Monday, December 8, 2008

Empowering students

Vicki Davis aka Cool Cat Teacher blogged about Empowering students...Is it wrong to let students try? Is empowering kids the WRONG thing to do?

Empowering students is a responsibility that adults have to our students, or anyone in a generational gap. Vicki's students have been working with Lively, blogging about their actions, what they have learned, mentoring elementary students, and now conducting a virtual protest to get Google to keep Lively alive. They are conducting themselves professionally along with providing solutions rather than posting complaints.

Vicki posted a simple request on Twitter requesting some comments to the Digiteen Dream Team blog to incorporate into the classroom discussion. Today she posted some responses from adults who only read one post or just skimmed the surface of the blog.

Check out her blog post where Vicki addresses some comments which I have heard mentioned by high school educators, administrators, and parents. These students also mentored elementary students, "Using Woogi world we taught fourth grade children the importance of safety, balance, and respect on the internet".

Regardless of how parents, teachers, and administrators feel about the Internet, they need to be involved, listening to their students, and learning something new every day.

I hear requests about incorporating teacher training...I am all for it but the educators need to be participative and partake in some independent learning. Even FBI agents have been "schooled" by teens when they were learning about chat room language and behavior (June 28, 2005). The FBI agents claimed they were stumped by the tests given by the teens.

I see too many students, teachers, and parents who are involved, learning independently, learning in virtual groups...while it is not the majority there are programs that work...but that is a topic for another post.

I support what Vicki is doing with her students and the Digiteen project as well as the Flat Classroom project and the many other projects she is involved in. She is an inspiration and many of us wonder how does she do it all....because she cares. When you care about something...when you are passionate about something...you work tirelessly to support our students.

I don't know her students personally, but out of the four states my daughter has attended school in...I can tell you she has not had the opportunity to be a digiteen with a school group. She has a mother who was technical in the Army (Telecommunications and Spectrum Management) and now back working with Network Managers. Rather than sitting on the sideline griping and complaining about the lack of opportunities I decided to do something about it. There has always been a computer in the home to today when gadgets are much a part of life that it is painful to revert to paper and pencil. Granted there is always room for paper and pencil...even during hurricane season. If I don't teach my daughter and her friends about empowerment....when do they learn?

When the students graduate...if they do graduate...they don't inherently become "real world" smart. We are all humans...we only know what we know...so why not challenge yourself and learn something new today...and for the rest of your life. Use the brain like you do your heart...the more you use it...the less likely you are to lose it. If you have a special skill to share and the school networks are filtered and blocked...check your nearest library.

For all of the critics of Vicki Davis' Digiteen Dream Team project, I have to defer to Abraham Lincoln's quote, "He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help.”

Just because you didn't grow up with the Internet in your school is not an acceptable excuse on restricting information to your children or students on becoming digital citizens.

You might want to start with reviewing your ISP's Terms of Service (TOS) and Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). How ready for the real world are they when they are using networks that restrict and block everything in the real world. Error management should be incorporated for all users, so computer users maintain a coolness under stress and realize everything can be overcome in the world of data.

For those of you who question what Vicki is doing, she is a passionate, caring teacher who states, "Yes - we talk about terms of service and have discussed it. I stand behind what we're doing and to them, this is important. I will certainly take any blame for problems that happen, however, putting kids in super sanitary environments teaches kids that things always go right and computers always work, and that certainly, isn't the real world of struggles and problems that I'm preparing them for.

Vicki...keep doing what you are doing and don't sweat the small stuff. Your students are incorporating ISTE standards where some students do not even know or have ever heard of ISTE and why they have standards. They understand the components of being a responsible digital citizen and will end up being the leaders in their fields, whatever field that maybe.

Continue to empower your students and encouraging them to try, they are the future leaders.
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