I Believe… Don't. Do. (Internet Safety, Part 2)

I believe students have something important to say.

I believe they speak and make an impact on the world.

I believe they create work that endures.

I believe they make meaningful connections online.

I believe they need ownership of their digital footprint.

I believe that using a pseudonym online negates these statements.

Therefore, I believe that students should use their name when building an online presence.

photo credit: Tallent Show

Shocking, I know. School is starting back up here in the US, along with a host of posts from teachers warning children not to ever share personal information in their blogs. Don’t use your name. Don’t say your school name. Don’t talk about where you live. Don’t say what books you read. Don’t say what kind of toothpaste you use. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t.


Do. Do share your name. Do own every single thing you say online. Do edit those words so you can be proud of them. Do be aware that people around the world- and down the street- know you are a kid. Do be safe around strangers- even if they know your favorite book or pet or your name- they are still strangers and you should treat them as such. Do build connections with friends.  Do understand that people around the world can find you- you are not invisible. Do talk about the wonderful things in your geographic area so others can learn from you. Do remember that your grandparents and future employers can see your work. Do, do, do.

(Freaking out yet? Take a look at my previous foray into this topic for some background…. Nameless, Faceless Children.)

I know this mentality presents some challenges and causes some discomfort. I’m sure teachers around the globe will be pointing out how ‘dangerous’ my students are online because they are using their full names (with parental permission). And posting photos. And recording audio. And video. They will be held up as an example of what not to do when blogging, especially in a format like the Student Blogging Challenge held by Edublogs several times a year. Teachers will shake their heads at how irresponsible I am as a teacher. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

Meanwhile, we will build a digital portfolio we are proud to own. We will make global connections that will last for years and change our lives. We will understand that there is no such thing as anonymity online, and that we are traceable. We will prepare for colleges and employers to search for us online… and when they do? Oh, what a presence they’ll find!

I believe that students should use their name when building an online presence.

I believe students have something important to say.

I believe.

What do you believe?

Digital Launch Pads for Students

Surprisingly, most of them don’t have a web presence that they are claiming. This semester, we start building their ‘brand’ online… the one they want their connections, future colleges, and employers of choice to view.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Undertow851

I am struggling with the order of introducing new technology platforms to the high school students this fall.  Which comes first? Edmodo? (Yes, because it will facilitate the others.) What about everything else? Google Apps? NoodleTools? Pintrest? Diigo? Twitter?

So, I did what anyone would do…. I Googled my students. Refined searches. And guess what?  Next to nothing.

Either I have some amazingly privacy savvy high schoolers or I have a group of students who have been very digitally sheltered. Or Google is hiding things from me again. I have a few 100+ year old students, one living in Never Land, several with funny names… most were trying to ‘cover themselves’, but didn’t realize their real name was still associated with those things online.

Surprisingly, most of them do not have a negative web presence. This semester, we start building their positive ‘brand’ online… the one they want their connections, future colleges, and employers of choice to view.

At Reform Symposium last weekend, Alec Couros @courosa shared a site called About.Me that allows you to build a ‘personal profile page that points to your content from around the web.’ ((http://about.me))  In a few weeks, we begin there- after some initial work on digital footprint. ((Story to follow… waiting to see how my ideas play out first!)) Purposefully building a digital launch pad that increases their footprint and that can point to their other online content. I am hopeful that this connectedness will help them catch a vison for their future… whether they are headed for the stars or staying more earth-bound with the rest of us.

As for me, my launchpad is done. ((I even ordered the business cards they offered from Moo.com.  I’ll let you know what I think of those in a few weeks.))

Unplugging Edmodo

plugoutletLast week, I had to email and request that Edmodo turn off our school installation by my administrator’s request because of some student conduct issues and parental concerns. I want to be very clear in saying that I think the platform itself is amazing- the folks at Edmodo get it. They are an amazing support resource. Special kudos here go to Ben Wilkoff @bhwilkoff for his support and help during this process.  Ultimately, my building was not ready for this.  Period.

The biggest concerns centered around the lack of moderation prior to posting in the micro-blogging platform, and the ability for students to share links/videos to outside sources.  My response? Uhmmm…. yeah… isn’t that what we want to be teaching students?  That what they say has permanence- Google never forgets… BEFORE they hit Facebook and are totally unsupervised?  And yes, that sharing links and videos is a great privilege and responsibility…. the best internet filter is the human filter.  ((Right, monika?  @monk51295)) The ISTE NETS*S center around online collaboration and sharing.  For me, the primary purpose of using technology is to learn from and collaborate with others.

Are the students ready?  Yes.  Are they going to mess up?  Yes.  Will we have discipline issues? Yes.  Should we just deal with those like we do the equivalent action face to face?  Yes.  Are we going to stop them from using social media? No. They use this stuff- my kids access the internet from their DS, Kindle, and iTouch devices.  It’s not like turning off Edmodo is stopping them from interacting.

Are the parents ready? Nope. No way.  Uh-nuh. This is a huge issue.  Which is a sobering thing when you have students heading into middle school, and an overwhelming number of kids who are already using Facebook, email, text messaging, etc.  If parents are not actively helping their students navigate the digital world… well, that way be dragons.

I’ve heard it said in the discussions around this topic that these are adult privileges and for adults.  Not kids.  They’re too little to use the internet.  They can’t handle this.  Let them be kids.  This really bothers me because I strongly disagree.  I think the internet is as much for children as for adults.  I think it is an unparalleled learning tool, and age really doesn’t have anything to do with it.  The problem is that no one is educating these kids on how to really be good digital citizens in practical ways. Sure, we march them through the iSafe curriculum with the little coloring books on “My computer is sick” about viruses…. but we’re not preparing them for the social media world they live in.  It bugs me.

The biggest lesson I learned in using this tool was how unsupervised students are when using the internet at home.  It’s actually rather frightening to see how late some of my students- and we’re talking 3rd-5th graders- were using the internet, and how long they were online. ((This is where my own parenting bias comes into play- my kids are allowed a lot of freedom online, but they also know they must ask before going places we haven’t already approved.)) I was also very surprised that parents viewed their children’s online conduct AT HOME as somehow the school’s concern.  If this is a universal view, public schools are really going to have to step it up in terms of authentic digital citizenship instruction.

Rather than leave you on that frustrated-technology-teacher note, I wanted to share the beautiful things I saw during our 2 months of Edmodo use. Here are some great uses I witnessed with my students:

  • Students who were sick at home asking other students about homework for the next day.
  • Students sharing video links that related to class content.
  • Students learning to use discussion appropriately.
  • Students learned that what you say online can get you in trouble in real-life at school.
  • Students sharing Scratch games/videos they had created.
  • Students policing their own online community- discouraging bad behavior, reporting inappropriate stuff directly to a teacher.
  • Students learning to download, upload.
  • Students learning to filter their digital content.
  • Students having a productive discussion about something they noticed in a video.
  • Students sharing their recent blog posts.
  • Students really understanding images and copyright, and making decisions accordingly.
  • Students answering each others questions on how to complete assignments.
  • The list could go on and on….

[Read my post on Preparing for Edmodo: The Early Years to learn about what I did to prepare students.]

Photo: Unplugged by rogue3w on Flickr