In our class this week, Team Disagree -Kari, Esther, and myself -disagreed with the statement that Openness and sharing in schools is unfair to kids. In fact, our premise was that it is actually unfair to our kids, in the 21st century, to NOT access the benefits that technology can provide us to do our jobs and help raise functional and skilled citizens.
Here is a link to our opening video.
Our debate centred around 3 general points. First of all, we argued that childhood today is different from previous generations, but that does not make it bad. Every generation has heard from the previous generation about how the “good old days” were so much better than the current state of affairs. However, I would challenge that every generation has positive and negative developments that will evolve through time. In her article Kid Complicated: Childhood isn’t what it used to be , Zuckerman makes some interesting self-revelations regarding how being stuck in the past is not necessarily what is best for kids NOW.
She considers how the ability to share information creates a more freeing and preventative condition where students can more easily predict results of their learning or actions.
We also briefly explored the evolution of the agency of students in creating their own destinies. If we continue to live under the proverbial rock and do not teach students how to resourcefully influence their own lives, a condition of helplessness may eventually occur. We need to recognize that students do indeed have agency and the ability to problem solve. The condition of fairness emerges when we collaborate with students in the decision making processes related to what is shared, and what is not.
On a side note, as I am writing this, my brain is actually focused on tomorrow.
You see, tomorrow, my 31 twelve and thirteen year olds are leading a demonstration/awareness walk to the Saskatchewan Legislature to advocate for more mental health supports and funding for youth. You see, these young students expressed their concerns around the amount of school violence and youth suicides in the world now. They investigated the connection between youth violence and mental health. They are using their agency to advocate for more funding to at the least two MLAs, the Saskatchewan Youth Advocate’s Office, several media outlets and representatives to our school division, to name a few of the confirmed attendees. They wrote emails using their agency and their voices to determine what they wanted and who to invite. The adults in charge are going to hear the voices of the children for whom they are making decisions. If you are reading this, you are welcome to join us on June 8 as we walk from the Royal Saskatchewan Museum to the Legislature from 9:30-10:00. The students will be giving some short speeches and be willing to answer any questions you have.
Sorry for the divergence. I just thought that my iteration on youth agency could be aptly demonstrated with our project. Technology was used throughout the project and we are sharing our work on social media and other media (ethics considered and student permission granted, of course).
For the second main topic, we considered the positivity of increased sharing and connectivity. Apps such as Seesaw as used by Regina Public Schools increase timely and specific feedback to parents regarding their child’s development and daily activity. When I started doing Student Led Conferences about 10-12 years ago, I had the students create a presentation from the program Adobe Portfolio. Students inserted photos or videos with reflective responses about their work. On conference day, parents would come to meet with us, and students would stand at the SMARTBoard and share their learning. We would then save the presentation on a USB to be sent home. Parents and students both loved it, as they were able to share a more authentic look into our daily happenings at school, and they also had a keepsake of their year with me. Things have evolved since then, with apps like SeeSaw, where parents can receive almost instant information shared with them.
Connectivity, in my mind, makes sharing more fair for students as parents get a bigger and broader picture of what is happening in relation to their child at school. As well, students can be more aware that parents will have a more comprehensive understanding about what their school lives are like, rather than the minimalist snapshot of a report card or interview.
Finally, and probably most importantly, is that sharing in and from schools helps students to create a positive digital footprint. Since it is practically inevitable that all students will have some kind of digital footprint, we believe that direct teaching and modelling about what should be shared and how it should be shared is critical learning for students.
These three articles explore the guidelines about creating a digital footprint and the ethics around what we should and should not share. Further, with contentions around privacy emerging within the province, it is necessary to conscientiously and ethically share, with personal guidance from the student, that which will influence a positive digital footprint for them and their future.
The opposing team had some fantastic points about protecting children from potential safety issues. Their opening video demonstrated safety and the potential of digital footprint evolution over a period of time. While I certainly agree with the fear of pedophiles having access to my students’ information, I think there are certainly guidelines to address safety that have been developed as I have indicated above. I recognize the potential future repercussions for students when they have posted an uninformed opinion on the web. I am wondering if teachers should reconsider the permanance of a blog or online statement of opinion when students are posting. As Namase said in his 10 Negatives of Blogging, he said that one should “Keep in mind that your writing lives on in the web, and that it can be resurrected at a later date to embarrass you or even cost you your job! So be careful when you blog, and don’t write anything you wouldn’t want your mother, your kids or your boss to read!” In other words, we as teachers, need to teach students how to post with informed thoughtfulness and with least potential for future repercussions.
However, completely avoiding the sharing of information from schools could be detrimental for students in the long run. Those students who are emerging from their school years with a functional capacity to post ethically because it has been modelled for them is an essential condition of our education system today. Further, those students who emerge with a positive digital footprint already created with them as a result of their school experiences, will have an advantage over their peers who have remained out of the technological world. Employers will be able to access a more longitudinal understanding of their potential employees.
Therefore, to twist the statement to our favour, I would like to end with this thought:
It is UNFAIR to our students, families and their futures to avoid ethically sharing with technology in schools.