Digital citizenship and literacy

This past week I’ve been working with all of the year 7 students on digital citizenship and literacy. Here are the resources I compiled, with thanks to many of my PLN including Jenny Luca.

Think before you post

A couple of interesting things occurred during the classes.

  1. Only about four students out of eight classes had heard of the term digital citizenship;
  2. the vast majority of students (aged 11 and 12) had Facebook accounts and
  3. more than half of the students admitted to using the internet when they were meant to be asleep.

The feedback was good from students and teachers and a few teachers were going to use the resources with their own children. Hopefully this will help students manage their own digital footprint now and into the future.

danah boyd – Privacy in Networked Publics

I was one of a fortunate few who attended a stimulating and thought-provoking session by renowned social media researcher Dr danah boyd yesterday at RMIT. danah has done an enormous amount of research into how young adults view social media and she has conducted countless interviews with teenagers. The topic was how young adults view privacy in a world where everything seems to be public.

danah began by speaking about mythbusting privacy. How young people understand privacy is different to how we understood it when we were young as the world is totally different now. For teenagers, it’s essential to be part of the social world. In our day it was hanging out at the mall. Today, the equivalent is being on Facebook.

There is an expectation from all young adult to be participating in social media. If they are not, there must be a good reason not to be on it. They think, it’s free, so why not be on it?

Young adults are doing the things online we did offline when we were teenagers; making friends, hanging out. Awareness and presence drives participation. Teenagers are engaging in social grooming, learning social norms and how to conduct relationships and how friendships get formed in public places. Young peoples right to roam has been radically decreased in three generations. Constrained now locally. Parents want them within their sight. Social media use is a byproduct of this.

Young adults often see Facebook as a scrapbook of social life; a way of bringing bedroom culture (posters, media, etc) to an audience.

We are seeing an intersection of people, technology and practice, where people come together, restructured by technologies. Online expressions are automatically recorded and archived. It’s different to what were used to when we were teenagers.

The fact that online materials can be easily duplicated and not knowing whether something is original or a duplicate changes dynamics.

Searchability of teenagers is now great; visibility of content is great. Teenagers are now searchable by people who hold power over them (admissions officers, bosses, etc.)

Scalability. Even though huge audiences are out there, there are blogs that have 0 readers. Things that make them look like fools are the things that have scale. But not all audiences are visible. Not necessarily co-present. How do we navigate audiences when we don’t know who they are or when they are our audience? They might read a blog post written years ago.

Collapsed contexts: lack of boundaries makes it difficult to maintain distinct social contexts. Blurred. Young people are struggling to make sense of broader contexts as well. Peer norms and adult norms and very different.

Private and public are difficult to maintain as distinct. Sense if agency, make a decision and assert that decision. How do we control this?

There is a huge shift around information and who can access this information. Defaults have changed. We need to make a decision about what to share. Many teenagers are now sharing online public by default, private through effort. They find it easier to share everything than decide what to share. They feel other people can filter rather than them choosing what to share. They often upload all of their photos then select one or two to delete.

Young adults want to participate in a public choice of privacy in a public environment. But there is confusion about what constitutes privacy. Respect, personal, exhibitionists. Sharing is seen as a way of closeness, so sharing passwords is quite normal. Up to 50% older teens share passwords. This was generated by adults, parents wanting their children’s passwords. So sharing passwords is signalling trust to special friends and boyfriends/girlfriends. Cultural forces around trust and safety.

Who belongs and who doesn’t? Who should read and comment on a post? Some teenagers think just because a post is publicly accessible, doesn’t mean it’s for you. This means you parents and teachers (and other relatives).

Privacy strategies. How do you know if a Facebook status is meant to be addressed to you? Young adults say it’s a certain way you talk. One young adult created lists for suitable audiences as his interests were varied and he would be teased by some friends for some interests. So he separated those by using lists.

One young adult found that things she forgot about that occurred in the past were brought up. So she deleted posts and comments daily, after friends had time to read them. One girl deactivated her account daily so adults couldn’t see her updates.

Teenagers also feel that parents shouldn’t comment on Facebook posts as it scares everyone else away. So, often teenagers work around by hiding in plain sight. One example was a girl was feeling depressed, but as her mother was her Facebook friend, she couldn’t say she felt bad online or her mother would annoy her. So she posted the song lyrics from Always look on the bright side of life. The encoded message achieved privacy in a public environment. Her mother thought she was cheerful. Anyone who’d seen the Monty Python film knew she was upset.

Although danah has access to social media sites, she often doesn’t know what young adults are talking about due to the codes they use.

Dramatic actions online include teasing right through to harassment. We see bullying, kids see drama.

Shifts in visibility. Increased ability to see into lives of YA. They are seeing and being seen. You’re invisible unless you share and participate. This prompts them to share and be present. Young adults are now learning to expect surveillance. Parents, teachers, adults, governments are looking over their shoulder. Value of privacy still very important to YA but it’s achieved differently.

Young adults are now hacking the “attention economy”. They often think “what can I do to get attention?” Trolling is a part of this. They often feel that anybody who becomes famous becomes a target because they have visibility and the young adult may not. This has been normalised through reality tv.

Those who don’t want to or don’t have access to social media is about 7% of teenagers in USA. Religion is a good explanation for this. However, some young adults make a conscious decision to opt out. Opting out of Facebook has a few reasons. Parents is one reason. Some kids feel they don’t need to, they are already popular enough. Some feel so marginalised already, they don’t want to be marginalised online as well. Some feel they need a clean slate for a sports scholarship. Some people have an emotional exhaustion to Facebook updates; it feels like a job rather than fun.

Google+ Circles can be good not to overflow everybody or blow up your friends’ feeds.

Twitter is used in different ways. To participate with celebs. Participating in trending topics is fun. Strong third is protected accounts. Share updates with small group of trusted people. Quite clear who is following you.

 Young people feel they are oppressed as a group. There is no safe environment for queer youth online, they are not getting the support the way they were a decade ago. There have been suicides in the US after the “It gets better” campaign. But there was no structural support to the campaign.

The Internet magnifies everything. We see things that we didn’t see before. How do we make sense of it? Teenagers need to understand the world is messy. Things out there aren’t all good and we can’t protect them from it all.

Bullying statistics haven’t changed with rise of Internet. Bullying is worse at school. Adults panic because we can see kids being harmed. If kids don’t come home with a black eye, we don’t know what happened. Easier to blame technology.

 There is pressure for kids to only relate to people they know. Adults need to support shared interests. Marginalised youth want to share personal stuff. MMORPG seems to be a good place to share. Harder to find online communities.

Real names debate. We act differently at work, home, etc. so we could use different names for different aspects of our lives.

Note: danah changes quotes from YAs so they can’t be googled. No unintended visibility. Never connects journalists with young adults.

There are interest driven communities and friendship driven communities. But fear mongering in the media has made it impossible for young adults to join interest driven communities as there are ‘strangers’ on these sites.

Parenting is an ongoing process. We should be working on all of this long before they go on the internet. Trust and communication are the keys. Parents need to ask questions, such as “Why did you do this?”  “Did you achieve what you wanted to achieve?”

How to we change the fear culture spread by the media? Statistics don’t combat fear. One story can make things spiral out of control. How do we challenge moral panic? We need media literacy.

Health and wellness is at the centre of all this. We need to teach critical thinking rather than dos and donts. We need to teach the possibilities about how to engage well.

danah also feels that educators should have a second Facebook account (without any private content) so that students can connect with their teachers if they have problems or issues. Accept their friend requests, but don’t friend them. Passwords can be shared with Principals for transparency. This would especially be important over long summer holidays when teachers are not available face to face.

A podcast of the session will be available shortly. For an in-depth blog post on the session, see Jenny Luca’s How do you deal with a world that is messy? danah boyd at RMIT.

Podcast of danah’s presentation available here.

Finally… some news

There hasn’t been a post here for a while for a couple of reasons. Lots of things happening that I wanted to blog about but family illness has had my mind elsewhere for a while now.

But I can’t hold on any longer. I have to gush about the wonderful day SLAV put on at the MCG with the amazing Joyce Valenza.  All of her presentations and tools she mentioned are here and check out the #slavconf11 stream for lots more links and ideas.

It was also an incredible day as I finally got to meet some of the lovely people who I mentored during the VicPLN program in 2010. Awesome meeting the lovely Bev Novak at long last!

I also attended one and presented one #rscon3 session. What an honour to hear how Kelly Tenkely started her own school thanks to a blog post and a tweet! Thanks too, to the people who took the time to attend my session. You can access session recordings here and read how people have reflected on the symposium here.

I also was the lucky recipient of a magical quill. That’s right, on the first day of the Pottermore promotion, I snatched a quill and will be granted early access to the site. Pottermore will have interesting implications in teaching and learning due to the way it’s going to be using transliteracies, so as well as being a Potterhead, I’ll have an educational reason to spend some time there.

I’m also really pleased that my wonderful Principal (who sets great examples like helping tidy up the yard and remembering to ask after sick relatives – although I’m only part-time) has agreed to my idea of having a school cybersafety blog. We’ll have one post per school day and hopefully the information we share might help guide parents.

Last week I ran the first session for a small but enthusiastic group of colleagues on our semester long online learning program. Great to see a few of the teachers already have Twitter accounts!

Riding a motorbike through a supermarket is not good for your digital footprint

You’d think the heading of this post would be self-explanatory, wouldn’t you? That “digital natives”, who are supposed to know everything about technology would know better? Wrong.

Last night a young adult did exactly what the title says, hoping to become a YouTube sensation. (You can read a media report here.)

But what about the damage done to his digital footprint? News outlets named the youth and I can’t imagine too many prospective employers, etc. being too impressed with such a stunt. His public boasting via Facebook was another faux pas.

As we know, even when websites, videos, comments, blog posts and more are deleted, they can still be accessed.

We educators obviously have a lot more work to do with our students in terms of digital citizenship and positive digital footprints. If we think that because we might block or ban these tools at school, we can forget about them, then today’s news proves us wrong.

Many of our students know how to use these tools, but not the wide ranging implications that are part and parcel of social media.

Photo scandal provides teachable moment

Yesterday’s Australian Football League nude photo scandal provides teachers with a “teachable moment” for their students.

We know that once a photo is taken, it can only take seconds for it to be uploaded and published to the internet and for the world to see. We must teach our students that:

  • If you are not happy to pose for a photo then DON’T.
  • If your photo was taken against your wishes, ask for it to be deleted and ask to check the camera that it has in fact been deleted (check trash as well).
  • Be aware that something done in jest may not seem so funny later on. Having it deleted from multiple sources is not as easy for individuals as it is for organisations like the AFL.
  • Any photo that you wouldn’t like your grandparents to see may be a photo that shouldn’t exist. Think twice before you pose for or take a photo that could be embarrassing to you or to others.
  • Remember that any photo can be published. Even if your Facebook settings are private, or your tweets are protected, your “friends” can pass it on.
  • Once a photo has been published, even if it is deleted later, others may have copied and kept it or republished it themselves.
  • Don’t publish or email photos of your friends without their permission.

The repercussions of a moment of silliness may last a lot longer and have ramifications that it is difficult to foresee.