Wednesday, December 10, 2008

5 "Dangerous" Things for Your Kids.

As many of you are, I am a fanatic. I find my intellect being challenged on a daily basis by incredible minds and provocative thoughts. The following short episode from is the inspiration for this post.

Sooooo...this begs the quest to list...

5 "dangerous" DIGITAL things for your kids.

1. Sign up for an email account.

There are so many free ones that are web based; yahoo, hotmail, gmail etc. Use the opportunity to talk to your child about the importance of tone in their writing. Discuss what respectful use of email looks like. Empower your kids to take control of their own inbox. Brainstorm ways that you can filter out and/or eliminate unwanted SPAM. Explore the perils of phishing. Teach them what to delete and to never give out personal information, no matter how official the email looks. Give them real relevant reasons to use email. Keep in touch with long distance relatives etc. Sign up with epals and connect with kids around the world.

2. Make social networking accounts

You are never too young to establish a Personal Learning Network (PLN). Twitter allows children to network through micro-blogs. Sites like Facebook and MySpace used appropriately allows  students to network and share ideas. It connects kids. Some of my colleagues would say that the digital natives are less connected because they don't know how to communicate. They don't meet face to face enough. I agree with David Warlick who said in his k12 Online 2007 Keynote, that this generation of kids is more connected than any other generation has ever been. I think that they place different emphasis on the types of interactions that older generations hold dear. This does not make them more or less connected, it makes them differently connected. In addition having an account with a social networking site provides kids with an opportunity to learn about policy setting, permissions, digital footprints, and permanency. A great post that pertains to many of the issues around facebook can be found here: Facing Facebook. This post by David Truss and the subsequent comments really hit the nail on the head when it comes to approaching Facebook in a proactive way. 

3. Create a blog and have an opinion.

Interact with other people's ideas. If you are worried about revealing too much personal information use a pseudonym for anonymity while still establishing a net identity. This also becomes a great opportunity to discuss how much info you share in a profile. The power of audience has an amazing effect on student writing. The power of commenting on someone else's writing and establishing a feedback loop is tenfold. My favourite example of this comes from a former student of mine over at Wandering Ink. Her post "How to Prevent the Another Leonardo da Vinci" ended up turning so many heads that it was nominated for EduBlog's most influencial post in 2007.

4. Sign up for a kid's virtual space

Webkinz, and Club Penguin for example are as close to bubble wrapping your young as they learn about e-commerce and how to manage a budget. The virtual worlds are like Second Life Light. They can sort of instant message through canned phrases. Kids explore architecture and mapping. They learn to care for a "pet". They are introduced to gaming through educational opportunities. They build a portfolio. All these skills translate into real net skills. These sites are great training grounds.

5. Contribute to a wiki, better yet establish a wiki.

Almost everyone has heard of Wikipedia. Go find an entry that you know something about and make a contribution. Be sure to track any changes to that entry. PBwiki and Wikispaces are also great starting places if you are looking to establish your own wiki. Collaboration is a highly sought after skill, the sooner you learn how to be a productive member of a collective the better. If you are looking to start somewhere, start with our Digital Citizen Project.

Bonus activity

Learn about hacking, malware, zombies, botnets, anonymous proxies and all the things that "bad guys" use to wreck the digital landscape and learn how real people are affected by these actions. Learn why digitally responsible people need to take back the net like students who take back the playground from the bullies.

It is our job as the adults (parents, guardians and educators) to provide children with opportunities to explore the digital world armed with skills, understanding and knowledge. None of which can be accomplished by filtering, blocking or banning.

None of these things should happen in a locked bedroom. Get involved in your kids' digital life. Help them navigate the the digital world and establish a digital footprint (must read article by Will Richardson in Educational Leadership) that is flattering. Like Gever Tulley suggests, real learning requires bumps and bruises. Be there to pick your kids up, kiss them better and surge on.


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