In the digital age, kids need to have an understanding of what it means to be a responsible digital citizen. They need to learn the technical how-to’s, as well as a more global comprehension of how to navigate the online world. To that end, Melbourne educator Jenny Luca made a commitment to help her students start blogging and to create ePortfolios. Here are six reasons why, at her school, these skills are now a high priority.
By Jenny Luca
- CREATING POSITIVE DIGITAL FOOTPRINTS. Kids need to start establishing a positive digital impression of themselves. Without question, it will be the norm for these students to be Googled when they begin to look for jobs — even if it’s part time. As young as they are, they need to cultivate their personal brand, and they can do this by posting about what they’re involved in at school, learning in their classrooms, or other co-curricular activities they enjoy. We want our students to understand that they can control the message about themselves on the Web, and that they can point prospective employers, colleagues or university admissions officers.
- COMMUNICATING WITH DIGITAL TOOLS. We want our students to have a handle on how to use digital tools to communicate, and not just through networks like Facebook. Plenty of our students are Facebook users, but there is a higher order skill set required to maintain consistent posts on a blog. We’ve taught our students how to set up categories, add widgets, use the HTML editor to embed code, and how to tell the difference between a legitimate comment and a spammer. As our world moves ever closer towards the Internet as the main vehicle for communication, we feel that we are helping our students understand the language they will need to navigate this new territory.
- TRANSPARENCY FOR PARENTS AND FAMILY. Our curriculum is becoming more transparent to parents. As our students write more about what they’re learning, we now have a means for their parents to feel more connected to what happens at school. Where once a child would write for an audience of one – the teacher – now they are writing for a potentially much larger audience that includes their immediate and extended family. Students will not only have a digital archive of their learning, but will see comments from friends and family that they can revisit in years to come. Their access won’t be limited to the box of cherished school records and mementos relegated to the attic. For these kids, an Internet connection will enable them to revisit their childhood and adolescent school years.
- NEW WAYS OF THINKING ABOUT WEB TOOLS. We need a digital space to demonstrate new methods of learning how to use important Web tools. Already this year, our student ePortfolios have been used to embed Slideshare and Google Docs presentations, Glogsters, podcasts created with Garageband, Google MyMaps, Prezi, and links to Wiki pages they have edited for different subjects. Just having our students understand how to hyperlink to other people’s content, and the potential this opens for two-way conversation, has been eye-opening for them. These spaces have helped provide even more reasons for our teaching staff to use Web-based tools and teach themselves new skills in the process.
- EFFECTIVE DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP. By creating ePortfolios, or a digital collection of their work, our students learn how to conduct themselves in digital spaces in the context of their curriculum, not just in isolated lecture-style presentations that may strike a chord with some students, but miss the mark with others. When I talk to my seventh-grade students, they can clearly articulate why we’re using these ePortfolios. It makes sense to them, and they know it is important for their future lives.
- PRIDE IN THEIR WORK. For many of our students, their world view is changing as a result of posting in public spaces. Many of them have embedded clustr maps into their sidebars, and they can see where people are visiting from. Recently, one of our students posted about the effect this global audience has had on her: “Okay- so is this is amazing. I’ve used this blog since March 30th and so far it’s been a great resource and an amazing display of some of my work this year. It hasn’t just been my teachers, my classmates, my family and I that have looked at it — as of August 6 my blog has had 533 visits worldwide. Amazing or what? WOW.”
Jenny Luca contributes to PLP’s group blog Voices from the Learning Revolution.