Monday, April 18, 2011

On Taking Ownership of Our Online Life...

As I prepare for an Internet Safety Presentation being offered at my son’s high school, I sit at my desk in thankfulness. I am grateful that my children have been easy to parent, so far. They readily ask me about privacy concerns and have opened their digital lives up for me to peruse and teach. I have not friended them on Facebook® because we all use this social media site for different purposes, but I continually engage them in a conversation surrounding SM, how to use it effectively and why one needs to be aware of its potential and value.
Am I frightened by the ease to which my teens have access to the immediate world at their fingertips? Absolutely! To paraphrase Will Rich,  
If you’re parenting right now and you’re not afraid, then you’re not parenting right now.
However, even in saying this, I refuse to act based on fear, and work at acting on hope, through education. Which brings me back to the presentation this evening and my teaching/learning journey.
As a Kindergarten teacher, when a child entered my classroom never having held a pair of scissors or not knowing how to tie her shoes, I felt it was my responsibility to teach those skills with support and guidance. It was not for me to judge that that child hadn’t been taught those skills at home before coming to school, but to assist in equipping the child with the skills that would be needed as she moved forth in life. 
I feel the same way about preparing a child for entering the Internet and encourage you to ponder David Truss’ words that follow. David can be found at where he provides anyone in need with this available poster. 

We Filter Websites At School!
·        Students will not know what to do when they are at home and they come across malicious or inappropriate websites.
·        Searches may confuse and overwhelm students at home as they will be in unfamiliar territory.
·        While at school students will not be able to use many interesting and exciting websites that they can use at home.
·        At school we will not be able to help students who have issues with social software sites like Facebook.
·        Because we filter websites at school we cannot prepare your child to be net savvy. That responsibility now rests firmly on your shoulders. Good Luck!
~David Truss
Although this has been our education system’s initial way in which to handle frightening movements in society, many within the system are attempting to change that, and for this I am grateful.
With the changes that are rapidly occurring let’s look to the Internet that exists in our hands. The mobile Internet. When I gave my fifteen year old his handheld web device I told him that its secondary feature was that of telephone and set out to teach him the responsibility surrounding this amazing tool.
"The mobile internet . . . will not be just a way to do old things while moving. It will be a way to do things that couldn't be done before." In part because of this, Howard Rheingold then suggests: "A new kind of digital divide ten years from now will separate those who know how to use new media to band together from those who don't." Rheingold wrote this in 2002 and we know that this is becoming a reality in many people’s lives. This causes me to think of the responsibility that befalls parents and educators.  I see the value in teaching our children/students how to utilize these web devices with ease as a tool but also with accountability.  David Parry, Assistant Professor of Emerging Media and Communications at the University of Texas at Dallas, states that for him, “the key piece is recognizing that the mobile computing power in our pockets radically changes not merely our classrooms but, more [importantly], the spaces that students inhabit and the conversations they have outside of our teaching.” He goes on to say that he wants “to teach students to take ownership of this type of change so that they can shape the mobile transformation as much as they are shaped by it.”
       I concur and continue to take ownership in guiding my own children with regard to discerning information, using security features, and knowing that it is a joyous and interesting privilege to have Internet use especially in the palm of their hands. Will they be duped by probable negative forces that exist? Will they often view their handheld device as an expedient way to get a message to a friend? Possibly, but I also hope that they will know of a teacher that they can rely on to demonstrate viable and responsible ways to use these amazing devices, that they will know procedures that they can rely on, that they can always ask me for assistance with the handling of a particular online situation and that they take ownership for their behaviour online.
I am grateful for the conversations I have had with Howard Rheingold, Will Rich, David Truss and others all via twitter and our blogs – stranger friends, as another stranger-friend Annie, would call them, and I invite you to enter into conversation surrounding this most important issue.