“The fears we don’t face become our limits” – Robin Sharma.
“Fear makes strangers of people who would be friends” – Shirley Maclaine.
“We do not fear the unknown. We fear what we think we know about the unknown” – Teal Swan.
“Feel the fear and do it anyway” – Susan Jeffers.
The Great Unknown
In a whirl of ironic timing, today my colleagues and I had INSET after school, all about eSafety. It was expertly delivered and contained well researched and well pitched elements throughout. However, though it briefly mentioned the potential positives of Internet use for education; it predominantly focused on the perils of the world online, and particularly Social Media.
This reflects an oft repeated message. Articles such as this one bring home the potential dangers for us as professionals, as well as for our students. If all is to be believed, our wi-fi connections are acting as portals for piracy, unsafe situations, poor ethics and legal minefields.
Old fears, rehashed
I totally agree that we should be safe when online. If we are naive to the potential dangers that lurk out there, then we are liable to many a sticky situation. We must heed the advice of the excellent eSafety websites that are available to us, such as The NSPCC, KidsSmart or thinkuknow; and give our children adequate guidance to help them lead safe and fulfilling lives.
This intriguing article on wired.com tells the story of how, even if we are trying to avoid being found, the trail of information that we leave online garners a footprint. Thus, you really have to think carefully about how you act and what you say when on the Internet. There really is no true privacy online, as is summarised nicely in the following quote (on the same article).
It turns out that people – ordinary people – really can gather an incredible dossier of facts about you – ‘Vanish’ article on wired.com.
Plenty to be feared then. Yet, we should not let our fears rule us. Even more pertinently, we should not let our fears rule the education of our youngest. Is it time to change the focus of how we teach and learn about privacy online?
The Skills Of Life
…cultivating digital intelligence grounded in human values is essential… – Yuhyun Park on weforum.org.
My mind was entirely shifted on this issue by the writing on theatlantic.com by Alia Wong and findingheroes.co.nz by Sally Pewhairangi. Truly inspiring stuff which you should most definitely give a read.
Sally Pewhairangi succinctly describes how digital literacy is very different to digital skills. Paraphrasing slightly, digital skills encompass the doing with technology. For example: setting up an email account, creating a story with a Word Processor or creating a database. You know, old English Curriculum content! Digital literacy, however, is the understandings behind how and why we use technology. For the purposes of this blog post, the how and why we protect our privacy or stay safe online.
Our teaching of the how and the why must also extend to the teaching of how and why we interact positively with others. The how and why of empathizing with other people. The how and why of being a kind and considerate human. Just because we are sat at a computer, we should not forget these life skills, and we certainly should keep this in our minds when educating about privacy protection and staying safe on the Internet.
Alia Wong, in discussing the ideas of educators such as Reuben Loewy (his organisation is here and even offers a Digital Literacy Curriculum Overview), comes into some agreement with the above ideas. Specifically, she states: “…(students) need to deeply, holistically, and realistically understand how the digital world works behind the scenes.”
Additionally, an education in the human side of the Internet; such as our online identity, the perils of too much screen time or the merits of digital activism – are now surely essential elements of the communities that we live in. We must move towards a deeper and more meaningful education of online privacy, and technology at large, to truly help our modern learners. Specifically, we understand better how to protect the privacy of ourselves and of others if we combine a knowledge of how and why technology works with how and why people work.
All too often, we invest in expensive technology and then tell our pupils how monumentally terrible it is for us. Fear it, we suggest. Look at all of these frightening news stories! Surely, we should be showing our youngest how positive the world online can be, whilst specifically modelling the all important how and why. Only then, can we hope that our students can protect their privacy and stay safe online. Only then, can we hope that we can produce engaged technology users who can really be ready for the society at large.
You can’t be an informed, responsible, and critical member of society if you don’t have the education – Loewy, quoted on theatlantic.com.