This year students have completed a tremendous number of online activities & experiences (e.g. imbee, classblogmeister, wiki creation & editing, widgets, google docs & spreadsheets). The last few months concept of "social networking" has really hit home for me. I think I'm starting to "get it." The constant change & improvements in technology, widgets, tools, and thinking will never stop evolving.
The horizon for many students will include online learning experiences like Second Life, where students and teachers meet in a virtual environment. Michigan is the first state in the nation that requires high school students 20 hours of online learning to graduate.
Making connections and being a part of a "bigger whole" becomes key to engaging learners in becoming participants & collaborators. Online gaming engines like World of Warcraft entice participants to join guilds and become an involved in groups. Friendships are built while collaboration & commitments are fostered. A sense of community develops, thus making players "invested" in the game. Now if only we could find that same dynamic for education!
World of Warcraft has over 8 million online participants! That is a tremendous amount of social networking going on daily. Note, I'm not endorsing World of Warcraft for educational / social purposes, I'm merely commenting on the idea that many of our "digital native" students seek online connections and social networking.
The discussion for myspace / facebook and social networking spaces will be saved for another post, but I strongly believe that our students are "out there" in the online world without proper guidance, they may have websites (e.g. youtube, myspace, etc.) blocked at school, but many kids are so tech savvy that they are still participating at home. At our age group of students, many kids participate in webkinz, imbee, or club penguin online environments.
Everyone leaves a "digital fingerprint" from their online experiences. We need to educate our kids to be safe & responsible in their online endeavors. More and more often I read about students who are missing out on educational opportunities due to their digital fingerprints (read here inappropriate content on their myspace / facebook pages that get them kicked off sports teams, not admitted to certain colleges, or even an extreme case where a college student was not given her education endorsement for her 4 years of education coursework). As parents, adults, educators, and "digital immigrants" we may not have the same comfort zone with technology; however, we have the morals, ethics, wisdom, and responsibility to guide our students in making appropriate and safe online and life choices.
As a parent, would you be interested in attending an online safety seminar to better prepare you and your children for this 21st century world our children are growing up in? If you are not a parent of a student in my classroom, then rate the importance of having a parent / student online safety workshop (On a scale of 1-5).