In our jam-packed curriculum, where I teach all subjects, except French, in a Grade 7/8 class, I struggle to fit in the thousand plus expectations we are to address. So, as good teachers are to do, I take the “integrate, cross-curricular” approach as much as possible. It’s still an impossible task. However, my participation in the Powerful Learning Practices: Leadership in Schools project has brought focus onto an area where I have been lax. I know, we’re suppose to be kind to ourselves, not beat ourselves up about what we haven’t done right, as we grow professionally.
Yes, I have grown! I’ve learned a new language full of new vocabulary such as social networking, PLN, and retweets, all in an effort to increase my digital footprint. I have shared this growth process with my students (Gr. 7/8 students always want to know what you’ve been doing when you’re away). But… gulp…. in doing so, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve done a lousy job teaching them about online safety. I mean, they know this stuff – don’t they? They text, email, chat, share on Gdocs, Facebook and recently, tweet. They are tech-savvy. But this week, as I shared my digital growth stories with them, their facial expressions (shock’n awe) showed they are naïve when it comes to the shape and size of their own digital footprint – footprints that are showing up where they don’t want them seen.
This week, as they sat at their desks with their notebook computers, I googled myself on the Smartboard and showed them the various results that popped up, including my recent twitter comments. Then I had them do the same to themselves and people they know. The room erupted. Following the many, “OMG’s”, the discussion turned to story sharing ranging from a friend’s sister who didn’t get a job because of pictures found online, to the benefits of Facebook for planning grade 8 grad. So, as the saying goes, (funny… it relates to old technology), “be kind, please rewind”. I am going to do just that. After the Christmas break, in addition to the already packed term two, with its mandatory PLC writing, math units, book clubs, etc., I am going to slow down and back up. Using the somewhat creative approach, I’ll link my online safety lessons to the Personal Safety and Injury strand in Health. After all, what could be more important right now, as we focus on 21st Century Learning, than our students’ online personal safety?