Everywhere I turn I see a lot of time and money being consumed warning parents, children, and teachers about the dangers on the internet. It’s getting to the point of absurdity. The problem with most of these initiatives and campaigns is they usually implicitly suggest that proverbial abstinence is the best policy.
Actually, it’s the worst one.
The less we work with students on being critically literate online, and the more we avoid social media and networking as an authentic part of the classroom experience, the more danger our students will be in.
The internet is the most complex text ever imagined in the history of the world. Students are not just going to learn to be socially responsible, proactive, critically literate readers and users of it through exposure alone. No one with an ounce of knowledge and experience in literacy instruction would suggest that explicit instruction and practice isn’t the best policy for teaching reading and writing. Then why is it alright for us to ignore http://www.elephantinroom.com, and act like kids are going to OK if we just pretend they’re not reading and writing on it almost every waking moment of their day?
Sorry about the soapboxing. My main reason for writing this post was actually to say one thing: Let’s start early.
Let’s not wait until high school when they are perceived to be old enough. If we wait until then, we will have to do more untraining of bad habits students have picked up Facebooking etc. Moreover, it is likely that anything we do with them in the classroom will pale in comparison to the far more intriguing drama happening in their personal social networking. In my work with teachers, I have noticed a lack of resiliency when working with web 2.0 tools precisely because they tend to wait until the intermediate years.
From my experience, although I don’t think any age is too early, I have noticed that ages 8-10 are the perfect time to start. Students at these ages tend to be at a reading and writing levels that can more easily traverse the internet. By starting early, we get a chance to establish good habits about positive content on the internet for consumption, as well as positive posting habits. I dare anyone to argue or demonstrate evidence that continued work online in the safe environment of a classroom program is not the best preparation for the Facebook and texting years.
Explicit modeled, shared, and guided instruction; independent practice; descriptive feedback; and continual mistake making! Literacy instruction hasn’t changed all that much. There’s just a whole world of texts that shouldn’t be ignored.