1. Phil, excellent review of educational collaboration and teachable moments! I totally agree with you and empathize your concerns. Making mistakes is human, being allowed to do this in a controlled educational environment is an opportunity to develop the thing called ‘digital citizenship’ and to foster a heightened awareness of being a responsible online learner.
    Vicki and I have been doing these projects for 2 years now but it always amazes me that students have such power and conviction when they are given a voice. They also can make their own decisions, ones that we approve, when given a chance. It’s great to have you and your students in the Digiteen project!

  2. This is what I like about what happened — it happened with a teacher present – both online and in person and we were able to teach and coach so that the students now have a clearer understanding of online behavior. It was a very emotional and impactful learning experience.

    This is the sort of thing we have to do in education. Of course, if these students had access to private chat rooms for their classes at a younger age, I doubt it would have happened now.

    I think we should work to get these tools at a young age in private settings so that students can learn the proper way to use these tools in safe places, rather than in the big Internet out there where there are friends and enemies.

    Sometimes students don’t know better and if they aren’t taught — how will they know? Certainly most student’s parents don’t know netiquette and appropriate behavior and the Internet isn’t going to be disappearing any time soon!

  3. I agree Vicki. I am using Think.com in grades 6 and 7 to try and encourage these skills. Every year in grade 6 we discuss appropriate online behaviour and the difference between personal and private information. Then I give them their Think.com accounts and carefully monitor the chat for a few days. Invariably someone does something they shouldn’t and that then becomes the focal point of a class discussion. After that they are usually very good about how they use the chat feature.

  4. I have been interested in eLearning and technology in the classroom for the past 8 years or so and in the past 2 or 3 years Web 2 technologies have been my focus. In fact I would say that more than anything else it has influenced and inspired my teaching and my personal learning that I do with students and teachers. It is a passion. But this year there are two experiences that I have had already that are going to make a huge difference to the work that I do from now on. The first experience was earlier this year when we joined up our students in Grade 3/4 and 5/6 to a site called SuperClubs Plus. It’s a safe contained social and educational network for children aged from 6 -12. The kids can do almost all of the things they can do in a social network like creating their own page, emailing each other, participating in groups and clubs. They earn stars and the first star that they have to get is the safety star which teaches them about internet safety. But the most powerful thing is that there is a trained moderator who is online whenever the site is live and everything that kids say in forums, email or write goes past the moderator’s eyes. And it really works. If a child inadvertently breaches a rule that compromises their safety, for example, they will get an immediate response from the mediator. and the message or email is blocked and the student is emailed with a reminder. And generally a reminder is all it takes. For those kids who ignore those prompts the moderator contacts the managing teacher at the school. This has happened once here at my school and it was a very powerful message to the particular student as he soon learned that this is really important.

    And the second experience is the Digiteen project. It has opened my eyes up to what we can do as teachers to empower ourselves and our students to be safe and smart about the internet. I would be the first to admit that I sometimes viewed the issue of safety and online awareness as in the too hard basket. And I observed time and again my students breaching copyright, downloading or bringing to school inappropriate material (despite sites being blocked), giving too much personal information away, thinking that they were being safe and smart about internet use when they weren’t. But I also had a bit of a fatalist attitude in that I knew that even though I might challenge students, ask them to delete things, block certain sites, it was a losing battle because they would always find a way around it. And to a certain extent I still think that. But what is so powerful about the Digiteen project and others like it is that it creates an opportunity for our students to have this conversation with us and to build this into our daily interaction with the internet.It lets our kids make mistakes as our students in Australia did, to communicate with and learn from others who are experiencing the same issues and at the same time research and learn about so many of the issues that are going to affect them now and as they mature.

    I am very grateful to you Phil for being ‘brave’ enough to join in the chat with our students. We had another talk with them yesterday and I believe that this whole experience is truly making a real difference in their understandings and future behaviours.

  5. Melissa Robertson

    Phil, Vickie, Julie, and Anne:

    I am so grateful to be working with you on this project. I am glad the citizenship portion of the project is taking off. Truth be told, my students were a little put off by the lack of focus some students were displaying on the Ning. We’ve had several interesting conversations about how people act online – they are beginning to realize that what they say does make a difference, that essentially the Web is public and that they need to think about how they represent themselves. I am so excited about that because for the last few years I feel like I’ve had a hard time conveying this message effectively. This is the first time that I feel like they really get it. On top of that, I hear them talking about it at lunch and inadvertently educating their friends about digital citizenship. So cool.

    Yesterday my students and i talked about how they can help generate meaningful conversation on the Ning by asking good, open questions, voluntarily conversing with others even if no one has responded to them yet. These are all skills that take a decent amount of guidance and I can’t think of a better vehicle than digiteen.

    Speaking of cool…Phil, way to get in on the chats. Excellent job.

    It all about being safe AND smart. Thanks, Anne.

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