Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Reflection: Growing Up Online

How does this video impact my thinking about technology's role in the lives of young learners?
After watching the PBS documentary “Growing Up Online”, I recall many instances of keeping a close eye on how my son used the internet in his teens over 10 years ago. The temptations are just as immense as they were back then, but it is important to provide guidance and provide discussion on what are appropriate and acceptable behaviors. The strides in technology can extend learning and open doors beyond the classroom, providing great opportunities for social interaction and personal improvement. However, as a society we must understand the hazard of addiction. The video is a stark reminder of how the internet can be misused and abused. It truly has been, currently is, and always will be the new “Wild West”.
As a parent, educator and citizen, I have concerns about the safety and well-being of every young person. Youth have always been fascinated and intrigued by the unknown, and the current state of technology simply places our anxiety in another perspective. As was noted in the video, the internet provides young people with another way of trying on different identities. But while these private worlds are artificial and fake, they have an element of danger.

What will I do differently as a future teacher as a direct result of this new thinking?
As an educator, it is important that I encourage both awareness and discussion of the dangers in misusing these new technologies. This involves careful assessment of the current psychological state of those students I am having discussions with. Young people mature at different rates, and some will grasp the concepts while others will not fully understand what is being addressed. Think of telling a child not to touch a hot stove, only to see them attempt to do so after you turn your back. Children like to explore and find out for themselves, and the internet is no different. In my opinion it’s not a question of whether our youth can survive without it, but rather how they will flourish within the realm of it.
There is also the issue of using the internet as a shortcut to learning. Within the video there was an example of students using Sparkbooks in place of reading the assigned book, and this represents an opportunity for conversations about personal responsibility and being accountable for one’s actions both in and out of the classroom. As a teacher, I intend to set aside time to have those discussions with my students in both a group setting as well as one-to-one.

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