Supportive Technology, Thinking and Action to Improve our World

featured image - digital collaboration handshake

Today’s contributor: Lisa Wenske teaches 1st Grade Teacher in Austin, Texas. 
She enjoys running and movies.

This has been an interesting year—one filled with many successes and many difficulties.  Students and teachers are being pulled in many directions, more than usual; and are using technology, more than ever.  In some ways, this is what several hoped would eventually happen—that technology could and would transform education and the world.  And, indeed, it has.  We have found ourselves at a time where we wouldn’t have much of our current “school” or world experience without technology (for those of us fortunate to have and enjoy it).  But, with this has also come much division—between how we, all, feel, experience and think about the world and education—whether that be with politics, pedagogy, screen time, app use, and even whether there should be remote and/or in-person learning.  As always, it’s a tough balance, but at this point, I’m thinking about much of this even more than usual.

-How do we as educators help students understand digital citizenship and exhibit appropriate, responsible, respectful behaviors during their online presence, in terms of what they do without us (asynchronous learning, use and postings) and what they do in front of us (in Zoom meetings and the like)?

Now, students, of all ages, are having to learn new norms for how to handle themselves in class, in view of classmates and teachers in front of and on a screen.  Young students are needing instruction on how to use chat features, emojis, break-out rooms, virtual backgrounds, cameras and devices in responsible ways, and it’s an unending review of what’s respectful and kind each day.  Older students are having to navigate class participation with higher stakes, virtually, and this has meant an increased amount of responsibility has been placed on their shoulders.

How do we, as educators, encourage students, families and colleagues to utilize technology, but, also, to be careful with what’s available and how one’s use is being used and/or influenced?

We’re asking everyone to use technology—constantly, and though many of our constituents have become much more fluent in technology use itself; there are many who may be unaware of what’s behind the scenes in uses and aims of some apps, websites and social media platforms as well as some of the harmful effects of some technology use and practices.  It is paramount that educators ensure to be very aware of how companies and people use and mis-use information and resources online.  It is very important that we help others (especially students in our care) to make good, healthy, responsible, and positive choices.

To help in some of these matters, I use:

CommonSense Media.  Their website includes wide-ranging resources for families, educators and advocates.  They have advice, tips, lessons, activities, videos, songs—almost anything that you could want to help students understand and learn about Digital Citizenship.  (You may want to visit their WideOpenSchool, to see some of their new collections for Distance Learning.)

The Center for Humane Technology.  They are doing amazing work in spreading awareness about how some technology companies use data and information to influence user behavior and experience.  They discuss and provide resources for understanding how false information can be spread easily as well as how this contributes to division and polarization in our world.  They have resources, tips and advice for families, educators and advocates.

Whatever you may be using to help spread kindness, helpfulness and education throughout our world, I thank you for all that each of you do for all of us.  

I hope these upcoming holidays are happy, peaceful and safe for each of you.

lisa ☺

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