A couple of weeks ago, I kicked off my major project, titled “Privacy Project.” Quick recap of the project: Over the summer, Regina Public Schools collected all of our schools’ mobile devices, namely ipads, wiped them clean of their applications, and took control over what can and cannot be used. Teachers returned to their respective schools to find their ipads with a relatively small selection of board approved applications on their classroom ipads, and locked out of their school apple ids.
This is the backdrop from which my project has spring. Why? Why was this necessary? What is the purpose of what feels like an incredibly heavy handed directive? Initial conversations among teachers were inevitably laced with some frustration. Our initial staff meeting shed some light: privacy… student data … LAFOIP. In the blink of an eye, many applications teachers took for granted were deemed to be non-compliant with existing privacy legislation.
I want to know why.
What am I up to:
It has been a bit of a slow beginning, as time is being put into a fact finding mission. I’m in the midst of a literature review, of sorts, as I familiarize myself with the legislation (and our response to the legislation) that is at the center of this controversy. I have also started to look at how other provinces and school-boards have interpreted and implemented this legislation. Responses have ranged widely, from strict enforcement (Regina Public Schools?), to complete non-compliance.
I am also beginning to speak with some knowledgeable individuals who are helping me to make sense of the school board’s direction. Currently, I am starting in a measured, back and forth email conversation with Stu Harris, who has graciously agreed to speak with me, and has been a very generous support for me over the years as I have been familiarizing myself with assistive technology.
This week, discussion in our own class turned towards digital citizenship. We were asked to tie in our discussion on digital citizenship to our own major learning projects. Truth be told, I believe I lucked out on this one. As I waded through out readings and watched some peers videos, it became easy to articulate the big picture issues that are being impacted by our school board’s response to LAFOIP.
Our World Today
A major emerging understanding of ECI 832, for me, is an understanding that the world of social media is the world we live in. My students are right in the thick of it. This is their life. The idea of building a digital identity is not really an idea, but it’s a real part of my identity …we (and my students’).
Christina Costa and Ricardo Torres emphasize the importance of social media and technologies in stating: “In the current knowledge economy, which is increasingly dependent on digital technologies, there seems to be a tendency to optimize practice with the support of participatory media.” Ladies and gentlemen, this isn’t a hobby. We’re not talking about ‘Facebooking” our friends and liking what we ate for lunch. Participating in our economy is going to require a certain level of proficiency with digital and social media technologies, as well as management of our digital identity.
Furthermore, in his lecture Digital Identity is not about a Separate Identity at all, Paul Gordon Brown succinctly articulates how immersed our lives have become with technology: “…we are a collection of connections and enmeshed in networks and webs … We are increasingly networked to technology and other devices in more integrated ways.”
From our discussions last week, we already know that the skills our children will require to participate in the economy will be very different from those of the past, or those still valued today. Our schools need to be adaptive and reflect those changes, or risk becoming irrelevant to preparing our children for their adult lives.
Heads in the Sand:
As I previously mentioned, an emerging big idea for myself over ECI832 (and ECI 831 through the Fall) is a realization of the world we are living in, and headed towards. In not being involved with social media, and its use, I truly believe that I am, to a certain extent, being derelict in my duties as a teacher. By not role modeling responsible use, as I can, and talking about digital identity and citizenship, I am failing to prepare my students to participate in what will be their economy.
Keeping in mind that this is not at all an exhaustive review of how Regina Public Schools has implemented its response to concerns stemming over student privacy, I do want to zone in on what is emerging as a major concern, for me. Given my shiny, months old realization that I do indeed have a role to play in developing my students understanding and proficiency with social media and managing their digital identities, I wonder at the hurdles being placed in our way.
Are we going backwards? Are we sticking our heads in the sand?
By perhaps overly restricting what technology kids can use in our schools, and what apps they can use to support, augment and demonstrate learning, are we sticking our heads in the sand and ignoring the reality of the world around us? Are we doing our students a disservice and, perhaps, will we be sending our kids into the workforce without the skills to meaningfully participate?
Do the ends justify the means? Costa and Torres, while pointing out the advantages of having an established online presence, also point out that “not everyone who participates in these environments share in our good faith. It is important to protect our privacy, too, as not to increase our vulnerability.” My peers Jana and Katie also discuss, at the 3:30 mark of their vlog, the real concerns that are coupled with the advantages of having an established online presence.
This discussion, and it’s accompanying implications and concerns, are not minor ones… We’re talking about our students’ future livelihoods, as well as our responsibility to keep our students safe.
You know what? The fact that my concerns have moved so drastically, from annoyance at being told what I can put on school ipads, towards an actual concern over the well-being of my students development (actually knowing that this big deal, long term has implications for my students’ development) is a sign of my growth over the past six months.
I will have much more on this in the coming weeks! Thanks for reading!