Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Peering inside the Cyber-Savvy World

This came across my email today at school via an English teacher, Christine. She shared a review of the new video from PBS Frontline called 'Growing Up Online', to be released today. From the Frontline website the promo for the video states:

"MySpace. YouTube. Facebook. Friendster. Nearly every teen in America is on the Internet every day, socializing with friends and strangers alike, "trying on" identities, and building a virtual profile of themselves--one that many kids insist is a more honest depiction of who they really are than the person they portray at home or in school.

In Growing Up Online, FRONTLINE peers inside the world of this cyber-savvy generation through the eyes of teens and their parents, who often find themselves on opposite sides of a new digital divide. A generation with a radically different notion of privacy and personal space, today's adolescents are grappling with issues their parents never had to deal with: from cyber bullying to instant "Internet fame," to the specter of online sexual predators.
FRONTLINE producer Rachel Dretzin investigates the risks, realities, and misconceptions of teenage self-expression on the World Wide Web."

In her email Christine says, ".....its extreme pertinence should be shared with you as well. I have been grappling for about five years now, how to compete with the internet. But there is no competition – instead of competing or defeating, we need to look at teaching our students the pros and cons and how to be intelligent, savvy users… perhaps this is a more important skill, especially in middle school, than how to use various programs.

So how do I change and adapt my own teaching? I struggle with this as the generation I teach has left me far, far behind in their mentality about the use of the internet."

Well! As Head of IT at Qatar Academy, here is my initial response -

"What is happening here is the changing shape of information and this should be a concern of all educators. This is why we need a change in mindset for QA (and all schools) to change teaching methods and adapt to the needs of the emerging ‘digital natives’ (Prensky)

I am reading ‘Everything is Miscellaneous’ (Weinberger) and Wikinomics (Tapscott) and these books talk about impact of the digital world and the exciting potentials of online communication and collaboration using Web 2.0 tools. Tapscott refers to them as ‘weapons of mass collaboration’!

So, how can you change and adapt your teaching? We need to work together as a school, we need to allocate time so that teachers can adopt new tools and methods, we need time for conversation and reflection, we need to showcase best practice use of tools already in the school and learn from each others experiences, we need to bring into the school experts to complement our existing expertise and support and inspire teachers further, we need to have ownership of change as we move to the next level and turn QA into a school of the 21st century by encouraging input from all teachers and holding their hand.

The change that will have to come to all schools is inevitable. Already we have global collaborative projects, we have students exploring digital citizenship issues and ideals, we have students and teachers developing online spaces for curriculum support, interaction and discussion. What we need is a more interdisciplinary approach (very MYP), and a willingness from administration to want to make this happen sooner rather than later.

We are already on the right track. We are assessing readiness and moving ahead with determining goals for online learning in conjunction with mobile computing.

The biggest change that needs to happen is for educators to stop pigeon-holing ‘technology’ as removed or alien or separate to learning. This is a crucial step everyone must make for us to move on as a school. And yes, we do need to come to terms with a non-application approach to digital literacy.

If nothing else the video from Frontline has fostered some interesting communication and discussion amongst colleagues. I hope the actual video lives up to expectations and provides some insight into how educators can merge with the cyber-savvy world in a positive and embracive way.

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1 comment:

Dietrich May said...

That is very exciting that PBS is doing a full story on this. Hopefully they cover a lot about how it will be a large advantage to incorporate technology into the classroom. It always makes a class more interesting when the teacher tries to use technology that students use on an everyday basis. When my professors pull up youtube videos to try and help incorporate things we relate with in the lesson it makes the students feel that much more compelled to learn.
The only thing I would be worried about when people view this is that they will only pay attention to the negative aspects of this technology instead of how it can help change the classroom.