Are most teenagers inherently wired to seek out and use the internet for good? Absolutely not. Would I have harnessed the amazing connectivity and community-building power of the internet, had smart phones and tablets been prevalent while I was in high school in the late 1990s? Probably not, especially if I didn’t have a teacher or mentor help explain the consequences–both good and bad–of my online activity.
One major flaw of the new Common Core standards is the digital literacy gap.
Most school curriculums, including the new Common Core standards, foolishly ignore the critical conversations and lessons about how and why we use technology. Today, I conducted a lesson on digital footprints with one of my classes. We googled names, found easy access to offensive student Twitter accounts full of foul language and racy pictures, and discussed what it means to have incongruent online and offline identities. Most students hadn’t considered the issue at all. They were engaged, and some even immediately accessed their social media accounts to change the privacy settings.
I’ve decided that each Monday I will step away from digital storytelling projects in order to challenge students’ notions about crap detection, attention, and participation, among other ideas, which are all tips from Howard Rheingold’s illuminating book Net Smart: How to Thrive Online.
If we want students to utilize Twitter to curate information from experts on topics they are interested in, instead of simply trash talking and sharing mundane details of their daily lives, then we have to show them how. If we want students to utilize Google Drive and other cloud-based services as one strategy to avoid forgetting flash drives and assignments at home, then we have to show them how to sign up and use various accounts. If we complain about students writing with incorrect grammar, but don’t acknowledge the world of Textspeak and its influence, then we must conduct lessons on code switching.
In the rush to inundate our lives and schools with gadgets and 21st Century Technology, we are lacking the same urgency to teach critical digital media skills, mindsets, and ethical use. As a result, there are too many students who are currently graduating, becoming embodiments of David Bowden’s words, and it’s not necessarily their fault.
But so often
We use this tool to ignore them
And the rest of those humans
For just as fire can be used for warmth or destruction
We misuse url’s, firewalling off the world with distractions
We search daily, but find nothing
Add friends, but loose community
Look for love but get pornography
Try to discover ourselves, but loose our identity
What do you think of “The Inner Net”? Do you agree or disagree about the importance of critical discussion about technology in schools? How would you assess your own use of technology? Whose job, if anybody’s, should it be to teach critical digital literacy skills? What do you wish you knew how to do? What projects inspire, or have inspired you, to try out a new use of digital technology or communication?