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.
Over the past 10 days I have attended multiple, jam-packed professional development events. I’m beginning to think of it in reality show lingo as my extreme professional development experience, because I’ve encountered so many colleagues along with ideas, hands-on strategies, learning theories, and thoughtful approaches, all focused on becoming better teachers, collaborators, and learners in the 21st Century. One over-arching idea applies to all of my activities: learning, unlearning, and relearning are now routine. Anyone not comfortable with these three concepts — connected and in tandem — needs to get acquainted with them ASAP.
I’m reminded of a quote from futurist Alvin Toffler, “The illiterate of the future are not those that cannot read or write. They are those that can not learn, unlearn, and relearn.“
My extreme adventure started about 10 days ago when I presented in the Virginia Shenandoah Valley at the Virginia Association of Press Women. I described how technology has transformed the way we all learn and how specific content is now less important than our skill at discovering information, evaluating it, and using it well. The digital content is out there for everyone to find, I told the group. The role of adults and teachers is to ensure that as we teach one area of content we also ensure that children are developing the skills to recognize, evaluate, and use quality information.
I drove home on Saturday and left again on Sunday for the annual AIMS Technology Retreat on the Maryland Eastern Shore.