So I guess you could say that I’m getting a bit defensive these days about people questioning the safety of using blogs in the classroom. Last week it was the Vermont principal. Yesterday it was the English supervisor at my school. Oy.
Let me first say that it wasn’t so much her as it was a reporter who had been contacted by one of our advanced journalism students who was looking for someone to mentor her in her Weblog. The reporter, who had not been previously contacted by anyone at the school, proceeded to call the English supervisor and proclaim that it put our school “in a very bad light” when we tell kids to contact people over the Internet that they don’t know. Oy-yoi-yoi.
I could feel the hair on the back of my neck standing up before the story was even half finished, and I launched into some intense, raised voice argument about how kids are doing this outside of school all the time and that isn’t it better that we’re doing teaching them about the responsibility that goes along with it blah, blah, blah, blah. Even though the girl has a different teacher, the supervisor wanted to know if I vetted mentors when I instituted the practice in the course three years ago. I told her my process was to find reporters through contacts and through links at professional organizations. And that I talked to my kids about various scenarios and what to do if any of them occurred. And that I trusted the kids to act responsibly. And that the idea that a pedophile was going to tell me as much if I had contacted him/her beforehand to see if he/she would be interested in being a mentor was, well, unlikely to say the least.
When I finally stopped for a breath, I could tell I was overreacting juuusssst a bit. Oy.
And so then tonight, what do I find but this article which asks the very relevant questions:
Are we creating kids hooked on instant gratification? With no sense of consequence for their actions? Who don’t know the difference between what’s private and public, and who are forever in search of an audience? Kids who don’t take deadlines and commitments seriously because they are in perpetual communication?
Sigh. These are toughies, and the article goes to great lengths to paint the very confusing picture of what all of this might be doing to our kids. The worst part is, as a source from Pew says in the story, we’re just going to have to wait and see.
Which begs the bigger question, one that I seem to keep posing more and more often…what, exactly, are we doing to help kids see that there are consequences for their actions online, that there is a big difference between private and public, that just because there is a whole universe out there that wants instant communication, there is still a great deal to be learned from persistence and commitment? How are schools modeling and teaching effective uses of the technologies that kids are immersed in?