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Block, Filter or Enhance Our Vision of Citizenship – Education’s Response to Media Literacy and Digital Identity

Posted in ECI 831 by tchcruiser on November 16, 2009
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Autumn Park Rflection in Sunglasses

Originally uploaded by

I selected this image to capture my discussion about literacy and identity formation in schools. I think it is symbolic of education’s typical responses to these challenging and complex sets of skills. The glasses represent our tendancy to try and block or filter knowledge – especially web sites and digital media – from our students, rather than face head on the more important work of teaching how to find material, assess and evaluate for accuracy and relevance, how to create their own content that is worth sharing, how to create and manage their own identity and personality in a digital learning, work and social space and above all – to do all of this work as citizens of a digitally connected world with class, integrity, honesty and respect for themselves and others. I think that this is the most important and most left-out piece of the literacy and identity puzzle that is not being adequately addressed right now. We are still hung up on learning how to use the tools, rather than how to relate responsibly within the tools.

In Nov 11th’s Globe and Mail there was an article about protecting your digital identity. This is connected with another article/editorial I saw in this same publication last week from one of their columnists who was talking about how someone had created a Twitter account under her name (and it was not her). She came to realize that not only was this account set up, but that she had been tweeting for almost a year and had created quite a following because of her tweets. This made me wonder about this for my own sake- what would I think and what would I do if this had been done to me by a student or worse case scenario, a parent group looking to get rid of a teacher from a school….. it is scary to think what can be posted under the pretense of it being you, by someone who has created accounts in your name. A similar conversation and sense of wondering was brought to a discussion in a session at my convention last week around this same topic in reference to cyber-bullying. Are kids doing this to each other? What kind of pressure is there to establish a digital presence on the many social networking sites out there before someone takes it upon themselves to do it for you?

I also wonder about this in relation to famous people, politicians, etc tweeting and facebooking…. no one really expects that the actual people are sending out these transmissions and no doubt understand that paid communications experts are taking care of this kind of media exposure. And if this is the case, how much of it is genuine and can be trusted and taken seriously? As professionals, is this something we need to be thinking about more carefully? How much do we have to manage, supervise and protect our digital presence so that we are still taken seriously and maintain our dignity and integrity? I am hoping that I can work through this alongside colleagues and students.

I will be making efforts to remove the temptation to shield students and filter what they see and interact with in schools and will be a voice for teaching how to use it properly, as Dean Shareski and Bud the Teacher’s blog post suggest. Doing so will also require clear “big picture” vision knowing that the temptation is there to replace shields and filters with a rosy-tint of idealism – but I am willing to give it a go. Maybe Elton John has a pair suitable for the task?

4 Responses to 'Block, Filter or Enhance Our Vision of Citizenship – Education’s Response to Media Literacy and Digital Identity'

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  1. Trisha said,

    I cannot agree with you more that we need to let kids learn what is good and bad. I do think we need to provide quidance but I don’t think we should be the ones to filter for them. They need to learn just like we do!

    Thanks for a great post.

  2. busybusinessteacher said,

    I worked at a post-secondary institute and regularly dealt with cyber harassment! Yes, it happens way too often. Are educators equipped with the skills to deal with this growing concern? In an adult situation, often times the incidences can become a legal issue. We often struggled with the institutes role with out of school harassment and what our responsibility was. Thanx, Bettina

    • tchcruiser said,

      Bettina, you make some very valid points about how we can deal with cyber-bullying and harrassment, especially as it extends past the “walls” of school as we think of it. How much responsibility are we to have for our student’s actions beyond the school when this kind of activity happens at home or at times beyond the school day, but involve people they know from a school context, or use education-related contexts as a forum to carry out this harrassment? What makes me more uncomfortable is the increasing use of not just computers but texting and cel phones as a way to carry this out – and how much control do schools have over this? What we can do is address the issue with the people, regardless of the tools used to carry out the harrassment, and explore the implications and re-frame the social responsibility we all have in addressing power issues. 🙂

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