I enjoyed getting the opportunity to listen to Mary Beth Hertz present her ideas and thoughts regarding technology in the classroom. I really connected with some of the activities that she teaches is her “Intro to Tech” class in grade 9. As we only able to hear a small sample of what she has to offer, I think it would be of great value to further explore her ideas and thoughts in the book, Digital and Media Literacy in the Age of the Internet.
When Mary Beth was talking about her “Intro to Tech” class, I couldn’t help think about how this would benefit my students in grade 5/6. As I teach in a 1:1 setting, my students are exposed to many different applications and programs throughout the entire school year. They are often required to sign up for many different accounts and programs. Whether it’s Seesaw, Adobe Spark, Newsomatic, or Flipgrid, there are so many benefits to student learning when using these programs. I quickly realized during the presentation that my students are amazing at creating content and demonstrating their learning using technology, but do they really know, “How the internet works?” I can guarantee that most of my students wouldn’t know the purpose of a cookie or how to keep themselves safe when using public wifi.
Reflecting on this from a teaching position, it doesn’t surprise me that students have minimal understanding of how the internet actually works. From my experience, we spend the first month of the school year teaching students about proper digital etiquette (A.K.A Digital Citizenship), how to use the resources/tools efficiently, and effective and safe ways for remembering or storing their passwords (“No! Grade 6 isn’t a safe password.”) I feel like I’m in a constant battle with time to ensure that I teach all of the required curriculum outcomes. Now I’m not here to simply make up excuses for why I don’t teach my students about how the internet actually works. After listening to Mary Beth speak the other night, it’s made me realize that it’s actually important to teach our students about this side of the internet. As we teach our young students to stop, drop, and roll or look both ways before crossing the street, maybe it’s time we teach our students to be safe when using technology.
Mary Beth’s discussion around social media and how student feel the need to be visible also resonated with me. For the last few years, I’ve often wondered what effect social media has on our young people’s mental health, particularly those using Instagram. As a major Instagram user myself, it doesn’t take long to see the “perfect bodies” or “amazing lifestyles” that people show on their Instagram accounts. For me, I obviously have the ability to understand the things people can do to make their image or life look amazing. For a young person, I’m not sure they have the innate ability to make the distinction between what is real and what’s been severely modified to look a certain way. There are many young people using Instagram, even those under the age of 13. As I’m responsible for these students, it’s also my responsibility to teach students how to view images and videos with a critical lens.
There were many thought provoking thoughts and ideas in Mary Beth’s presentation about technology. Would I like to see a course like this offered to students as young as grade 5? Yes! Would I like to teach? Yes! I think it would be so valuable for students to develop safe internet skills and habits from a young age. I understand that’s likely not going to happen anytime soon. Realistically, I need to simply remind myself that it’s okay to spend some curricular time teaching young people to be safe and smart online.