Our readings this week focused was on Digital citizenship, access, and policy. A shift, but one that turned out to be fruitful in terms of getting me to think about more nuts and bolts of ICT implementation, teaching and coaching.
Digital Equity and Access
The more I read and the more I experience as a student in this grad program, the more I believe the path to better access for students runs through teachers having direct ICT learning experiences themselves. District and school policies, administrator attitudes and priorities, and parent fears and misconceptions all hold their various concerns and possible obstacles. However, the critical juncture ultimately is the teacher who either understands the need for students to have connected learning experiences or does not. For those that do understand, they do all they can to provide those experiences. Continued support and professional learning about is, of course, vital, given the dynamic and ever-changing nature of the internet. However, for those “reluctant” or “traditional” teachers, their understanding needs to be developed. With new knowledge and continued support ought to come a change in instructional behaviors. Most teachers want to do good by their students. But they also feel the need to be experts in their classrooms. So if we provide teachers with their own professional learning experiences that ask them to practice the 4 C’s as learners, they will likely recognize the power of such learning experiences and want to provide the same for their students. In so doing, students have increased, and hopefully better, access.
Digital citizenship and acceptable/responsible use policies our school
It was 2009 when last I had my own classroom. Looking back to that time is instructive given how much has changed in the ensuing 8 years. Our use policy was an AUP since the notion of an RUP didn’t exist yet. Or if it did, no one at our school was privvy to the concept. Students and parents had to sign a form acknowledging that they read, understood and would abide by its terms as well as any consequences for their breach. Additionally, students had to pass a mandatory multiple choice quiz about the AUP’s content with a grade of 80% or better in order to gain access to the school network. (They could take it as many times as they needed to attain the minimum score.) But as Rethinking Acceptable Use Policies to Enable Digital Learning describes it, “[r]equiring students to sign a document indicating they will comply with the district policies may or may not mean that they understand and accept the commitment they are making. A ‘sign off’ could be as casual and thoughtless as the way people sometimes place a check in the accept box on applications or software ‘terms and conditions.'” The quiz was meant for students to do more than merely sign off; but looking back, I don’t think it was significantly more than that. While the large majority of students passed the quiz on the first try, I would surmise that most of them were going for short-term cramming more than long-term understanding. Designing an RUP and the on-boarding process around it today, I would definitely include student voice in its development and some kind of course work to deepen their understanding by applying it in real contexts.
Approaching digital citizenship in your class
Again, going back to 2009, I can see that I definitely focused on what students should not do with technology. That included everything from using the CD drives to play advisory-labeled music, to looking at web sites they shouldn’t be on, to playing games or designing gym shoes instead of doing assignments. (Looking back now, I should have leveraged the creative aspects of those last two examples. But what did I know?) To be fair, though, I was also giving assignments that usually hovered around the substitution level of SAMR and occasionally at the augmentation level. So it’s not likely they saw why doing the work on a computer necessarily mattered to their learning. In other words, their behaviors were, in part, a sign of boredom or low relevance. At the time, we used eChalk, which was as close to an LMS as we got in 2009. Every student account included an email address. So the kinds of citizenship behaviors students demonstrated on a computer were a bit more limited. However, cell phones were another matter. None of my students could afford smartphones, so the most distracting thing they could do with their phones during school was text friends and family. And text they did. Sexting became an issue. At times, fights both in and out of school, would erupt as a result of texting drama. In one instance, we even had parents drawn into texting drama between their children come to the school midday prepared to fight each other. Unfortunately, our reactions in the face of these events were all punitive and centered around confiscating cell phones if they were visible during the school day and then requiring parents to come to the school to pick them up. Repeat “offenders” would get detention.
Needless to say, my approach would be very different today given all the creative, collaborative ways to use phones now. I would certainly identify the ways students need to protect themselves if they find they are in an uncomfortable situation online. But I would focus much more on how to support each other, protect each other, and inform adults when they are in those moments. That’s the doing part instead of the don’t do. It’s no different than teaching kids not to get into a stranger’s car and what to do if they’re approached by someone they don’t know. I would also spend the vast majority of time and energy focusing on all the amazing 4-C’s ways of doing, creating with these devices. A quote by Bryan Alexander has become a favorite of mine and it undergirds my thinking now. “We hit on the web as a major feature of literacy and learning. And that’s a good thing. We didn’t identify a horrible monster. We identified a really powerful platform for human expression and connection, with flaws, with problems. But that’s a major stride forward for the human race.”
Thus, to my way of thinking, we need to mediate the flaws, yes. But we cannot let the flaws completely define how we use the web such that they impede our using it for all the great things we can do online.
Resources, tips and ideas from the week’s readings
What I liked most about this blog was not only examining ones digital footprint and how to create a positive one, but I particularly like the idea of improving one’s digital footprint. When it comes to thinking about our digital footprint, we more often focus on the tattoo aspect in that once you put something into the digital world it’s out there permanently since we can’t control what remains on, say, Google’s servers, or what other people might download and save from our posts. And that’s a lesson that any Internaut needs to understand at the deepest level. However, we can in fact scrub our identities on sites like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. by going through and deleting elements that might not fit with the online persona we wish to present once we have a better understanding of digital citizenship. This is definitely a surface scrub given that we will never know what is saved at deeper levels of cyberspace. However appearances matter. At least anyone who would be looking to manipulate or make judgments about us based on our digital presence would have to work harder to find that ill-considered material as opposed to simply finding it right there on our public social media feeds.
This week’s readings definitely touched on some of the policy matters surrounding the use of ed tech. Not our usual fare in class so far. But that shift toward the practical and legal matters was an interesting shift to get us thinking about a different perspective in regard to this work. It was also instructive for me to compare where we were 8 years ago and how the times and tech require a rethinking about the policies we put in place and how to roll those out to teachers, parents, and of course, our students.