On Tuesday May 26th I gave my Student Digital Citizenship presentation to the grade 6-10's (the 11 and 12's were at work experience so they will have the presentation another day). The assembly began with the administration detailing our school's new Student Computer and Internet Use Policy. They did a great job describing it and relating back to our moral intelligences. The students were given each a copy of the policy, which gave them the ability to look through the policy and ask any questions that they may have had - getting their input was a good idea. Then it was over to me and my spiel about everything from Internet safety, cyberbullying to critical thinking, responsibility and ownership.
I began on a fairly light note, stating how many of the tools we see and use online can be useful and productive, and how these technologies are being utilized in some other schools and school divisions in Saskatchewan. I thought that keeping a local focus would help the students relate better to the idea of how technology can be implemented in their classrooms as useful tools. I showed the funny medieval help desk video, then went into how technology is being used in Prairie South School Division from the youtube video that Dean Shareski posted (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZVfsNMH3XI). I know it is not the 2008 video he posted but this one was shorter and focused enough on what was needed for this presentation. It is likely that my students and staff will eventually see the 2008 video because it is obviously more relevant. The students were shown some of the great ideas and innovative lessons that can be done with the help of technology in the classroom.
I then say to the students that along with the use of technology comes the concerns of Internet safety. With safety in real life as an issue we discuss, the concept of Internet safety should not be any different. It should be and will be something that we will talk about more and more as should be done with the ever-changing technology. I talked about how many of the seemingly innocent and fun websites and especially social networking sites can be a breeding ground of indiscretion and issues waiting to happen. Posting pictures, adding new friends, talking about other people in email, posting comments, etc. these are things that students encounter almost every day on the Internet, and they need to be aware of what to do when they get into situations and what to do when it happens to them. I talked about being critical thinkers; if when you are writing an essay that you only use the first 2 hits on Google, copy/paste and only re-word the sentences, that you are not going to learn what your teacher is hoping for. An essay is not only about the writing format, but the content it involves. You are supposed to be an expert on your topic you write about, be a critical thinker and know what you are talking about when all is said and done! Plagiarism is a serious offence and why people choose to plagiarize is important to recognize. Being lazy is one of the main reasons, and students need to take extra time to make sure that their own reputation is kept in tact by not plagiarizing their work. If your name goes on it, it better be your own work, from your own thoughts. (Hopefully my speech will help keep this type of stuff from happening...)
Some students started laughing during a few of the cyberbullying videos and my teacher-mode broke in, wanting to get mad at them for laughing at a serious topic; but then I thought about it for a minute and realized something. Not only was it a certain few, not only was it mostly from one grade level, but I realized something more significant about this situation. After the video was over, I turned to them and said 'Your laughing is inappropriate, but I get it. It makes you uncomfortable. It is a reaction that can happen when you are nervous or when the subject matter hits home, but I want you to think about how your laughing could affect everyone else in this room. If you are uncomfortable, then maybe some time needs to be given to think about why you are uncomfortable watching these videos.' I gave the teacher 'wait time' and they stopped laughing after that. Many of them put their heads down. I finally hit home. It was a moment of truth for them, and I was glad to see that these videos and this type of presentation could make an impact. It took someone bringing it straight to their faces for them to realize a few points. We can blabber to them during class about these things but it is in these moments that we can make a difference. If my presentation, these videos or my speeches that can help shape my students then my purpose is being fulfilled.
I ended with how this policy, as related to our moral intelligences, may seem restrictive but that nothing is ever off limits in a classroom learning experience. With teacher directed learning, students will never be restricted from learning with using these tools.
I say that "The key thing is that we are all in a school together, and we need to understand that certain items are obviously not school appropriate, and therefore, should not be viewed or accessed from school...As you know, it is always your best option to be up-front with your teachers and be honest about what you are doing when you are using computers...Your teacher will be the guide and you the explorer. Keep the lines of communication open with your teachers and remember that safety and responsibility is the first step in becoming a true digital technology citizen."
All in all? A big success. Needed more time, but don't I always say that?? Ha, Ha!