Going Online

My oldest son, Miles, brought home this “Going Online” worksheet last night. I’m not entirely sure where to start on this worksheet, but the sixth question does sadden me a bit—bloggers still get no love. I had to break it to my son last night that his father is a degenerate blogger. In response he said “I was told I can’t blog until I’m 13.” I answered assuredly, “No son, you can’t get a Tumblr until you’re 13. You can blog whenever you’d like.”

To be clear, I’ve been happy with my son’s experience at school the last year and a half. I’m not trying to snipe and don’t mistake this for outrage, rather this instance reminds just how critically we need web literacy integrated into the curriculum. It’s time to give Miles a domain of his own.

Also, this reminds me of an idea that game up on Twitter the other night with Jenn Orr:

What if we start creating an elementary school curriculum that gets at the more dynamic and generative possibilities of the web rather than thinking about it like a set of static, scary resources. Richard Scarry anyone?

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19 Responses to Going Online

  1. Tim Owens says:

    I’m on the agenda to speak briefly about the concept of Domain of Ones Own at the FredXCoders meeting in March. That will hopefully plant the seed and we can start a grassroots effort on that end. It’s a shame that rather than embrace web literacy, K-12 has often chosen to simply ignore that it exists (Facebook? If you can’t access it at school it must not be real and we don’t have to talk about how to appropriately use it.)

    • Jenny says:

      I don’t think schools have completely not embraced web literacy. There is a long way to go to be doing so in meaningful ways that will benefit our students, but banning Facebook isn’t the same as banning web literacy. I think you’ll still find schools (or at least, certain teachers) that don’t allow kids to read books they don’t believe are good enough. I think this is the bigger web literacy issue. Schools and teachers are controlling what students can access because they believe they know best about what is worth their students’ time. (To be honest, I do this with my students. I believe I’m scaffolding their learning but it may just be that I’m controlling it.)

      • Tim Owens says:

        I don’t want to sound like I’m conflating the two (banning sites and the lack of addressing web literacy). I’d love to be proven wrong and I’m sure there’s pockets of great stuff happening on a per-teacher basis (flying under the radar I’m sure) but in general it certainly feels like the modus operandi of public schools is to abstract out many elements of the web, apply an element of danger to much of it, and therefore discount it (this worksheet being a pretty clear example). Maybe that’s an issue of priority and much like maker culture in general alongside the fine arts and everything else that can’t fit in a bubble test to get stuck in SOLs it gets shoved aside. But I think there’s some real movement for change on that front and I think web literacy can be pushed to the fore alongside maker culture and STEM activities.

        • Tom says:

          There are no priorities in k12 outside standardized testing. That will not change in the near future and it will take a huge amount of time for recovery if it does.

          Most of the “Internet Literacy” stuff I’ve seen (and I’ve seen a lot) is focused on infusing fear mixed with some really awkward and limited attempts to push people towards “approved” sites you can trust, like .gov or whatever library db the school paid for. Occasionally, you see some tool based instructional stuff.

          For the record, the class is entirely full just with different things.

  2. It is easy to get down when looking at education these days. So much opportunity is just not piercing the barrier of those walls and being admitted into the classroom. As a family, we made it through 2nd grade with our child, and then had to home school… “had to” in the sense that I just couldnt tolerate my “good kid” being reprimanded for an overactive mind and boredom on a daily basis. The world of education is blossoming, and good teachers are all around us, made ever more accessible by tools of connectivity that are available within our homes… but not our schools.

    I have taught over 2000 kids in the past 7 months about many different subjects using the catalyst of learning how to work with code, or computer programming languages. Whether translating an interest into a game, or building a 3D model of ancient Rome, or researching various data sources using Twitter as the launch pad, or writing a book report on a *ghast* blog and embedding pictures and graphs and tables of support data within a data delivery format that well… is just not part of the curriculum for most kids.

    Fredx is lucky to have leaders in its community that are working on solving this issue from various starting points. At fredxcoders.com live events, we are active and thrilled to expose kids to the opportunities that both you and Tim are leading… where kids could establish a “domain of one’s own” in the medium that will drive the future.

    And while my kid is now learning about nanotechnology in a lab, and writing Java as he creates his first mod of the game Minecraft… at the age of 8… I can not seem to convince any of the K-12 schools, teachers or superintendents that I have met with and offered free/paid accredited professional development opportunities to… to jump at the opportunity. I don’t even care if they do it with me… just do it.

    We unfortunately live in a world at this time where parents are the real educational leaders out of necessity… and in their time-strapped worlds, where they pay the tax man to hopefully make social participation add up… it increasingly is not… and parents are left to bare more weight and responsibility… because lets face it… there is a HUGE difference between the world that some kids are being educated to live in, and that of the majority.

    It may as well be 2040 already… because some 3rd graders are learning to write code in languages that can land them a six figure income while still in high school… while the rest of the children are emphatically not being left behind… right?

    Web literacy at the least… truly, we need another UMW focus, the “Maker Education” to start gaining increased attention too: Albemarle, VA Gets It…

    • Jenny says:

      I’m sure to come off defensive here, but I’m not sure how to avoid it. I’m an elementary school teacher and a mom. I want my kids to learn everything that will benefit them in the future. That said, in the current educational situation, I’m not surprised teachers, administrators, and districts are not taking you up on an offer for professional development in this area. Teaching all the standards that are currently required, and tested, is already more than can fit into any reasonable school day/year. Something will have to drastically change about societal expectations for schools before we’ll find widespread adoption of coding or anything in the maker movement. That’s just one of many reasons something needs to drastically change.

  3. Jenny says:

    Alright, Jim, I’m in. Where do we start? My 10 year old set up her first wordpress site last week (with some help). I haven’t bought the domain yet (I was sort of waiting to see if this was something that will really last before I invested time and money in it) but I’m not against it. The 10 year old has found her passion, her purpose for her place on the web. The 7 year old hasn’t. She hasn’t voiced any interest in creating a space. Should she have a domain regardless of that? Or should we wait until she is interested? (I’m not really asking for advice here, just trying to think through how this looks with young kids.)

  4. Tom says:

    I wonder if that’s your next Shuttleworth grant.

  5. Papert via Udell has this already pretty advanced I think. Jon was talking about a curriculum that focused on concepts not skills several years back. The great example he used was the reference/value distinction. This is crucial to understanding things like syndication where I can publish once and have those changes propagate everywhere.

    But you can actually get kids to deal with things like this in many small ways. Links are pointers. When does it make sense to link to something versus just copying it, etc. But you can go spiral curriculum and present problems of increasing complexity. This is of course what we are dealing with in fedwiki – it’s a combo of transclusion (reference) and value (copying).

    It’s hard to overstate how import these concepts are in the modern world. Yet we get a weird translation of library reference training instead.

    I agree that you have to walk a fine line — this is not to admonish teachers. The issues here are both the lack of decent preparation of teachers, and the lack of space in the curriculum to treat one of the most important sets of competency with the seriousness it deserves. It’s an issue that can only be solved at a much higher level.

    • Reverend says:

      COuld it alos be solved by a bunch of folks building and sharing a fun, relevant curriculum around the Seven Ways to Think Like the Web? I get a bit skeptical to think there is only a hig-level fix, at the same time I agree this is about an education system that can’t (or won’t if you want to be sinsiter–which I am trying to stem) adequately prepare teachers for these realities. Couldn’t others help with that? I know the gutting of public ed here is the bigger issue here, and I’m with you on that. Those resources need to be returned, we need to be vocal about the cultural attack on K12 education. At the same time could we help build that space? I get excited about the idea of helping folks on the ground imagine what some creative approaches to this curriculum might look like—although I know you aren;t suggesting that’s not possible too.

      I think something like a K12 DoOO curriculum/assignment bank would be a great go for fedwiki and assignment theme to start builing. Is a community the first step to getting at that higher level?

      • Tom says:

        In VA, “Internet safety” training is supposedly mandatory in all k12 schools. What that looks like varies widely and wildly. There are also documentation requirements, although I never heard of anyone being asked to provide proof. Many places use packaged deals like Netsmartz and a few others that I can’t recall. They’re mostly free or subsidized in some way. I think this is representative of the kind of stuff you’re likely to find. Henrico moved to one of the free set/forget models that has lots of flashy lights.

        I think if you pitch it as a combination of computational thinking (so hot right now), web literacy, and add a side of internet safety in a fairly modular way you could get some traction from the willing (although you’d likely have to align it to state standards as well). That’s all focused mainly on students in my view.

        I continue to think that a DS106-ish course for teachers around web thinking would be a powerful and useful professional development resource in all kinds of ways.

  6. Absolutely. I don’t mean to say we can’t try to impact this at the lower level. In edtech, nearly every win we’ve had has been in *spite* of the top-down push against it. What I mean to say is that individual teachers are already overwhelmed by top-down demands, and long term you need space cleared out to do this. At some point, it does become a zero-sum game. Do you want to focus on keeping every student on the calculus track, or do you want your students to teach like the web.

    There is actually a top-down push that we could align with at the high-school level — there’s a push that comp sci courses in high school mightbe offered as an optional alternative to higher-level math. Gates is big on this. It seems to me that if this is the case maybe we could pitch seven ways to think like the web as a high school course? I would suggest maybe combining Udell’s stuff with the NonProgramistan idea — can we get students to build complex info ecosystems without formal coding (but using some of these principles).

    You know, we don’t look at this near enough, but it’s really criminal how unused networked communication is in enterprises, and how undereducated people are about these issues.

    At AAC&U Gardner, Stephen, and I and others designed out a high school experience based on building and maintaining civic information architecture. Maybe the class could have that as the focus.

    I’d add some social things into it that Jon doesn’t deal with, about how sites die, and what makes people contribute and maintain things.

    I’m rambling. Are we getting somewhere with this, or have I veered off?

  7. Pingback: source distinctions: print vs. electronic – still a viable differentiation? | Musings: info, tech, learn, teach

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