screen smarts

i am a witness
Example of the “I am a Witness” anti-buying emoji

The lesson in our Technology and Innovation in Education class this week was titled, “Shiny vs. Scary Internet.” Since starting this class two months ago I have been voraciously eating-up articles, blogs and videos documenting the positive potential of technology in classrooms. I have surprised myself as an easy convert to valuing technology as a vastly powerful tool for learners, in an about-face of my decade as a screen-free wilderness facilitator. However, I recognize that I am in the pendulum swing of someone quickly rethinking their perspective of technology, and I appreciated focus on cyberbullying in in class this week to balance my growing list of technology’s up-sides with cautions of its dark-sides.

I’ve been watching devastating videos created by teens of their cyber-bullying experiences, read Michael Harris investigation of the Amanda Dodds case, and followed one teen’s exposé on her experience with the dark side of social media. I have also been inspired by teen action against cyberbullying, and hopeful of the potential power of a new “I am a witness” bullying emojicon.

What I distill from a week’s reflection on cyber bullying and the dark-side of the digial world is the importance of teaching digital literacy, and modelling safe, appropriate technology use in homes and schools. In most situations, I believe it is more important to teach decision making rather than enforce rules. I believe that adults need to help guide youth through their exploration of the digital world, rather than putting up access walls around what is deemed to be safe. Digital exploration should be done in open, public spaces, where adults can use teachable moments to engage in dialogue around internet safety. For example, a communal computer in central location in a home is safer than individual devices used in isolated rooms. Parents and teachers need to develop their own digital literacy, so that they can help support children in learning digital literacy.

Reseaching approaches to teaching digital literacy in the classroom led me to discover Genious Hour. Genius hour stands out as an excellent class activity that can be used to help students grown their positive digital foot print and gain digital literacy skills. Student inquiry in Genius Hour is often propelled by digital resources, and student demonstration of knowledge often includes technology production of some sort (however, it should be noted that genius hour could be completely successful without technology, depending on student interest). Beyond teaching digital liteacy, genius hour can be used to inspire personalization, creativity, passion, curiosity and resilience in learners.  I believe that genius hour provides an exceptional opportunity for teachers to model safe technology use and facilitate digital literacy development.

To learn more about genius hour, start here: www.gallitzvi.com/home/genius-hour

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