No, this blog is not what you think it is about!
As a teacher who is working to responsibly integrate new technologies into my classroom as a means of engaging my students and affording them the opportunity learn real world skills, I am frustrated with those who continue to live in fear of it. I am not a social networker. I still do not have a Facebook account, I do not Snapchat and I do not spend hours a week sharing my life story with people from my past whom I was not friends with in high school. After an inspiring workshop given by @kevinhoneycutt, he helped me re-evaluate my opposition to social media. His message of learning to use it for practical (even educational) purposes helped me overcome my general angst toward the often ridiculous nature of social media (this is just my opinion of course).
It has been inspiring these past few months to share ideas, read posts, gather ideas to improve my practice. I would like to take a moment to thank all of those people who openly share their ideas and experiences. This past week at my school (I am a grade 6/7/8 teacher in a rural school in Ontario, Canada), I was discussing my plan to create a classroom twitter account next year so that my students can share their ideas and work with the world. In the process I will model for and with them how to use this technology to better your life and the life of others around you. My colleague expressed how this was a bad idea and that I should not do this.
This stance was thinly veiled in a cloak personal concern. It was explained to me that parents may not be happy with this and I should make sure I am protected. While I agree the safety of my students and self are of paramount importance, that is not a good enough reason to not do it. If one were to read between the lines it was quite obvious that the warning was about not taking a chance of causing difficulty for the school, not for me personally. My response to my colleagues reply was that if we are worried about using Twitter as a teaching tool as it may cause problems…that is the greatest argument in favour of using it! Too many of my students have Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat accounts which they use with reckless abandonment and little or no reflective thought. I have taught my students about internet safety. We have even had a local police officer in the cyber crimes division in to speak with the students, yet based on what I have seen and been told it has clearly not sunk in.
I equate this mentality of fear regarding technology in schools to the introduction of sexual health education in elementary schools several decades ago. Many felt sexual health should be taught at home. These students are too young to learn about this! Learning about sex will make them have sex younger! Well guess what, learning about sexual health has not resulted in kids have sex at younger ages, rather it has resulted in kids having safer sex. Which has also directly related to a drop in teen pregnancy rates.
Anyone who is reading this is most likely one of the converted. You are probably introducing your students to new technologies all the time, and most importantly working with them to learn to use it safely and responsibly. I ask all of you…do not let those who wish to live in a culture of fear regarding technology in our classrooms win. Rather take the lead yourself and show them what your students can do, when working together with a responsible adult.
Introducing Twitter in the classroom will not give our students viruses…rather it will help them practice safe technology usage and limit dangerous behaviours on-line.