The Digital Citizenship Divide

I teach at a high school in a diverse urban district. And by “diverse,” I mean in every sense of the word. My students are diverse in their race and ethnicity, but also in diversity of background, diversity of experience, diversity of interest, of skill, of need. And that extends to their readiness to use the tools of modern learning.

Look at the way we paint our students with the term “digital native”. We assume because our students have grown up around devices, grown up online, that they are inborn with computer/tablet skills.

Then this happens:

Student (looking at computer, calling to me): “What’s this mean, ‘keyboard error’?”

Me: “Oh, just do a Ctrl-Alt-Del on it, you’ll be good to go.”

Student: “What’s that?”


Robert Downey Jr Wut

A seatmate set her straight before I could get back over there and help her out, but still. Ctrl-Alt-Del should be like breathing air. Until it isn’t. Instant reminder to me: Don’t Assume. Ever.

So we are doing a soft rollout of GAFE tools in my building. There was a rumor last spring we would be the second school in our district to go 1:1, but that didn’t happen. However, we do have Google accounts set up for all our students, and since I teach in a computer lab, I’ve been itching to give my students the chance to use the GAFE tools in their learning. Saw an opening today when they were studying disciplines of engineering and the engineering challenges of the 21st century. The assignment calls for students to create a power point slide of what they have learned about the specific challenge. I decided to create a Slides presentation, give all my students editing privileges, and have all my students contribute a slide summarizing what they had learned about the contributions of specific engineering disciplines to a major challenge facing us in the 21st century. OK, it’s not true collaboration, but it gave them an opportunity to work in the same document, and to practice the skills that requires. I want to give them an authentic audience and plan to run the presentation at our Open House this week.  My words: “create something you can be proud of when someone else sees it.”

I expected the day to be messy, like having too many cooks in the kitchen. What I got was kindergarten crap. As soon as students found out they had editing privileges, they started playing around with or deleting other students’ slides. As soon as they found the chat box, they started flaming each other in the chat box.

Pretty much NSFW, even blacked out. Nice.
Pretty much NSFW, even blacked out. Nice.

I let them know that I could see all the edits they made. I let them know I could revert to previous versions. I let them know I could screenshot their chat and send it to the deans.

I reminded myself I Am A Teacher. My job is to teach them. That’s content-area skills, and digital citizenship skills.

Being a teacher is a lot like being a major league baseball player. Went 0-for-4 today? Too bad. We got another game tomorrow. Get your head straight. While I was still shaking my head over infantile knuckleheads being little boys, in setting up an assignment for my class in Edmodo, I ran across this:

In my house, no question goes unanswered. You wanna know the answer? Look it up.
In my house, no question goes unanswered. You wanna know the answer? Look it up.

So here’s a freshman, interested enough in a company she heard about in a video we watched as part of a design process lesson to Google the company, find their web site, read the job descriptions, and to compare that to what we do in class.

The Digital Citizenship Divide. One group saw the tools we have as another way to cut on each other, to be childish. Another student saw the tools as an avenue of learning, and pursued her own interests and questions without my guidance.

So. It’s looks like I’ve got some more teaching to do. I’ll be back at it tomorrow.



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