I haven't posted for a couple of weeks. I went to Mexico and in a subsequent entry I'll post a bit about that and probably share some pictures. I'm also going to get my technical head around Flikr (others make it look easy) and add that to my page.
Yesterday I had an opportunity to talk with a dozen teachers who enrol grade 4 and 5 classes. They were doing a full day session on teaching personal safety and for the first time, Internet Safety, was included in the facillitator's program. I was asked to come to speak for about an hour at the end of the day. I think it went well and I was able to add one component that I haven't included in any of my prior talks to parents or teachers regarding the issue of students protecting their identities while online.
Earlier this week I was speaking to a class of grade 5 students and a few of the children not only responded positively to my question asking how many of them are actively working on their own webpages. Some of them offered to show them to me and to the class. It was quite an enlightening experience that put a visual face to the statistics we can read from various studies.
As a group we were able to look at the profies and the about me pages and critique them for the content they contained which might serve to identify them to the viewer. It is apparent to me that many students do not realize the "public" aspect of their websites. I think some of them think that the site is only available to the friends they tell the address to, not to the world at large. We talked about that, and about the use of screen names and the importance of protecting passwords and other safety issues.
When I used some of these sites to show the teachers in my workshop, they were astounded. They had no idea how creative some of these kids are, and, more importantly, they made the connection between the handouts, the website references (such as NetSmartz), and the real work their students are doing on the net, away from the school. I'm hoping that this gives them a better understanding of why it is that the school needs to be proactive in teaching internet safety while, at the same time, encouraging students to express themselves online. And... the important role the parent/guardian plays in the monitoring of their child's website.
In closing a few of teachers agreed with my point that we need to tap in to this creativity in children and their interest in all things digital. Imagine them using these tools to create Science, Socials, Art, or Writing focused sites.