Thursday, December 13, 2007

Is this an example of poor citizenship?

It is not a bad example on you tube or a student posting personal info, but it is a poor example of how to converse on the web.

Students created information on environmental problems and posted the information on the class wiki. I showed the movie An Inconvenient Truth - which if you like or dislike Al Gore makes you have an immediate reaction to it. (There is another example of poor citizenship, don't you think?).

What surprises me is how they have not yet embraced the use of their voice. Let me backup: I first started with a world population activity where students analyzed an age structure diagram from a country and researched information to explain present and future populations. They also entered a silent online debate on TIGed over issues regarding world population problems. I thought all went well there and students enjoyed expressing their feelings.

Back to the movie: One student wrote in his my space about what he felt about the movie and global warming. Not kind, but his opinion. What bothers me is how he reacted when another student tried to clear up some of the miscnceptions he had and also asked for an explanation of a statement that he made. She had links, direct statistics from reputable sources, etc. I know it is off of school time, but he reacted by removing her as a friend and deleting her posts. I equate that to the same as saying: "Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah - I can't hear you".

Maybe I am making too much of it but I am trying hard to get them to be critical of information, receptive of other viewpoints, and be respectful to another viewpoint. Both students are very intelligent, opinionated, but the responder works in class like a citizen.

So, now what? I didn't let it go. I decided to post a poll on the wiki as to their beliefs on global warming (the my space student knows what is up). Because the believers, and those that don't or need more information are close in numbers, I believe a debate is in order carried out in the space of their choice. Maybe instead of telling them the guidelines, the classes should decide what they are. Could be a good chance to discuss what being a citizen is and how necessary it is to be so in the digital world. I am still thinking all the specifics.

I am not sure what it is I think can be accomplished. Unfortunately, many adults can't act appropriately in or out of the web. But baby steps can still accomplish something.

I went back to read the post from Vicki Davis about Alec Couros' post on digital citizenship. She has a part that I really caught this time (another note to self: re-read the blogs more often to get what you missed the first time):

It is time to pull character education out of the shelf and inject it and ourselves into the world which we have become with our voices and all we have.

What am I saying if I don't make this a teachable moment? If I let it go? If I think it is not my responsibility, then I have lost more than just that moment.


  1. Yes, it is a teachable moment, but I think there are several things here to get.

    1) Yes, a person has a right to determine what is published on their own blog. So the person who removed her as a friend and deleted her post had the RIGHT to do that.

    2) If a person wants to be considered a CREDIBLE BLOGGER and credible person to converse with, they will allow dissenters on their blog and respond with reasoned, well thought out responses. Remembering, that one can be "friends" and still disagree. Also remembering that it is ok to revise a post (teach them the strike tag which must often be used by hand) or to respond to their own blog in the comments.

    3) To be part of a conversation means that you join in. When one deletes a dissenters comments (especially one that is well thought out and articulate), they then invite a response on the other person's blog. One that may harm their own reputation and cause and voice. And if that happens, there is NO control. I'd rather have discussion on my own blog any day than that of someone else, because when you're talking about a controversial topic, it is important to remain engaged in the conversation.

    4) Enemy today, friend tomorrow.
    Often the "friend" or "enemy" status is the result of the topic because rarely do two people disagree (or agree) on everything. We are not carbon copies of one another, nor will we ever be. Rejoice in the harmony or disharmony and understand that it is part of life.

    And yes, you are right to continue on this, perhaps the response of some other edubloggers to your blog post will show other perspectives on this important topic.

    Just remember, though, when it comes down to it, a blogger has the right to control their OWN blog. And if they choose to be onesided and not open for debate, then that is their choice. We have to understand that when we read a blogger's web page, that unless they allow dissent, we're only getting one side. And if I only see one side on a bloggers website, I approach with caution. Who wants to waste their time somewhere that free dialog is not allowed?

  2. It obviously depends on the relationships you have with these individual students, but I wouldn't hesitate to comment back to the delete-friendly myspace kid. I'd say something along the lines of, " 'Katy' made some good points and did research to back up what she said. Why don't you do some research to find evidence to back up what you're saying too. It's much more powerful to rebut someone using well thought out, researched words then to cut them off."

    I think it'd be a good reminder to him that the world is watching his online activity, it's not a closed space; he probably never considered who all would see and notice his action. He'd definitely think twice before cutting you off the same way.

    You'll know what's best for your kids, but I say it is your place to neutrally mediate this conversation(which started in your classroom). This is a fantastic real life application of character education and teaching your kids about taking responsibility for their actions and working through disagreement.

  3. Vicki,

    Thank you for your input and post on your Cool Cat Teacher blog! Basically, it is what I had thought. Since I posted a survey on the wiki and think that more students could benefit from an educated engaging conversation, I also decided to speak to the student. He knew that I knew because of the survey. I told them that he could do whatever he wanted on his space, but that I thought he should be able to carry on a good conversation as he is very intelligent and articulate. I want to move away from discussion to what the teacher wants to hear vs. honest discussion which some students have not embraced. I thought that point was made. He understood that I wanted him to be able to disagree with others. As I owe it to others who have dissenting opinions, I told him we would be revisiting the subject. He understands it is not just because of the deleted post but that I felt I had missed an important opportunity to learn what they had to say about it.

  4. Sounds like you made a great decision! I can't wait to check out Inconvenient Youth!