Connecting Digital Lives

https://flic.kr/p/b5iJuF​At the start of the year, I had high hopes for sparking conversation with parents when I produced the laptop orientation sessions for our freshmen. We wouldn’t allow the computers in our 1:1 program to go home until parents attended an information session and signed the paperwork.  I ended up sharing information that the district wanted them to know about fees and some other tips for care.  Next year, I think we need to do more.

I had an interesting conversation with a parent who wanted us to keep the loaner laptop at school because her son was only using it to play games and watch music after school. By the end of the conversation, which was partly a need for her to vent about his suspension, she agreed to take the laptop up at night and give it back in the morning. Parents are learning right along with us.

Some have learned the hardest lessons.

Digital Native image by T. Faltings licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-ShareAlike 2.0.  No changes have been made.

Digital Native image by T. Faltings licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-ShareAlike 2.0. No changes have been made.​At the start of the year, I had high hopes for sparking conversation with parents when I produced the laptop orientation sessions for our freshmen. We wouldn’t allow the computers in our 1:1 program to go home until parents attended an information session and signed the paperwork.  I ended up sharing information that the district wanted them to know about fees and some other tips for care.  Next year, I think we need to do more.

Many people have a vague understanding of what it’s like to be young in the digital age. As the adults in the room we think we know, but we can’t help seeing things through our own lenses..  “Well when I was in school…” is usually how it starts.  Our reflections about growing up are not the same as the experiences our adolescents are having in “public”.  The whole definition of adolescent has been changing.

Last month, I had an interesting conversation with a parent who wanted us to keep the loaner laptop at school because her son was only using it to play games and watch music after school. By the end of the conversation, which was partly a need for her to vent about his suspension, she agreed to take the laptop up at night and give it back in the morning. Parents are learning right along with us.

Some have learned the hardest lessons.

A few weeks ago, I heard a story on the radio program On the Media about a teen who died from complications after a suicide attempt. It was yet another story about a photograph that went viral that resulted in a teenager’s death. Rehtaeh Parsons’ story is a bit different, though. Her mother has been on the receiving end of cyberbullying, even as she tries to help other parents.

It’s ironic that Rehtaeh’s likeness can be spread around the internet and follow her even in death, but her name can be “erased” from the news coverage of the charges.

https://flic.kr/p/oTnxryTech-savvy teens are creating apps that allow for anonymity, to an extent.   I watch a lot of crime shows that are always looking for forensic evidence and have been leery of apps that erase traces of cyberbulling or sexting.  After hearing Rehtaeh’s story, maybe letting things disappear would be a good thing.  Not everything should stay on the internet in perpetuity, especially while these young people are still forming their identities and are bound to make mistakes.  Ones that shouldn’t follow them for the rest of the lives.  The European Union is on board with the “right to be forgotten.”   This right is far from what Rahtaeh’s father wants for her, but we are still figuring out what it means to have digital footprints.

Common Sense Media has a program called Connecting Families, sponsored by the National PTA, that could be implemented to help us all work together as we untangle the complex web and the implications of living in it.  The resources come in English and Spanish.

If I could dismantle my hybrid job and focus on my Technology role, I would work to connect families’ digital lives to our still-emerging connected school lives.  Nothing is going to improve if we don’t address the virtual elephants in the room.  Maybe nothing could have prevented Rahtaeh from ending her life, but couldn’t we strive to prevent the behavior of the boy who took the photo in the first place?

We can do a better job of being the connected spokes of parents, community/church members, educators, mentors and others surrounding our children at the hub. How have you started connecting digital lives in your school and community?

Digital Native image by T. Faltings licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-ShareAlike 2.0.  No changes have been made.

Snapchat image by Maurizio Pesce licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic. No changes have been made.

Update: NEA’s GPS Network has a Teen Suicide Prevention Webinar scheduled for Wednesday, December 9th at 10 p.m. ET in conjunction with Mental Health Awareness Week.  Please retweet the shortened link: http://bit.ly/1B6SiYQ

 

  • DeidraGammill

    So many good takeaways!

    Tori,

    Thank you for sharing what you’re doing (and the lessons you’re learning) in the post. My school hasn’t implemented a 1:1 policy yet, but I love the idea of bringing parents in as more active participants in their children’s digital learning. You’re right – those of us who grew up before computers were household staples (back when cell phones were the size of bricks!) have a great deal of difficulty connecting our memories of adolescence with what our own children and students are experiencing (good and bad). I stay somewhat “current” with what’s going on with my students by virtue of having 2 teenage boys at the highs school where I teach.

    I’m so glad you shared Rehtaeh’s story as well. I hadn’t heard of her, and what she went through, plus what her parents are trying to do, is as powerful as it is tragic. My students have been working hard on an anti-bullying campaign at our school (following Adam Sherman’s #2BKind example). I plan to share this with them on Monday.

    Thank you for such a thoughtful (and thought-provoking) post. I often focus on trying to protect kids from the bad they can see/do/experience in the digital world; I love how your post made me think about all the positive ways I can engage parents and the community in keeping kids safe but also in learning along with them.

     

    • misstori

      Perspective

      What do your boys have to say about technology in their lives?  Even without a 1:1, do you have technology at home?  What kinds of conversations have you had?

      Please share examples from your students’ anti-bullying campaign!

      • DeidraGammill

        Fortunate

        Both our boys use technology for a myriad of things. They are fortunate to have iPhones and laptop computers (they never have an excuse for not doing an assignment). But they connect technology with social/entertainment for the most part (music, texting, gaming). Neither is big on FB but both enjoy gaming with others. One son actually is the admin for a Minecraft site and has made friends all over the nation as a result. But they also have rules about when technology can be used and when it can’t (no phones at dinner table, none at church or scout meetings). For the most part they are compliant – we do have some “moments” but who doesn’t with teenagers?

        My students interviewed other students and found that many who are bullied feel like other students don’t care, so rather than focusing on telling students not to bully, they have worked very hard to promote a culture of kindness. They used Adam Sherman’s examples (using sidewalk chalk to leave positive quotes & writing write positive messages on Post-It notes, leaving them in teacher mailboxes and on car windows). They observe teacher birthdays (with my help) and even made poster-size “Congratulation” cards for our teachers who earned NBCT this year. They delivered them in class and made a big deal of the accomplishment (we believe that teachers should experience kindness too). They’ve also worked hard to be more observant of their classmates and to reach out with a smile or high-5 if they feel someone is having a rough day. Baby steps, but the response has been good. 🙂

         

         

        • misstori

          Fascinating

          Thanks for sharing about your sons.  I’m fascinated by the purpose for which they technology – social and entertaining.   They’re on to something!  Isn’t it amazing how communication has busted down walls and allowed everyone to find each other despite geography?  

          Your students are also amazing (with your guidance, I’m sure).  I don’t get out of my cave often (testing duties are non-stop) enough to see kids interact with each other this year.  I do hear a lot of “Shut up” thrown around the hallway.  Is this a new term of endearment?  How inspiring to inspire others with kindness.  Someone should call Ellen on you guys!

           

  • marsharatzel

    Use with caution

    One of the best pieces of advice that I’ve ever seen is that digital tools should be used under supervision.  If a parent brings the computer or tablet in a public space within the home where everyone can see what’s going on, it somehow empowers students to be more responsible.  I think the flipside of that is also that the adults in the home, take more time to walk by and see what’s going on the device.

    And while this is very old fashiong, I think it’s a good thing to have to share with siblings or parents.  Not everyone needs their own.  Yes, I know that means sometimes there will be conflicts as to who has priority.  But those very negotiations are good in and of themselves and it promotes time managment.  One mom I spoke with not too long ago talked about how her daughters have to write it on a calendar if they have a big assignment coming up that requires a computer….they’ve learned to schedule ahead.  And if one finds the other checking Facebook or “hanging” out when they need it for school, there is a 10 minute rule.  They can bump each other because school work takes priority over fun.  Imagine.  Siblings monitoring silbings!!!  I asked her if it created fights.  Oh yeah she said.  But she thought it was a good lesson for them to learn.

    I get posts and emails from students at all hours of the night.  I can’t imagine their parents know they are up and logged on.  If the devices were used in the family room or the kitchen, you would think that an adult would notice and send that student to bed!

    Digital devices seem to be in the same category as a car.  Most families wouldn’t just give students the keys, wish them good, remind them to be good and let them go.  Devices are in the same category in my mind.  I think we believed we could provide and things would just work out and now we know better.

    Great convo topic and I’ll be anxious to see/hear what others think.

     

    • misstori

      Pro-Active

      That sounds like quite the pro-active parent.  The lessons she is instilling in her girls go beyond monitored use – she’s teaching them about priorities and scheduling.   I wonder if this is more common than I assume. 

       

      • marsharatzel

        Change is incrementally slow

        Dear Toni,

        I think it can be.  The PTO at my school focused on this issue for several years, did a bunch of reading and had some guest speakers.  I think it made a difference on what parents thought they should and can do.  I think they were very worried to meddle….and didn’t realize that it was important to take charge.

        The PTOs also band together in a feeder system (the high school, its middle schools and its elementary schools) by pooling their guest speaker money.  Usually they bring in someone that actually does assemblies at the schools that parents come and attend with their students.  Kids go back to class and parents have an after-assembly parent/guest speaker extended conversation.  The idea is that they then have a common body of knowledge from which to discuss things.  It sounds like it has been pretty effective.

        Their learning empowered them to say no and to invoke boundaries on digital use.  I won’t say that everyone does this.  Goodness knows that I receive way too many Edmodo posts or emails at 10pm or later on school nights to believe we have widespread belief in digital rules.  But I think I see slow change starting to happen.

        • misstori

          Planting Seeds

          I love these ideas!  You are planting so many seeds in my mind right now.   Even if only 10% of the parents who attended your sessions come away with strategies and empowerment, that can be so exponential in the long run.   I’ll need to add some fertilizer to these seeds.  

          Rod tweeted an edutopia article about Empathy & Research that included an idea about parent focus groups.  Genius!  

  • RodPowell

    View from an 8 yr. 1:1 school

    We’ve been 1:1 in Mooresville for 8 years now.  I think we do a great job of blending the digital and the traditional.  We use all the latest greatest apps and tools.  I’m a believer in the power of tech. in our classrooms

     

    But – I think Tori’s Virtual Elephant in the room is large and it is real.

     

    This is indeed a thought provoking post.  I wonder how good of a job do we do at MGSD of connecting the digital lives of our students at home, with their families, and in school.

     

    We have provided an incredible tool with our laptops here at MGSD – but are we doing enough to teach their responsible use along with how to attain and maintain a safe and productive digital life?

     

    Tori’s reference to  a NPR story about cyber bullying and its role in a young girl’s suicide attempt raise questions in my mind:

     

    • How many of our students use our laptops to bully and harass fellow students?  
    • Do we have time to address this issue in our lessons?  
    • Do we have time to do so in our race for standardized learning and test scores?

    For many of our students – their school issued laptop is the only digital device in their home.  We have given them this tool.

    • Are we teaching them to use it safely and responsibly? 
    • How much of this responsibility lies with teachers and how much should be shared with parents?  I’m wondering how many parents are up to this responsibility themselves.
    Taking the school issued laptop out of the equation, most of our students have access to mobile technology that can be used independently of school infrastructure and control.  Again, 
    • are we educating our students in “Digital Life 101” much like we would in math, the sciences, and English language?
    As we push for more effective technology integration in our classes, I’m not sure of the answers to my questions.

     

    • misstori

      questions begat more questions

      I just met someone during the holiday break whose granddaughter attends school in Mooresville.  I told her that it’s a great district and a model for technology.  I didn’t realize you were part of it, Rod.  

      I was hoping you’d have more answers than questions, but the ones you raise are so important.  

      Last year, I was in another district in a middle school.  We devoted every other Wednesday afternoon to a topic that met during our Activity/Homeroom block for an hour.  These often focused on digital citzenship or financial literacy, as they are topics that don’t always lend themselves to core subjects.   I think several teachers were not thrilled that we took time out of a regular schedule to focus on a lesson about wants vs. needs, for example, and that it was scripted for those that didn’t deviate from the plans provided.  I can’t imagine when else to carve out time for it though.  

      • As a high school educator, do I just hope that someone earlier in the food chain addressed these digital life lessons?  
      • How far down do we have to go?  
      • How do we know if there has been consistency and we’re all on the same page by the 9th grade? Should we be? 

      Was it Paul Barnwell who says he teaches a class in Digital and Social Media Literacies?  What is that like?  Can I be a fly on the wall?

  • JasonParker

    Really important conversation, y’all

    Tori, thank you for sparking the conversation. Rod, Marsha, Deidra, thank you for the comments and conversation. 

    Just a quick comment to say I really appreciate this post and its responses.

  • Julia Hengstler

    Fleas in a Bottle?

    Hi, Toni.

    Thanks for this piece. I raised similar issues on how digital footprints from early ages would affect development of children in a blog piece I wrote in 2010, ” Fleas in a Bottle?: Will Social Networking Stymie Personal Development of Youth?”. If you’re interested, you can find it here, http://jhengstler.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/fleas-in-a-bottle-will-social-networking-stymie-personal-development-of-youth/