A group of teacher leaders were discussing Web 2.0 tools recently. A friend of mine posted this...
Had an interesting interaction today----I had a parent stumble onto a discussion board that is hosted on the main page of the wiki service that I use. This is a page hosted by the wiki company---not something created by my kids. It's also several layers deep in the website---I'm not sure my kids even know it's there. Finally it's a page that I can't "turn off." It's there and it's not going away------but it's got some raunchy sex posts on it that include language that is inappropriate! The parent wants me to close our wiki down. "This is unacceptable," she said. "There should never be a time when my child is exposed to that kind of language or thinking. We need to protect them from this kind of stuff."
So what do you think? Should my students abstain from using our wiki---or the internet---because of the chance that they may (will?) come across inappropriate content? Is the proper decision for me to protect my children from the risky elements of the Internet by not using it and encouraging them to stay away from it until they reach a more responsible "age of consent?" Or is the more realistic/responsible decision to teach children about safe surfing habits and what to do when they come across inappropriate content?
Another interesting question----Does your school/district practice technological abstinence in an attempt to protect children? Do your parents? Your colleagues? What damage--if any--do technological abstinence practices have on children?
I responded with this:
You should do all of the above. Because of CIPA
http://www.ala.org/ala/washoff/WOissues/civilliberties/cipaweb/cipa.htm schools have to protect students from inappropriate content. The easiest way to do that is to filter everything. Lock it all down. But that it is very much like "throwing the baby out with the bath water" or "burying your one talent in the sand to remain safe" isn't it?
John Seely Brown talks about the Web as as a transformative infrastructure which he compares to electrafication. But it can also be compared to another transformational infrastructure -transportation and its impact on the United States at the turn of the 20th century. The infrastructure of roads and highways changed nearly every aspect of how we lived, how we worked and where and how we learned. It changed many of our social practices. People were not limited by geography any longer. We became a global society. Consider the car, plane, train, trucking industry as just a few examples that transformed how we lived and learned.
It took 20-30 years for transportation to take hold and for society to develop new social practices that leveraged the potential of that entire transportation infrastructure, and so it will be for the Web.
Transportation is part of how we do things --- and yet cars are lethal weapons. We do not just toss the keys to a kid and say, look this is a gift, this is an incredible tool that will change your life forever; sure bad stuff can happen, but we will hope for the best. Instead we teach them to drive at school and put them in driver safety courses. We make sure while they are at school we are very proactive in how we indoctrinate them to this technology, the car. I am sure there were many parents who said that cars were just too dangerous and their kid would never drive one. That horse and buggy was good enough for them and it will be fine for their kid. But as Ellen reminded us... we truly are the last generation with the prerogative of choice about whether we use technology or not. Our students are not afforded this same choice if they are to be successful in the 21st Century. They must use these tools within the safety net of our classrooms.
Your students need you (us) to teach them how to use technology safely and appropriately in the information age. We teach them not to run with scissors and to not to talk to strangers. They already go into convenience stores where there are pornographic magazines and exit unscathed and they sit for hours unsupervised in front of the "flickering blue parent" where values are shaped, often in front of cable where inappropriate material is a few clicks away, just like your wiki. They already have access, but their innocence keeps them from accessing it. It is *both* about teaching responsible use, teaching them discernment *and* making sure while they are on your watch that their innocence is protected.
Here is what I would do.
1. If I was going to start using the read/write/Web (thank you Will Richardson) as a valid instructional tool I would make sure that I knew my kids were not going to be exposed to anything inappropriate. You would never just pop in a video tape not having watched it as an instructional tool. Don't give access to a resource you have not thoroughly checked out. It is the Wild Wild Web right now as this transformative infrastructure evolves. (Think-- we are finding out we need seat belts. Cars didn't use to have those you know.)
2. Cultivate a relationship with your district IT person. Find out what the protocols are in your district, what the AUP that you and your students signed says, and who is in charge of filtering in your district and what the steps are for getting Web sites blocked and unblocked. Many times it is just a simple form. And through this relationship you can both work together to make certain students have access to this incredible resource and yet remain safe. It is important that central office knows you are not acting irresponsibly in relation to the use of the Web.
3. I would do two
things related to your wiki that you have already spent
so much time creating.
I would write or call the wiki's creator and let them know your dilemma and start a discussion of how their company can make this resource safe for students (maybe create a permissions level for students that will not give them access to the discussion board- done with a log in.) Who is your wiki provider? I know many of them and might be able to help you out. This gets at the bigger conversation of helping to make the Web a safe place for schools. This is the teacher leader level and you are the one to get the conversation going.
But immediately, I would ask your district IT person to block the IP address to the page(s) that are offensive that can be accessed from your wiki. If it is only accessible from a site map link at the bottom (footer) I would go into the template and remove it. This is done by removing source code. Call IT, give them the web address of the discussion board and ask them to block it. Then when your students or parents click on it it simply will come up as blocked. You can still use the wiki, just not have access to the discussion board. Either way, I would be proactive and build trust in Web 2.0 tools by making certain your parents and colleagues know that you are protecting the innocence of your students. What they watch on TV or surf when they go home will be their parent's responsibility.
4. Educate yourself, faculty, and parents on safe Internet use. Offer an after school workshop or make it the topic of a PTA meeting. As a teacher leader and a trailblazer advocating use of these tools you have to be proactive and not just toss them the digital keys and say drive, this road is nice but that one will kill you. Don't teach them... help them learn. Help them become discerning so thy can make responsible choices as they grow.
David Warlick says say being literate means being able to read text, write a report, and calculate numbers on paper. But these Basics of the industrial age are merely a starting place for twenty-first century (contemporary) literacy. Students today must gain a range of skills.
What David calls the 4 Es rather than 3 Rs:
Expose- them to valuable information from a global electronic library
Employ- digital information in order to accomplish their goals
Express- ideas compellingly so that they not only communicate, but also
compete for the attention of our information customers
Ethical- teach them the ethics of operating in an information-driven world
The very nature of information is changing. In what it looks like, what we look at to view it, where we find it, what we can do with it, and how we communicate it. Our definition of literacy must also change. I am proud of you Bill for grappling with these issues and being a pioneer in helping to address how this transformative infrastructure will play a role in redesigning the way we teach and learn in the 21st Century. Many other educational bloggers are looking closely at these same issues. Let me know if you would like some resources and I will be happy to share.
How would you have responded? Please share in the comments below.