12 November 2013

Elementary Blogging - Start a digital footprint with both feet

In the past two school years, I have blogged with my classes. It has been enlightening. There are countless benefits to blogging with students and getting started in elementary school as described in Kim Cofino's article, Blogging is Elementary!. To summarize, here are a few salient and immediate benefits:

- authentic, global audience
- engaging, relevant technology
- individual feedback and differentiation
- reading and writing with purpose

However, there is always a shadow lurking which I characterize as "YouTube Comments Syndrome". If you want to know what I'm referring to, find a popular video and start scrolling. If those comments aren't meaningless enough for you, try the downright offensive comments section on Ylvis' The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?). Luckily, I believe that most people ignore the stream of semiconciousness that hangs from our favorite videos.

CC-by-SA Tim Wayne

Most people are not malicious internet users. I was encouraged to read in William Ferriter's post, Positive Digital Footprints, that "too many Internet safety programs commonly used in schools assume that all students are at equal risk in digital spaces. The truth is that students who engage in risky behaviors offline are more likely to engage in risky behaviors online."

Certainly, children older than my sixth graders are much more likely to visit and participate in the darker side of the internet, but that's one reason I feel so motivated to help them build a healthy understanding of online participation and responsibility.

My rule of thumb with reference to Digital Citizenship when planning activities using social media with elementary students couldn't be simpler:

Digital communication is not different than analog communication.

The same attitudes of respect, empathy, and curiosity still underly effective communication. I have found that blogging and commenting on other students' blogs has had a positive impact on their communication in class, and vice versa. The impressions we make face-to-face are just as permanent as those we leave online. I believe that drawing such a stark distinction between "real" life and "virtual" life is what is driving the reckless behavior of some internet users and the timidity of those too scared to leave a bad mark online.

While I do believe in starting elementary bloggers on private sites and gradually growing more public (Kidblog provides an easy-to-use, yet robust platform), I also believe that we should have the Connected Learning Core Value of Full Participation at heart when we plug them in.

"Learning is built on a foundation of trust."

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