Creating a Culture of THINKers
Preparing students for the world they live in now can be a challenge; especially when many educators did not grow up with access to computers, cellphones, or social media. At my school, I am considered one of the younger staff members (I am 36). I never had any lessons in school on responsible technology use or how to discern factual information from fake news. I also wasn’t handed a laptop in 2nd grade.
Facebook became a thing when I was halfway through college, I got my first cellphone when I was nineteen, and I did not have my own computer until I graduated from college. Oh, how times have changed!
My second graders now have Chromebooks at school and some even have their own cellphones. A wealth of information is literally at their fingertips. As an educator in the 21st Century, regardless of my own background with technology, it is one of my jobs to help my students navigate the world they are living in-to create a culture of THINKers.
Many schools have some form of a technology agreement or responsible use form that students complete at the beginning of the school year. Each year we go over the Dos and Don’ts of computer and internet use and safety. Students and parent sign the agreement, I post it in the classroom, and refer back to it when issues arise.
I also use the THINK acronym throughout the year to help students make good choices before speaking, acting, or posting. One girl in my class even made a mini-poster for each student to have on their desk as a reminder.
Is it enough?
I ask this question, but I already know the answer. I am not doing enough to prepare my students for the digital world they currently live in. Sharing a tech agreement and teaching students to THINK is NOT enough. Students need to be taught not told what to do. The questions we should all be asking is:
How do we ensure that every child has access to the skills and experiences needed to become a full participant in the social, cultural, economic, and political future of our society?
How do we ensure that every child has the ability to articulate his or her understanding of how media shapes perceptions of the world?
How do we ensure that every child has been socialized into the emerging ethical standards that should shape their practices as media makers and as participants in online communities?
–Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture
After asking these questions, a plan needs to be put in place. How will I ensure that my students are prepared to make ethical decisions?
As an adult it is hard to discern factual information from fake news anymore. I often find myself reading headlines from news stories that appear on my Facebook page and taking that information as truth. Sometimes it is because the headlines align with my beliefs. Therefore, I read the headline and do not look further into the story or where the information came from. This is a bad habit.
The need for quick answers and the 24-hour news cycle has created a culture of people who aren’t THINKing before they share, retweet, or take in the information as the truth. It is so easy for fake news stories to be spread. This is dangerous because people believe this misinformation without fact-checking it. This reporting referred to as circular reporting happens like this. News site A prints a fake story, News site B reprints it, and News site A then sites B as the source. Before you know it, multiplications report on the same fake news story.
How to Slow Down The Spread of a Lie
- Avoiding sensational media
- Searching for criticisms or suspicious information
- Tracing the original source of a report
To support my students in responsibly consuming and sharing information, I am learning about some of the best practices through the resources COETAIL has provided throughout this course as well as using my PLN through COETAIL to learn about what other educators are doing in their schools.
Building a Digital Literacy program that can be used in the elementary school at my current school is a goal of mine. There is not much being done now. The teaching of digital literacy skills is dependent on what individual teachers decide to do. Taking the Responsible Use Tech Agreements from my school and building off of that will be a start. Finding resources that educate parents on digital literacy such as Authenticating Information (Media Smarts) or using Google’s Be Internet Awesome: Digital Safety Resources is a starting point.
I’d love to hear how some of your schools are implementing Digital Literacy and Citizenship into the curriculum. Is there a vertically aligned document or curriculum already out there? I’d like to see what skills are needed and when it is most appropriate to teach those skills.