A wormhole is a theoretical passage through space-time that could create shortcuts for long journeys across the universe. Wormholes are predicted by the theory of general relativity. But be wary: wormholes bring with them the dangers of sudden collapse, high radiation and dangerous contact with exotic matter. -space.com
loophole. /ˈluːpˌhəʊl/ noun. 1. an ambiguity, omission, etc, as in a law, by which one can avoid a penalty or responsibility. -dictionary.com
While I am no scientist, I start with these two terms as I feel they describe the conundrum that is....
In the Technology Departments of many a school district, there are plenty of ideas and theories about what we can do to protect kids, but what about what we need to do?Blocking websites instead of having a conversation or classroom management is a temporary solution and teaches our children absolutely nothing about Internet safety, but plenty about finding ways around the rules. We often unintentionally create loopholes - students find them, quite literally, as they seek ways around our filters or around the explicit don'ts we put in place. I'd also like to point out that we as adults take advantage of loopholes by using the stringent filter to stand in place of instruction on how to navigate the vast sea that is the interwebs.
When it comes to social media - we teach about it, and tell them what NOT to do - but do we talk about what TO do? What to do to move forward if they "mess up"? What to do when they need to report something? When to even do that - so many don't know this is an option! How to make the positive drown out the negative. I prefer to think of this digital citizenship journey as more of a wormhole. Intentional instruction can "create shortcuts for long journeys" our students have to take...like life and a career path. There is so much to process that it makes us feel like sudden collapse is imminent and the dangerous contact - when wormholes go wrong - could be disastrous.
As a new school year gets underway, it's THAT time again. That's right, it's time for "the talk"....the one no one wants to have with their students. No, not that one. That's for the parents. The conversation I'm talking about is on digital citizenship. Theoretically, this one could be covered by parents, too. In many homes, it is. Sadly there are too many homes where it isn't.
It's not a difficult concept to get - the premise is rather simple: use common sense, be honest, and be kind. Unfortunately, those are superpowers these days.
But Digital Citizenship - the kind you capitalize as a title - is so much more than those simple precepts. Today's responsible digital citizen needs to be savvy. They need to be able to find reliable information and discern the fact from the bias - notice I didn't say fiction - that is surprisingly the easiest to spot or at least it's easier for holders of opposing viewpoints to agree on what is total crap. The lines that separate fact and biased information are often blurry.
Recently, our superintendent decided we needed to have a digital citizenship course for all middle school students. Last year, we began the endeavor to implement that. So I created a shell of sorts. Then I, along with our CTO, had a meeting with all middle school administrators. One thing that they asked for - a course for all teachers! Knowing that was a GREAT idea, but one that would be possibly met with resistance, I worked with the on-site Instructional Technology Facilitators (ITFs) to create unique plans of delivery for each site that included a teacher component. Thankfully, our state was working on a change to the license renewal process that included digital learning competencies - digital citizenship is one of the core areas covered - so teacher buy in was not going to be that hard.
So over the course of last school year, my amazing group of ITFs came up with different, yet amazingly brilliant, delivery plans. In some schools, the school library media coordinator (SLMC) and the guidance counselor joined the team. Some schools have added a parent night to talk about what parents can do to be more aware of students' social media activity. Other schools communicate parent resources via newsletters, their websites and Facebook pages. Each iteration of this "course" change to meet the needs of the school communities - and that is a great thing!
This year, we grow. The ITFs are already thinking of ways to add to the content. This lesson or that lesson needed a bit more....and they have ideas! I can't wait until our meeting in early October!