open.jpgToday I was invited into Alec Couros’s EC&I 831 course to have a conversation on the Al Upton Situation. Cindy Seibel, one of his participants, contacted Alec to ask if they could discuss the Al Upton and the miniLegend blog Order for Closure and fallout in class this week, and suggested my Parental Consent, Use of Student Images and The MiniLegends Closure post is a great summary; providing almost an agenda for discussion.

Alec’s EC&I 831 is a graduate course on Computers in the Classroom: Appropriate Curriculum and Instruction Related to Computer Technology for the Faculty of Education at the University of Regina in Canada. His course participants have a wide array of backgrounds including educators, technology specialists, Principals and school administrators.

Accessing the Ustream Recording

The conversation was beamed out via Ustream with global participants joining the ustream chat and Skype conference call. And I’ve decided, it’s official, I’m not the best at maintaining my thoughts while also following chats (easily distracted) but fortunately there was lots of other great conversation happening via Skype and Ustream Chat.

You can access the Ustream recording from the session here and Alec will be posting it as a podcast on his blog later. The Ustream chat is 13 pages long in Word, which is too much for this post so I’ve taken the liberty of summarizing snippets below.

Private/Public Blogs & Guidelines For Educators

Colette Cassinelli highlighted her thoughts that we don’t want private blogs because that defeats the purpose of a global community.

Ryan Flood directed us to Clarence Fisher’s Is Blogging Dangerous? post to highlight the reality that Al’s situation isn’t an isolated incident and has happened to other educators in the past few years.

Laurie Gatzke said she had heard some time ago that the consent forms are a distractor. They would have a hard time standing up in a court of law.

Laurie Gatzke agreed that many of us are moving ahead faster than our districts can keep up. However, in our district I think it is a small percentage. There are not guidelines for this. As a parent I can understand that. We want to protect our kids.

Risks/Reality of Online Stalkers

Rob Wall asked “How much of a risk are online stalkers? More or less of a risk than taking a field trip on a bus, for example? Any answers? What are the actual, documented risks that students are exposed to by having their name, picture, blog, etc. online? And how many of the face to face predators find kids online? Jim Ellis agreed that Rob’s questions are very important and that no one can answer them properly because he didn’t there were real figures.

Derrall Garrison thinks that reports such as the PEW report in Oct had lessened some of the fear. Colette Cassinelli said check out APA Press Release – Internet Offenders Target Teens, not Young Children—Rarely Use Force, Abduction or Deception; we need to speak up and share how we teach digital citizenship to aleve any fears out there. She also says we need to keep the educating, educating, educating — not denying. Rob Wall suggested we check out Dean Shareski’s I’m telling you for the last time post which discusses key sections from the APA Press Release.

Doug Symington said it’s important to address these issues to avoid “chill” re:web in education.

Images, Avatars & Pseudos

Colette Cassinelli suggests that kids less than 13 can draw photos of themselves instead of posting photos; a lot of primary teachers using scanned drawings for avatars for VoiceThread. Doug Symington thinks that hand-drawn avatars, as an example, might be better than actual photos of youngsters. Laurie Gatzke said students in her class just made videos without any faces appearing on them. All of their props etc were either hand drawn or done in some other creative way.

Lisa Durff recommended Portrait Illustrator as a good way for students to create their own avatars. Her belief is all minors should use pseudos and says the parents think she’s too severe with this online identity thing however she feels online safety of the child is above all. bircherd-1 said I make my student use nicknames in the class blog.

Owning The Tool & Need To Educate

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach said:

The risk is with teachers do not own the tools first. Teachers should use the tools first personally and professionally BEFORE they use them with kid. Kids that learn to use the tools within the safety net of a tech using teacher’s classroom are safer than a kid who gets online outside that safety net at home.

Bottom line this whole issue should serve a signal to all of us that we need to be able to advocate for the tools we use and why. Yes, but if a parent had complained about something he said in class or a book he used.. would the reaction have been the same? Part of the advocacy piece needs to be with us helping to educate parents as to the changes. I want to teach my students discernment so they know how to make right choices. I explain the choices I make and why.

By doing these kinds of things we can teach and model digital citizenship. As educators we need to help teach the kids the responsible ways to use the tools. Lincoln said.. the philosophy of the classroom in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next generation. Part of our job is to indoctrinate in this case — responsible use of the new technologies.

We teach them not to talk to strangers and not to answer the phone when parents aren’t home. Educators traditionally have had the responsibility of helping the next generation understand how to use the tools safely.

As Dennis Richards said kids are using the internet without guidance. If we don’t give them guidance, they will never develop it.

Where Now?

We need to continue to debate these issues, find the research and develop our thoughts. Plus, as Alec Couros pointed out, we need to move this discussion, and what we learn, from the blogosphere to educating parents, other educators and decision makers. Any suggestions on the HOW?

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