Thursday, August 2, 2007

Teaching Netizens

As I read through my aggregated blogs each morning, every now and then I am re-amazed at the incredible tool we have in the Read/Write Web. In the old days, if I wanted to immerse myself in the best educational thinkers, I'd have to spend a small fortune to subscribe to magazines or buy books and read them in a one-way conversation. Now, however, I not only read them from my desktop on a daily basis, I'm engaged in the conversation through comments and my own blog posts. And to say it's not kind of a thrill (and intensely motivating) when David Warlick or Doug Johnson or Joyce Valenza posts on my blog would be less than truthful!

The comment eliciting that effusion came from Ewan McIntosh this morning in the comments section:

If we want independent learners, however, and responsible citizens we need to teach children how to navigate and cope with this creep of inappropriate material, let *them* learn how to deal with it.

I think our duty of protection stretches further than what you suggest. Our duty of protection stretches beyond the school career and into the citizenship of every child. If you haven't learnt how to navigate the appropriate and inappropriate on the web how on earth can you declare yourself fit for 21st Century citizenship?

This is profound in its simplicity. Students rise (or sink) to our level of expectation. The foul language and inappropriate comments on many of the social networking sites come, to some extent, because we haven't taught them any differently, and HAVE taught them that that's what we expect from them on these sites. In the past we spent prodigious amounts of time teaching students to navigate their real-time social networks: how to cope with bullies, sexual harassment, what it means to be a responsible citizen. Can we do any less in the digital world?

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