Saturday, April 7, 2007

How Savvy Are They, Really?

I am sitting here listening to David Warlick's podcast. He is discussing podcasting with a group of teachers. One of the attendees has sparked a thought that has been popping up every now and then. That thought is; How much do my students really know about the Internet and all that goes with it?

It has crossed my mind a lot recently because I have been using podcasting for over a year and blogs and wikis for about 3 months. Each time I have introduced these topics I ask my students if they have ever heard of them. Each time they respond, "no".

The most recent time they shocked me with that answer was this past week. I had posted to my blog about cyberbullying. I basically asked them what they thought of the Ryan Halligan story that I linked to. They were to read and then post about it themselves. Each answer or comment I received was the same. They have never heard of cyberbullying. The second comment was even more revealing. A few said that teachers are just making too much of this.

Are we? I do not believe I am in the most progressive school, but we are not the least progressive either. Sometimes I think we give our students to much credit, especially when it comes to technology. There is still so much we can share with them.

This is perhaps the biggest challenge we face. When do we lead and when do we follow. Most teachers have trouble with that. I have always shared with my students that I like to learn too. They feel comfortable teaching me. It wouldn't have happened though if I didn't initiate it.

I think we need to talk with our students. We need to know their level of tech-savvy. Do not over estimate them. Join them in discussion. You'll be amazed at what you learn.

The technology has again delivered teacher insights from around the world to my living room. This is too cool!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I think you probably should have first defined what is bullying and then what is cyberbullying. Just because they never heard of it, doesn't mean they are not doing it.

Many young people, especially middle schoolers (and many adults) don't know the difference between teasing and bullying. So making that distinction is very important too. What they think is "normal" interactions on-line often depends on who is sending and who is receiving. What is the real relationship between the two? Teasing is an earned privilege between friends. Bullying is exploiting an imbalance of power - social, physical, or intellectual.

Your question and classroom answers is not very scientific as I'm sure you would agree. I would be more interested in uncovering what the students who said nothing to your question or perhaps quietly succumbed to the "popular" answer that this was "no big deal" were really thinking. I'm sure the ones (usually a much smaller group) on the receiving end did not even want to face further public humiliation in the classroom by confirming the cyberbullies in your classroom were truly getting to them. As a teacher, you know it all depends how you pose a question too(what was your tone of voice ... was it sarcastic, what was your body language) and the environment in which you are answering it in. Do they trust you as an adult to open up to? Is it safe to answer your question without the risk of being made fun of by the rest? I've told Ryan's story to over 100 schools and every time I get the e-mails ... it is crushing what they are doing to each other on-line. So I'm wondering what's the definition of not a "big deal" too among this group? I know first hand it is a big deal to the kids on the receiving end of this.

Thanks for sharing my son's story with your students. I hope you keep exploring this issue beyond your classroom.

John Halligan