This weeks debate topic about whether openness and sharing in schools is unfair to kids was an important topic. Concerns were raised about legitimate issues regarding openness and sharing, but to avoid sharing altogether to mitigate these issues is kind of like not ever driving a car because of the chance that an accident occurs.

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A lot of the issues regarding  being open and sharing online are the same kind of issues we experience offline as well. People say or do things in the moment that they may regret. This happens particularly often when we are young and haven’t fully matured or don’t quite understand the impact of our actions. There are certain items that are only issues online, such as sharing pictures of individuals without consent which can lead to legal issues or identity theft. The real big issue about making these mistakes online is the permanence of the actions and the size of audience that it reaches. Even if you catch your mistake quickly, chances are it still exists on someone’s hard drive! An argument you may make then is that we should prevent kids from sharing online because we all make mistakes, but the probability of kids making mistakes is higher and so to protect them from making these mistakes we should prevent them from accessing these sharing tools.

Fair enough. But you can’t avoid these tools and having an online presence very well in this world anymore. It will only become a larger part of our society and existence moving forward. Is there a certain age that we deem kids prepared enough to all of a sudden have access? Will they know how to behave and operate in this world after all of the avoidance? Schools have always been a place to help kids grow, develop and gain skills needed for life beyond school. Having the skills to operate online in a safe and productive manner are crucial, and will become more so, and so I don’t think we can, or should, avoid giving students practice and guidance in digital citizenship and sharing online. Mistakes will be made along the way, but the teachers can provide safer environments for which mistakes and learning can be made.

Tyler’s blog ‘Unfair? Nope.‘ echoes that we have a responsibility to provide these skills and opportunities to students, but that we first must have a grip on our own digital footprint. Kayla Delzer, in her article ‘How You Can Become A Champion Of Digital Citizenship In Your Classroom’, talks about walking the walk when it comes to digital citizenship. If we are to help model positive online behaviour to our students, shouldn’t we have an online presence as well? Shouldn’t we allow our students to see our online presence so that they can see modeled what we are preaching?

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Kyle’s blog ‘Digital Footprints should be Cultivated, not Avoided‘ talks about the value in sharing work online. It is becoming more and more commonplace for employers to look at one’s digital footprint as their resume. Kayla Delzer’s article points out that 93% of employers are looking at digital footprints when hiring or recruiting. I talked at the beginning of the dangers of sharing online, but if our students avoid it and are not creating digital footprints, then when they are applying for jobs and the employer is looking at all the possible applicants, who will they choose? The student with no digital footprint will not have a bad digital footprint and so they won’t lose out on the job for that reason, but at the same time, there will be applicants with positive digital footprints who will get the job because they will have a dense portfolio that portrays quite clearly who they are and what they have accomplished.

This may be uncomfortable for a lot of teachers, but it is important. We are doing an incredible disservice to our students if we avoid this and hope that it just goes away. It needs to be done right though, and so those teachers who are comfortable need to be leaders and support other teachers. It is scary though. There are so many examples of people who’s lives have been ruined by making a single mistake in front of the online audience. It is my hope that we will ultimately become a much more understanding society and drop the relentless shaming that rears its ugly head too often.

Live long and prosper

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