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Monday, December 08, 2008

Is it wrong to let students try? Is empowering kids the WRONG thing to do?



So, what do you think?  I've been reading Lidija Davis' great response to the work that my students are doing in response to the Google Lively Shut down. 

The commenters on the post really have me a bit wrankled. 

From one person who says that I need to

"teach my students social skills" 

to several others who question the merit of teaching digital citizenship at all.

Another implies because we're doing this project we need to go outside and breathe some clean air.  (OK, we live in rural Georgia and every child in this class but one will probably go home tonight and work on the farm.)

Another commenter says,

"I have no problem with teaching a little bit of Internet etiquette but it certainly shouldn't take more than a day to do. When I was in school we got a speech that started something like "before we go online I want you to keep some rules in mind..." and we all did just fine.
Beyond that a 9th grader is at the level where they should be learning how web pages are made (e.g. html, a programming language, etc...). I'd much rather see the time spent on this nonsense dedicated to something more practicle like that.
Finally, 9th graders should understand that something they got for free can be taken away if it doesn't make money. If their understanding of economics is so weak that they don't get that and think a protest is somehow going to change that I'm a little worried abour our future."
 Wait a moment - I'll respond to this below.  Then, underneath all of the criticism is a tiny little comment from a person that I know is one of my students.  She says:

"Lively shutting down is destroying everything my classmates and I have been working on. Many people may think that we are a little obsessed with Lively, but after we have put all the time and effort into it would be very upsetting. The students that we are teaching are learning very much and using it every time they get on the internet.We all use Lively daily and are planning to teach all ages of middle school kids about digital citizenship using Google Lively. We created rooms to help us teach everyone about the nine aspects of digital citizenship. We ended up making numerous rooms and now our seventh graders are using them. We each use a different room every week. We all access these rooms daily and it will change the way our daily class operates."
"
Tom comes back and says this:

"@Lidija - I don't applaud 9th graders for trying alone. 9th Grade is High School age and by that age you should know enough to be realistic.

If they raised funds, wrote a letter suggesting ways Google could profit from Lively, or anything that might actually stand a chance of making a difference I'd applaud that.

But a "virtual protest" is just them saying "Please give us free stuff or we'll be upset" and honestly that's a little childish. High School age is old enough to know nothing comes for free."

So, yes, this shows how often commenters just take the blog post at face value.  They had already made up their mind without taking a look at the student work.  So, did I get upset, yes.  Criticize me for what we do - not my students and not checking the facts in this case really iritates me.  I'm proud of my student responding in such a kind way to someone who misunderstood their intent. 

And this is what I wrote (as of this posting, it had yet to be moderated.)

"@Tom -- please read this - post - 10 Ways lively can make money - http://digiteendreamteam.blogspot.com/2008/12/10-way-lively-can-make-money.html written on their blog this PAST Friday.

If you take a look at their blog, you'll see http://digiteendreamteam.blogspot.com/  that they do understand this.

I'll quote from their blog:

"Additionally, we know and have discussed how Google is a for profit company that must maximize returns for it's shareholders -- so,
we're going to share ways we think Google can or could have made money from Lively and improvements that they should have or other virtual world companies should make in order to better serve classrooms. (Like the ability to remove an offensive person from the space.)"

The students said this.

What I see here is a problem that is overlying so much of US education -- that is a general disdain and distaste for the work of teachers.

I believe that the strategies we are using here do teach students to be effective citizens and if any of the commenters here took the time to see the archives and work we have done on our school wiki (http://westwood.wikispaces.com) - you would see that yes, there is programming, blogging, etc. - these students collaborate and manage global projects that are very meaningful and DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP is a huge issue.

Tinsley is a student in the class and I believe her response is a great one.

This is NOT about asking Google to not make money - this is saying that there is some great potential here for Google and they CAN make money while providing something students need.

So, criticize all you wish, but as their teacher, I decided to take our 2 week module on blogging and use it about something that they are passionate about instead of having them basically write a term paper for the internet as many people teach blogging.

It is highly likely that Google will ignore them, and that is OK too, a learning experience also, but you'll notice that they are also doing several other things:

* Evaluating other virtual worlds for use after Lively most likely shuts down
* Giving suggestions to make Lively profitable
* Writing about the effective use of Woogi world to teach elementary online safety
* Sharing their views on digital citizenship.

I will always defend their right to speak out and that they should not be looked down upon just because they are young.

Sometimes young people are right.  I stand behind what they are doing."

And this is often why teachers DON'T like to stick their neck out there.  It is quite popular to teacher and education bash.  My husband is the sound man at church and he says it is a as bad as being  a teacher because everyone has different ears and their own opinion!  Everyone has the lens from which they view education and forget this...

things change from when THEY were in school!

Being in business for quite some time and I also had that know-it-all-about-education attitude as well.  My first day in the classroom hit me like a Mac truck when I realized that everything I knew was wrong and that teaching is a harder job that running a multi million dollar cell phone market.

I stand behind my students.  The protest is just ONE thing they are doing.  Today, several students reflected upon Digital citizenship education and using Woogi world to teach elementary students about online safety.  It is an excellent set of posts.

They have found their passion and more power to them.  We do love Google and all of the services. 

When this happened, I went to the curriculum director and asked to move my two week module on blogging from January to now and to use this topic as the core of our work.  It was the right thing to do for my students.

It is tough, though, to be criticized and have my students see it as well, but that is part of life.  We all know it is highly unlikely that Google will care about this.  The students do too, but they wanted to try.  What do they have to lose?


But I think a great potential web app is about to die in Google Lively and it could make money for them.  So many are in love with Second Life but forget the expense.

Some say that we just want something for nothing -- yes, we know we have to pay sometimes - but we just don't have $2300 a year to pay for the island in Second Life and it is a shame for Linden to corner the market.

My students will be posting on some other virtual worlds they have been trying out.  I hope some of you might make it over to the student blog to give them some encouragement.

What do you think?  Maybe it struck me wrong, but some of these comments really seem to misunderstand the nature of students and our world today.

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