Friday, August 21, 2015

Put It Back

One of the things that Melissa and I try to do is stress good digital citizenship. We use a combination of resources from Google and Common Sense Media. Sometimes we just want to make a point and use a metaphor in order to do so. Today was one of those days.

During Discovery class, we gave each group of three kids a small tube of toothpaste. "Squirt some out onto your tables. Go ahead, we'll clean it up later," I said. When all of the groups had finished squirting toothpaste onto the tables, I said, "Okay, now put it back in the tube." Confused looks crossed many kids' faces while others immediately began attempting to pick up the toothpaste on their fingers and push it back into the tube. No group met with success. "What's the point?" I asked. Several students correctly told me that there was no way to get the toothpaste back into the tube.

I asked them to relate this exercise with their online behavior. "How does this demonstration apply to your life online?" I asked. "Once it's out there, you can't get it back," one kiddo declared. "Exactly!" I told him. We took the next twenty minutes to share stories of cyberbullying, putting too much information online and bad habits in the digital world. We talked about why digital citizenship is the same as citizenship in person; we should behave the same online as we do in person. The kids recognized that "online" no longer means that they can be shielded from the consequences of their actions.

Kids these days live part of their lives online. When schools recognize this point and take steps to guide and teach students how to behave in that realm, we do them a much better service than blocking every social networking site available to them. We must give them the tools and guidance and then trust them to make the right decisions. This teaching is what we do for their academic lives and it is what we should do for the digital aspect of their lives too.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Kids Come First

After a busy and restful summer, it's time to get back into the swing of things. There is a point during each summer that I start to feel eager for the new school year to begin. This year, that feeling came a bit later in the summer, but it came nonetheless. When I came into school last week to start setting up my room, it was easy to understand why teachers get so excited about the beginning of the new school year. Everything is fresh and clean in the school building, we get to arrange our rooms for a new group of kids, we try to add as many features to the physical environment as possible so that the kids will love being here, and we let our minds race with new ideas for teaching and learning during the upcoming year. Indeed, the couple of weeks before school starts is the time when all is possible.

Today at school, there was a little bit of student traffic. Some were coming in to take a tour of the building, some were getting a jump start on decorating their lockers, and some were here to meet their teachers. Their excited faces are why we strive so hard to kick off the year well. These kids are excited about coming to school and we do whatever it takes to maintain that excitement throughout the school year. Such promise is not to be wasted.

I know that I will spend my first day learning the kids' names. That's all I really try to do that first day. I want the kids to understand that finding out about them and building relationships is the most important part of the first week of school. Later we will go over the logistics and procedures of the class but that is secondary to getting to know these kids. Later in the week, we will do some team-building activities and introduce the kids to all of the cool things they will be doing this year. Those are secondary for me because for now, and for always, the kids come first.