Question Week 1: Based on this week’s reading Character Education for the Digital Age by Jason Ohler and your own research and experience: What distinguishes the “two lives” that today’s students lead? What are the challenges and opportunities in blending them?
This is my online image and I use it everywhere. Being a global citizen allows for incredible freedom but also peril and I need to be very aware of what my digital footprint – my virtual self- becomes and leaves behind.
As a primary school teacher who uses technology a lot in the projects I deliver digital citizenship is paramount and it is when I am working with my students in various virtual spaces that teaching moral and ethical reasoning (Good Play) regarding digital tech becomes authentic. I can’t teach it as a separate entity as I believe it holds no real value but when my students are working together in MinecraftEdu for instance, they begin to think morally i.e. “was that the right thing to do-stealing Sam’s redstone?” Dr Bronwyn Stuckey writes about a ‘lived curriculum’ stating that “Stuff happens, new information is coming in moment by moment, and learning happens on the fly” (Stuckey, 2013). Students and I develop the charters together and really try to nut out what it means to be a digital citizen whilst also recognising how blurred the lines can become. We aren’t perfect but we are learning – together. The culture is changing and with the introduction of a national curriculum in Australia, educators and students are now being asked to take on greater responsibility regarding their use of ICT and its social impact: ACARA ICT ‘Social and ethical protocols when using ICT’ general capability outcomes.
I consider my students to have one life. An integrated life. I don’t see even myself as leading two lives – my digital being separate from my ‘unplugged’ life (Ohler, 2011). My life and that of my students is a fluid motion navigating along and through the day. I think for many the issue is balance as being so connected can also create a sense of always being switched on- it’s very tiring! Being able to find that balance and teach students how to differentiate between what is important and what you can switch off or ignore is a difficult one. Jason Ohler writes further that “The thing that binds us to our ancestors is that both ancient and digital age humans crave community” (Ohler, 2011 p.2/4). That said, I noticed over the summer break (Southern Hemisphere) that many of my Twitter PLN (including myself) signed out for a number of weeks. Facebook is deactivated and life becomes simple and quiet. I makes me remember a scene from a Superman movie where Superman needs to fly into space to seek solitude as lower down all he can hear is Earth’s people crying out in pain and for help – it is never ending.
The challenges in blending the two lives for me personally isn’t challenging but within my school system that still has an Intranet and blocks so many sites for students, to shift this culture is difficult. Though, slowly the department is shifting as more and more teachers request sites to be unblocked and create projects that show rich digital learning opportunities for students that also foster meaningful global connections. Fortuitously, after writing this response I have to create a new whole school blog for one of my principals. He has much experience with them and is excited by the prospect (I developed a blog at his previous school for him: CHPS) but a passing comment by another staff member really caught me out. The staff member questioned the reasoning for development of a school blog and that students images would be on it. This made me reflect that if you go onto the official school website (accessible to the world) anyone is able to download current newsletters that exhibits the poorest form of digital citizenship imaginable. The information available is frighting in my opinion. Therefore, it is the culture and lack of understanding of the tools available that can lead to lack of implementation. My job is to exhibit best practice and be the change-maker for this school regarding best use of digital citizenship practices. My students will help me through the journey as ownership for them also is key.