Family Online Safety Institute Conference 2014: Lots to Learn

A  year has passed and once again I’ve attended the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) annual conference — this time the 2014 edition. I was especially excited to be learning,  connecting, and enjoying the events with a bevy of edtech and teaching colleagues — 15 at last count — educators who are committed to supporting 21st Century learning and to guiding our students’ parents, grown-ups who must continually fine tune their 21st Century parenting skills.

Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 10.49.52 AMRead my FOSI 2013 posts.

Right at the beginning we learned about FOSI’s latest research, this time focused on parenting in the digital age. A presentation by researchers at Hart Associates gave us more insight into the excitement, the concerns, and the hope that parents have about their children’s connected world lives. The good news is that parents’ knowledge is increasing and so is the confidence that they bring to parenting digital natives. I’ll share lots more about that in a future post, but you can read the full report before I get to my review of the research.     

The FOSI 2014 participants who are active educators were not surprised to hear that kids and parents both look to schools and teachers for solid advice about life and learning in the digital world — that’s been the case as far back as the early 1990s. Yet it’s always exciting for the educators to hear these ideas repeated and reinforced. Today’s teachers do more and more to help students grow into stronger digital citizens — well stronger citizens in general. (Read Is it Digital Citizenship or Just Plain Citizenship?)

dewey-quote1Conference attendees were also engaged by a presentation and video clips from the Cyber-Seniors documentary. Read my comments on the movie in a post on my other blog, AsOurParentsAge. An awesome comment, “You can be the teacher and the student when working with different generations,” sums up the great joy that’s generated then teenagers and elders get together to learn. (Please consider reading my iPad for Dad series.)

My most significant FOSI2014 take-away is a deeper understanding of the need to raise the qualitative bar on social norms by insisting that respect, kindness, and integrity stay front and center in daily digital activities and conversations — and not just for kids but for adults, too. Educators and schools focus on good habits such as thoughtful and positive commenting and respecting others in the digital world at large, but we need to redouble our efforts help our students understand that good behavior is good behavior, and that expectation will not change even though we are constantly challenged by new things — ideas, apps, devices, behaviors, and so much more. A comment by a younger attendee who said, “I feel ecstatic when someone gives me a compliment,” re-energized many of us in the room, validating our work.

I heard an industry rep comment that it seems like there is an increasing opportunity to offer more curriculum materials. Well, yes and no. Yes to targeted lessons, no to major curriculum packets. So many groups develop and share full digital citizenship materials with schools, and observed that many of these sit on shelves. We consult them but academic curricular demands require us to pick and choose, integrating lessons as needed. If new digital citizenship curriculum materials are to be developed, please target them to specific areas in the academic subjects that we are already teaching and make them easy to find, download, and access. Binders with curriculum ideas feel so 20th Century.

I was also interested to hear one presenter note that each generation develops into more competent digital learners. Interestingly teachers rediscover this year in and year out. Recently I marveled how a teaching activity of mine that worked perfectly in fifth grade for two years ago, became a mere digital starting point for the children who arrived with far more knowledge in fifth grade this past September. But no matter what age or when they are growing up or how quickly they adapt to new things, children need adults in all parts of their lives to help them develop the confidence to learn as well as the competence to learn in new ways.

That’s what so good about the yearly FOSI conference. We hear things, we network, we combine ideas and discover new ones, and after two days, we return to schools and offices bringing along new ideas, fresh  insights, and renewed energy to share with our colleagues.

Some Great Quotes from Day

  • Think mentoring, not monitoring. –Devorah Heitner
  • The lamp of attention shines on only one thing at a time — no real multitasking. -Michael Harris
  • Club Penguin is the antithesis of cool. Being cool here is being who you are. -Chris Heatherly
  • You can be the teacher and the student when working with different generations. –CyberSeniors
  • Keeping open channels of communication with your kids is the most important thing -Adam Thierer
  • We need to shift from the culture of surveillance. -Jane Tallim
  • The homework gap is the cruelest part of the digital divide, but it’s in our power to bridge it. -FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel
  • Parents are on the front lines when it comes to helping kids make good choices and recover from bad ones. -FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeney
  • Risk does not equate with harm. Resilience requires some risk. -I am not sure who said this.

Another Great Blog Post on the FOSI2014 Conference

New Online Safety: Same Good Parenting @ Teach2Connect

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