Is Openness and Sharing in Schools Unfair to Our Kids?

This was one debate that I entered not feeling as informed. I wasn’t completely sure what I thought about the topic as it is a pretty broad statement. That was also made clear in topics that were brought up in the videos and discussion. There were so many ideas that could fit into openness and sharing.

Melinda and Altan started us off by agreeing that openness and sharing is unfair to our kids. The reasons they gave included privacy concerns, unfairness of open educational resources which can highlight the digital divide, and the open use of cellphones. Dean and Sherrie countered the argument saying that openness and sharing is fair as it provides meaningful learning opportunities which include teaching about and modelling digital citizenship, it encourages the 4Cs (connectivity, communication, creativity, and collaboration) and promotes learning on your own terms and at your own convenience. Both teams presented strong arguments for topics that all fit under the idea of openness and sharing.

Melinda and Altan discussed privacy and media release forms. I agree that these forms create many problems in our school due to lack of understanding of what they mean. I feel that goes for parents and for teachers. I too have seen many occasions where students had to sit in a different part of the gym so that the local media present did not get them on camera. That is heartbreaking to have to explain to a young student who doesn’t understand why they can’t be a part of what is going on with their classmates. For teachers, keeping track of who has permission for what type of media can also get to be a bit much. But those forms are important and parents need to have the choice to give consent.

Privacy issues also got me thinking about the apps and technology we use. Last semester as part of my final project I examined the terms of services and privacy guidelines of a few commonly used apps. Prior to the class I had never taken the time to read through those. It is definitely an eye opener! We often just click accept and don’t take the time to look into what we are giving companies access to. As teachers do we have that right to sign our students up to any account we would like to use? Is it ok for a teacher to decide that a students’ information can be used? In the school division I work for apps and programs are vetted and have been approved or denied for use with students. Criteria used to make that decision includes privacy and what the company does with students’ information. However, many teachers aren’t aware that there is a process in place. Often the need or want to use an app with students trumps privacy. Is that fair to students?

In the article Posting About Your Kids Online Could Damage Their Futures it states that “parents are already some of the biggest violators of their kids privacy”. That is easy to see if you are on Facebook or Instagram. In fact the article discuss the term “sharenting, which is the phenomenon of parents putting information about their children online”. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy seeing pictures of family and friends’ children, but is there a point of too much? Currently there is a lemon juice shot challenge that is making its way around Facebook. Parents are filming their children (I’ve seen as young as 3) sitting at a table doing a shot of lemon juice. Then, they challenge some other child to do the same in 24 hours or else they owe you a chocolate bar, slurpee, candy, etc. I don’t get it. Why are parents feeling this is something the social media world needs to see of their children? In the discussion the comment was made that parents make choices for their kids all the time. What about their digital footprint? I understand that a video of a five year old doing a lemon shot is not going to prevent someone from getting a job in the future but at what point does sharenting become too much?

The other part of this discussion that really stood for me was the oversharing that is done by teachers on social media. There are times when I have questioned why something was shared. As stated in our discussion, things that are shared need to be meaningful rather than a way to build your online reputation. In Mike Ribble’s book Digital Citizenship in Schools: Nine Elements All Students Should Know, he writes about the STEP process for posting online – stop, think, empathize, and post. This is a process that should be used by students and teachers. What is the purpose for posting something online? Are we willing to sacrifice privacy for promoting?

Dean and Sherrie also provided some very valid arguments. Sherrie’s rant was full of excellent information and was very well executed! Rather than try to summarize what she said, I will simply share the video below. You can also read the script on her blog.

In the rant Sherrie expressed that “by sharing student work online, schools can celebrate student success, promote learning, build school culture and invite parents, and community, to be a part of the learning process”. I fully agree. If used in a meaningful way, sharing online can be very powerful for a school community. It’s finding that balance of how much to share.

In the end I found myself on the disagree side. By providing openness and sharing in schools special guest, Dr. Verena Roberts explained that it is our opportunity to help students understand consent. Dean also stated that if we believe it is unfair to share is it not just as unfair that we are not equipping our students for a digital connected world? Once again this debate guided us to the place of understanding how critical it is for us as educators to develop critical thinking skills in our students through digital citizenship.

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