My shifting thoughts

inernet danger

A few years ago our school division had us complete a strengthfinders quiz. You complete an online survey and it generates your top 5 strengths.

My Top 5 Strengths

1 Discipline
2 Learner
3 Focus
4 Individualization
5 Achiever

I spent quite some time viewing the videos, reading the articles and sorting out my thoughts. The “Learner” in me enjoys learning new things in both a formal and informal educational setting. I appreciate opportunities to learn more about a topic and form a deeper understanding.  I find it very powerful when the new knowledge I have acquired causes me to shift the ideas I have. These readings did exactly that.

Prior to these course readings, my views on how people engage and develop technological skills greatly coincided with the thoughts in the video,  Do “Digital Natives” Exist?  Mark Prensky believes todays youth are digital natives.  He refers to them as people who have grown up with machines and technology and therefore it comes naturally to them. Alternatively he classifies older people as digital immigrants. These ideas are very much two extremes, which are determined primarily by age alone. However, after watching David White’s video Visitors and Residents, some of my views have shifted.  Classifying individuals simply as natives or immigrants based on age is not possible. People bring different experiences with them. One line that stuck with me from Prensky’s video is that, “its bad to assume students know how to “computer”. He goes on to note that it is through context, immersion and practice that they learn. Some students may come from backgrounds where they have little access to technology and the internet. Just because they have been born in a time filled with technology does not mean they have had the chance to use it.  If context, immersion and practice are the factors that contribute to learning to navigate our 21st century world age is irrelevant. Anyone who has access and is willing to spend the time, explore and immerse themselves can thrive in this digital world.

I much prefer David White’s alternative model, which utilizes a continuum of visitors and residents. He explains that young people are good with technology because they grew up with it. It’s the willingness to fully immerse themselves that creates growth. He compares the challenges of not growing up with technology to learning a second language. While this is challenging it is not impossible.

While most would see me as being very technically inclined I definitely fall on the visitor end of the continuum. David White describes a visitor as someone who views the web as a connection of tools.  Some of the examples he shared include searching for info, paying bills and booking holidays. Visitors leave behind no social trace. Residents view the web as a collection of multiple places. They choose to be present online. There is evidence that they have been there after they have logged off that can be found on their blogs, social media accounts, etc.

I rarely post things online. I have a facebook, twitter and Instagram account but rarely post. I love to scroll through my feeds and see what old friends are doing these days but have no desire to post my own things! Most of my posts are generally pictures of my pets or of scenery on my vacations, or of that one time I made pickles that have little to do with me at all. Why is this? This has a lot to do with my parents and the views instilled around the DANGERS of the internet.

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I remember my first computer. I was six years old and we had gone to visit my much older great uncle in Calgary one summer and he had a computer. I’m sure it was the quiet that occurred while my brother and I were on there playing minesweeper, solitaire and tetris that sold them on the idea.  We returned to Regina and within a week we had a brand new computer of our own. We spent hours on there, and we were not afraid to “click around”.  Our parents feared they would break something. They had not used computers before and were reluctant to try it out.  We were the only kids on the block with a computer and everyone was coming over to check it out.  A few years later we got dial-up internet. It was very slow and took forever to load pages. As soon as your page was almost loaded the phone would ring and boot you out.

My parents saw the internet as a dangerous place. They closely monitored our every move and made sure we didn’t use it to connect with the outside world that to them only consisted of pedophiles.  We spent hours on MSN messenger and ICQ talking to our friends. At this time we even had fake emails because they wouldn’t let us even post our name online. I went by “Julia Taylor”.

As I got older, things like facebook came out. Now not only were my parents telling me to not post anything online but now our teachers were also. We received many lessons on internet safety. Many which just ended with DON’T DO IT! (Which probably made us want to do exactly what they were warning us about more). There became so much “RED TAPE” on the internet.  I can hear my parents and teachers saying things like, “you’ll never get into university if you post online”. We were taught to be invisible online, because invisible was “SAFE”. I actually googled myself often to make sure there was nothing on there about me.

While things have changed, these views have obviously stuck with me.  I don’t like to put myself out there online. Not because I fear for my safety but because I’ve never done it, it’s just uncomfortable to me.  I’ve had a twitter that I created 10 years ago in ECMP 355 and have approximately 20 tweets, 18 of which are from this class and I feel like I am “annoying” my followers… and blogging, OH DEAR, what if someone actually reads this?!

The internet has opened so many doors for our youth to create a positive change in the world.. Rather than shield them from the harm it is so important we teach them to navigate it appropriately.





Exploring Media Literacy

Our students today spend the majority of their free time influenced by media. The TED talk below states many students are spending 7.5 hours a day viewing media. This is unlikely to change. As educators and parents we can attempt to shelter our children from the possible harm that may come or we can teach our children to view media with a critical eye.

Quijada is the executive director of Media Literacy Project In her TED talk she stresses the importance of teaching youth to ask critical questions while viewing media.  Through the deconstruction of media, students can find “the untold story”.  The skills required to deconstruct media need to be explicitly taught.

Quijada outlines several critical questions students must have in their tool-belt in order to decode media:

  • What is the text and subtext of this message?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • What is the collective impact that this message has on our culture?

Media is a powerful tool when used in a positive way. The benefits associated far outweigh risks when students are taught to navigate safely and view media critically. It is my hope that through this class I learn more about media literacy that will benefit my students in the classroom. Students need to know the internet can give them a voice to inspire change but that using the internet negatively can impact their futures. Not only do I hope to help them acquire critical thinking skills that will allow them to see through things like ads but also to navigate the internet appropriately.