In honour of Halloween and the general trepidation that I approach technology with, here are, in my opinion, the three most terrifying aspects of teaching in an increasingly digital world.
- Skill and ability, and practice disconnect – It is often said that this generation is more connected and capable than those preceding them. The scary thing is this is not always the case. Understanding how to navigate the online and digital environments, is a far different concept than stumbling around and defending yourself against potentially negative events. I really enjoyed, and connected with, the blog post of Gareth Morgan on the differentiation between digital literacies and digital competencies. I think that it effectively identifies the differences between knowledge and skills. In the post, Morgan sites a great graphic (p. 16) that identifies the the actions and skills as necessary and connected components of each other. I like this graphic because it incorporates the active nature of a real digital citizen.Of course to achieve these attributes students need exposure to technology outside of entertainment, this is a challenge for many reasons, resources and accessibility to name a few. Perhaps the introduction of game based learning is a step in the right direction, however the distinction between using technology and navigating technological environments is one to remember when young people start using technology. Knowing how to manage the environments, the tools and the features that different platforms offer allows students to be active participants and ensures that they use technology with awareness and purpose, as opposed to technology using them.
- Access to Resources and Support – Eek… this has presented some challenges in the last few months for me. The increasing need for schools to protect hardware by using programs that freeze or lock systems presents a challenge when an educator wants to try something new. Similar to textbook debates in days of old, programs, apps, and other software options are not a ‘one size’ fits all item. Some students will benefit from Seesaw, some from a flipped classroom, and still others may work best in a Google Classroom environment. All of which have different tech requirements. While divisions are undoubtedly working hard to provide current tools for their educators, what happens when a tech platform doesn’t meet the skills of the teacher or needs of the students? Perhaps even more frustrating is what happens when hardware is inadequate, or bandwidth is inadequate to support the development of our future online digital citizens and leaders. When these issues arise students do not get the exposure to the digital world that allows their digital skill set to grow…and that’s just scary.
- Privacy – Who’s watching….
Perhaps the most nerve racking issue with technology and the internet. Whether it is the creation of an e-mail account, membership to an app or website, privacy issues are always forefront when considering the use and implementation of technology. The information generated and how it is used when young people interact with technology is something we always need to consider…but not in isolation. It is as a report by the New York Times identifies :”…a real can of worms” for both teachers and districts. There is big money on both sides of this issue, those that want the data, and those working to protect it. Even if a teacher is diligent in the research provided to a tech tool, the value of what we might deem unimportant data, may actually be something sought after by start-ups or established tech firms. Yet given the time, and resources, available to teachers the challenge becomes, how does one vet each website, app, or piece of software effectively?
The reality is that much like vampires ghosts and werewolves, these tech issues should never get in the way of working to forward our students and our personal online presence. Whatever the hurdle, each of these offer opportunity for students to better understand the reality of technology. Each one presents a chance to learn about the current reality of our digital situation. If students don’t have the skill or ability to effectively navigate software or the internet, what an opportunity to discuss the concept of design. Or to look at the structures of programs and the process to use technology to trouble shoot technology. Resources weak, or support absent? Problem solve with the individuals who might rectify the situation. Review apps, apply for grants. Even better have students research and review materials and provide reasons why they might advance or enhance their learning experience. Finally privacy… There are groups who are looking to assist teachers and school divisions in wading through the murky waters of online data collection and potential privacy issues. For example this document produced by the Privacy Technical Assistance Center. Regardless of the hurdle, it is never a reason to avoid technology, only an opportunity to confront our fears, and work to shed light into the use of digital resources, and make it a less scary environment for both ourselves and our students.