Growing your footprint
When I think of the impact of technology in my students’ lives, I almost always think about the mobile technologies that are woven into their days. The effects of those mobile technologies is almost as varied as the students themselves. In my at-a-distance perspective, the majority of students in my school enjoy using their electronic devices as a fun way to connect with each other. As mentioned in some Pew Research, I can corroborate the greater use of gaming with young men vs. women. There is a notable subset of students who have difficulty with health-related internet use. Many students report lack of sleep due to ‘bing-watching’ media or because of communicating with peers at very late hours. There are also some hints at sexting happening, though those are much harder to corroborate.
In terms of the educational impact of mobile devices, that is harder to see so far. I have students that regularly send notes to each other via pictures when a peer has missed class. Others use their phones for requesting help on homework. So these are positive impacts of mobile technology. While our school has invested heavily in SmartBoard technology and computer labs, we have been much more reluctant to embrace BYOD in the classroom (so far, I’m the only one I know of). Thus, we’re still in the infancy of exploring how mobile devices in our classrooms will affect us.
But there can be no doubt that students have whole-heartedly, and with little thought, embraced all things online. Need an answer? Check online. Need entertainment? It’s online. Need to check a homework assignment? You can text someone for that. Research paper? Online.
Unfortunately, there still needs to be teaching and practice on how to use the internet wisely, safely, and ethically. I was shocked when, during an exploratory lab in science, one of my seniors went to Google Images to try to figure out what color sodium silicate was. They saw two blue pictures and a jug of a liquid, and concluded that sodium silicate was a blue liquid. It’s not. Verification of sources? Nope. Anyone else in the class question the research? Nope. It was a bit disheartening (but served as a really good teaching moment later). We still have a lot of work to do!
It was hard for me to read this article from the New York Times (Phillips, 2017) and not think about Digital Tatoos. A new investigation is opening into how 30,000 Marines created an ‘hidden’ Facebook page to share, among other things, illicit images of their female counterparts. One marine’s response was “that people were overreacting. ‘It was just nudes.’” Yet he saw them, was part of the community that maintained that culture, and certainly now has that as part of his digital tattoo.
When students go online, it is important to help them understand that everything they do leaves a trail. I find it interesting that our ‘prompt’ for the week asks “What should [students] include in their public ePortfolios?” While the push within the prompt is to make us think about appropriate information that may be included in public, school-related information, it seems to miss the larger point. I don’t really believe that any information shared online is private. You don’t own or control your information, despite any agreement you sign. Sure, you could litigate regarding unwanted viral information (if you have the money, time, wherewithal, and energy to do so). But ultimately, your information online will have a life of its own. This is so much of an issue that the EU has made it a ‘right’ to be forgotten (but it doesn’t really guarantee erasure). The only exceptions with communications/internet related information I think exist are end-to-end encrypted e-mail systems and the ‘deep/dark web,’ when surfed through a VPN with something like TorBrowser.
So, maybe I’m revealing a bit too much of my sensitivities with this. But nothing I’ve read so far is telling me that I’m being TOO paranoid or cynical. Probably much the opposite.
I hope that I’ll be able to help my students understand the power they give others when they share information online. And I hope we can all work to make each other (and our students) more aware of what we’re really leaving behind on the internet. I wish it was as easy as the hikers motto: “Take only pictures, leave only footprints.” But that world just doesn’t exist in the digital universe.
Well, I’m not as invested in the online social media as most of y’all (no twitter account, and only a ‘professional’ facebook page). Am I missing something that I need to think about? Do you think my cautious attitude is appropriate?
Lenhart, A. (2015). Teen, social media and technology overview 2015. The Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/09/teens-social-media-technology-2015/
Phillips, Dave. (2017). Inquiry Opens Into How 30,000 Marines Shared Illicit Images of Female Peers. New York Times. Retrieved from New York Times website: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/06/us/inquiry-opens-into-how-30000-marin...