Monday, May 23, 2005

Now we get to the real issue, I think

Jackmoron commented on a recent post here, saying
but so many teachers and parents simply don't know what kinds of plusses and minusses there are in an online life--and think, not unreasonably, when it comes down to it, that the kind of publicness that comes with writing online might be inappropriate or dangerous for an child.
I think this is a very important point - and maybe where our emphasis should be now. How do we educate parents and teachers about blogging, the Internet and technology in general?

As I think I have mentioned before, I am almost 55 years old; so my involvement with blogging cannot be blamed on the fact that I am young. How did I become involved in blogging? Why do I feel that online tools are invaluable in my classroom? I have to admit that my 60 year old husband was involved on-line long before I was. Why? I think we both became involved because of a basic attitutde toward technology - we love it. This may, in part, come from the fact that our last child only turned 18 this year. He is a videogame fanatic. But I think it is something else, too.

I think we are so interested in technology because we have lived in many different countries and have moved a lot when we are in the US. We haven't had all the "distractions" of family close by and a house to take care of. We welcomed email once we had access to it because it made communicating with family and friends in other parts of the world so much easier.

As for me, my interest in blogging was fanned by my love of writing. I have always expressed myself better on paper than in person. So blogging has given me a forum that I would never have seized otherwise. My husband, on the other hand, doesn't write anything if he can avoid it, but he loves to talk. He posts to discussion forums and has a lively group of friends with whom he "talks" regularly. And he reads blogs and comments on them, too.

So we may be slightly unique in our reasons for getting involved with technology. The question is, then, how do we educate teachers and parents who are more "regular" than my husband and I are?

As a teacher, I can say that a lot of it depends on an institutional attitude of openness to technology. As my institution becomes more innovative and more tech savy, it becomes easier for me to use more technology. And as more people in my institution use more technology on a regular basis, it becomes easier to convince others to give it a try. But looking at my own institution, I know that even though I will increase my use of technology in my classes again this coming year, almost no one else in the institution will follow suit. Unless the administration takes the time and money to educate all faculty about what the possibilities are, few people will find out for themselves. So we are back to that institutional attitude again.

As for parents, it is trickier. We live in such a climate of fear in this country right now, that I wonder if most parents could see past the possible dangers to see the value in blogging. Until we can move past that fear -- which recent events involving children prove is not ungrounded -- this is going to be a tough sell. I think that as schools come to embrace blogging more, parents will naturally be educated about it. Schools will send out permission slips like this one created by Lori Deucher Yum (linked by Anne Davis). Gradually parents will learn what blogging is and isn't and how to protect their children better at home as well as at school. But if schools don't take the lead, it will not happen.


Marilee Scott said...

Chalking the concern up to familiarity with technology might be slightly too simplistic. When I look back on my childhood, I'm astounded at how insular it was: my mother knew my friends, their parents, my teachers, their opinions, and I mostly stayed close to home.

With the internet, a kid can roam far from home; with a blog, a kid can open him or herself up to public comment in a way that the physical community would be embarrassed to be caught doing. I know that I didn't really have any sense of "the public sphere" until about 17. Maybe kids these days are better able to move around in this intimidating---trackable--world, but I do wonder whether a certain and perhaps limited familial protection against the aggressive publicness that will increasingly await them might not be a good thing.

Nathan Lowell said...

My 6 year old came to me the other week and said, "Dad, you need to build me a blog."

"Why do you want a blog?"

"I need a place to write my stories so I can go back to them later."

Ok. We set up a blog on one of the public spaces and I put her blog on my aggregator. I see what she writes and when she writes.

My 9 year old wanted one, too. So I did the same thing.

I learned that my kids posted too much and I worked with them to show them what was safe. I didn't tell them they couldn't blog and I didn't tell them they needed to blog "this way" or "that way."

The elder daughter has lost interest, but the younger periodically writes a new story.

Are they at risk? Of course. Every day they cross streets, play in the yard, go to school, and come home again. Every week they are exposed to hundreds of risks. Falling down, breaking bones. Insect bites (we have West Nile Virus here) and snake venom (rattlers, too).

Can I keep them in boxes? Sure.

But do I do them any favors?