Over the past year as my grade 7/8 students have been building their digital literacy skills, they are clearly showing that they are also becoming responsible digital citizens. They understand the importance of “think before you submit” and “Creative Commons”. Recently as they prepared to post comments on other students’ online projects, they edited their writing, working towards being concise, relevant and respectful. We studied and compared the quality of various comments found online, including examples of my own, and they practiced their responses using various news stories discussed in class. Their first big leap into the digital world was in response to an invitation from @charbeck, a teacher in Winnipeg, to view and post comments on his students’ social justice videos. They loved the opportunity and the videos.
Some of the videos created by the Winnipeg students included recordings from an “expert” contacted by the students. This component of the video inspired some of my students to venture further on their own. This past week, using various social networking tools such as wikis and Facebook, some my students have independently contacted the authors of the books they are currently reading in their book club groups (Natasha Friend, Michael Harmon). I had not asked them to do this, or even suggested it, yet these students chose to write on their own, outside of school hours, to an authentic audience. I am grateful for the responses back from the authors and proud of my students for their initiative. We will follow-up with an offer from one of the authors to Skype with our class. My students’ emerging skills in social networking has helped them develop self-confidence in their role as writers. Surprisingly, these students are not my strongest readers or writers. They are however, students with a voice.
Leading the Way
As my classroom walls flatten, my students are taking their learning outside. I am the teacher, yet I am proud to step aside as they lead the way out the door into a digital world I know they are prepared for. They have taken far more from my lessons than what I had hoped for. They have safely and responsibly adopted social media as a valuable educational tool.
Postscript: Natasha Friend is skyping with our class June 8. The students are so excited!