Articles from February 2012

Tech Literate Parent Profile

We, as educators, are part of a vibrant learning community which strives to create a dynamic and collaborative learning environment for the citizens of the future. For that purpose the methodology needs to be a multi-pronged approach with input from all stakeholders. I mentioned in my earlier blog post an African proverb that says that it takes a village to educate a child. In addition to teachers and students, the parents are an important resource in the community to help build these learning spaces. The expectations from the institution in terms of delivering to its Vision and Charter are manifold, and I ponder about the hopes of the students and institution from the parents.

Well over a decade in the field of Technology and Education and I continue to have wonderings about the profile of the parent of 21st century…

The final CoeTail project guidelines somewhere listed a ‘Tech Literate Parent Profile’ as an example, and Wow! did that charge me up!! – Here was my opportunity to develop a list of expectations from the parents which could be supportive in educating the citizens of the digital world.

The Parent profile (see below) that I have tried to work out has its origins initiated from my deepest thinking and processing of perceptions that I have gathered over the course of my professional career.

The more I think about the assignment at hand, the more I am drawn towards the first CoeTail course blog post – “What is the obligation of an educator?”, and then if I reframe the question leading to “What is the obligation of a parent”?, what I come up with are mostly big picture similarities with few variations based on area of domain.

The parents in the 21st century must understand that the schools of today are preparing the children of tomorrow for the future. (Not in accordance with the educational experiences from the past) Also, as per David Perkins “we are preparing students for unknown knowledge destines”, and so we need to formulate a strategy which focusses on developing High Order Thinking Skills. For a true home and school collaboration model to be successful, all stakeholders, especially the parents, need to be aware of the changes on the digital landscape. This way they will feel empowered to help to enhance student engagement and learning.

More than ever before, today’s kids need their parents to help them acquire the skills to use time wisely. Technology has opened many doors to vast amounts of information, social networks around the world, and new career development opportunities.

Bloom's Digital Taxonomy

While creating this profile, I started afresh and also tried to stay within the realm of the NETs so that this could serve as a document which has its baseline in accordance with AES’s Technology Vision and Plan.  In aligning it with NETs, I have differentiated with using key words which are different vocabulary-wise from NETs yet have a futuristic and non-concrete tone to match with the continuously changing 21st century digital panorama. The NETs were lasted updated in year 2007. Though most of those are still applicable but the Parent Profile is a piece lacking among other profiles. The idea was to have a document which is not rigid and dated. For reference purposes I have used Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy and the ISTE NETs .

I would recommend that this Parent Profile be shared with the community via various resources –

  • Send as an email
  • Include in Parent handbook
  • Shared at PSA meetings
  • Via PSA blog
  • At parent conferences

Click here for the Tech Literate Parent Profile – Tech Literate Parent Profile


“Conversation is a meeting of minds with different memories and habits. When minds meet, they don’t just exchange facts: they transform them, reshape them, draw different implications from them, engage in new “- Theodore Zeldin

Human being is a social animal and his creativity thrives on conversations and social networks. There is power in collective thinking as opposed to the thoughts of any isolated genius, and that’s how the 21st century citizen is evolving. The quote by Helen Keller “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” summarizes the importance of collaboration.

Team force

The New York Times article talks about the power of collaboration and how it led to major advancement in the field of research for Alzheimer disease. It talks aboutThe key to the Alzheimer’s project was … to share all the data, making every single finding public immediately, available to anyone with a computer anywhere in the world.”

As per Bloom’s Taxonomy, creativity is the highest order skill, Creativity is fostered by collaboration. The evolution of the digital media has made collaboration so easily doable; it surpasses the limitations of time and location and allows for anytime, anywhere teamwork on a variety of topics. It allows for exchange of ideas. The instrument used for sharing and synthesizing of ideas could be any (Google docs is my personal favorite at the moment). The power in collaborating and its pluses are more important than which tool is being used. The appropriateness of the tool ought to be need based and there is always a bouquet of options to choose from.

The web 2.0 (Source – Time magazine article)

  • Harnesses the wisdom of millions
  • Is a massive social experiment
  • Creates an opportunity to build understanding from citizen to citizen
  • tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter

The power of web 2.0’s collaboration tools could be extremely beneficial for both students and professionals, in our case, educators. It

  • ·         kick starts creativity
  • ·         helps to build on each other’s idea
  • ·         can be done virtually
  • ·         every voice has a say
  • ·         collective synergy

There are a variety of ways that students could join forces and make a concerted effort to leverage their learning. The tools are many and the benefits umpteen.

Cyber Safety

Hmm! whose job it is to teach online safety skills? Homeroom teachers? Tech teachers, counselors, parents or all? Can the education of a child be anyone person’s responsibility? Do those get taught at school or home? One class period? A course?

Together we succeed in keeping kids safe

As an African proverb says – “It takes a whole village to raise a child”.

The holistic education of a child is the culmination of efforts of all adults associated with a child’s life.  In fact a child’s education involves not just cyber safety skills but all other life skills as well. It would involve developing problem solving, analysis and evaluation skills that would help with taking care of personal affairs, and this kind of education would most naturally lead to the online well-being as well.

A survey by of 1500 students between Grades 4-8 reported that

  • 42% of kids have been bullied online. One in four have had it happen more than once
  • 35% kids have been threatened online.
  • 58% have not shared about something mean or hurtful that happened to them online

The survey results indicate that the issue of cyber bullying is a reality and that there is a need for developing ‘intervention mechanisms’. The article by Danah Boyd states that ‘Empathy, Not Technology, is core of the problem and solution’ – and so educating kids about the internet and its appropriate use is mandatory in today’s world but actions like banning kids from using social media sites (or banning texting as mentioned in the article by Debbie Grieger) to communicate with peers and others is not the solution.

Cyber safety education needs to be both preventive as well as reactive. It is imperative to teach students about the connection between the online world and the real world. They need to understand that online actions could possibly have a real-life reaction, and so all forms of online activity needs to be within the framework of respect and responsibility. Students need to be taught how to communicate, create, evaluate and synthesize the information they come across and communications they accept.

The key word is ‘ balance’ and the efforts that the adults need to make to meet the needs of the children. The adults need to bridge the gap which the digital divide might have created in some cases. Sometimes the major cause for any bad online experience might be lack of role models who kids can emulate when it comes to online behavior. And so, staying updated about the newer technologies could help with having informed discussions with the kids!

Cyber safety skills cannot be taught in a separate class and can’t be confined within the realm of technology education. It needs to be intertwined with other subject areas, and that way its scope and applicability will be more concrete for the students. And there can’t be a prescribed curriculum for this! We start talking about simple cyber safety skills like – ‘always logout at the end of a session’ or ‘not sharing passwords’ very early-on and the more complex skills like e-safety of devices or unwanted contact or protecting personal information can be introduced both at home and school. The blend of both formal and informal environment is important for making connection with the kids.



Online Privacy

Tim Sparapani, director of public policy at Facebook, said that the best option is to give users clear information and allow them to make their own privacy decisions. “We shouldn’t be in a position for making choices for the users”, he said. “We can’t be in the position of trying to control people’s attitudes”

The above statement kind-of describes my initial feelings about online privacy policy and how companies implement it. Agreed that in today’s times, the internet has opened many different online collaboration avenues, both personal and professional, and technology is immersed so completely in our life’s, that it’s difficult to imagine anything without it, yet, the extent to which companies can infiltrate individual online space (even for the betterment of existing services) should be an individual decision and not mandated by any corporation under the premise of offering improved services.

As in the recent case of Google’s New privacy Policy, does the user have a choice? Does the user’s prerogative get respected? Can the user say Yes or a No before Google permeates the online presence and creates an ‘e-character sketch’? The service may make the whole web experience really ‘cool and slick’ but is there an option of ‘try it first and then apply it’? It’s an uneasy feeling that corporations could apply a blanket policy on all its users without offering an opt-in/ opt–out ability. (Off course I am assuming that if I were to agree to the new online privacy policy, then my personal data will be secure and not shared with any 3rd party) Ben Franklin’s quote that “It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority” supports the idea of users questioning the policies.

On the other hand, social media has become such an integral part of our lives that we eat and breathe Google, Facebook and more! It’s impossible to imagine a day ‘unplugged’ from any of these web based collaborative and communications media. So then, why wouldn’t users want their experience to become more constructive as long as their data is kept safe?  Change is always hard to embrace, and so sometimes wouldn’t it be necessary for a lil’ bit of mandate?:-) Quoting my example here – I started to use Google Reader only after my last CoeTail class. I had known about Reader prior to class but when the use was mandated as a course requirement I started ‘to feel and experience’ its value.

As long as companies or owners of these online social vehicles respect users and give them an opportunity to have a ‘voice’, it would be OK with their trying to customize their services to users’ needs. In my opinion I’m sure that the new policy and its impact will certainly enhance user web experience, and maybe this is something that has been missing all this while…? As is mentioned in the Gizmodo article getting a reminder about a meeting based on location, calendar and traffic situation sounds pretty smart!

I wonder how many users would have gone over the original/ outdated privacy policies line-by-line while signing in to any of the web services. Most people that I spoke with said that they simply clicked on ‘I Agree’ and moved on to start using the service. “I suspect that there’s a whole lot of clicking without a lot of thinking,” says Mary Madden in an article in USAToday, and so would that indicate the pros of using the web services outweigh the cons involved?

Another thought – More and more users are now saving conveniently to the cloud? Via Dropbox, iCloud, Haven’t they knowingly given these companies access to their data? I’m sure all users are saving to the cloud simply for the convenience factor. So then, does that mean that the users are the vulnerable element?

The Gen-next is very aware and conscious of public and private online. They are very responsible and can be trusted to manage their e-presence as long as they are educated about this. They understand and value the sentiment that “Just because something is publicly accessible does not mean that people want it to be publicized” (Danah Boyd) Students need to be apprised of issues regarding privacy online early on. Some lessons best taught are those which are best modeled by teachers. A few examples –

  • Educating students about ‘Privacy Settings’ on their Facebook and other social media may be one thing to be done.
  • Giving personal data on social gaming websites should be advocated against
  • Continued ‘Digital Citizenship’ conversations revolving around ‘respect’ of others’ online privacy (no hacking or trying to find out passwords)

Some strategies to teach kids about online privacy –

Elementary school-age children:

  • Define for them what constitutes personal information:

-Full name
-Home or cell phone number
-School name
-Sports teams or other club type names

Let them know:

1. It is never, ever okay to provide all of this information to anyone on the Internet without you approving.
2. If there is a website they want to join, know that the only information that should be required of them is: a birth date to determine if your child is under the age of 13 (allows the site to follow the children’s privacy laws), a desired user name, and your email address as a way to request your permission for them to join. That’s it, three things: birth date, user name, parent email.
3. You need to approve anything they’d like to sign up for.
4. “Stranger Danger” applies to the Internet. It’s not okay to provide personal information to people you meet online. While there are great places for kids to spend time online, it’s important they still protect their personal information.

Another lesson idea on online privacy for young kids: click here