Friday, 30 April 2010

When and where should we be teaching students about their digital footprint?

Through Will Richardson's 'Rethinking how students learn' recent blog post, I found the new book: 21st Century Skills, Bellanca & Brandt (eds.) and perused bits of the book. It seems to me that as Web 2.0 technologies become more integrated into our everyday lives and thus make their way into our classroom, we'll be able to answer the Q of when & where to teach students about their digital footprint. The digital map we looked at in class the other day was informative in the sense that I viewed myself as being 'innocent' and protected and essentially being free of the 'digital footprint.' Then I found I actually had one from a short blog I started last year. It appears that the authors of 2st Century Skills are going to lead us into reform as we educators come to understand that we have to go there. Here are some considerations from the 'Preface': '... determining how these new demands fit in relation to existing curriculum [and]... finding ways they can be taught along with content, and then managing the complex process of implementation.'

So it appears as if we've come full circle. I remember 10 years ago, education was headed toward 'integration.' Here at ISB, the tech coordinator of the time spent all of his time designing an integrated curriculum, had us on teams to provide input and presented it to the core content-area teachers—a lengthy, complex set of outcomes and aims connected to those of the content-areas. There was even a scope & sequence to go with it. We (I was teaching English 10 at the time) attempted to do it all: In English we were charged with ensuring students had word processing basics and how to properly do a Works Cited page. We were given these bits because the grade 10s had to do a major research project and it seemed like a no-brainer to integrate them into the English department. But, over time, things changed. The tech coordinator moved on and his initiative went south after he left. We managed to get by by then assuming that the HS students somehow had the necessary technology knowledge and skills. This assumption was faulty as inevitably we'd get a certain number of students in our classes who didn't have this skill or that, or know this or that, and then we had to figure out how to bring him/her up to speed. Most often, I would just call upon any of my 'techies' in any one class to do that for me whenever the time allowed—messy, but it worked.

Now, it seems like this curriculum integration might be on its way back. Maybe at the time, the fruit wasn't quite ripe enough to fall off the tree. Maybe now the fruit has ripened and we'll be collectively ready to accept integration and share what needs to be shared. We have the tech teams here we need to work up a new plan. We teachers are coming to realize change is afoot. The students are already there as digital natives. Given Web 2.0, there's collaboration available to figure out what goes where. I'd say we can figure out when and where (& how) to teach students about their digital footprint along with everything else. And, what's also suggested in 21 Century Skills is that teachers be learners & learners be teachers. So we have a lot to draw upon.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Is there such a thing as privacy online?

As an educator, I know I need to take this Q to heart, but as a 'digital immigrant' and someone who believes I can remain anonymous online--the fallacy--it's not going to happen to me comes into play. I didn't find any 'digital footprint' when I searched for myself on google or even on the Technorati site we were asked to try in the last F2F class. But in telling my husband about the search for my hidden identity, he suggested trying the search engine Bing. Couldn't believe it what I saw it--but there I was with an entry I made back in 1994 in an old TESL forum I used to be active on: Responding to ESL. I had completely forgotten about my participation in that forum, which now that I recall, I was particularly active on. The other I found, beside the predictable Facebook one (whose link I'm not including here b/c there's no reason to go there) was more of a brief 'claim to fame' (and a plug here for the read) as it's a blurb that's out of the Educating for Global Citizenship book by Boyd Roberts, IBO Projects Director, in which I was published: 'Students as Facilitators of Discussions.'

So, I guess I'm convinced that I, along with anyone else online, am 'out there.' Not that I have anything to fear, but is fear the question here? Yes, and no. We democratic citizens of nations and of the of the world believe that we're also entitled to privacy as an inherent right. One link I found on this week's reading: 'Beware the Internet could own your future' was 'The future of privacy and the web,' which points out the growing concerns among academics of the blur between public and private, given the current Internet usage. But then there's the other side of the coin that considers that times they are a-changin' and that we're on the brink of a paradigm shift regarding public v. private. I found another link on Facebook's: Mark Zuckerberg's move to make Facebook content public, despite his previous assurances of privacy on the site: 'Facebook's Zuckerberg Says...' Interesting read as the posters at the end of the article were grappling with whether even George Orwell is right in that the powers that be are in control and attempting to exploit (this found on Ho Nam's post):

"There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment… It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug into your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live – did live, from habit that became instinct – in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and except in darkness, every movement scrutinized (Orwell, 1984, 6-7)"

Or whether we are in fact heading into a new paradigm whereby we are just ready for a new definition of privacy. Here's Nam's Q: "Powerful companies such as Facebook and Google can be agents of change. Will they use their power to continue to increase power (and profit) or to serve their users and strive toward a better society?"

It seems to me that we're (we Internet users) are in the process of creating the new paradigm even as I write another post to this blog with all of these links I've added. Will Ho Name find his name on my blog? Would he care, or might he feel honored that I've quoted his very words here for others to read? Or, might he feel some sort of 'violation' to his privacy. (Hard to imagine the latter, given that he did post his link as well...)

It also seems to me that we have to take the 'good' with the 'bad' here. Another poster's comments by Mona Namura on the same site reminds us as educators of the need to employ our critical thinking in regards to this issue. And, which in turn, reminds us to bring to our students' attention, the same thing. So, we come around full circle to the need to begin educating our students at the youngest age possible of the implications of their actions on the Internet. I don't claim to know how to do this with young students, but I know others out there are already doing it (things are moving in place at our school as I write this... #4 of the NETS applies here:

4. Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Responsibility
Teachers understand local and global societal issues and responsibilities in an evolving digital culture and exhibit legal and ethical behavior in their professional practices. Teachers:
a. advocate, model, and teach safe, legal, and ethical use of digital information and technology, including respect for copyright, intellectual property, and the appropriate documentation of sources
b. address the diverse needs of all learners by using learner-centered strategies and providing equitable access to appropriate digital tools and resources
c. promote and model digital etiquette and responsible social interactions related to the use of technology and information
d. develop and model cultural understanding and global awareness by engaging with colleagues and students of other cultures digital-age communication and collaboration tools

So that last post by Normura disparaging education and favoring the solution to promote critical thinking on the Internet is hopefully not true if we (and other schools) begin making these aims practical. I'm sure we'll learn more about how to do this in Course 2!