The open world of the internet…

18 03 2017

Overall it is understood that the use of open source internet communications has greatly improved over the last couple of years and the ability to share opinions is becoming easier and easier as time progresses. Students and teacher have a large amount of possible variations of sharing ideas in an open environment. It becomes almost a science, being able to choose which platform to use in communication not just with classmates but the greater world. It is the teacher’s responsibility to create digitally responsible learners when working in the open world of blog posting and twitter. By teaching the students about the importance of their digital footprint is required before they gain the understanding of what their thoughts are capable of imposing on the open source internet. In many ways, students have been involved in openness since before they were born and this is evident in the parents posting pictures and information about their new baby on Facebook. Although Facebook may seem like a closed source of friend circles, each picture a person adds becomes the property of the Facebook corporation. As such, these photos may not just be used in the circles they were intended for originally.

As an educator, it is important to know both the risks and the benefits of using open source postings and communications. In my classroom we have used a number of open sourced sites but have also used closed sites that have the potential to be shared globally. Students must be aware that they should not post sensitive information including their “real names”, birthdates, address, etc. By giving out personal information they leave themselves open to potential issues of people who really should not have that information, because it is impossible to know how they may use it.

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Photo Credit: NOGRAN s.r.o.

This year we have used a site called edublog.org which is a paid website that allows students to post blogs online in a semi- open environment, based on the settings that the teacher permits. This is a great tool for teaching the importance of a digital footprint and reviewing information that is being posted as it does not reach the global level until the teacher unlocks the website. In this case students that were posting inappropriately were dealt with accordingly and nothing was permanent, as the teacher can also review posts and comments before they publish if this is something they wish to do. There came a point where I noticed students were using the site in an appropriate and beneficial way and when this occurred I removed the moderation of a teacher. We continued using the site for a little while, and I then shared a link with parents and staff in the school to visit using a password. From here external people could comment or make suggestions on student’s blogs, but in a safe and “community way”. Near the end of the year the website will have the password removed and will be advertised on the school website. This will allow anyone to access the information and comment.

This can be compared with a website I used in the past to communicate ideas and allow students to post and add images, but in a closed way. The website is called classdojo.com and it focuses on the community of learners and not sharing the information globally. Instead students could add images and posts but only their parent and the teacher were able to see the information. In this situation it was not open and could not be unlocked to use on a global scale. In some ways this greatly limited the benefit of sharing the information as it was only seen by a couple individuals. Although this was a “safer” and more comfortable environment for both parents and teachers, it was very limited and almost seemed like a task rather than an opportunity to share something valuable.  

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Photo Credit: julian barfield

Overall, I would encourage educators to try a blogging website that they have some control over. This would allow them to dive in and try something different in a moderated way. It also is a way to move slowly from a closed source of sharing to something much more open and viewable. Unfortunately, many teachers are not familiar with the open source websites or how they can be used in a productive way. IT also should be noted that many blogging and posting on an open source site is limited to age restrictions as well. Typically, students that are under thirteen may not be able to use these sites based on the agreements that the educator checks when they are signing up for the website. It is also worth stating again that it is vital to teach digital citizenship to students before they start using a site of this type.

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4 responses

18 03 2017
angelastechadventure

Thanks for the interesting post. I agree with you that teachers should challenge themselves to ‘create digitally responsible learners’. Before taking these classes, I did not realize the importance or the need. 🙂

18 03 2017
loganpetlak

Do you think age thirteen is the right age for restrictions? When should open become open for students – assuming digital citizenship education has taken place throughout education?

19 03 2017
adamkrammer

It’s really hard to know exactly what age should be permitted to use these open source sites. I do agree with you that if the digital citizenship is happening throughout then it should be no problem. However we are not there yet, many teachers still do not teach the importance of digital citizenship.

20 03 2017
Preparing to Dip my Toes in Muddy Waters | Just Breathe

[…] Adam’s blog post, he stated that, “Unfortunately, many teachers are not familiar with the open source websites or […]

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