This week’s debate really made me think. I started somewhere in the middle; on one side, sharing is a fantastic opportunity for our students to learn important practices, share their accomplishments, and interact with other like-minded people around the globe. On the other hand, sharing can create a lot of issues with privacy, as well as cyber-bullying and consent to use specific photos posted online. This dynamic created a lot of debate in our class this week, and honestly a lot of debate in my own head.
Whenever the ideas of privacy laws and practices come up, it can be a very controversial and scary idea. What if what we post is wrong? What if we get in trouble? Can I lose my job for this? There are no shortage of horror stories out there to scare teachers into never posting a single thing on the internet again; class or non-class related. I too, often think and rethink what I share online about my students, which to be honest is very limited. Beyond team, athletic, and grad photos, I hardly post about my students online. Everything remains nameless and it is almost always acelebration of accomplishments.
I think the biggest struggle I had with this week’s debate was a lot of the focus was on the
elementary stand-point and teaching young students how to be responsible online. What should you post? What shouldn’t you post? A lot of conversations circled around the idea of parents being super involved with their child’s tech use and also the teacher overseeing the practices. Seesaw, I’ve learned, is a great tool to engage parents and create important conversations with kids at home. This technology is awesome because it can often bridge the gap between school and home life. However, there is the down side of over-involvement of parents and the idea of “helicoptering.” In fact, Robyn Treyvaud states in her article, Dangers of Posting Pictures Online, that “more than 1 in 4 children admit to feeling worried, embarrassed, or anxious when their parents post photos of them on social media,” which goes beyond the idea of hovering or helicoptering. I know many of my friends are having children right now and seriously, the amount of “baby spam” I see in a day is ridiculous and the consequences can be even more serious! It’s something I don’t think my generation really understands, making it even more important for the next generation to comprehend! What parents post, even at a very young age, can affect a child’s mental health later on in life? It begs the questions, do you want the whole world to see a baby photo of you?
I think both sides of the debate did a fantastic job of making their case! When it comes to my world in a high school, photos, technology and phones are everywhere. We even have a school Snapchat and Instagram account run by the Spirit Committee, run by a couple of awesome teachers! My students are on their phones constantly; I use Remind 101 to contact students and my athletes for various things like deadlines, practice changes, or just general reminders for the next day. It allows my students to connect me as well without directly having my phone number. I also use Google Classroom for all the students’ homework, assignments, deadlines, and I also used it for Track and Field this year – creating an online platform for athletes to access permission forms, schedules, dates, and results. It worked fantastically and never thought twice about using these online platforms with my students. However, everything I use and do online is “private.” I’m not sharing student photos to the internet, not posting on Twitter about our interactive activities, and although I feel my students are safe because of this, maybe I’m not properly preparing them for the online world?
I feel like it is my responsibility to help teach and guide my students through this online world they have become accustomed to. I loved Amy’s point this week: “We need to stop
telling students how to live, but instead empower them to make the correct decisions regarding technology. We want students who use their powers for good, we do not want passive students. Teachers can have an influence.” I think especially at the high school
level, students need to be empowered and use technology for good, like Amy said, instead of being the passive “likers” online.
Randi Zuckerberg stated in his article that, “technology and the world around us is evolving so quickly that even children a few years apart may experience two very different forms of childhood.” And I think this couldn’t be more true. I know my childhood was vastly different than kids today and even looking at my current students. I graduated high school nine years ago, and THINGS HAVE CHANGED. EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED! I think it’s important that we don’t shut down these differences and instead we embrace them, because if we don’t, they we run the risk of not helping our students be successful in the outside world. Their world is online, and it will continue to be for the rest of their lives. They need to learn how to adapt and post appropriately online and protect themselves. It lends itself to the idea that we cannot protect our students by banning the internet or posting pictures online because what is that teaching them? They will rebel, and in turn post inappropriately online because they were never taught, nor was it modeled for them.
I think digital literacy and creating a positive digital footprint is incredibly important for students. What is the first thing their employer will do? Google them. What is the first thing someone just getting to know them will do? Google them. They need to understand that their online identity will exist online whether they want it to or not. If they do not create it for themselves, and twist it into the story they want to tell, someone else will tell the story for them. I think once students understand this concept, the rest becomes more simple than we think.
It becomes about education, about what they want a future spouse, family, employer, etc. to see online. There are many dangers to the online world, but the opportunities and positives far outweigh these negatives. “Students are, for the most part, growing up in this digital world without any explicit or universally adopted rules about how to behave, and there is little guidance available to adults. As our digital connections and interactions grow, the lines between our education and personal lives, our career and private activities, become blurred” (EdTek White Paper, 1) and it is our job to help advocate for ourselves and for our students online. I know after this week, I am going to try to be more involved with their online world and help my students navigate it. I feel as though it is my responsibility as an educator to do this much for them and prepare them for their future, and their online portfolio that is all their own and no one else’s.