It Takes a Village

A Cambodian school I visited in 2011
A Cambodian school I visited in 2011

Whose responsibility is it to teach students to be safe online?

Everyone’s.

Is that enough of a response?  

In all seriousness we are all responsible. The African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child” hasn’t changed. “We live in a face-paced, instant information, and pressure-packed world. Today’s children are faced with a myriad of both challenges and opportunities.”  Students need guidance, instruction, and a safe space to learn from all of us. PE teachers, language teachers, classroom teachers, administrators, librarians, peers, and the list goes on and on. As we’ve learned so far in this course, the internet and our use of it is powerful and can be positive, if we believe what we read we need to holistically educate students on how to harness this vast tool. Besides, there is so much to learn about the internet– digital footprints, creative commons, remixing, privacy, the list is too extensive for one teacher to cover. Just as we have social emotional curriculums that explicitly teach students, we need to explicitly teach students proper online usage.  

Since the amount of information is so vast and always changing it can be intimidating to touch (not to mention teach). With all the myths out there and confusion about laws it can be overwhelming, but here’s the thing…if it is overwhelming to us as educators, imagine how overwhelming it is to students.  They are online, there is no getting around it. We can’t leave them high and dry, they need to be immersed in online safety (and the everything else we’ve learned so far) in all classes.  With a resounding and unified message coming at them different fronts they are more likely to practice safe use.

Technology is everywhere (photo is mine)
Technology is everywhere (photo is mine)

There are tons of sites, resources, and programs out there to help us. Tools like Generation Safe can help schools self assess their digital citizenship. Also, Mike Ribble lays out Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship along with questions we can ask ourselves to guide our teaching..  After reading this week I kept thinking that sometimes the most meaningful teaching about online safety and internet use come in the unexpected teachable moments. These moments are easy to sweep under the rug or they may take time away from your planned lesson, but these are the ones students remember and need the most.

Now the real question is how do we get everyone to take responsibility for teaching our students how to interact and use the internet?  I work at a school where a lot of teachers have technophobia. How do I respect each teacher as their administrator, but also move them along to meet the needs of our learners? Ray Nasher thinks you should  invest our energy in the teachers not yet ready , I would agree, but actually doing that and making an impact is hard. I also think having organic grassroot leadership from teachers is very effective. What do you think? What has worked at your school?