think they are old enough to handle the responsibility safely. Teens are physically able to drive a car long before we begin to teach them; obviously, we feel the dangers / responsibilities are a more important criteria then mere physical strength. When they are finally viewed as old enough, we still delay their participation in social driving.

First, we teach them the theory. Either by studying a book and taking a test, or by taking classes, or most often by doing both, we are finally ready to take them on guided lessons about driving. Then, at least in Ontario, they go through a 2 year probation period before we give them full access. As a society we take learning to drive very seriously. We are proactive in mitigating the risk. We have professionals who are aware of the dangers, not just the advantages of driving, teach them to be safe. No instructor says, “wow, look what a car can do – explore! Test the limits!”

Even though they grew up in a culture where cars are the norm, even though they are natives in a driving culture and can’t imagine a world without it, we take the time to make sure that they are ready before we let them drive on their own.

I think we should be as responsible and serious about teaching them to use social media; I think pretending its like a bike is irresponsible and harmful.

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