Days before this COETAIL Program started, I was sitting on a beach in the Philippines wondering if my school in Vietnam would be affected by the COVID-19 spread. As I returned to Vietnam, the virus spread was getting worse and we soon got word that school would not be starting back up on time. A week later, we had moved to a home learning program. At the same time, I started COETAIL. In many ways, completing this certification has been a challenge while doing home learning because of the increased amount of time I spend online now. On the other hand, it feels like the perfect time to be doing this program.
Contributing with a Mistake
For one, during Course 1: Ourselves as Learners, I identified with the term lurker-being more of an observer, rather than a contributor to my PLN. However, before long, I started seeing myself shift towards being more of a contributor. Home Learning and COETAIL were pushing me to be more creative, use tech tools I had never had the time to explore, and develop new material that was accessible to students from home. I was finally excited to share what I had created!
As I was scrolling (a.k.a. lurking) through the Teachers College Writing Workshop Facebook Group, I came across a post from a teacher looking for a second-grade Poetry Unit. Perfect! I had just finished teaching mine and I was proud of the unit I had put together (It was the one I used for my Course 1 Final Project). I quickly linked my unit in the comments and was excited to see how many teachers wanted to use it.
“Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.”Helen Keller
A few days later, I got an email from one of my student’s parents. She said her daughter had noticed an unknown name resolve a comment that her daughter had made on one of the poems I had assigned in a Google Slideshow. The mother expressed that she is very careful about internet safety regarding her children and she wanted to check to make sure this wasn’t some weird person.
Immediately, I opened the document to check it out and assumed that it was one of the educators from the FB Group who was using my materials. Although, I changed the settings to the documents in the unit to “view” only, that particular slideshow was set to “can comment” so this person was able to resolve the comments. Not a big deal, but the students’ full names were displayed in the comments they had written, which means anyone that had opened this document could see my students’ names. Not cool! Needless to say, I fixed that problem and made sure there was no student information that could be seen from sharing this unit with others (I should have done that before). A lesson learned for sure and thankfully the mom was really understanding.
Learning from Mistakes
This brings me to the second reason I feel COETAIL has come at the perfect time for me. I’d say that right now, my students’ digital presence is at an all-time high. What better time than now to learn more about connecting students online while maintaining privacy for both them and myself. I know there is value in contributing to online platforms and creating materials that others can use. But I also need to be aware of what I am sharing and what people can see (students’ names, faces, etc.).
Not only do educators need to be aware of what they are sharing digitally, but they also need to be given schoolwide guidelines regarding students’ internet safety and responsibilities. After working at four school international schools, I’d say this topic is something that is mentioned at the beginning of the year and not really brought up again unless an issue arises. Students at my current school sign a Responsible Technology Use Agreement and that is about it. We are a young, small school, but that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be a better plan in place; especially when we are handing second graders Chromebooks.
Again, the timing of this assignment is perfect. I see an area of weakness at my school and in my own practices. Now, I’ll get the chance to make a difference through my final project in this course-more creating and contributing to my PLN! I am hopeful that with the collaborative effort of my group, we will be able to create something that is helpful for both teachers and students.
When thinking about what I’d like to create and what my own beliefs are about internet safety and use for students, I found myself really connecting to the beliefs of the writer of The New Childhood: Raising Kids To Thrive In A Connected World, Jordan Shapiro. In his interview with NPR, he mentions that part of his job as a parent is to help his children make sense of their online experiences and teach them how to uphold enduring values in the new world they are living in. That’s my job as a teacher too. I need to prepare students for the world they are currently living in. It doesn’t make any sense for schools to not teach digital citizenship and safety.
“How are we going to maintain those positive things-the compassion, ethics, good social skills, and intimate relationships, if we’re teaching students to live in a world that doesn’t look like the world they’re living in?”Shapiro
These are the ideas I want to keep in mind when creating my final course project. I want to help my school work towards establishing better guidelines regarding the use of technology and information. It is the schools’ job to have guidelines to help keep everyone safe. Teachers need to be taught what they can and cannot share. Parents need to be “leaning in” to see what their children are doing online. Ultimately, our goal as educators or parents is to prepare our children for the world they live in. Technology is not going away.
What are some of the great things your schools are doing to educate teachers and students about internet safety and privacy? What are some of the programs you use to teach students digital citizenship? I’d love to hear!