Starting Out With Digital Devices Is Just Like Learning to Swim

swim-meetThe minute a child gets that first web-connected mobile device, the adults in the family commit themselves to extended digital life “swimming lessons.”

Young swimmers become increasingly competent and skilled while at the same time needing adult support, supervision, and occasional intervention. Twenty-first Century digital natives require the same parental attention and guidance as they learn to operate safety and adroitly in the connected world waters. Swimming and connected-world activities, though they require long-term adult oversight, help children explore the world around them and gain confidence, learn new things and grow their abilities, learn to make good decisions and yes, avoid making bad ones. The key to their success is adult support.

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Digital Communication Disrupts the Rules of Civility, Privacy, & Integrity

Click to read the article.

Click to read the Washington Post article.

After spending years teaching digital citizenship and civility in the K-12 world, I’ve now come to the conclusion that we parents and teachers should, in the midst of teaching children, stress that there is never privacy online. Yes, I know that we already teach this — or try to — in most schools and homes, but election 2016, accompanied by the theft and sharing of emails and other connected world materials, is scary. It has proven that everyone can be hurt by what they say online — even when what is said is not intended to generate hurtfulness.

To learn much more about the lack of privacy in private communication read Deborah Tannen’s October 28, 2016 Washington Post column, Why What You Say In Private Looks Bad in Public, Even if It Isn’t. Tannen is a professor at Georgetown University and the author of the best seller, You Just Don’t Understand.

Our confidential comments may differ from what we say in public. When our candid thoughts become widely available — yes, through hacking, but with kids it’s through intentional sharing, gossip, or the unintentional  mistakes that kids make — words can often be interpreted negatively. Moreover, at least for the time being, we live in a world where stealing a public figure’s private communications and making them public appears to be OK.

Good Quotes from Deborah Tannen’s Article  (Read the entire article for much more)           Continue reading

Civility Is Now Devalued — So What Will Adults Do About It?

If there is ever a time to emphasize ideas on civility, commenting, fact-checking, and media literacy, it’s during an election. Children, preadolescents, and teens will learn much during the 2016 presidential campaign just from all the watching. (Read my post The Children are Watching and Seeing, Listening and Hearing.)

Our traditional expectations for civility and ethical behavior are cracking apart right before our eyes.

On the basis of what’s happened at recent political conventions and the beginning of the election season, young people will be witnessing name calling, stereotyping, hateful comments, online hate, and in some cases veiled bodily threats. Kids will hear things on TV at home and on the televisions that are broadcasting in lounges, waiting rooms, doctor’s offices, and everywhere else. They will hear radios broadcasting the news at home and in other peoples’ homes. And, of course, there’s social media.

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Connected World Coaching for Digital Natives? Read Connecting Wisely

3002_01021048If you teach or think a lot about digital citizenship, take a few minutes to get acquainted with Connecting Wisely in the Digital Age. This new book is simple yet powerful, with content and context for adults who seek to support and mentor 21st Century digital kids. The goal is to help children develop a deeper understanding about the responsibilities that accompany their connected lives.

Authors Devorah Heitner, PhD, and Karen Jacobson, MAbase their book on a singular premise — that the 21 activities introduced in their book, when facilitated by imaginative adults, will make a positive difference in kids’ daily online lives. With its flexibility and its focus on adults as connected world coaches and mentors (not lecturers), Connecting Wisely stands head and shoulders above many other curricula in this category.                 Continue reading

So What Happens to Social Media Data? Read the Terms of Service!

unnamedI am preparing to make a presentation to a group of well-informed teens at a school. In the process, I’ve reread the terms of service at a range of social media sites to remind myself about what can potentially happen to the pictures, comments, videos, and other content that we share on social media.

Social media is a part of life in today’s 21st Century world. Rather than wringing our hands about these apps, and the things that can go wrong, it’s a far better strategy for adults to proactively learn about social media, know what their digital children are using, and help them understand the power of social media apps. Moreover, every social media user — young and old — needs to develop strategies to use when things have the potential to go wrong.

Check out the terms of service for your favorite social media site. What do you think these policies mean for the pre-adolescents or teens in your life? The social media companies design these statements — albeit long documents — to make it clear what happens and what does not. What can you do to ensure that your child develops the necessary tools and strategies to think carefully about what content to post and share and what content to avoid sharing? Ongoing conversations about living in the digital world are are a critical part of family life.

Each of the clips is from one of the social media websites, and I’ve added a link to each site’s complete  terms of service document.  Most of the companies want us to understand these documents.

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Learning How to Code: Demonstrating How to Learn – Report #2

scratch_logoWe educators offer great gifts to our 21st Century students when we demonstrate that we, too, can learn new things. By letting children see us mastering unfamiliar information, figuring out problems, overcoming challenges, and yes, even making mistakes, we help them develop more comfort and confidence when they make errors and feel like they are not making progress. We adults teach all the time, but we probably don’t model learning new material nearly enough, and the kids notice it.

UnknownAs Ted Sizer wrote in his book, The Children Are Watching, they notice what we do and what we do not do. (A good book, by the way, for teachers and parents to read).

So this year I’m demonstrating how much I have to learn for students in grades one through five who attend my MIT Scratch coding activity. Literally, they are watching me learn how to code Scratch scripts.

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Hour of Code Reflections: What a Difference a Few Words Make!

Image used with permission.

Image used with permission.

What if we encouraged young learners, when they encounter a difficult learning task, to replace the words “I don’t get it” with “I haven’t figured out the problem yet”? Can changing just a few small words make learners more comfortable when they work on unfamiliar or difficult activities?

I’ve spent the last month mulling over this word change idea after participating in Hour of Code activities with young 21st Century learners at my school in December. Watching the children in kindergarten and grades three, four and five solve puzzles and play the unfamiliar coding games was eye-opening, because in each class the majority of students — and some of the teachers — were working on learning tasks that they had never encountered before (definitely terra incognita).                        Continue reading