Putting them in a bubble

I had a lively conversation the other day with some Ed Tech folks on what students should be able to do and access at school. This of course is one of my favorite topics with Middle School students…they are about the only age brave enough and stand up and say…”Your generation has it wrong.”

Crazy Kids…don’t they know we know best!

But when we talk about information and allowing access to it at our schools, can we truly raise our students in a bubble? Can we afford to spend our resources on trying to keep them in and keep the bad stuff out rather than on having open and honest talks about the information that is out there? I have had a number of talks on teenagers’ favorite subject…music. I love to debate them on the fact that downloading illegal music is illegal. I don’t care if it’s easy…it’s still illegal. Their point…it should be free..therefore I’m not paying for it. It should be free is the reason they download. They only know free music, it’s always been free whether it really has been or not and they don’t understand why I’d pay 99 cents to download a song.

And it’s not just music, we debate them on myspace, on facebook, on youtube. We try and protect them from this information that we do not understand, do not think is educationally appropriate. Large companies sue youtube to remove their content yet more is posted. We are fighting a loosing battle. They want information to be free and they want access to it. We lock them up for 8 hours 180 days a year in a bubble, where we pretend these sites don’t exist. Where we say these sites have no educational value. We bring them into our schools and put them in bubbles…so that they don’t hurt themselves or are hurt by others.

There is only one thing wrong with bubbles….they always pop!

…and then what? What happens when they graduate and go off into the world? Nothing actually because for the other 16 hours a day they live in that free information world. They’ve built it, use it, own it, and continue to create it….and keep shaking there heads at me saying, “You don’t get it.”

Do we get it? Does education understand that they are learning without us, that this new world in which our students live is teaching them more than what we can inside the bubble? Inside a textbook that does not hyperlink, does not move, and does not engage?

We can not teach our students inside a bubble, we can not pretend that these sites do not exist. By pretending they do not exist we make them more powerful. Students at our school can watch YouTube videos and they do quite often. Do we have an occasional problem? Yes! But would we still have the occasional problem if we kept them in that bubble? Absolutely! I’ve yet to work at a school that the students did not find a way to bypass a filter, whether to bring content in or send content out. But by acknowledging the content we can start conversations around it, students watch videos that are educational as well as entertaining…and they get ideas of how to create their own videos. Watching an inappropriate video is still watching an inappropriate video the punishment is the still the same whether we give them access to it or not.

Truthfully, I don’t think we give our students enough credit. We feel as though we can’t trust them with this free information. We’re afraid of what they might do, watch, or see that they couldn’t do at other times outside of school. Teachers have made the argument, “Well, they do what they want at home as long as they don’t do it as school.” And that’s exactly what’s we’re headed for….students who stay home and learn rather than climb inside the bubble and wait for 8 hours to get out.

Pop the bubble…start conversations….and engage in learning!

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