Jan 28

Citizens or Pirates?

NoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by Captain Kimo - "Back in Florida"

So, for some reason, this 4th course with COETAIL has just been a bear for me to finish. Maybe it was the approaching holidays at Christmastime, or maybe it was the Lunar New Year upon our return to school. Honestly, I haven’t wanted to be in front of a computer at all! So then, I got to thinking how much time our students spend in front of a computer. Not only is it (almost exclusively) the vehicle with which they complete their education, but it is also their entertainment, resource guide (contacts, phone book, etc) and their connection to everyone in their lives. When do they look up from the screen? Our students will not need to learn certain applications on a computer; instead they will need to have the computer as the application for their lives.

As David Warlick states in his blog, “What Difference Might One ‘S’ Make?”…I would suggest that students simply learn to apply computers to solve problems or accomplish goals.  It really doesn’t matter if they are covering all of the tools, or even if each student is mastering all of the same tools.  Students would simply learn how computers can help them do interesting things, and then gain the skills and confidence required to teach themselves, with the guidance of their teachers, the applications to make it happen.

Our students are learning how to use computers, not as a class in school, but BECAUSE of their classes in school. Like my handwriting simply got better because I had to do it in every class, my students are learning new ways to use their computers in spite of me. When I was in school, my math teacher never talked about my handwriting unless he couldn’t read the numbers. He never spent time teaching me the intricacies of how I form my “9”s- like a curly Q, or as a circle and straight line approach. His concern was getting me to understand the logic of geometric theorems (and let me tell you, that was a chore!). I see computers as pervasive a skill for current students, as handwriting was for me.

But here’s the problem: there are still people in this world with TERRIBLE handwriting! If they didn’t learn it in elementary school, no one stopped them along the way to reform their mistakes and make them practice their cursive. They just had to live with what they knew and if they wanted to, get better on their own. Teaching high school students, I find that I just assume they have the skills needed to complete their assignments. I am concerned with ISTE numbers 1-4: creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and the like. These have been necessary skills for students long before there was even an organized school system.  NETs and 21st Learning skills are really just skills that all students should be learning, until we get to #5 & #6. I’d like to focus on the need for “Digital Citizenship”.

I teach a course called “Christian Ethics” and one of the conversations we had last week centered on SOPA- the “Stop Online Piracy Act” with which the United States Congress is grappling. This act would drastically change the responsibility of online file sharing agencies like YouTube and Wikipedia. In fact, Wikipedia went “dark” in protest of its possible passage. During our discussion, my students were divided: on the one hand, artists should be able to distribute their creations in any way they can. But on the other hand, once they do that, is there a copyright infringement? Also, are the file sharing sites responsible when their patrons use that file illegally? How much should this be regulated in a free society?

We’ve required students to learn how to navigate the digital world far beyond our knowledge to regulate it. We are trying to teach them how to be responsible citizens in a world where piracy is a legitimate course of action. How do we now, call the ships home and re-train them on the “new rules” when we just let them to their own rules for so long? Maybe we are the ones that have created the digital pirates because we were asleep at the helm.



1 comment

  1. Kim Cofino

    Good question! I’m pretty sure it feels like we’re trying to “herd cats” for lack of a better term. Students (and interested adults) have been using technology in many ways for long enough now, that an attempt to change those behaviors in any context might be seen as a failure before it starts (like SOPA). But, I agree, Digital Citizenship is essential, and certainly with students, we have an opportunity to help them think about their behavior and choices in ways that they might not do on their own. My personal goal is to get Digital Citizenship as much of a foundational expectation as ‘regular’ citizenship, so that it’s not so much an interruption to the way students behave online, but it’s the expectation and reality of their choices. One step at a time…

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