The other night I had this dream: I was swimming along the shallow edge of a bay with my children, ages 4 and 7. Suddenly my 4 year old son purposely swam away from me and into the deep water. I panicked and swam after him, trying to grab onto him and swim to the surface.
It doesn't take an expert in dream interpretation to figure out the obvious symbolism. It is natural for parents to want to protect their children from danger. But, in this example, my son's best protection would not have been for me to attempt to drag him to the surface, thus pulling both of us under; it would have been to have taught him to be a strong swimmer.
As we are all well aware, the Internet poses all kinds of possible dangers. As we sit at our computers connecting with the wide world, we may be physically safe. But it's called the world wide web for a reason. It's all there; the good, the bad, the ugly.We can type in a wrong letter or two and end up at a site we'd rather not see. We can think we are connecting with friendly folks, tell them a bit too much information, and find out that they aren't quite so friendly. The risks are real. However, the benefits are beyond compare. Most of us can't imagine a world without the Internet. Like everything else in life, we have to take the good with the bad.
I know I am repeating myself here. I've said it before. I'll probably say it again. We have to TEACH students how to use the technology wisely and safely. Banning and filtering may seem to provide an easy solution, but what are we telling our students?
•We don't trust you to act responsibly.
•We don't think this is worth teaching you.
•We don't care that this is how and what you want to learn.
Besides which, bans and filters don't address the all of the possible problems.
I have faced a lot of hurdles at my job revolving around issues of Internet safety. I work at a small, private, religious school. I am in my second year at the school, and we are, slowly, but surely, entering the 21st century. We are even beginning to blog with students outside of the ultra-safe Think.com. If I could share my strategy, it is this: I try to arm myself with information, both research and anecdotal evidence. I align myself with those of like mind. In some instances I believe it is better to ask forgiveness than permission.
I acknowledge that there will always be people who may not understand what I am doing or may not agree with me. I know that I am taking a risk by blogging about my professional activities. I have to be true to myself, however, and true to my students.
I couldn't write a post like this at this time without referring to the situation with Al Upton and the mini-legends. Al Upton is a teacher in South Australia and the mini-legends were his student bloggers. I was writing to one of his students as a blogging mentor and quite enjoying our communication. I was hoping to have some of his student bloggers communicate with my student bloggers. Just the other day, the mini-legends were shut down by some administrator due to parent concerns. It is all a bit hazy. The students even had signed permission slips for blogging. As of earlier tonight, there were around 120 comments from around the world in support of Al and his students. You can read about it here.
In my experience, the biggest issues I face come from ignorance. It is my job to continually educate the parents and in that way advocate for the students. 21st century educators have a great knack for pooling our resources and supporting one another, and through that, we will prevail.
One good wiki I have found with resources for blogging in education is http://www.supportblogging.com