Seeing many of the scholars cited in my capstone at this weekend’s Digital Media & Learning Conference, not only did I feel like a 12-year old at a Justin Bieber concert, I also felt immensely excited about our Cyber Civics project at Journey School. This conference was brimming with innovative ideas supported by scholarly research on how digital media can transform public education, yet an underlying current of reality reminded us that it basically takes an act of God to get innovation into the classroom. One of the weekend’s popular tweet/retweets captured this sentiment best: Schools are seen as tangential in a lot of these sessions... they are the elephant in the room that DML needs to work with. Instead of waiting for divine intervention, we need to find another way in.
Concerns about online safety and privacy appear to be the biggest roadblock to inserting digital media into the classroom. Hearing Anne Collier say that “citizenship and media literacy need to be taught from the moment a connected device is put in a child’s hands” and that “kids need to be practicing digital citizenship, not in media labs, but in their core curriculums” (another popular tweet/retweet), it dawned on me that not only is this a developmentally-wise approach, it’s also a stealthy way to seep digital media into traditional education. I think danah boyd’s comment that “stranger danger rhetoric is dangerous” is right on the money. Instead of filling children with fear (there’s plenty of people who do that already), why not arm them with the critical thinking skills necessary to navigate the ethical decisions that loom in cyberspace? Perhaps when adults feel children are armed and ready, we will have more confidence in their ability to make wise digital choices. As Jason Ohler (2010) writes, “the best Internet filter available: the one between their ears”.
That’s why I love the curriculum that Common Sense Media offers. It’s pre-emptive. For the 28 children we are working with at Journey School this will be their first exposure to “technology” in the classroom. Additionally, because this is a Waldorf-inspired charter school, many of these students have had limited media exposure at home. A veritable tabula rasa, so to speak.
Think of it like Driver’s Ed. Once students learn how to drive safely, we can put them in the driver’s seat and let them show us what tools work best to practice the new media literacy skills the Henry Jenkins and his team write about in Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century .
That’s an educational environment I’d like to see while my children are still young.
Common Sense Media (n.d.). Common sense media education programs. Retrieved from http://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators
Jenkins, H., Purushotma, R., Clinton, K., Weigel, M., & Robinson, A. J. (2006).Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. Retrieved September, 12, 2010 from http://newmedialiteracies.org/.
Ohler, J.B. (2010). Digital community, digital citizen. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.