5 New Year’s Resolutions to Improve Parents’ & Kids’ Digital Literacy Skills

The New York Times recently published For the New Year, Let’s Resolve to Improve Our Tech Literacy, about the need for leaders, law enforcement officials and policy makers to increase their digital world literacy. The December 23, 2015 article, written by Farhad Manjoo, points out that many the big problems that occur in our world become even more complicated because the leaders and law enforcement personnel do not have a big-picture understanding of the vast changes technology brings to today’s world. Greater understanding might strengthen our leaders’ problem solving skills.

This article looks at the importance of digital literacy on a large-scale.

Tech Literacy

As I finished reading, I began thinking about resolutions on a smaller scale — those steps that adults and children can take in 2016 to improve a family’s tech literacy and perhaps prevent at least some of the potential connected-world problems. It’s a fast-paced, always-changing 21st Century world and everyone has a lot to learn. Many of the issues that do occur are made worse because kids and parents do not have enough knowledge to anticipate what might go wrong and take steps to steer clear of problems.

Below are five digital literacy resolutions that parents can make, and all of them can help people — both adults and children — become more sensible and savvy connected world citizens.                                                                  Continue reading

Calculate Your Digital Footprints: Then Curate Them

I’ve written before about the need for all of us — 21st Century kids and parents — to understand just how many digital footprints we create during a single day — from email and texts to social media entries to credit card purchases to travel to smart phones and smart cards of all sorts, and much more. Each year, when my fifth graders keep a family diary on paper, just for a day, they watch in amazement as the digital footprints add up.

It’s fun to use an old-fashioned paper diary, but a few other online resources are available to help individuals and families learn more and get a sense of just how fast our digital footprints accumulate. Check them out, and you, too, will be amazed.

EMC offers a digital footprint estimate and offers a calculator to keep counting.

EMC offers a digital footprint estimate and offers a calculator to keep counting.

— EMC, a company that builds network infrastructures for businesses, offers a digital footprint calculator, downloadable for Mac or PC. The calculator is a mini-program. After it’s installed it asks a user a series of questions — the answers are not saved — and then it begins to speedily calculate that person’s footprints. Once an individual fills in all of the blanks, the program calculates how many megabytes of digital footprints accumulate, and it offers a small calculator that keeps track over a period of time. You can watch the number increase moment-by-moment.

Continue reading

Innovative Teaching: How on Earth Do We Get Started?

innovative teachersYears ago as a beginning teacher, I asked one of my University of Chicago professors how it was that my mentoring teacher seemed to do everything at once — teaching one group, keeping an eye on other parts of the classroom, and continuously but quietly communicating with everyone in the room — all at the same time. She even knew when a student some distance behind her was not completing the assigned task.

“She acquired those skills step-by-step,” my professor replied.

Today as we cope with the challenge of transforming our teaching skills to make what goes on in our classrooms applicable to the ever-changing world of digital information (a.k.a. innovation or 21st Century learning), many of us are renewing our commitment to lifelong learning as we explore and acquire a range of new skills and behaviors. We are learning, step-by-step, how to teach differently and stretch ourselves in ways that help students access, process, and use information in innovative but sensible ways.          Continue reading

Whose Eyes Are Checking Out That Digital Content?

In his recent post over at the Changing Aging blog, Kavan Peterson describes a short video, Forwarders. Intended as a parody of people who continuously forward e-mail, the video reinforces stereotypes about elders and aging. It’s sad that this short film focuses solely on one older adult, especially since so many people of all ages are extreme (and irritating) forwarders.

generational tutorialsWhile it’s intended to be funny, the video’s other message is that old people with wrinkles are silly and inept — at least that’s my interpretation. I’ll bet that the video producer — I am guessing an adolescent or young adult — probably cherishes a fair number of lifelong relationships with grandparents. This parody promotes a stereotype that could have been alleviated simply by adding in a few younger characters who also need reforming. (I posit a guess about the creator/producer’s age after looking over other published web content.)

The video and others like it also raise a question. How do we help 21st Century learners who are natural Internet content “whizzes” to understand that everything uploaded is subject to interpretation?

As a teacher who concentrates on educational technology, I frequently hear the refrain, “But I did not mean to hurt that person,” usually after a student has created and uploaded what he or she considered to be amusing content. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t, and sometimes various readers or viewers interpret the message differently. What my students slowly learn is that digital content may be funny to one person, not funny to another, and for some individuals downright insulting.

In today’s connected society digital natives — born into a world of computers, cell phones, and various other gadgets — find it easy to create content, but sometimes they forget that what they do and say (and upload) circulates far and wide. Different people will watch and may reach different conclusions about the work. One person’s joke can unintentionally malign others. Humor that is appropriate for a person at one age is not so funny when it’s uploaded into the world at large for everyone to see. Digital natives need to learn and respect the ways that different people view the world through slightly different lenses. Most professional writers of parody think long and hard about every detail of a project, interchanging those lenses as they create.

Continue reading

Seeking a Family Digital Use Agreement or Contract?

Check out the GetNetWise family digital use agreements.

Many times each year parents and teachers ask me for examples of agreements and contracts that can help families focus on digital life expectations and limits-setting. Some individuals seek a pre-written document to use with their children, while others hope to design and write a document expressly for their families.

These agreements, contracts, or pledges, cover the gamut of 21st Century digital world behavior, from cell phones, to online access, to texting, web 2.0, social media, cyber-bullying, and digital citizenship.

The conversation and preparation that contribute to developing a family agreement or contract are often more important than the final document. In these family discussions parents will need to arm themselves with information about digital natives, address values, and  encourage common sense. Parents will also need to help their children think about what to do in unexpected situations, and encourage them speculate on how to cope with friends who encourage them to misbehave. The more personal and relevant the agreement, the better.

Then, too, adults should understand that the preparation and writing process is not a one-way street. A child may make a pointed observation or come up with a thoughtful idea about the digital issues contained in the agreement. Perhaps he or she feels strongly about certain types of access, time limits, or other parental expectation.  Maybe there are compelling reasons to grant access to one site or another, even though the parent has reservations.

Continue reading

Digital Kids to Parents: Please Learn More…

With more than 30 years as a teacher including over 20 in the educational technology field, I’ve heard many kids reflect thoughtfully, and not so thoughtfully, on their parents’ digital skills.

Here are the seven most common “I Wish” statements that I’ve heard expressed by children over the last 16 or 17 years. Two of them my daughter told me.

Kids wish their parents and other adult would:

Continue reading

Grandparents Are on Social Networks!

According to a December 15, 2010 USA Today article, people over age 65 are the fastest growing group of social networking users. Seniors Surge on Social Networks, by Janis Lloyd, described Generations 2010 by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, a report that examines the variation in Internet and social networking experiences among various age groups.

For adult children whose parents are older seniors, the Pew report presents fascinating data. “While the youngest generations are still significantly more likely to use social network sites, the fastest growth has come from internet users 74 and older: social network site usage for this oldest cohort has quadrupled since 2008, from 4% to 16%.” This change occurred between 2008 and 2010. What a great way for digital native grandchildren to interact with their grandparents.

The USA Today article also points out that the U.S. Administration on Aging has released a guide to help older people learn about life online, from joining social networks to hooking up to Skype and exploring Google.

You might enjoy reading this blog posting from a few months ago when I wrote about discovering how my  mother, in her early 80’s, was using Facebook.