As we rapidly progress into a technologically pervasive world the gap between our digital avatars and physical selves closes. As these two worlds meet there is a shift in focus from 'digital citizenship' towards a more ubiquitous understanding of citizenship. We need to empower all stakeholders in the learning community by underpinning our actions with the attitudes and aptitudes needed as learners. This post unpacks what empowering a community through strong character education (from learning to becoming) looks like and how that has changed in a digital age. Please forgive me for this long post. I have recreated my Learning 2 workshop here so that people can access the links, make comments and engage in conversations that matter (*please note all images are linked to the original source, are creative commons attributed or are owned by me).
So, I know it is a bit heavy but let's for a minute play with the idea of self. Gone are the days of creating a Second Life avatar modeled on a Jedi or some medieval knight, gone are the storytelling qualities of creating a 'self' distinctly separate from our physical lives. Now, our identities are co-constructed from our digital and physical interactions, friendships, images, creations, and interests. This is especially true for our students. Often their concept of self can not exist without the construction of both.
Now, a whole genre of musicians that are digitally created beings exist. With huge fan bases, websites, social media presence and sold out concerts they call into question the very idea of self. But it is not only the holographic, digitally created eather that is changing the concept of self. As we overlay avatar and flesh, machine and human we start to merge these two landscapes into one. Robotic and 3D printed organs, limbs and ears are already a reality.
Wearable technology, such as smart watches, and wearable computing devices and even invisible helmets connect us, monitor our moods, and keep us safe.
We are able to augmenting our reality with the overlay of digital media on our physical landscape. Currently, we are working to rid ourselves more and more of devices and seamlessly blend technology into our physical being.
This merge is not just between the digital and physical but also with our social emotional and interactive beings. No longer can we tell students, "Be careful- whatever you put out digitally will be there forever." With the advent of apps like Tiiny, Xpire, and Snapchat, students interactions online can become fleeting and momentary- like many of the interactions we have each day face to face.
Actually, not full stop. Technology is ubiquitous and ever changing. In this new landscape we are faced with new challenges and questions. As Dr. Scott McLeod states, "We can't simply ban the future". There is a steep learning curve that we are participant in. And just as we have an expectation that our students risk take and fail in the classroom, we must have the expectation that failure is a valuable part of learning in this new landscape.
This is an image of me being silly in a tub with a friend. BUT it doesn't matter about the real story behind the photo, what is important is the perception of reality by the viewers. This photo was leaked to students at my last school. Given the small and rather insular nature of international schools often teachers are friends with our colleagues and often those colleagues have children who attend the school. One of the teen age children of my colleague saw this image and a rumor began to circulate around the school.
What do we do when failure happens? Should we totally freak out? Should we ignore it and hope it goes away? Should we get angry? Sad? Even?
Nope, we should have a plan.
Corporations have hired professional teams to manage their social media crisis for them- whole teams. So what can we learn from their millions of dollars spent?
Avoiding Freak out: learning from the corporate sector
Accept responsibility. Say sorry (and mean it). Take action to improve.
I was an adult when my social media crisis hit. I had 37 years of life experience, hardship and grit to give me a toolbox of strategies to cope with the fall out from one little photo. That is often not the case with the learners in our care.
@jeffhoffart and I quickly created a student-friendly anchor, but we bet you could do better in your own communities. If you have created or will create a social media crisis plan for your students please share it or a link to it in the comments.
But it goes further than just having a plan. It has to do with dropping the digital from the language of the classroom and a shift in perception that being a citizen matters about who you are- and who you become- in whatever landscape you occupy.
One way to do this is to create a strong essential agreement with your community of learners. Jeff Hoffart wrote an awesome blog to help walk teachers through this process step by step. Read it here.
Let's shift focus for a bit from looking out to our students to looking in to ourselves. As teachers we are also part of this new learning landscape. Who are we in relation to these changes? Amanda Todd, Retaeh Parsons, Audrie Pott, and Cherice Morales didn't have a plan, they didn't have role models who understood the media they were using, they didn't have adults who understood that their online interactions were an essential part of their construction of identity and self. I can hear you asking, "Okay, we need to be role models- but is it our responsibility to use every tool that our students use?" No way! Impossible for us to be experts on every form of media and technology out there. However, it is our responsibility to conceptually shift our thinking from learning to becoming.
Everyday we underpin our practice with the Learner Profile in order help our students develop the attitudes and attributes that help students become awesome!! But what is the Learner Profile? You can learn all about it here.
If you would like to learn how @JeffHoffart and I are working to develop resources to help teachers in this journey or would like character education books and resources click on the image below.
Getting students involved in action organizations helps children develop empathy. Empathy in turn works to preempt bully behaviors and positively connect students with others around the globe. Find some cool organizations by clicking on the image!!
So, am I asking you to enter your classroom tomorrow and ditch that digital citizenship lesson you had planned? No.
Right now students need the skills and knowledge to be able to operate in this new learning landscape.
DigCit it up, yo! In fact, here are some resources to help you with that!
What I AM asking is that we start to change the narrative of technology from negative to positive.
I was 8 years old when Styx came out with 'Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto'. And if you are familiar with the song, it tells part of the story of Robert Orin Charles Kilroy (ROCK), in the rock opera Kilroy Was Here. The Roboto is a model of robot which does menial jobs in the prison. Kilroy escapes the prison by overpowering a Roboto prison guard and hiding inside its emptied-out metal shell. When Jonathan Chance (played by guitarist Tommy Shaw) finally meets Kilroy, at the very end of the song, Kilroy unmasks and says, I'm Kilroy! Kilroy!, ending the song. We have had decades of the negative narrative of technology. Countless movies, songs, and TV shows have made us fearful of technology and the merging of the digital with physical. As teachers in this new learning landscape with now have the opportunity to flip the script. How are you approaching character education, citizenship at your school? Please share your ideas in the comments so that we can build a new narrative together!