Two third graders came in this morning looking for the dog books because they’d seen a dog and could not remember what it was called. It was driving them CRAZY!
They looked through the dog encyclopedias to no avail. Searching online for short, fluffy dogs yielded nothing. Then they told me that the dog had short legs. We added that to our Google search and found the answer in two seconds flat. It was a corgi.
When we teach and interact with digital kids about their hyper-connected lives, I wish we could de-emphasize the fear factor and re-emphasize education and understanding, helping young users become stronger digital world problem-solvers. While monitoring, learning, and guiding, we also need to be sure to help kids, develop the antennae to identify and avoid a range of online problems — not just the big ones.
A day doesn’t go by without hearing an adult comment about children’s digital world risks, and invariably these conversations focus on predators, strangers, pornography, cyber-bullying and even the death of a child. In the area where I live, a grievous and tragic even is unfolding as I edit this post.
My concern as an educator is that my students, without fail, noted how important it was to be aware of the frightening situations. Their deep concern about potentially horrible Internet encounters — events that do not occur nearly as often as the mainstream media imply — obscured for many of them, the importance of many other interactive problems that happen on a daily basis to digital kids — misjudgments, miscommunications, and daily social events gone awry. It’s these problems, often the result of minor online misjudgments or typically adolescent missteps that regularly cause public humiliation and embarrassment, and such events wreak havoc on a child’s and a family’s daily life. Continue reading
On a fairly regular basis I hear presenters and parents cite research results about technology and 21st Century kids. Often they justify their points by making comments such as “According to research,” or “Research demonstrates that…”
Some time ago, for instance, I heard a presenter comment that too much use of digital devices causes students’ lack of concentration, and she cited a university research study. Trouble is, when I subsequently checked out the research, it was based on 25 participants — a small number on which to form a conclusion and make assumptions about a dramatic outcome. After I read the abstract, I discovered that the researchers who conducted the study concluded that the outcome is an association with kids’ lack of concentration and not a cause. The data did not indicate that too much technology causes a lack of concentration.
The difference between association and causation is significant, and parents as well as those of us in the educational technology community need to recognize the difference. Much of our accumulated data about technology outcomes are collected over a short-term, and in many areas we have no data collected long-term. Television statistics are the exception, because after years and years of well-designed, science-based studies, the causal connection between television viewing and childhood behaviors is only now being firmly established. That’s because enough data exist to enable researchers to draw firmer conclusions about how TV screen time affects certain childhood problems.
Recent research by the Pew Internet and American Life Organization finds that families with incomes under $50,000 consider libraries to be an important resource in the lives of their children.
Whether they are considering digital or non-digital opportunities, these families are more likely to rate library services as important than parents in families with higher incomes.
Some interesting research findings, quoted from the report:
- 94% of parents say libraries are important for their children and 79% describe libraries as “very important.” That is especially true of parents of young children (those under 6), some 84% of whom describe libraries as very important.
- 84% of these parents who say libraries are important say a major reason they want their children to have access to libraries is that libraries help inculcate their children’s love of reading and books.
- 81% say a major reason libraries are important is that libraries provide their children with information and resources not available at home.
Too see other graphs and learn more about the research released on May 1, 2013, read the report, Parents, Children, Libraries, and Reading.
Although I am a big fan of encouraging students to begin any research project with curated resources such as the online databases at a school or public library, I know that many learners head straight for Google.
When students make garden-variety searches on Google, teach them to investigate and ask questions about what they find, especially if they are planning to use a website to learn more about a topic. The strongest 21st Century learners will make the process of asking evaluative questions second nature — examining each and every site before deciding whether or not to use the information.
Questions to Ask About Any Digital Resource Continue reading
In November the Pew Center on Internet and American Life together with Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society published a new survey, Parents, Teens, and Online Privacy. This 2012 Teens and Privacy Management Survey gathered data from 802 teens and their parents. Everyone who participated in the survey lived in the United States; however, participants could take the survey in either English or Spanish.
- Parents report they are using a lot more social media — 66% of parents with children who use social media now use it themselves (compared with 58% in the 2011 survey).
- One reason that parents are increasing their use of social media sites is to be able to facilitate ongoing family conversations about content.
- Parents appear to worry more about advertisers who gather information about a child’s online activities than about a child’s possible contact with unfamiliar people.
- Some teens whose parents are friends have learned how to restrict the information that parents see, but in general they are positive about friending a parent.
- Parents are increasingly aware of privacy policies — 44% have read a policy for a social media that one of their children uses and 39% told the survey that they are helping their children set up social media privacy settings.
- Parents are concerned about a child’s online reputation, but the concerns are the highest as children get closer to applying to college.
- Reputation management when juxtaposed with the adolescent years is tricky for teens.
Wikipedia is cool, Wikipedia is filled with information, and Wikipedia is a great fun to visit.
That said, reminding children about the authority of references and the expertise of authors — whenever children begin research — is an important part of teaching and parenting. A critical 21st Century and life skill is understanding how to go about judging the quality of references and especially learning how to figure out when information is not up to snuff.
If students start out a project by looking up a topic on Wikipedia, and many of them do, they should hear — over and over at every age — about the importance of seeking out and reading other resources to confirm the facts. Adults, too, need to make this a habit.
A new book, Wikipedia: 3.5 Million Articles and Counting, offers parents and educators a great opportunity to read together and learn more — lots more — about Wikipedia. Author Heather Hasan writes in detail about the history and philosophy of this mammoth open-source encyclopedia, explaining how Wikipedia works and describing how the editors keep track of new entries, edits, and re-edits.
Hasan points out the ways that Wikipedia writers occasionally argue over topics, and she notes that editors often decide to lock down a subject or entry. Other short sections of the book share Wikipedia facts and myths, a glossary, and several pages of bibliographic references.
If you read this book with children in your family or students in your class, be sure to have continuing conversations, both while reading the book and afterwards, about the importance of expertise and authority, pointing out that another reason to confirm the facts — aside from worrying about misinformation — is to learn whether even the experts disagree.
An excellent Wikipedia documentary, Truth in Numbers, is available at Amazon, and includes interviews with many of the people who have helped the Internet to develop and grow — the movers and shakers of the World Wide Web.