Losing is not something that I overly enjoy. Growing up as a competitive athlete, I have always taken things like this past week’s debate, well, seriously. So it came as no surprise that experiencing a loss to the extent that we did, hurt, hmmm…. just a bit. But, here’s the thing. Every great coach I’ve had in the past has always helped me to reflect on my performance, and helped me to see that, it is truly through losing, that one can gain the most.
Photocredit: ryry602 via Flickr
I knew going into the debate that we were fighting the underdog side of things. Technology is everywhere and we are in an Ed. Tech. graduate class. So why would anyone agree that “openness and sharing in schools is unfair to our kids”? This was what my team set out to find out.
Our opponents, were very well rehearsed and prepared for this debate. They had their facts polished, their arguments timed, and their cute little kiddo rehearsed and ready for action. Lisa, Stephanie and Haiming Li were hot to trot! In the end, they were the ones that got the victory card, but looking back on things, I feel as though I may have won more in the long run. This debate opened my eyes to some vital components necessary for safe classroom blogging and student sharing, that before now, I was (sigh) naive and uneducated about. So, even though we didn’t win the debate, what I did win in knowledge that I can put to use in the future, made it all worth it! Let’s take a look at just what that learning was!
First, and most importantly, awareness in sharing of any sort online is essential. Through reading blogs of colleagues this week, it is very apparent that we have varying levels of comfort in our own class. Yet, we all seem to agree that understanding the permanency of our digital footprints online, is crucial before taking steps toward sharing student content online. Each uploaded document, photograph, comment, that is shared about our classes and students adds to their digital identity and it is important that we understand the permanency of these actions, as they are very much like permanent digital tattoos.
Secondly, guidelines. Guidelines are very important for teachers to follow in order to know what should and should not be shared, and most importantly how to go about doing so in a safe way. Saskatchewan actually has an excellent document, Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools, that identifies many great policy guidelines to help educators implement safe online sharing practices. The message it teaches: “Respect. Educate. Protect”. Here is the problem. Not enough people know about this. When my team looked up guidelines for safe sharing, guidelines were difficult to find, and not always up to date. The Saskatchewan document never came up in a search. If we have such a document out there, how do we help teachers to know where to find this? This document should be available on every Saskatchewan school division homepage. AND teachers should read it!
Technology and social media are here to stay. Making the decision that sharing student content online isn’t fair, isn’t the answer. Technology is not going away. So, we as educators, we need to provide scaffolding and educate others on how to be responsible digital citizens. Alec Curos shares his views on the digital world in his Ted Talk by stating that “digital media has changed our world”. He reminds us that when policies are put into place and teachers are educated, sharing can be a powerful and healthy learning experience for students. So what do we do?
Well, we educate. First, we educate the educators. Next, education for students and parents alike, will help ensure content sharing is safe at a personal and professional level. Here are 20 quick do’s and don’ts that can act as a quick guideline checklist for anyone before taking the plunge and submitting something to the ever permanent cyberspace.
Educating Educators- Through courses like EC&I830 and 831, we are taking the steps to become the advocates for our staffs and school boards. Reading the Sask Policy Planning Guide by Alec and Katia would be a huge bonus to anyone taking the time to read it! Teachers like Justine Kyle are doing an outstanding job of this already. Take a look at some of the amazing lessons that she is using in her primary classes to promote healthy digital identities. This is what we need to see more of! This is the key to starting in the right direction.
Educating Parents- Many people have had moments of regret upon posting something online, much like Linda Geddes. Following a few easy steps might save some posting regret down the line. Madden and Smith suggest 1) limiting the amount of personal information that can be found online 2) changing privacy settings regularly 3) deleting unwanted comments, & 4) removing names from photos. These 4 steps won’t guarantee being able to avoid harms way, but it is a good place for parents to start. Providing parents with clear media release forms, and also educational opportunities enabling them to stay on top of the latest tech talk, is also a great idea. Parents want to keep their kids safe and are willing to learn. They often just don’t know where to turn to find this information.
Educating Students- Educate our students. Start young. Lead by examples and teach students how to create a healthy digital footprint. Provide lessons for students that are centered around digital citizenship. Model it, model it, model it. Lead by sharing examples of what oversharing can do to harm students in the future. Make students aware. Learn from our mistakes as a team, and have conversations about what could be done differently in the future.
Through taking these steps to further educate students, parents, and teachers alike, we can create a digitally safe environment, that helps students to grow as citizens in face to face interactions as well as online.
The positive definitely outweighs the negative side of sharing online if proper skills, and use of tools can be instilled in the minds of our youth starting at a very young age.
We are capable of creating a digital world that is safe to exist in. It will take time, education, caring, and awareness. But, it is most definitely possible. I look forward to doing my part in helping my students to begin this exciting and ever-changing journey!