Digital Citizenship

Thinking about our internet safety curriculum…like so many others, I don’t like the emphasis on “safety” that this title entails. To me, “internet safety” implies that the internet is so frought with dangers that we must go to great lengths to innoculate our kids! As I believe Nancy Willard’s work suggests, our students don’t set out to do dangerous things on the internet, and child predators are not victimizing huge masses of children engaged in everyday activities. As mentioned on EdTech Weekly this week (was it John Schinker who said it?) bad stuff happens on the internet to people who engage in dumb (or risky) behavior.

I think our focus needs to be on giving students the tools to act responsibly when they’re using any technology. Prevention, training and making wise choices should be at the root of our message. “Internet safety” leaves out the most vital concept of the curriculum: citizenship!

So, in that mindset, I’ve decided to minimize my use of the term as I work with my students. I’m going to emphasize citizenship. Great message on this historical election day, eh?

Here’s a wordle I came up with to use:


Blocked Bytes Week

This week, Doug Johnson (Blue Skunk Blog) called for an addition to Banned Books Week. He states:

if we are truly committed to “Freedom to Read” what we really need is…Blocked Bytes Week

How true! I guess that’s why he’s Doug Johnson!
As are many (if not most) American K-12 educators, I am continually frustrated by filtering in my district–although it has gotten better this year, admittedly. We’re lucky in that fact, I suppose.

I just wonder how it is that we’re supposed to guide students and foster good cyber-citizenship in them if we are blocked from the “teachable moments.” A related example of this is a statement made by my principal in a school-wide professional development session before this school year started. She stated that there is no reason to ever exchange an email with a student. Her takeaway from district administrative training was that exchanging email is so inherently frought with dangers that teachers should never take that chance. She said if a student emails a teacher, that teacher should call them on the phone and talk to the parents and then talk to the student. While I am relatively certain that this was not the intent of the district educational technology leadership, it was, nevertheless, how she interpretted policy. Oh my. We have spent millions of dollars on technology in this district, have a particularly well-respected leader in the district ed-tech department, and principals still come away with misconceptions like that. No amount of talking will change her mind, because she is blinded by the idea that inappropriate things might be said in email and that might put both students and teachers at risk. Period. It made me sad and frustrated to hear that.

Thanks Doug Johnson, for fighting for freedom along with us! Reading freely and exploring ideas, both in print and digital form, are cornerstones of democracy and freedom.

No Sharpies for You!

I know I’m a little slow on the uptake, since this incident is almost a month old, but I just had to comment on this story from Adams School District 50 in Colorado. Apparently an 8-year-old boy used a Sharpie marker to color on his sweatshirt and then continually smelled the spot. His elementary school principal, Chris Benisch, in an effort to make a definitive stand against inhalant abuse, or “huffing,” suspended him for 3 days. The school district initially backed Benisch, but later the suspension was reduced to 1 day. In response to the Rocky Mountain Poison Control Center’s statement that Sharpies are nontoxic and can not be used to get high by inhaling, Benisch reportedly still felt that Sharpies are too dangerous for schools. From Colorado’s

‘Wow, that’s a very serious marker,'” Benisch said. Despite the medical evidence, Benisch promised to draw an even clearer line on markers. “We’ve purged every permanent marker there is in this building,” he said.

Wow. When I read this account, it brought to mind the approach of many American school districts to emerging technologies. It seems that it is just more manageable to lock down student Internet use at school rather than finding ways to incorporate safe, constructive use of a global interactive web. So many schools just take the interactive, read/write web away–like the Sharpies–rather than changing school structures and expectations. Rather than teaching students how to use these tools authentically and ethically!

I don’t believe that administrators/school IT departments make the “lock-it-down” decisions that they do most of the time simply because it is the easy decision. I think it is fear of litigation driven by a fundamental lack of understanding about the incredibly positive experiences students can have when schools allow & guide them. Look at the Horizon Project for a great example of students learning globally and collaboratively.

Think what might happen if our kids could use Sharpies and the Internet. Who knows what they might be able to do!

Cyberbullying Guide

On his Blue Skunk Blog, the amazing Doug Johnson has posted Mankato’s new Cyberbullying Guide, which is well worth a look as we’re getting our cyberbullying curriculum going in our district’s libraries. The pdf contains a nice list of cyberbullying resources as well, including quite a few of Nancy Willard‘s resources.

BTW, Web 2.o classmates, if you’re not subscribed to Johnson’s Blue Skunk Blog, you might consider adding it to your Google Reader! I think he’s really one of the important “thinkers” in our field today. Check it out!

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