Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Lucas and the Ultranet

On the last day of last term we finished reading 'Tuck Everlasting' in class. I love this story. It's full of metaphor and personification and it asks questions that make kids think.

Right at the start of the book Natalie Babbit writes of three events that happened on a single day, events that seemed unconnected but were. It caused me to reflect on three things that had happened in my day.

At our staff meeting, one of the Preps showed us how to manage the express space on our Ultranet pages. He explained it very carefully, the way you hear people speaking to newly arrived immigrants or very old people in nursing homes. And then he flicked the cursor around the page at light speed, showing off the work his teacher has put up for he and his classmates and the awesome programs he's able to activate from within the collaborative space.

That afternoon, I posted my latest uni assignment, a reflection on the progress of my action research project. The project is about digital citizenship and using web 2.0 and social media to communicate, collaborate and facilitate learning and I'm still in the root cause analysis stage.

And that evening, my friend Alison drew my attention to an article in the Herald Sun newspaper about the dangers of facebook.

Because of my research project and because I'm a fairly active online citizen, I've done a lot of reading about participation in social media lately and at least in part, this blog is a way for me to sort out some of the ideas in those readings in my own mind.So for those who choose to read my ramblings, prepare to hear a lot more about digital citizenship in the near future.

The little preppy who showed us how to use the Ultranet is part of a generation of kids who will grow up with social media. I have a 7yr old at home who knows how to text, can independently log on to Club Penguin and often Skypes his Nanny in NZ so she can back up any arguments he has with his parents! He has his own facebook page ( and yes I know facebook sets an age limit but it's like a bank account in his name but under my guardianship so he doesn't actually log into on his own). I was tired of him wrecking my Farmville crops and besides, via facebook chat he can type away to his cousin in Dunedin and his sister in Melbourne at university. While he does those things we talk about the way he should respond and react to people online. He develops a relationship with his sister and his cousin that given their distance and difference in age, would be highly unlikely otherwise. His father and I teach him the etiquette and social rules of online citizenship just the same way as we teach him how to behave in society in general.

The article in the paper horrified me. It was another negative, participate at your peril piece, full of dire warnings for teachers who dare to inhabit the same cyber space as their students. The sub heading was 'Tell us your facebook horror stories." Why doesn't someone in the written media write an article asking for positive feedback? Maybe it's because I can get my news faster and more accurately on Twitter or Facebook on my iPhone than I can waiting for tomorrow's newspaper and the print media are feeling threatened by that.

Then there was the principal whose kids had been writing negative comments on facebook. She said it shouldn't be a primary school problem. Ummm, maybe it shouldn't be, but clearly it is. Maybe if there were a few more adults involved in their kids online activities it wouldn't be. I've also heard people say sex ed shouldn't be taught before year 10 because the kids shouldn't need to know about it until they're legally old enough to engage in it! Oh dear! To me, it's the same scenario.Start teaching them before they need to know, concentrate on building healthy relationships and provide accurate information so they don't have to make up the rules for themselves.

The third event that day was my Uni reflection. So, how is my action research going? Slowly. I think I may have bitten off more than I can chew (how unusual) and when I read news articles like the one mentioned here then I'm not sure one old lady like me has the energy to fight against the negative propoganda and ignorance that surrounds this new means of communication.

But then I remember Lucas and the Ultranet, and Taine telling his big sister about his day on chat and I know that the opportunities for teaching with social media are just too important to ignore. It is at the childrens' peril that adults keep putting their metaphorical heads in the sand.

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