Recently, after reading Will Richardson’s article Footprints in the Digital Age, I began thinking about how much attention we pay to online safety and security without thinking nearly as much about teaching kids how to be literate consumers and competent creators of content. Richardson’s article started me thinking about how I might refine the way I teach digital citizenship to fifth graders.
While safety and security will never be left out of the curriculum, the 2008 Educational Leadership article convinced me to put more effort into helping my students think of digital footprints as only one part of the digital life equation. The other part of this equation involves teaching children to think proactively about the online narratives that they are creating and helping them begin to understand how other people will be searching for each of them — and for appropriate reasons. My students and their parents need to become curators of the digital content in their profiles, just as any highly skilled museum curator creates an exhibition.
Just about every parent knows the experience. A child prepares a great PowerPoint presentation, takes it to school, and then it doesn’t work — for some reason. Maybe it was huge with way too many graphics and did not transfer correctly to a CD or flash drive. Or perhaps your kid made a presentation on a Mac, but glitches occur when the presentation is on a PC?
Solve this problem and explore several ways to refine the whole process — writing, developing, and presenting — on a quality website, and live life without the file transfer hassles. At any number of Web 2.0 presentation sites a user, signs in, creates, works steadily on a project, saves, and can access it again to continue working or presenting as long as a computer is connected to the web.
Instead, use your energy to learn as much as you can. A parent’s goal is to develop enough knowledge to provide guidance and supervision based on significant family values, even as these media continue to evolve. Continued learning is always required if one aims to help children avoid potential pitfalls.
Thinking that social media will eventually disappear wastes time and energy.
Five Tips to Help You Get Going
1. Ask your child on a regular basis — and definitely without belittling yourself — to help you learn a new technology skill. Start with some of the easier web 2.0 interactive sites such as Wordle to make cool word designs or Diigo to save your bookmarks in a place accessible from anywhere. Keep learning.